Hey folks, AICN COMICS editor Ambush Bug here. Before we begin this week’s reviews, I wanted to give a shout out to a project from one of our own. THE SIX SWORDS is a new comic written and created by Melchor Sapiandante, Matthew Perez and AICN COMICS’ own Chris Massari, with line art by Ryan Cody, color art by Elaina Unger and lettering by Renato Guerra. The project is described as follows – “THE SIX SWORDS plays in the realm of comedy, Kung Fu and Westerns; post-apocalyptic pulp fiction set in post-WWIV United States.” The project has only a few more days to go and it looks to be a lot of fun playing with all kinds of different adventure genres. Check out this link to THE SIX SWORDS Kickstarter page and if you like what you see, toss a few of your well earned dollars their way to get this project funded. Best of luck, Chris and the gang!
On with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1
JIMMY’S BASTARDS #1
SECRET EMPIRE #4
NANCY DREW & THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE #4
LITTLE NIGHTMARES #1
RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1
DARK DAYS: THE FORGE #1Writers: Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV
Artists: Jim Lee, Andy Kubert & John Romita JR
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
So DC's next big continuity defining event is off and running. Guided by their newest golden boy, Scott Snyder. Each page, of this 30 pager, is busting with imagination and DC lore. Everything that has come to typify DC's Rebirth. Like most fans, I applaud DC's return to it's history and classic characters. Unfortunately, I feel DARK DAYS: THE FORGE, just like Rebirth, is a cacophony of execution.
Ok, let's get right to the spoilers, although, there really aren't any. So we find Carter Hall sitting around thinking about his past lives, as an Egyptian Prince. How he discovered a Thanagian spaceship and Nth metal. A substance which gives him wings to fly and becomes the obsession of his life. Oh, the secrets of Nth metal, oh, the secrets! Meanwhile, Batman has set-up black sites all-around the world to study the Earth's core. Without anyone knowing- except for all the people working at them. Anyway, one gets destroyed and Aquaman isn't happy that it happened in his sea. Batman says nothing and activates another one, because what it could all mean is just too mind numbing. Later he hooks up with Mr. Terrific, who tells him Earth-2's reading match ours. Batman says it's time to release the one of the most unstable and powerful beings on the planet, Plastic Man!
Next Batman flies off to Superman's Fortress of Solitude because he needs (Ok, best strap in) to access the room Superman gave him to store something. Something Superman promised to never peek at. Locked behind a door, who's key Batman shot into the Sun. And now no one on Earth can open this door, so Mr. Miracle shows-up and opens the door for Batman. Seeing what's inside, Mr. Miracle is stunned Batman held on to it, but being a busy guy (I guess) he leaves. What it appears to be, is a massive mystery wrapped in an enigma. Old school readers know it as one of the giant tuning towers the Monitor created to protect the universe from the Anti-Monitor's anti-matter wave (see CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) (Ok, time-out, did you get all that? Batman moved a massive structure into the Fortress of Solitude, and locked it in a room, to which Batman has the only key, else the door can't be opened- not even by Superman?! Ooookay).
While that was going on, Guardian of the Universe, Ganthet, sent Green (Hal Jordan) Lantern to the Batcave to... well we don't know. Ganthet never actual tells GL to do anything, although he does say a terrible truth is coming! While searching the Batcave with Duke (Batman's latest sidekick) GL and we discover Batman & the Outsiders are Batman's black ops team- because Batman is deep, deep, deep into a mystery of a enigma of metal! As OMG, everything is connected! You see, the secret of the metal is as old as time and can bring the dead back to life. Or at least that's what the Joker says. While being imprisoned in a secret cell inside the Batcave.
In a nutshell this is 30 pages of Synder and Tynion begging and pleading with us to be as excited and curious as all hell about whatever this secret of the metal is. Quote the Immortal Man, “..a crisis unlike anything they've seen before.” Yup, $4.99 for 30 pages of hyperbola about how jaw dropping stunning this story will be, whenever it actually starts. Now, if you are enjoying everything Rebirth, you will probably eat this up with a spoon. Because it's just like Rebirth; lots of DC lore, with no rhyme or reason. You understand that pre-New 52 DC was becoming a mess. In hopes of fixing it they wiped most of the board clean and created the New 52. Which became unpopular, so they are Rebirth-ing it. Which is basically taking pre-New 52 and nailing it on top of New 52 and sprinkling it with characters from a popular story from over 30 years ago! But overall, I'm left with the question, if Batman has time to setup black sites all over the world, run a black ops team, keep Joker prisoner in a secret section of the Batcave, one that is dedicated to studying the metal mystery as old as time, and moved one of the Monitor's towers to the Superman's Fortress of Solicitude, while sending Mr. Terrific to study the metal mystery on Earth-2 (which really isn't Earth-2, it's Talos' planet, but I digress), plus keep it all a secret from everyone he 'works' with- When the hell does he have time to fight crime in Gotham???
