Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. My pal Matt Miner (GWAR: ORGASMAGEDDON) and writer Eric Palicki (NO ANGEL) have teamed up to bring together a group of talented writers and artists for a project called THIS NIGHTMARE KILLS FASCISTS; a collection of horror stories in the vein of CREEPY and EERIE, told against the backdrop of modern political anxieties. Comics creators like Tini Howard, Chris Sebela, Justin Jordan, Vita Ayala, Katy Rex, and more are set to contribute. Matt and Eric have launched a Kickstarter campaign for the book and if you’re interested in contributing your well earned coinage to the project, click on this link and do so!
And now, on with the reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
SECRET EMPIRE #5
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO #1 (plus preview art)
BILL & TED SAVE THE UNIVERSE #1
CONAN THE SLAYER #10
EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1
X-O MANOWAR #4
LUKE CAGE #2
KILL SHAKESPEARE-PAST IS PROLOGUE: JULIET #3
SECRET EMPIRE #5Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino (and others!)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
As we crossover the halfway point, of this cross-over, it appears many of the plotlines have been dropped. At least from this main series. We haven't really seen, the superheroes trapped in space, the superheroes trapped in New York, the Inhumans being hunted or what's up with the X-Men in like three issues, or so. Mind you, they are being covered in some of the cross over issues, but the fact that they seem to have no impact on the main story itself, seems wasteful.
Now, real briefly I'll mention this issue's main artist, Andrea Sorrentino. I'm just not a fan of his ugly, fairly misshapen, and what appears to be a nasty Photoshop filter over a photo collage, style. My opinion might be clouding my objectiveness, so the less I say, probably the better.
Moving over to the spoilers: Black Widow has found herself a captive of Viper. But in usual Black Widow style, it seems she has done this on purpose to get Viper's help in killing Steve Rogers. Widow claims she would then help set Viper up as the new Hydra Commander (as the battle for the U.S.A. is lost, she just wants revenge on Steve). Lies I'm sure, as Black Widow's teammates, the Champions, are up to something, while she keeps Viper busy. Meanwhile, what's left of the Avengers have given up their search for fragments of the Cosmic Cube. Even the Black Panther, who has one in Wakanda, isn't willing to give it to them. Captain Hydra America learns that the X-Men have a few fragments, and threatens the Beast with war to get them. So they return home rejected, with only two of the nine fragments. This is when the traitor is revealed: Mockingbird! She calls in Hydra to attack the Avengers and claim the fragments! Lastly, we touch base with two other Hydra heroes. (I can't believe it's not) Thor, who is having a crisis on conscious. As he trust Cap, but is starting to un-trust Cap's mission (no $h!t). Then we learn Bruce Banner is on Hydra's side as well! (wait, I thought Bruce Banner was dead, being just killed in CIVIL WAR II, what did I miss???)
Story-wise, this was a relatively decent issue. If you accept the premise and can buy everything Spencer is selling. And by the stuff Spencer is selling, I mean stuff like: (Formerly known as) Thor still siding with Cap? He killed Rick Jones in issue #1, and some how he still thinks Cap is the man he's always known and trusted!? Then there's the traitor (I'll even skip the why). But the best use of the traitor is now!? Why not months ago, to put an end to the Avengers before the fragment hunt? And wouldn't it have been easier for them to just steal the fragments from the Avengers? Or what about calling in the Hydra strike force when the fragments were unsecured on the plane? The Avengers themselves (with the traitor in the room) just pointed out what a big risk that was. This whole series seems to be based upon one shaky idea after another. With the overall rational for everything appearing to be shock value. There's even a dum, dum dummmmm(!) moment at the end of every issue (well, Spence has mentioned how much he admires Mark Miller's writing). And it's effectively undermining everything good Spencer does with this story.
It almost makes anyone who isn't into a story for mere shock value, long for the days when DC's editors famously said, “But Batman wouldn't do that.”
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO #1Writer: Sylvain Runberg
Publisher: Titan Comics
EDITOR’S NOTE: Included in this review is an 8-page preview of the issue. Click on the image and watch ‘em grow! If text is running over images, refresh the page and that should fix it!
