(Click title to go directly to the review)
JOHNNY RYAN’S PRISON PIT: BOOK ONE Animated Film (2014)
Advance Review: CAPTAIN VICTORY & THE GALACTIC RANGERS #1
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #4
THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW #3
Indie Jones presents CAUSTIC SODA #1
Advance Review: CHASTITY #2
TRILLIUM VOL.1 Trade Paperback
Advance Review: TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL: ECHOES #2
HARBINGER: OMEGAS #1
Raiders of the Long Box presents GHOST RIDER #6 Vol.2 (1990)
Available now on DVD (order here)!
JOHNNY RYAN’S PRISON PIT: BOOK ONE (2014)Directed by Greg Franklin
Written by Johnny Ryan (adapted from the comic book by Johnny Ryan)
Starring James Adomian as Cannibal Fuckface, Blake Anderson as Jizzra, Kyle Kinane as Rabies Bloodbath and Rottweiler Herpes, and Rick Shapiro as the Prison Guard
Find out more about this film here
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Being an avid PRISON PIT reader and admirer, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I picked this DVD up at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. I’ve reviewed almost every book of PRISON PIT so far (Book One review, Book Two review, Book Four review, Book Five review, and interviewed Johnny Ryan about it all at SDCC last year) and each installment blew me away at the depths it goes to and the awesomeness that abounds from each and every page.
Well, the folks at Six Point Harness Studios (who inexplicably also did work for the COSMOS series) have adapted every single page of the first book of this series into an animated format—and I’m talking every blood, bile, and semen splattered page. If anything, this new animated version of the story kicks it up a notch by adding movement and especially sound to the mix. The story is the same, basically following the main character Cannibal Fuckface as he is imprisoned on a desolate planet to do battle with anyone and anything he comes in contact with. Basically, this is the type of story a kid has going in his head when he is banging his toys together in a sandbox…ok, maybe an X-rated version of that. The narrative is loose and simple. Cannibal Fuckface meets someone, they fight, beat the crap out of CF and then CF finds the intestinal fortitude to come back meaner and tear the creature into tiny pieces. This occurs a couple times in this short adaptation which turns out to be about 16 minutes long, comprised of three chapters.
What I admire most about this series as a whole is the way creator Johnny Ryan has tapped into some kind of primal animalistic id with this book. It puts to paper all of the deepest and darkest thoughts most are afraid to talk about. Having met Ryan, you wouldn’t know he’s the creator of this book, as he is a mild-mannered and pleasant individual, but it makes sense since he gets all of that ugliness out there on the page. The film and the books feel cathartic to read, as if reading them is some kind of way to a) see Cannibal Fuckface do to others what you might have the urge to do on occasion in traffic or at work, and b) that there’s someone out there maybe a bit more deranged that you who thought up all of this.
While rudimentary, the art in both the books and the film (which is basically done in the exact same style) is effectively simplistic. Not a lot of details are drawn, except for the uncomfortably close shots, which I will leave for you to enjoy without spoilers. I’ve said this before in my reviews, but in doing so, this almost feels like something a troubled teenager draws on the back of his trapper keeper in school while bored in biology class—something that, if the teacher were to see it, the kid would be sent to the guidance counselor for evaluation. This isn’t a knock on Ryan’s work. For him to tap into that nether realm that most have had hammered out of us through adulthood is something special. Sure there’s semen, blood, guts, snot, and puss in every scene, but under all of the childish fascination with bodily fluids, Ryan is also telling a complex story of eternal conflict.
The film’s got a cool pedigree of talent behind it. On top of the film being directed by COSMOS director Greg Franklin, COMEDY BANG BANG’s James Adomian provides the guttural voicings of Cannibal Fuckface. WORKAHOLICS’ Blake Anderson plays Jizzra, who makes a blobbish suit of power armor made of semen, and LUCKY LOUIE’s Rick Shapiro uses his vocal talents as the various prison guards. Rounding out the group is comedian Kyle Kinane playing the dual role of Rabies Bloodbath and Rottweiler Herpes (god, I love these names). Packaged with the short feature is also PRISON PIT: THE FUCKUMENTARY, which goes behind the scenes of the makings of the cartoon. In it we get to meet the cast, creator, and publisher of PRISON PIT, delving into its history and finding out what Ryan’s peers (like MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE/THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY’s Gerard Way) think of the book—spoiler: they love it. The documentary also reveals how the voice actors get those guttural, wrestling voices they use in the film; by eating lots of pudding, apparently, to coat the throat with ickiness.
Part wrestling match, part brutal sci fi, part uncorked id let loose on a rampage, seeing PRISON PIT alive, moving, and speaking is a thrill this long time reader loved. I recommend this book to anyone who needs a break from cerebral comics and just like seeing a symphony of violence and bodily fluids play out. If you’d like to see this and more PRISON PIT episodes, and you bet your sweet patoot that I do, click here to see how you can make that happen. Here’s hoping this is the first of many adaptations to this hilariously brutal and basely satisfying book.
