AICN COMICS Reviews: SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SECONDS! MANHATTAN PROJECTS! & More!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #3 /SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1
SECONDS Original Graphic Novel
Indie Jones presents AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1
SUPER SECRET CRISIS WAR #2
ALL NEW GHOST RIDER #5
MANHATTAN PROJECTS #22
Raiders of the Long Box presents WONDER WOMAN #10 (1987)
In stores today!
ACTION ANNUAL #3
DOOMED SUPERDOOM Chapters 3 & 4 (A tepidly super review)
SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN ANNUAL #1
Writers: Greg Pak & Charles Soule
Artists: Way too many people to mention
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
12 artists. Say it with me people, 12 artists for 2 books centered on an allegory for Christ. If you didn’t hear Demi Moore cracking the 8th seal, I warn you now the end is nigh.
DOOMED has been an interesting miniseries in that it has kept me fairly engaged in a character that I have generally spat upon from 1992 to the release of this mini. Doomsday was a joke played on all of us. An UNWRITTEN-like fictional being that killed a hero and an industry. There’s a great documentary out there about the Death of Superman, and one of the editors actually laughs at our collective naiveté that Big Blue was dead. Fuck you, lady--would you like to skin my dog and choke my wife with the pelt next?
Given this venom towards all things Doomsday and his aborted origin of plot contrivance versus tempered and continuity-rich comeuppance, the praise I have sung thus far for Pak and Soule on their efforts in this part of the pantheon of competing Superman stories right now is high indeed. My uggghhhss went to true ahhhhs as the mindless beast that did or did not kill Superman in New 52 continuity (hell, by what I learned from Bitchy McBitcherson in the documentary he didn’t really die before either) turned into a walking embodiment of death to all that surrounded him as a brilliant twist. I was even in it to win it when Superman became infected after felling the Beast, but not the killer. There were some great moments as Superman was morally torn with the choice to kill death incarnate (face it, none of us read Supes cause he’s a bad boy--I know I tune in for the Baptist guilt). Couple all this with the long payoff of the Lois Brainiac infection and a couple other loose threads, this series has been truly spectacular.
And then we were given Superior Superman. The battle with Doomsday is that of the mind. Of course I don’t mean Doomsday the beast, I mean Doomsday the infection’s side effect of causing a schizophrenic split with the self that spurs an immune response of reasoning away the virus. Charles, I am sorry you were handed the unenviable task of carrying home a culminating yawn for your part of these penultimate chapters. You did a fine job given story direction, and I was truly touched by the moment between John Irons and Lana Lang. A little rushed perhaps, but they are a great and interesting team up.
So, in the end if anyone wanted to be proactive about helping Superman beat the big gray…uhhh..psychosis…all they need to do is mug a 12 year old for their Abilify and Adderal.
Pak got the lucky job of showing the other side of the coin in this story. While Soule was dealing with the inner space, Pak handled the physical world during Loniac’s level 12 intelligence invasion of Earth. But again, it’s Superior Loniac in that she is also fighting to get out of a Brainiac mind prison. Looking past this sameness in resolution for Lois and Clark, Pak and his artists did get to infuse many more levels of emotion in Chapter 4 compared to the black backgrounds of space and mind in SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN. The interplay between Batman and the torture of a “hero” Luthor was hilarious, I dare say; for a minute it felt like Bats and Guy Gardner in my coveted JLI days of yore.
Look, I don’t hate either of these books. The twelve apostles of penciling was a little disjointed, but I’ve seen much less cohesion with many less names in the credits. I genuinely was moved by certain panels and pages, and I have enjoyed huge elements of this story. I’m even mildly intrigued by the large 2 page spread space monstrosity that is the true final threat in this story. I, however, cannot abide another generation being duped by Doomsday’s ability to never bring any true doom to anything. The lazy escape hatches tarnished this experience for me. Perhaps redemption awaits next week, but as for both these stories it was truly fandom that gave me chills over any real weight and feeling of consequence.
