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ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #1
NEW THUNDERBOLTS #10
THE LIFE & TIMES OF $CROOGE MCDUCK (TPB)
BANANA SUNDAY #1
RANN-THANAGAR WAR #3
Indie Jones presents GENSHIKEN VOLUME 1
SHOOT THE MESSENGER – AICN COMICS NEWS!
ALL STAR BATMAN & ROBIN THE BOY WONDER # 1
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Jim Lee
Published by DC
Reviewed by All Star Buzz
Frank! Jim! Glad we could have this little sit down.
You two: overpaid, overrated comic book pros. Me: disgusted, occasionally disgusting comic book fan/@$$hole. As a fan, the mainstream media like ENTERTAINMENT WEEKY and WIZARD has been telling me that I'm supposed to go all Monkeemania over this book because you two worked on it.
Before I go on, Frank, I have to tell you how much I liked the SIN CITY movie. A lot of my friends have said that it's the first time they ever liked Mickey Rourke (what, no love for Teddy Lewis the Rock 'n' Roll arsonist or even The Motorcycle Boy or Boogie?) or the first time they liked his work in years. I tell them I've always liked Violent Mick but it's the first time I've liked Frank's work in years. C'mon, Frank, you don't really want to be doing DC or Marvel stuff. That's why there's a SIN CITY / 300 Frank and a Cashing In On Past BATMAN Glory Frank.
About the book itself, I wanna start with Jim. Jim, there is no doubt that you draw beautiful women posing. I wanna help ya, man. Soon, your remaining audience will figure out what the rest of us have: most comic fans are over 18. Despite the stereotypes, we've all been there and back again. We've seen and touched the real thing. We have porn a click away. VICTORIA'S SECRET catalogues are mailed to our homes. We can subscribe to PLAYBOY, PENTHOUSE, HUSTLER and CRACK HO all we want. So we don't need your pencilings of Vicki Vale in her underwear drinking a martini or capering around.
I don't know whose bright idea that was. I don't want to point the finger so one of you 'fess up. Let's look at those pretty scenes with a little logic. Vicki Vale is a newspaper columnist. What do they pay newspaper columnists in Gotham? That apartment of hers with the wall high windows, the retro-mod furnishings, the telecom...Vicki would have to own the entire newspaper chain to afford all that crap. At first, I thought maybe she was being kept by Bruce Wayne, but you go and tell us it's their first date. Does Bruce know she's kept by Lex Luthor? Or is Tony Stark sneaking over from the Marvel Universe for a little, exotic DC action?
And, sorry, fantasy and all, but have ya ever been in a newsroom? Even on TV news, they don't look like the Vickstress here. This would be okay, but everybody says that Frank does the realistic Batman, which is the kind of oxymoron that has fucked up comics since the 1980s.
Vicki's take on Batman was well done, although immediately repeated. And her thrill at being on a date with Bruce Wayne was repeated, too. The kids dig it when the DJ jiggles the record and makes it repeat, don't they, Frank? What I don't get is that you set Vicki up as tough, cynical, and sophisticated, but then she's a groupie?
All of those are really minor issues, guys. It's just that you used the T & A to get everyone's attention so I talked about it first. Let's talk about you portrayal of Batman, Frank. How can put it politely?
It's kind of stupid.
It was fine back in the '80s, but do you really think the ultra-unlikable hardass is anything more than a gimmick? Sure, it appealed to the wannabe tough in me when I was an undergrad, but since then it's been kind of hemmorhoidal. The character never would have lasted this way, in publishing and in his fictional world, Frank.
"On your feet, soldier. You've just been drafted. This is a war."
Maybe I'm too old for this shit. I'm not as old as you guys, but you're getting paid. Isn't this a little pretentious? Along the lines of "Good soldier, good soldier". When Alan Moore spoofed that line with Dark '80s Supreme and the other Supremes (the superheroes, not the girl-group) looked at each other like, "What the fuck?" I had to laugh my ass off and mostly I was laughing at myself for ever thinking things like that were cool.
Robin's parents were just killed and this is how Batman introduces himself? We know that Sub-human Batman has already thought of Robin as a "brat." I'm gonna skip Psycho Batman. When Batman's supposed to sound tough, it just reads as prissy to me.
Yes, guys, I know that you're not trying to appeal to kids. You've got a foul mouthed Vicki Vale and her panties riding up her ass. Yes, Frank, I know that censorship is bad because it's censorship. But you didn't create any of these characters so it's not the same thing, is it?
Comic people fall into two groups. The larger group would genuinely like to bring in new readership and that means getting kids back into reading comics. The other group is this weird contingent of the macho and the artistic types that don't give a shit if kids read comics. Elements like Robin, a kid hero, appeal to little kids, if they get a chance to see the character and the comics. This book is an opportunity, but they gave it to you two guys. Dumb move.
Frank, I know you'll say that kids should be able to read this stuff, that you wouldn't have a problem with your own kids reading it. How old are you kids? 23, 24? I don't trust your judgment.
Ah, here are the Hype-guys! You know Frank and Jim. Hype-guys, I'm about to wrap up but I want to tell you before we go: stop treating comic fans like they're stupid.
NEW THUNDERBOLTS #10
Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Penciller: Tom Grummett
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
I love it when a plan comes together.
Since issue one of this THUNDERBOLTS relaunch something has be amiss. Between the rather clandestine way this new line up of the team has come together, and some rather eyebrow-raising erratic behavior from the characters (well, even more than usual from this kind of bunch) there’s just been something that hasn’t felt right. But now we have most of our answers, and I like the end result of this puzzle that has been displayed before us.
What we’re seeing here has been a grand orchestration since issue one. Since then we’ve seen a new team assembled, disassembled, then assembled again, and now they’ve gone back to being at each others’ throats… but now the reasoning behind it is clear and making much more sense. Apparently Zebediah Killgrave, AKA The Purple Man, has been running our team in circles since day one. As this issue progresses, all with an overlying narrative done by our said antagonist that is really quite fun to read, we “listen” as he slowly unfolds his scheme. Since the beginning he was the one who has caused the infighting, and the doubt, and even dissent between our teammates. And now he’s causing all sorts of havoc as he has framed original Thunderbolter Mockingbird for multiple homicides, turning the team against her as she flees with the new Swordsman, with the THUNDERBOLTS on her tail as well as half the city under Killgrave’s control.
