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AICN COMICS: YEAR FOUR! GOON! JSA! DESOLATION JONES! PUNISHER! FRIDAY THE 13TH! INDIE JONES! AND MORE!!!

#1 5/11/05 #4

Almost three years ago to the day, a man who went by the name of The Comedian gathered together a ragtag group of opinionists to comment on, bitch about, praise to high heaven, and attempt to critically analyze the medium we all know and love – comic books. That group came to be called AICN COMICS’ Talkback League of @$$holes, later simply referred to as AICN COMICS! Responsibility, commitments, and that little thing called life tore The Comedian away from this column for a while, but today, in the first column at the beginning of our fourth year at AICN, The Comedian returns with a review. So hang on tight for another year of opinionated, off the cuff, and straight from the heart reviews filled with passion, punch, and a pinch of jack@$$ery. I’m Ambush Bug. This is AICN COMICS: YEAR FOUR! Let’s take a look at what’s in this week’s pull.


The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)

THE GOON: HEAPS OF RUINATION TPB
DESOLATION JONES #1
JSA #73
PUNISHER: THE CELL
THE RANN/THANAGAR WAR #1
THE NIGHT CLUB #1
BREACH #5
EXCALIBUR #13
FRIDAY THE 13TH SPECIAL #1
GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH #6
CHEAP SHOTS!
INDIE JONES PRESENTS HOLMES #1/PERIPHERY #2
INDIE JONES PRESENTS THE 10TH MUSE #1

THE GOON: HEAPS OF RUINATION TPB

Written and Drawn by Eric Powell
Published by Dark Horse
Reviewed by The Comedian



I haven’t been reading many comics lately. Actually that’s the soft way of putting it that I’ve pretty much given up comics like booze and cigarettes. Not that four-color junk is some horrible disease or something you’re supposed to be delivered from. It’s just that the same way some drunks and smokers wake up one day and they don’t feel like drinking or smoking anymore is pretty much what’s happened to me in my relationship with comic books. All the crises, crossovers and disassembling of last year were lost on me as I adopted a malaise. Steaming exhibitionist crap like Jim Lee’s SUPERMAN and Mark Millar’s tit-fest SPIDER-MAN book couldn’t even maintain my interest enough to bother hiking to the local shop every Wednesday. Of course there are exceptions like Whedon’s X-MEN but even that book, with Cassady’s over-realistic pencils, was far from “Astonishing” to me.

I’d go through the motions, flipping through the racks to make sure I was somewhat up to speed with things, but I wasn’t going to waste money on any of this crap. I guess I miss the aspect of wonder in comics. They just didn’t affect me that way anymore. Even a book like SUPREME POWER or ULTIMATES 2 for all the great writing and plotting just read like great scripts and functional so-so storyboards for movies in turnaround limbo. I even tried “growing up” and reading FABLES, but that story is in so deep at this point I’d have to spend 80 bucks on trades just to catch up and again, great writing, great plotting, no sense of wonder.

Comic books are at their core one of the purest forms of escapism. But lately, there haven’t been many books worth escaping to for me because I’ve been to all those places before. I’ve seen Jean Grey die and comeback. I’ve seen Wolverine go ape-shit and turn into a killing machine. I’ve seen Batman mistrust the rest of the Justice League. I’ve seen the Marvel Universe continuity altered by some strange deus ex machina or reality altering lunatic – all in better stories than the current crummy retreads.

So when Ambush Bug asked me to review this GOON TPB I hoped that maybe by reading this Lovecraftian funny book I could at least find someplace new worth escaping to.

What I found was a small gem of hilariously absurd slapstick and satire blended in with some genuinely moving pathos AND great panel for panel bits of action and horror to boot. Powell masterfully blends all these elements in perfect self-contained stories where themes like regret, longing, and revenge mix effortlessly with giant foul mouthed Spanish speaking lizards, lame wannabe-Anne Rice vamps, psychic seals, and giant talking spiders. This trade collects issues 5-8 of THE GOON, and having not read 1-4 I thought I’d be lost but it turns out I didn’t need any jumping on point to enjoy this book. There are too many funny one-liners and bits to count in this book and none of it feels forced or too cutesy.

Bits like the loser vampires still make me laugh out loud just thinking about them. The Hellboy issue was a fun contrast with a book that pretty much explores the same kind of Lovecraft stuff but takes itself way too seriously. Frank Darabont compares this book to THE SPIRIT in his intro, but I’d actually liken it more to the other star of POLICE COMICS. The Goon reminds me very much of Cole’s PLASTIC MAN. I’d love to see Powell do a run on that book sometime down the road when the big two come calling instead of being put on something stupid and useless like ROBIN or another POWER PACK relaunch. But hell, he’s fine right where he is with this book. Hope he stays well with it.


DESOLATION JONES #1

Written by Warren Ellis
Art by J.H. Williams III
Published by Wildstorm / DC
Reviewed by Destitution Buzz



In the cool novel THE WORMS OF KUKUMLIMA by Daniel Pinkwater, a character tells us that there's no such place as Los Angeles. LA never existed. It's just a practical joke or folklore.

In the new Wildstorm mini DESOLATION JONES, writer Warren "ULTIMATE WETDREAM" Ellis and artist J.H. "PROMETHEA" Williams III populate the fake out City of Angels with ex-members of the world's intelligence communities. They are evidently forbidden to leave (I dunno how anybody could stop 'em; is it like in EPISODE 1 where Jake Lloyd says, "...they blow you up!"?). Desolation Jones is an ex British spook who underwent a full year of torture as part of an experiment when he was deemed unfit for field work. Now, he's some sort of private eye working cases in the ex-spook community. We're looking at a good book, but wouldn't ex-spies be able to do their own detective work? They might have trouble fixing lunch or returning DVD rentals, but they could probably hunt down people and precious objects for themselves.

Jones lives in one of those stilt houses out in the Canyons, like Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly's novels. It's the kind of home that is doomed to red-tagging after the next big quake. Jones himself looks like a dehydrated version of Mr. Ellis' character Elijah Snow from PLANETARY.

