Comics

AICN COMICS Reviews: Vertigo’s BODIES! GROO VS. CONAN! TRANSFORMERS VS GI JOE! AMAZING SPIDER-MAN! & More!

Published at: July 30, 2014, 2:29 p.m. CST by ambush bug

Logo by Kristian Horn
The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

Advance Review: BODIES #1
GROO VS. CONAN #1
SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #1
Indie Jones presents THE AMATEURS Original Graphic Novel
SUPERMAN #33
TRANSFORMERS VS. GI JOE #1
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4
Raiders of the Long Box presents HERCULES UNBOUND #1


In stores today!

BODIES #1

Writer: Si Spencer
Art: Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade, Meghan Hetrick and Tula Lotay
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Optimous Douche


Don’t be fooled by the delicately blood splattered demure cheesecake on BODIES’ cover. If you want a true peek into the contents of this new miniseries, I suggest looking at the symbolism adorning each letter in “BODIES” emblazoned on the title instead (especially the S).

Spencer’s tale of four detectives living in different time periods is as disjointed as it is cohesive. While I realize the oxymoron of this statement, this unique story telling with a horrific and Sci-Fi theme makes for the most varied reading experience I have been privy to in a long while.

With that said, BODIES will not be for everyone. The book is very British. Despite the book taking place in the years 1890, 1940, 2014 and 2050, geographically all of these officers and PIs occupy London’s East End. Now, I’m a huge BBC nut, I grew up with parents who had Brits over constantly for business and my own globally oriented career has trained my ear towards accents and colloquialisms. If you don’t have that training, you will need a little help with Spencer’s British slang It’s not overwhelming, but the words provide a layer of garnish that makes the dialog sing.

There is also the conundrum of the unique nature of the connective tissue in combination with the introduction of each character. Dare I say, there are almost too many surprises to keep things straight on just one reading? Each detective is grand in personality and each draws drops an Easter egg on the overarching mystery of the same dead body appearing in all 4 time periods. Also it took me a second glance to realize that the dead body is immediately accepted and integrated into cases the crew is already unraveling.

The book starts with our 2014 detective, a Muslim woman who kicks ass in police riot gear. She defies convention, knows how to play in a man’s world, and is a noble beacon in joining the good “gang” instead of one of the bad ones. I was lukewarm to this vignette not knowing all the hooks I just spoiled above.

Next step is 1890. ANY story that starts with two British fops exchanging back alley blow jobs is aces with this guy. Inspector Hillinghead is thwarting the back alley head, not giving it. Hillinghead literally stumbles over the temporal wandering corpse as he is breaking up this dandy tryst.

2050 confused the living fuck out of me. The detective has amnesia and is haunted by a creepy little girl.

1940 almost made me feel like I was in America for a second (until the word sod showed up). This private dick is a crooked one willing to break ant rules to get the job done. Not many clues on the corpses for this one, but I like heroes willing to imbibe villainous ways.

I realize my review is right on the cusp of horrid at the moment since I can’t really spoil that which I don’t fully understand. What entices me though is the promise of this confusion becoming clarity in doled out morsels. Spencer is crafting a unique mystery. I’m also a big fan of using different artists for each story. This structure is really the only way to do an art bonanza to avoid any jarring eye donkey punches.

Vertigo continues to be a force of comic experimentation and boundary breaking. While I don’t want to see any of the unique stories coming out of Image ever disappear, I would like them to have a bit more competition and Vertigo could easily be the chief contender if they simply pump up the volume, pump up the volume, dance, dance. DC and WB suits would really best be deserved in off setting their coffers to eschew more heavily than New 52 at this point. Only a fool tries to thwart the competition with the same exact strategy, yet we have seen this ineffective slap fight between Marvel and DC for years now. Invest more in Vertigo and I guarantee not just success, but a true seismic shift across all comic book offerings.

When Optimous isn't reviewing comics he is making the IT words chortle and groan with marketing for MaaS360, enterprise mobility management (link these three words to www.maas360.com). He also has a comic coming out sometime soon, for updates head to robpatey.com.