It’s been a decade since the final book in the Millennium series was published. Stieg Larsson’s crime series was an international hit, spawning a Swedish film trilogy and David Fincher’s underrated adaptation of the first novel, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. You can debate all you want about who makes a better Lisbeth, Rapace or Rooney Mara, but how many of us actually read the source material to compare it to? I know that my copies have been gathering dust for years. Despite its global success, the Millennium series is not meant for everyone. It has tons of sex, but mostly rape. Plenty of violence, mainly towards women. It’s a disturbing read and watch, probably why the American film underperformed. My question is, who’s the audience for Titan Comics retelling of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO? Is it for fans of the book? Films? Or what I suspect is a very small segment of the uninitiated who have neither read the novels or watched any of the movies (which is ever now shrinking due to the recent passing of Michael Nyqvist R.I.P.).
The mystery at the center of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is who killed Harriet Vanger, niece of the industrial tycoon Henrik Vanger. A pretty difficult nut to crack given that her body was never found and no shred of evidence have popped up in over thirty years. But the investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, has recently found himself with plenty of time of his hand after losing a massive libel case. The elder Vanger promises Blomkvist the chance for vindication even he will even attempt to set his family’s terrible story to rest.
Note that I have yet to mention the titular girl and that is because her storyline, though intricate, doesn’t really drive the plot up to this point. It is character development for sure, but besides having performed the background check on Blomkvist for Vanger, Lisbeth Salander doesn’t directly get involved with the case in this first issue. Which is a shame. The book chooses to end even sooner than the Swedish television broadcast, which at least stops with Mikael and Lisbeth meeting for the first time and providing an actual rope to grab on rather than a free-fall cliffhanger.
The comic doesn’t sanitize any of the “unsavory” elements. All the key personnel involved, from publisher to writer, are European so the sex isn’t sanitized. No visual metaphors or cleverly placed towels here. The violence is gruesome, more so in its realism rather than an extreme take that would make it easier for readers to distance themselves. Homs’ artwork is not what I expected for adapting the material. His character designs look more like caricatures, political cartoons almost. Which makes sense as Larsson’s books never shied away from politics and the topic often runs in the background of Swedish horror tales like Lindqvist’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. There is a grotesqueness in their look that highlights just how unsavory almost all of these people are or just how awful their lives have become.
Did we need another retelling of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO? I’m not sure. I watched both film versions back to back before writing this review and wouldn’t say I tired of the story. Larsson’s work is so adaptable because the source material is re-readable. The comic doesn’t bring much more to the table in regard to writing, but Homs’ drawings do provide us a new lens to view these characters under versus the realistic tones of the Swedish film and the stylized eye of Fincher.
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."
SUPERMAN #25Writers: Patrick Gleason & Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Doug Mahnke & Patrick Gleason
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Ever since Rebirth, SUPERMAN has been about two things: Just who is Superman (some sort of amalgam of Pre-New 52 Superman and New 52 Superman, who may or may not have been held captive on Talos while getting Lois pregnant) and his son, the new Superboy, Jonathan Kent (am I the only one hearing the father, son quote from Marlon Brando, from SUPERMAN RETURNS, in my head while reading these?). Well this latest story-arc, “Fade to Black” is about Superboy.
As it comes to a close, we'll get to the spoilers: Manchester Black, the leader of the pseudo superhero team, the Elite, is back to mind f' Superman. But this time he's targeted Superboy, and made him go full Superboy-Prime on us. While, Superman is trying to talk him down from a murderous rampage. Meanwhile Batman and Robin, with Agents of Shade Frankenstein's Monster, and his Bride, deal with the rest of the Elite (oh and hey, if Frankenstein's Monster is ever bugging you, all you have to do is pull on his stitches and he falls apart like a stack of cold cuts, who knew). Superboy's friend Kathy (an Esper) who Black used to get his hooks into Superboy, has predictably switched sides and helps Superboy break free of Black's control. And then the two defeat Black, blowing him up to psychic bits or something. Freed from Black as well, his new Elite decides to remain in the small town of Hamilton, and help rebuild it.
