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#13 8/10/05 #4

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

Indie Jones presents KILLER STUNTS INC. #1-3
Indie Jones presents ELK’S RUN #3
Indie Jones presents SHOCKING GUN TALES


Writer: Ron Marz
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Jon Holdredge
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

I know this is pretty late for a review, but, oh well. I just find it interesting that in all these years of comics reading I've never read an issue of WITCHBLADE. I also never saw anything more than commercials for the WITCHBLADE TV series a few years back. So, I don't have a clue here what's gone on before.

That being said, I read this issue and thought it was a decent little comic. In fact, I read two issues back-to-back, 86 and 87. Both were anthological stand-alone stories with police detective Sara Pezzini as the lynchpin that the adventures revolve around. It strikes me as very NIGHTSTALKER-ish. Sara's got that funky Witchblade superpower, but basically she's a weirdness magnet like Carl Kolchak or Fox Mulder and gets drawn into supernatural cases that can't be tackled or solved by normal police officers.

This issue, specifically, flows like a TV episode. There's the pre-credits death scene. Then a lot of character time for Sara as she says goodbye to her mentor because she's been reassigned to the main police station in town - which, of course, puts her in close company with a future (or maybe past?) love interest in a detective named Gleason.

The monsters in this issue that she confronts during the last act are really creepy 19th century zombies calling themselves Nieuw Amsterdam and Quiet Tom. And I do mean reeeallll creepy.

The writing is very wordy, sort of belying the fact that it reads like a TV episode more than your average super-hero comic. The art was excellent - dark and moody. One thing, though, irritated me to no end. You know how that obnoxious move in recent years to utilize embedded advertising (blatant product placement) in TV and movies has reached YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE-level annoying? In this freakin' comic, "Jolt Cola" gets crammed into three panel backgrounds with bright coloring to make it more noticeable than the storytelling. Then there's an actual photo poster for "The Gear" inserted into two panels. Aarrrgh!

Dump the product placement and WITCHBLADE is a solid little supernatural/detective series. Much better than I thought it would be. Nice surprise.


Writer: Ed Brubaker
Penciler: Steve Epting
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

This... This is how a Captain America comic should be.

After giving us a breather of sorts from all the mayhem and madness surrounding Cap right now with last issue's "Ode to Jack Monroe" we dive right back into the thick of things with Part One of "The Winter Soldier." This issue shows (via flashbacks) us just how Cap managed to survive the fallout of a detonated W.M.D in the middle of Philadelphia, as well as him doing battle with those that were indirectly involved in causing all the destruction. All this is sewn in with Cap finally shown getting a breather from chasing down Aleksander Lukin and his cosmic cube globally, and his getting the lowdown on the existence of the man known just as "The Winter Soldier", who may or may not be his former sidekick.

One of the things I have to say that I love about Brubaker's writing on this book is how he, with Epting's help, seamlessly keeps changing the tempo on us. The way they make the story flow from the action scene flashbacks back to Cap's present day debriefing and then back again without it feeling the slightest bit forced is very admirable. Plus, I love the entire "mythos" of the Winter Soldier that Mr. Brubaker so easily creates and makes believable all in the span of a few pages (though there were some hint droppings in previous issues as to what he was). Though, I do have to admit, the continual cocktease as we build towards the identity of the Winter Soldier is already starting to make me antsy, especially since it's handled in a way alternating between "Oh it's definitely Bucky" to "Eh, ok, so maybe not" and then right back to "Oh yea, definitely Bucky." It's enough to make you want to pull at your hair... but that's the sign of any truly great mystery.

Anyway, this book is still definitely on it's A game. Everything is top notch. The story, the dialogue, the action, the art, etc. I'm also loving the cool little touches that Brubaker is adding, like this issue's debut of a new form of MODOK (known here as MODOC: Military Operatives Designed Only for Combat) and they do make for quite the interesting little physical challenge for our Star-Spangled Avenger. I'm going to hate seeing the deliberate pace Bru is setting being interrupted by the obligatory House of M tie-in issue coming up soon, but at the same time if anyone can make that idea interesting, it's this creative team. And hopefully that turns out to be nothing more than a minor speed bump in what is looking to be one of the biggest and best CAPTAIN AMERICA stories ever.


Writer/Artist: Paul Chadwick
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee

Sometimes, even for the egotistical reviewer, it’s best to stand back and let the professionals do the talking...
From Frank Miller (SIN CITY): “CONCRETE carefully treads the razor’s edge between melodrama and realism. The result is expert drama.”
From Garth Ennis (PREACHER): “The best book I’ve read recently is the latest CONCRETE, wherein - quietly and effortlessly - Paul Chadwick knocks out another installment in the most consistently excellent series of the last twenty years.”
From Brian K. Vaughan (Y: THE LAST MAN, EX MACHINA): “...he’s probably my biggest influence.” “If you haven’t read any CONCRETE, you don’t really love comics. What genius stuff...”
From Alan Moore: “CONCRETE is certainly one to watch.”
From Harlan Ellison: “…probably the best comic being published today by anyone, anywhere.”
What to possibly add after accolades like that?! “There is only one true God and His name is Concrete”? Bit much, maybe. I better start with the facts and we’ll just see where we end up…

The key thing to know about CONCRETE: DEPTHS is that it is the definitive jumping-on point for the series if you’ve ever entertained thoughts of checking it out. This is important because CONCRETE is a series that used to be a touch dicey to recommend to new readers. Not because the stories were impenetrable, mind - to the contrary, pretty much any given Concrete story stands on its own. No, the problem was that the earliest Concrete trade paperbacks divided the character’s world into one collection of longer stories and two collections of short stories, all of which had the word “complete” in their titles. Made it a bit confusing for the newbie looking for a clear-cut first read, especially since many of the short stories were meant to occur concurrently with the full-length stories.