Ahh, and for all of you who are pro-Amazon and Kryptonian interbreeding, get your hatemail fingers warmed up for the inevitable return to Lois’ arms. There’s a moment between these two as they break their mental bonds that was way more than friends or even friends with bennies or even siblings in West Virginia – it looked like definite amore to me.
DC, please blow me away next chapter so I can write off these conclusions as mere whispers of the truly warranted conclusion.
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.
SECONDS Original Graphic NovelWriter: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Art: Bryan Lee O'Malley
Reviewer: Frida Gurewitz
I’m going to be completely honest. I’m a big SCOTT PILGRIM fan. I had the Ramona Flowers subspace bag as my purse for a year in high school. I saw the movie three times in theaters back in 2010. I can more or less recite it back and forth. I got the nervous sweats talking to Edgar Wright that one time I met him. I’ve read all the books. So you can probably guess that when I heard Bryan Lee O’Malley had a new graphic novel out my inner fangirl squealed.
SECONDS is Bryan Lee O’Malley’s follow up graphic novel after his smash hit series, the SCOTT PILGRIM books. As with SCOTT PILGRIM, O’Malley takes real world struggles and experiences and mixes them with absurd and fantasy elements. Its hero, Katie, is a chef in her late twenties. She questions all the choices she makes. From her current job to her ex-boyfriend who is always hanging around, Katie always seems to be making mistakes--that is, til a mysterious girl appears and gives her a way out. It has modern fairytale feel to it. If it were a fairytale I couldn’t be sure if Katie were the hero and the one doing the saving or the damsel in distress. The lines are blurred. Maybe that’s the point. I have to say that personally I liked the writing style. It’s a sort of third person omniscient, which matches the sort of modern fairytale feel of the whole piece.
One thing bugged me about SECONDS, though. The character of Katie seems a little one-dimensional. She is neurotic and that seems to be about it. She becomes more mature by the end of the book, but until then she seems sort of flat. In terms of lady characters O’Malley has written, Katie is not one of my favorites. He’s done better. I think you’re supposed to sympathetic with her, but to me she just feels whiny. I want to like her as much as I like everything else in the story, but I don’t. I actually prefer the supporting character of Hazel, who introduces Katie to the magic element in the story in comparison to Katie. As a lady myself I don’t feel like Katie is developed enough.
Overall, though, I can say I liked it. It was similar to SCOTT PILGRIM in tone and art style, being as O’Malley wrote and illustrated both. It was definitely his signature manga-esque style. A lot of it works within an orange, dark red, and dark blue color scheme. It’s glossy and warm-toned. It made the book feel almost mystical. It helped to unify the fantasy and the reality elements in the story. A note, though: keep an eye out for all the references to SCOTT PILGRIM thrown in there. especially the “bread is fat” reference. It made me chuckle audibly for a good five minutes. My mom had to come check on me and ask what was so funny. The fangirl in me was satisfied.
AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE #1Writer: John Lees
Artist: Iain Laurie
Publisher: Comix Tribe
I’m a big fan of horror comics. In fact, I’m a big fan of the horror genre in all media. But sometimes the problem with being a horror buff is that a constant intake of monsters, psychopaths and buckets of blood leads to one becoming overly familiar with the tropes and clichés that litter the genre. Though the mainstream comics (and movies, television shows and novels) often fall victim to this terror-numbing sense of “been there, seen that”, this is where the independent horror creators often bring a new insight and twist on those old standards. This is definitely the case in the creepily odd first issue of AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE.
Writer John Lees sets up this series with a mystery that would seem commonplace in any number of crime thrillers—the disappearance of a teenage girl—were it not for several disturbing elements. The Emily of the comic’s title vanishes after claiming to have seen “Bonnie Shaw”, a Scottish bogeyman used to scare children into behaving. Emily’s friend Fiona enlists the aid of a former police detective to help find the missing girl. All fairly boilerplate stuff—but what’s strange is that Detective Hellinger sees things…nasty things that aren’t really there…or are they? And then there’s an interlude with a strange duo, a car and a hammer. And this issue leaves the reader wondering just what Emily’s father is keeping in the ornately carved wooden box in his workroom. The grittiness of the world we know is juxtaposed against the surreal and the possibly supernatural in a way that echoes David Lynch (and especially TWIN PEAKS), and adds a deeper layer of mystery to the plot.