GROO VS. CONAN #1

Writers: Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier
Artists: Sergio Aragones and Thomas Yeates
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


They said it could never happen--they said it never should happen! But here it is. Delayed because of Sergio Aragones ' health issues, he's now back making comic book history (such as it is) by crossing over arguably the two best selling fantasy characters in comic books: Conan the Barbarian and Groo the Wanderer (at Marvel, alone Groo was published for ten straight years and Conan for 23).

For those of you not to familiar with Groo, in a nutshell he is a parody of Conan and barbarian characters in general. He's not smart, he's ill mannered, will do just about anything for money, is unbeatable with swords, and for the most part he's a good guy who tries to do right. Groo, of course, takes it to another level by being really dumb, often killing the people who hire him (usually by accident). The guy never gets anything right, so famously that most people often fear him more than evil lords and dragons. Even if you bet on Groo to screw it up, you'll still somehow lose. The only one who doesn't hate him or fear him is his loyal dog, Rufferto. So when a town decides to finally get rid of Groo, they try to find the biggest, baddest, warrior they can--Conan! Place your bets, people.

Ok, on some level that all makes sense, until you see the style of Groo. These characters were not meant to play together. Aragones and Evanier even run with this, as they got Tom Yeates to draw all the Conan scenes (you can see this by the cover). They even go farther by making this a plot point in the comic as well. As the fantasy action stops, Aragones and Evanier take center stage talking about whether or not they should make this comic, and how much money it will make them. Things really go off the rails when the police show up to squelch a comic book store protest and Aragones gets Rodney Kinged in the back of his head. This head trauma leads Aragones to think he is Conan and that a Conan/Groo cross-over is a great idea. Yes, if you thought the very concept of Conan and Groo even meeting was too much, this comic has even more for ya! So while I'm sure we'll see Conan and Groo fight, maybe even a team up, the rest of these three issues is up for grabs.

With this first issue, I like the concept more than the execution. I like the Groo and Conan set-up, I like all the breaking of the 4th wall, but it's a little too matter of fact (bear with me here). Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier are two clever and funny s.o.b.'s, so I expect more from them, and this first issue isn't much more than mildly amusing.

On the art side of it, Tom Yeates is going to get the shaft here. His Conan work looks just fine, but it's up against one of the maddest cartoonists from MAD MAGAZINE: Sergio Aragones. Aragones is the cartoon version of George Perez: he just crams every page and panel with so much stuff--great stuff! There are often one or two gags happening in the background as well as what's going on in the foreground, and his work here looks as great as it ever did (despite the dealing with his back problems).

Conan and Aragones fans shouldn't miss this one. We'll probably never see the likes of it again. And while I was expecting more, the book is still fun and looks great. I'm so down for the next three issues. Oh, and if you hear anyone mention cheese dip, that's Groo's favorite food.









SUPREME: BLUE ROSE #1

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Tula Lotay
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee


As a highly impressionable youth and borderline sociopath, I owe a lot to Warren Ellis from fifteen years ago on as I absorbed a large quantity of his writing material. It essentially made me the purveyor of Mad Bastardry and Drop Bears that I am today. But it was the style and kinetic energy that stemmed from his scripts that really made me appreciate the man’s writing. Yes, these works were one of the prime examples of the “decompressed” ragefest that was also going on a little over a decade ago as everyone was feeling their rip-off juices flowing as they felt they were not getting their money’s worth as between splash pages and “widescreen” action jaunts you could mow through some of these pieces of escapism in three minutes flat sometimes (and, to be fair, sometimes this shit did happen pretty excessively). I always felt that this approach just made a case for certain writers to be judged on a case-by-case, format-by-format basis. Even within this idea, though, where some writers just work better within certain confines of formatting and pacing, Warren Ellis has just begun to start fucking with us.

SUPREME: BLUE ROSE opens with a solid five pages of “what the fucking fuck?” and becomes a lot of atypical setup with some more “what the shit” sprinkled about. Immediately you know this book isn’t your daddy’s SUPREME, because your daddy’s SUPREME was a piece of overly-muscled, hyper-violent anti-heroing that later was turned into a commentary on several decades’ worth of superhero comic book storytelling via Alan Moore and is now a comic about investigative journalism. Let the fucking with us commence.

