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BLACK PANTHER #2
Indie Jones presents THE LIVING FINGER #1
Indie Jones presents SERVING SUPES #4
Remembering Darwyn Cooke…
BLACK PANTHER #2Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfreeze
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
After searching high and low for creators of the right skin color, Marvel has launched a new BLACK PANTHER comics. To be clear, I have no issue with the physical body of any comic creator, I just find it funny that the physical body is now as important as the ability to do the job (reminds me of the joke in CLERKS 2: “Well, listen to you—telling me I can't do something because of the color of my skin. You're the racist, man!”)
Anyway, back to the book, which is all about world-building. For two issues now Coates has been laying down the state of the Wakandan nation, as a civil war is brewing. Personally, I haven’t kept up with Wakanda and why T’Challa’s sister was running around as the Black Panther earlier, but the result of it all is a brewing civil war fueled by a woman named Zenzi, who has the power to make people act on their more base feelings. Our man T’Challa, as usual, has to balance his government with what he thinks is the right thing to do, which here is going after Zenzi alone. Oddly enough the true heroes of the book (as in characters going outside the norm to do what’s right) are the so-called Midnight Angels--two of T’Challa’s royal guards who have become vigilantes.
As much as I like the Black Panther (so f’n glad to finally see him in live action), I’m much more interested in the Midnight Angels at this point, though I would suspect in typical comic book fashion, they will go off the deep end into full villain-hood at some point, keeping T’Challa as the only good guy in the story, though Coates does seem to be working a shades of grey story, as T’Challa doesn’t want to paint the rebels as just evil people, and how Wakandan policy is inadvertently creating evil of its own.
As for seeing Brian Stelfreeze take up interior artwork, hell yes! This is a great-looking book, and I sure hope he can stick around for a while. There was only one panel that I didn’t quite dig, setting up a fight between Black Panther and a huge man. Stelfreeze didn’t really sell the fact that the man was huge and a credible threat to Black Panther. Oh well, the action scenes are great, the quiet scenes are great, and the hallucination scene is awesome. Stelfreeze has always been a great mix of style and substance.
THE LIVING FINGER #1Writer: Garth Matthams
Artist: Armin Ozdic
Publisher: Darby Pop Publications
The pitch for THE LIVING FINGER, “a classic Boy meets Girl story...assuming the Girl is a severed finger, and the Boy is tasked with finding her a living host to attach to”, had me expecting a dark comedy. Perhaps something along the lines of IDLE HANDS, another violent yet at times hilarious missing appendage tale. There seems to be a disconnect between the attitude of the publisher and the comic itself. The marketing plays up the humor, and even a portion of the credit page states: LOVE US? HATE US? E-mail here. Darby Pop’s cavalier attitude on all fronts hardly reflects the contents of their comic ,and any presumptions from this sort of presentation should best be ignored.
THE LIVING FINGER is not a rom com; it is hardly a comedy at all. Jason finds a finger dangling from a dog’s mouth, so the obvious response to this sight is to take it home and put it in a cage like a guinea pig. Out of loneliness Jason becomes attached to the fleshy inch. But the finger does not require emotional attachment, it needs physical. Jason, desperate for human contact as well, is willing to help…at any cost.
There is a feeling of unease that permeates the entire issue. Jason is not a sympathetic character, nor do I wish him to be. Just like any classic mad scientist, Jason is smart enough to defy the laws of nature but dense as a rock when it comes to social interactions. He is separated from romantic society, Wendy is separated from her body. Perhaps that is why they belong together. Or maybe it is because Jason has no boundaries. He pushes the limits of what it means to be crazy in love to the point that even Glenn Close would call him a whackjob. The comic builds, both visually and narratively, to an uncomfortable tenseness.
Artistically the style is minimal. The finger itself isn’t grotesque, and neither is the horror of Jason’s later actions, but while not graphic, the climax is still uncomfortably visceral.
The LIVING FINGER is intriguing. Just as Jason becomes obsessed with a finger, we become obsessed with him. There’s something not right about a young man who will go to such lengths to find love, yet you continue to turn the page. The comic’s title might sound like a Roger Corman movie, but this book is hardly horror schlock.