All this plus at the end of the book we watch as Killgrave’s plans within the team start to take shape, with much brutality to come, and a cliffhanger that comes out of nowhere to make me smile and somewhat groan all at the same time.
I know that sounds like a lot, but trust me, going back through the previous issues this has all unfolded very well. As we watch the characters bind together you can always feel that there’s something on the horizon, and now we know what it was. As everything comes to a head in this issue you can just feel how well it matches up with Killgrave’s narrative throughout this issue. It really does take on the notion of him being the “writer” all along and gives us a feel of suspense as we still don’t really know who’s a pawn of the Purple Man’s, or hell, if they’re all just pawns. Also, the action and violence kicks it up to 11 here as we watch the team going at it with Killgrave’s pawns, both from within the team and the city’s denizens as they begin to riot at his command. Add to that the ever increasing mystery of just who exactly is this new Swordman and you’ve got yourself a real page turner in this issue.
Between all of the above elements, and some really great art by the always competent Tom Grummett, this series is becoming quite the ride. It all got off to a shaky start, but now we see why. And with it, this book is truly coming into its own and becoming one of Marvel’s best and most riveting titles.
Writers: Geoff Johns/Allan Heinberg
Artists: Chris Batista/Mark Farmer
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
You know, just a couple of weeks back I was sharing my frustration over the bastard-Batman appearing in THE OMAC PROJECT. Now here I am complaining about bastard-Hawkman appearing in JLA. Hawkman, as he's been portrayed ever since IDENTITY CRISIS (which means it's all retroactive characterization making him an s.o.b. in all those fun little past adventures too), is a full-on bloody bastard. By the point that Matter Master was slicing through Hawkman's shoulder with that shield, I was kind of hoping he really would slice Carter's arm off.
Remember 20 years back when the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS hit? One of the story-telling charms that occurred during CRISIS and its various tie-in comics was the opportunity to team up characters from different time periods and alternate Earths for the first, and maybe last, time. Well, that's kind of the overall surface-level feeling I had while reading this month's JLA. The Secret Society of Super-Villains are on the scene -- but not in the VILLAINS UNITED form. Instead, here they are in their grand, glorious, mid-to-late-70s form even down to the lame green-hooded orange costume of the Wizard (though what's with the baggy pirate-shirt sleeves instead of the even more dorky tanktop he actually wore in the 70s?). Chronos is there in his hideously garish old costume. The non-Carol Ferris Star Sapphire's there in all her inexplicable psycho-ness. The Floronic Man is back from his hijack into Vertigo-land so many years ago. Finally, there's Felix Faust in all his towel-headed costume silliness. I don't remember any guy named Matter Master in the SSOSV back then, but whatever.
So, here I am settled into a 70s groove and then my face gets fish-slapped by Catwoman in all her postmodern leather and goggles embarrassment. Somebody get that girl back into that sexy purple-skirted thing she wore back in the 70s. Meow. Later, up pops Zatanna in all her fishnet glory, but, oops what a waste of a great character. To complete the 70s membership, they're carrying around all the broken up parts of the now-expressionless-faced Red Tornado. I don't know what all's up with that. Wasn't there a whole big story point way back when where Reddy wanted a more human-like face and that's what he got? Not sure why he would then feel comfortable going back to the expressionless face. [This review's O.C.D. art quibble: apparently Green Lantern now has the ability to become Giant Green Lantern if you look at the last panel on page 12. Needed a taller panel or a different angle. I know he's supposed to be floating there, but as it sits right now, now matter how you slice it, GL looks like he's about the size of Mighty Joe Young there.]
OK. Now that that's all out of the way, what happened in this comic? Well, that scene on the cover for one. Of course, problem with that is that it was basically a sucker punch. Hawkman wasn't expecting it AND he'd just finished having one of his arms sewn back on. So, when Batman lost control there and busted Carter's face, it came off to me a bit like an out-of-character crybaby tantrum by Batman taking a little bit of advantage of the fact that Carter's not physically up to par right now. So, CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE has substituted Crybaby-Batman for Bastard-Batman. I at least prefer the crybaby version telling everybody to go home cause he doesn't wanna play anymore cause they were mean to him. Especially with that mean playground bully Hawkman getting in his face. If it hadn't been for Coach Lantern, I bet Hawkbully would'a pounded Crybabyman with his mace.
Also, Johns and Heinberg make an attempt to play "Messrs. Fixit" here and fix one of Meltzer's worst storytelling mistakes back in IDENTITY CRISIS -- the character evisceration of Zatanna. Under Meltzer's laptop transmission, Zatanna was retroactively reduced to a weak-willed girl who allowed herself to be bullied into raping the minds of villain's and heroes by super-bastard Hawkman. If nothing else good comes out of this CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE story arc, at least Johns and Heinberg have addressed the Zatanna problem and restored a bit of Zee's strength of character by having her step up and claim the blame for the whole thing. That's good. I just wish all the bottles of bad characterization hadn't been spilled in ID CRISIS in the first place forcing Johns and others to spend this whole last year mopping up and figuring out how to restore proper characterization to these characters while acknowledging and springboarding forward from the events and actions that occurred in that series.
I'm not hating this CRISIS arc in JLA. In fact, I'm appreciating what it is attempting to do with respect to continuity and the work of previous writers. That right there is an admirably professional approach that's disturbingly unique in the modern comics industry. Best of all, just when jaded Prof thought he didn't have it in him anymore, he let loose a giddy fanboy "Yeah!" when he got to the last page and discovered whose glowing red eyes those were in Part One that restored the memories of the SSOSV. Sitting there in all his fin-headed glory. He's the totally logical villain of the piece but still took me completely by surprise.
THE LIFE & TIMES OF $CROOGE MCDUCK (TPB)
Writer/Artist: Don Rosa
Publisher: Gemstone Publishing
Reviewer: Dave Farabee
“Scrooge and his creator Carl Barks belong in the great mainstream of American Folklore.”