This series will definitely not be for everyone; I don’t even think that all readers of horror comics will be able to come to an agreement about this comic’s artwork. Artist Iain Laurie works in a style that I would describe as more “underground”, kind of like a combination of Lynda Barry and Daniel Clowes with a dash of Basil Wolverton for good measure. The figures are more grotesque than naturalistic, the backgrounds are a surreal suggestion of setting rather than believable space, but the idiosyncratic style lends a nightmarish aspect to the pages that a more realistically rendered comic book might not attain. And the highest praise I can give the artwork is that it was the book’s unique look that enticed me to first glance beneath the cover and subsequently fork over some money to read it.
If you turn your nose up at anything other than naturalistic anatomy in your comic book reading, then AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE will not be for you. For those with a wider range of tastes in their artwork, however, I recommend picking up this issue, an intriguing new player in the indie horror genre.
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.
SUPER SECRET CRISIS WAR #2Writer: Louise Simonson
Artist: Derek Charm
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
IDW has decided to grab some of the DC mojo and created a crossover with the word 'Crisis' in it. They even got a long time DC writer, Louise Simonson, to write it for them, though how thye missed calling it “Infinity Crisis” is beyond me (Marvel rarely uses SECRET WARS, and most of them were pretty lame). Also, anything from the Cartoon Network with the word 'secret' makes me think of THE SECRET SATURDAYS, but they are not in this crossover. These guys, however, are in the cross-over: SAMURAI JACK, BEN 10, DEXTER'S LABORATORY, THE POWERPUFF GIRLS, and ED, EDD N' EDDY. They all need to join forces against Aku, Vilgax, Mandark, and Mojo Jojo. Wait, ED, EDD, N' EDDY, you say? Just for comic relief fun.
Personally, I'd be happy just to see Dexter and the Powerpuff Girls hang out; tossing in Jack ain’t bad, either. But IDW wanted to go whole hog, as they also have one-shot crossover issues with Johnny Bravo, Bill & Mandy, Fosters, Cow and Chicken, and Kids Next Door as well. Either way, it's fun to see them hanging out together. Artist Derek Charm does a good job drawing everyone on model, and his storytelling is pretty good. The characters could look a little stronger, but on a giant jam book like this it's acceptable. Now while his storytelling is clean and gets the job done, it's a bit boring. I don't think he does enough to engage the readers, though with his nice coloring job, everything ties together well and has a nice CN cartoon feel.
Unfortunately, the writing is a letdown here. As I'll not really get into spoilers, the plot is oh so typical as the villains all team up to take out the heroes and take over the universe, which is pretty much the plot of every comic book team up. Nothing's really clever about how it all happens here, either (not even the last page reveal). It's just a paint-by-numbers plot so far. The dialogue doesn't help matters, either. While you can pretty much hear the voices of each character, they often said things that don't relate to what other characters just said. Unlike the cartoons, the characters here talk like a bad dumbed down kids show. I really expect more from Simonson and wonder if someone was messing with her script (because they think they know better) or maybe she doesn't really know these shows well enough. One spoiler illustrating my point I will mention here is the villains' lame attempt to imprison the heroes. It's so poorly done, anyone who has watched the shows has to figure the villains wanted them to escape (I mean, sticking Jack in a containment cell while he still has his sword?!?). Now this could turn out to be the plan, but the general tone of the comic just makes me think the villains are just that dumb here.
So I'm of two minds: one, this series is being mishandled, or two, it's being created for small kids. But there are two factors to consider: one, most of these shows went off the air quite a while ago (except “Ben 10”), so I'm not so sure small kids even care about these characters. Two, the shows were never created for small kids. They were created for a general audience, like the original “Bugs Bunny” cartoons. Well, with four more issues left to go the plot could become more interesting with some twists, but I kind of doubt the execution will improve much.