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."
SIRENS #5Writer / Artist: George Perez
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Masked Man
After who knows how long in waiting, comic living legend George Perez’s SIRENS gets another issue. Just one more to go now. This comic has been such a “what the hell is going on?” that I have to finish it. The whole premise of this book is, more is more! It makes the movie SUCKER PUNCH look mundane. And for the most part, it makes no sense.
Well actually, I finally understand what it going on. Oddly enough, I’m not sure it’s because of the information in this issue, or that my tiny brain has finally managed to grasp it all. I will now try to explain it to you: So Earth was in bad shape, and an intergalactic supervillain know as Perdition was about to destroy it when his former girlfriend Highness and her female friends the Sirens destroyed it first. Highness then killed Perdition and was imprisoned for destroying the Earth. Meanwhile, the Sirens scattered themselves through out time, hiding from the law. But in truth, the Sirens hid the Earth and its inhabitants from everyone and started a process in which it would heal itself and everyone. As Perdition’s lackey Niada would have just continued trying to destroy the Earth, it all had to be a secret. As the Sirens came back together to reveal the healed Earth, Perdition’s backup plan of timey wimey paradox ensured he would be there (he knew they were up to something) granted him an army of zombies (featuring zombie Sirens) as well. So all hell has slowly been breaking loose as the final climatic battle for the survival of the Earth is repeating itself.
As with most of Perez’s writing, not a bad concept, and it was a good idea to roll it out as a mystery of what the heck is going on. But that can only work well if the writing is clear and simple enough to explain the confusing events and not confuse the reader. Unfortunately, as with most of Perez’s writing it’s a complicated jumble as he focuses on jargon, world building, tons of characters--basically everything but the plot itself. Just like his art, everything gets a crazy amount of attention, the difference being as an artist he has a keen sense of design, preventing his pages from turning into a jumbled mess.
Now I’m going to bag on the artwork, too--bear with me. As awesome as Perez’s art is, when he is jamming in so many characters (I’m not even sure how many Sirens there are), eras, explosions, etc., etc. it can get really messy, which is when you need a good colorist to keep things simple. Unfortunately, Popov is a local color only artist. By avoiding mood and tone in his coloring, Perez’s pages often look like stained glass window explosions.
To be mean, SIRENS is an insane car crash--you just have to see it. Like, after being told no so often by DC at the start of the New 52, George Perez just exploded here with every creative impulse he ever had. The result is not a good comic, but it is (as Spock would say) fascinating.
NINJAK #15Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Diego Bernard
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Valaint’s high tech ninja is currently going through a rough patch. Taking a page from the Batman comics (or Daredevil), Kindt has destroyed Ninjak’s world. His money, castle home and secret identity are all gone. They even framed him for murder to boot. But as they say, the only place to go now is up.
Getting into the spoilers of this issue, we find his old genetic super-assassin playmate Roku is back. She now has control over her steel hair, like Marvel’s Medusa or DC’s Godiva. She appears to be in league with the Shadow Seven, the group out to destroy our hero. Colin King, aka Ninjak, follows the trail to a Russian mobster, clearing out an entire bar of thugs to do so. Meanwhile, Roku has killed an entire room of thugs to get the Russian mobster to work for her. When Ninjak confronts the mobster, he gives him a pen from Roku, which promptly explodes in his face.
As with many of Kindt’s comics, this one is all about body count--dead and just knocked out ones, although we don’t get to see much of the fighting that causes the body counts. We see bits of it, of course, but we always cut forward to rooms piled high with bodies. So make no mistake, it’s really, really, really important for you to know how bad@$$ these characters are. There’s a nice twist to the action movie genre at the end, but for the most part, this is an average action movie--probably one starring Jason Statham.
Bernard’s artwork is decent enough. It’s a bit on the average side, as his storytelling doesn’t add much to the comic. His figure work is nice, but adding average art to average to story and well, that’s what you get.