Well, now we really have the makings of a “complete” Concrete series. CONCRETE: DEPTHS marks the beginning of a run of trades that will at last merge all the stories chronologically as they occurred for the characters. Perfect! The size of the book has also shrunk a notch, matching the new SIN CITY trades and making for an enticing intro price point of thirteen bucks.

As to the contents...CONCRETE’s always a bear to describe because it doesn’t fall into any standard genre clichés or Hollywood tag lines. In a pinch, I’d call it a rationalist’s version of magic realism. It’s the story of what a pudgy, intellectual guy does when he finds his mind housed in a hulking, rock-like body that’s at once an amazing gift (it’s tough as hell, strong enough to lift a car, and grants eyesight sharper than a hawk’s) and a sensory-deprived prison (no sexual organs means no sex, the visual alone is freakish, and the craggy skin reduces sense of touch to a bare minimum). How’d he get this way? Doesn’t matter. If there’s any one event in the series that showcases the “magical” side of magic realism, the change is it, and it is revealed, but it’s not vitally important. Everything that follows is the “realism,” and that’s our story.

In this volume, you’ll see the first of Concrete’s several attempts to “dare great things” – in this case, to swim across the Atlantic - in the tradition of the explorers he grew up reading about and revering. You’ll also see him fumble for a purpose, trying his hand as a rescuer in a collapsed mine shaft and even going on network TV to ask the public what he should do with his amazing new form (the answers he gets ranging from smart to tragic to outright hilarious). At his heart, Concrete’s a good-hearted introvert, but he’s not above a little financial gain as we see when he hires on as the bodyguard for an eccentric, paranoid rock star with a John Wayne fixation. It’s in this chapter that I realized the book’s melodramatic turns can disrupt suspension of disbelief slightly, but so many good scenes come out of introvert Concrete playing off an ultra-extrovert rocker that you’ve got to forgive.

A favorite bit: During a concert, Concrete has to pile into the audience to nab a death-threat suspect, but the confused audience surges around him thinking he’s attacking a defenseless man. “Forgive me for what I now do,” Concrete thinks to himself, then blurts out, “Make way-! This guy has AIDS!”

Isn’t it nice that an introspective, thoughtful book can have such a wicked sense of humor? In fact, there’s a cynical edge to much of the series and writer/artist Chadwick does plenty to torment Concrete. Even Concrete’s two closest friends create their share of angst, much of it rooted in sexuality. There’s his aide, Larry, likeable would-be writer and the avid horndog Concrete can never be; and Maureen, a casually beautiful scientist charged with monitoring Concrete but largely oblivious to his boyish infatuation. It all feels surprisingly personal for such a seemingly outrageous concept, and indeed, Concrete is surely a reflection of Chadwick’s own introspection and insecurities, in general if not in specific.

Beyond the grand premise, CONCRETE wows simply on the basis of craft. Mirroring the series’ magical realism is Chadwick’s art, derived sometimes from photographs but filtered through a real artist’s vision, an artist whose bag of tricks includes arcane panel layouts for exotic locales, noir shading for the intimate moments, and panel layouts that constantly evolve to suit the scene. It’s so effortless and non-showy, the reader’s almost tempted to discount the visuals, but it calls to mind something I once read from the late, legendary creator C.C. Beck: he felt that if the reader ever paused to look at an individual panel, the comic creator has failed as a storyteller. The idea is to keep the rhythm flowing, to forego flashy stylization in favor of immersing the reader in the story. That’s what Chadwick does. That he does it while incorporating thought balloons and omniscient narrative captions just shows that he’s a guy eminently comfortable working with all the tools of the comic book. It’s a damn good lesson in modernizing methods some have come to consider quaint. It’s also the perfect antidote for those who’ve read one too many comics trying to be film. Yes, Virginia, there is a middle ground.

Incidentally, longtime CONCRETE readers may yet want to check out this collection, not just for its integration of stories but also for some of its rarities, notably two DARK HORSE PRESENTS annuals and a bonus autobio short story of Chadwick hitchhiking in his early 20s. The new reader gets the best experience, though, and I’m envious of those discovering the character for the first time. I sincerely hope that, as was the case for me in college, the book’s mixture of thoughtful, even amazing reflections, punctuated by moments of convincing fear and laugh-out-loud humor, will prove to be a revelation on par with WATCHMEN for just what this crazy-ass medium can do.