Artwork wise, Mahnke's pages, as usual, are very strong. Fittingly enough, he drew the first Manchester Black story years back. Though, I've always felt he was better suited for horror books than superheroes. Everything he draws is so damn creepy looking, even when it's not supposed to be. The second half of the book is drawn by Patrick Gleason. Who used to be Mahnke's inker, and a bit of a Mahnke clone, when he finally broke out as a penciler. Now he has his own style and he's better for it. Mind you, here next to Mahnke's pages, Gleason's are fairly average looking.
Overall nothing too spectacular or terrible here. Superman and Lois show love and trust in their son, and he manages not to kill everyone. Not sure there is much else about it.
BILL & TED SAVE THE UNIVERSE #1Writer: Brian Joines
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Truth be told, I still really love both Bill and Ted movies. Sure parts of the film are a little dated, but as a whole I’d say the Bill and Ted franchise still holds up really well. Recently, I’ve also really enjoyed Boom Studio’s last two Bill and Ted comic books. While we wait for Keanu Reeves to get a third Bill and Ted movie off the ground, the comics have been a fun trip back into the franchise.
The most recent comic, BILL AND TED SAVE THE UNIVERSE #1, was just released. The book is written by Brian Joines (NOBLE CAUSES, KRAMPUS) with art by Bachan (ROCKET SALVAGE, MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS). The two have teamed up before on Image Comic’s IMAGINE AGENTS and also have familiarity with these characters, teaming up on Boom’s last B&T series “BILL AND TED GO TO HELL”.
Their familiarity with the Bill and Ted world shows, and the story and artwork feel authentically Bill and Ted. In the story, we find that Bill and Ted’s music has been used to unite life forms on other planets. Bill, Ted, and Rufus are then teleported in outer space by a group who seem angry that Bill and Ted’s music is uniting people. The book looks like it’s going to be a fun intergalactic adventure. But could this book be a movie tie in? In an early 2017 interview, Keanu Reeves teased the plot of a third Bill and Ted movie. In an interview with Graham Norton, Keanu said, “Someone comes from the Future and tells them if they don’t write the song it’s not the world, it’s the universe. So they have to save the universe because time is breaking apart”. This seems awfully close to the story that’s being presented here.
The Boom Studios comics have been fantastic. They continue the fun and silly nonsense from the movies, without messing with the franchise. The comics improve on the universe while still respecting the films. What would a third movie do in terms of Bill and Ted’s legacy? Would a third Bill and Ted feel really freaking weird without Rufus? Absolutely. Would Keanu Reeves (Bill) and Alex Winter (Ted) be out of place playing the characters in their 50’s? Possibly… Is a third movie even necessary? As a fan, that’s the biggest thing that I’m still not sure of.
There has been talk of a third Bill and Ted movie for years now. Right now, I’m 50/50 of whether or not I want to see it happen. Keanu has had a comeback with the JOHN WICK franchise, so he may have more capital in Hollywood right now to get a third movie off the ground. Plus, we all know Hollywood loves reboots/sequels. But we shall see.
In the meantime, if you enjoy the Bill and Ted movies, the comics are for absolutely for you. I give BILL AND TED SAVE THE UNIVERSE #1 5 out of 5 phone booths. Check out this and the other Boom Studios B&T series, and continue being excellent to each other!
CONAN THE SLAYER #10Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Sergio Davila
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The man chased off AQUAMAN, Cullen Bunn, remains steadfast on CONAN. Sorry, but that's just funny to me. Apparently, DC didn't fire Bunn or let him go. He basically pulled a 'Cartman' (screw you guys, I'm going home), quitting after his story received a lot of negative fan feedback on the internet. Also remaining steadfast on CONAN THE SLAYER is Spanish artist Sergio Davila. Davila has previously worked on Red Sonja for Dynamite and INJUSTICE for DC.
In this story “The Devil in Iron”, Conan has been chasing after a Nemedian Princess. He finally discovers her on what was supposed to be the abandon island, Xapur. But it's former ruler is back from the dead and is working on bring his kingdom back from the dead as well. This giant of a man is also covered with iron skin, and is just seconds away from crushing Conan's neck.