ALL NEW GHOST RIDER #5Writer: Felipe Smith
Art: Tradd Moore
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Ghost Rider works a lot better in theory than he does in practice. He’s the demonic soul of vengeance, pursuing wayward souls while also clubbing demons over the head with a flaming chain. But in reality, it often ends up being the basic tormented hero cliché: he doesn’t want to embrace his dark side, but it’s the only thing that can fight, but does he control it or does it control him yadda yadda blah blah blah.
The new GHOST RIDER title, fresh among the Marvel NOW projects, is nothing new. It’s the story of a trodden upon teen, good at heart, who discovers he has powers and must decide whether to use them responsibly. It’s not exactly breaking new ground.
That’s not why you should buy this issue. By all accounts, it should be a paint by numbers affair, full of the prerequisite twists and family drama. And while those are there, they don’t define the story. That comes during the book, when the new Ghost Rider fights Mr. Hyde, who is also overdosing on super-steroids. This book doesn’t do anything new with the material; it’s completely about the presentation.
And jesus, that part is well done. This is an impressive book, less for the new ideas it brings to the table but rather the presentation. It’s unlike anything on the stands, with pitch perfect writing that feels fresh and original even when it’s coming from the resident “bully” archetype. The art is incredible, striking and fluid in a way other comics only dream about. The way the main character flows from his car into a fight is magnificent.
It’s simply brilliant. It’s instantly memorable, despite the basics of the story line. The comic isn’t really trying to impress us with a new introspection into the basic story. It does its job with the sheer skill that few other comics being produced today know.
MANHATTAN PROJECTS #22Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
This will be as off-kilter a review as MANHATTAN PROJECTS is an off-kilter comic. In recent months there has been an upwelling of requests to review Hickman’s side gig from Marvel. I don’t get it. Not because of quality; I am months behind on other books, but always up to date on MP simply to see what unrealized promise of the 20th century Hickman will create and horrendously taint each issue. My apprehension to review the book is out of the utmost respect and the sincere belief you don’t simply walk into MANHATTAN PROJECTS cold on ANY issue, much less this story-turning chapter.
We see the end of Star City as Kennedy’s Haaarvard Yaaard accent against communism finally pushes Khrushchev to choose pride over scientific advancement and productivity and unveils this clandestine organization to both sides of the Iron Curtain. The FDR AI begins to self-replicate, and we also get a quiet introspection as Yuri Gagarin laments the loss of Lamenka the space dog who was captured and then evolutionarily evolved a million years last issue by alien zookeepers and librarians. All ends quietly, though, with Oppenheimer and Einstein’s doppelgangers bludgeoning a Senate Oversight Committee sent to rule over the Los Alamos subterranean layers.
For the average American, I just spoke complete and utter gibberish. Conspiracy buffs pray that I’m writing historical record. Historians recognize the names, but won’t understand why this pluralized version of recorded time contains such egregious anomalies as an e-President. Sci fi buffs will reverberate on the doppelganger drops, because where there’s a dopple there’s usually an alternate universe. Then there are those like myself, who intersect all of these sub-interests of comics and will simply need to see the promise of an age that never was, but should have always been. There is as much peril as promise in MANHATTAN PROJECTS, but just like REVENGE OF THE NERDS, genius will always prevail.
This is not just a “What If?” of the nuclear age. Hickman has given life to these men of history that is somewhere most likely between truth and hyperbole. Public perception is never truth, and anyone who can scribble down the secret to destroying millions of people in a second is, I’m sorry, willing to check a piece of their soul at the door. MANHATTAN PROJECTS is also a bit of mental Rorschach for readers; listen to how I absolve trans dimensional murder and mayhem because they also occasionally open up concepts of wonderment and amazement. Few books will tell me just what a moral prostitute I am for a few 4th dimensional whispers blown on my brain taint.