Written by: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Ian Churchill
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: superhero

“I dub it Supercrap!” – Sleazy G

Well, yep, I’d have to say @$$hole reviewer, Sleazy G, hit the nail on the head with that one. SUPERGIRL issue one is just not so great at all. As a matter of fact, it’s just downright bad. It’s actually as bad as a first issue can get. What’s bad about it? Where do I start? Lemme see…

OK, first things first. The writing. I have to confess, except for some of his Batman stuff Jeph Loeb has never really written much stuff that I’ve actually liked. He tends to get bogged down in first person perspective captions and after a while I get bored of the constant drone of the over dramatized personas of his characters. It’s completely tedious in his SUPERMAN/BATMAN books where he uses the lame narrative trick of constantly bouncing back and forth between Superman and Batman’s thoughts. This gimmick slows down the book’s storytelling to a tortoise’s pace and it drives me crazy. He’s had some good stuff to be sure, like the aforementioned Batman stuff, but his Superman run was incredibly boring and confusing not to mention it brought back several cheesy elements of the Superman mythos that I was happy were gone. Can anyone say Krypto the Super Dog? I will give him credit for bringing back evil scientist Lex Luthor, however, which is something that was long overdue.

But that’s been my problem with Loeb. He’s got interesting ideas but he just never seems to know what to do with them. OK, you want to bring back Krypto? OK, cool. But why don’t you figure out what you’re going to do with him before you do? Want Zod to come back? Why don’t you figure out a less convoluted way to tell the story of his return so that he’s the badass Superman villain we all know he should be? Want to bring back retro-1930’s/Flash Gordon Krypton? OK…why??? Half the time it seems like he’s bringing back elements of the Superman mythos because he can, not because he’s actually got anything interesting to do with them. Which brings me to Supergirl.

When Loeb brought back the “original” concept of Supergirl in the pages of SUPERMAN/BATMAN it seemed like he was doing just what he’d done before in the Superman books…bringing back characters to bring them back. Characters that didn’t need to be brought back. Not that I don’t like the idea of Supergirl. As a matter of fact, the cover of CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS # 7 was an incredible moment for me as a young comic book fan. I’ll never forget when the original Supergirl bit the dust. Sure, she was always kind of lame in a way, but it was kind of cool having her around. When John Byrne sort of brought her back in a half-assed attempt with the whole “Matrix” thing I was disappointed that we’d never get Kara from Krypton back but at least “Matrix” was part of a really interesting story. It seemed to me like when Loeb and the powers that be at DC comics brought Supergirl back this time it was for no other reason than just to have her around. They brought her back, but for what? Her return wasn’t interesting. There was nothing interesting about her. There was nothing interesting about any of the DC Universe’s reactions to her. So what’s the point? Isn’t that the big reason she was killed off in the first place?

So when I picked up the first issue of SUPERGIRL (Because I’m a Superman fan, ok?) I was hoping that maybe there’d be some sort of setup to getting to know the character. Maybe there’d be some interesting moments that’d humanize her and make her sympathetic. Maybe there’d be something different like what was done with Superboy in the TEEN TITANS that’d make me want to read about SG. Maybe I was hoping for too much because after reading this issue I could care even less about this “new” Supergirl than I did before.

In this first issue, Supergirl tracks down the JSA so that she can try and become acquainted with Power Girl. See, Power Girl believes that she, like Supergirl, is Superman’s cousin as well. So Supergirl wants to see what the deal is and finds the JSA fighting with one of their longtime nuisances, Solomon Grundy. So a fight ensues, they take him down eventually and what happens when Supergirl finally gets to talk to Powergirl is possibly the stupidest reason for a superhero catfight ever. Seriously. No, really. It’s that stupid. Turns out that the two, because of their similar origins, are “allergic” to each other. I-kid-you-not. THEY ARE ALLERGIC TO EACH OTHER! Yes, you read that last line right…they fight because they can’t occupy the same space at the same time. Of course! It makes perfect sense for them to beat the hell out of each other! UGH.

The thing that kills me about this issue is that no one seems to have told Loeb that Power Girl’s origin was being explored in the pages of JSA:CLASSIFIED so that this particular story didn’t need to be told! This whole issue should have been in the pages of JSA:CLASSIFIED and not Supergirl’s premiere book. Maybe in the pages of JSA:CLASSIFIED the story would have made sense--and because it probably would have been handled by a better writer. Not only that, but Supergirl spends most of the issue hanging out with Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl who, because of the great writing in both STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. and JSA, is a far more interesting and a far more developed character than this Supergirl probably ever will be! I mean Supergirl so far is just a bore. There’s not one reason why I give a flying fig about her! Then when you put her next to a character like Stargirl it just reminded me of what a great book STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. was and how the stories were fun and had characters that were well developed…which made me realize even more how bad this first issue of SUPERGIRL really is.

Not to mention that STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. had really neat art.

Does SUPERGIRL have really neat art? Nope. Not even close.

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the newest Rob Liefeld clone to join the Superman universe: Ian Churchill. His linework is weak, his characters are stiff, and his anatomy…well, what anatomy? Seriously, is this the direction that DC wants to take the art in its books? Do they want their books to look like crappy Image early 1990’s books? Because that’s what this looks like. A really bad copy of a really bad early Image book. The artwork is unappealing in almost every way. I mean you have a book that guest stars Power Girl and you can’t make her look good? By way of Churchill she looks like a transvestite I’d see walking along Sunset Boulevard for cryin’ out loud! Give me a break!