Working with a punkette sidekick, Jones takes the case of Colonel Nigh, a dying man and self-described "world class sexual adventurer." The Colonel has the best lines in the book. "For forty years, the fleshpots of Earth were my fingerbowl." ... "My every organ worked to failure in pursuit of the beast with two backs ... Indeed, on one memorable occasion, forty-eight backs."

The Colonel is missing his Hitler porn. That's right, I said, "Hitler porn." Or as the Colonel puts it, "...the holy grail of cinematic filth." "Hitler porn" is the number one best phrase in this comic. The second, also uttered by the Colonel, is "...the international pervert community."

The Colonel has an inappropriately dressed FBI agent daughter named Paula and a missing daughter named Angela. Anybody read THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler? We get to see Jones visit a porn establishment, run by a leather lady named Filthy Sanchez, and take out her sadomasochistic bodyguard in a Frank Miller style fight scene.

J.H. Williams III. Is any artist better at portraying the beautiful and the ugly side by side? This collection of weirdness could be considered more down to earth than his superlative PROMETHEA work, but accessible is the more appropriate word.

International pervert community.

Hitler porn.

Heh, heh, heh.


JSA #73

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Don Kramer/Keith Champagne
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger



"Everything is turning out so dark."
-- Once More With Feeling (Buffy TVS)


The darkening of the DC universe continues with the darkening of the cover on the latest issue of JSA. Nice Alex Ross cover of an illuminated Capt. Marvel praying in front of the blackness topped with a cool-looking golden JSA logo. Looks like the first in a series of covers judging by the "next month" blurb at the end where we see that next issue's cover will feature an illuminated Hawkman and Hawkgirl standing in front of the blackness. Tied into the big crossover stuff going on, this comic continues story points from DAY OF VENGEANCE and VILLAINS UNITED which continue story points from IDENTITY CRISIS and COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS not to mention that it follows up on the takeover of Khandaq storyline a few months back in JSA (“Black Reign?” Maybe. I can't remember). So, I guess it’s up to you faithful readers out there as to whether you like your DC comic books independently accessible or if you prefer them to be tied into the grander tapestry that a shared universe of characters can offer. I suspect that it is the latter sort of reader who is already attracted to the JSA title. This may be the one series that has nearly perfected the previously impossible task of making the Justice Society a viable and integral modern super team in a world that already has the Justice League.

Legacy.

It permeates every story and every character that appears in JSA. Whether it's simply the fact that the Justice Society is the granddaddy of all super teams in general or the numerous direct descendants of the JSA (i.e., Justice Battalion, All-Star Squadron, Young All-Stars, All-Star Squad, Infinity Inc.-- I'm sure there's more). There are also the family legacies. The current roll-call includes founding members, children of former JSA members, individuals inspired by former members, and still other members who bring a legacy with them such as Capt. Marvel.

Issue 73 begins with poor Atom Smasher standing around self-pitying. You know, all he did was kill a villain to save his mother's life and then kill a whole bunch of soldiers during bloody war frenzy during the taking of Khandaq for Black Adam (the original version of Capt. Marvel from waaaayyyy back during the time of ancient Babylon.) The JSA is debating behind closed doors whether to allow Atom Smasher back on the team. Well, while I can appreciate both sides of their debate, Al's demonstrated repeatedly that he is extremely unbalanced and tends to be unpredictable. This could have deadly results in a fight where his teammates have to trust him 100%. If I was his friend, I wouldn't have a problem telling him that while I could forgive him for his past actions, he's still got a long way to go before he's to a point where I could vote to accept him back on the team.

Black Adam, as dictator of Khandaq, has become sort of the DC universe's Middle Eastern version of Dr. Doom. As Doom is corrupted by his own vanity and arrogance, Adam's sheer power and arrogance has corrupted him. Now his very existence is an ever-present reminder and warning to Billy Batson of what he might become if he does not resist the temptation to indulge in his god-like magical powers as Capt. Marvel. Black Adam's motivation for joining Luthor's new Secret Society speaks volumes about what's been happening in the DC universe this past year. He wants to take down the JLA because they demonstrated (in IDENTITY CRISIS) that they have no honor, but Adam continues to respect the JSA because they do.

The new Crimson Avenger shows up wielding her spirit-possessed guns to exact justice by killing a guy who's gotten away with murdering his wife. However, this time, the Spectre shows up (in DAY OF VENGEANCE mode) and knocks her out of the way, then proceeds to impale the guy with "death by pool cue." Jean Loring, the new Eclipso, is there too because she's ticked off at Black Adam for what he did to the last Eclipso. There's also a plot-point pickup regarding the Blue Beetle scarab last seen in COUNTDOWN TO INFINITE CRISIS. I'm guessing that the readers are supposed to be guessing who the scarab's going to choose to be the next Blue Beetle. I've even heard some people guessing Donna Troy. Nah. That's stupid. Not gonna happen. If anything, it would be more likely that DC would go the Barry Allen/Wally West route and have Donna assume the mantle of Wonder Woman. But I digress. I will say this about the Blue Beetle. I do believe it will be a woman. And I think she'll have ties to the JSA. That's all I'm sayin' right now though.

Random thoughts: I didn't know the Freedom Fighters, as a group, even still existed in the DCU, so I was surprised to see them pop up. I also didn't know Damage was now a member. I also didn't remember that he was Al Pratt's (the original Atom) son. Furthermore, I honestly cannot believe that a super team of patriotic superheroes from the 40s still around in this age of "Nipple-gate," would have a member like Phantom Lady prancing around the Pentagon showing off a lot more than just nipples. No bra and no panties cause there's just no way to hide them in that costume. Even MY ever-willing credibility stretches too thin here and it distracts me. Somebody's gotta design that girl a decent 21st century costume! Speaking of costumes, why were the li'l bitty ropes missing from Capt. Marvel's cape and why were his boots suddenly those big honkin' buccaneer-style boots like what Capt. America wears?

And speaking of the art: Don Kramer does another fine job. He doesn't have the pizzazz of many other current "hot" artists, but he keeps churning out monthly jobs with a ton of characters and does it very well. I appreciate the fact that he focuses more on the storytelling side than he does looking for opportunities to draw pin-ups. I appreciate the effort he puts in to the little details - whether it's consistent body language for a character or recurring facial expressions on a character or the many different JSA photos in the background. It is noticed and appreciated by this reader.


