(Click title to go directly to the review)
THE WILD STORM #1
CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #5
GOD COUNTRY #2
Raiders of the Long Box presents CRISIS ON EARTH PRIME!
THE WILD STORM #1Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I can’t decide if what I’m typing right now is more a disclaimer or just good context for an opening to the rest of this piece, but the Wildstorm universe - and particularly what Warren Ellis did with it – was an integral part of my getting back into comics in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Obviously the man has a writing style that is its own draw to some or deal breaker to others (put me firmly in the former) but at a time when I was kind of tired of the superhero genre in general, Ellis was pushing the deconstruction envelope with it via books like STORMWATCH, THE AUTHORITY, and (especially) PLANETARY. Those books really did a number on my then becoming heavily beer fueled brain as far as showing me how far superheroes could be pushed if left to their own devices and - looking at peer books like Joe Casey’s WILDC.A.T.S. run - how an entire line of those books could work if a publisher made the effort. As with all good things, those times came somewhat to a unceremonious halt about a decade ago and then were followed with mostly half-hearted attempts to integrate the more popular characters and concepts into the DCU, but it has been so hard to duplicated the brain tingling thrills those Wildstorm books were peddling back then.
THE WILD STORM, from what I can divulge from this first issue, represents a marriage of nostalgia for those days highlighted above and a modern day upgrade for a world that has only become a weirder place in the twenty years since Wildstorm was the home of superhero futurism. Within just a handful of pages into this “reboot”, we see a bunch of familiar faces in somewhat familiar roles with some vagarities around them if you were a heavier follower of the older material. For example, the very first page opens on Kherubim warrior goddess Zealot unsurprisingly covered in blood (of some poor asshole who got on her bad side, not her own of course) and calling in to some handlers for a cleanup crew. I mean the obvious, surface question for the scene is “what crazy shit was that guy up to that she killed him in the shitter?’ but once you invoke the history of the Wildstorm universe it opens up a whole other can of worms that could lead down Sci-Fi rabbit holes involving Daemonites or “The Bleed” or trans-dimensional warships. “Could” is the optimal word there, because if this particular issue is any indication THE WILD STORM is more intent to be its own thing while giving those occasional nostalgic punches in the shoulder.
The Wildstorm we do have right now is - as tends to happen with Warren Ellis joints – more one with global security and factions within wrapped in a bow of scientific fuckery and futurism. We go right from Zealot courtesy flushing her target for whoever she’s doing dirt for, into a confrontation between a crazed Angela “The Engineer” Spica as she’s raving to Miles Craven, head of the organization known as IO (Internal Operations) about needing resources for whatever the shit is going on in her raving genius brain and also name-dropping our final player, Jacob Marlowe of HALO Corporation. Machinations and assassination attempts abound, this rendition of The Engineer lets her nanotech blood fly in dramatic fashion while saving Marlowe’s life in the middle of a book that’s overall a whirlwind of character reintroductions and setting up the chessboard that THE WILD STORM expects to play out for us over the next couple years, and it’s all exciting fanfare in the end. When you take all these interactions and how everything paces and plots out and wrap them up in the bow that is dialogue and exposition that only Warren Ellis can write, this reintroduction to the Wildstorm universe goes way beyond just playing up a “nostalgia porn” angle.
One of the best new pieces that this reimagining adds to that chessboard is Jon Davis-Hunt on pencils. You want to add some dynamic new flavor to these established yet niche characters; you get someone with Davis-Hunt’s talents. JDH’s highly detailed and very expressive and energetic pencils are pretty much a match made in heaven for some Ellis scripts that promise to be filled with some high impact action sequences and just tension all around as the intrigue builds. Outside of the fantastic, 35 panels in two pages sequence of Angela’s transformation into her armored form, this issue doesn’t really go balls out with set pieces, but that scene alone is enough to get the eyes jonesing for more of what we know is coming. I honestly can’t think of a better pick up to work with Ellis’ talents when it comes to this storytelling fusing of political machinations and technological prognosticating, just like I can’t imagine how this re-jiggering of one of the most creative though short-lived comics universes could get off to a better start than this current incarnation.