And don’t get me started on the coloring. Bland, muddy, and lifeless. Talk about not adding anything to the page. If anything the coloring actually took more enjoyment away from the story if that’s even possible. The less said about the coloring the better.

This book really leaves me wondering if DC realizes the opportunity they’ve missed here. They had a chance to make a female character interesting to both a male and female audience and, as of this issue; they’ve completely botched it. They hired the wrong writer, the wrong artist, the wrong everything to take this new SUPERGIRL book in the direction it should have gone. Seriously, why not hire a writer who can write stories about teenage girls that people will identify with? Heck, why not even hire a *gasp* female writer? While you’re at it, why not hire an art team that has a style representing more of what female and mainstream readers gravitate toward? Off the top of my head I can think of some artists whose work would better suit this project better than a 90’s Image wannabe artist. Why not try the artist of Marvel’s Mary Jane series, Takeshi Miyazawa? Or how about Colleen Doran of A DISTANT SOIL fame? Or even Colleen Coover of the recent BANANA SUNDAY comic? All of these artists have a style that appeals not only to girls but to comic fans in general. Think about it. If you took the right approach with a Supergirl book you could take it to the point where it becomes an interesting and amusing book to read that goes in a different direction and makes it actually stand apart from the other Superman books. What you’ve got now is a character that won’t particularly appeal to male readers and definitely won’t have female readers lining up to read it. So who is the audience for this? Right now SUPERGIRL comes across as Superman in drag. There’s already a ton of Superman books out there that aren’t all that interesting anyway so why do you think that readers, new and old, are going to want to read about what amounts to a Superman comic in a mini-skirt? Get with it DC. You’ve got an opportunity to make SUPERGIRL a book that can actually stand out in the crowd of super hero books. As of right now SUPERGIRL’S probably one of the least appealing comics I’ve read in a while and I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in a local quarter bin in the near future.

Of course, STARS AND S.T.R.I.P.E. didn’t last very long so what do I know…?


Writer: Alan Moore
Penciler: Gene Ha
Publisher: DC/America's Best Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

Okay now, let me sit you down and tell you a little tale about myself and a little book called TOP TEN. You see, a little while ago, oh say seven years or so, I was a very avid reader of ye ole comic books. I absolutely loved the things. Iron Man, X-Men, Spider-Man, couldn't get enough... or so I thought. After several years of buying these wondrous little 22-page escapes from reality I was just getting tired. There were too many books out for the characters I loved and I couldn't get them all, despite having jobs from as early as twelve years old. But I tried, oh I tried. But they didn't make it easy on me. Constant onslaughts (heh, a joke within a comment) of crossovers and tie-ins like The Clone Saga, Zero Hour, Operation Zero Tolerance, and the Age of motherfucking Apocalypse... I just couldn't take it anymore and I swore off comics for a while.

But a few years later after my self-imposed exile I found myself wandering into a newly opened comic shop in my area. I was just there looking for some other geek-related purchases, but I found myself shooting the breeze with the owner of the place. And he listened to my little sob story of a boy disenfranchised with one of the most defining things of his young life and he sympathized with me. But alas he said, not all comics are like that, and there's some truly great stuff out there with superheroes, not necessarily the ones I knew and loved, but it's so good you won't mind at all. So he shoved some great new titles that were just getting started in my grubby little hands. There was some RISING STARS, some TOM STRONG, and the mother of them all... TOP TEN. And I simply just fell in love with the book. The setting, the characters, the situations, all the little homages and parodies, and the gorgeous gorgeous art. I have to thank this book so much for gatewaying me back into comics, and towards the "thinking man's comic books" like PREACHER, and TRANSMETROPOLITAN, and ASTRO CITY and so on. And because of all that this book has a special place in my heart, almost to the point where it can do no wrong in my eyes... but I am an @$$hole, and I've got a job to do. Thankfully though, this OGN makes my job so damn easy to do.

The purpose of this Graphic Novel is a simple one: to show the early days of Neopolis, the locale of the TOP TEN series, and give the reader a fleshing-out of the scenery they partook in during the run of the original maxi-series. And quite frankly it's just a great read. This book really does have it all, and in the typical TOP TEN fashion. We've got a ton of colorful characters, including one of the more prominent characters from the original series (Jetlad), Vampire Mobsters, time-traveling Nazi's, sword-wielding police officers, and oppressed robots. All the little touches and homages are there, like the Hotel Nodell, and little cameos by Robin Hood and Casper the Friendly Ghost and countless other little sights and gags. And if that wasn't enough, this is by far the best looking book I've seen all year. The character detail is amazing, the scenery and splashes are absolutely breath-taking. Gene Ha is just working at a whole new level with this book. I really and honestly just say this is about as perfect as you get. If I had to do some nitpicking the only fault I honestly could find with this book is a little bit of clunkiness in juggling between a couple of the plot threads. This book sorta feels like it was meant to be a six issue mini-series with the way it hits its more dramatic moments in mid-chapter. So I guess nothing is perfect, but dammit the rest is so good that I can forgive one little minor flaw.