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 and the new issue #2 available to order in August Previews (item code AUG14 1131) from Black Mask Studios!!
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CAPTAIN VICTORY & THE GALACTIC RANGERS #1Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Nathan Fox, Jim Rugg, Ulises Farinas
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Jack Kirby has left an indelible mark on comics at large, yet the mass quantity and variety of characters he introduced to the medium throughout his life is so vast that I can honestly tell you I’m still discovering new concepts consummated by the King of Comics seemingly every other year of my life. CAPTAIN VICTORY is one such idea: a strategic mind so revered by his crew that they keep a cupboard of clones in the basement of their spaceship just in case he bites the dust, which apparently happens with some frequency. That’s no spoiler. This issue basically kicks off with his demise and spends the next few pages introducing the higher concepts of genetically-engineered replacements.
So even though I am shamefully not the most adept in Kirbyology, I have gleaned a couple of things from studying his work and reading about him: first of all, Jack Kirby had a boundless imagination that seemed to concoct ideas with refreshing simplicity at the drop of a hat, and the second thing is he held a great affinity for young people. So it’s nice to see Joe Casey embrace a younger generation of artists, and not only that, he rallies these cats around what could be misconstrued as a somewhat antiquated story. I mean, just look at the title of this book, which oozes with nostalgic good times, and that is exactly what this book delivers. It’s the sort of high-concept ludicrousness we’ve come to expect from a Kirby creation, presented here not with a tongue in the cheek, but both fists pumping into the air. Simply put, the story thrives within its medium.
From the very first two-page spread depicting interstellar demise, the reverence for these characters’ original creator is palpable, and the lavish layouts creatively relay this admiration for the source material while pushing the Kirby style into the 21st century. It’s amazing how well this stable of artists’ styles coalesce and complement one another, from the chaotic, death-drenched opening to the crystal-clear line work of a foreboding dream sequence. Colorist Brad Simpson also easily merits a mention for keeping the art cohesive while appropriately vibrant. Besides the idea of Joe Casey revitalizing another marginalized creative property (looking at you, Marvel’s VENGEANCE aka “Holy shit this is breathtaking!”) the stable of artists was a huge selling point for me and they did not disappoint. Visually, this is easily in the upper strata of comics released so far this year, a brilliant nod to a bygone era that still manages to include a healthy dose of modern ingenuity.
Boy, there’s really nothing like raw, pure ambition to get you excited about comics again, and this book has that in spades. The best part is, like the miniature spoonful you get at the ice cream parlor, this is merely a taste of what’s to come. Joe Casey is leading a small army of excellence down the road less travelled, not only honoring the past but fearlessly adapting the more nostalgic ideas for a new generation. Next issue sees special guest Michel Fiffe taking up art duties. Since COPRA is probably my favorite comic of this generation, you can bet your ass I’ll be checking that out.
It’s funny how this premise of revitalizing an inspiring leader compliments the ambitions ostensible to this book’s creative team. Like the Galactic Rangers struggling to revive their fallen leader, the creators of this comic are doing everything in their power to bring some of that Kirby magic back to the comics page, and by God (of Comics) they might actually accomplish that goal.
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #4Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is currently the only book left in the Ultimate universe I read, and probably the only one worth reading. ULTIMATES completely fell off, and I couldn’t get past one issue of the new ULTIMATE FF. Like many, I had hoped once Galactus was brought in they’d kind of destroy the Ultimate universe and bring Miles over to 616, or at least get a revamp in quality of the titles with a new direction. Now, this did not happen, leaving ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN being the only book of any quality.
Now before going forward, three things to know: One, if you aren’t reading NEW AVENGERS over in 616, the Marvel multiverse in collapsing in on itself. And during INFINITY, it was revealed that essentially all universes were coming to an end and collapsing to a singularity of sorts. This has left the Illuminati with some less than heroic means of dealing with it and a lot of tension within their ranks, along with their fellow Avengers.
Number two, Bendis has been teasing for weeks this multiverse collapse, showing various crazy people dressed as 616 heroes being arrested in the Ultimate universe police stations, all screaming various things relating to the end of the world and actually making statements directly related to this collapse.
Finally, the third piece is Slott’s Spiderverse event that is supposedly going to involve every and all incarnations of Spider-Man, from TV to comics, from past to present, and of course clones.
Now what was the point of pointing those points out? Well I’ll get to the point later, after the issue summary, because going in those three things could be fairly important to the plot and current direction of the book (A lot of pointing as you can see).
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN 4 begins with current or, umm, ex-girlfriend at this point, Katie Bishop’s reaction to Miles revealing to her his identity as Spider-Man, which she has not taken well at all, and her sister Misha isn’t giving very helpful advice either. On Miles’ end, Norman has finally tracked down the new Spider-Man to the exact spot he killed Peter. However during the battle, much to everyone’s surprise, the person who in previous issues claiming to be Peter has joined the fray to help Miles rocking the red and blue spider tights.