Action movie fans should totally give NINJAK a try. As for the rest of us, roll the dice at your leisure.
SERVING SUPES #4Writers: Steve Stern, Matt Yuan
Artists: Matt Yuan, John Yuan
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing/1First Comics, LLC
The thing about indie comics, and here I am talking about truly small publishers and not some subsidiary of a larger company that releases “artsy” work, is that they face an uphill battle in retaining readers. They do not have the marketing budget to remind readers of the imminent arrival of new issues. In any form of comparison, they will be overshadowed by the version with the longer publishing history. It is difficult to recommend a series written by newcomers and based on only an issue or two because it hasn’t been proven yet if the quality of the comic can be maintained.
The Yuan twin’s SERVING SUPES, four issues in now, has retained the initial charm of its first book. Rather than telling a serialized story, SERVING SUPES features an episodic structure, which makes it much easier to recommend the comic to new readers who may not be able to get their hands on earlier issues immediately.
In my initial review I glossed over the coworkers Cheech and Clive O’Huang have employed at Hero Hunters LLC, a company specializing in serving up papers to heroic and villainous superhumans. In order to handle such a niche market, you would think the O’Huangs would have formed a cracked team of specialists. Special is indeed a word that could be applied to their coworkers. Cheech and Clive live in a world that has the mundane and the extreme cross paths quite regularly, and that includes their staff.
In the newest issue of SERVING SUPES, the focus is spread across the entire team. In an attempt to win big bucks at the Aspies, the Oscars for process servers, Cheech and Clive send out their ragtag crew after some of the toughest cases. You’ve got the scaredy cat Juergen on the way to sleepaway camp, their token alien Tammy sent after another extraterrestrial, and butch Liz forced to go sexy for no justifiable reason other than to please the so-called voters. These vignettes show the breadth of the Yuan’s creation and that the strength of its humor doesn’t just rely on sibling banter. The outlandish situations that were delegated only to Cheech and Clive early on in the series run now can be had by all.
The comic continues to be subversive, both in its attitude towards violence but also gender and racial issues. There’s nothing overly offensive or shocking at hand. SERVING SUPES is eccentric and bizarre without being grotesque and lewd. Some may wish for the envelope to be pushed further, and for those I’d be happy to recommend plenty of other material. But SERVING SUPES’ balanced comedic sensibility is what allows it to have mass appeal, as does its now proven track record for consistent quality control.
Remembering Darwyn Cooke….By Masked Man
Like most of us, I wasn’t aware of Darwyn Cooke until his opus THE NEW FRONTIER in 2004, which spelled out so many things that comic books had been lacking: joy, wonderment, and morality--much like THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS did 20 years earlier with grit, disillusionment, and harsh reality. But instead of being the new voice of comics, he was considered a fluke and an anachronism, which I feel is the greatest crime of the industry these past 12 years.
But before that, Cooke was working with Bruce Timm on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and SUPERMAN and BATMAN BEYOND. After that, Cooke adapted four of Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)’s Parker novels (you may know some of the Parker novels, from movies adapted from them: MADE IN U.S.A., POINT BLANK, THE SPLIT, THE OUTFIT, SLAYGROUND, PAYBACK and PARKER).
Sadly, Darwyn Cooke passed away this weekend after a bout with cancer; he was only 53 years old. Until then he had kept his illness to himself. Recently I remember thinking it odd that he was working with Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner on DC’s upcoming FUTURE QUEST, but he wasn’t drawing or writing any of it. I guess it’s fairly obvious why now.
As well as being a master storyteller in comics and storyboards, Cooke is also known as being one of the best guys in the industry. People who worked with him, vets and beginners, all spoke highly of the man. For us fans, we should remember this is a guy who loved and really cared about comic books and the comic book medium. He went to work in animation because he had trouble finding work in comics. He’d been outspoken about the current state of the industry. He made comic book adaptations of the PARKER novels, who does that?!? A man who loves comics, that’s who.
Our hearts are with his family these days, as a death is often the most painful thing a family can endure. As for the rest of us, we are just merely missing out on any more of his great work.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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