For those of you who have stumbled into this column by accident, let me introduce ourselves. This is AICN Comics! I’m Ambush Bug. We’re the @$$holes and we’ve got reviews. Lots of ‘em. Let’s see what’s in this week’s pull.
(Click title to go directly to the review)
DESPERADOES: BANNERS OF GOLD #2
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #71
ESSENTIAL PETER PARKER THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1
Buzz' Bendis Bender Pt. 3
POWERS # 8
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Michael Avon Oeming
Published by Icon / Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz Middlename Maverik
Because every comic book review is someone's first: . . . Comic book reviewer Buzz Maverik had scrupulously avoided Brian Michael Bendis' Marvel work because he was sure he would not like it. However, comic book reviewer Ambush Bug said to Buzz, "Review some damn Bendis! I'm tired of idiots telling me I don't like it because I'm a frustrated comic book pro!" Buzz suggested that Bug tell the idiots that he doesn't like the comics because he's a frustrated comic book fan, but no go. To Buzz' surprise, he dug NEW AVENGERS # 2 and THE PULSE # 7.
POWERS REVIEW PERSONALS
Excellent, often imitated comic book -- I say eight issues but really more -- seeks to provide readers with mystery, twists, character, and cool police procedural. I'm well written and coolly drawn. Sometimes, I seem to wear my source material on my sleeve but no one seems to mind. Powers@email.com
Hairless white writer seeks readers for POWERS. Good with the irony and can really move a plot. Storytelling can be action...good action! Buzz Maverik at AICN Comics says that the POWERS ONLINE opening and closing bits are a work of genius. Wordsmith@spoof.com
3 named artist loves to tell stories. Panels like a dark kaleidoscope. Needs to lay off the use of light and shadow through horizontal blinds. You know it's noir, so there's no need to beat you over the head with clichÃ©s. Other than that, extremely interesting. Pencilpusher@obviousfake.com
Fanbase seeks writer to worship as a god. We will think every word you write is perfect even if it is not ... wait, we didn't say that ... they're all perfect, every damned word...no, no, the words are not damned, they are beautiful and holy. Futurerestrainingorder@NoPerspective.com
Comic book reviewer, over 21, seeks gullible website/review column. Must be open to horseshit passed off as actual comic book reviews. I'm into long walks on the moon, British shotguns, Cuban cigars, shamanistic potions, and romantic comedies. No games, please. BuzzMaverik@'shuright.com
DESPERADOES: BANNERS OF GOLD #2
Writer: Jeff Mariotte
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Reviewer: Reviewer: Sleazy G
Jeff Mariotte’s DESPERADOES was one of my favorite reoccurring miniseries of the 90’s. It originally debuted over at Homage Comics in a mini that featured art by John Cassaday. That was the first place I really remembered seeing Cassaday’s work and it blew me away—gritty, detailed, and full of energy. Just as impressive was how perfectly it meshed with Jeff Mariotte’s script. It was full of the kinds of familiar characters and situations we all recognize in Westerns, but they were well fleshed out and interesting enough to hold my attention. In relatively short order it dropped in some unexpected supernatural elements without ever going too over the top. The series remained solidly grounded in the Western genre and treated the supernatural elements with deadly seriousness. As a result, the series worked far better for me than other series that focused too much on the bizarre and otherworldly, like JONAH HEX. DESPERADOES managed to keep a much sharper, more human edge that made the series work remarkably well.
There was a one-shot drawn by John Lucas and another miniseries by Western comics legend John Severin, and each story was every bit as strong as the first. Mariotte never lost his stride, telling nail biting stories full of long rides, hard luck, personal grudges and seriously creepy shit. The foundation of the series is pretty basic. Gideon Brood is the ringleader. He’s the classic Western hero, the tough guy whose family was taken from him, giving him a serious mad-on for those responsible. In this case, though, it’s a mystically-empowered serial killer he’s on the trail of. Along the way he picks up some allies—a former schoolteacher turned prostitute named Abby, a freed slave named Jerome and eventually a Pinkerton detective named Race. Things never go smoothly in this kind of situation, though, and when things go pear-shaped a sheriff’s wife is dead and the sheriff’s out for Brood’s blood as a result of a misunderstanding. He dogs the group’s trail through the next couple of miniseries, tracking them through disease outbreaks and enemies raised from the dead. At the end of the last series, my favorite character—the naÃ¯ve, inexperienced Pinkerton who started out against the group and ended up the heart of the group—sacrificed himself to save an innocent, and I was really bummed out. Not only was Race gone, but there was no sign of a return down the road for the series, and I was disappointed to think I wasn’t going to get to return to the world Mariotte had built.