But to wrap up, seriously, you just need to buy this. In fact, if you've never read TOP TEN, then you owe it to yourself to go out and get this and the two trade volumes of the original series. This series has definitely been one of the high points in all of my comic book reading years, just as this volume has been one of the biggest highlights of the year in comics. In the midst of your random Seven Houses of Infinite Crisis or whatever is going on that reminds me oh so much of those days when comics got out of hand and caused me to throw in the towel, this book comes out, almost like an omen, to tell me it'll be all right. Now all that is left is to cross my fingers and pray that the non-Moore penned mini coming out this week can at least somewhat capture the essence of what makes this book so much fun. But if it doesn't, then at least this makes up for it as being the true series "swan song."


Writer: Scott Alan Kinney
Artists: Scott Cohn (penciller)/Mike Manley (inks issues #1-2)/John Heebink (inks issue #3)
Publisher: Alias Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

This is a good comic with unmet potential - so far.

Back in the old days of the newsstand comics, the training ground for new talent wasn’t so much smaller comic book publishers as it was the big guys publishing anthology series or back-up features. The business of comic book publishing has changed so dramatically that there really doesn't seem to be any avenue out there for up-and-coming artists and writers (unless they have a Hollywood pedigree) to get the experience of producing a monthly 18-22 page story other than these outstanding smaller press houses like ALIAS that give hopefuls an opportunity to show what they got. For that, I'm grateful. While I groove to those professionals who've reached the top just like everyone else, I also get a thrill every time I see someone new trying their hand at it. Some of them fall flat. Some of them blow me away. Most of them have something appealing but could use some work.

KILLER STUNTS, INC. is pretty good but marred by some small-press problems that I'll address here in a bit. The series is kind of a mix between THE FALL GUY and F/X (remember that movie?). Billy Andrews is a top-notch Hollywood stuntman who winds up involved in some kind of mess that involves sleazy Federal agent Renick trying to get him to fake someone's death and collect a wad of cash. The best part of the story so far was the set-up in the first issue. I really liked the way Kinney introduced the main characters and then took the reader on a fast-moving motorcycle chase through L.A. Second issue was a bit less on the action and more on subplots - especially establishing a bit more to Billy's stunt-mentor, the gray-haired pony-tailed John Lynch. This third issue focuses on the danger Billy's now put himself and the people he cares about in as a result of his rejection of the job offered to him by Renick. Not bad.

Artistically, penciller Cohn shows some potential. In fact, at times, I get a vibe from him that is similar to some of George Pérez's earliest work (I'm thinking about stuff like THE WHITE TIGER - that time period). He's not there yet, but he's got some talent. Now all he needs is a good inker and some time to grow and improve. Thankfully, the first two issues are inked by the experienced and talented Mike Manley (who used to ink INFINITY INC. and POWER OF SHAZAM! for example). He added a level of slickness to the art that is unfortunately lost at times in issue three. As a collaborative medium, it is always interesting to see what an artist's pencils gain or lose as a result of changing inkers. In this case, Manley raised the professional level of the pencil work. The inker on the third issue added less to the art and the look of the comic suffers slightly.

Now, one unfortunate small-press problem has to do with the coloring. Inconsistent and sometimes garish computer coloring was distracting at times. The most egregious coloring problems come up when the bald thug with the freaky goatee sometimes looks like a white guy and sometimes looks like a black guy. That occasionally got confusing and I'd have to double-check the dialogue to make sure I was looking at the bald thug and not Billy's bald friend, the computer expert. The other little thing that I glommed onto while reading these comics has to do with the lettering. In fact, I don't even know who letters the series because nobody is listed in that role. Whoever it is, he actually let "You're" go into print when it was supposed to be "Your." Woops. Balloon placements also were not very good. I would point you to John Workman to see how aesthetically creative balloon placement can be. But the thing that really got under my skin at first was the "special effects" lettering. It was always exactly the same font. Then - duh - I realized that the series was using the same original font designed for the series logo for all the special effects. What bugged me at first became something I found to be clever. Whattayaknow?

I love superheroes, but it's always nice to crack open a good adventure that doesn't involve guys in colored longjohns beating the snot out of each other. KILLER STUNTS, INC. is a fun little diversion and could be a future "Rookie Card" for the talents of Scott Alan Kinney and Scott Cohn. It's a good start with a lot of potential. I'll be interested to see what heights this series and the creative team might reach.


Joshua Hale Fialkov: Writer
Noel Tuazon: Artist
Hoarse and Buggy Productions : Publisher
Vroom Socko: Just here to ask a few questions

Let’s get one thing straight right away. In a week where I picked up comics by Gail Simone, Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendis, and Matt Wagner, (to say nothing of the latest kickass issue of FABLES,) this issue was hands down the best book of the week.

I suppose a bit of background is in order. This story is about a kid named John who lives in an isolated community in West Virginia. John didn’t know just how isolated they were, or even that there was a purpose behind it, until one of his friends was killed by a drunk driver. The driver, John’s next door neighbor, was sentenced by a town vote to be dragged from his home in the middle of the night and have the rear tires of a Buick parked on his chest, after which the townspeople would do their best impression of Rubens Barichello. John, of course, sees all of this.