Getting more into the spoilers of this 4th issue, Conan, not too surprisingly, manages to free himself from the behemoth. Then spends the rest of the issue running away from him. With the typical scantly clad princess in tow. Conan recalls a magical dagger from a dream, believing it can wound the giant, and goes looking for it. Meanwhile, his other foe, Jehunghir and his Kozaki warriors have tracked Conan to the island and stumble upon the Giant. It does not end well for them. Back to Conan, the princess, in a very cliché / useless way, wakes up a giant snake (extra cliché) which Conan manages to kills.
Oddly enough, the issue ends there, not really giving us a chapter conclusion or proper cliffhanger. Overall, the story is typical Conan action, with the special sauce of the giant sized metal man. My only real complaint is the absolute worthlessness of the princess. Even her dialogue is idiotic. But, if that was Bunn's goal, he nailed it.
As is often the case with a story like this, it's the artwork's job to really sells it. And while not doing an amazing job, Davila does a very good one. All his figures are well rendered- well except for the princess. She comes off rather noodle like at times. This is something I seem to see a lot of, in recent Conan comics. The men are all ripped and chiseled, and the women all seem to lack bone structure. Not sure why this is. Anyway, Davila has some very fine splash pages in here, and he does a good job making the action as epic as he can. So all around, “The Devil in Iron” is a decent Conan adventure.
EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Roland Boschi
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
As I’ve said previously here on AICN, I was never a big fan of Spiderman as character. However, I still really enjoyed the comics, video games, tv shows, and the first two spider-man movies. Why? Because I loved the villains of the spiderverse and this made up for the fact that I never liked Peter Parker.
My two favorite Spider-Man villains were always the Kingpin and Venom, for different reasons. One of my favorite action figures to this day remains the Toybiz Venom with the black symbiote slime. While both were considered villains (although because of his popularity, Venom has since become more of an antihero type), Kingpin and Venom were at times painted as complex and sympathetic figures that made them more interesting than your average bad guy. Venom also always just looked cool as hell, and has become one of the best/most iconic comic book characters of all-time. So even if I’m down on Marvel as a publisher, I’m still inclined to check out a new venom story. Add in one of my favorite writers, and well I had high hopes for EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1.
EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1 written by Matt Rosenberg (WE CAN NEVER GO HOME, 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK) with art by Roland Boschi (HAIL HYDRA, KARNAK). It is the first of five edge of Venomverse titles that will lead up to a new main Venomverse title in September. Each will have a different writer and artist and will introduce another major venomized character.
EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1 focuses on X-23 and it’s very interesting to see Laura inside of the venom suit. Looking good is the easy part, because what comic fan hasn’t wondered what a venom version of their favorite character would look like (and usually it looks pretty amazing)? The hard part is making the story interesting, and Rosenberg succeeds.
Rosenberg is one of the best newer writers in comics. I implore you to check out WE CAN NEVER GO HOME & 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK (he also did fantastic work the recently cancelled Kingpin). Here Rosenberg does a great job of re-exploring NYX but with a venom twist. Venom and X-23’s origins just really fit together when you think about it, and Rosenberg fits them together seamlessly. Being that he has only one issue to work with here, I can’t think of a single thing he could have done better with the amount of pages he had to work with. There is also an interesting reveal at the end, which I’m looking forward to find out more about.
The artwork by Boschi is gritty and impressive. The mash up of X-23 and venom looks really cool as well, especially how the black plays off the yellow in X-23’s suit. I give EDGE OF VENOMVERSE #1 5 OUT OF 5 symbiotes. If you enjoy Venom, this book is 100% for you. Rosenberg has set the bar high for this series, and I just hope the others are able keep up.
X-O MANOWAR #4Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
The saga of “Planet X-O” rolls on as regular artist Tomas Giorello is M.I.A. The always talented Doug Braithwaite steps in for him. Although, I gotta say I miss Giorello, that guy's work is amazing. And while I totally respect Braithwaite's ability, his work can come off as uninspired at times, and his uninked pencils never help. Still, this is a great looking book. Just goes to show, how much I enjoy Giorello work; since I still miss him on a great looking book.