It’s been a few years since that last miniseries, QUIET OF THE GRAVE, was released, and in that time Mariotte got the opportunity to move the series over to IDW. IDW’s pretty much staked out the modern-day horror comic corner of the market, so they’re a logical fit. The new series, BANNERS OF GOLD, picks up exactly where the last series left off, ending with the death and burial of Race. BANNERS begins with the gang sharing a bottle of whiskey and remembering their heroically fallen friend. It doesn’t take long for a couple of wiseacres to mouth off to the mourners and a little tussle breaks out in typical Western barroom style. That brawl leads straight-aways into Gideon being asked to escort a spiritualist out of town to the border between Arizona and New Mexico. The gang figures sticking around town might be disadvantageous, so blowing town for the border might be a good idea. Escorting one psychic unexpectedly becomes a wagon train when some other locals decide to head west with the group because there’s safety in numbers, completely against Gideon’s better judgment. They end up caught in a storm and the location where they take up shelter seems to be haunted or cursed, leading the spiritualist to react in some unexpected ways.
Oh, and psychotic knife murderer Montana Donnie Fletcher’s carving his way towards Gid and the rest at the behest of a millionaire with a bone to pick who’s bought the assistance of that angry sheriff.
One of the hardest things about writing a series like this is being able to write dialogue that sounds tough-guy but doesn’t come off stilted or clichÃ©d. Lots of writers—be they in comics, movies or novels—fail this test. They write dialogue that comes off as stiff or macho or full of crap instead of getting it right. That’s never been a problem with Jeff Mariotte’s writing in this series. His characters don’t come off sounding like they’re full of shit. They sound confident, and they sound serious, and when they say something they do it with conviction because they understand the weight of it, but it never comes off like bullshit. We get glimpses under the rough exteriors of the characters and see the genuine affection they have for one another, and there’s a “do or die” loyalty that’s impossible to miss. Mariotte gets a lot of help with this from his artists as well. He’s been fortunate enough to work with some phenomenal artists. In Western films, there’s often a dearth of conversation with a lot of emotion and intent being communicated purely through the actor’s facial expression. The artists Mariotte has worked with have all accomplished exactly the same thing in their work. I’m not familiar with Jeremy Haun’s work, and wasn’t sure what to expect from this series. He’s got a unique style of his own which doesn’t ape any of his predecessor’s, but he does share with them an ability to communicate a wide range of very human emotions with subtle cues like glances and body language, rather than just over-the-top histrionics. It adds an extra layer of depth to the characterization and strengthens the mood Mariotte’s working to create.
Based on what I’ve said, some people may be worried about the accessibility of this title. Don’t be. Sure, the new mini picks up right where the last one left off and you’ll know more of the background if you’ve been reading all along. That said, though, Mariotte writes this series in such a way that all you have to do is jump into issue one and you’ll be able to follow everything without a problem. It’s a self-contained story that tells you everything you need to know to keep up, and once you do you’ll likely want to go back and pick up the earlier material just to get more of it. Seeing this series was going to return brought a smile to my face months ago and reading the first two issues back to back this weekend made me wish the third wasn’t still a month away. Western comics are a hard sell these days, but they shouldn’t be. This is a great series, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s got an ethnically diverse cast of great characters, lots of action, some quiet character moments, and it definitely earns its place at a publisher known for horror. There’s something for everybody to appreciate and it really deserves a bigger audience.
Buzz Bendis Bender Pt. 4
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN # 71
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Ultimate Buzz
Way the hell back before we ever started this comic book reviewing thing here at AICN, I posted something on the Talkbacks about how the only comics I was reading said "written by Alan Moore". Some guy popped up and started telling me about a new comic called ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Mark Bagley. The guy highly recommended it. I'd heard of Bendis, read some of his Image stuff, but decided that I'd already read the ultimate Spider-Man when I got hold of those Stan Lee / John Romita Sr. reprints.
The guy turned out to be our own Dave F. and I turned out to finally read an issue of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN... about five minutes ago.
It's MARVEL TEAM UP: SPIDER-MAN & DR. STRANGE. Ultimate style. And it's an excellent comic. I'm a sucker for comics where the title hero is essentially tripping (and I don't mean stumbling) through the whole issue. They used to do these a lot in the '70s when the writers and artists were also tripping (and I don't mean stumbling). I mean this as the sincerest possible compliment: this reminded me of that issue of the original HOWARD THE DUCK in which Howard had a nervous breakdown after pussying out of a fight with Le Beaver. Howard went on a head trip in which he encountered old foes and discovered some things he didn't like about himself. He even met up with Dr. Strange. The same thing happens to Peter Parker in this issue.
I'm not wild about Ultimate Dr. Strange. I don't like Doc as a novice mage. I don't like the mystic father, etc. But Dr. Strange is my all time favorite Marvel character and Ultimate or not, I like to read about the Master of the Mystic Arts. I did like Doc taking most of the action against Ultimate Nightmare (and I don't mean that stupid Warren Ellis book where they take two issues to go through a door).