-TIME MAGAZINEThis being Ain’t-It-Cool-News and all our readers being hipper-than-hip, I’m betting you’re like me when it comes to Disney ‘toons versus Warner Brothers ‘toons: Warners all the way, baybee! Bugs Bunny versus Mickey Mouse? Please, it’s not even a contest. Warner Brothers is the home of subversiveness, Disney’s the home of sitcom schtick. Warner Brothers is Lenny Bruce, Disney is Bob Hope.
Imagine my surprise then, when I learned years ago that Disney comics - especially the “Disney Duck” comics…especially the Carl Barks-cartooned stories of the ‘40s and ‘50s…especially the adventures of Donald Duck’s miserly uncle, Scrooge McDuck – were held in highest regard by comic book aficionados! None other than George Lucas himself penned the introduction to an ‘80s reprint of favorite Uncle Scrooge stories (“These comics are one of the few things you can point to and say: like it or not, this is what America is.”), and it’s Uncle Scrooge we’re interested in today.
The question you’re all asking, of course: Just what the hell is the appeal of an aging, adventure-seeking Scottish duck with more money than God?!
Don Rosa’s THE LIFE AND TIMES OF $CROOGE MCDUCK is as good an answer as you’re likely to find. Written and drawn in the early ‘90s, it’s a twelve-part story chronicling the formative years of Scrooge McDuck. It’s an adventure, it’s a comedy, it’s what they used to call a “funny animal” story. Rosa, considered by many a Disney Duck fan to be Barks’ only true successor, approached the project with an obsession for detail to rival Alan Moore’s FROM HELL. His goal was to read every Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge story and incorporate every reference the old coot made to his past adventures (and he made lots of ‘em!) into a sprawling, globe-hopping tale that would also be steeped in real American and world history from the period (late 1800s/early 1900s).
Sound insane? Big time, but it won 1995’s Eisner Award for “Best Serialized Story”, so show some respect!
Or better yet, find out why you should show some respect. At its heart, Uncle Scrooge’s life is a Horatio Alger story by way of Indiana Jones, lensed through an animator’s screwball sensibilities. I got a real kick out of the opening few pages, the omniscient narrator reflecting on Uncle Scrooge swimming around in his famous money vault and posing the question of just how he earned it. Scrooge pauses in his fun, turns to the reader, and growls, “None of your goldurn business!”
It’s an appropriately rambunctious keynote, but the narrator coolly responds, “Oh so?”, and Scrooge’s protestations aside, we’re off! It all begins in the moors of Scotland, where a penniless young Scrooge vows to strike it rich through hard work and return prestige to the long-suffering Clan McDuck. Let’s jump ahead, though, to peek in on a more exciting chapter and see what makes these things tick. “Master of the Mississippi” is a particular favorite…
[Sidebar: the reason these stories are set so long ago is that, of course, they need to be to jibe with the Barks stories of ‘40s and ‘50s, which had a then-aged Scrooge talking about prospecting for gold in his younger days, serving as a cowpoke, etc. Rosa’s even drawn up a timeline, with Scrooge’s birth in 1867, and yes, even his death 100 years later.]
Like every chapter in LIFE AND TIMES, “Master of the Mississippi” sets its stage with a map of the relevant countryside in the first panel. The maps, always bounded by Scrooge’s adventuring gear, provide a nice sense of historicity...cartoon ducks notwithstanding! This time out it’s 1880 and Scrooge has made his way to a wonderfully-rendered Louisville, Kentucky. Like all of Rosa’s settings, Louisville’s drawn with dense R. Crumb-meets-Disney detail and hatching, bringing to life the muddy riverbanks, massive riverboats, and roughneck saloons. These detailed backdrops become playscapes for Scrooge, his friends, and his enemies to vault and caper over with animated glee and endearing exasperation. It’s like a stop-motion-animated flick, creating its own kind of dreamlike (but somehow believable) reality for the viewer to lose himself in.
Scrooge finds himself chasing after the salvage rights to the mysterious Drennan Whyte, a famed riverboat that supposedly sank carrying a hundred grand in government gold. The Whyte was a real tall tale of the era, Rosa notes in his meticulous and readable afterward to the chapter, the first of many historical “easter eggs”. The villains of the piece are the ancestors of the Beagle Boys, the dog-faced baddies who’re the recurring black hats in Scrooge’s adventures. This first squaring off with Scrooge is one of the many such “historic” moments in the story, but lest you think it’s all continuity geeking…there’s riverboat racing, sunken towns, and big explosions! The set piece of the story, though, has to be a showdown in the sunken Drennan Whyte, only partially flooded at the river bottom and perfect for creepy exploring.
And that’s just a single chapter of twelve, each self-contained but building on the others. LIFE AND TIMES really is the epitome of the all-ages story. I can’t say the writing is brilliant per se, but it’s got verve and wit, it’s got twists and turns, and it has that indefinable quality of so many great kids’ yarns – it makes you feel good to read it. If that sounds corny, move on, smartass! But know that the story’s not without its moments of pathos, especially in the latter chapters. America’s at the heart Scrooge’s travels, but he does his share of globetrotting and at his lowest ebb in one story, makes a shameful decision while mining diamonds in Africa. Later, as his money begins the pile, he starts abandoning family and friends. Rosa, an avowed classic movie buff, even makes an explicit comparison to CITIZEN KANE in the moving final chapter. Will the once square-deal Scrooge – whom we’ve seen battling claim jumpers, fighting alongside Teddy Roosevelt (no kiddin’), and dodging flash floods in Australia’s deserts – sacrifice his old-fashioned values in a fit of greed and misanthropy?
I say drop the mere seventeen bucks this ultra-packed volume costs and find out your own dang self! You’ll get a kick out of the continuity geek stuff like Scrooge first donning his famous pince-nez or getting his first kick in the pants from nephew, Donald, but more than that, you’ll get one of the most guileless examples of comic book escapism since Marvel’s Silver Age! And it’s a lot of reading, ta boot. Twelve issues, seven or eight panels a page, detailed art dotted with Harvey Kurtzmanesque visual gags, fond interstitial reflections from Rosa (who even cops to it when he fudges a detail here and there), and plenty of bonus material like cover reproductions, family trees, and layouts for unused pages.