Without getting into any more details on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN 4, the last couple issues have alluded to or shown someone who looks like the Ultimate’s Peter Parker, which all started after Miles discovers this Peter searching for his web shooters and stealing them. Is this a clone? Always a possibility. Is this the actual Ultimate Peter Parker? Maybe, but the Ultimate universe has seemed to have a better grasp on killing characters than 616. This would lead me to the three points I mentioned earlier, pertaining to Slott’s Spiderverse or the multiverses collapsing in. Does this mean it’s a Peter Parker from another Marvel universe? Or maybe the original Peter has returned, finding some kind of loophole because of one of these two events, I would guess something along those lines.
Whatever the case may be, Bendis has been teasing both of these points for some time now within ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, and I’m excited to see how they are utilized in the series. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is the only good Ultimate title currently, and one of Marvel’s better series at the moment. Bendis has done an excellent job pushing the characters in this series over the plot, giving good insight into who Miles is and how he will grow as a hero along with building a good cast around him to further development. There is still a lot to explore in the character and add, as a hero and as Miles. This is the type of story, if you get tired of the “status quo” of the 616 Spider-Man titles that you need to read. While the two Spider-Men share parallels, it is more along the lines of Miles hero worshipping or trying to fill the shoes of his world’s Peter.
As for ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN’s art, David Marquez is an extremely talented artist and has been doing an excellent job in the series. My only complaint would be lack of difference in Peter and Miles in costume, fighting side by side. Other than difference in costume, they two were exactly identical in build and I think there should be a difference. Besides the age, I just feel their builds should reflect the two individuals as different whether through height, weight, or muscularity. However, other than that everything else was spot on.
To conclude, ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN is an excellent series from a writing and artwork perspective. Miles is an awesome character and one I’d like to see more from with Marvel in the future. With a lot of events going on in Marvel, it seems that this series may become a key part of one of them in the future, Obviously within the Spiderverse, but also with 616. If the two universes do collapse in on each other, this would lead to the 616 Illuminati going up against, in comparison, a lack of the veteran hero Ultimate universe, then either combining the two worlds or the destruction of one of them. Final sentence: I highly recommend checking out ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN if you are not reading it already.
THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW #3Writer / Artist: Howard Chaykin
Colorist: Jesus Aburto
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
As The Shadow's regular series shutdown, Dynamite bounces back with a new minseries by fan-fav Howard Chaykin. For those of you who don't know, Chaykin had an iconic miniseries of the Shadow in the 80s for DC (before they turned him into a robot--yeah). FYI, Dynamite released it a short time ago as THE SHADOW: BLOOD AND JUDGEMENT. Clearly, Dynamite liked that so much they chased Chaykin down for a new tale of the Shadow.
Set some time in the late 1940s, Chaykin brings us to the twilight of the Shadow's career, though he's not quite as crusty as Frank Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. More like this is when Batman decided to call it quits, and wondered what to do himself next. But as Lamont Cranston has been shutting down his crime fighting organization, believing New York was finally on the straight and narrow, evil was a foot across the pond in England.
In this issue, to get spoilery on ya, Cranston and his companion Margo Lane have taken a trip to London just to get out of New York and help them figure out the next phase of their life (will he ever make an honest woman of her???). Unfortunately, the villains at work know that Cranston has ties with The Shadow so they attack, with a kind of Atom-like assassin. Some MI6 buddies of Cranston appear and give him the skinny as they know it: someone is itching to get his hands on some atomic weapons. While we have yet to learn the full scope of the plan, it's enough for The Shadow to come out of his recent retirement.
So far this series has been a bit of a slow burn to it. As Chaykin allows the events in the story to unfold. If Chaykin has a good understands pacing, because the story isn’t moving too fast or too slow. Each of the characters come across as unique individuals and the plot itself is good enough. Of course, Chaykin can get a little testosterone heavy with his writing; where men are men and women know their place (except the femme fatales). Thankfully, he's not been as heavy-handed as Frank Miller can be. Also, with MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW being a period piece, the whole two-fisted give me some sugar baby is more understandable.
Another famous Chaykin trait is his typical style over substance artwork. Now, this is not to say his drawing skills are lacking by any means; it's just they are overpowered by his style, which usually means you either dig it, or you don't. I, myself, dig it (though I wouldn't say love); it's a nice break from the more traditional comic book look. The one thing he does that I could do without is all the computer tricks he loves to use. From patterns to background elements, and even scaling drawings down or up, when not done right they, can look like cheap cgi effects in a SyFy made-for-tv movie. How do you use mayhem, right? By making sure they fit and work with the drawings, not against them (i.e. - everyone can see them as being different). So far the effects haven't been as distracting as they were in his BUCK ROGER mini.
If you enjoy old fashioned mystery movies, you'll probably dig this new Shadow series by Chaykin. I don't think it's going to become as icon as his BLOOD AND JUDGEMENT series, but THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW is a solid book by a great talent in the industry, what more could you want?