Mr. Bendis is usually ridiculously praised for his dialogue. He's often praised and condemned for the wrong kind of dialogue though. We get an example of Bendisian dialogue:
WONG: Did you create astral defense spells before you began your meditation?
WONG: ...what does your father's notes say can happen if you don't create astral defense spells before you begin your mediation?
DOC: Oh, no.
WONG: WHAT happens if you forget to create astral defense spells before you begin your meditation?
Honestly, I was hoping that if Wong used the words "astral defense spells before you begin your mediation" one more time, Doc would rip out his nipple ring.
But here is an example of excellent dialogue by Mr. Bendis, something that simply and elegantly gives us his insight into the character of Mary Jane and her relationship with Peter.
MJ: Peter. It's Mary.
For some reason, "Mary" instead of "Mary Jane" showed me a different take, an original view of the character. It was nice.
MJ: But tonight was our fancy date.
Ultimate Mary Jane must be significantly different from MU MJ or even movie MJ. Mr. Bendis did a lot of the positive with those lines.
As for the art: Dave F. was right. Mr. Bagley has it. It's perfect for the tale of a young Spider-Man. And for this issue: Mr. Bagley does good superhero trippy, which is different from Fillmore concert poster trippy. I was reminded of Gil Kane's work on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 150 "Spider-Man or Spider-Clone." That was superhero trippy as well.
Writer: Eric Red
Art: Nick Stakal
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
I can envision the writer pitching CONTAINMENT. It’s one of those stories with a winning concept that immediately raises the eyebrows and fills the head with the potential coolness of it all. Zombies in space. It’s taking the zombie genre and placing it in an environment that it hasn’t been before. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on a space station. A group of astronauts on their way to Saturn wake up six years early from hyper-sleep to find that half of their crew have become the living dead. They are trapped with no where to go in a space station a ga-billion miles from help, home, and their destination. Pretty damn cool, huh?
There is no doubt that this is a really great hook, but after one is drawn in, is it worth it? The answer is maybe.
You see, aside from the initial sequence where the astronaut wakes up and finds herself being attacked by a former fellow astronaut now turned Romero extra, there is not much to this first issue. The pacing is extremely cinematic. And when I say cinematic, I mean way too many pages are dedicated to the build up of tension for just one or two scenes and then the comic ends. Since this is a regular sized comic, I finished this book quickly with the feeling that I’d only witnessed a glimpse at the first five minutes of a movie. This pacing may be okay if the book were graphic novel length, but since IDW publishes this book on a monthly basis in a single issue format, I have no choice but to feel that I didn’t finish this issue completely satisfied.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked this book. The premise is interesting and full of potential. This could very well be a great comic series, but there just isn’t enough present in this first issue for me to form an opinion whether or not the execution was good or bad.
Is that the state of comics today? Should I just shut up about the fact that comics so often don’t leave me hanging on the edge of my seat craving for the next issue anymore? I don’t know. I do know that with greater and greater frequency, I am left with the feeling that I can’t yet form an opinion about a comic because there just isn’t enough material in a single issue to do so.
And that’s what happened with this book. Had this issue been written for the format it was originally published in (single issue format) and not for trade, had it teased me to come back for more because it had a good and full story, I would not be on this rant and would be giving this book my highest recommendation. My temptation to buy the next issue comes solely from the fact that the “zombies in space” premise is good. That may work on me, but you need more than that to make most readers come back, buy the next issue, tell their friends, buy the trade, wear the T-shirt, go see the comic to film adaptation, etc, etc, etc… Just because a second issue exists is not the temptation needed to get the people to buy it.
My opinion of the art is hazy as well. I am a big fan of the new trend in horror comics where panels are warped and obscured via computers or paint smearing, whatever. I like this technique when it’s used in a spooky scene, when you can’t really make out what the hell is going on. It’s creepy. This is a very effective way to convey the unknown in a medium that relies on visuals to tell a story. The problem is that when everything is obscured, you have no frame of reference. The scene where the astronaut is walking down a dimly lit corridor of the spaceship and she doesn’t know what’s going to be lurking in the darkness is a very effective mode of visual communication. But in the scene where the astronauts are meeting and trying to establish what happened, why it happened, and what to do, it isn’t. It only confuses the reader because they are too busy trying to distinguish a guys head from his knee in a smeared, mono-colored mess of a panel. Artist Nick Stakal, does a great job of conveying the creepy, but creepy imagery only goes so far if that’s all there is and there’s nothing normal to compare it to. Stakal needs to be able to pull back the smears and obscurities a bit for the establishing panels, so when it’s spooky time, you know it’s spooky time. In this book, whether it is written that way or not, it’s spooky time all the time and that takes away from the story and the effectiveness when it actually is spooky time.