If there’s a better comic buy all year, I’ll eat Uncle Scrooge’s top hat.
Writer: Andersen Gabrych
Penciller: Chris Marrinan
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
Why? Just why?
Is this really even necessary?
This latest issue of Batman kicks off a month long, four-part mini-crossover with DETECTIVE COMICS called WAR CRIMES, that is supposed to work off of last years lackluster BATMAN crossover WAR GAMES. But why? Even though last years crossover had its own troubles, it wrapped up pretty conclusively. Batman’s newest sidekick, Spoiler, was dead, Black Mask was the newest Crime lord of Gotham, and Oracle’s Watchtower lay in ruins. And now, DC has decided that in the midst of all the INFINITE CRISIS tie-ins, and all the events now going on with Jason Todd in BATMAN, AND in the middle of David Lapham’s 12-part storyline in DETECTIVE, we apparently need to add this to the mix as well. Really, I just don’t see why this story even needs to be told. And it doesn’t help that it’s off to a very uninteresting start.
Here’s the basic gist of the book. Apparently during WAR GAMES, Black Mask has the Mad Hatter implant one of his mind control chips directly into Killer Croc’s brain in order to use him as an unwilling ally. Eventually though Croc becomes aware of something wrong with his head. And in an admittedly humorous bit through the first half of the book, we see him digging at his skull, and even digging into it, to the point where eventually he digs through it and finds the chip in the soft tissue of his brain.
And then the killing begins as Croc spends the rest of the issue wading through foot soldiers trying to get to the Hatter, and Batman is on his trail trying to stop him and save him at the same time, as apparently Croc’s genetic make-up is now unstable due to what Hush did to him in that storyline.
Seriously though, the story itself could be somewhat fun enough if it just wasn’t forced to run through these titles. If DC could just decide what they were doing with LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, I would say this belongs there. But apparently they’re still holding on to that title as being the “free-roaming, anything goes” BATMAN title, except, y’know, whenever there’s a Crossover to be had. As it stands though we have a book here with a couple minor fun bits, but somewhat erratic pacing and a really mildly boring storyline combined with some decently competent art. Feel my excitement.
BANANA SUNDAY #1 (of 4)
Root Nibot: Writer
Colleen Coover: Artist
Oni Press: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Monkey Brain
This book stars talking monkeys.
What, you need more than that? Talking monkeys, people! Everyone loves talking monkeys, and these ones are hilarious.
Well, strictly speaking there’s only one actual monkey. Called Knobby, he bears a bit of a resemblance to a young Frank Sinatra. In fact, due to his having gained his communication skills from old romance comics, he has a similar effect on the ladies. The two other primates are Chuck, an orangutan who resembles a more erudite version of Unseen University’s Librarian, and Go-Go the baby gorilla. Go-Go is easily the funniest of the three, bellowing out “Two bananas plus two bananas equals oh boy it’s naptime!” then promptly falling asleep. He kinda reminds me of Schleppy, our own AWOL mascot. (The little diaper-wearing freak went to see Fantastic Four and never came back.)
These three primates are in the care of Kirby Steinberg, an accident-prone teenage girl whose father is testing an experimental learning system on our little trio. As a part of the program, these three clowns are now attending school alongside Kirby. Unfortunately, Kirby’s new friend Nickels is quickly becoming obsessed with finding out just how these chimps learned to talk and writing about it in the school paper.
Writer Root Nibot, (aka Paul Tobin,) has a real sense of whimsy at play here. The obvious monkey jokes work, of course, but there’s plenty of funny little touches at work as well, such as Kirby’s groggy “I denounce you” to her alarm clock on Monday morning. The writing is also complimented to perfection by Colleen Coover’s cute as anything artwork, especially the wild physical comedy of Go-Go. Coover is the mind behind SMALL FAVORS, the world’s most adorable lesbian porn comic. Don’t worry, this book is pure PG. In either case, Coover’s style is pure fun on the page, with sweet looking girls and silly little monkeys. A perfect combination, if you ask me.
This book is funny, no question. I’m also rather anxious to see what the “real” source of these intelligent apes might be. But really, that’s all just a bonus. The real joy here is the funny talking monkeys. Buh-Nanners!
RANN-THANAGAR WAR #3 (of 6)
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artists: Ivan Reis/Mark Campos
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
Wow! This Reis guy's art knocks me out. He's like the love-child of Neal Adams and Carlos Pacheco. None of that "I can't draw so I'll just throw a bunch of lines on everything" nonsense parade begun back when Liefeld entered the field. Dynamic but accurate anatomy. Cinematic angles. Dramatic movement. Unafraid to use shading techniques. I haven't seen his un-inked pencils, but I also attribute some of the great look of the art to the inker, Mark Campos. I don't know if he's inking digitally or not, but he gets in there and works it with what look like old-style inking techniques. There are what look like brushstrokes, penlines, razorblade scratches, spackling, the works. It's work like what these guys are doing that make RANN-THANAGAR WAR the best looking title in the round of post-COUNTDOWN miniseries leading to the INFINITE CRISIS.
Other than the art, let me say, I totally appreciate the scope that Gibbons is working with here. He's pulling in DC characters from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and modern day, and totally making it work. I can't wait for Space Ranger or the Star Rovers to show up. Representing the 50s, we've got Capt. Comet and Adam Strange. Representing the 60s, we've got Hawkman and the Thanagarians. Representing the 70s, we've got Prince Gavyn/Starman (Loved seeing Prince Gavyn again. Thought he was dead.) Representing the 80s, we've got Blackfire, Warlords of Okarra, and the Omega Men. Representing the 90s, we've got L.E.G.I.O.N., the Dominion, and the new Hawkwoman. Representing current day, we've got the new Hawkgirl and Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern. This comic has a lotta characters and a lot happening.