CAUSTIC SODA #1Writer: Shane Roeschlein
Art: Daniel Crosier
Publisher: Full Step Forward
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
Books like CAUSTIC SODA are the reason I love indie books so much. With indie books, nothing fits perfectly into the mold. Indies take chances and seem to be straight from the heart rather than something put out mainly because it feels like it would make for a profitable movie down the line. Yes, things are a bit grungier, a bit more rough around the edges, but there’s a heart in indie comics and movies that you just can’t get from any of the big companies.
CAUSTIC SODA is far from your typical tale, but given the political and sociological themes of DMZ, it’s not as “out there” a concept as most. Issue one deals with a world on the brink of social disaster. While we are used to seeing daily clips of war from the Middle East, the violence in CAUSTIC SODA happens on our own homeland as there is a rise in violence across the borders between the USA and Mexican crime cartels. More powerful than ever before and taking a page from Middle Eastern terrorist tactics, the violence has escalated into daily conflicts between border patrols, drug enforcement agencies, and the powerful drug cartels throwing the entire area into conflict. Because of the US’ involvement in so many different wars, the armed forces are spread thin, so they hire a special ops for hire force called Agility. That’s where CAUSTIC SODA begins.
As you can see, though it’s thinly veiled, this book is a very political and ripped from the headlines style story. It’s unflinching in the way it shows both the growing dangers of a US military spread too thin and also serves as a comment on it in premise alone. Issue one focuses on one member of Agility as he is called to arms to work in this every increasing new warzone.
What I like about this book is while it’s definitely a comment on the current state of the world and the US’ place in it, it doesn’t fully indict one political party. If anything, it’s saying that no matter what the party in the White House is, we’re all fucked and it’s just a matter of time that this war we watch while eating our dinners is right in our own backyard. I like writer Shane Roeschlein’s restraint in injecting his own political beliefs as I feel so many writers feel the need to do these days. Here, this is a story of global horror and it doesn’t care if you are right or left leaning. It’s coming and while we argue with ourselves, it’s getting more and more powerful. While I read and watch a lot of horror, that scares more than any of it.
Adding to the uniqueness of this book is Daniel Crosier’s art. Having followed this artist’s work for years, I am aware of his style; wood burning images and panels on planks of wood instead of typical paper or computer pads. Crosier’s images feel rustic and worn—like something one would find in a garage sale. The imagery he produces is not pretty, but given the medium he chooses, there’s a tactile quality to his work that makes it all the more real. Crosier’s art is the perfect fit for this gritty story based in a reality we don’t want to believe might be real.
As indies go, CAUSTIC SODA is a unique and fascinating read. I recommend it for those who liked Brian Wood’s DMZ and other political books of its type.
IMPERIAL #1Writer: Steven T. Seagle
Artist: Mark Dos Santos
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Steven T. Seagle has been an enigma to me ever since I came back into the hobby of comic books. Coinciding with that time period, he had just finished crafting of one of the most engagingly surreal (and under the radar) comics out there with his HOUSE OF SECRETS run done with Teddy Kristiansen. This prompted me to pick up the Vertigo series he followed that with, THE CRUSADES, which…yeah, I still actually have those somewhere (and not to say it was a bad series, but holy crap was that an odd bird even for Vertigo back then). He did two of the most notable superhero books out there in SUPERMAN and UNCANNY X-MEN that were definitely products of their time (and not really in a good way) but then also penned one of my favorite Superman books not actually about Superman in IT’S A BIRD. Basically, the dude has always been kind of all over the radar while also usually being heavily under the radar. But regardless of the end product of all he has done, the man’s body of work has never been boring, and now here he is, trying to be funny of all things…
And I kind of laughed. The plot behind IMPERIAL here is planted in the absurd, which more or less sums up the humor style of this issue, as it revolves around the idea that local yokel Mark McDonnell is heir to the mantle of Imperial, the Earth’s super powerful protector in this universe. It’s definitely one of those premises that feel like it should have been around enough to have its own genre within the superhero genre itself, and yet here I am, somewhat grasping at straws to think of examples, so the book has that going for it right off the bat. And I am a man that enjoys his unique story ideas, especially in the medium of comic books. The overall execution of it, though, seems to be mired in inconsistency and a reliance on “awkward moment” humor.
The first several pages are just littered with the awkward, honestly. Not that I’m badmouthing that style of funny – lord knows I am a walking calamity of embarrassment just from mistimed statements or movements that make Sloth from “The Goonies” look like a ballroom dancer – but it is pretty prevalent here, to mixed results. Take those first several pages, in which it starts out with Mark about to release the ashes of his father out into some canyon space (a thread that probably needs expanding on) and then over the next couple dozen panels proceeds to dump those ashes on the being known as Imperial, piss himself in front of Imperial, air out his tighty whiteys in front of Imperial whilst also goofily offering the superman some chili lime tortilla chips, and then continually misconstrue what Imperial is trying to tell him about being his eventual replacement because, well, I think Mark may be “special.” Maybe I’m just naturally inclined to think this of people who repeatedly us “ta” instead of “to”, but this situation involving Mark and Imperial does not seem to be a case of “everyday schlub gets superpowers” but more a case of “everyday schlub with an IQ possibly south of 80 involved with all-powerful being” which, hell, actually kind of makes me more interested now that I’ve typed it out.
