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AICN COMICS Reviews: SUPERMAN! THE FINAL PLAGUE! DAREDEVIL! WINTERWORLD! THE AUTEUR! DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Prequel Novel! & More!

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

Advance Review: SUPERMAN #32
THE FINAL PLAGUE VOL.1 TRADE PAPERBACK
DAREDEVIL #4
THE AUTEUR #4
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM The Official Movie Prequel Novel
MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #3
DETECTIVE COMICS #32
WINTERWORLD #1
ORIGINAL SIN #4
THE LAST WEST VOL.1
BATMAN ETERNAL #11
TARZAN: IN THE CITY OF GOLD Hardcover Anthology
Raiders of the Long Box presents UNTOLD LEGENDS OF BATMAN #3


SUPERMAN #32

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


It’s a shame that issue #32 is such a lackluster and bland number, considering the landmark shift Geoff Johns is taking to reignite the fandom fervor of Pre-52 zealots. This issue is a like a welcoming hug for any fan that was raised upon, or revered, the Richard Donner Superman formula. “But Douche, Johns has done that before.” Fair, but Johns was also unfettered by anyone giving a flying fuck about consistency or continuity in any book post-FINAL CRISIS. Now, he must try to work his old timey resurrection magic on a Superman who has not only avoided his prior mythos, but actively been shifted 180 degrees so they will never be in this new Clark Kent’s line of sight.

The larger Superman family we know and love, especially those at the Planet, never had a chance in the New 52. With Perez using the book as a platform to indict the evil nature of corporate-controlled media, he also ostracized Clark from any sort of normal human life. There’s no doubt that the news is ROI-driven versus journalistic eye these days, but to take this route the way DC did, Superman could never morally stay in the employment of such shenanigans. Lobdell, and the decision to make Superman and Wonder Woman “super friends,” brought back a bit of the man to the super, but it really wasn’t enough. I mean, blogging is the finest in bullshit journalism and with a URL as cumbersome as clarkcatapolis.com, even breaking up the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship will not keep the Google Authority score up on that pig for very long. Plus, with no fact checking and no deadlines to truly meet, the drama and action of journalism is relegated solely to typing and support calls for help getting rid of the tiles on Windows 8, and Superman was still banging a goddess that isn’t the biggest fan of cosplaying a mortal.

Johns not only was allowed to shun some of these new bedrocks of continuity, but also blatantly call out this 31 issue long white elephant in the room. Ballsy moves made poetic and nostalgically sweet since they are delivered by Perry White as he tries to lure Clark back to the presses and away from WordPress. Perry was not only trying to save Clark’s career in his pitch, but his personal life as well. It also helped that Johns took a page or two to ease into the sermon with some classic Jimmy/Perry banter to set the stage.

Clark is alone, and I’m sorry, but being lasso-tied to the God of War will never truly satiate a boy from Kansas who is the embodiment of peace. Romita’s finest and most haunting pages in this book involved a flash forward series of panels for a typical Clark evening. Call Lois, get half her attention. Call Diana, get an answering machine assuming she can even get a signal inside the home of the First Born. So a TV dinner, some impatient waiting, and back to the life of Superman it is. Can’t say I blame him; I, too, would choose a life of servitude over malaise.

Despite their personal resonance with this fangeezer, none of these moments are the true sizzle that will keep message boards hopping. No, what will no doubt be trending in some # fashion on release day will be the name Ulysses. Before anything I mentioned above, we are taken back to Earth 25 years ago, a score and three years before the heroes made our world fantastical. In that time, in a secret research facility, a group of scientists discover the secrets of transdimensional travel. As containment measures fail, and the second dimension threatens to consume the lab and perhaps this string in the theory, two scientists usher their newborn son into an experimental TimeCop rocket for the virtually unexplored 4th dimension.

Welcome home, Ulysses.

On the art, Romita is Romita. I believe the best artists polarize us as a community. The middle of the road guys, who can pattern the style of the time, are talented necessary evils. Those who are distinct, like Romita’s pared-down approach, will attract loving or loathing with very little space for meh. I like it alone and love it with Johns. My biggest problem with JUSTICE LEAGUE in the beginning was that Johns was clearly writing to accommodate the Lee splash page…every three pages. Johns is a writer who needs a lot of panels because he revels in the sentimentality of this medium. Romita is equally intimate, while still being able to pop.

Now that I have destroyed every moment of discovery for fans and the already converted, I hope my shamefully egregious fangushing sways back the scorned and the disillusioned who have lost joy in the Man of Steel because of his previous Man of Cardboard existence until now.

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


THE FINAL PLAGUE VOL. 1 TRADE PAPERBACK

Writer: J.D. Arnold
Artist: Tony Guaraldi-Brown
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Reviewer: BottleImp


Zombies, zombies, zombies. Lord knows that zombies are all the rage right now, from books to movies to television to—of course—comic books. Though this reader is generally a fan of the horror genre and horror comics as a whole, my affinity for the subgenre of zombie comics is fairly small. By now all the zombie tropes have been driven pretty firmly into the dirt, and for a zombie book to pique my interest, the comic must offer something new to the mix. While THE FINAL PLAGUE certainly hits most of the well-known zombie clichés, this first volume offers some new twists that make the series worth checking out for even those jaded zed-word junkies.