Supreme is more a whisper than a force of nature fighting for good, Diana Dane is a journalist who was let go for being good at her job, and Darius Dax is a trumped up arrogant piece of megalomania--all familiar faces for those who have at least an acquaintance with the source material in a brand new approach for a book that has seen several brand new approaches already. But this approach is by Warren Ellis, so we are interested. We get an opening dream sequence where Diana encounters a man in a grey helmet called “Enigma”, and I feel like I have never done enough drugs in all my life combined to understand what he was getting at. Instances like that break up what is overall a pretty wordy opener that lets us know this is a “man on the street” story involving godlike beings as Diana chases after the secrets of the world and a much-needed paycheck. Altogether it’s an interesting if eclectic and even kind of navel-gazing piece of material that I have no idea how to gauge going forward.

It’s all because, like I’ve already pounded home already, Ellis is a creator who likes to fuck with format. In fact, his entire reemergence back into the world of comics between this book here, fellow Image title TREES, and his balls-teasingly short-lived MOON KNIGHT stint seem to be all directed by a man who has decided all the frames on his wall need adjusting. Some of the usual players are all up in this piece – big talking mystery man with a job, the secret history of the world needing exposed, etc. – but there is a shocking amount of grounding happening as Diana’s existential crisis of her place in the world and why she would even work for Dax is really the world a solid half of this book revolves around. The rest, well, like I said: weird guy in a helmet, there’s an interlude involving some vampire-looking motherfucker called Professor Night, and other random brain droppings, all designed to further confound Diana herself and gleefully make us wonder where the hell this book will be going. I, personally, am very, very interested; I’m just not sure I’ll be doing it in the traditional monthly format.

Since it’s a debut it is hard to tell, but I just have a feeling this is going to read that much better in collected edition. Really, most comics do in general, but I think this will be built for a trade format not in that decompressed manner where you can blaze through even a five issue collection over lunch, but because I do not think Mr. Ellis really gives a shit where his scripts begin and end anymore. That’s nothing defamatory, I swear--I just feel like he has a swath of story to tell and the twenty page format is just a rough guideline so that the issue doesn’t accidentally end right in the middle of a progressing sequence. The adventures Diana are about to go on are just this long line of cool shit that is going to happen, and that line is going to get snipped every twenty page beats and get rejiggered so they end and continue properly in this format and then snip differently once they are in a collected format and so on. There’s a ton of unbridled energy here, and convention seems like a silly thing to confine it in the name of.

Speaking of energy, Tula Lotay’s art contains a significant wattage in its own right. It, like Diana in the face of all the oddness before her, kind of just wades through the random ongoings with a sense of disbelief bear wrestling with resolve to take on whatever it comes face to face with. It’s a wonderfully playful yet disconnected style that will be right at home given the kind of shenanigans we are teased to expect. This stuff is the exact opposite of what you’d expect a book with the SUPREME name on it to look like, yet it is exactly the kind of art you would expect with something that has an otherworldly aura about it but that wants to stay grounded, and that is why it is an inspired choice judging by this issue’s contents. In a title that I’m really hoping will mess with convention as this has led me believe, it’s a perfect fit to rock that boat a little bit more. All that is left is to watch the Mad Bastardry unfold and make a decision on the best way to enjoy the package this book is and the installments with which it will be hitting the shelves. This isn’t the SUPREME book we need right now but it is definitely the one we deserve. Cheers…

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, 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 AMATEURS Original Graphic Novel

Writer: Conor Stechschulte
Art: Conor Stechschulte
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Reviewer: Ambush Bug


While those who like their stories spoonfed to them may be disinterested in THE AMATEURS, people who don’t mind their stories on the obtuse and surreal side will want to take notice of the latest grim fable from Fantagraphics.

