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IF YOU STEAL Ogn
GODZILLA IN HELL #1
THE BATTLEWORLD TRAVEL GUIDE PART VII
IF YOU STEAL Original Graphic NovelWriter: Jason
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
When I read a work by Jason, I don’t really do it as a reviewer. I am simply a person in awe at the way this writer/artist looks at the world. His pages tell tales of anthromorphic animals with inscrutable faces, but the stories themselves are dripping with emotion in contrast. His newest collection, IF YOU STEAL is yet another stellar example of how Jason has such a firm grasp on telling simple stories about complex emotions. I’ll go through each of the short stories collected in this hardcover OGN below, but if you’re just looking for a Cheap Shot review and want to skip the intricacies; I’ll just say it’s awesome from cover to cover and you can move on.
For those sticking around, the first story which echoes the title of the book, IF YOU STEAL, is one of the more complex tales of the collection. It’s a surreal story told out of order about a man making one bad choice after another in his life. Told through vivid depictions of cartoonish violence and Magritte paintings, this is a story I haven’t quite wrapped my noggin around, but there are scenes within that are both touching and haunting.
KARMA CHAMELEON is a hilarious farce about a group of researchers searching for a giant chameleon who has been swiping up people and eating them. This one is filled with humor as the lead scientist lectures anyone within earshot about the benefits of masturbation while his lab assistant/daughter is busy falling in love with the hotshot new scientist. The story even takes a time out to give us a little info dump slideshow on some of the more special attributes of the chameleon. This is a quirky tale, more lighthearted than most of Jason’s work and filled with humor both wry and goofy.
Other tales are less surreal and more one note such as WAITING FOR BARDOT (which is a simple back and forth conversation between two men waiting for the same woman to show up), LORENA VELAZQUEZ (in which a Luchador hero battles all forms of monster to save a princess to the point of exhaustion), and POLLY WANT A CRACKER (in which a female assassin feeds her parrot in between jobs), while others resonate with a bit more of a cinematic monster flair like NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRE HUNTER and the collection of horror comic book covers entitled MOONDANCE. ASK NOT is another nice one which depicts a prediction from Nostradamus what takes millennia in order to come true.
My two favorite of the bunch is the simple yet effective THE THRILL IS GONE (which shows the lengths a bluesman will go for inspiration) and the haunting and heart-wrenchingly symbolic tale of Alzheimer’s Disease which ends the book simply called NOTHING. Of all the stories, NOTHING is by far the most powerful and left me with damp eyes and a heavy heart. Not unlike Shel Silverstein’s THE GIVING TREE, but played out almost in reverse, NOTHING is a powerful ending to a powerful collection.
How can stories be told with such heft when they star walking, talking, and clothes wearing animals? I’m not sure. But any fan of Jason knows that he is able to transcend the lunacy of the way his animal-people look and tell stories that you’ll never forget. Those of you who only read capes and cowl books who are getting sick of the same ol’ run of the mill should really check out some fantastic storytelling by an amazing artist. IF YOU STEAL is a fantastic read that I chewed through quickly, but will return to often when I’m in the mood for resonant and powerful storytelling.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 15 years & AICN HORROR for 5. Mark’s written his fair share of comics through the years; most recently the critically acclaimed THE JUNGLE BOOK trilogy and Black Mask Studios’ PIROUETTE. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
GODZILLA IN HELL #1Writer / Artist: James Stokoe
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Masked Man
James Stokoe, the man who wowed us with GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR, back in 2012 (man, time flies sometimes), is back to wow us with more Godzilla madness under his highly detailed pen. This time it seems Stokoe has dropped a little acid, as Godzilla literally goes to hell.
Now there's no real spoilers here, aside from the fact that Godzilla goes to Hell! The first issue has no set up; it's just Godzilla dropping into Hell. Mind you, how GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR ended, you could connect the two if you want. Hell for Godzilla appears to be Dante's Inferno, starting out with a giant “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”, though Stokoe has skipped Limbo and gone straight to the second circle, Lust, with the lusty sinners being whipped around in a black storm. But unlike Dante's Inferno, this Hell has some daikaiju (giant monster) guardians for Godzilla to mix it up with.