Certainly the title, THE FINAL PLAGUE, points out the direction of this series. J.D. Arnold’s vision of the Zombie Apocalypse is more in tune with Danny Boyle than George Romero, as the ambulatory corpses in question here are the result of infection rather than mysterious radiation from space. Arnold’s story begins with an attack on an Iowa farmhouse by a pack of ravenous rats (though it soon becomes apparent that other animals also may be infected). Of course, these disease-carrying rodents soon infect the human population—the reader sees that similar attacks are happening all over the country—and that’s where the story gets interesting. I’m not going to spoil the twist here, but I will say that Arnold’s zombie plague comic is unique in that the walking dead found within its pages may not be the ones you’d expect.

The comic’s artwork is something of a two-edged sword. Tony Guaraldi-Brown’s sketchy, smudgy style is fantastic for the action sequences; his rough brushwork gives a sense of motion and frantic energy to the panels. And this type of drawing also makes for some incredibly effective pages of grotesque, nightmarish imagery, especially in the multiple scenes where infected rats are swarming over the helpless townspeople. The downside of Guaraldi-Brown’s particular style is that the rough drawings and limited color palette make it difficult in many cases to tell the characters apart, and backgrounds are sometimes barely suggested. Though the pages have a great deal of energy, I would like to see the artwork tightened up a bit in order to add just a bit more clarity to the book as a whole.

So if you’re not yet burned out on the whole zombie thing, you’ll probably want check out THE FINAL PLAGUE. And hey, even if THE WALKING DEAD isn’t your cup of tea, you might still be pleasantly surprised by this indie comic’s unpleasant vision of how the world ends. Probably not for those with weak stomachs, though.

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.


DAREDEVIL #4

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Mighty Mouth


If you haven’t kept up with the latest DAREDEVIL run by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, you deserve a good flogging. The Man Without Fear may not appeal to every flavor of comic fan; I get that. Still, a good comic is a good comic, and it’s not problematic to understand why DAREDEVIL has been getting so much positive press under Waid’s direction.

In the final issues prior to his MARVEL NOW re-launch, Matt Murdock’s secret identity was revealed to the public, so Matt closed out his practice in Hell’s Kitchen and moved to San Francisco with confidante/booty call Kristen McDuffie to start anew. His latest adventure has Daredevil teaming up with Max Coleridge, aka The Shroud, to discover the whereabouts of Max’s missing girlfriend, Julia. The trail has brought our heroes into direct conflict with one of DD’s oldest foes, the crime boss known as The Owl.

A lot of the fun in this arc comes from the unpredictable and unhinged actions of The Shroud. I mean, it’s literally the blind leading the blind. With each issue Max has become more and more desperate, willing to take help from anyone and equally willing to double-cross anyone to get what he wants. This erratic behavior puts Daredevil in a very perilous place. Ascertaining that The Shroud is descending into a world of batshit crazy, Murdock finds keeping him from going completely over the edge to be challenging, to say the least.

There is something about the simplicity of Samnee’s panels that just works well with DAREDEVIL. Many comic characters have artists that become synonymous with their books. I think Samnee is capable of having his name fondly associated with DAREDEVIL. His storytelling is clean, easy to follow, and well, just fun to look at.

I’m still having some difficulty with Matt’s move to San Francisco. Other than a change of scenery, I’m not sure how the new locale is a benefit. I mean, with his secret out people are recognizing him in San Fran just the same. He even agrees to take a selfie with a couple of teenage girls. Also, the Golden City is not the most ideal place for a hero who runs rooftop to rooftop. This is something Waid is having some fun with, but it makes me wonder: is it time for the DDmobile? (Wait, he’s blind--not a great idea).

One of the trademarks of a good ongoing series is to have a story conclude leaving some unsolved elements for future exploration. DAREDEVIL #4 does a fine job taking advantage of this foreshadowing technique. Will Matt be able to make good on his promise to The Shroud? And what consequences will follow if he doesn’t? As for The Owl, after the events in this issue he may be going from a C-list villain to a major threat in the near future. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a delicious dangling carrot.


THE AUTEUR #4

Writer: Rick Spears
Art: Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


For months (MONTHS!!) I’ve wanted to cover this comic book in some way but, unfortunately, some over-achieving demoness name Lyz (nah, just kidding, she’s swell) has always beaten me to the punch.

Finally though, here I am, ready to extol the virtues of this masterful piece of comic booking, a near-psychotic and completely psychedelic piece of “what the fuck?” about the king of B-movie directors trying to make the ultimate slasher flick and do ALL OF THE DRUGS! in the process and…well, actually there you go. Virtues extolled all in one adjective laced run-on. Nothing else to see here except me saying “buy this book.” For the love of (un)holy fuck, buy this book.

Even in a current state of the industry where some really creative people are finding more freedom to do whatever they want wherever they can, this book absolutely floors me each month with its unmitigated energy and sadistic charm. In this issue alone we start with a demented serial murderer walking out of an ocean with a fresh, hand-killed and mutilated shark jawbone in hand and it ends with enough dynamite to literally cause a 6.8 on the Richter scale. And it may have been the tamest issue to date. I say this with no level of exaggeration, and want to emphasize what this means to me considering my comparison point here is hands-down my favorite comic book of all time, but THE AUTEUR may rival even the classic TRANSMETROPOLITAN from a pure mad bastardry per panel ratio standpoint.

Yeah, that’s a thing.

So do yourself a favor and get a handful of your favorite illicit drug, two EpiPens to stop from flatlining, and all four issues of THE AUTEUR to date and have yourself the best time a human being can have outside of the orgies you would assume happen at the Adult Video Awards, plus without the STDs…

…maybe.