While here I should discuss Pitarra’s polarizing art. He gets the same blanket “it’s ugly” chides as Quitely, and I often think of his hyperbole of the face as a subtle homage to MAD magazine old-timers. Whatever it is, I love it and wouldn’t trade one square of Kennedy’s jaw to see anyone else making this story. It’s the tale of a project that was created to kill millions that ultimately created a clandestine think tank to control all planes of reality. Ugly deeds deserve a less-than-polished visage. I am also a huge fan of how he draws what I have dubbed “diodepunk.” It’s the same sepia-hued representation of unbelievable science powered by a ridiculous amount of vacuum tubes that you see in games like “Fallout.” The 50s was terrifying, when you think about it. If we could have spread Eisenhower-era blandness across the known universe and multiverses, God help the denizens of the Pat Boone-blanded empire we would live in today.
So there’s the review of MANHATTAN PROJECTS. I entreat anyone who wants to think to start this book from the beginning. Starting now is truly like showing up for prom after your date has her head in the toilet from the Zima. You might have fun, but you’ll definitely wish you started sooner.
WONDER WOMAN #10Release Date: August 4th, 1987
Writer/Artist: George Perez
Scripter: Len Wein
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
These days everyone is talking about Wonder Woman, as her photo from the upcoming Bats v Supes movie has been released, Brian Azzarello's acclaimed run is coming to an end and David Finch's is about to begin. So I thought we should go back in time to this week 27 years ago, when Wonder Woman was a hot selling book for DC by George Perez.
Summer 1987: the world saw Budd Dwyer kill himself on TV and THE SIMPSONS on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW. Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall and helped the FCC tear down the Fairness Doctrine. THE LAST EMPEROR beat out FATAL ATTRACTION for Best Picture, while we nerds were watching ROBOCOP and PREDATOR (although THREE MEN AND A BABY made more money than all of them). GOLDEN GIRLS won its second Emmy and “That's What Friends Are For” won the Grammy for Song of the Year. THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS wrapped up its first season on Saturday mornings. Meanwhile, in the world of comics, things were booming. Indie comics were finally becoming respected and successful, as the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES scored a cartoon deal. And while their New Universe proved unsuccessful, Marvel was still doing well under Big Jim Shooter, but the conflicts he created finally got him fired. DC, meanwhile, was riding high with its post-Crisis world. Frank Miller retooled Batman, John Byrne relaunched Superman, and Wonder Woman was getting close to wrapping up a successful year (in years) under George Perez with WONDER WOMAN #10.
After a couple of standalone issues, plus the reintroduction of Cheetah, George Perez and company are ready to blow our minds with the next big chapter in Wonder Woman's new life, “The Challenge of the Gods”, which comes with a pretty awesome fold-out cover, and based on the events in this issue, the three-sided cover seems to show off what we are in store for for the whole arc--and whole lot of mythical monsters!
If you are anything like me, you like Wonder Woman as a concept; reading her book not so much. I liked her on the SUPERFRIENDS, and I liked Lynda Carter's TV show, even with the typical 70s action cheese. But her comic book just never seems to have top talent. I think the last time she did have top talent was when Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano (over Mike Sekowsky's pencils) turned her into an Emma Peel wannabe (now she's a Xena wannabe). Since then her book has just kinda been there, even if she was back to the red, white and blue and superpowers. Now that everything old is new again at DC, George Perez is in charge, and you can't get more top talent than that! And the book is living up to the hype. WONDER WOMAN is finally a must buy book!