I'm not sure where Stokoe is going with all this, as I assume he is going somewhere. There are nine circles of Hell and only five issues of this mini-series, so he can't spend one issue showing each circle, and just like GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR I imagine Stokoe will let this story sneak up on us, giving extra meaning to the whole thing.
One curious thing about this issue: there are no words (ok, there was the 'Abandon' sign), because Godzilla doesn't talk and he's the only one in the comic. I imagine this will change too, but what a trip if Stokoe holds to this. Even the very clever graphic novels of OWLY, which have no words, cheat with symbols to convey meaning. But I haven't read a wordless comic book since 1989, with John Byrne's first issue of “The Many Deaths of the Batman” in BATMAN #433. In both cases I believe the writers are trying to be daring, which is true--they are daring us not to be bored with unreadable comics. Since Byrne had more going on in his issue, I believe he has the more successful issue.
You’ve got to go out on a limb here with Stokoe. As awesome as his artwork is, this is a very empty issue. Not bad, just empty. I fully expect Stokoe win us over, but he is being truly daring to risk a new miniseries with a first issue like this, and I don't see many non-Godzilla fans giving it a shot. I'm only a passing fan myself. I've seen a fair number of movies, but nowhere near all of them. But I'm taking the leap of faith with Stokoe here. It should be an interesting ride.
ISLAND #1Writers: Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Ludroe, Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art: Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Ludroe, Marian Churchland
Publisher: Image Comics
The first and only time I have regularly purchased a comics magazine was when I was about twelve purchasing VIZ’s SHONEN JUMP and SHOUJO BEAT during the monthly trips to Wal-Mart. Then about ten years later HEAVY METAL would be thrust into my hands by a boy who would never love me because Magic: The Gathering came first. It’s apparent that comics magazines haven’t held a substantial presence on shelves; mind you, I haven’t been out of the womb for a lengthy amount of time, but it certainly shows how said format is deemed, although with HEAVY METAL back on the radar with the Grant Morrison announcement and now IMAGE publishing a monthly magazine, this notion may slowly change.
Unlike a typical comics mag, ISLAND isn’t restricted to a single medium. Headed by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, the magazine has thus far showcased comics, essays, and illustrations and will likely continue on with this trend. Announcements have called for the likes of Johnnie Christmas, Simon Roy, Michael DeForge, Malachi Ward and a whole buttload more to take part in ISLAND.
Upon introduction to the bulk of 72 pages and full on color comics, the first issue is introduced with wave-like paintings by Marian Churchland. Similarly, an essay by Kelly Sue DeConnick jumps in, and isn’t placed in the near back as a form of back matter, but rather is a perfect integrated piece to the rest.
With the title of the magazine ISLAND, the unifying theme appears to circle the concept of change. Emma Rios' piece, ID, parallels emotional and physical changes between severe political unrest and the three strangers trapped in it, their only common ground being the fact that they each seek to have completely new bodies. Brandon Graham brings back an oldie with MULTIPLE WARHEADS, going through the motions of the relationship between werewolf Nikola and his adventurous girlfriend Sexica. The werewolf hybrid seeks to be as independent as his counterpart. Kelly Sue explores a quaint essay entitled RAIN BIRDS, focusing her attention and condolences on the late poet and writer Maggie Estep, and Marian Churchland articulates depth in emotive wave-like paintings. Lastly, Ludroe goes back to his roots and brings about a skateboarding comic with time travel and cat thugs.
If it’s not obvious, all the works contain their own little quirks and encapsulate full-heartedly a great little spectrum of work.
In the end I really have no idea what’s going to happen with these magazines, but let’s just all be thankful that Image gave the reins to Brandon Graham, a purveyor of great comics and is just plain effing weird.