As pointed out by Robert Kirkman in the intro of the first WALKING DEAD Trade, there are two types of zombie films. There’s the gross out, “Brains!!!”-screaming, lowest common denominator usage from such good films as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and bad films like HOUSE OF THE DEAD. And then there’s the more intellectual usage of the undead as a metaphor, a symbol shining a spotlight on interactions between people in dire situations, a comment on today’s societal imperfections cleverly realized in George Romero’s DEAD series, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, and 28 DAYS LATER. Because there isn’t much to this issue, I don’t know which category this series falls into. Given the fact that writer Eric Red penned two of my favorite horror movies of the 80’s (THE HITCHER and NEAR DARK), I’d imagine that he’s going to go the more intellectual route since these two films were much more than your standard gross-out fare. Then again, he also did BODY PARTS with the one and only Jeff Fahey, so who knows?
I’m going to buy the next issue of CONTAINMENT because I am a fan of the zombie horror genre, an admirer of the writer’s past film work, and impressed by the intriguing premise. That leaves me willing to take a chance on it, but I don’t know if I would recommend this book to others quite yet. There just isn’t enough there in this first issue to form an opinion, which I guess is sort of an opinion, but none the less makes my job hard.
ESSENTIAL PETER PARKER THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1
Written by Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Archie Goodwin, Chris Claremont, Jim Shooter, Elliot Maggin
Art by Sal Buscema, Jim Mooney, Frank Miller, Ross Andru, Mike Zeck
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik The Mediocre Comic Book Reviewer Vol. 1
PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. Probably one of the longest, most unwieldy titles ever to bog down a comic book. The only way to make the title worse was to do PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL . Until now. ESSENTIAL PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN VOL. 1.
We used to just call it SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. Or even "that other Spider-Man comic".
At the time when PPTSSM premiered, Marvel characters having more than one book were anomalies. Sure, Spidey appeared in AMAZING, which we just called SPIDER-MAN, and MARVEL TEAM UP, and you had the team books, but that was pretty much it. DC was the company with SUPERMAN, ACTION COMICS, LOIS LANE, JIMMY OLSON, SUPERBOY, KRYPTO, KRYPTO'S FLEAS, etc.
In those days, Marvel introduced each new series with a letter column. I remember series originator Gerry Conway never really offered us an explanation as to why Marvel was coming out with a second Spidey series. I figured that after he left his stellar run on AMAZING, Conway probably got fired from DC and headed back to Marvel only to have Len Wein say, "Fuck off! I'm doing AMAZING now!" leaving Conway to say, "Hey, Roy, how about a second Spidey book?"
I could be wrong about that.
I also recall a published letter from a fan saying that he hoped the new series focused more on Peter than Spider-Man. My friends, whom I like to call "The Stoners," and I thought that was bullshit. If we paid thirty cents, which could have gone toward beer or weed, we wanted to see some wall crawling and web slinging. Fortunately, the book delivered big time! For a while, many of us even preferred it to AMAZING.
This isn't politically correct because the poor man suffered a horrible accident, but I remember when Bill Mantlo took over the writing chores, thinking, "Oh, great..."
I have a theory that life long comic readers are never as in awe of creators they've seen come up after they started reading comics. I knew at the time that Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Neal Adams, Steranko, etc were giants. Gods among men. And I respected Roy Thomas, Len Wein, the Buscemas, Marv Wolfman, Archie Goodwin, Steve Engelhart, Steve Gerber, John Romita, Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Tony Isabella, etc. Claremont and Byrne squeaked in by getting on regular series.
Bill Mantlo, whom many of my slightly younger colleagues hold in high regard, was the fill in guy. He must have done a billion fill-ins before he got a regular series and then it was only MARVEL TEAM UP. It was like, "Oh boy! THE DEFENDERS! Aw, crap! Gerber must have blown the deadline! It's a fuckin' Mantlo! That's like a Shemp! That's like CHARLIE'S ANGELS where Kate Jackson gets the most screen time!"
Then, as Mr. Mantlo started to get regular series, it was always, "Aw, nobody else must want to do THE INCREDIBLE HULK" or "THE CHAMPIONS? Mantlo got another one?"
The guy was actually pretty good, as you'll see in this volume. I remember even missing him on a fill-in of OMEGA THE UNKNOWN. "No Gerber? Who the hell is this Roger Stern? Omega's fighting Nitro because Nitro attacked when he mistook Omega for Captain Marvel? Stoopid! What happened? They couldn't get Bill?"
Today, Marvel does many books built around the same characters, as does DC. Let's see, there's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN, A GUY CALLED SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN'S PALS & GALS, THE TRAGIC LIVES OF SPIDER-MAN VILLAINS, SPIDER-MAN COMICS BY WRITERS WHO'VE NEVER READ A SPIDER-MAN COMIC, TOBEY MAGUIRE THE ACTOR WHO PLAYED SPIDER-MAN, etc.