All of that was in the first issue, as seen from John’s point of view. Issue #2 was the same event, along with some backstory, as seen by his father, John Sr. Both of those issues were brutal, hard, and a hell of a lot of fun to read. In part three, we see the continuation from the point of view of Sara, the mother of this charming little family. And with that, we also see the story move from being a fun, creepy horror book to potentially cracking into my list of the 25 greatest comics stories of all time.

It’s been two days since the drunk was executed, and the latest shipment of supplies is on its way. Unfortunately, the truck is late. Also unfortunately, a pair of state troopers has just shown up on Main Street. It seems the out of town relatives of the drunk have declared him missing. So Sara takes it upon herself to show the two cops the town, while her husband figures out just what to do with them.

What makes this issue work is its minimalism. There’s no captions, no internal narration, just Noel Tuazon’s art telling the story. The tension just builds with each page, until the final two pages hit, with the nastiest moment to date. What I especially enjoyed was seeing how Sara reacts to her situation. Her facial expressions, her body language, all of it tell her story better than any narration could have.

If you can manage to get your hands on all three issues of this book, I say do it now. If, like most locations at this point, this series is sold out, then you’re in luck. Speakeasy, the book’s new publisher, has a solicitation this month for an omnibus edition of everything published so far, with a sweet looking Darwyn Cooke cover. This is one series you shouldn’t miss.


Writers: Various
Artists: Various
Publisher: Imperium Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

You know, I haven't been much of a fan of all-out splatter horror movies and comics since I was probably 19. And I'm still not much of one, though I do have some fond memories for those old DC horror comics of the 70s. I remember one creepy old DC horror comic that had this guy with a mushroom garden that totally gave me nightmares. Oh yeah, and that TWILIGHT ZONE (Whitman) comic I read over and over where the guy killed his wife by dumping her over a canoe and whacking her with his oar. Then, like the tell-tale heart, his guilt kept haunting him and he rowed back out there, fell in the water, and was dragged down to his death by the woman's hair which stretched and wrapped around him like seaweed. *shiver*

So, TRAILER PARK OF TERROR COLOR SPECIAL is this little series by Imperium that pays white-trash homage to all those old comics, and especially to those grand old E.C. gross-fest comics. The conceit of this series is that the "storyteller" is a cigarette-smokin', booze-swillin', horny white-trash zombie gal named Norma who lives in a trailer park. When she say's she's gotta go "put on her face" in the morning, she means it literally.

The stories she tells are always graphically disgusting and can be funny, disturbing, or just plain gross. Well, in this issue's round of stories, there's a story about obnoxious cell phones in public places that has a suitably creepy last panel. This story would have been perfectly at home in a modern update of Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY. There's also a story about a couple and their baby that has the nastiest, freakiest version of the Stork you've ever seen.

Artistically, the range runs from impressive to amateurish and the covers are all by Nelson, who's currently inking John Byrne on ACTION COMICS. The writing ranges from pretentious to excellent. Most of all, the comic benefits from a sense of fun. Everyone seems to be having fun doing what they do and it permeates the entire series. If you can't stand graphic, nasty horror/comedy comics, avoid this comic. If you like that sort of thing, you'll probably love TRAILER PARK OF TERROR.


Cellar Door Publishing : Publisher
Vroom Socko: Armed and ready.

It always seems that when a comics publisher is starting out, the first thing they do is an anthology. This is good, because it gives new readers a broad idea of what to expect from a new company. It’s also bad, because anthologies are almost never 100% quality. No matter how good, there’s always going to be at least one story that’s a stinker. It helps, then, to have something to grab the reader.

Tell me that cover doesn’t grab you.

Oh sure, there is one stinker here, “One Bullet” by Jason Meek. Sure, the art’s good, but the story itself is too predictable. On the other hand, there’s the other story illustrated by Meek, “Never Enough Time” by George Singley. That one has a solid, quality buildup that leads to a drop dead hilarious gag. Fun bit, that one.

On the more serious side, there are two stories set solidly in the noir vein. “The Snowman” is a fun kidnapping story that could have stood to be a few pages longer. “A Violent End”, well that’s as close to a romance that you’ll see in this book. Vaguely Sin City-esque in its execution, this haunting tale is the best one in the book. Second best goes to “Moira”, a story by Mark Winters that starts out as a typical Matrix knockoff, but has a magnificent ending that turns the story into a meditation on the methods of rebellion, with a heavy dose of contempt for hypocrisy added in for good measure.

As for “Angels Bane”, the final story presented here, all I really should need to say are two words: Zombie Nazis. There’s not a lot of plot to this one, but then again there doesn’t need to be. It’s a soldier gunning down a platoon of undead SS, what more do you want? Well, really you want it to look cool, and thanks to Freddie Williams III, this is probably the coolest looking story in the collection.

Cellar Door has given us a book that at the very least lives up to its name. It’s an auspicious beginning for this new company, and I’m certainly interested in seeing what’s going to come next.

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.