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.
CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #5Writers: Jon Rivera with Gerard Way
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
DC's Young Animal imprint continues to roll along with the Silver Age spelunking adventure hero, Cave Carson. Cave has never had his own book until now. Cave Carson started a temporary feature in THE BRAVE IN THE BOLD (like the Justice League of America did), but never got his own book. In recent years he's appeared in several books, which is when he got his cybernetic eye. Although it has never been explained where the eye came from.
Way (from My Chemical Romance), the supposedly the master mind behind the Young Animal, with his buddy Rivera have been doing a good job modernizing Cave Carson, yet keeping all the fantasy 'bellow the Earth's crust' stuff. Spoiler time, the hidden subterranean Muldroog Kingdom has been experiencing culture shock as they've become more aware of the surface world. So they have worked out a deal with a mining company, EBX, to exchange minerals for cultural exchange. Although as we learn this issue, the Muldroog have a dark secret of guarding the prison of a demon known as the Whisperer. Who is all about mind control and mutation. EBX bosses become the victim of the Whisperer and seek to free him. And as they say, chaos ensues- with Cave Carson stuck in the middle of it all. And when faced with an army of mutants, Cave Carson does what any right minded person in the DCU would do, he calls for Superman! Too bad it doesn't work out for him.
This has been a really nice adventure book. At its best, it's doing what Grant Morrison does so well, taking Silver Age concepts and makes them real and keeps them crazy. The reveal of what has been going on, is nice as well. At first it seemed like just another evil corporation story (boring). But now we learn it's much more than that. So good on Way and Rivera for that. I also dig Cave's portrayal of a guy who is just lost in life. He's lost his career, his wife and doesn't have the best relationship with his daughter. On top of it all, this $h!t happens. His daughter is cool enough, if maybe a bit of a young adult cliché. His buddy Wild Dog, who comes off great in this issue, has been a treat. He's a poor man's Punisher, who I never cared one bit about (lame hockey mask), but as side-kick muscle, he's pretty great. I'm not sure what I was expecting with this series, but it has kept me very entertained.
As always, Oeming's art is a love it or hate it kind of affair. For the most part I love it. I enjoy his cartoony graphic figures, and his inventive storytelling. I also love all the visual effects he uses: dot screens, off printing patterns etc. I suppose you could argue, it's a bit gimmicky. But with his general storytelling style I feel it fits well enough. The stabbing and cybernetic eye bits are really nice here. He does have a few panels where I get lost. Mainly, because can't identify the characters in a scene (who said that, which guy is that, etc). Aside from that rare annoyance, I told dig what he is laying down here.
I can easily recommend this to any adventure fan. It might take an issue or two to fully get into the groove that Way and company are working on, but it's worth it. If you've been missing these issues, keep your eyes peeled for the trade. And I'm very curious what they have it store after this first story-arc warps up.
GOD COUNTRY #2Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Geoff Shaw
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Recently a friend suggested that I check out a television show on Netflix, but what he said worried me. He commented, “The show doesn’t really pick up until halfway through the first season, so just stick with it.”
I’ve never been one to “just stick with it” when it comes to starting a new show. I feel that if a show doesn’t catch your interest in the first 2-3 episodes at most, it’s just not for you/not a good show. The same rational applies for me when it comes to picking a new comic to add to my pull-list.
I will usually base whether or not I want to subscribe to a comic or not on the first issue. However, if I like the writer(s) or art team I may stretch that to an extra issue or two, but that’s it.
On the same note, I’ve read many decent/good premiere issues that went into a tailspin quickly thereafter. A creative team can put its best in a first issue, but are they able to sustain it? In a way a second issue is even more important than a first issue.