PUNISHER: THE CELL

Writer: Garth Ennis
Penciller: Lewis Larosa
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: Humphrey Lee



Revenge.

At some point in our lives we all desire it. It is inevitable that at some time or another we will be slighted by someone, or something, and can not help but to wish for payback of some sort. Maybe it’s something simple like being cut off by some asshole driver on the freeway. Maybe you’ve got unresolved issues with a bully at school. Maybe you’ve found your wife is cheating on you. What makes the sum of a man is how much you hold on to these thoughts of revenge and just how willing you are to achieve it. Some of us will take these feelings and dismiss them as just a passing fancy. Others will harbor these feelings for an extended period of time until eventually they realize that they don’t feel passionately enough to act upon them.

But there are those that will act.

They will feel that extra bit of spite or be just that much more consumed by anger that it fuels their being until they do something to satiate these raging emotions. Those concepts right there are what drives the very being of the Punisher. Spite. Anger. Hate. Revenge…and the willingness to see all those emotions through to their fullest. But will he ever be satisfied? And how far is he willing to go to see to it that these things are complete?

That is the true lesson of THE CELL.

What Ennis and Larosa do with THE CELL (and the ongoing MAX series for that matter) is strip the Punisher down to his very core. Here he is a man who has been grievously wronged and will stop at nothing to right that wrong…no matter what the cost to his soul. Ever since the induction of Frank Castle to Marvel’s MAX line he, and his writers, have been free to unleash his fury without any such definition to the word constraint…or control...or mercy. They have made the Punisher a true being of revenge, but with THE CELL we see that revenge become much more focused and methodical.

The premise of the book is simple enough. Five very bad men have been incarcerated in the hallowed halls of Riker’s State Penitentiary. The Punisher gives himself up to the authorities to go in after them. Obviously though, right there that’s a bit of a logistical flaw. If you know anything about Frank Castle then you know he is nothing if not a resourceful man. There are dozens of ways for Frank to get his men without having to let himself be caught. Hell, why not blow the entire prison? There are hundreds of scumbags in there that deserve it, why take the risk or getting shived by the inmates, or the guards that are bought and sold by them?

Well, the answer should be pretty apparent by now, eh?

Ennis takes his time in showing Frank at arguably his worst. I’ve always found him to be much scarier with a knife in his hand and a smile on his face than with the heaviest of artillery. The book moves at a very sadistic and deliberate pace as Frank makes his way to his targets, moving deftly, then brutally through the guards and inmates as he creates wave upon wave of tension and fear in his truly intended victims. And all this is done backed by some of the darkest and moodiest pencils I’ve seen in a long time. This is about as perfect as you get for art storytelling matching up with the writers’ vision. The tension mounts perfectly as Frank makes his way to his ultimate goal, and keeps you riveted all the while, given you’re able to put the flaw I mentioned previously in the back of your head until all is revealed at the end.

This book is a nice change of pace from what Ennis is currently doing on the ongoing. In that series, Frank is usually nothing more than a wrecking ball of hate, mostly solving things simply with his vast arsenal of machine guns and whatnot, but in THE CELL, this is truly Frank at his best. He’s taking more chances, playing everything a lot closer than he normally would, and using his feral wit more than his muscles. All for something much more gratifying then the satisfaction he gets when he offs some random gangbangers, or another chump making a grab at being the next Godfather. This one is much more personal and a lot deeper than we are used to seeing and it makes for all the more enthralling read.

If there is one thing this book does, it’s that it dares to ask the most important question the character, and sometimes even life itself, creates: Can a man whose life is nothing more than a dedication to a certain feeling ever reach that peak? And if they do, can they ever truly be satisfied with it?


THE RANN/THANAGAR WAR #1 (of 6)

Writer: Dave Gibbons
Pencils: Ivan Reis
Inks: Mark Campos
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G



I’ve read a lot of different kinds of comic book stories over the years and enjoyed most of ‘em. I’ve read great westerns, horror tales, and war stories. I’ve enjoyed pulpy noirs and indie slices of hipster, doofus life. I’ve gotten a good laugh out of manga and enjoyed a few coming of age tales along with the usual heroes in spandex. There’s always been one kinda story that just left me cold more often than not, though—cosmic stories. Some folks will call me a blasphemer, but the truth is, I hate the New Gods with a passion and never gave a crap about the Infinity Bracelets. The characters always seemed lame as hell and hard to relate to, and the writers’ lowbrow attempts to explore the philosophical underpinnings of existence were amateurish even by high-school standards. I just couldn’t get into ‘em. I always thought cosmic characters worked best when rooted in a world or situation that made them easier to connect with, like Silver Surfer trapped on Earth or the Martian Manhunter trying to integrate into human society. Long cosmic tales are always hard to take, even derailing the otherwise-brilliant STARMAN for the better part of a year, so I tend to shy away from them.

What I’m getting at here is that Dave Gibbons has taken on a mammoth task: to make people care about a bunch of underused characters over the course of exactly the type of story that usually makes my eyes (and those of many readers) glaze over. The job is made a little easier because it focuses on Adam Strange as one of the main protagonists. Adam Strange has always worked in sci-fi comics for a few reasons, and most of them are reasons he shares with other similar characters. Strange follows in the tradition of John Carter, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rodgers as a (relatively) modern-day human who ends up lost on another planet, struggling to survive, while adjusting to a strange new world. Strange serves as a proxy for the reader, uncovering exciting new environments and lifeforms along with us and gradually becoming more confident in his surroundings as we grow more familiar with them. On a deeper level, there’s a common human element to the tale as well. Strange is perpetually torn between his home world and his new family on Rann, struggling with a sense of allegiance and duty to both. That feeling of being pulled in two directions at once with no clear choice is one that anybody can relate to. It’s a way for the reader to get into the character’s head, making the story much more accessible.