Can someone tell me why the best balls-out action superhero comic stars a bunch of super-villains? Well, it does. Gail Simone is writing her heart out with this whiz bang adventure story teaming up such oddball characters as Catman, Deadshot, Cheshire, Ragdoll, and an Apokolipsian Parademon. This story starts out with a truly chilling sequence set in a prison where an inmate threatens the life of a warden explaining the scope and power of the Secret Society of Super Villains. I love the conflict between Catman and Deadshot. I love how devious Cheshire is. And I can’t get enough of the Ragdoll character. This is a damn fine miniseries on its own and the best of the minis leading up to INFINITE CRISIS. - Ambush Bug


Okay, I know in the past I pimped the hell out of those little RUNAWAYS digests. And, yes, they’re cute. Nice price, compact size for easy storage, look nice lined up on a shelf, but…god DAMN does this hardcover blow those chump-ass little pamphlets out of the water! It’s all 18 issues of the first RUNAWAYS series, beginning to end, in an oversized format that does for Adrian Alphona’s art (and Christina Strain’s coloring) what letterboxing has done for DVDs. Bonus crap: intro from writer Vaughan, reproduction of the series’ original proposal, and several swank sketchbook pages from Alphona. Sure, it’s 35 smackers, but that still amounts to less than two bucks an issue! In the words of Ferris Bueller, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.” - Dave

100 BULLETS #63

Another arc is finished in the 100 BULLETS saga and again Brian Azzarello has managed to mess with our heads to the point where we don't know what's going on. As always, we get some answers to some questions, like who is this Spain character, and how is he related to the story? But then we just keep getting more questions, like why the hell was Graves there with a certain somebody at the end of the book, and what the hell is up with Cole needing Branch now? There's blood, there's sex, there's violence, there's heartbreak, there's black humor and death and intrigue... everything that makes this book such an amazing read month in and month out. And while this shorter arc might not have been as in-your-face with its overall importance like the previous one (“Wylie Runs the Voodoo Down”), I can't help but feel this could be the most important story yet. God I love this book. -- Humphrey


Hey, d’you guys know that there’s another Bat-Crossover going on? Yep, amidst all of the INFINITE CRISIS hoopla that is interconnecting the entire DCU, the Bat-books are tying themselves together with a story called “War Crimes.” And guess what? The Joker is back in this issue. And guess what else, the whole thing ain’t that great. This is kind of an unneeded story cleansing Batman’s hands from the death of Stephanie Brown AKA The Spoiler AAKA That Robin Chick Who Died as Soon as She Put on the Costume. This story suggests that Batman did, in fact, get her to a hospital on time after being tortured by Gotham’s crime lord, the Black Mask, and that she was actually murdered in the hospital. And if my Bat-horrible-idea sense is working correctly, this crossover also looks to be bringing back one of my most loathed characters in the Bat-U (think Gargamel’s cat, folks…ugh). This story seems unimportant considering the stuff that is going on in the rest of the DCU (especially with the Batman character). To top it all off, this was the most uninteresting appearance by the Joker that I have ever read. And in a time when all of DC’s books seem to be tying into one another, do we really need another Bat-title spanning crossover? I feel sorry for those DC readers who just want to read a stand-alone story every now and again. Cool cover, though, by Jock and nice interior art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Sandra Hope. - Bug


Okay, so it’s taken Warren Ellis and Adi Granov a few extra months just to get from issue 3 to issue 4 – at least the story’s so damn simple there’s no forgetting where we left off. To recap: Iron Man has tracked down a grosser, meaner super-soldier than Cap and is currently fighting it. That is all. This ish, Iron Man gets his ass trashed and has to make a risky decision to take on the increasingly Tetsuo-ish baddie. Three times folks ask him, “Should we call in the Avengers for help?”, and the best answer Ellis can come up with when Iron Man finally responds is a variant of “It’s personal.” Nice to know ‘80s cop-flick clichés live on, eh? Otherwise, it’s not a bad issue. Adi Granov’s art, which I feared would be sterile, is really quite impressive – worthy of HEAVY METAL before it became purely softcore wank material. Ellis also manages some cool interaction between Iron Man and his armor, sort of the equivalent of those thoughts that run through your head when your car is about to die on you (“C’mon, keep from overheating for just one more mile…”). He also reintroduces the Iron Man armor that fits in the suitcase, though it’s kind of embarrassing that returning to an idea concocted – what, 20 or 30 years ago? – feels like progress. The big question, ultimately, is whether anyone’s still got interest invested in this title, embarrassingly late from its first issue and embarrassingly late every issue. Guess we’ll see. - Dave


Round Two of Breach vs. Superman. The quality continues as this excellent series barrels on toward its conclusion (dang you people for not buying this comic!!!!). Those creepy Rifters really get into Breach's head this time and he goes all TEMPLE OF DOOM on the villain. He also beats the Krypto-crap out of Superman there for awhile before he regains his sanity. This issue of BREACH is a really nice character piece on Superman and how he deals with failures and mistakes on his part. Based on how he's been portrayed in his BREACH appearances, I'd be inclined to hand over one of the SUPERMAN titles to Bob Harras after INFINITE CRISIS. (But just like Hollywood doesn't ask me to help 'em out with their casting calls, I suspect DC doesn't give a crap what the ol' Prof thinks about that.)