Don't get me started on the X-titles. Personally, I thought X-WIVES was bad enough. Now, they're doing DESPERATE X-WIVES.
This book did spin-off the perfect spoof comic, though. PETER PORKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-HAM.
Writer: Dan Jolly
Penciller: Leonard Kirk
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G
BLOODHOUND just launched last summer, and it became a favorite of mine within a couple of issues. The book is a rarity in the universes of the Big Two publishers—a series that focuses around a regular, everyday, non-powered human who has to deal with others who are powered and hates every minute of it. The main character, Travis Clevenger, is an ex-cop whose life is shit. Clevenger was really, really good at his job. He’s got a certain knack for reading people, getting inside their heads, and figuring out who they are and what they’re up to. He had to kill his dirty partner and he’s doing time for it. He was involved with his partner’s wife, which doesn’t make things any easier, and that’s not even the rough stuff.
Clevenger naturally runs into all kinds of problems while in prison, since the prisoners hate cops and the guards either figure he’s dirty or has something to prove. So far he’s been sprung to help on a case of a superpowered serial killer after his partner’s wife and her daughter had to deal with incompetent feds and several attempts on his life. Now he’s been thrown back into prison and he’s stuck in genpop instead of his old solitary cell. In this month’s installment, Clevenger finds out there’s a guard with psychic abilities who’s been causing all kinds of trouble among the prisoners and staff. He’s been making them kill each other and themselves. He plans to whack Clev, as well as Agent Bell, who Clevenger’s been working with while on release. Things don’t end well for that guard, who apparently was placed by somebody powerful and conspiratorial in order to get to Clevenger and take him out.
Jolley’s been doing a great job of throwing us little pieces of Clevenger’s past over the first half-dozen issues. They’ve been just enough to keep you interested and wanting to find out more, but not so much that he gives too much away too soon. This issue gives us a big chunk, though, as we learn of a traumatic event from his past that helped shape who he is now. I was happy to see it wasn’t the clichÃ©d sexual abuse I feared. It’s a bit of an “Old Yeller” scenario, which made me smile, but it still manages to be horrifying enough that you can understand why it scarred the protagonist so deeply.
Additionally, this book has been one of the most consistently brutal books I’ve seen published in a long time. Clevenger’s got no superpowers whatsoever and can’t stand people that do. What he does have going for him is the fact that he’s a big, burly, muscle-bound badass of the old-school type. This guy towers over everybody. He’s quick and he’s mean. He knows exactly how to take a guy apart and he does it with a harsh efficiency that can’t be denied. There are a lot of comic books where people get beaten, but it’s usually of a bloodless variety that involves superpowers hitting each other with lightposts and leaving craters in the street. Not this book. In BLOODHOUND you see (and feel) busted noses, snapped arms, kneecaps blown out—you know, the good stuff. It’s bloody, painful business and you really feel it. Every single issue features some real jolts as Clevenger rips into one person after another, and this issue ends on a particularly vicious and highly emotional note.
What this book reminds me of more than anything else is another old DCU book from ‘98 called CHASE. It followed a non-powered woman who worked for the Department of Extranormal Operations to spy on the “good” capes as well as taking down the “bad,” the idea being that the government would never really know who they could trust and would naturally keep tabs on everyone. Much like Clevenger, Agent Chase had her own reasons for not liking or trusting individuals with powers and was learning how to deal with all of it. The great thing about both of these titles is that they were among the only characters in the DCU you could really relate to. They’re regular everyday people who find themselves in a world they don’t like or understand, and act as a stand-in for the reader. It’s nice to get the perspective of the normal people who interact with the heroes we usually read about.
Unfortunately, BLOODHOUND shares another similarity with CHASE. CHASE was cancelled as of issue 10, and as of last week so is BLOODHOUND. It’s always disappointing when books as good as these get cancelled. Jolley gets one final three-issue arc to wrap up Clevenger’s tale, but it won’t be enough. It’s clear that Jolley was laying the groundwork for a lot of solid ongoing plotlines. The book was connected to superpowers and conspiracies, but without recognizable heroes for people to follow it didn’t seem to gather much of an audience, and it’s a shame. I know I already said the book’s been cancelled, but don’t let it stop you from picking it up. Back issues shouldn’t be too hard to track down and it’s a good solid read. It’s an entertaining, rough-and-tumble book with a lead character that has a barely suppressed emotional undercurrent. Clevenger’s one of the most interesting and unique characters I’ve seen come out of DC in quite a while and I’m sad to learn I won’t be following his activities for much longer. Check it out while you can--just pretend it’s a limited series and you should be perfectly happy.
Buzz' Bendis Bender Pt. 5
DAREDEVIL # 69Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Alex Maleev
Published by Marvel (screw that Marvel Knights crap)
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik
After never having read or reviewed a Marvel Comic written by Brian Michael Bendis, I have reviewed four this month. NEW AVENGERS. THE PULSE. POWERS. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN.