That takes me to my review this week which is of GOD COUNTRY #2 from Image Comics. GOD COUNTRY is written by Donny Cates (STAR TREK, THE PAYBACKS) and is one of the hottest comics out there right now. The first issue has quickly gone to a third print, while this second issue is already on a second print.
Humphrey Lee reviewed the first issue a few weeks ago and he loved it (as did I). The first issue of GOD COUNTRY had rave reviews across the board, but how would the second issue hold up?
I will say right now that this second issue is even better than the first issue. In case you missed the first issue, the story revolves around Emmett Quinlan, a widower with Alzheimer’s who has become a burden to his family. A massive tornado, followed by a demon comes ripping through town. Emmett emerges stronger than ever before with a mythical sword and mows down the demon.
In this second issue we find out more about the Valofax sword, a sword that is a combination of all the powerful/notable swords that you’ve heard of. We learn that a mythical god named Aristus believes the sword should be his, as it was forged by his father. The sword however is a restless blade that has now chosen Emmett.
If Emmett were to lose the sword, he would lose his god-like powers and return to his normal form. Emmett has not only become a Thor-like figure, but he now has all his memories back, and he does not want to give them up by letting the sword go.
Cates has developed a story here that is mythical, funny, and full of emotions. Emmett is a fragile figure and Cates does an incredible job exploring his fragility. The story finds a perfect balance between humor and depth. The conversation between Aristus and Emmett is a prime example of this. In one panel, we see Emmett joking about the sword not responding to Aristus’s inquiry. In a later panel, we see Emmett talking about how with his memory back, he has since endured the pain of remembering losing his wife all over again. Through two issues this story is engaging, heartfelt, and hits all the right notes.
The art by Geoff Shaw (THE PAYBACKS, BUZZKILL) is a great fit, which is no surprise since Shaw and Cates have worked with each other before. Shaw’s god-like figures are original while still giving a nice nod to the legend Jack Kirby. Shaw shines the most when he is drawing Emmett. You can really see the strong emotions on Emmett’s face, which brings a whole other level of empathy to the character. Solid coloring by Jason Wordie (JOHNNY RED, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) helps provide an extra layer of depth in both the characters and scenery.
Simply put, Image Comics has a huge hit on their hands with GOD COUNTRY. This is a comic that is sure to increase in popularity as strong word of mouth continues. Two issues in and this book really is as good as you’ve heard it is. The bar has been set pretty high for this book so far, but I fully expect subsequent issues to leap over it. This is the type of story that could be talked about for decades to come. Get on the GOD COUNTRY band wagon while you still can, and enjoy the ride!
CRISIS ON EARTH PRIME!By Masked Man
A while back I wrote about the single greatest issue of the Justice League, JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #200 by Gerry Conway and George Perez (read more here). Today I'll tell you about the greatest Justice League story: “Crisis on Earth-Prime.”
First a bit of background: Originally, there was the Golden Age, and the birth of superheroes. Years after the superhero bust, the Silver Age rolled in and superheroes were back in vogue again. But it wasn't the superheroes of the Golden Age, it was modern updates, reboots, re-launches, replacements, all-new, all-different heroes. Jay Garrick wasn't the Flash anymore, Barry Allen was. And even without an internet, fans wanted to know what happened to Jay? So Julius Schwartz, Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino created “Flash of Two Worlds” and the DC Multiverse was born. Jay and all his fellow Golden Age superheroes were still alive and well, they were just on another Earth, Earth, Earth-2. The Silver Age Earth was dubbed Earth-1. After two more team-ups, DC went whole hog and teamed up the heroes of Earth-2, the Justice Society of America with the heroes of Earth-1, the Justice League of America in: “Crisis on Earth-One / Crisis on Earth-Two”. It proved such a hit, that the JLA and the JSA would team-up once every year until the JSA was lost in 'limbo' in 1986. And more often than not, whenever the two teams got together, it was a “Crisis”: “Crisis on Earth-Three”, “Crisis on Earth-X”, “Crisis on New Genesis”, “Family Crisis”, “Super Crisis”, etc! In 1982, the biggest one of all with the (first cross-over of series as well) JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA and the ALL-STAR SQUADRON for five epic issues (featuring the JSA, of course): “Crisis on Earth-Prime.”