Artwork wise, everything is decent. The storyline jumps around a lot and the artists all have a sketchy quality to their work, so everything is good enough. Most of the panels are just of people saying, “holy cr@p, what a mystery” to each other. So it's a little hard to screw that up, artwise, especially for these three talented guys.
Now let me side bar for a minute to talk about mystery, in a piece of fiction. In order to have a mystery, you need the results of something unexplained. Most commonly, it's a dead/murdered body. So the mystery is, who or what caused it. Hopefully, the reader is intrigue and will continue with the story to learn the answer. Synder and Tynion have yet to give us the unexplained result of anything. Aside from, why is Batman and all these people worry. But then they also give us the reveal: They don't know why they are worry. So in effect, the mystery is, what is the mystery? And if that's not the very definition of double talk, I don't know what else is! If you want your readers to care about your mystery, you gotta tell them what the mystery is.
Lastly, I should mention this issue and the following DARK DAYS: THE CASTING #1 (because everything needs a frick'n #1 on the cover) are suppose to set us all up for DARK NIGHT: METAL. So far, I can't say I give a ----------
JIMMY’S BASTARDS #1Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Russ Braun
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
James Bond is one of my favorite literary characters of all-time. I own/have seen all the films, have read the Fleming books, and currently subscribe to all the Bond comic books. And while Star Wars and TMNT will always be 1-2 on my nerd list, Bond isn’t far behind. In my opinion, Bond is always entertaining. The silly Bond movies are just as good as the serious Bond movies. I mean even the bad Bond movies are still [pretty enjoyable. When it comes to comics, I’m also a big fan of Garth Ennis. It goes without saying just how great PREACHER is, but Ennis’s run on PUNISHER is also one of my favorite runs of the character. Ennis is one of those writer’s whose “bad books” are still better than most of the writers out there.
So what do the two have in common? Ennis’s new book JIMMY BASTARDS, released on Aftershock Comics, is a Bond satire book. As someone who also enjoys Bond satire (Austin Powers, Johnny English, Get Smart, etc etc) I figured this book would be right up my alley, and it was. The character James Bond really does lend itself really well to both satire and imitation. Garth Ennis, whose work is not for those who are easily offended, is the type of writer who seems like a perfect fit to write an over-top Bond satire. And you know what? He is. This book has everything that’s great and not so great about James Bond and the character’s history: sexual innuendos, hyper masculinity, over the top violence, gadgets, etc. There is even a crazy, evil, talking monkey with a human brain!
With this book, Ennis is able to show the flaws of Bond as a character while still keeping everything that makes the character so appealing. For this alone, he should be applauded, but the book is really good as well. The story, involves the bond-esque secret agent named Jimmy Regent doing your typical over-the-top bond-type things. The first issue hits all the typical Bond notes, in an over the top way, in our introduction to the character. But where the story really gets interesting, is at the end, which leaves you wanting to read more. We find out that Jimmy, being the playboy that he is, has enough bastard children to make up a very angry mob. Jimmy’s “bastards” want their father’s head for abandoning them, and they’re coming for him. After reading this, I would love for an actual future Bond movie to introduce a villain who just happens to be the offspring of Bond and a Bond girl he threw to the curb.
Artist Ryan Braun does a great job across the board in this first issue. From explosions to sports cars, it feels like a spy movie. I really like how Braun draws Jimmy Regent, who looks like your stereotypical, strong-jawlined Hollywood leading man.
I give this book 4 ½ out of 5 shaken not stirred martinis. If you’re a fan of Bond, Ennis, or just a fun, well done, ridiculous satire, then you should check out JIMMY’S BASTARDS #1.