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


DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES: FIRESTORM The Official Movie Prequel Novel

Writer: Greg Keyes
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: MajinFu


Picking up after a band of apes disappears into the misty Redwoods, FIRESTORM is the bridge between the first two cinematic entries in the legacy of a chimp named Caesar and his primate pals. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and you remember a bunch of apes tearing loose on the Golden Gate Bridge and leaving all of San Francisco at the mercy of a brain-enhancing fart gas invented by James Franco.

If he only knew, maybe Caesar would have stayed in the city… FIRESTORM connects the end of 2011 film RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES with its upcoming sequel DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, set to release nationwide in just a couple of weeks. The book adheres closely to the tone of the last movie, following several characters in and out of San Francisco in the wake of the last movie’s events. It was interesting to see ripples from the film’s climax and the way new characters interpret or understanding the plot of RISE, like how many people were aware that a helicopter crashed over the Golden Gate bridge, but not many who knew of the silverback gorilla who died in the crash.

Did you know a group of apes is called a “shrewdness?” How appropriate considering what Caesar and his crew show themselves to be capable of in FIRESTORM. Since the pandemic at the end of the movie doesn’t leave a lot of room for progress in the city, we spend a good deal of time getting to know more of the simian cast. Some of the best new content is in the form of flashbacks such as with Koba. You may remember Koba with the scar who joins Caesar late in the film after he and his crew ransack a research facility. Here you learn a good deal of his backstory and it’s as heartbreaking as that ugly mug would imply, and phrased with chilling simplicity. Plus, any chance to read more about my man the former circus orangutan Maurice is always welcome.

The story also contains some political intrigue in the form of Dreyfus, a character played by Gary Oldman in the next movie that looks to play an important role as a leader of the human survivors in a viral San Francisco. It’s difficult to tell how well this connects to the next movie since it won’t be released for another couple of weeks but from what happens in FIRESTORM it’s about to blow up.

RISE was notable for having computer-generated characters that were frequently more sympathetic and charismatic than their boring human counterpoints, and the same can be said for FIRESTORM. Still, the book does a good job of touching on the human drama in a way that’s not too hammy or disconnected thanks to a certain character named Malakai who hails from the Congo and is almost as interesting as some of the ape characters.

This was really a fun read and like the best thrillers was pretty hard to put down. You could easily finish FIRESTORM before the release of the next movie and if you’re an APES enthusiast like me, you will know doubt dig it. Books that are tie-ins to movies don’t have the best track record, but this as an exception, with great pacing, some deep character building, and smart writing all around. Plus it’s got me hyped for the next movie so from a marketing perspective I’d call that a total success.


MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #4

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Cory Smith
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man


Gold Key's infamous man of steel-slashing hands is back at it again. You're probably like me and never read the Gold Key stuff, though I did enjoyed Valiant's run on the character, and I thought Dark Horse (just a few years back) did a decent job too. As for Dynamite, well, it appears to be another reasonably well done book that just doesn't interest me.

Ok, let's take a look at my baggage first. Typically Magnus is the hero of North Am, protecting it from rogue robots and other nasties. I suppose at some point Van Lente will get there, but to start off with his take on Magnus is as a misunderstood terrorist, and his Lois Lane, Leeja Clane, has become a tough bounty hunter with an attitude. There's an overall Matrix bit going on as well. Magnus was, unknowingly, raised in a simulator and robots pretty much control the world; mind you, they do it for the well-being of the humans, but we've all heard that before. In a nutshell, Van Lante is updating Magnus into a run of the mill sci fi concept--stuff that loses my interest very quickly on the Sci- er, SyFy network.

Now to step back from preconceived notions of a man named Magnus, this is a fairly solid comic book here. Magnus himself is a bit of a fish out of water as he tries to deal with the real, not-so-nice, world after growing up in a Mayberry-like simulator. He's also being set up as a kind of Messiah scaring the powers that be as his teacher, A1, hopes he will bring balance to the force—er, human and robot relations. Overall, he comes across as a likable guy and someone worth rooting for.

This issue continues the chase from issue #2, where Magnus is on the run from the law since he has the ability to smash robots with his bare hands. Chasing him is Human Hunter Leeja Clane, who is both cop and reality TV star, as a flying camera broadcasts her manhunts to the masses. But the people above her pay grade, like her father Tadus Clane, believe Magnus is becoming too dangerous since he can not only crush robots with his hands, he can talk to them and override their programing, not to mention the TV cameras are kind of making him look good as he saves a few innocent bystanders (robot smasher save robots!). To speed up his demise, they unleash the 'nanobot cloud', giving Leeja pause to question such an extreme measure. Again, all pretty well written, if a little derivative.

Artist Cory Smith does fine job drawing the book. His figures, storytelling and action all look good. In the previous issues, he's had some really nice splash pages giving a unique and visually interesting way to tell the story. This issue has a couple of money shots as the nanobot cloud attacks Magnus, but as with a lot of artists, Cory just couldn't figure out how to make a nanobot cloud look interesting.

So now while MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER was never the height of sci-fi originality, I do feel this run has removed a few too many conventions that made Magnus Magnus, replacing them with more standard, although more modern, sci fi tropes. Still, the creative team is quite successful in putting together a well-made comic book.