Since it was a proper cross-over, JLoA writer Gerry Conway was joined by A-SS writer Roy Thomas. The League's artist was industry vet Don Heck, and the Squadron's artist was new comer Jerry Ordway, working off Adrian Gonzales' breakdowns. Superstar artist George Perez provided the JLoA covers and icon artist Joe Kubert drew the A-SS covers. As you might be able to tell, there was one weak link in that line, Don Heck. As I often like to say about some artists, it's not that they are bad, it's just that they rarely do anything above typical work. But even with those lackluster pages, 'Crisis on Earth-Prime” was and still is the best JLA ever.
Now for the roll call: the Justice League steps up with Superman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Zatanna and Firestorm. The Justice Society featured Green (Alan Scott) Lantern, Dr. Fate, Starman, Power Girl and the Huntress (Helen Wayne). And from the 1940's, the All-Star Squadron (which was the WWII time group of all superheroes not in the JSA) included Johnny Quick, Liberty Belle, Robotman, Firebrand (Danette Reilly), and Commander Steel. 15, count 'em 15 superheroes! The bad guy challenging all of these heroes: Per Degaton (from 1940's Earth-2), a world conquering fascist with a time machine. Degaton was also the villain that helped launch the ALL-STAR SQUADRON series. Backing him up was the Crime Syndicate of America (from Earth-3). The evil version of the Justice League of America: Ultraman, Super Woman, Owlman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring. We haven't seen these villains since “Crisis on Earth-Three” back in 1964, where they managed to whip the League and the Society (Ok, Ultraman showed up once in DC COMICS PRESENTS Annual #1 and Johnny Quick, Power Ring and Super Woman have bit roles in THE SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS #13 & 14 but that's it).
The setting, Earth-2, the 1940's, in midst of WWII! So why is it called “Crisis on Earth-Prime”? Because Earth-Prime was the greatest casualty of the story. Back in those days, Earth-Prime was our Earth, if you will. There are no superheroes (shut-up about Ultraa!), and that turned out really bad when Degaton and the Crime Syndicate showed-up (although not the way you may be thinking). You see Degaton discovered his time machine (which he stole) could transverse universes as well. This is how he hooked up with the CSA. Now, before I give anymore way, let's just jump into the story.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #207 – It all starts with a bang as the JLA and the JSA are getting together for their annual party (the story reason for the yearly team-ups). But just as the JSA were transmitting to Earth-1, the CSA appear instead, and beat the tar out of the JLA (as seen in the awesome cover by George Perez). After defeating the JLA, the CSA head to Earth-1 proper (as they were fighting on the JLA satellite). Meanwhile, the JSA find themselves on a world destroyed by nuclear war! Back on Earth-1, the League pull themselves together and decide to check on the JSA first, before chasing down the CSA. So they travel to Earth-2 and discover the whole planet is ruled by the fascist government of Per Degaton!
ALL-STAR SQUADRON #14 – In the 1940's, lowly lab assistant Per Degaton memories return. Two time before he stole his employer, Professor Zee's time machine to conquer the world. This time he kills the Professor and steals the machine again. Traveling forward in time, to get future weapons, he discovers the imprisoned Crime Syndicate. Freeing them, they agree to help him. Then time traveling to Cuba, in the 1960's during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Syndicate steals all the nuclear missiles for Degaton. As they then decide to double cross him, he jettisons them into the space time, where they intercept the 'beam' bringing the JSA to Earth-1. Meanwhile, the Justice League learn that Per Degaton conquered Earth-2 back in the 1940's, so they travel back in time, to see if they can prevent it from happening. Arriving in the 1940's, instead of meeting the JSA, they meet the All-Star Squadron!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #208 – After the misunderstanding fight, the A-SS and the JLA make friends. They then head to Washington DC to see if Per Degaton has made his move yet. Meanwhile, the Justice Society of America, after being transplanted by the CSA find themselves on a planet totally devastated by nuclear war. They learn that it is Earth-Prime, and the world the CSA stole the nuclear missile from. When Soviet Union and Cuba tried to explain to the United States that the missiles can't be removed because they were stolen by flying super powered beings- well things didn't end well. The JSA also learn that Degaton is to blame for this, so they too head off to Earth-2, the 1940's. After meeting with President Roosevelt, Degaton shocks the world by showing off the power of a 1960's nuclear missile. The JSA then shows up and all three superhero teams are together for the first time.