SECRET EMPIRE #4Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu (and help)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The latest chapter of Marvel's top selling crossover-event hit the shelves with a rather odd interlude, of sorts. But first, let's 'go over the ground rules' for anyone out of the loop: Thanks to a revelation from a Cosmic Cube, Captain America discovers he is actually a Hydra agent from the 1940's. So he spear heads a successful takeover of the U.S.A. for Hydra, setting himself up as Hydra Commander (did someone just yell, Cobra?). The Marvel superhero community is shattered into pieces, as Hydra tries stomp out what is left of them.
Anyway you slice this, it is one weird book. Which I hazard to guess, is the point, as weird is easier to write and sells- in the icon hero genre. This issue got just a little weirder in execution, since the bulk of the issue is about a 'dinner party' hosted by Hank Ultron Pym, with Captain Hydra America and A.I. Hologram Tony Stark- and the different Avengers that have allied themselves with them. Every other spinning plate of this story is barely touched, if at all. Now here's the really weird part. The dinner party is the best thing in the whole series so far. It starts to some superhero action, something missing in the passed four (counting the #0 ) issues, and features lots of nice scenes of the characters arguing. In the context of the mini-series, I find it very lacking, but it was a good read by itself.
Getting into the spoilers, it starts with again, Black Widow trying to teach the Champions “this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no fooling around”. As, even with Spider (Miles) Man's spider-sense, none of them can do anything about a Hydra Agent with a hidden knife, so she has to shoot him dead. Next, Captain Hydra America leads a group of Hydra Avengers to Hank Ultron Pym's Arctic 'country', in order to get a piece of the Cosmic Cube. A.I. Hologram Tony Stark does the same with the Underground Avengers. After a nice fight and a lot of good verb sparring, Pym gives the Cosmic Cube piece to the U.A.'s Captain Hydra America is upset, but than feels better as Namor gives him another piece of the Cosmic Cube later. Seems Namor doesn't want to go to war with the United Hydra States of America- which seems like a complete reversal of his character since the 1940's. The Captain remarks he would back down too, if he was in Namor's position- which again seems like a complete reversal of his character since the 1940's (“Give me liberty or give me death” and all that). Spencer can't end without a “dum, dum, dummmmm” moment, as we learn someone in the Underground Avengers is working for him!
As for the artwork, it's all well done by Leinil Francis Yu. He has a nice dynamic, rough edge style that I enjoy. He draws nice heads, so even the dinner party scenes were good. On a side note, I long for the days when one writer and artist could handle a major event crossover, but I suppose those days are over (F.Y.I. - Yu is the third artist on this series so far).
As we reach the halfway point, I'm still not sold on nearly anything in this story. Two things that continue to bother me though are: (1) Everyone treats A.I. Hologram Tony Stark like the real Tony Stark. As if Spencer wanted to use the real Tony for the story, but couldn't him. So he's just treating A.I.H.T.S. as if he was real. (2) Who the hell is the narrator? I suppose it will be some big reveal in the final issue, but until then, not digging it. Still if the remaining issues can be as good as this one, I suppose I can live with it.
NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE #4Writer: Anthony Del Col
Artist: Werther Dell ‘Edera
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
I wasn’t planning on writing a review for the fourth issue of THE BIG LIE. The series continues to benefit from the increased presence of Nancy Drew and the brothers are best as a unit rather than individuals. I didn’t want to repeat myself, singing the praises of del Col’s ever-improving dialogue. But that all changed come the very last panel.
Book #4 has our heroes sinking further into Bayport’s criminal underground. The Rover Boys themselves may only be small-time crooks, but they’ve got friends in high places. Connections that may very well be connected with Frank and Joe’s father’s murder. So far the trio have done a bit of B&E and light thievery in order to clear the late Hardy’s reputation, but the odds of the game may soon leave blood on their hands.
Last time round I was still griping ‘bout artist Dell ‘Edera and colorist Stefano Simeone’s aesthetics, their use of charcoal-like shading for the faces that was too-on-the nose, a literal interpretation of the world’s “shady” characters. But as the tone grows ever darker, you realize there’s a method to the madness. Rather than this stylistic choice distracting from the quality panels, it lent itself a contrast as to punch up those moments where the look wasn’t necessary and make even grimmer the panels where the tone required it. Now the art works in service to the story, not just the well-designed characters.