DETECTIVE COMICS #32

Writers: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art: Francis Manapul
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: KletusCassidy


I feel like I’ll always have a BATMAN book on my pull list. At one point earlier this year I had up to there but I eventually dropped BATMAN & ROBIN by Tomasi & Gleason. This isn’t because that book is bad; I just needed to cut back and that book made it to the chopping block (those guys are an awesome team, though, and Tomasi is vastly underrated). So...now I have BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, the latter of which I was going to drop as well until I realized Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (new 52 FLASH) were going to be on DETECTIVE COMICS starting at issue #29. The art is really the draw for me in this book (heh heh) and with this issue, I found myself very happy I decided to stick with this title. So here I am, Friday afternoon, sipping a brewski, listening to BLUE CHIPS 2, Lady Kletus out of town...and I’m on the brink of a wild night that would make Charlie Sheen poop his silk boxers and call the FBI…but first things first, my review of DETECTIVE COMICS #32.

In this issue, we follow Batman and Harvey Bullock as they independently investigate the deaths surrounding a drug called Icarus. The story moves along pretty swiftly as Batman tracks down his leads, ultimately putting him in the clutches of giant...well, it ain’t Sid the Squid. I love that we get to deal with Harvey Bullock on his own as opposed to the usual Gordon & Batman team up (isn’t he locked up?). We even get a slight glimpse into his personal life via a beautiful splash page showing Bullock at home with his cats as he listens to his somewhat depressing phone messages. I feel like this page did a lot to flesh out this character and show us a side of this ol’ curmudgeon that we rarely see. This comic isn’t necessarily breaking new ground storywise, but it’s a back to basics approach that differentiates this title from the other Bat-books. There’s nothing bad about this issue, but if you didn’t like Batman(is there anyone out there like that? Seriously, who doesn’t like Batman?!?), I don’t think this issue is going to change your mind, unless you’re like me and are a nut about great BATMAN art. If this applies to you, then rest assured you will be more than satisfied. I was curious as to what Manapul’s art would look like when handling a more serious, darker character like Batman and I was pleased to see that his style adapted to perfectly fit this character. Some artists just do the same sort of style no matter who they draw, and for some artists that totally works, but Manapul has added a mood and style that is starkly different from his Flash and is able to put some very classic Batman images to the page.

The coloring in this book reminds me of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES in the way that those pages were drawn on black paper (as opposed to white like most comic art), which gave that show its unique dark look; Manapul has captured that effect here, which gives this comic a very classic Batman look that stands apart from Greg Capullo’s Batman. The art also reminds me of Dustin Nguyen’s art, with the sharp lines and shadows that give characters and clothing a very realistic-looking texture as well as how the art looks like a watercolor painting in the way the colors and hues blend on the page. My favorite page in this comic is a four panel page that starts with BATMAN sitting on top of a church with his cowl off, ultimately ending with him putting on the cowl and jumping out into the city. The panels are completely speechless, but with nothing being said this page gives us a great look into the psyche of one of the greatest comic heroes ever created, not to mention it looks cool as hell. Pages like this are exactly why I was excited to see Manapul’s take on ‘ol Bats.

Honestly, the art is well worth the price of this comic. The story is good but like I said, it’s not going to blow your wig back (maybe when the story is over it will, who knows) but it’s a decent street-level story that’s a good counter balance to what’s being done in the other Bat-books. I think in time we are going to see some great issues out of the team of Buccellato and Manapul that will rival the quality of Snyder & Capullo’s BATMAN. If you are a Batman fan that loves iconic images of the Caped Crusader, you’ll probably like this book. If you aren’t a Batman fan, you need to reevaluate your life because you are doing something wrong. I say quit your job, go see a psychiatrist and talk to them...they probably will freak out on you, kick you out and you’ll be forced to live in the sewers eating rat burgers with Dennis Leary with Cocteau one step behind you until John Spartan is unfrozen and, and...holy shit, what happened...where was I? Oh right, If I had to choose to choose between BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS on which to give a friend I’d have a hard choice, but more issues like this and that decision may get a lot easier.


WINTERWORLD #1

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Art: Butch Guice
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


For me, a story about man vs. nature is one of the most compelling of all types of stories. A sole survivor set against the elements with very little other than his own wit, wisdom, and intestinal fortitude go keep him living. That conflict is at the very heart of WINTERWORLD, what looks to be an ongoing series based on the set of graphic novels WINTERWORLD and its sequel, WINTERSEA, that writer Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino birthed a few years back. That was a pairing of perfection in my mind, with Zaffino delivering the perfect gritty look to accompany Dixon’s grit-infused writing. Unfortunately, Zaffino passed away in 2002 and comic bookdom lost an amazing artist.

Now Dixon is back with an artist of equal caliber in Butch Guice, and so is his scruffy winter soldier named Scully, his youthful sidekick Wynn, and of course his crabby but lovable pet badger. This trio makes their way across a world overcome by ice and snow and find themselves against roaming bands of monstrous humans and animals gone wild and hungry as they search for some type of food, shelter, and some kind of shred of humanity left in the cold, dark world.

Yes, this is your typical post-apocalyptic story. We’ve seen it done in films a lot, and with THE WALKING DEAD, the genre has been rendered a cliché for some. But when done right, the property (be it a film or novel or comic book) can still be effective. And that’s what WINTERWORLD is. The book’s focus is on action. From the beginning to the end of this first issue, we are right there with Scully and Wynn and they search and scavenge for survival. We take joy with them as they discover an aircraft carrier lodged in the ice and partake in all the fixin’s they find on board. And we also are right there, feeling the horror when it all goes pear-shaped and their brief respite from the cold is interrupted by ice pirates on snowmobiles being pulled by wolves and brandishing all sorts of ROAD WARRIOR-like weaponry. This is a book driven by primal fears and urges, and that’s why I love this book—for its simplicity.