Speaking of that story, Dave Gibbons picks up right where the recent ADAM STRANGE series left off and drops us right into the action, which is usually a pretty good way to start a series off: hit the ground running, suck in the audience, and fill ‘em in on the details later. Adam comes crashing in from out of nowhere, helps Hawkman and Hawkgirl fend off an opponent, and then cuts to the chase, giving them the bad news: his adopted home planet of Rann was teleported into their home planet Thanagar’s system, disrupting its orbit. It’s been rendered inhabitable, untold millions have died, and the Rannians and Thanagarians are now forced against their will to live together on one planet. That’s working out as well as can be expected, and Adam needs the Hawks’ help to try and restore order. The three of ‘em head back to Rann where things have gone to hell and they jump right into the fray along with the likes of the Omega Men among others. The Green Lanterns haven’t made the scene yet, but we see Kyle Rayner (the best GL as far as I’m concerned) and Kilowog are on their way, so things should get even messier by next issue. The political machinations have already begun and it’s anybody’s guess as to how the whole thing will shake out by the time it’s finished.

When this miniseries was first announced, I didn’t know what to expect. Besides being mildly allergic to cosmic stories, I also wasn’t quite sure what to think of Dave Gibbons writing it. He’s done a little writing in the past, but what he’s really best known for is his work as an artist. It turns out there wasn’t anything to worry about on that front, though, at least so far. He clearly has a good understanding of and genuine respect for the characters he’s writing about. He gets the core personalities and motivations right, which is crucial for a story like this. Without this ability, the unique appeal of each character would get drowned out by the cataclysmic events of the story. Gibbons is definitely on the right path so far. With just a little more emphasis on the characters we know to balance things out the story, this could turn out to be a real humdinger. I still retain a certain degree of skepticism due to the cosmic nature of the endeavor, but so far Gibbons is doing a pretty solid job of setting the wheels in motion so I’m going to stick around and ride it out.


THE NIGHT CLUB # 1

Written by Mike Baron
Art by Mike Norton
Published by Image
Reviewed by Mike Maverik



I hate critics like me. We're impossible to please. Week after week, each time I peak on the acid, I write my reviews and I always bitch about how modern comics tell us too much and move too slow.

Images’ NIGHT CLUB # 1 – written by one of my all time favorite comic book scribes with excellently suited, almost blue collar horror art – moves a little too fast. It's not frantic action or anything like that. It seems like things have been left out, like a censored film.

A pair of runaways are accosted by ghouls outside a Boston pub. The boy sends the girl inside and proceeds to beat said ghouls with a 2x4. Never mind that the ghouls hadn't actually attacked them, or that they could just be drunken writers for THE HAVARD LAMPOON in Halloween masks. Then, Jack ('cause I don't want to keep calling him Boy Runaway) almost nonchalantly enters the bar. The barkeep seems pretty non-plussed by the roving ghouls, but I'm not sure if that's a joke or not.

The kids see a hooded swordsman chopping up the ghouls outside. They don't seem to be looking out a window or a door, or even through those things. It's like artist Mike Norton forgot that just because we can see through the Fourth Wall, the characters can't. The swordsman turns out to be a guy named Walter who has some cool lines but who has a gift for prophecy that makes him irritating by allowing him to know too much.

At Walter's headquarters, Annie the girl runaway tells Jack that they are supposed to be there with Walter because she saw it in a dream. What dream? That came out of nowhere. Again, instead of playing as a surprise or a twist, it seemed like the dream sequence was missing. Or that Annie is making things up. Actually, the book would be more interesting if Annie were making things up.

Turns out that the ghouls are working for the devil, here called Screwbarb, who looks like a wholesome, all-American rich guy. The devil must be a fan of films WHAT DREAMS MAY COME and RESERVOIR DOGS, or BLUE VELVET, because he finds away to combine scenes from both while torturing Walter's brother Otto. The book gets points for having characters named Screwbarb and Otto.

I dunno. I'm not into all of this Apocalypse, LEFT BEHIND stuff. To me, the Devil is a red guy with little horns like Daredevil, a goatee, a pitchfork and a tail like Nightcrawler.

And in one of the last, NIGHT O' THE LIVING DEAD-like scenes, Walter says the ghouls are "...lost souls, followers of Aleister Crowley, suicides, nihilists, those who strayed from righteousness."

I'm rooting for the ghouls, myself.


BREACH #5

Writer: Bob Harras
Artists: Marcos Martin/Alvaro Lopez
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by: Prof. Challenger



Why am I the only one reading this DC comic?

First time that happened, it was SWAMP THING back in the early 80's. Then, ever so slowly after Alan Moore came on the book, EVERYONE was reading the thing. Last time it happened, I think I was the only one reading RESURRECTION MAN. Yeah, yeah, you've never heard of that series. That's the point. Excellent book. Great concept, characters, writing, art, everything - but nobody read it except me and it didn't last very long. I'm worried BREACH is going to fall into the same hole as RESURRECTION MAN, but I'm hoping it goes the way of SWAMP THING where word finally gets around and people start picking it up.

Aside from the rather embarrassing dialogue glitch in the first issue where DC forgot to change the main character's name from "Nathanial Adams" to "Timothy Zanetti" in a couple of dialogue balloons (hopefully fixed in any TPB collections) after an apparent eleventh-hour decision to convert their reboot of Capt. Atom into one of the smartest and creepiest original sci-fi comics to come out in years. I don't remember Bob Harras writing this smartly when he was writing for Marble Comics.

What Harras has done is take the classic sci-fi origin of a man caught in a military science-experiment gone awry resulting in super powers, but he's given it a creepy twist. Harras ambitiously sets the opening of the first issue one year from "now" (probably a full 12 issues if the story actually moves in approximate real time). The opening segment sees the title character in the aftermath of a huge and deadly battle. Unfortunately, the battle is not completely over as Breach states that he must take the battle to "them." Harras thus introduces the title character to the reader at a point where he is eerily detached from humanity just as his wife realizes who he is. We also gather from the dialogue that he has been cruelly manipulated. To Breach, all hope is gone.

Huh?