The book opens with a pair of women wandering through the woods and happening upon a severed head. To make things even more bizarre, the head is still talking and appears to be telling a strange story about two butchers who wander into work not remembering much from the night before. As they try to quiz each other as to their whereabouts the night before, they also find themselves clueless as to how to do their jobs. When a pair of ladies show up with their usual orders for meat, a bloody comedy of gruesome errors unfolds as the butchers do their best to fulfill the orders without knowing how to properly kill the animals and use the butcher’s equipment.

Reminiscent of FARGO and other Cohen Brothers films, this story takes the mundane everyday life and warps it through a carnival mirror. The characters involved don’t necessarily overreact to the strange events that occur in the story; they simply say “that’s odd”and then go about their business. It’s because of this disconnect between the outrageous events unfolding and the reactions from the characters that THE AMATEURS becomes so effective. While much of the landscape, culture, and people are familiar things, this may as well be a story about aliens with the bizarre way they respond to things.

I won’t lie and say that I understood everything about THE AMATEURS. It looks to be a story of some kind of witchcraft involved, though the witchery is going on behind the scenes and the story itself deals with the aftermath of a ceremony on the innocent parties involved. But with this tale, it’s not the why’s that is so entertaining, but the particular scenes--especially the ones with the butchers trying to kill their livestock and ending up slicing themselves to pieces in the process. The gory mess that occurs is something I’ve never seen before, and it’s most definitely not for the squeamish.

Fantagraphics is a company known for its amazing catalog of stories that occur outside of the norm. THE AMATEURS is one of them. Told with a bit of whimsy and a whole lot of blood,; if you’re a fan of offbeat and surreal tales that may have crept from David Lynch’s brain while he was sleeping, THE AMATEURS is one you might want to seek out.

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!




SUPERMAN #33

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: DC Comics
Review: Mighty Mouth


‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Superman…’

As the decades roll on, for comics characters to stay relevant they occasionally need some tweaking for contemporary audiences. I get it. Nonetheless, when updating a character it’s essential that their key fundamentals remain intact. Much like the scientists of Jurassic Park, DC was in such a haste to see if they could radically change Superman, they never stopped to ponder should they. This birthed a character with all the powers and abilities of Superman, but lacked the altruism and humility that has inspired generations of fans for 75 years.

Over the last few years a slew of creative shifts have come and gone in this effort to revitalize the character and his sales with less than spectacular results. Now Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr. are up to bat, and it appears they just might have the right stuff to steer Superman’s flight path back on course.

One of the chief glitches with Superman’s direction under the new 52 (or whatever number it truly is now) has been the absence of Clark Kent’s sensibilities. Superman should be what Clark Kent is capable of, while Clark Kent should remain his true persona (not the other way around). Johns seems to be fully cognizant of this, and in just a mere two issues has managed to reinstate a good helping of this missing ingredient. To put it bluntly, Clark Kent cares again, and this attitude adjustment remains prevalent both in and out of the blue onesie. Now that’s the stuff, Geoff.

The reestablishing of Big Blue’s supporting cast is another good step in the right direction. However, it’s also an area that could stand some true renovating. On the one hand, I completely appreciate the nod to the Perry White of the classic Richard Donner film. On the other, I can’t help but feel that Perry and the rest of the gang are the ones that could stand to get with the times a little. I mean if we’re really attempting to make the book fashionable. Couldn’t Perry and the others be concerned with the Daily Planet’s multimedia presence and breaking new ground instead of the same old tired newspaper bit? When I last checked, newspapers weren’t selling like they used to and this would be an interesting and diverse angle for the supporting cast at the Planet to tackle.

White’s also applying constant pressure to have Kent return to the Daily Planet. While it’s great to see Clark’s intuitiveness and reporting instincts being emphasized once again, I would prefer he not spend too much time hanging around the office. This is the technology age; let Clark function as a freelancer or correspondent. At the very least this sets him up to not have to constantly make excuses regarding his constant vanishing acts, provided he emails in his assignments timely.