There are plenty of heady and cosmic stories out there for you to expand your mind and push the limits with. I love those types of books, too. But every now and then I like to live in the here and now. I like to get some grit under my fingernails and remember what it is like to push human life to its limits. Dixon does that to perfection here by focusing on how much this harsh environment can wear on the human soul. That’s what WINTERWORLD is all about, and I love this book for that simplicity.

Guice may have felt pressure taking over Jorge Zaffino’s role as artist for this book, but you wouldn’t know it as he maintains the sketchy and gritty style. While no one can really ape Zaffino’s style perfectly (though Alex Maleev is doing a fantastic job of it with GOERGE ROMERO’S EMPIRE OF THE DEAD over at Marvel), Guice is able to offer up his usual solid linework, yet remember to keep the tone of the book consistent with the first two miniseries.

If you’re the type who likes no-frills action and solid character, WINTERWORLD is going to be the book just for you. As someone who appreciates seeing non-superhuman adventures in comics, it’s great to see man vs. nature represented to such perfection in this first issue, and whether this is an ongoing or another miniseries, I will be there for every issue.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.

Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE from July’s Diamond Previews (item code JUL14 0937) today!




ORIGINAL SIN #4

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Deodato
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


The manhunt for The Watcher's killer takes a sidebar to the manhunt for (you know who, if you read issue #3). While it's logical and all that, it does seems kinda odd that an entire issue was dedicated to this. On face value it doesn't seem to really connect to the main story (The Watcher and his eyes). While I think Aaron is doing a great job writing setpieces and handling the characters, I'm starting to worry that his overall plot isn't well thought out.

To bring ya all up to speed, the World's Mightiest (and more well known) heroes are off with their own issues (due to eye secrets) and we are left with three random superhero team-ups to deal with the fall out from last issue (you know, bang bang, chop, chop). To name them, we got Dr. Strange and The Punisher discovering bodies in the otherworldly realms. Emma Frost, Black Panther, and Ant-Man (not Pym) finding more bodies in Mole Man country, and Winter Soldier, Moon Knight and Gamora chasing gunshot trails in outer space. And they all begin to question their success in finding things- as if the person who sent them on the quest already knew what they would find! This is where Aaron loses me. I mean sending someone on a quest and having them hit pay dirt is comic book (hell, action prose) writing 101. It maybe weird in the real world, but not in comics. Aaron tried to sell his point by having each group go through the same line of thinking, but it happens all the time, so I just wasn't buying it. And since the whole issue was dedicated to this plot point, I found this to be the weakest issue yet.

Spoiler time, seriously, I mean it, it's spoiler time, no more code talk, just spoilers. Well now, looks like I was wrong about Marvel killing off 'white' Nick Fury. Instead Aaron took the more obvious comic book route: clones or, to be more specific, LMD: Life Model Decoy. And for another big reveal at the end of the book, we learn Fury looks more like his true age: a 90 year old instead of a buff 50 year old. Ok, that's cute, but again, I don't think a whole issue should have built up to it. I mean, most 90 year olds look like buff 50 year olds in comics. Over the years we've learn to accept this convention, even though we know it's not right, for the sake of the story. So to jump out of a closet and say 'ha, ha! I do look like a 90 year old!' is like calling the readers boobs (I said boobs) for accepting the convention.

Mike Deodato, on the other hand, is still drawing the hell out of this book. If Dynamite had the pockets, I'd love to see Deodato tackle characters like The Shadow, Doc Savage, or The Avenger. It should be pretty frick'n awesome. Here, all the characters, space stations and gas valves look great.

Reaching the halfway point, Aaron seems to have made a wrong turn. Nothing really felt worth it in this issue, and I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the main story. I always hope writers of these crossover events will actually use these types of plot points to build into the larger story making it stronger, but recent history has shown this never happens. Crossovers always seem to be loaded with plot points that go nowhere and never really add to the story. They’re just cool pointless filler. Here's hoping that Aaron doesn't fall into that trap.


THE LAST WEST VOL. 1

Writer: Evan Young and Lou Iovino
Artist: Novo Malgapo
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


If you were to scroll through my Kindle library of books (which you can’t, you nosy bastards, because it’s password protected, so HA!) you would notice that I am a man who enjoys his history, his fiction set in some specific historical periods, and his non-“Game of Thrones” fantasy because I’m a bloody savage who only watches the TV show. The middle option of those three genres carries into most of my media consuming jaunts because, well, I honestly don’t know. I guess being the furious multitasker that I am it’s fun to soak in a little culture or glean the odd trivia tidbit from a piece of fiction as I consume it, given the research is there naturally. Or, shit, it’s just fun to recognize some of the random facts and figures that this otherwise useless noggin tends to store. Regardless, I tend to favor these stories just a bit more than some others – and THE LAST WEST is definitely a book that revels just a smidge in being a sprawling piece of Americana – but I also happen to be a little harsher on them because I want them to be either faithful to the material, have a great twist on it, or both. In that regard, THE LAST WEST is a book willing to dance with more than just the girl it brought with it, if you catch my drift.