Flashback to Breach's life just before the accident. That's where we meet Maj. Zanetti, his wife, and his young son whose birthday celebration will coincide with the horrible accident that "kills" his father. We are also introduced to Zanetti's best friend "Mac" who, we come to find out, is somehow involved in orchestrating the accident for some very nefarious and selfish reason. Clearly the accident was intended to kill everyone involved in the military project "Project Otherside," which was an attempt to "breach" the wall between our dimension and the "three known spatial dimensions and that of time." Somehow, Maj. Zanetti survives but is changed so that the merest touch of his skin to another's results in near-instant gruesome and painful death as the other person's body sort of turns inside-out mutating into some Lovecraftian horror. Think of those poor unfortunate souls that materialized inside-out after attempting to transport to the Enterprise in STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE - that's kind of what I'm talking about. Anyway, the army puts him into this protected containment room where he lies in a deathlike coma until…

Jump to "today" and he awakens setting off all kinds of red alerts and honking protocols. In the 20-some years since Zanetti's accident, the world has moved on. Zanetti's best friend "Mac" married his wife, who is now a U.S. senator, and raised his son, Tate, who is now a young adult.

Harras introduces uber-creepy villains called "Rifters" who are ugly other-dimensional murderous monsters who obviously want to invade our dimension. But, they need human hosts or something like that. The Herdsman, one of these Rifters who took possession of a young African sheepherder, appears in issue 2 and is really really disturbing. Breach and these Rifters all seem to be able to "feel" each other's presence on this dimensional plane. Breach is especially haunted when he "feels" that they are about to kill. Breach wants to go find them and stop them, but the army wants to keep him contained because he's so dangerous. The JLA appears on the scene to check on this huge burst of powerful energies emanating from Breach. A cue for a giggle moment when Zanetti, who was not conscious for the emergence of the modern super-hero, finds even Superman kind of silly just in concept -- especially silly considering how arrogant the name sounds to him. Further complicating matters for Zanetti is that every time he taps into these dimensional powers parts of his memories disappear. In this issue, for example, he's already forgotten that he even has a son.

Issue 5 is all about lies. The effects of the lies told to Zanetti over 20 years ago. It's about the lies being told to him today. It's about the lies between the evil antagonists of this story (I'm hesitant to call them super villains - they really just seem to be wholly evil). Mysteries are continuing to develop: Who is the smoking lady and what sort of control does she have over Mac? Who is Tobias, the author with some bizarre type of relationship to the Rifters? Did Mac orchestrate the original accident just so he could have Zanetti's wife for himself? What will happen once Breach realizes he's been lied to? And…how are we going to get to that scene that opened issue 1 and what's going to happen then?

Hopefully, more and more of you readers will start picking this title up so the Prof can find out! I'd hate to have such an intriguing group of characters just disappear into the realm of the forgotten. Worse, I'd hate to see such a well-thought out and planned storyline truncated simply because of low sales. I'm betting that your local comic store still has plenty of copies of BREACH left. If not, ASK For them to reorder for you. Try it out and then get those back issues to catch up on everything. Anyone who reads issues 1 and 2 will be hooked. Give this series some legs. I promise you will not be disappointed!

A couple of final notes. The terrorist group, Kobra, showed up in issue 3 and continues to have their presence felt. The art team of Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez are solid storytellers. At times, their work reminds me of early Steranko. The writing and art perfectly support each other in furtherance of the story. My highest compliment.


EXCALIBUR # 13

Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Aaron Lopresti
Published by Marvel
Reviewed by Buzz Maverik



Ah, Claremont, we meet again!

It's been a long time since I've bought and read a comic book written by Chris Claremont. It's been even longer since I've touched a comic book with anything remotely like the letter "X" in the title except for ARMOR X and EX MACHINA, which don't have anything to do with the X-Men.

To be honest, if EXCALIBUR # 13 hadn't prominently featured Dr. Strange, one of my three favorite Marvel characters (the other two being the Black Widow and the Incredible Hulk -- Joe, call me! Have I got a pitch for a new DEFENDERS series with these three), I wouldn't have touched it.

I loyally bought every single issue of THE UNCANNY X-MEN, and its spin-offs, written by Chris Claremont from issue # 94 up until he left Marvel for the first time. I bought Claremont's X-MEN faithfully each month when I wasn't buying any other comics. I was sort of like such politicians as Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwartzenegger who didn't count oral as cheating. I'd say, "I'm not into comics any more. Except for THE UNCANNY X-MEN."

I always said I'd quit the book when Mr. Claremont did. Looking back, I should have quit sometime 3-5 years before the end of his almost two decade run, because the stories weren't what they used to be. Originally, Mr. Claremont and his artists (first new-X-MEN creator Dave Cockrum and then John Byrne -- hey, Byrne, you were Claremont's artist!) kept our favorite mutants in fast paced, hard driving adventures that still revealed their characters. It is possible to use action to tell a story and explore character, especially in the comic medium. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise just because their favorite modern writer can't do it.

The stories in UNCANNY were so good, so perfectly laid out they surpassed most late '70s, early '80s comics. The dialogue was never too great, but it did the job in service to the story. "Nice going, Summers! Hey, what's the matter with Jeannie?" "What do you expect, Wolverine? Her power just carried us across the universe! She's out cold!"

Later, the dialogue got to be a problem. Oh, here's the obligatory page where someone says, "You gotta accept the hand you’re dealt, kid! Moping won't change things! Neither will wishing, or hoping, or pining, or bitching, or shouting, or pouting, or soul searching or..." Let's skip that until Arcade kidnaps somebody.

Pretty much the last good story of Claremont's original run was X-Men vs. the Reavers on Muir Island. But I stuck around anyway. Eventually, as fans always do, I returned to semi-regular comic book reading and was shocked to find that Mr. Claremont was writing THE FANTASTIC FOUR for Marvel. How could he work for them again? I figured he needed the dough. Worse, what I read burned my eyes. Scottish sword maidens. Those silver hellhounds from the original EXCALIBUR. Genosha. Basically, it was clear that the last comic book my childhood idol had picked up was one he'd written himself. THE FANTASTIC FOUR was overrun by X-MEN themes...worse, late Claremont-era X-MEN themes. The good part was that Mr. Claremont's dialogue was worse than ever, we had a slow pace to boot, and I didn't like the puffy art by that fan fave artist. Even FF themes like the Negative Zone were messed up. The Negative Zone was like some fantasy novel-land instead of a bizarre subspace of screwy physics. I steered clear of Mr. Claremont's work since then.

But when you have a comic with Professor X, Mageneto and Dr. Strange on the cover like EXCALIBUR # 13, you can at least pretend that you've got an issue of THE DEFENDERS, which is what I did. By the end of the book, though, I was having a pretty good time reading EXCALIBUR.