The only other snag for me is the Ulysses character. Yay! Yet another strange visitor with powers, abilities and an origin rivaling Superman’s (didn’t we just get this with Wraith over in SUPERMAN UNCHAINED?). That narrative is running a bit thin for my taste and honestly, what the #$%! is the deal with that guy’s hair? Okay, that last one is a design flaw, and a minor grievance at best.

Speaking of design, I’m one of those folks who rather enjoy Romita Jr.’s art. As a fellow artist myself, I admit he does have his flaws, particularly when he is pressed for time. That said, his panel composition and storytelling can always be counted on. Whereas some artists forego backgrounds and skimp out on structure, with Jr. you firmly know where the scene is taking place and the depth of action is rarely in question. Jr.’s line work is a bit tighter than last issue’s and Laura Martin’s coloring really deserves some cred for bringing vibrancy to these pages.

When the pairing of Johns and Romita was first announced, I decided that would be the right time for me to give another SUPERMAN book a chance. And you know, it’s nice to see your faith rewarded once in a while. There is still a long road ahead, but this is positively an immense step in the right direction.


TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #1

Writers: Tom Scioli & John Barber
Artist: Tom Scioli
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: KletusCassidy


Movies like “Transformers” and “G.I. JOE” aim to tug on those nostalgic strings we all have dangling from our hearts, in hopes that said string pulling will cause herds of nostalgic zombies to blindly march to the movies thus causing the studios to turn massive profits…oh, ..shit...it worked! In my opinion, those movies are a fucking let down. It's not because I have an attachment to a particular style of storytelling or that I think to myself "humph! This is nothing like the cartoon," it's just that I feel like these movies are devoid of any of the style that made these toys and cartoons unique and fun. It’s just the Hollywood machine, man, chewing up our childhood and shitting it out on film, brother, there’s a little man behind he scenes called Gideon, man, and he is only who can see what coming but we’re gonna take it back, man..BURN BABY BURN...sorry, I got carried away. When I was young, I had tons of toys...He-Man, Transformers, G.I. Joes, C.O.P.S, Centurions, M.A.S.K., TMNT, Legos, the animal humanoids with earth/air/water/fire holograms on their chests...and I loved every bit of it and still have a warm place in my soul for all of them. What I'm getting to is that seeing one of those toys on a movie screen that were once near and dear to Ol’ Kletus' child-sized tiny black heart doesn't mean I’m gonna automatically dig that shit, ya dig? That being said, this comic comfortably feeds that nostalgia without pandering or taking away the things that made me love these toys and cartoons in the first place, thus my review of TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #1.

If you didn't read the free comic book day TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #0, then you missed out. This comic blew my mind with its strange approach to art and dialog, which left me foaming at the mouth for more. Not only was this a great comic, but in the back of the issue it came with a Creators Commentary with Tom Scioli and John Barber talking about every page and how the art/story decisions were made as well as all the little details and references to the comics and cartoons that were meticulously added to this issue. Transformers and G.I. Joe fans, rejoice: these guys have a lot of love and knowledge of these two properties and it really shines through in this book. This series, so far, has managed to perfectly balance the fun of the old cartoons with the seriousness needed to keep a reader interested, which is not an easy task. The drama is real but the tone playfully weaves between unreal, very real and downright silly but in a way that is not the least bit jarring. The art--dear god, the art is fantastic, but I can understand someone not liking it because it can come off as kind of basic, but in my opinion the simplicity of it adds to the charm. Once you start really paying attention to the art and see the detail put into these pages, you will be rewarded because all throughout this book are little gems that you probably didn't see the first time. Yes, I 'partook' a little before I read this comic, which did cause me to obsessively review each page with a fine-toothed comb, but it was worth it to take my time with this issue and get deep into the folds of this comic...does that sound dirty? The art definitely has a Kirbyesque look to it with its perspectives, jagged lines and exaggerated facial expressions but to me that's NEVER a bad thing. From the panel layouts and the coloring to the G.I. Joe info sheets which introduce us to new characters (which are the same shape as the ones you'd cut out on the back of the G.I. JOE packages...kudos!) to the overall attention to detail and cameos from my favorite Joes and Transformers, this comic rules!