Differently than in a real war, where there's a whole ton of downtime broken up by intensive fighting, this series puts us in the middle of a cosmic war that is mainly action and fighting broken up by an occasional plot-moving slow moment. I'm especially enjoying the interaction between Capt. Comet and Kyle. As I recall, Capt. Comet originally encountered a version of the Guardians of the Universe years before DC introduced Hal Jordan as the Silver Age Green Lantern. Also, Comet has never had a lot of interaction with the widespread DC Universe continuity outside of a largely ignored attempt at making him relevant as the token hero in the SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS comic and, I think, a role in L.E.G.I.O.N. years ago. So, his attitude about all this is different than someone who's been on the daily world-saving diet of your average DC super-hero. Comet is like your basic grizzled old tough guy military man and with telepathic abilities.
Comet and Kyle are on the destroyed surface of Thanagar where they come face to face with Onimar Synn, the Lord of the Undead and his zombie warriors. Not a pretty sight. Really, though, this entire war has not been pretty. I mean, Rann really put themselves out on a limb here and offered their world to the Thanagarians, and they've paid a deadly price. Turns out modern-day interpretation of Thanagarians is that they're like a bunch of bloodthirsty Nazis or something. Maybe that explains why Hawkman's suddenly a retroactive angry bastard. Now that the bastard's dead in his own book, let's see someone just resurrect the Earth-2 Carter Hall withOUT any of this Thanagarian blood tainting him. Sheesh.
I especially love seeing the prominent leadership role that Adam Strange is taking in this comic and I hold hopes that this treatment will continue beyond INFINITE CRISIS. Adam has always been a great but underutilized character with lots of potential. Seems the current crop of writers, including Gibbons here, feel the same way and are treating him right. Best character interaction involves the confrontation between Hawkgirl and Hawkwoman. I've watched the character development of this new Hawkgirl since she was introduced and it is nice to see her so bold and confident. She cuts right through the obfuscating b.s. being thrown around by all sides in this war and deals back straight. She tells them who the "true" enemies are at work in this conflagration and calls for them to unite against the true enemies. So, by the end, shaky agreements have been made between trustworthy and untrustworthy allies which shifts the power balance of both the series and the war.
I look forward to seeing how it ultimately builds to the final battle and climax. I'm also looking forward to the fallout. RANN-THANAGAR WAR is easily the most consistently satisfying of these CRISIS countdown mini-series. Fingers crossed that Gibbons and Reis do not disappoint.
GENSHIKEN VOLUME 1
Writer/Artist: Kio Shimoku
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Reviewed by superhero
There’s a big problem with some of the translated manga out there.
The thing is, I can’t figure out whether the problem is with the translation of the manga or the actual work itself.
See, with the first volume of a lot of the manga series that I’ve read the opening chapters tend to be a bit jumbled and confusing. It’s hard to figure out who’s who at times, what each character’s motivations are, what the general plot is, or something as simple as who the word balloon is pointing at when someone is speaking. I can’t figure out whether the reason for this is because it’s the first volume of the series and the writer/artist is still finding their way with getting the story together or if the actual translators were lazy with their job and didn’t actually sit down and make sure that all the dialogue made sense once it was worked out. Whatever the problem actually is, it can lead to a slightly frustrating read when you first pick up a new book, which isn’t a good thing. Every once in a while I’ll pick up a manga book and just feel like throwing it out the window because it’s such a pain in the ass to figure out what’s going on. Is it the actual artist/writer? Is it the American manga publishing company’s fault? Or is it my lack of patience and intelligence? I don’t know, but if I pay $10.95 for a manga it better damn well be a satisfying read.
Genshiken suffers from this exact problem.
The basic plot of this series is something that I, as a comic fan, should love. Basically, Genshiken is about manga/comic/anime/videogame fanatics in Japan. It’s something I should identify with, right? But because of the problems in the storytelling it became a bit frustrating to figure out some of the opening chapters of the book. A lot of it is simplistic enough so it’s not too hard to sort it out but my biggest frustration was with the placing of the word bubbles. At times it’d be a great big pain in the ass just trying to figure out what character said what. It wasn’t impossible to figure out (it is a comic after all) but it certainly didn’t help out with the reading experience.
The thing is, while the reading can be confusing at times, as the book progresses the characters tend to grow on you and the semi-familiar situations help you identify with them as the story goes through its paces.
The book follows the exploits of an otaku fan club in Japan. For the uninitiated of you out there otaku is the Japanese word for “fan” or “fanatic” usually in reference to anime or manga collectors. Central to the story are three main characters who are just joining up with the Genshiken fan club, also known as The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture: Kanji Sasahara, Saki Kasukabe, and Makoto Kousaka.
Kanji is the character that most readers of comics will more than likely identify with. He loves comics but is still at the stage where he’s ashamed of his obsession. He spends most of the book trying to hide the fact that he likes manga/anime and continually becomes embarrassed when someone discovers his hobby. He spends a big chunk of the early chapters just trying to decide whether or not he’s going to join the Genshiken club because he doesn’t even know if wants to be associated with comics in the first place. Kanji’s character is endearing and frustrating all at the same time as he can be a big reminder of the time when, and I’m sure most comic fans went through this, a lot of comic lovers were mortified to admit that they actually enjoyed comic books. Kanji, however, is a big reason why the book succeeds because as he finally decides to join up with the club he begins to gain some sort of pride in his hobby. He becomes more comfortable with the fact that, yes, he likes comic books and not only that, he enjoys hanging out with the other geeks that make up the club. He grows as a character and experiences all of the weird stuff that all of us comic fans come to discover. Everything from overcrowded conventions to fans who like to dress up as their favorite characters to porno comics to first discovering the wonder of a female comics fan (whose tastes, in their own way, are as bizarre as his own).
The other two leads add some comedic relief but tend to lack some depth. Makoto is the complete flipside of Kanji. He’s completely open about the fact that he’s an otaku and loves every aspect of his obsession. He’s the comic fan that most of us grow to become in that he’s proud he loves comics while being completely oblivious to the fact that, to most people, comic people are considered a bit outside the mainstream. Unfortunately, this tends to drive Saki crazy because she is completely superficial, has no love for manga or anime, and is all too aware of the fact that others see it as not the hippest lifestyle in the world. The problem is she’s been completely in love with Makoto from since they were kids. She can’t get over him, she’s head over heels. The thing is he just doesn’t fit her view of what her perfect boyfriend should act like so Saki spends most of the book trying to seduce Kanji away from the Genshiken club. It’s a futile effort, though. It seems that Kanji loves comics more than he loves her and that drives Saki up the wall with frustration. This works itself into a cute dynamic throughout the book and climaxes with Saki being so at the end of her rope that she actually ends up joining the Genshiken club.