Four positive reviews. While I don't think Bendis is the best writer working at Marvel these days (that would be Dan Slott), I have learned that he does an incredible job with Marvel Comics. I had a good time reading his works and that is the best thing you can say when you've finished a comic.
But I was dreading DAREDEVIL (okay, I was partly looking forward to it because with this stupid renumbering, it's DAREDEVIL # 69 which makes me giggle) . DAREDEVIL is a special comic to most hardcore fans. DAREDEVIL is the comic book lovers comic. Before the stupid Ben Affleck movie, if you knew DAREDEVIL, you really knew your comics. Hell, even after the movie for that matter -- I asked my brother Crash Maverik if he wanted to see THE PUNISHER, and he said he didn't want to see any more comic movies because THE FLASH was too dark. THE FLASH? Yeah, Ben Affleck in the red suit.
Kevin Smith knew DAREDEVIL. Of course, I happen to think his DAREDEVIL comics were some of the worst stuff I've ever read, responsible for NU MARVEL, etc.
So I was worried. I've been a DAREDEVIL fan since GIANT SIZED DAREDEVIL # 1, which was a reprint of KING SIZE DAREDEVIL # 1 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. Colan reprints were hard to find until THE ESSENTIALS. They had MARVEL ADVENTURE STARRING DAREDEVIL for a while, but not for long. And I'm sorry, modern DD fans, those stories were just as good as the ones today. Many current fans need to intellectualize their comics. Okay, it's smart stuff. You're smart. Well, true intellectuals appreciate the classics.
The era in which I was a regular DD reader was that Marv Wolfman/Bob Brown run. They were sort of doing BATMAN, with cool villains like Copperhead and the Torpedo. They created Bullseye, etc. I missed Frank Miller initially but somebody soon clued me in and it was probably the last time someone significantly changed a long running character without deconstruction (which Miller would do later in his BORN AGAIN arc, a story I've gone back and forth on. I've decided that I like the work itself but it had a terrible influence on the comic medium that still stains things today. The results? Well, see, it's childish darkness. A comic about a guy in a devil suit being that dark is the equivalent of this five foot three, 105 pound Goth guy I saw in a Burger King).
I've heard people say that Mr. Bendis' DAREDEVIL is not a superhero comic, that it can go a long time without action, etc. The title is DAREDEVIL, which is kind of zingy, ya know? He dresses up like the guy on the Underwood cans. He's a superhero.
The issue at hand? Totally worked for me!
I like the trips back and forth through time. I liked Maleev's depiction of old cons at Rykers. I wasn't so wild about the flashback with DD, Spidey and the White Tiger vs. Dr. Ock and his gang. I could have missed an issue in which DD went back to his regular costume for a team up, but I kinda doubt it. The Tiger was a hero Bill Mantlo created for Marvel's black and white newsstand magazine DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU. That was the 70s. DD was in his red underoos by then.
Bendis? Maleev ? Why do you have to teach the kids wrong? Of course, they'll say it doesn't matter because they give you a pass on everything. Getting things right would show you care and it's not that hard. Ever hear of little things called back issues? Or E-Bay? Or reprints. Read some damned comics! I mean damned comics other than the damned comics you two are personally involved in creating.
I also didn't like Maleev's depiction of Doc Ock's arms. Too flimsy. This is a problem a lot of artists, even Frank Miller, have. Get yerself some ESSENTIALS, Alex. Check out John Romita Sr.'s Ock arms. Check out Gil Kane's Ock arms. Then do 'em right!
Daredevil's interaction with the new White Tiger was excellent. Mr. Bendis is the rare writer who can show you how smart his hero actually is. Matt seemed like a real lawyer. He cops to nothing! Their rooftop encounter was a little MATRIXy. Homage's blow. Just do it straight. But Maleev gave us the mystery of Daredevil in that scene. For that matter, he draws a powerful Gladiator too.
What else? I'm not wild about the old crook with the new super powers. It can't be that easy. Ditto on Foggy saying, "Who puts on a costume? I swear to God--" and Bont telling Gladiator to put on his silly costume. At best, too many readers will miss the irony and at worst, it's self hating. Remember, Bendis, if you wrote it, your fans would worship a book called LAWYER COMICS.
Overall: I had a good time. That's 5, count 'em, 5 great reading experiences from Brian Michael Bendis this month.
Who says he never gets a good review at AICN Comics ?