THE LAST WEST is also a book that I had no clue about until it happened upon my inbox, as these things tend to go. Opening it up we start with a countdown to the first atomic bomb test in the hot Arizona desert, though slightly off from reality in that in this book there is no Oppenheimer (in this case our lead scientist is the modified Whittenheimer) and the bomb test was a horrible failure, as opposed to being the horrible success we read about in our textbooks. And that was just the beginning of a book that mostly spans a solid century and a half, with the latter end of it being a modern time that is stifled by that failure, as the bomb didn’t put an abrupt and mushroom cloudy end to the Second World War. Instead we are then put in a “Present Day” and the classroom of Robert Whittenheimer is still obsessing over why his grandfather’s crowning project failed and left the world lacking in significant advances as the meat grinder of war ate up all its resources and investment for a few extra decades. Bringing it all around to the title card, as some flashbacks play out (oh and there are a plenty of them) and Robert has some digging done, we find out there was a Sgt. Stephen West that was abruptly absent from the security squad the day of the Jughead test and things get really suspicious – and outright dangerous – as Robert presses the matter.

Well, things somewhat do from that point anyway, because as this volume plays out we begin to get lots of rapid-fire exploits of Stephen West, but of his father Arthur West, and his son Raymond West and how their exploits – and that of the rest of the West bloodline – shaped the country, and even the world, but typically in an unforeseen and unfortunate way. That is the real allure of this book so far--that of what exactly it is with these Wests and their draw to and effect on such important happenings in human circumstance. Now it does play out a little confusingly (to me at least and, admittedly, I’m a little slow these days) more in the way that given the subject matter the book opens with and the emphasis of the first chapter being the failed Jughead detonation and then Whittenheimer’s grandson obsessing over his ancestor’s failure, the movement to a seemingly unassuming Sergeant and then the jumping around in his genealogy feels really off. If this makes any sense at all, it feels like there’s supposed to be a conspiracy at first, but then it really becomes a mystery that has a bit of conspiring at the heart of it. It buries the lede, if you will. Overall, I definitely think the quality of this arc through history pays off by the end of the volume, though, in understanding there’s something that these Wests have about them that causes the world to bend toward them unwittingly, but there’s a lot of hopping around in the process that tends to make the thread hard to hold onto.

On the arty side of things, the visuals play out more straightforward in their, let’s say, “rusticness.” It’s a style that kind of smacks you right in the face with its intentions of not really being flashy but setting a tone and trying hard to put you in the time frame. The linework really plays toward the story’s machinations of history jumping and just has that old timey feel, especially with a somewhat muted color palate. It’s never really a visual feast, but it makes for a very agreeable meal. It honestly kind of reminds me of a less square-jawed rendition of what a, say, Dan Jurgens brings to the table when you sign him on to make images come to life on the page.

So, yeah, I dug this volume a pretty decent bit. As a guy who likes his history but wouldn’t necessarily consider himself a buff, I still got those little thrills when moments arose in the flashbacks of the Wests (primarily of Arthur) and his run-ins with folks who would cause some pretty big ripples in the world that I won’t ruin here. I get that this is overall a pretty sprawling mystery, but I would have liked to have had maybe a little bit of a nudging as to why these Wests are so magnetic and it feels like Whittenheimer gets lost in the shuffle besides the opener and an action bit toward the end of this volume and that seems not right but, of course, I also have no inkling as to how long this saga is expected to pan out. Given the rather robust pace THE LAST WEST sets for itself past the opening issue one would assume it’s aiming more just for another couple volumes, and therefore will have a lot more ground to cover in maybe not so much time, but of course I could be mistaken. Regardless, what we have before us is a line of dominos that looks like it could be a fun and intricate cascade once it’s in full motion, even if a couple pieces kind of slipped and scattered in the setup. Rev up your pun groan machines because I’ll leave here saying that this is definitely not the last bit of attention I’ll be paying to THE LAST WEST. If alt history mixed up with a bit science and mystery goodness is your schwag, then you should put your eyes west as well (oh god, I did it again!).

Cheers…


BATMAN ETERNAL #11

Story: Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV
Script: Tim Seely
Consulting Writers: Ray Fawkes and John Layman
Artist: Ian Bertram
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


Every once in a while you find a comic issue that is just so special, so unique, it’ll most likely stick out in your memory for some time to come. BATMAN ETERNAL #11 is not that book. I can’t even call this a comic book, this issue was a pile of crap in paper form. Ok, maybe that’s exaggerating but rarely do I feel the need to completely rip any sort of art form. I understand it’s hard work and there are creative difficulties that go into the process, it can be tough creating things constantly. However, this is a review and it requires objectivity, which means objectively BATMAN ETERNAL #11 is simply god awful crap.

From essentially a pointless and uninteresting filler story to the overall BATMAN ETERNAL run, combined with artwork so bad, so visually unappealing and annoying, I may never read a comic with the name Ian Bertram as the artist. I cannot find a single positive piece to this entire issue.

First, BATMAN ETERNAL #11 has almost nothing to do with what’s been going on with what’s been going on in the series. Batgirl is in Brazil, trying whatever she can to save her father Jim Gordon, following some leads. Somehow it involves a Brazilian soap opera actor who was seen in the train station, back in BATMAN ETERNAL #1. Then the book switches to Alfred and his daughter, only really adding to the dynamic of the two, on why his daughter isn’t particularly fond of her father. This may be the only important aspect of BATMAN ETERNAL #11. The story then switches again, this time to Stephanie Brown looking up information on her father, before returning to Batgirl.

This whole story is so pointless, I get the impression it was meant to waste your time. I understand this is a weekly series, so filler happens because of time constraints, but does it have to be so bad? I mean, why the hell would someone in Brazil have anything to do with something going on in Gotham? The whole point is just such a stretch to utilize other members of the Bat-verse. Also, Batman got essentially zero time in this book, almost nil. Same with Red Hood, who after the previous issues you’d think Jason going to stop Barbra would have got more panel time too, but no.