Can you tell I like this book? I'm calling it: these guys are gonna be up for an Eisner for this book. The overall approach to this comic, in the way that it looks and the way scenes unfold, is very unique and retro in a way that doesn't come off as forced which, again, isn’t a simple thing to do. These guys are using the medium to its full extent and this issue is a testament to that and I am happily onboard for the rest of this series. As I said, the art may not do it for a lot of people, but to Ol’ Kletus, the art is perfect for this book. The story has a simple premise that you could guess from the title, but the details and the roads it takes to reveal that story make a for a very fun read. This comic has managed to take me back to a time where if Li’l Kletus was good in school (I was a little hellion), I'd get a G.I. Joe as a reward...and I have a shit load of G.I. Joes. So to Scioli and Barber, thanks for bringing a grumpy old skeptic back to a time where my biggest worry was what toy to play with. Seriously, this book is rad!

If you’d like to hear more from Kletus Cassidy (I know, why would you, right?), you can listen to him and his good buddy Steve discuss comics, comic news and more on the SANCTUM SEQUENTIAL podcast now on iTunes. Email questions, comments and hate mail to Thanks!


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel


So we’re now four issues back with Peter Parker as the major Spider-Man in Marvel’s main continuity, with Peter still adjusting to some major changes Doc Ock created within the few months he had control of Parker’s body. Peter’s still trying to figure out the CEO of his own company thing, attempting to fix Electro from Ock’s experiments, and explaining to every hero he comes across that Ock stole his body--even to the point he has to explain it in the middle of utter chaos, Peter is making sure people know he’s back in his body. There’s also the whole element of Black Cat trying to get revenge on Spider-Man after Ock beat the crap out of her and sent her to jail, instead of the usual dance of flirting back and forth between the two, plus some weird tension between Peter and SpOck’s ex, who Peter of course employed.

There’s a lot going on in our favorite web-head’s life, and I don’t think as a reader I’d have it any other way. Of course, Marvel is in the middle of the big “Original Sin” event, so even more gets piled onto Parker’s shoulders, including a very big mistake that’s he’s been unaware of for years. This mistake, or “sin”, is after he was bitten by the radioactive spider, he never actually killed the spider, allowing it to live and in turn bite another individual, and as I stated, Parker’s been completely unaware of this. This person is Cindy Moon, who’s been locked in a compound by Ezekiel Sims, hiding her away from Morlun.

Now before getting into all that fun, let me get into some details of Marvel NOW’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4. If you haven’t been following the “Original Sin” event, there comes a moment which leads to almost every “Original Sin” tie in, this moment being The Orb unleashing the Watcher’s severed eye upon everyone in the immediate area, flashing every hero or villain’s “sin”, causing generally everyone to go F you guys, I’ve got some stuff to take care of, with Spider-Man being no different.

Once Spidey has time to compose himself and bounces from the battle against The Orb, like a lot of other people, he heads to a location revealed to him by the Watcher’s eye. Upon arriving at an old lair of Ezekiel’s Spiderman acts without thinking, letting Cindy free, while the entire time she’s screaming not to. Super pissed off, Cindy begins attacking Spidey for letting her out, explaining she’s been hidden away from for a reason, keeping everyone safe from Morlun, which has something to do with her being the Spider-bride and, as Morlun says, “The spinner at the center of the web.”, with me making the safe assumption, this will be a huge factor later on in the year for Slott’s Spiderverse event. After Cindy finally calms down, Spidey gets the chance to explain Morlun is dead and she has nothing to worry about. This leads to some great back and forth between the two, with Cindy taking on the identity of Silk. However, as soon as things seem to be looking up in Cindy’s life, Peter completely drops the ball by stating Morlun’s died several times, making it obvious he’s probably not dead this time. While the two begin arguing and fighting again, both of their spider senses seem to be drawing them together, with some super sexual tension, until the book ends with them kissing.