Despite being a machine that generates only cringe-worthy antics, Mark is somewhat endearing as a character, though. The sympathy generated by him carrying an urn of his father’s dust rolls into watching him genuinely agonize over not being good enough for his fiancé, Katie, and continuing to be eternally grateful a girl like her could possibly love him enough to marry him. There’s a bunch of “aw shucks” to go with embarrassing that you kind of feel bad for the guy that he’s like this; that he’s so much of a walking punching bag that nothing good can come of his involvement with a being like Imperial, especially since it would take him away from his Katie. It’s that kind of stuff that makes this book somewhat appealing to me (and if you haven’t caught my drift by now, I think it’s going to be your tolerance to certain types of humor that will make or break IMPERIAL for you) as it adds a little drama and sensitivity to a humor book that is more or less filled with inelegant moments to draw out the chuckles. I’m a little colder on it overall but I can see this hitting a bunch of the right notes depending on tastes.
Mark Dos Santos’ art also hits a bunch of those correct notes as it plays a good tune with expressionism, which is invaluable to a comedy book. Mark McDonnell’s continual, wide-eyed disbelief at the shit happening in front of him when Imperial is involved plays well with his puppy-dog nature when he’s around his Katie. Now, panel-to-panel the line work seems a bit “stilted” at times, particularly in the figures, but the facial detail sells what needs to be sold; it’s just a matter of if you’re buying the goods. For now, I’m not sure I am. I like the premise a bunch, honestly, but considering two thirds of the book is basically “funny stuff” and I found a little less than half of it inducing the giggles, that’s probably a big strike against it. Maybe the humor style will grow a bit more broadly as the book progresses or we’ll reach levels of absurdity that can’t help but engross, but as of now I’m not terribly invested in IMPERIAL based off the funny business. Now, the relationship material and how Mark’s newfound siring will affect his oncoming matrimony, that intrigues me enough that with the handful of chuckles I did get out of this debut, I will probably give it another shot or two before rendering my final judgment. But, for some of you fine folks, it may not even take another issue to render such a sentence, as this may be exactly what you need and want in a superhero funny book. I may be as divided on this book as I am Seagle’s career in general, but there is no doubt that this is a regal lampooning on the superhero genre that some will find perfect for their sensibilities. And, who knows, with a couple tweaks and developments, I may just be on you all’s side.
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.
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CHASTITY #2Writer: Marc Andreyko
Artist: Dave Acosta
Publisher: Chaos! Dynamite Entertainment
In my last review, I felt that CHASTITY #1 didn't hit its stride until the last few pages. CHASTITY #2, on the other hand, is able to hold on to that momentum and show much more potential for this series from the outset. I found that the comic finally latched on to the time period it is set in and showed that sometimes less is more, getting rid of most of the unnecessary meta elements that were featured so prominently in the first issue.
Chastity Marks has somehow survived the attack on her family by her ex-favorite author/vampire. Well, survived is a bit of an overstatement. She looks like death and has a decent gap in between where her shoulder and right arm should meet. Yet somehow, close call after close call, Chastity is not only able to return to the land of the living but break her connection with Alyce. News of Mark's massacre spreads, but despite no mention of Alyce's involvement, the vampiric authorities catch wind of it and the council wants blood.
It is really hard to avoid the parallels between Alyce and her chauffeur with Lauren Hutton and Cleavon Little's characters from what might be the 80s cheesiest vamp flicks (and that’s saying something). But that ain't a bad thing. If you are going to play in this decade, why not go all out? Sure I gave the last issue a slap on the wrist for its meta-nature, but that was for all of the self-reflexivity and anachronistic references. I've got no problem with a couple of nods to ONCE BITTEN and especially to the seminal 1980s classic FRIGHT NIGHT. If anything, it is a refreshing change from the Byronic vamps of today.
The highlight of the first issue was Dave Acosta's galore of gore and by the end of this issue you will be seeing red. Colorist Thiago Ribeiro plays with the colors of a bloody rainbow. Nothing says 80s like excess and blood on nearly every page fits the bill perfectly. This issue also brings back the Marc Andreyko writing that I enjoy. A better ratio between narration and dialogue is a simple change but has a major impact on the story and its pacing.
I wasn't sure whether or not CHASTITY would work as a series in today's cultural landscape, overflowing with vampire tales. But there is something here. It isn't wholly original, but doesn't feel stale either.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at the University of Texas pursuing a master's degree in Media Studies... which is just a fancy way of saying she plays a lot video games, watches far too many horror films, and then tries to pass it all off as "research."