Ok, first the back story: Our man, Aric of Dacia, a.k.a. X-O Manowar, has decided he had enough of being Earth's premiere superhero, so he's left the planet. Now slumming on the planet, Gorin, he is trying to give up using the X-O Manowar suit too, but trouble still finds him, of course. Turns out Gorin is in the middle of a civil war, between the ruling nation, Cadmium and the rebellious Azures (the Burnt are a somewhat neutral party). Note: Gorin is a low tech / high tech world, with swords and laser guns everywhere. Joining the Azure, Aric, sans-suit, is put in charge of a small special forces team. Being quite successful, the Azure general quickly becomes jealous of Aric.
Now on to the spoilers. While hunting down the Cadmium President, Aric and company enter hostile Burnt territory. Aric proves his honorable intentions to the Burnt King, by saying Cadmium had caused the recent bombing (of the Burnt), and they should let him capture the President. Catching up to the President's forces, we get a knock-off AT-AT battle from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. In the end Aric captures the Cadmium President. Although things are not as they seem. The President turns out to be a look-a-like decoy, and it was the Azure who actually bombed the Burnt! To top it off, Azure forces, claiming they are not taking any chances when it comes to killing the President, bombs Aric's team. Everyone manages to survive, so the Azure general apologizes to Aric. Aric then apologizes to the Burnt King, saying he will get to the bottom of this civil war mess and make amends for Azure's bombings. While this is all going on, the X-O suit keeps calling out to Aric. Saying he needs it, and how it stepped in to save him from the bombing.
This continues to be a good story, in a John Carter / Planet Hulk kind of way. It's all tough guy talk, honor, duty, and butt-kicking. Although, in that regard, it's all kind of typical. Still, it's well done and the battle of wills Aric is having with the X-O suit is cool. Hopefully, it is setting up an awesome @$$-kicking climax, when Aric becomes X-O Manowar again! As I said before, the artwork just makes this story all the better. Anyone looking for a different kind of superhero story, should be totally reading this.
SWORDQUEST #1Writers: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Artist: Ghostwriter X
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter
Swordquest, the video game, was an innovative fantasy series for Atari 2600 console back in the 1980’s. To promote and launch the game, Atari decided to spend $150,000 on real-life treasures that players could win. Atari was making a lot of money back then but it was a bold risk, and it remains one of the most ambitious contests of all-time. Those who wanted to find the treasure would have to search for clues not only in the video game, but also in comic books and at live tournaments. Those who wanted to win a solid gold sword or jewel-encrusted chalice would really have to work for it.
So what happened? The contest started off with a bang, but it was cancelled abruptly before all the prizes could be handed out. The video game industry started a fast decline and Atari was purchased by another company. Mystery still remains around exactly what happened to all of the unclaimed prizes. Are the lost Swordquest treasures still around? If so who has them?
SWORDQUEST #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, aims to tell a fictional story about what happened to the prize sword from the contest. It is written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims. I really enjoyed their most recent X-MEN 92 series, and the duo showed they handle nostalgia well. Good nostalgic writing is able to put us back to a specific time and is able to make us feel certain emotions that we felt during that time. Bowers and Sims did that with X-MEN 92, and if you loved Swordquest/Atari, I feel like they will do the same with this book.
This book doesn’t try to give you some crappy back-story of an old Atari game, instead it’s about a man who grew up loving the game. Peter is dying and only has a few months to live, and he wants to steal the sword that he tried to win as a child. We meet two of his childhood friends, with whom he shared his love of video games with. Amy is now a writer of a book called Console Revolution, and she has a brother Alvin who has a strained relationship with Peter.
Seeing Peter, at the end of his life, try to reconnect with his friends is heart wrenching at times. But the book is also fun, and does a great job of mixing both. Can the three put aside their past and have one last fun adventure before Peter passes away? Where will this journey take them? A mysterious stranger also shows up at the end of the issue to make things a little more interesting as well.
The art, by Ghostwriter X, is simplistic but appropriate. The video game art and “game tips” panels are an added bonus. I also love the retro variant cover for this book that looks like the old Atari cartridge.