Personally, I think the whole Saki/Kanji dynamic is fantastic as I’m sure there are plenty of women/girls out there who have to deal with the problem of getting sucked into their significant other’s obsession with comics/movies/videogames/etc. I know my wife has to deal with it. It’s really something that hasn’t been addressed in any comic series that I know of and a humorous spin is put on it so it’s a welcome part of the larger story. The only thing I didn’t buy into was the fact that Kanji would be completely oblivious to Saki’s advances. I mean, a comic fan who has a cute girl following him around and he doesn’t get that she wants to be with him? Um, yeah, not in the real world. In the real world a comic geek would drop to his feet and thank the gods of both Marvel and DC that an attractive girl would want to spend time with him. But, hey, this is a comic and it plays off as amusing so I was willing to let it go for the most part.
All in all Genshiken is a good little book. The art is great and the characters can be endearing especially if you’re a comic fan. The only thing that keeps it from being a flawless coming-of-age tale is, as I said before, the fact that it can be a bit of a pain to read. But in my experience with manga a lot of the translation/storytelling issues tend to be resolved in the volumes that follow the first. If anyone at Del Rey Manga is reading this I hope this is the case because a lot of fans could be turned off by the book’s layout problems. In my case, though, I’m willing to give the second volume of Genshiken a look and I think that any fan of manga or comics in general might want to give it a look. It’s not perfect but it’s got potential and a story that a lot of comic fans may identify with.
Remember, if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.
Remember, if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.
AMAZING FANTASY #10This book’s two week’s old, but I’m still gonna take a moment of your valuable time to say that Scorpion’s story continues to impress. Remember Brian Vaughan’s spy-babe take on Mystique a year or two back? Fun enough stuff, but Mystique – essentially a terrorist and assassin - probably wasn’t the best vehicle for lighter spy adventure. The new Scorpion? Much better fit. The highlight this time out is a new look at techno-terrorists A.I.M., outfitted with a new pitch line for helping third world nations through technology. It’s still pretty lightweight, but Scorpion’s adventures continue to make the case that Marvel’s newer heroes – Young Avengers, Runaways, Livewires – are currently more interesting than its venerable legends. - Dave
DESOLATION JONES #2What I think we have here is the beginning of a successful heir to the legacy of TRANSMETROPOLITAN. We’ve got a lead character that is as big a mixed bag as Spider Jerusalem ever was. He’s a tragic figure, he’s hateful and resentful, but he’s also kind and gentle as well. He’s got a mission but he’s really not sure why he’s bothering with it. We’re starting to see a nice cast of secondary characters develop too, with some more exposure to Jones’ own “Filthy Assistant” and the introduction of Emily, a girl who through experimentation gives off pheromones that make it impossible for almost all people to around her due the feelings of fear and revulsion it stirs in them. She’s a terribly gloomy and tragic character that I can’t wait to see more of. Plus we have hands down some of the top art on the market from J.H. Williams III and a mystery involving Hitler porn too boot. Those things right there are enough to make this one of the best reads on the stands. - Humphrey
FABLES #39Who knew this book could survive without Bigby Wolf in the lead? But not only has it done that, it’s thrived, still as brilliant and darkly humorous as ever. A new alpha-male takes the stage this issue – Mowgli of Kipling’s JUNGLE BOOK – and the Beast and Mayor Charming have plans to put him to use striking back at The Adversary. I’m dying to see what Boy Blue’s up to back in the Homelands, but this is the kind of “meanwhile” issue you can get used to, highlighted by Mowgli’s interactions with old pals Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear. - Dave
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR # 21Ok, I admit it, I was duped. When the last issue of this title came out I made a little sarcastic remark about “Next issue we get exactly what I expected but never wanted from these Ultimate titles, a Crossover with the regular Marvel Universe.” And that’s exactly where Mark Millar wanted me. I should have known something was up when Marvel was actually seemingly playing this event out without their usual bit of over-the-top hype, but then again I’ve been trying to avoid said hype for months now and really just tuned it out. And then I get this and I’m pleasantly surprised. What we have here is an issue that starts out like a FF book should--the team is out handling some baddies, but definitely in a more adventurous and science fictionish way. The team acts like they should, with good bits of joking and bickering back and forth between them. And then, as it builds to the end and you’re waiting for the inevitable… BAM! Millar kicks you in the bollocks and laughs at you for falling for such an obvious ploy. - Humphrey
SEVEN SOLDIERS: GUARDIAN #3 (of 4)Grant “Morrisons-out” a bit in this issue, but I do love the premise: newspaper-sponsored hero Guardian duking it out with international robots in the bizarre setting of “Century Hollow”. It’s an international theme park ala Disney’s Epcot, meant to encapsulate earth’s population of six billion with 100 representative robots. So for example, only 30 robots are white, 70 non-white. Six of them control most of the wealth, and all of them live in America. 80 in substandard housing. Only one owns a computer. You get the idea - Morrison takes a fun statistics experiment and turns it into WESTWORLD! Where it derails slightly is with Morrison’s dialogue veering into that almost non-sequitur territory he enjoys, while some of the background soap operatics between our hero and his girl felt oddly traditional. Concept trumps specifics, making it all quite readable, but it’s still GUARDIAN’s weakest outing. - Dave