TRILLIUM Vol.1 Trade PaperbackWriter: Jeff Lemire
Art: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Frida Gurewitz
I’ve always enjoyed classic science fiction. BLADER RUNNER, Star Trek, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, Ray Bradbury. Personally, pre-moon landing science fiction is my favorite--a world where the exploration of the universe is boundless despite the new troubles they’ve provided. To me it seems a lot of popular modern sci fi seems to focus more on love triangles after the apocalypse, which doesn’t have the same imagination-stretching creativity classic sci fi does. The story of Jeff Lemire’s TRILLIUM reflects classic sci fi while the art is anything but classic. It feels, well, for lack of a better word, futuristic.
The story of TRILLIUM centers around two characters from different times. The first is Nika, who searches for the rare flower Trillium that supposedly cures a plague that has been killing off the human race, in 3797. The other is William, who explores the jungle for a mysterious Incan temple in 1921. They connect over space and time through a mysterious portal. Pasts, presents, worlds blur together. I don’t want to give anything away, but wow. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. I can liken it to THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES by Ray Bradbury. It intertwines the future and the past so seamlessly. Space and earth are united...steampunk and 60s retro futurism blended together. I was worried, picking it up, that it would feel cliché or tired. In my opinion it’s hard for modern sci fi to mirror the artistic ambition of pre-moon landing science fiction. Lemire executes it perfectly. TRILLIUM feels like Bradbury rose from the dead and decided to write comics.
While the story both feels innovative and classic, Lemire’s art feels anything but classic. In fact I’ve never seen anything like it. It is incredibly unique. I recognize the use of watercolors from the soft colors and the watermarks. The blues, greens, whites, and oranges are not saturated. It adds a soft, gentle, almost romantic touch to the book. It grounds it. Humanizes it, though I’m curious how it would have looked with a different art style. Would the words have resonated so heavily and beautifully with the glossy, traditional style of comics or even say, manga? I think the combination of the soft colors, the thin almost Burton-esque figures, and the out of this world story really make this book unique and fantastic. With a different art style I’m not sure if it would have been heavy hitting. The two are perfectly matched in my opinion.
If this is where science fiction comics is headed I’m pleased. And if this is where science fiction in general is heading I’m super pleased. Though it seems to be reflecting the style of the past it still feels modern and applicable to 2014. Lemire’s TRILLIUM shows that taking influence from the past can still propel you into the future.
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TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL: ECHOES #2Writer: Nathan Edmonoson
Artist: Mark Laming
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
While SPLINTER CELL #1 felt like a stereotypical spy novel, SPLINTER CELL #2 was much more in line with a video game narrative. More action, completely focused on our main character, and a never-ending parade of inconclusive "checkpoints."
But should a comic book take so much from another medium's storytelling style? It works to some degree here, but writer Nathan Edmondson could have gone further with the show not tell aspect so prominent in video games. A cut scene here and there in a game is fine for exposition filler, but excessive dialogue in the middle of action works for neither medium. Sam Fisher’s buddies are a rather loquacious group and for a comic that follows so many tropes, these characters still seem obliged to spell everything out for us--all except references to past Splinter Cell stories, though I did not find these gaps of knowledge to take away from the reading experience, but if you are going to over-explain everything else why not fill us in a bit more on Sam’s past?
All we get is that Sam has had some difficulty in the past with cruise liners--some incident in Cozumel. So when asked to yet again help out his old friends, he is a little more than hesitant. But it's not like he has anything better to do with Sarah heading off again, so off Sam goes to sea to perform "an operation for a thousand men...or one." Here we finally begin to learn how Sam's mission in Caracas and the Georgian terrorist group Krowe are connected.
The fan service in SPLINTER CELL #1, bringing in classic and minor characters from the franchise, didn't stand out to me as all of the references seemed to fit into the story being told. Now, however, I feel a bit out of the loop having not played a game from the series in quite some time. The comic has many moments that work, but these are when the action isn't being hindered. The talking head scenes are just that, trading in character development for character reveals.
That doesn't make SPLINTER CELL #2 a bad comic; just not an outstanding one, nothing special. There is little I can fault artist Marc Laming and the same goes for colorist Ian Herring. Both of their works are dynamic and could do without being covered by speech bubbles. Edmondson's dialogue is faithful to what one would find playing the game, just on the excessive side. SPLINTER CELL ECHOES #2 just goes to show how this series best befits gamers more than the average comic book reader.
HARBINGER: OMEGAS #1Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Rafa Sandoval
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
Prince Valiant #ASKSROB,
Hey Patey, I lost my job a few months ago and had to cut out comics. Before the shit hit the fan I was getting big time into Valiant. Your coverage kept me going for the first few months, but then you stopped. Did quality drop or what? I just got a new job, but I also don’t want to just spend. Please update.”