But that wasn’t what changed my mind to write this quick-shot review. It was the gut punch that came from the issue’s conclusion. The series has had drama, plenty of suspense and mystery. What book four gives us is a rising in the stakes and tension, and for the first-time true concern that this story won’t wrap itself up cleanly like a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew novel.
Lyzard is Lyz Reblin, a graduate student at Michigan Tech pursuing a doctorate in Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture... 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."
LITTLE NIGHTMARES #1Writer: John Shackleford
Artist: Aaron Alexovich
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Video games and comic books are like peanut butter and jelly, they just go well together. Many, if not most, comic book readers also play video games. There have been some really good comics based on video games (THE WITCHER, TOMB RAIDER, STREET FIGHTER), just as there has been some great video games based on comics (MARVEL VS. CAPCOM, The BATMAN ARKHAM series, INJUSTICE).
I play video games, though not as often as I used to. Recently, I just bought a Nintendo Switch and hope its portability changes my ability to play more often (but if I finish Zelda: Breath of the Wild before the summer is over it would be a miracle). I wish I had time to play video games like I used to, but hey I guess that’s what happens when you get older?
Maybe that’s why I never heard of the video game LITTLE NIGHTMARES before I saw the comic version on the new release wall at my local comic book shop. It is a horror puzzle-platformer released at the end of April from Tarsier Studios (LITTLEBIGPLANET 3) available for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. The book LITTLE NIGHTMARES #1, by Titan Comics, just hit newsstands. It is written by John Shackleford with art by Aaron Alexovich (INVADER ZIM, SERENITY ROSE). I couldn’t find any other comic book information on Shackleford, so it may be his first comic (or maybe it’s an alias ala Rusty Shackleford)?
As far as the story, well boy it’s confusing. It’s the story of Six, a young girl in a yellow raincoat who’s exploring a world called “The Maw” trying to find her way out. The Maw is dark and mysterious (it also reminds me of the animated film “9” for some reason, and not just because her name is Six), but besides that the story isn’t very clear. I know it’s a first issue, but the story is all over the place, especially if this is your first introduction to the world of The Maw. The pacing is also pretty fast, which makes it even more confusing.
The artwork is the real star here in issue one. Aaron Alexovich has drawn created a Tim Burton-esque world. It’s creepy, angry, haunting, and a bit disgusting looking. The artwork in this book makes this a world I do want to explore more. If I ever decide to check out the video game, it will be with the hope that the video game looks as good and interesting at Alexovich’s artwork.
As far as the comic, I just can’t recommend it if you haven’t played the video game yet. Fans of the video game honestly might really love this comic, especially with its great artwork. However, I give LITTLE NIGHTMARES a score of 1 & ½ out of 5 yellow rain jackets with the disclaimer to play the video game first.
RAI: THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE #1Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Franas Portela
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
This is another one shot, created to celebrate 25 years of Valiant Comics. Obviously enough, RAI THE HISTORY OF THE VALIANT UNIVERSE, features their future hero, Rai. The story picks up after the events of Valiant's last big crossover-event, 4001 A.D. As Roberts and Portela give us an overview of the Valiant Universe, up to the fall of New Japan. Overall, they have created a nice puff piece.
The context of the story is that Rai and newest Geomancer have hooked up with the Eternal Warrior, still plugging away in 4001. Rai recently defeated his creator, the A.I. Father and sent the satellite New Japan crashing back to the Earth. Now they face the challenge ahead of helping the citizens of Japan adapt to living on the Earth. So Gilad (the Eternal Warrior) takes this time to go over the history of the world, with special attention to the Valiant heroes and villains, of course. So if you ever wanted to see how it all works together, or what the Valiant Universe is all about, this is your book!
Roberts does a fine job of putting it all together and give us a good read. Portela does an even better job of drawing it all. On some level, the art alone is worth the cost of the book. Portela, who has done some off and on work for DC over the recent years, has a style that reminds me of Kevin Maguire. Naturalist, with a high level of detail. As with the last 25th Anniversary One-Shot from Valiant, I kinda wish they got some pin-ups in the book. Because these one shot's should be more about fun, and how awesome the Valiant U is, opposed to just crafting a typical comicbook. And nothing says fun more in a comicbook than pin-ups, and guest artist! Still, this is a great looking and fun resource book.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G