Mr. Claremont seems to be back in his element. He's telling his story well with action, which was the specialty of his younger days! And his dialogue is better than ever. Aaron Lopresti's art kept everything moving along in a sharp, easy to follow flow. The only problem is that all of the faces Mr. Loprestri draws look exactly alike.

The highlight of the book, both visually and story wise, was the HOUSE O' M prelude at the end involving Professor X and Dr. Strange. What I didn't like: the overly long scene in which Angel (it's not Archangel, dammit, it's just Angel, as in The Avenging Angel!) is buried under some rubble with Callisto and the Viper. Callisto was the leader of the Morlocks who once kidnapped Angel in a good Claremont/Smith story from UNCANNY. She was one eyed and ugly. Now, she's one eyed and hot except for some stupid looking green tentacles. She looked exactly like the Viper, except Viper had green hair and no tentacles. Viper and Callisto talked too much and acted like guys, both longtime shortcomings in Mr. Claremont's writing. Later, Angel's girlfriend thinks, "Muscling in on a gal's guy can start a feud." No, Chris, guys feud. Chicks start nasty rumors.

Also, hated the fact that they let the Viper go. The Viper always seemed to be one of the nastier Marvel villains. I liked Mark Gruenwald's portrayal of the character in his CAPTAIN AMERICA run. She was completely subversive. In a great, understated kinky scene, the Red Skull hooked himself up to pain machine and invited the Viper to set it to whatever level she chose. Naturally, she went to the max. In this issue, the Viper was working for Courtney Ross, the Hellfire Club's new White Queen. Insult me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Ross once Captain Britain's girlfriend? I always used to get her confused with his enemy Saturyne, another one of those comic book women with that odd white hair.

Ah, well, it's good to know that Mr. Claremont is back in excellent form and telling good stories again.


FRIDAY THE 13TH SPECIAL #1

Writer: Brian Pulido
Artist: Mike Wolfer
Publisher: Avatar Press
Reviewer: Ambush Bug



In FRIDAY THE 13th, a nubile young lass in a red shirt gets an axe through her mush after Kevin Bacon gets an arrow stabbed through his throat while lying in bed.

In FRIDAY THE 13th PART TWO, Jason, in full TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN burlap mask mode, thwacks a dude in a wheelchair across the face with a machete, sending him rolling down a flight of stairs.

In FRIDAY THE 13th PART THREE, Jason’s first kill while wearing his now trademark hockey mask occurs when a chick drops a guy’s wallet in the lake and Jason fires a harpoon gun into her eye. This is a 3-D shot with the harpoon COMIN’ AT YA!!!

In FRIDAY THE 13th PART FOUR - THE FINAL CHAPTER, Crispin “Dead Fuck” Glover is crucified to a doorway with corkscrews. Later, Jason rips him down in pursuit of another nubile.

IN FRIDAY THE 13th PART FIVE - A NEW BEGINNING, well…this one just sucked @$$.

In FRIDAY THE 13th PART SIX - JASON LIVES, a rocker gets a Rambo knife shoved through his noggin while driving an RV after his rocker girlfriend gets her face shoved through the RV’s bathroom wall leaving an imprint of her face on the outside. The RV crashes and skids to a stop on its side and Jason stands on top of it as if he has just killed some giant wild beast.

In FRIDAY THE 13th PART SEVEN - A NEW BLOOD, Jason guts the dead guy from WEEKEND AT BERNIES with a weedwacker with a swirling saw blade attached to the end.

Don’t fuck with me, man. I know my FRIDAY THE 13TH. I just wrote those last few paragraphs from memory without referencing a single movie. Let’s just say that there is a section of my addled brain that is filled with useless FRIDAY THE 13TH fun facts like the ones above. I’ve watched those movies over and over more times than I can count. I know every death, every method of Jason’s disposal, and almost every line of the earlier films. Sure, these movies were shittily produced, badly directed, and poorly acted, but to a young and impressionable Ambush Bug, you couldn’t get much better than FRIDAY THE 13th. What the hell did I know? I liked early WWF Wrestling too.

When I heard that Avatar would be publishing a Special FRIDAY THE 13TH issue, I was officially stoked. I mean, maybe this was my chance to read a well written F13 story, handled in a way that would give the series and the character of Jason Voorhees a bit of respect. Maybe this was the issue that would tell a seriously scary horror story, one which has never been told before in the FRIDAY THE 13TH mythos.

Well, don’t expect that story here, folks. This is your typical, mindless romp into stalk n’ slash cliché-ville. Two horny teens are bumping biscuits in a car while a military unit forages through Camp Crystal Lake in search of the hockey masked killer. Much carnage and grue ensues. As the bodies begin to fall, we find out who funded the military unit. We are supposed to feel sorry for some woman because her father wanted to help the children by opening up Camp Blood all those years ago. Like most F13 movies, you find yourself rooting for Jason because those in peril deserve to die because they are so ignorantly written.

I guess the one thing that really irked me about this issue was that writer Brian Pulido (the guy behind all of those LADY DEATH cheesecake books) doesn’t understand the core concept behind the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies and the motivation behind the character of Jason. In a discussion between Uninteresting Blue-suited Man and Bitchy Corporate Woman, Uninteresting Blue-suited Man states the following:
You expect me to believe that a supernatural killer is seeking revenge for being ignored by camp counselors while he drowned?


WRONG! WRONG!! WRONG!!!

That’s not why Jason is killing these people. That’s why Jason’s mother killed the first set of counselors to return to the camp in the very first F13. Jason kills because he saw one of the counselors behead his mother on the bank of Crystal Lake. Jason’s motivation is that of revenge on those who killed his mother. It is a story of an outcast little boy who had the one person who gave him love and affection taken away from him. It’s a fundamental mistake by the writer to overlook this. Sure, I may be taking a comic based on a series of some of the worst horror movies in the last twenty years a bit too seriously, but when a writer doesn’t even understand the core concept and motivation of a character as simple to get as Jason Voorhees, I have to call him out for it.