So, I run a little advice column when not here on Ain’t It Cool. Questions can be anything from the idiotic like whether “ NJ is truly stronger than the storm” to actual in-depth comic questions simply too long for this column, like my “Noobs guide to worthwhile spots in the New 52.” I am always available to answer, help and amuse and the same goes for all of you readers of this column. We are here for you, just like my dear sweet prince this week. I honestly can not hit every creator request for coverage, but since I started this gig as fan service I will always help those who truly need it.
No, PV, your namesake has not dropped in quality at all. In fact, through a melding of title stories and life events the universe has become a more complex and intricately woven universe than ever before.
Some have derided Valiant in recent months for their event approach versus portraying arcs in books. Here’s the thing, though: look past the enormous font sizes on cross-pollinated stories like “Armor Hunters” and “Harbinger Wars” from a few months ago and you will simply see they are a grandiose representation of arc and not even close to the scale of forced upsell we see when DC or Marvel decide to open the event can of worms.
HARBINGER OMEGAS marks another comic bug-a-boo, the dreaded and database-confusing renaming or relaunching of a title that was just about to crest into the thirties. Speaking of thirties, I don’t think anyone over that age gives a shit about books showing their merit and continuity fortitude by cresting triple digits. For the characters that these companies need to remain evergreen, I much prefer the honesty of new volumes and fresh starts versus reboots and redos that must pull parlor tricks to justify the reset.
When last we left the group, the Renegades were in shambles and still are. Well, I take that back--Peter Stancheck, possibly the most powerful mind on Earth, has regressed to the state he was in prior to big brain Toyo Harada trying to recruit Peter for his army. Peter is fucked. He’s back on the same pill-popping spree he was on way back in the last issue with his bro Joe. Joe, as you will remember, was killed by Harada so Peter would have no tethers to his past life. In a state of resurrection more creepy than Norman Bates’ duality of becoming his mother, Peter is now occupying a crack house with mental projections of Joe and deceased teammate Flamingo. To add a little extra creepy, he’s banging Flamingo. I don’t even want to think where an astral projection money shot took place. Peter has always been fascinating because we met him when he was a mental rapist, became an undeniable hero and without the grounding totem of a team has reverted from hero to zero faster than Hercules’ reverse climb.
The other Renegades like Torque and Zephyr get some screen time, but it is quick and fleeting. The real epicenter of this issue is the world itself, and the backlash from the release of the Harbinger foundations’ data farm to the world. When Ax (also not an issue check-in, but no focal point) released the dirty deeds of Harada to the world, the reaction was Wikileaks times one billion. Imagine the world finding out all of the one percent’s dirty secrets at once and how quickly that would unhinge society. In stark realism Dysart shows the world turmoil and Harada’s arrogant response to declare war on the sovereign nation of humanity. What would happen if WWIII was fought against gods? Tune into HARBINGER OMEGAS #2 to see all.
On the art front, Sandoval is spectacular. Peter’s quite moments in astral rape are as unsettling and detailed as when Harada takes over the USS George Bush by killing every sailor on board and taking out the support submarine with just a firing of one cerebral synapse. Right now, if Vegas is taking on odds on this outcome I think I would lay my money on this guerilla force versus the might of armies. Also, I have to give HUGE props to another set of covers that speak to my heart like the Atari ones. Minecraft, baby. Yes, it is 8 bit again, but anyone who has become addicted to this game without an objective understands that aside from sharing harsh corners, comparing Minecraft to Pitfall is like comparing the Concord to the Kitty Hawk. Complexity and volume are huge considerations beyond simple pixel count.
HARBINGER OMEGAS would be simply HARBLINGER 2x if Valiant wasn’t forced to deliver market parity. #1s sell more than other books, plain and simple. To get retailers to carry books on the shelves publishers must show their book is worth the floor and rack space. This is BETTER than the HARBINGERS we once knew. Anyone jumping in will immediately get to see a world like ours quickly unravel. Those of who saw the wind-up will feel the impact more than those just entering the fray, but I can’t think of any one other number sorta twentyish and sorta one that is so damn welcoming.
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.
GHOST RIDER Vol.2 #6Release Date: August 14h, 1990
Writer: Howard Mackie
Artist: Javier Saltares with Mark Texeira
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Marvel Comics' favorite flamehead has become popular with the hip kids again (although really, isn't it GHOST DRIVER? I mean, he doesn't just sit in the passenger seat, right?). Makes me think that it was only yesterday when Ghost Rider was a hit back in 1990s.
By August 1990 Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, Germany was becoming one country again and Iraq had invaded Kuwait. Meanwhile, THE COSBY SHOW and ROSEANNE were the top rated shows of the day. The TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES hit the big screen (for the first time), followed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ninth big action movie, TOTAL RECALL (which he later used to become the Governor of California). The Ultimate Warrior won Wrestle Mania VI and Milli Vanilli (kinda) won the Grammy for best new artist. In the world of comic books, the industry was still building on the growth of the 80s and direct marketing was becoming all the rage. Dark Horse was stepping up as a serious third company and American anime (Japanese characters by American creators) was starting to become a thing too. Over at the Big Two reboots were still very popular, and after seven years Marvel decided to give Ghost Rider a makeover.