The writing may be top notch, but Martin and Lopez also deliver another solid piece of storytelling art here. Oh yeah, and there's a small little tie-in to VILLAINS UNITED in this story that all you completists out there might want to know about so you can pick this issue up. - Prof.


Fun, fun, fun! I’m loving this series more and more with each issue. Writer Zeb Wells seems to love and know about just as much Marvel stuff as Dan Slott (SHE-HULK, GLA) and he’s making these characters a hell of a blast to read. This issue not only tells us how the New Warriors reformed, but it gives us the secret origin of Microbe. And in this tale, Microbe finally gets a chance to shine. This story is filled with laughs and even has a tender moment in the end. Slowly but surely, it seems as if Marvel is hiring on people who not only can tell a good story, but those who love these characters and know a lot about them. Fans of the old NEW WARRIORS series shouldn’t miss this series. And you’ll quickly become a fan if you check this series out. - Bug


At 75 cents a pop, these full-length intro issues that Alias Comics has been putting out make for neat li’l impulse purchases. And while the all-ages GIMOLES didn’t quite knock me on my butt, I have to say I had a good time with it. It’s a genial fairy tale adventure that’s somewhere between THE SMURFS and DAVID THE GNOME, with the little dudes in question actually called “Gimoles” (if it’s a reference to some real folklore, it’s folklore I’ve never heard). It’s highlighted by art reminiscent of Disney (or at least Don Bluth) animation cels, and for that alone, fantasy fans may want to check it out. The first issue works in a nice chunk of story, too: There’s a cute opening sequence that’ll have a rousing musical accompaniment if this thing ever ends up animated. The treacherous Czar of Winter kidnaps the Groundhog Day groundhog to set in motion an eternal winter - son of a bitch! And the youthful Gimoles who’re the series’ elfin little heroes get some screen time to establish their archetypal personalities. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s pleasant, smile-inducing, and very slickly-produced. Grown-up comic readers should get this into the hands of pint-sized comic readers. - Dave


I’m not going to go overboard and say that this “mega-event” sucks, but it doesn’t even compare to the scope of the story DC is spinning in their “mega-event.” This issue has quite a few moments of cool as the Claremont-ian mutant girl wanders through the altered Marvel U “waking people up” to the reality of the situation that has befallen them. But that’s all there is here: a scant few moments of cool. And that’s really all there is to this “mega-event.” This is a series of small, yet cool ideas rubber cemented together and stretched paper thin to make it seem as if it were a huge whoppin’ deal. But it’s not. How many times has a villain altered reality; be it by illusion (a la Mysterio or Mastermind or the Ringmaster or take your pick of the illusionary villain of the week), or via time travel (like Kang the Conqueror or Zarko the Tomorrow Man or Immortus), or by bending the fabric of reality itself (as with Proteus or Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet)? And yet, these heroes act as if this event was the largest affront to humanity ever and the first time it’s ever happened to them. The conflict just falls flat given the fact that these heroes have faced similar, yet larger and more imaginative odds in the past. - Bug


So if Bill Willingham ain’t fuckin’ with us…this issue actually reveals, for real and for true, the identity of The Adversary. I won’t blab it (though some TalkBacker will), but what knocked me on my ass is how Willingham avoided the pitfalls of such a big reveal. Unveiling long-held mysteries can oftimes kill story momentum dead, with answers either being too obvious or too “left field” to satisfy. Willingham neatly sidesteps such worries by doing what he’s always done with the book: just spinning a yarn you can’t turn your eyes from. The identity is almost irrelevant, because it comes out quick and the story is just instantly advancing further, instantly coming up with great scenes and character interactions based on the reveal, and never once pausing for some big drama queen “ta-DAAA!!!” Much respect. Made for one of my favorite issues in months, and with a series like FABLES, that’s saying a lot. - Dave


The one thing I used to love about reading Garth Ennis’ stuff was that I would put down an issue of PREACHER or HITMAN and say, “Man, that would make a great movie.” Then he moved over to Marvel and started phoning it in with his first PUNISHER series and we moved into bad, gross-out sitcom territory. But when Ennis moved THE PUNISHER over to the Marvel’s “mature readers” MAX line, he started giving me the Frank Castle stories I knew that he had in him. This recent “Up is Down and Black is White” 6-parter had its own ups and downs. It may have lost focus in the middle by giving too much screen time to the shady cast of characters and not enough on the Punisher (and I have to admit, some of the baddies could have been interchanged and I probably wouldn’t have noticed), but issue #24 was one hell of an ending to this arc. Frank finally tracks down the man who dug up his family and pissed on their corpses. And in a violent, yet beautiful scene set in the forests outside of New York, we see the Punisher do his thing. But we’ve seen Frank blow someone away scores of times. What makes this scene so good is the fact that we’re inside Frank Castle’s head the whole time: feeling his pain and his anger and his sadness. Ennis has given us this window into Frank’s mind time and time again in this MAX series. And again, I was left saying, “Man, that would make a great movie.” - Bug

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