DIVINITY VOL. 1Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more late to the party on anything comic book-related as I have this new wave of Valiant books since I turned 18 and found out Vertigo was a thing and had existed most of my life. Despite the original heyday of the Valiant line and characters being a big deal when I was first getting into comic books, I never really hopped on back then because I was so awash in a newbie comic reading experience as it was. So when this Valiant reboot became a thing a few years ago, featuring talent I was familiar with and liked but on characters I had no real passion for, I passed, despite my belief that I’m open for anything comic book-wise as long as the talent is there. I mean, what kind of lame-o wants to be early to the party anyway, right? You feel like a loser that you have nothing else on your plate but to show up at the actual time of the invite, and then you’re the first one there and it’s awkward and then you feel obligated to help the host finish putting out the party supplies and OH GOD the extended small talk…okay, I don’t actually get invited to parties =/
Anyway, in a bid to turn one cliché into another, I’ve been making a dedicated better late than never effort to catch up on this publishing line, which I have seen overwhelming praise for these past few years, and not just from my fellow @$$holes (for I am indeed a Company Man). Problem is, though, it is a somewhat hefty publishing line to get into given that pretty much all of the main titles have seen the same writers and a stable rotation of artists for their runs so far. I know that after each major crossover point has supposedly been a “jumping on point”, but not really from my experience so far. Between the previous story layers and characters you’re still going to want to and somewhat kind of need to start from the beginning since the relaunch is relatively new and fresh, but following just the main titles of BLOODSHOT, X-O MANOWAR, and HARBINGER material plus the crossover TPBs you’re pushing 30 volumes now that we’re three plus years into this revival. That is what makes it exciting to get the occasional new and thinly connected title like DIVINITY here, so that someone like myself can enjoy the current Valiant product as they also work their way up to the present.
A book like DIVINITY becomes compelling not just because of a means of probing the Valiant universe but also because of the talent level of the Kindt/Hairsine combination. Really, that has been the allure of these Valiant books: they have assembled themselves a good to great stable of talent over its tenure despite not having the flashiest names in the industry. Take that Kindt/Hairsine team and let them wild on a book like DIVINITY, which (to finally get into it) features a premise of “Cold War Era Soviet Cosmonaut Goes Into Deep Space and Essentially Becomes God.” How’s that shit sound? Think of a Commie version of Doctor Manhattan gaining seemingly endless powers but with such a cacophony of forces – time, space, energy, humanity, etc. – swirling around him he is in a fugue state upon his return to Earth 50 years later. That is the story of Abram Adams, and it makes for an interesting tale of humanity lost and power gained and a struggle to balance both.
Appreciativeness of the high concept aside, DIVINITY is just an overall well-put together comic. It has its foibles that I will get to, but its arc is smooth. DIVINITY transitions perspectives on the human to something much greater than human life of Abram Adams so perfectly that you feel every bit of the turmoil created by his transformation. We’re introduced to him as an abandoned child that uses his doorstep origin as a launching point for a life fueled by curiosity and a thirst for the unknown. Page by page it’s a montage of a young dreamer who realizes them coming true as he gets the nod to participate in a long-term, deep space program for the motherland and it looks like a “traditional” origin story until you flip to Page 8 and see the girl he’ll be leaving behind as he fucks off to space for an intended thirty years and you begin to get a dreaded case of what we call “the feels.” And then comes the godliness.
Fifty years after he is shot into space and twenty years after the original plan for return (though part of the return plan was a whole “may never ever” possibility) and newly empowered and glowy-eyed, Abram lands in the Australian outback and starts making with the miracles. This is part of a three-pronged plotting attack by Kindt and Hairsine, as it presents this supreme-powered being and what he is capable of doing to reshape the world, it puts him in contact with the Valiant universe as he becomes a thing that the Unity team needs to “deal with,” if such a thing is possible, and it puts Abram’s powers in conflict with that human soul still underneath it all. And it’s the execution on all of those concepts that makes DIVINITY an interesting and awe-inspiring yet surprisingly emotional read. The way Abram channels his power to grasp at his lost life is both terrifying and touching in how he still fumbles at his humanity, which I think presents itself as a strong central theme to this volume and future ones with the character.