Ovi Nedelcu: Creator
Image Comics: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Pearls Before Swine
There are a few things that I have an absolute love for, things that I can’t imagine not being in my life. One is comics. The other is my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Well, in the new book Pigtale, these two things go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
I’m not saying that just because this story is set in Portland. Oh no, it takes more than just a familiar street name to get me behind an artist. This book’s not only got familiar streets, it’s got familiar architecture. It’s got familiar bars. Everything from the streetlamps in Old Town to the bridges over the Willamette River are as beautiful on the page as they are in real life. Each panel has an astonishing quality to it that manages to capture the beauty of this city in every line. More than that, the feeling and mood of Portland is captured to perfection.You can’t help but imagine that Powell’s Bookstore, the statue of Portlandia, or even a Benson Bubbler is sitting just off-panel, waiting to be discovered. This is my first exposure to the work of Ovi Nedelcu, but based on this, it definitely won’t be the last.
As for the story itself… well to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the art. This doesn’t mean that it’s not any fun, far from it. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I enjoyed the story of Boston Booth, lovable loser and private eye. His difficulties, friends, even his job hunting also manages to have a distinct Portland vibe to them. And then there’s that final page, that goofy, crazy, what-the-fuck final page. There’s no way I’ll be spoiling that, but it certainly put a smile on my face. So yeah, I did enjoy the story. Just not as much as I did the art.
In any case, this is most definitely a series you should be checking out. It’s funny, charming, and has personality to spare. And it’s a definitively Portland personality. Until the next issue comes out, I’m sure I’ll be rereading my signed first issue many more times. Oh yeah, did I mention that Nedelcu managed to visit pretty much every comic shop in town, signing damn near every copy of his book that entered the Portland city limits?
Oh yeah, I love this town.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
I had what I can only call a “Marvel Moment” when I was reading this latest Wolverine. Pretty rare, pretty enjoyable, and by Marvel Moment I mean…
Actually, let’s get back to that in a few paragraphs, after we go through the basics:
WOLVERINE #24 is part five of Mark Millar’s shot at a BIG Wolverine story, “Enemy of the State.” The whole thing’s a no-hold-barred action and kill-fest that sees Wolverine being mind-controlled by a bad guy conglomerate of Hydra, The Hand, and a splinter faction of The Brotherhood of Mutants. It’s got guest-stars galore, including Elektra, Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, and in this latest issue, Daredevil. They’re all trying to stop a very butch, very Ã¼ber Wolverine who’s stealing FF technology, kicking the crap out of S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarriers, and leaving hundreds dead in his wake.
It’s not unexpected from Millar, who knows a thing or two about writing with shock value - remember THIS? Supposedly he’ll even have Wolverine killing a member of the X-Men next issue (leaks Millar the hypeman: “He's enormously well-known and I'm amazed Marvel let me get away with this.”). But Millar’s also a guy who loves superheroes on a level that’s fairly pure when it’s not creeped-up with scenes of Spider-Man villains visiting bordellos. He keeps the pacing up-tempo, writes pretty great fight scenes, likes to use the Marvel Universe setting, and earns geek points for putting Wolverine back in costume when common hipster wisdom has it that the costume’s an outdated relic for such a serious character as Wolverine. Let’s all take a moment to laugh at the fan impulse to make superheroes less “super,” then read a promising quote from Millar about why he’s got Wolverine killing innocents in Thanos-level numbers:
“I didn't grow up with Wolverine, but I was always reading about how he was the biggest badass in the Marvel Universe and so I was slightly surprised when I started reading the X-Men and saw, in recent years, how he'd become this paternalistic, meditating whiner. He seemed absolutely nothing like the dangerous Wolverine I'd glimpsed as I'd flicked through those expensive color comics on my local newsstand when I was a kid and I wanted to get back to the feeling that this guy was unpredictable and frightening.”
I haven’t mentioned that Millar’s WOLVERINE is drawn by John Romita Jr., an artist so good he should be drawing every Marvel comic. There are a few rare folks who can’t get into Romita Jr.’s artwork because they fixate on his stylistic trappings – the thick-as-a-Buick guys, the thin babes whose faces look a little feral, the general minimalism – at the expense of taking pleasure in his consummate storytelling. Every action this guy draws is clean and clear, every panel transition smooth as silk. And he can draw the hell out of a fight scene (convenient since this entire storyline is very much one big fight scene). If Romita Jr. has a weakness, it’s simply that one can never imagine him changing his style at all to accommodate different types of stories, but his style works pretty great for superheroes. In many ways his art’s the embodiment of Marvel, sure as his dad’s was back in the day.
So where does the story find itself this issue?
Daredevil versus Wolverine!
Are you excited? Maybe not so much? It’s true, heroes fighting heroes is as old-school as it gets and not inherently exciting to most adult superhero readers. We’ve seen it all and heroes fighting other heroes is a pretty silly tradition, isn’t it? But Millar’s surprised me with his various “versus” showdowns, surprised me in that playing Wolverine as a straight antagonist has actually allowed for Elektra, the FF, and now Daredevil to shine. Wolverine’s overpowered, sure as Batman when Grant Morrison writes him, but these match-ups have been consistently imaginative and, shockingly, Wolverine hasn’t been punking out his fellow heroes. He’s given ‘em hell, especially with Hydra’s techies backing him at every turn, but it’s these other heroes who really get to shine against Wolverine’s baseline cool. Hell, I outright hate the story’s rising body count, but I still had to buy the FF issue because the team was drawn and depicted so well.