NEW AVENGERS #7Simply put, Brian Michael Bendis is getting better. Or at least he is on NEW AVENGERS. While this comic is still an over-hyped monster ill-able to match the ballyhoo heaped upon it by Joey Q and the writer himself, I’ve enjoyed Bendis’ take on the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. As much as he gets some of his characters wrong (i.e. Cap’s lack of a spine when he caved to Iron Man’s inane rationale that Wolverine belongs on the team in the last issue), he gets a whole lot of things right in this issue. In this one, Bendis writes *gasp* a fight scene. And not the type of fight scene where all of the action is over in seconds because the mandate at Marvel seems to be that every villain is a walking joke these days. In this issue, we get an honest to goodness, extended slugfest between the Wrecker and Cage, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, and Spider-Man. One that is well written and doesn’t castrate the villain to make one wonder why he was ever thought of as a threat in the first place. AND it carries over into the next issue, none-the-fuckin-less! Alright Bendis! This was a fun issue with a big fight, a nice meeting of the minds involving the big brains and brawn of the Marvel U (although this is a bit like a lazy VILLAINS UNITED riff, if you ask me), a big mystery involving the Sentry, and an even bigger revelation/cliffhanger in the end. Thinking about the ramifications of the revelation/cliffhanger makes my brain hurt, but I am interested in seeing where Bendis is going with this. - Ambush Bug
ZOMBIE KING #0Zombie cow-rape, get’cher zombie cow-rape! Yes, friends, Frank Cho brings his high-brow humor to the horror genre, and I’ll say this: it’s at least more entertaining than his softcore work on SHANNA. About half the issue is an almost-amusing sequence of a yokel farmer and his kid trying to stop a zombie from copulating with their cows, the rest is by-the-numbers government cover-up stuff about how the zombies came to be and why they want to fuck everything. Cho’s art, generally considered his strong suit, doesn’t do much for me. He’s got the anatomy stuff down, good visual balance, solid timing, but where are the backgrounds? Nowhere, it seems. And why does every character either have no shading or the same faux-dramatic swatch of shadow running down their face? It seems to be taken for granted the guy’s an artistic genius, but he’s not even in the ballpark of his inspirations like Wally Wood and Al Williamson. Consider this one a big ol’ “pass” for me, but fans of the twisted might be interested. I did laugh when the zombie tripped over his own spilled intestines, so that’s something. - Dave
PUNISHER #23This issue is mid-arc, but since we haven’t covered the first few issues of this one, I felt the need to give it a shout out. Although Garth Ennis has had the annoying tendency to focus on supporting characters more than Frank Castle in the past, his entire run with the MAX line has proven to have some great Punisher character moments peppered in here and there. Ennis is more selective with said pepper in this arc, focusing on a wannabe street tough who wants to rule the underworld and tries to do so by pissing on the corpses of the Punisher’s family. Of course Frank is pissed. More pissed than ever before. The death toll is upped and the carnage flies furiously in this arc. Frank tries to deal with his rage and may be gaining a new partner in crime. This arc is moving slower than previous ones, devoting entire issues to supporting players, but Ennis takes the time to toss us into the mind of the Punisher more than in his previous series and we find out that it is a dark place indeed. - Bug
NEW WARRIORS #2 (of 6)Me? Not so big on the wonky superhero stuff like FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE, but somehow this book’s ha-ha’s actually make me laugh. Is it the fact that I don’t have any particular attachment to the New Warriors, so they’re okay to throw in a lighthearted book? Maybe, but I’ve always been a Nova fan, so…hmm…I think the book might just be legitimately funny. This second issue brings the young reality-show heroes to a zoo in Kansas that just might be the staging ground for an animal uprising. It’s a great venue for artist Skottie Young, who’s clearly taken Disney’s TARZAN to heart, and his rendering of some of my favorite Marvel U. apes might just be definitive. Wells keeps the laughs coming as the team struggles to be effective under the supervision of a shrewish PETA-style spokesperson, but what impressed me most was that under all the silliness, the heroes themselves weren’t spoofed and the story was actually pretty keen. It also had one of those endings that I thought only Dan Slott could pull off, where you hit that last panel and you just have to grin. Highly recommended.- Dave
Howdy folks, Dave Farabee here introducing an all-new feature for the column where I ninja-loot news from other websites! I'm talking comic-centric places like Newsarama, The Pulse, Comic Book Resources, and all those gossip-packed message boards out there.
Want detailed info? Hit those sources. What we're here to give you is the highlight reel, the talking points, the info snacks, the bite-sized nuggets of knowledgy goodness! And it’s still a whopper of a feature this week as we continue to ride in the wake of the massive info-dump that is the San Diego Comic-Con. Check out this concise overview of the week’s news and be sure to click on the links for images and such. Let not my coding be in vain!
* Upcoming box-set CD by punk band The Ramones to include a 52-page graphic novel featuring art by luminaries such as Sergio Aragones, Jim Woodring, William Stout, and Bill Griffith.
* Bill “FABLES” Willingham has renewed his exclusive contract with DC Comics for two years.
* Warren Ellis provides commentary on DESOLATION JONES #1.
* New SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM to debut in September from Dynamic Forces.
* Reginald “BLACK PANTHER” Hudlin has signed on as President of Entertainment for the network BET.
* Dan Slott will write a new ongoing series starring The Thing in November. Andrea “STORMBREAKER” Di Vito draws.
* Microsoft has signed an exclusive to publish Marvel massively multiplayer online games for the Xbox.
* Trailer for the BONE video game.
* Jeph Loeb writes, Darwyn “NEW FRONTIER” Cooke draws a BATMAN/SPIRIT one-shot in December. Cooke launches a new SPIRIT ongoing in 2006.
* New Line Cinema has acquired the film rights to Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’s EX MACHINA.
* Cloak & Dagger make a return appearance in RUNAWAYS issues 9-12.
* Bill “FABLES” Willingham apparently has a story idea for a meeting between Batman and FABLES’ own Bigby Wolf. No immediate plans to put it into action, though.
* Greg “GOTHAM CENTRAL” Rucka indicated the possibility of a new CHECKMATE ongoing in the wake of OMAC PROJECT.
* Spinning off of the miniseries MADROX and HOUSE OF M, Peter David has an ongoing X-FACTOR series in the works. Debuts in November, drawn by Ryan Sook.
* Peter David won’t be staying on INCREDIBLE HULK indefinitely. He leaves an issue after the HOUSE OF M tie-in arc ends.
* Thor returns in 2006. No details as yet.
* Kid superhero team Power Pack will crossover with the X-Men in October.
* Vertigo launches a monthly series called TESTAMENT in November. Series to focus on Biblical stories recurring in a modern context.
* Disney will be producing comics through Slave Labor Graphics. The opening salvo includes HAUNTED MANSION (October 2005), TRON (January 2006), and GARGOYLES and WONDERLAND debuting at unspecified dates.