Admittedly, I do feel that there are some tonal and pacing hiccups in play here. The first half of this volume has a narrative voice that is more distant and descriptive of what is happening in Abram’s life as he becomes the Divinity – and there is a revelation that makes sense of this approach – but it does read rather drily as the book sets itself up. There are some poetic hits, especially in and around the panels that place Abram with the wife (and in utero child) he is leaving behind, but overall the captions kind of read like the bullet points to godhood, and I also kind of feel like this first arc is a little condensed, like it could have used another issue in order to play out the very cool and non-traditional conflict with the Unity team, or it could have used some more of the other plot points Kindt and Hairsine put forward like, well, the damn religion that springs up around him, or even just more of the really interpersonal material in Abram’s human life to really sell that lost humanity he then tries to recreate once he has all creative power in his hands. I don’t know if this was just a product on the Valiant emphasis to have four issue collections or what (or if just the quality of the work in general reflected a desire to have more more MORE! of it) but DIVINITY felt like it was over just as it was really getting going.
DIVINITY is a very engaging, aptly representational showpiece of what Valiant is creating these days. While I still have a lot of wading to do through the overall line, Valiant is giving me what I find sorely lacking from the Big Two these days: property books done with a relatively singular vision on the universe as a whole but being executed by quality talent who seem to be left to their own devices for extended runs on their respective titles. Now, on top of that, you’re letting a writer of the caliber of Matt Kindt tell a story about a star-dreaming boy become remorseful god while an artist like Trevor Hairsine (who may be putting forth the best work of his career here) renders it all while it ties into the universe but smartly contains itself to this very personable tale? That is exactly what I feel like all of us comic nerds alike champion for when we get ourselves invested in these stories about flawed characters carrying around awesome power. The only real shame of this DIVINITY project is that it will be next year before we receive more of it, but that comes with a bright side of it gives me more time and excuse to consume more Valiant product and invest myself deeper into this wonderfully maintained universe.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
THE BATTLEWORLD TRAVEL GUIDE PART VIIor
Those unbreakable walls are pretty useless, huh?
Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Previously, on Secret Wars… WHY AREN’T YOU ALL VISITING MASTERS OF KUNG-FU WORLD?!!?
YEARS OF FUTURE PAST #3 (Marguerite Bennet & Mike Norton)
Time for giant-ass Lockheed to wage war against an army of Doom Sentinels! See, this is the sort of thing you’re hoping to see in the Days of Future Past. Just giant Sentinels fighting alien dragons, because comics are magical. What’s less magical is the all of a sudden creepy “Star Wars” subtext that gets introduced. Actually, subtext is a poor choice of words. They straight up bring up “Star Wars” as a comparison to their current troubles.
WHERE MONSTERS DWELL #3 (Garth Ennis & Russ Braun)
In a land of giant amazon women in fur bikinis and dinosaurs, the men’s rights activists are reeeeeeeeeeeally not welcome. See, the giant amazon women have this whole thing? Where dudes are just, the worst. Just, ever. And that, unfortunately for him, includes our 1920s ace pilot hero.
SECRET WARS: BATTLEWORLD #3 (Ivan Brandon & Aaron Conley, Ryan Ferrier & Logan Faerber, Ryan Ferrier & Paul Pope)
Across the expansive Battle World, there are countless beautiful sights and unforgettable smells. And there’s still a Mojo, proving that even GodKingDoom has not the best judgment all the time. But he’s created a never-ending cage match between Wolverines, including Tibetan Monk Wolverine, who’s so not cool with all this.
Meanwhile, cowboy Deadpool and Lockjaw (who has an ol’ timey mustache) are hunting down the best mount in the world, Devil Dinosaur--which, in turn, leads to the new team-up book that I want forever.