I give this book a score of 4 out of 5 chalices. I really liked it, but I feel like you won’t have as much attachment/investment in the story if you weren’t an Atari kid. That’s not to say that people who didn’t play Atari won’t like this book, but it feels pretty tailored made to older Atari fans. If you were a fan of Atari and/or Swordquest, you will love this book!
LUKE CAGE #2Writer: David F. Walker
Artist: Nelson Blake II
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
I gotta tell ya, I was pretty bummed when I heard Marvel was canceling POWER MAN AND IRON FIST. It was my favorite comic. I wasn't too excited to hear Walker was moving on to launch the new LUKE CAGE comic either. Since it was going to be more like Netflix's LUKE CAGE than Walker's awesome PM&IF. As much as I enjoyed Netflix's LUKE CAGE, it was a pinch on the dull side. While PM&IF, was just popping with energy and fun. Well, now I'm happy to report Walker is still making it work!
So yes, this new LUKE CAGE series is more somber and low-key, like the Netflix series. But Walker still manages to throw in some great humor, Power Man lore and craft an intriguing story as well. I'm curious if he'll be able to sneak a “fiddle-faddle” in here somewhere too (Luke tries not to swear now that he's a father).
Spoiler time: So the man who created Power Man, Dr. Noah Burstein, has killed himself. As Luke heads down to New Orleans to pay his last respects, he discovers Burstein has been pretty darn busy before he died. You see, the experiment that created Power Man was half accident. And Burstein has been trying to replicate it, with no success, all this time. Many rich and powerful people funded his research; hoping to cure family members. And while they all got 'cured', and become powerful to boot. They are all mentally unstable, as well. Not to worry though, as Burstein created a gas to help keep them sane. Of course, supplies are running low now that he's dead. To which, a mobster, of a 'cured' son, grabbed one of Dr. Burstein's assistants, Dr. Lenore Mornay, to figure out how to make more gas. Her first try doesn't go so well and things get ugly. Meanwhile, a severally wounded Luke Cage has hooked up with Mitchell Tanner. Tanner, a.k.a. Warhawk, is the first person to survive Burstein's process. So he's just as powerful as Cage, and completely unstable as well! He wants Luke's help in finding out what really happened to Dr. Burstein!
Artist, Nelson Blake II (doesn't that really mean Junior) does a fine job drawing all of it. Though on one hand, his work is rather sterile. Everything is kind of stiff and empty. But then, his figures are very nice and everything looks good. As I often like to say, he has a lot of “Boris Vallejo” in him, and I'd like to see a little more “Frank Frazetta”. Meaning more life, more drama, less rigid illustration. If Blake can do that, he is going to be a superstar.
Overall, I dig all this. Luke Cage basically wakes up one day and finds himself in a $h!t storm and is trying to figure his way out of it. So while I'm not quite ready to call LUKE CAGE my new favorite title, it is getting close.
KILL SHAKESPEARE-PAST IS PROLOGUE: JULIET #3Writer: Conor McCreery
Artist: Corwin Howell
Publisher: IDW Publishing
My love for the KILL SHAKESPEARE series is well-known to AICN regulars. I’ve been reviewing the franchise for the past seven years. Some storylines I’ve loved (THE TIDE OF BLOOD), others I could forgo (THE MASK OF NIGHT). Even in those weaker issues, McCreery and Anthony del Col still managed to maintain Juliet Capulet as my favorite character. And here we are now, with a run specifically focused on her. By all accounts I should have fallen in love with it. So why did it take me until issue three to write a review?
Shock. Perhaps too strong a word, but I ain’t no good writer like Willy Shakespeare and surprised just misses the mark. I had to adjust to some of the stark differences between PAST IS PROLOGUE and the previous tales I had read. The prequel is missing two key personnel of the KILL SHAKESPEARE team: co-writer Anthony del Col and artist Andy Belanger. By page two of issue number one, it becomes starkly apparent that this run won’t be like any other.
Juliet’s transformation from teenage widow to mighty warrior was brushed over in the original series. This created an air of mystery for her character. PAST IS PROLOGUE intends to fill in the blanks, but in doing so needs to provide us with a story just as intriguing as the developed titular character. I was never aching to know how Juliet became a kick-ass fighter, probably because that would reveal why my least-favorite character, Romeo, lived.