So let's get into the details and spoilers of this issue, shall we? True to his word, George Perez is returning Wonder Woman to her more mythical roots, and what's more Greek mythology than Zeus trying to sleep with any chick that catches his fancy, in this case Wonder Woman? It's funny that no one ever tried this angle before! Maybe the Comics Code had something to do with it, but then this is a Code book as well. Obviously, Wonder Woman says no thanks, which really cheeses Zeus off. Curious that Zeus didn't just morph into something, like the good old days. Anyway, Zeus sells the rest of the gods on the notion that Wonder Woman is snubbing all the gods when she snubs him, king of the gods. And this injustice shall not stand. The rest of the Gods, not willing to confront Zeus outright (well, except for Hera), get him to agree to creating a challenge for Wonder Woman. If Wonder Woman can complete the challenge, then she is equal to the gods and can snub away. Zeus forces Wonder Woman to accept the challenge by threatening the other Amazons, but oddly enough the biggest motivation is that Zeus also promises to reveal Wonder Woman's destiny…wait, wasn't that to defeat Ares, which she already did? Apparently not, as Wonder Woman can't wait to learn her destiny despite her mother, Queen Hippolyta, being against the whole thing. So what's the challenge? To enter the Demon's Lair under Themyscira, the place of unspeakable evil that the Amazons have been charged with securing for the past 2000 years or so, and return with Zeus' greatest treasure. As this first issue comes to a close, Wonder Woman enters the Demon Lair and kills the first monster she encounters, only to be immediately met by another and a cliffhanger ending.
In the great tradition of a Ray Harryhausen movie, “Challenge of the Gods” kicks off to a great start. Mind you, just like a Ray Harryhausen film, the logic of the plot isn't as important as the adventure of the plot. But in both cases, Harryhausen and Perez's art makes the trip worth while. As a writer, I think Perez can be a little long-winded at times--a trick he learned from Marv Wolfman, I'm sure. The amount of text boxes, bubbles and balloons is easily twice that of your average comic. While Perez is no great wordsmith, it's not painful reading all that either. And to be fair, Perez is doing a lot of world building with Themyscira (aka Paradise Island), Olympus ( in all its M.C. Escher glory) and everyone who lives there. It's a lot to cover, and Perez is doing just fine at it.
As for the main attraction, the artwork, Perez never ceases to amaze. All the mythical scenery is wonderfully drawn. Every god, monster and Amazon is equally amazing. Even his jam-packed panels of storytelling add to this great experience of a George Perez comic book. Perez is truly a master of epic superhero and fantasy comic books.
To get personal for a moment, I don't quite get all the weapons Wonder Woman is running around with these days. While Perez did have a good use for them in this story, they seem unnecessary for one as powerful as Wonder Woman. Even before Perez increased her powers for this new series, Wonder Woman had often duked it out with Superman (i.e. JLA # 143) and has done well (yes, Superman always wins). So why does someone at Superman's power level need weapons? Even magical ones? I guess it's just a cool factor--the combination of a decked-out Greek warrior and the need for blades in this post-Wolverine world.
Back to the book at hand, this promises to be a great chapter in an epic run. DC is really white hot now and WONDER WOMAN is a shining example of that (if only they could get Miller to commit to a regular run on Batman). You best enjoy it why you can, because you know it can't last.<br.
After years of being a fan fav artist, WONDER WOMAN was the first time George Perez ever wrote a comic book. And while his writing never really comes close to his drawing skill, he is much better at it then most wannabe writer artists. After WONDER WOMAN, he would help develop the short-lived SACHS AND VIOLENS with Peter David at Marvel, then a run on SILVER SUFER issues before creating CRIMSON PLAGUE over at the ill fated CrossGen Comics. As DC reinvented their universe again in the New 52, George Perez was now part of the relaunch of Superman, writing SUPERMAN comics. Unfortunately, Perez found the New 52 working environment not to his liking and like many other creators left SUPERMAN early. Currently, George Perez is recovering from diabetic retinopathy, but next month should see the launching of his newest creator owned series SIRENS for Boom! Studios. Just like in 1987, George Perez is a big deal in comic books.
Len Wein is bit of an unsung hero in comic books. The man has written nearly every character at DC and Marvel and created memorable characters like Swamp Thing (and maybe not so memorable ones like Human Target), plus nearly all the New X-Men, before Chris Claremont took over and made them all famous. Just like on WONDER WOMAN, he never really gets credit for his work with the fans. He still writes comic books to this day, as well as animated TV shows like the BEN 10: series and MARVEL SUPER-HERO SQUAD.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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