* Paul Jenkins will be writing the series MYTHOS for Marvel, retelling the origins of major Marvel characters.
* Tokyopop will be producing manga based on various Jim Henson properties: LABYRINTH, THE DARK CRYSTAL, and the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean feature film, MIRRORMASK (opens on September 30th). The LABYRINTH manga will be a sequel, while the DARK CRYSTAL and MIRRORMASK manga are prequels.
* A new Captain Atom miniseries - CAPTAIN ATOM: ARMAGEDDON - debuts in October. Writing by Will Pfeifer, art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Sandra Hope, and covers by Jim Lee and Alex Ross. Will see Captain Atom bounced to the WildStorm universe with potentially major consequences for that setting.
* Brian “DEMO” Wood will write DMZ for DC’s Vertigo line, collaborating with Italian artist Ricardo Burchielli. The series follows a photojournalist who finds himself in the midst of a new civil war in America.
* February 2006 sees a new MOON KNIGHT miniseries written by Charlie Huston (a prose crime novelist) and drawn by David "NEW AVENGERS" Finch.
* Zeb "NEW WARRIORS" Wells will write the four-issue mini FANTASTIC FOUR/IRON MAN: BIG IN JAPAN in October. Seth "GREEN LANTERN: WILLWORLD" Fisher draws.
* MARVEL TEAM-UP #14 will star Robert Kirkman's creator-owned superhero, Invincible, who appears in the Image comic of the same name. More intercompany crossovers may follow if it's successful.
* J. Michael Straczynski will write THE BOOK OF LOST SOULS for Marvel. Art by Colleen Doran.
* POWER MAN & IRON FIST supporting players Colleen Wing and Misty Knight will appear in a new series, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, written by Jimmy "THE MONOLITH" Palmiotti. Promo image.
* SHE-HULK returns with Dan Slott writing in October. The series will return to the numbering begun with the John Byrne series, thus putting issue 100 within sight. Explains Dan Slott: "We are such whores."
* Frank Cho will draw several issues of NEW AVENGERS following Steve McNiven's arc. Spider-Woman to be spotlighted.
* Marvel will announce a new X-STATIX project in the near future.
* Joe Casey will write FANTASTIC FOUR: FIRST FAMILY, a six-issue miniseries debuting in January. Focus will be on the team's early years, ala Casey's AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES.
* Joss Whedon and John Cassaday will remain on ASTONISHING X-MEN at least through issue #25.
* Warren Ellis has an unnamed team book coming up from Marvel. Announcements within a month.
* Sean McKeever will produce a new MARY JANE miniseries in October or November.
* Marvel’s big tease of the San Diego Comic-Con was this poster. It was shown at the end of Joe Quesada’s panel with Quesada dropping hints that the image related to a writer he’s always wanted to have at Marvel.
* Mark Waid has signed a two year exclusive with DC Comics. He'll continue on LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, write a new BRAVE AND THE BOLD miniseries, and also have some editorial consulting responsibilities ala Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison. Waid described BRAVE AND THE BOLD as being along the lines of JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED in its hero mixing. Waid's contract allows him to continue on his creator-owned Top Cow project, HUNTER-KILLER.
* Paul "100%" Pope will write and draw a four issue Batman prestige project titled BATMAN: YEAR 100. It imagines a Batman created in the year 2039 instead of 1939. Sample page 1. Sample page 2. Sample page 3. Sample page 4. Sample page 5.
* The creator and head writer of HBO's OZ, Tom Fontana, will write an original graphic novel titled BATMAN: HOPELESSNESS & FAITH. Cliff "HUMAN TARGET" Chiang draws.
* Matt "MAGE" Wagner writes and draws BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN in December, pitting Batman against a legion of creatures created by Hugo Strange and based on a story from the Golden Age.
* Free Comic Book Day for 2006 will occur on May 6th. No particular ties to a summer movie this outing.
* Antony Johnston, who recently became the first writer to fill in for Greg Rucka on QUEEN & COUNTRY, will write a post-apocalyptic-themed miniseries for Oni in Spring 2006. Title is WASTELAND.
* Craig “X-23” Yost takes over NEW X-MEN from Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir after HOUSE OF M. The new team includes: X-23, Surge, Hellion, Rockslide, Mercury, Elixir, and Dust.
* Sean McKeever returns with a new SENTINEL miniseries for Marvel in November. Udon to draw.
* Vertigo’s FABLES will get a hardcover anthology in the tradition of SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS. Titled FABLES: 1001 NIGHTS OF SNOWFALL, it will be written by Bill Willingham, feature art by Charles Vess, James Jean and others, and fill in the histories of the series’ major characters.
* FABLES will also have a spin-off called JACK OF FABLES following the further adventures of Jack after his flop as a movie mogul. Bill Willingham co-writes along with Matt Sturgis (new guy). Art is by Tony “HELLBLAZER: PAPA MIDNITE” Akins.
* Gilbert “LOVE & ROCKETS” Hernandez writes and draws the 128-page graphic novel SLOTH for Vertigo. Says Gilbert: “It's about a guy who decides he doesn't want to go to school one day and wills himself into a coma. When the boy returns to awareness a year later, he finds the world changed--assuming of course that he's actually really awake.”
* Steven “IT’S A BIRD” Seagle writes the new Vertigo series AMERICAN VIRGIN with Becky “DEMO” Cloonan on art. Vertigo editor Karen Berger calls it “controversial even for Vertigo” and Seagle says of the project: “It's a book about two of my most favorite pastimes today: sex and terrorism.”
* Howard Chaykin and David Tischman will be back with a new BITE CLUB miniseries, BITE CLUB: VAMPIRE CRIMES UNIT.
* Crime novelist Denise Mina becomes the first woman to write HELLBLAZER when Mike Carey’s run concludes later this year.
* Painter Kent Williams will adapt Darren “REQUIEM FOR A DREAM” Aronofsky’s screenplay for his pending movie, THE FOUNTAIN.
* Vertigo’s THE LOSERS will conclude early 2006.
* Richard and Wendy Pini will produce a new, underwater-themed Elfquest project titled ELFQUEST: DISCOVERY.
* McFarlane Productions has a