Overall, this is an extremely solid issue and the tone I missed in the SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN run, which did I really like. However, this is the type of book that, if you’re a Spider-Man fan, is the reason why you like the series. The story is fun and upbeat, with plenty of light-hearted tones throughout. Parker’s life is chaotic, hectic, and as usually he can’t handle it with any skill, with him being clumsy with his priorities and just stumbling through life but enjoying every bit of it. Peter is such an awful CEO, who at the same time is trying to make genuine strides and do good, with his identity as Spider-Man still needing some clean up, from what Ock did for his image. And finally, he now rescues someone he feels responsible for and still finds a way to screw it up, in a way that is entirely loveable as a character.

Another plus is Cindy Moon, or Silk, who from this book alone seems like she will be a great addition into Spider-Man’s world. Her personality seems very similar to Spider-Man’s, but not so much to Peter’s, in that she is all over the place and nutty, but more prone to emotionally charged reactions. The two should have some great banter in later issues, along with interesting character interactions. Slott also did a good job of conveying the differences in their abilities during the two’s first fight after Cindy is released and the differences in those powers.

The artwork is also excellent, if you like Ramos’s work. I know from at least the interview talkbacks he did on AICN that his artwork isn’t for everyone, and some people couldn’t stand his anime cartoon-like style; for me, I enjoy it. I feel like it works so well with the tone of the Spider-Man character and the stories. You still get the definition of artistic style for the characters, while allowing them to have a personality uniform with the character and the tone of the book. I like Ramos’s work and even objectively, I think it’s a good style for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but if you don’t like his style there really isn’t a way to get around to liking it, so it is what it is.

To conclude, I would recommend checking out this title and the series. I was one of the skeptics for SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN but was proved wrong by the series’ quality, so if you liked SUPERIOR and then became skeptical of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN’s return, don’t worry--it’s still very good. This is definitely worth checking out and following, for that matter.


HECULES UNBOUND #1

Release Date: July 31st, 1975
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Wally Wood
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man


This year we got a double dose of Hercules at the box office, so I thought we'd go back 39 years this week to when DC Comics launched their one and only Hercules comic book to date with HERCULES UNBOUND #1.

Late summer 1975: the Vietnam War (or police action, if you prefer) ended with the fall of Saigon, “The Rocky Horror Show” opened on Broadway and Jimmy Hoffa went missing. Microsoft was founded in New Mexico, UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS won its second Emmy for Outstanding Drama series, and SHAZAM! and HONG KONG PHOOEY were big hits on Saturday mornings. “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand was the Song of the Year, while DEATH RACE 2000 and ROLLERBALL were in the movie theaters. In the world of comic books, the Silver Age was over, but the industry was still enjoying the increase in readership as all genres were selling well. Marvel had recently become the top company, but DC had plans to take back with their grand plan: the DC Explosion! One of these new Explosion titles was HERCULES UNBOUND!

So what happens when you cross a post-nuclear disaster with a sword and sandal? DC's newest fantasy comic book, HERCULES UNBOUND! After years of writing for Marvel, Gerry Conway has come back to DC, and apparently he's doing whatever they give him, even this odd bird. The penciler, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, is the new kid in town and his inker is one of the industry's best, Wally Wood--and they are an awesome combination. If anything else, this is a great-looking comic book.

OK, so what's this new series all about? Well, World War III, or at least the aftermath of WWIII, because the war itself didn't take very long, yying in Greek mythology, and it appears that the war god Ares started the war and is enjoying the new savage world left behind. For reasons we have yet to learn, Ares has also allowed Hercules to escape, after imprisoning him on an island for 1,000 years, hence Hercules unchained. To get into more spoilers, Hercules meets up with a blind college aged kid named Kevin and his dog Basil. Kevin fills in Hercules, and us, on the war and the general set-up. But Hercules knows Ares must be behind this bloody mess and is dead set on a reckoning. Ares, meanwhile, is having fun creating reasons for surviving humans to fight each other. Plus he is unleashing all kinds of monsters, like minotaurs, to join in on the 'fun' with all the other radioactive mutants running around this mess of a world. In the “to be developed later” file, Kevin, who is blind, has near Daredevil-like abilities. Hercules plans to keep an eye on Kevin to see what's up with that. Aside from all the monster punching, Conway decides to add a little more tragedy to it (like it needs it!) by having Ares unleash an Incredible Hulk-like creature on Hercules. Once Kevin helps him kill it, he discovers the creature was once his father (maybe pushed it a bit too hard there, Conway).