Given the fact that I am still a fan of the movie series, despite the fact that they weren’t the most intriguing bits of cinema, you would think I would be pretty lenient on a comic book that attempts to bring Jason from the silver screen to the world of comics. The art is decent. It depicts the splatter pretty effectively. Jason has some pretty juicy kills (one guy gets his head pounded down through his neck and it plops out of his ass and hits the ground). Basically, this book was about as good as your typical late-in-the-series F13 fare despite the fact that the writer made a huge flub regarding the killer’s motivation. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who loves F13 and longs for the day when someone with the talent and respect for the movies would come along and do Jason some justice. Sadly, this isn’t the book that does that. Recommended only to those fans (like me) who have to have everything Voorhees. Let’s hope Pulido’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET Specials (due out later this month) will be a little more faithful and knowledgeable about the movies that inspired them.


GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH #6

Writer: Geoff Johns
Penciller: Ethan Van Sciver
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee



HAL JORDAN IS BACK!!!

THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS ARE ONCE MORE!!!

BATMAN IS A GIANT @#$%ING DICK!!!

ALL IS RIGHT WITH THE DC UNIVERSE!!!!

Well except this whole Crisis thing going around and all the death and mayhem and carnage and whatnot. But still, we got Hal back…

Yeah. I can sense some of you not really caring.

Honestly, I come off of this with total and utter indifference. I, for one, have no feelings either way about Hal Jordan. I’ve read some stuff with him in it, I’ve enjoyed the stories (especially those with Green Arrow involved), but I’ve never seen the big fanatical appeal. I’ve always found Kyle Rayner to be a much more appealing character, but I think when it comes to such characters that have a legacy and a line of succession, you just tend to identify more with the one you are more exposed to. That’s probably why there aren’t any rabid fan-bases over Alan Scott since most of the guys who grew up with him as their GL are…well…dead.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Like I said before, despite enjoying all the previous issues, this finale left me somewhat underwhelmed. It just felt very…anticlimactic. After last issue’s very energetic and breathtaking battle between Hal and Sinestro, we get a follow up fight with the Parallax entity in this issue that is just lethargic. Basically, the fight comes down to a lot of giant green beams of energy and the typical GL pandering, complete with credo chanting and everything. Again, if you’re a GL/Hal Jordan fanboy, then this is probably like a wet dream. But for the casual reader it just comes off as the typical superhero posturing. Also, due to the shipping problems we’ve already seen Hal already eagerly back in action in the pages of the 80-page Countdown book so it was already assumed that by his disposition everything worked itself out a-okay by the end of this series.

I will give Johns and Van Sciver credit on what they managed here overall. While this issue itself is weak the series at least kept its promises. Johns, yet again, was able to take past continuity FUBARS and weave them into a very readable tale. I honestly had no idea how he would find a way to redeem Hal of the crimes he committed as Parallax but he did so in a very orderly fashion. He also managed to bring up an explanation as to the whole “the ring doesn’t work on yellow” deal and that right there earns my respect as that has always been on of those random comic book ideas that just made me question why I even read the things. But he makes it work very well, and it all looked pretty. In spite of the shipping problems, the art on this book has looked amazing. Van Sciver has earned his “breakout talent” status with this for sure. Now he just needs to earn some respect as “breakout talent who can keep a schedule.” But that is a rarity these days anyhow.

Summing up: While this issue seemed to be lacking the energy of the previous ones, the series did a great job of bringing Hal back into the fold and making old ideas seem fresh. Though not a big Hal mark, I am becoming quite intrigued as to what Johns has in store for him, especially backed by the artist talent he will have with him. I somewhat question what seems to be a pushing of Kyle into the background, but we really have no idea what’s really in store for him. It’s definitely nice to see some sort of GL Corps back in action, as the idea of a “space police” is one I always thought to be neat. Maybe their own book is called for, as I would find that a very good way of giving fans their Kyle and Kilowog and even Guy Gardner fixes than just by having them show up in Hal’s book. Who knows what DC has planned for the GL community, but they’re off to a good start with it.


MTU #8 - Boy does this series stink. Given the fact that writer Robert Kirkman writes my current favorite comic WALKING DEAD and Scott Kolins drew my favorite run on the FLASH, you’d think I’d like this series. But even the great ones have to take a dump sometimes and apparently it occurs monthly under the “oh so trendy” MTU (MARVEL TEAM-UP for those not lazy enough to abbreviate every GD MF-ing thing) banner. This month, the Punisher and Blade meet…and talk. And then the Punisher leaves and Blade jumps in to battle a group of vampires off panel. It used to be that MARVEL TEAM-UP was a showcase for Marvel’s fascinating cast of characters. The heroes would meet and, through the course of the action of the story, let the reader know what makes these characters different from each other. In the old MARVEL TEAM-UP series, one would have found out that the Punisher killed criminals…when the Punisher killed criminals. In the old MARVEL TEAM-UP series, one would have found out that Blade hunted vampires…when Blade hunted vampires. In the current MTU, they stand around and fill word balloons telling us what they do. You tell me which one sounds more appealing. - Bug

ACTION COMICS #827 - GAH! Must…ignore…god-awful…cover!!! Whew. That was close. Hrm…how do you get something that bad on the front and yet there’s some really respectable art on the inside? Maybe good-old Byrne hasn’t completely lost it…completely. But I digress. This issue, besides the return of John Byrne to Superman, also marks the start of Gail Simone’s run as new ongoing writer. And it’s a pretty decent one to boot. Lots of action abounds as we see another debut in this book, that of an extremely powerful new villain, Repulse, whose powers are magnetically based--a good old standby. Making her debut in style, Repulse starts causing mass havoc around Metropolis as she starts hunting down others with similar powers, including Aura, an old teammate of Superboy’s, and Dr. Polaris, a very powerful, yet somewhat neglected, and very much crazy old-time villain in the DCU. Amidst all the destruction and the advancing of Repulse’s character, Gail makes sure to throw in some rather uncommonly seen character moments for Supes, as he spends some time with an African tribe and, of course, his wife. It gives a nice balance to all the destruction that this issue is mostly focusing on. Overall this is a solid issue with my only real complaint being that Repulse’s powers working in ways they really probably shouldn’t, and with no real explanation or reasoning to it. But what are comics without some suspension of disbelief? - Humphrey

THE MAN WITH THE SCREAMING BRAIN #1 - I planned on writing a full review of this book, given the fact that Bruce Campbell is held in the same light as Jesus, Buddha, and Twinkie The Kid on this site, but I just couldn’t find enough to say about it. This issue was all set-up, so it plays out like the first part of a movie and since it is actually based on a motion picture screenplay by Bruce Campbell and David Goodman, I guess it all makes sense. The problem is, (and I’d really like everyone in the comic book industry to pay attention to this, so I’ll type it really, really big and red…-ish)

COMIC BOOKS ARE NOT MOVIES!!!