Likewise, the Daredevil issue. It opens with Wolverine about to pop his claws into a Daredevil, caught sleeping at his home, in costume no less. Wolverine’s backed by about a zillion ninjas from The Hand and talking a lot of tough-guy shit…right up until Daredevil tells him to get out of his house and kicks Wolverine’s hairy ass through a window. Hand ninjas bust in and suddenly it’s all ninja swords and screwdrivers to the face and Wolverine taking a barbell smash to the nose…just mayhem and violence galore.
It’s great! And really, much credit to Mark Millar for this. Writing great fight scenes is becoming a forgotten art, most of ‘em coming out either too boring or too serious. Millar recaptures the classic give-and-take of Marvel’s best extended match-ups and even underscores this one with some interesting narrative comments from the mind-controlled Wolverine. His jealousy for Daredevil’s success with the ladies was particularly telling, but as with the FF issue, his comments ultimately struck me more for defining his guest-stars than himself. Which I like.
The DD/Wolverine showdown is paralleled by another fight scene, this one taking place directly outside Dardevil’s apartment and pitting the unstoppable mutant Gorgon (no relation to the guy from The Inhumans) against the combined forces of Elektra and S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s all part of the machinations of Hydra and friends, and if the fighting’s not particularly deep, it does serve the twists and turns of the story, leading up to a pretty decent cliffhanger. It’s also got more pure kinetic energy than any Marvel title in years, notably upstaging the low-impact action scenes of Alex Maleev in Daredevil’s own book.
Which brings me to my Marvel Moment. For me a Marvel Moment is that feeling you get, usually as a kid, when you see a guest-star in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or THE FANTASTIC FOUR or THE UNCANNY X-MEN…and suddenly you want to know everything about that character. It’s that moment when the Marvel Universe seems like a real place you want to visit, and from a company standpoint, it’s that moment when a consumer decides he wants to buy more of your product! So Quesada and Dan Buckley, pay attention to what Millar got right here. Because in this issue, he made Daredevil so damn cool that I actually found myself with renewed enthusiasm to revisit Bendis’s DAREDEVIL work, and I’d been finding myself seriously burned-out on that book. But I re-read a few storylines and had a good time in spite of the excesses. Even got to thinking I might pick up a third hardcover of the material when it hits.
Is that a bad thing, to be so easily enticed back to a series that was bugging you? Because I could definitely feel my critical faculties being put on hold as my Marvel Moment took me back to the old days when character came above all else. That’s risky, probably even stupid, but that’s reality, isn’t it? These decades-old characters take on lives of their own for the devoted, and sometimes when a writer just nails a certain quality about ‘em – their potency in action, in Millar’s case – you just find yourself having fun in spite of any complaints.
X-23 #2(of 6) - How can a book with decent art and pretty solid writing still suck? It's all about the subject, one for whom this team's talents are being wasted. Honestly, what is the point of this character? It's Wolverine as a teenage girl, and... well, that's about it. So what? She's no different from Logan, so why should we give a damn about her. And yet Marvel insists that this is the best new character in years, (seemingly ignoring such characters as Jessica Jones and the Runaways.) Attention Mr. Quesada, there's a reason many people can't stand this character. It's the same reason Ashlee Simpson got booed out of the Orange Bowl halftime show. - Vroom
MADROX #5 - Well, it’s over. This, the best damn miniseries Marvel published this year, has come to an end. Although at times Jamie Madrox was a bit too self-aware with the way he annoyingly pointed out how “noir” everything was, writer Peter David made me care about an offbeat, obscure, and truly original character. This series came out of the blue for me. I thought it was nuts for Marvel to give a character like the Multiple Man his own miniseries, but issue after issue proved to me that it doesn’t matter which character of the Marvel U one focuses on, all that matters is the concept and the execution and both were excellent with this series. The editor’s note at the end of this issue says that there isn’t another MADROX mini planned for the near future, but with the way David left the series; there are as many possibilities for this series as there are Multiple Men. Let’s hope that someday, we’ll get another chance to enjoy this wonderful and unique take on a fascinating character. If you missed this series, pick up the trade and enjoy it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. - Bug
MANHUNTER #6 - Six issues in, and I still wonder just WHY Kate Spencer continues to pull on the costume. I don't get it somehow. But that's a small complaint, especially with this issue. Manhunter manages to take on a villain without embarassing herself, there's some great moments with Shadow Thief and The Calculator, and we get a hilarious bit where the JLA gets served. This book is plenty fun, even if there's some room for improvement. - Vroom