Now onto the just super unappealing artwork, which is kind of misleading because the cover art is pretty solid. Bertram’s style may work for some more indie outlets of comics or very niche titles, but it does not work for a Batman book at all. The colors are just too bland and lacking personality, plus Batman titles are generally darker in character art, so that makes the shading and coloring choices all the more confusing. Even if you’re attempting to branch and experiment, at least make it work somewhat with the characters. Yet the character design did none of that, it was extremely questionable and completely unaesthetically appealing. The big eyes were annoying and took away from the already lacking story. Also, I have no idea what was up with all the awkwardly shaped women. I couldn’t tell if Bertram was trying to make an artistic or social statement, about the image of woman or a statement about particularly Brazilian women’s shape. The first reason would have at least made some sense, even if it didn’t work and could have been done better. But the second reason I stated, I’ve watched enough MMA and soccer events over the years, to know most Brazilian women are not shaped like how Bertram draws them. If you don’t believe me, check out some Brazilian World Cup games and check out the female fans. Finally, the only picture Red Hood is in, he’s smiling and I don’t ever understand why people draw him with a smile, it never works and looks weird.

That about does it for my review rant because I need to end it now, otherwise it’ll become even more long winded and my word count is getting too high, I understand how quickly people’s attention spans zone out. My final words will be, don’t buy this book and I have to hope BATMAN ETERNAL picks up again, because if this is the new trend for the series I will drop it without a single regret.


TARZAN: IN THE CITY OF GOLD Hardcover Anthology

Writer: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Don Garden
Artist: Burne Hogarth
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: MajinFu


Outside the field of zoology, handling apes is something normal people don’t often do, and even then many would consider you a brave fool (or a reckless moron) for even approaching wild gorillas. The magic of Tarzan is he would go right up to any sort of apes and they would either converse or wrestle (or both) and according to this book would most likely then become fast friends for the immediate future, because the Ape-man is just cool like that.

Tarzan’s that guy at the party who gets along with everyone but as soon as a party pooper starts wrecking the place, he’ll put ‘em down quick and hard. In this first volume of stories illustrated with deliberation by Burne Hogarth, you see a shift from baby human raised by apes to man who rules his domain, and yet the story always cycles between this appreciation for the ruthlessness of natural selection and a disposition for bro-hood. There’s a narrative balance here between Tarzan encountering new things, wrestling them, acquiring that thing as a new companion, and then helping them wrestle something else.

The titular first arc contained in this collection tells of how Tarzan amassed an army of local fauna to propel the foreign invaders intending to rake the land for profit. Orchestrating such a large scale operation with a menagerie of lions, elephants and apes not only serves up some delightful spectacle and is a great way to kick off this series of stories but effectively elevates a dangerous Ape-man to a noble King of the Jungle, and here we see the story take a turn from simple conquest of nature over nurture to a complex philosophical and political examination of Africa according to a romanticized western perspective. Although clearly not attempting to present any sort of realistic portrayal of the African wild, Tarzan stands in as a figure for what could be misconstrued as a an antiquated idealism but may lean more towards fierce imperialism.

Prior to reading this anthology collecting Tarzan’s Sunday comics appearances from The Complete Burne Hogarth Comic Strip Library, I never realized how similar the King of the Jungle is to Superman. Both are individuals torn between two worlds, whose superhuman abilities allow them to improve their immediate situation and yet alienates them from their exotic origins.

But in a serialized form such as the Sunday comics found here, Tarzan’s moral compass is never put into question as he zips around the jungle, always in the middle of things. Because the narrative is constantly propelled forward by newspaper deadlines, Tarzan hardly has a chance to stop and consider the tough decisions the he must make as ruler or the impact of these numerous casualties become marginalized by the next suspenseful plot point.

In the first page of the next arc, “TARZAN AND THE BOERS, PART I” the narrator proclaims, “In the forest he blended his human and animal traits to become super-beast and super-man, the mighty lord of the jungle.” Like Superman, Tarzan thrives on helping others and maintaining an inclusive mentality. Of course, without getting into too many spoilers, on the next page he is spurned by the very same tribe of apes that raised him, but then he goes on to rally these same simian brethren to propel invaders via night-raid strangle sessions, so there you go, he’s still the king, baby, and a savage one at that.

Here’s where the parallels to Superman cease, because Tarzan is a killer. The bodiless narrator assures the reader Tarzan doesn’t enjoy doing it and always makes it snappy, but you can’t ignore that body count. Admittedly most of the deaths are implied or committed by his jungle associates, but Tarzan still represents an idealized white male basically dominating his environment. The image on the cover of Tarzan tackling an ape named Bak-Dak isn’t even from the book’s titular story but it easily embodies the overall tone of the what you’ll find here, especially bearing in mind Bak-Dak later teams up with Tarzan to battle a tribe of pygmies called the “Lingoo”.

This collection contains over a hundred weeks worth of serialized storytelling, chronicling everything from Tarzan’s encounters with the Amazons, to his friendship with a baboon named Bo-Dan. The stories welcome an appreciation for the natural world, and simultaneously aren’t afraid to approach the brutality of natural selection of the savagery of human imperialism, but Tarzan holds it down in all the jungle madness. It’s mostly goofy escapism and absolutely all of it looks amazing thanks to the artist’s natural ability to craft a consistently colorful and geographically dynamic world.