If you’re going to split a product into four parts, make all the parts interesting. A slow build in movies does not translate well in the world of comics, no matter what STORY (a screenwriting book, not a comic book writing book) says. A slow build leaves the reader feeling like I did with this issue. Unsatisfied. There are hints as to what is to come regarding a scientific process which literally splits the human brain in two, a dead body at the end of the issue, and of course the little box in the letters page showing us the next issue’s cover. The story is interesting enough and it’s fun placing Bruce Campbell’s voice into the word balloons of the main character, but I’m not convinced that the story is strong enough to temp me back for a second issue. If you like Bruce Campbell (and I know you do, I saw you the other day when no one was looking, drawing pictures of you snuggling up close to that big ol’ chin of his), you’ll probably want to pick this issue up. The premise holds promise, but when I see issue two on the shelves in a month, I’m going to have to pause and really consider if it’s worth picking up. - Bug

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #77 - Okay, so the writing here is solid, and the art is outstanding. With Bendis and Bagley, that's a given. But this is the third Goblin storyline in this book where SHIELD has had to save Spidey's bacon, (including the ULTIMATE SIX mini.) It's also the second time Osborne has come between Peter and MJ. I hate to sound like a douche, but this book's starting to get a not-so-fresh feeling. - Vroom Vroom

OUTSIDERS #23
- There is a traitor among the Outsiders, so Arsenal locks them all down in their HQ and tests them one by one to find out who the bastard is. Kind of like JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING, ya know? Well, you should know by the end of this issue because instead of paying homage to that classic and just letting the similarities occur, writer Judd Winnick chooses to explain and over explain and shove it straight into our freakin’ ears how similar this situation is to that movie. Then he actually gives a synopsis of the film because, you know, most people reading comics today wouldn’t have seen that film. Oh noooooo. I’ve been warming up to Winnick’s recent issues of OUTSIDERS and BATMAN that have devoted themselves to innovative action paired with great character interaction, but when Judd decides to slow things down, he falls into the same over expository potholes which have plagued his work since he hit the mainstream. Maybe next time, Judd will explain how the movie JAWS has a big shark in it because none of us have seen that flick either. Bug

POWER PACK #2 - Reading this issue was like spending too much time on a bland appetizer then rushing through a scrumptious main course. The story of the Powers children continues to be lightly entertaining, but so fluffy and devoid any emotional weight. But the real reason to pick this issue up is the second installment of FRANKLIN RICHARDS – SON OF A GENIUS. This is another snippet in the CALVIN & HOBBES like story of an ornery boy (who just happens to be the son of the greatest mind in the Marvel U) and H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot built to protect him. I’m telling you, Chris Eliopoulos and Mark Sumerak are making comic book gold and it’s being squished into the @$$-end of a mediocre comic. Seek out this POWER PACK series, skip to the last five pages, and enjoy. It’s worth the price of a full comic. - Bug

THE MARVEL PR MACHINE - ***PUNISHER: THE CELL SPOILERS AHEAD*** You may have noticed a review up above for the new one-shot PUNISHER: THE CELL. What you probably don't know about it is that it's the most important Punisher story of the last decade and a half. It sees the Punisher finally go after and eliminate the people directly responsible for the deaths of his family. The story focuses on how Frank Castle became who he is and what he'll be doing now that he has finally avenged his loved ones. But none of you knew that ahead of time because Marvel didn't tell you. This one-shot should have been promoted for at least a month by the PR team as "the Punisher story of the year" or "the one Punisher story you don't wanna miss" or some such. Instead it was released without any notice whatsoever and buried. It's sad, really, because it's a solid story and it was important enough to the character to deserve better treatment. Then again, there's no guest appearance from Scarlet Witch and the letters X or M don't appear on the cover, so how could anybody really be expected to notice it? - Sleazy G


HOLMES #1/PERIPHERY #2

Writers: Omaha Perez, Matthew Smith, and Mark Fearing
Art: Omaha Perez, Brian Horton, and Mark Fearing
Publisher: O-P-P
Reviewer: Ambush Bug



HOLMES #1/ PERIPHERY #2 is a flip book designed to show off the up and coming talent from indie publisher O-P-P. And what a showcase it is. In this issue, we have three tales ranging from an offbeat re-imagining of a famous literary character to a somber moralistic samurai tale and then back to a cartoon strip set in the Stone Age.

First up is HOLMES, a re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes character if he were played by the bastard love child of Hunter S. Thompson and Iggy Pop. Omaha Perez has a nice concept to work with—one with lots of potential. In this issue, Holmes, in drag, rambles paranoid-ically about the spectre-like Moriarty which haunts his every move, while Watson acts as his very own Doctor Gonzo, enabling the out-of-his-gourd detective with drugs, alcohol, and unfettered dedication. Only Watson seems to believe Holmes’ hair-brained schemes as they stagger through the streets of London investigating what may or may not be a mystery.

I see a lot of potential in Perez’s take on the Holmes character. He’s always been characterized as an eccentric, but never this eccentric. The story reminded me a bit of Eric Powell’s THE GOON in its offbeatedness. Perez’s art is a bit stiff at times, there’s a bit too much attention paid to Holmes’ bumblings and drug-use, and not enough paid to the mystery itself, but this is a strong first look at a concept that with a little development of story could prove to be an interesting title to follow.

In “The Novice,” writer Mathew Smith takes us on a short moralistic journey as a man travels across the desert in search of answers to life’s complicated questions. This mostly silent tale is beautifully drawn by Brian Horton with rich blacks and stark whites. His mastery of posture and movement in his characters are evident in every panel. Like many moralistic tales, the story is simple and the moral in the end resonates long after the last panel. A really great eleven page story.

Finally we have “Like a Rolling Stone featu
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