For a first issue setting up a crazy premise like this, Conway does a fairly good job. Action and information all flow at a good pace, though the final fight was a bit too rushed, especially considering the consequences of it. Hercules is as big as life, as you'd expect from a Steve Reeves movie, and his traveling partner Kevin seems decent enough. The air of mystery about Kevin could lead to something cool as well. The villain, Ares, is decent enough as well. As the story goes, hopefully Conway will flesh out Kevin and Ares more to make this series a bit more well-rounded than just straight up fighting.

Artwise, holy crap is this a good looking book. Garcia-Lopez has some really fine storytelling and amazing figure work. If you like muscle men, this is your book. All the monsters, Hercules and Ares are all just ready to smash the crap out of each other! Wally Wood's inking just really stamps it all in iron. To contrast it with another fine muscle man artist, John Buscema, these figures aren't as graceful or flowing. These are pure stone carved power. Now, we all know Wally Wood is famous for leaving series quickly, but he is such a great match for Garcia-Lopez, I sure hope he stays around as long as he can.

Talking brass tacks, I'm not sure what Gerry Conway was smoking when he came up with this series. It's just such a mismatch: end of the world, mutants, radiation--and then to throw Hercules into all of that? I love a good Hercules movie as much as the next guy, but I'm not sure how I feel about this. It just doesn't seem like it will work. But, if Garcia-Lopez and Wally keep doing the art, I will keep buying it!

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez is an artist for people in the know. He's greatly respected, but since he's never had a very long run on any series, most fans have never heard of him. In some ways, HERCULES UNBOUND was supposed to be his big break-out series that never broke. Either way, everyone knows his work, because aside from working on DC's comic books, through out the 80s, 90s and 00s he created all the licensing artwork for DC. Chances are you're mug, back-pack, stickers, and notepads were all illustrated by Garcia-Lopez. Heck, even the final season of the SUPERFRIENDS, THE SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS' model designs were all based on his work (and the SUPER POWERS toys as well). Much like HERCULES UNBOUND's inker Wally Wood, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez never developed into the full comic book superstar as he often jumped from title to title. Currently, he still works in licensing and in comic books.

I usually don't cover the inkers, but then there are few inkers like Wally Wood. His inking was so strong, it often looked like Wally drew it as well. Wherever Wally went, he left his mark. Helping to create and define characters like Power Girl, Daredevil and the Tower Comics line (T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS). Wally also left his mark on the offices he worked for as not the easiest guy to work with. Famous for burning bridges, he was often trying to get his own thing going, like WITZEND and THE WIZARD KING. He would have fit right in at Image Comics. Though without a thriving indie market he often fell into creating adult comics, creator-owned and adult, clearly he was ahead of his time. Sadly, Wally Wood is perhaps best known as a tragic figure in comics. His professional dissatisfaction and alcohol abuse pretty much destroyed his life. After three failed marriages, his health started to fail as well and in 1981 Wally took his own life at age 54.

Now current fandom many not know Gerry Conway right off the bat, but the man has made a huge mark on the comic book industry. Not only did he create Firestorm, not only did he kill off Gwen Stacy (yup, he wrote that) not only did he write the SUPERMAN VS. SPIDER-MAN comic, not only did he create Killer Croc, not only did he create The Punisher, not only was he the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics (for like month) but he also wrote 101 issues of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA--more than anyone else, including its creator Gardner Fox. In the early 90s Conway left comic books for TV, Writing for FATHER DOWLING MYSTERIES, DIAGNOSIS MURDER, and LAW AND ORDER. And least I forget, he co-wrote CONAN THE DESTROYER with his good buddy Roy Thomas, and the screenplay for Ralph Bakshi's FIRE AND ICE.


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

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