Also, all the Ant-Mans fight each other, leading to the death of the worst and the best Ant-Mans via Paul Rudd. Which, you know what? It’s worth it if even just one domain doesn’t have to deal with Hank Pym.
PLANET HULK #3 (Sam Humphries & Marc Laming)
I like that the main Hulk of this world does not give a shit about Captain America. It’s nihilist Hulk up against Russell Crowe Captain America. Also, just a heads up: this world includes a flashback where Cap and Bucky fight against Holocaust, from Age of Apocalypse, and end up coming out on top. I…guys, I love this Captain America so much.
KORVAC SAGA #2 (Dan Abnett & Otto Schmidt)
While the court of public opinion tries to decide between Korvac and Wonder Man (whoever wins, we lose), a bunch of nutso people are turning into abominations and just wrecking shit. So, it’s up to the 90s Guardians and the late 80s Avengers to solve the mystery of “seriously, though--what the hell is going on?!?”. They’re, uh, not doing so well.
GUARDIANS OF KNOWHERE #1 (Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato)
In the nonexistent world of space, Rocket, drunk Drax, and oh god oh god powerful Gamora are just hanging out, dealing with problems like Angela of the Thor Corps and some other dude, who I honestly don’t know who he is. But, it does star Rocket, which is pretty nice.
CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND THE MIGHTY DEFENDERS #1 (Al Ewing & Alan Davis)
OH MY GOD YES. Okay, so this world sees the return of the new Captain Britain, who’s amazing. Plus, Yensid shows up. Plus, She-Hulk is a Thor Cop, but has a gavel instead of a hammer. And they have to fight the so far unseen Judge Dredd world, which OHMYGODYES. GUYS. LUKE CAGE IS JUDGE DREDD AND EMMA FROST IS ANDERSON. THIS…OH GOD, THIS IS EVERYTHING I’VE EVER WANTED.
SIEGE #1 (Kieron Gillen & Felipe Andrade)
Now THIS, this is how you do The Wall. With an army of Cyclops clones fueling a Death Star laser and an endless army of half ant/half zombies/half Hank Pyms trying to conquer The Wall. Meanwhile, the defense of The Wall is led by Abigail Brand, who is just so goddamn cool. I…this is so cool. Kang shows up! And fights Abigail Brand!
ARMOR WARS #3 (James Robinson & Marcio Takara)
This world just keeps getting better. There’s so much going here, least of all the mystery behind the death of techno punk Spider-Man. Plus, again, don’t know if I’ve stressed this enough, but this world is protected by a War Machine with a Thor hammer, because FUCK yes. And now he’s gonna fight the Iron Kingpin, which is just great.
INHUMANS: ATTILAN RISING #3 (Charles Soule & John Timms)
It’s time for the resistance to go toe to toe with the armies of Medusa which, um…well, the resistance tried. I think that is what’s ultimately important, you know? They deserve a participation award, if nothing else. They tried so hard. At least Kamala and 1602 Daredevil make it out in one piece.
CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #3 (Kelly Sude DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, David Lopez)
Captain Marvel is doing her very best to not be a terrible leader, and goddamnit, her squad is not great at that part of the job. Seriously, they keep being indignant and blowing stuff up, which is exhausting for her, I’m sure. I am pretty excited to see her go punch stuff again.
Battle-World trav…wait…. What’s going ooooonnnnnzzzzzzzz-
SILVER SURFER #13 (Dan Slott & Michael Allred, Laura Allred)
So while Silver Surfer and Dawn continue their “Doctor Who” adventures across space, they find themselves at the end of all things, trying to deal with the fallout of Doom being Eternity and…look, this issue is almost as weird/amazing as the endless loop one.
….um….that was…weird…uh…Battle-World Travel Tip…
Well, you should go visit The Wall, but from far away, and then run away really fast. Also, go read SILVER SURFER.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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