Like the jungle man he’s drawing, Burne Hogarth is a beast. I haven’t talked much about him yet but he is really the anchor of this series collection and an unfailingly pleasant surprise with every turn of the page. Many of these arcs take Tarzan to faraway places and foreign lands and Hogarth responds with a variety of different terrestrial and cultural designs. The way he illustrates flora around Tarzan’s kingdom, his understanding of different kinds of anatomy and proportion, and the breadth of emotional faces he illustrates for so many animals is awe-inspiring. Even if you’re not particularly a Tarzan enthusiast, you will probably be able to appreciate this book’s artistic merit.

TARZAN: IN THE CITY OF GOLD is a good, solid collection in the legacy of the ape-man and the book is printed on fine quality paper, with a nice introduction lending context to the comic’s publication and the life of Burne Hogarth. The book has been out for over a month at this point but it’s one of those timeless collections you may appreciate at any point in life, and is available wherever books are sold.


THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN #3

Originally Published on June 24th, 1980
Writers: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


As DC latest retelling of Batman's origin, “Zero Year”, comes to a close, I thought we'd wind the clock back 34 years this week, when DC released the last issue of the first Batman origin miniseries THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN.

By the summer of 1980, we had already witnessed the Miracle on Ice as Team USA defeated the USSR in the ice hockey semifinal at the Winter Olympics. Team USA still had to defeat Finland for the gold, which they did. As for the Summer Olympics, USA decided to boycott it. And in more unpleasant news, hostages were taken at the US embassy in Iran. On the more pleasant side, PAC-MAN was released in Japan and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was released on the world (I think the spoiler was pretty much invented, too). Iron Maiden dropped their first LP and Richard Pryor just burned the crap out of himself trying to freebase cocaine. In the world of comic books, Direct Marketing was starting to become a big thing as more specialty comic book stores came into being and comic book specialty distributors came into being to service them. To take advantage of this new distribution model, comic book publishers were able to try things the old newsstand rules wouldn't allow, like miniseries or limited series as Marvel would call them. In 1979 DC would basically release the first one, WORLD OF KRYPTON, which retold Superman's origin in a more complete and in-depth way. Being a hit they of course had sequels, in 1981 with KRYPTON CHRONICLES and PHANTOM ZONE. But before those they did a Batman origin series, THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN.

Well, here we are the final issue of THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN. First off, I'll give you the bad news: BRAVE AND THE BOLD mainstay Jim Aparo drew this issue. Now, I'm sure some of you just got mad; what the heck do I have against Jim Aparo? Nothing, it's just that Marvel's newest golden boy, John Byrne, was supposed to be drawing this miniseries, but all we got was one issue by him. Apparently, scheduling issues knocked him off the book. That said, yes Jim Aparo does a fine job of this issue, as you would expect from such a good Batman artist.

Well, just like WORLD OF KRYPTON last year, THE UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN has been going over the world of Batman with a fine-toothed comb. The main story of this issue continues from the last two; someone is attacking Batman where he lives (the Batcave) and he has a real mad on to figure out who. As he investigates, he and supporting characters reminiscence about their history with Batman. This issue we are treated to origin tales of Commissioner Gordon (about how he came to meet Batman, not becoming a cop), Batgirl, Lucius Fox, and they even introduced a new character to the Batman mythos: Jack Edison. Read on if you wan to know who he is: Jack is a Hollywood stuntman, who designs and builds the Batmobile. You may recall that Batman needs a new one since someone blew up the last one last issue. We also get to the bottom of who has been attacking Batman--read on for reveal:

Ok serious spoiler time. While, yes, it was nice to read all about the people in Batman's life, the big reveal of the villain makes this whole series seem terribly misguided. And that villain is: Bruce Wayne. Ala split personality, Bruce wants his life back and must kill Batman to get it. So yeah, Batman finally went off the deep end. I'll admit Wein does a great job explaining the rationale of Bruce/Batman's fractured psyche (daddy issues and the toll of being Batman), but he's also irrevocably damaged Batman as a superhero character. Would the Justice League or Gotham City accept a hero with a murderous split personality?!? Wein tries to blow off the impact as Robin (PhD) explains this is just a one time deal caused by an explosion (an explosion not in the mini-series--weird), but that's just weak sauce.

So this series really leaves a bad taste in my mouth, despite the fun of walking down memory lane. Artwork wise, as I mentioned earlier, Aparo does a great job. The storytelling is really nice and he draws a great looking Batman. But wow, Wein really opened up a Pandora’s box here, one that is not going to take our favorite caped crusader to any place good. Really curious why Wein thought he could just go there, like it was no big thing to make Batman a 'one time only' split personality (a year later and Hank Pym would knock Wasp aside and is now forever branded a wife beater). Well, treating it like ‘no big thing’ I score this GOOD on the Masked Man's scale of CRAP, POOR, DECENT, GOOD, and GREAT. Treating it as a 'big thing' it scores a POOR.

In 2014, Jim Aparo is known mostly today as the artist who broke Batman's back in 'Knight Fall” in the 90s. But also he helped launch BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS with Mike Barr in the '80s (creating Katana, who is still in action today). In the 70s he, with writer Michael L. Fleisher, created the iconic 'dark' run of The Spectre in ADVENTURE COMICS. Oddly enough for such a long career in comics, he never worked for Marvel. Jim passed away in 2005.

Len Wein is most famous for creating Swamp Thing for DC and a little fellow named Wolverine for Marvel, not to mention relaunching the X-Men in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (and now you know the rest of the story). Wein left comic books in the 90s for animation writing, working on many of top action toons of the day. While he still writes for TV (like the BEN TEN series), he has returned to comics as well, recently working on the BEFORE WATCHMEN books.


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

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