ALL-STAR SQUADRON #15 – In the typical fashion, Degaton blackmails the world for supreme power with his stolen nuclear missiles. But he is aware of all the superheroes too, so again he enlists the help of the CSA. Learning the location of Degaton's bases, the heroes break-up into five teams and head out. With three-on-one odds, Ultraman, Super Woman, and Power Ring are all defeated.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #209 – After Johnny Quick is defeated and all of Degaton's missiles have been accounted for, the heroes regroup and attack his headquarters. It's a battle royal against his army, while the Huntress faces-off against Owlman (who was skipping out on Degaton). Finally, we learn what the fifth team was up to, they traveled to Earth-Prime, moments before the CSA attacked Cuba. Surprising the CSA they defeat them and capture Degaton, preventing any of this from happening. With his memory gone again, Degaton becomes Professor Zee's lowly lab assistant again and the CSA are back in their prison. Also not remembering, the JLA and the JSA believe they finally had a peaceful get together.
Aside from all the heroes, villains and crazy plot, I really love how Conway paced this story. Having each issue focus a specific story angle. The first issue drops you into the action. The second issue explains how we got to all the action in first issue. The third issue pulls everything together, and the forth and fifth issue gives you the climax for this epic tale. You also get each team's perspective on what is happening, the A-SS, the JLA, the JSA and even the CSA. And much like a Stan Lee story, most of the action doesn't go down to so-and-so punches harder (although a few times it does). While some issues don't have much action, they are all crammed with story- and not pointless padding like many of today's five to six issue story arcs. Each of these five issues are very important to the story as a whole (well, there's an intro piece for the A-SS, they were a new concept at the time). For the story itself, the stakes are so high: One world destroyed, one world lost it's freedom. It make total sense to have all these characters involved. And while character dialogue might not be a witty as today, each character gets a moment to show off, even the villains.
Artwork wise, yes it's a crying shame that George Perez recently left the title to launch the NEW TEEN TITANS. If he had drawn the three JLoA issues, the story would be even more glories and well remembered. Unfortunately, with Don Heck at the wheel, I feel many overlook this tale. As it's only been reprinted once, in CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS volume 6. Gonzales and Ordway's issues on the other hand look great. The outer space battle between Superman and Ultraman is very cool.
While I know the time travel and multiple Earths make this story hard adapt, I would just frick'n love to see someone turn it into a cartoon. A mini-series or a five parter. A single DVD movie might be too short. And I got no idea how they could lay the ground work for a live-action movie. But maybe if the DC movies become as successful as Marvel's, it could happen. But also, aside from WATCHMEN, THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and BATMAN: YEAR ONE, WB/DC doesn't seem interested in adapting their old stories.
On a personal note (you can bare with me or skip ahead), as I started to get into comic books, I got a subscription to the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. #207 was my first one. In these pre-internet days, I had no idea what to expect. As I slide the brown paper covering off the issue and saw the Crime Syndicate, I lost my mind. From borrowing books from the library (remember those), I knew they existed. No story, just a few b/w pics. My young mind wanted to see those guys in action so bad, and now there they were. For me anyway, it makes it all more memorable. Either way, “Crisis on Earth-Prime” is the greatest Justice League story ever. For a superhero epic, I just can't see how it could be topped.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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