This month we get the conclusion of Marvel's top two bad @$$es crossover: Ghost Rider/Punisher. Just like a good ol' action movie, it's very light on the plot and very heavy on the action.
Back in the day when Johnny Blaze was racing around, I had yet to become a comic book buyer, so I can't really say how I feel about the whole Johnny vs. Danny thing. At face value Johnny seems to have the superior back story, making a deal with the devil and all that. So far Danny doesn't even really have one! But aside from that, this Ghost Rider has it all over the original. Ghost Rider is just more bad@$$ these days. Everything is bigger and louder, but I guess that could just be the 80s--or now the 90s, I guess. Well, it works for me. I've been a fan since issue #1 here. Mackie has done a great job updating Ghost Rider.
As I mentioned, this story is light on plot, so there isn't much to spoil here, so let's just get into it then. As we learned last issue, Captain America's old sparring partner, Flag Smasher, has started arming kids in Ghost Rider's neighborhood. His usual destroy the government shtick, and that's the plot--done. The Punisher was already on his trail when Ghost Rider showed up to the party. Here's where Mackie just barely avoids the typical superhero vs. superhero fight. As the two heroes quickly team up and take out the trash, this is where GHOST RIDER is at its best. He's just an awesome supernatural twist on the Terminator, but for good. And with all his new toys, I'll bet even Gary Friedrich (Ghost Rider's creator) is jealous. The bike can travel across any surface (seriously, watching him go up walls is so bad@$$) and even reassemble itself after being blown up. His chain is equally awesome, turning into mini-shurikens or just grabbing and whipping the cr@p out of people. Then of course best of all: the penance stare, which makes evildoers feel the pain and suffering they have caused others. What an amazing f-u to any bad guy; even a fanatic like the Flag Smasher gets worked over by it. All this, is what makes the Ghost Rider of today, better than the original (Even when Ghost Rider finally hit the big screen in 2007, although it was Johnny Blaze's name and background story, the rest Danny).
Mackie does manage to prevent the book from become too much of a 'punch and shoot' book by doing a nice compare and contrast between the Punisher and Ghost Rider, showing that the characters, while both unforgiving bad@$$es, are very different in how they view criminals and their own mission. Indeed, Ghost Rider's parting question to Frank Castle was very interesting and I wonder if he'll ever answer it.
Now, lots of comic books have good writing and lots of comic books have good art, but having both at the same time is very rare. So, Marvel really hit it out of the park when they put this team together. While Saltares is kinda the new kid on the block, he really seems to be driving this book, with the great redesign of Ghost Rider and really nice draftsmanship. Texeira, who has been around for a while now, is the special sauce. Texeira's art has always been very powerful on its own, but tempering it to Saltares’ pencils really brings out the best of both these guys. Like Byrne and Austin, these guys will be remembered.
So for all you big fans of deep, grown-up writing, this really isn't for you. Kick @$$ action fans? This definitely for you! And for everyone in between, give it a shot, Mackie and company have a pretty iconic run going here. This two parter easily scores a GOOD on the Masked Man's scale of CRAP, POOR, DECENT, GOOD, and GREAT scale.
Howard Mackie started his career as an editor over at Marvel. After writing some fill-in issues with Hawkeye and Havok, Mackie got his big chance with this GHOST RIDER reboot, which only turned Ghost Rider and the whole Midnight Sons into a major cash cow for Marvel in the dark 90s days of comics. His work defined Ghost Rider for nearly every uses of the character since. Later he moved on to X-Men comics and Spider-Man, where he created the out of control “Clone Saga”. Giving him to iconic runs, kinda. Recently returning to comic book writing, Mackie was writing RAVAGERS for the Distinguished Competition in the New 52.
For a man with such an iconic run, it's a shame Javier Saltares has never really managed a healthy career in comics, usually only finding steady work on a new Ghost Rider series, the latest being a mini-series reboot of Danny Ketch's Ghost Rider with British writer Simon Spurrier in 2009. These days he keeps himself busy with more creator-owned graphic novels (with various writers). Meanwhile, inker Mark Texeira has been a more solid member of the comic book industry since the mid-80s. As well as being an iconic Ghost Rider artist, he is known for his Wolverine comics and the HEX (see ROAD WARRIOR) reboot Jonah Hex in the 80s. Recently, he wrapped up a run on MOON KNIGHT before Warren Ellis stepped in. Saltares and Texeira's work was so iconic on Ghost Rider that Marvel brought them back together for another run in 2006. Oddly enough, their roles were reversed as Texeira penciled and Saltares inked, and Marvel also forgot to hire Howard Mackie, so the series didn't last nearly as long.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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