The issue I had with the first two issues was that Juliet was nothing like the character I had grown attached to. There is still a great deal of character development to be had. PAST IS PROLOGUE finds her just after Romeo’s death. She is impetuous, brash, and not at all a tactician. She makes hasty decisions and rash choices. No wonder she initially fell for Romeo. It is by issue three that we begin to see an inkling of her future self and more connections to the original series.
Juliet finally meets up with the Prodigal Rebellion, the main force against Richard the Third. The young Capulet hopes that the rebels will help her kill Cornwall, an ally of Richard and one of the wealthiest men in Verona. Juliet’s bodyguard, Cassius, isn’t enough to handle such a powerful man but the Rebellion is not interested in risking so much for such a little target. It is up to Juliet to learn their ways in order to assassinate Cornwall herself.
I’ve recently been forced to re-read THE TEMPEST and for all the praise we bestow upon Mr. Shakespeare, his prose can be both languid as it is lovely. Julie Taymor, director of the most recent Tempest adaptation, criticized KILL SHAKESPEARE for stepping away so far from the Bard’s original words. I say they are all the better for it. McCreery maintains a similar vocabulary and style as his previous works, but the tone differs greatly. We can see this in the art style of Corwin Howell as well. Despite the rising body count, PAST IS PROLOGUE is a bit on the lighter side. Shakespeare more than dabbled in the comedic realm, but up to this point KILL SHAKESPEARE has mainly struck to his tragedies for influence on tone, characters, and plots. PAST IS PROLOGUE tries to straddle the line. The shifts can be jarring, but the fact that you can run through so many emotions in a regular-sized issue is a minor feat in itself.
I’m curious as to how non-KILL SHAKESPEARE fans would respond to PAST IS PROLOGUE. I know what is going to happen to these characters, I notice all the little Easter Eggs, but what sort of reading experience is it for those that do not see the twists and turns coming? That being said, I chose to finally review come issue number three because McCreery proved at last that he was able to surprise even us fans that thought we knew where everything was going.
RAPTURE #2Writer: Matt Kindt
Artists: Cafu with Roberto De La Torre
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Masked Man
Valiant has been working hard on the smaller crossovers these days. Their latest, RAPTURE features a Geomancer, Shadowman and Ninjak. Written by Valiant mainstay, Matt Kindt and Spanish artist Cafu. With flashback scene by Roberto De La Torre, another Spanish artist. Both, Cafu and De La Torre have worked for Valiant for a while.
So just what is RAPTURE? Well it turns out the guy who built the infamous Tower of Babel (check your Bible), was named Babel! After that debacle, his was tossed into the Deadside, another dimension. Over the years he's been building up his powers (using magic words, to control minds, demons and kill), so he could build another Tower. This time to bust into Heaven, from the Deadside.
Now for the spoilers: Geomancer Tama found out about all of this. So she recruited Ninjak, Shadowman and a magic user, Punk Mambo, to help her stop Babel. First, they team-up with the Deadside's only hero, a warlord named Rex Razer, an old school barbarian. He gives them the back-story on Babel and his rise to power. Then, thanks to Ninak, they manage to capture one of Babel's goons. Unfortunately, Babel manages to capture Shadowman! Babel's goon tells our heroes how to attack Babel, but he adds it's too late. With Babel gaining control over Shadowman's Loa (a.k.a. demon), there's no stopping him. So a little bit of craziness to this story, but it's all good. I'm very curious if Babel actually whipped Shadowman that easily. But aside from that, this is a decent book.
Although, the best thing about the book is Cafu's art. In a way it remains me of Esad Ribic's work. While not as “storybook” as Ribic's work, it's just as solid, and powerful. True, panel's can look a little empty at times, but overall this is a great looking book. De La Torre's pages are just fine as well. The different styles don't clash since it is a flashback.
As usual, Valiant, and Kindt, have another decent book on their hands. Made better by the superior artwork of Cafu. If you haven't tried Valiant recently, you really should. And this RAPTURE crossover is a good way to do it.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G