The halls of @$$hole HQ were dimly lit that cold holiday night. The fire was growing low and the shadows long. Wrapped in a Star Wars comforter in front of a computer monitor was the Moderator, the omniscient and lonely voice of reason, who usually haunted the halls of @$$Hole HQ, keeping things peaceful and orderly, and offering guidance to the rambunctious ramblers that make up the AICN Comics reviewing team. On the glowing green screen before him, the @$$Hole inbox was full of reviews, but something was different. Usually, the Moderator would race to get the reviews posted on AICN as soon as possible, but not tonight. Tonight, the Moderator’s temperament was as cold as the winter air, but little did he know, all of that was about to change…
Bah! All the @$$holes ever do is gripe about comics. They never have anything positive to say. After reading these reviews, I just want to tell them to give up comics altogether. I may just join them and forget about doing AICN Comics columns forever.
Just then, the wind blew open the doors, startling the Moderator out of his easy chair. Struggling with the harsh winter wind, he finally managed to slam the door shut. The echoes of the Moderator’s effort against the elements filled the lonely room for a moment, then all went silent. Until…Moooooo-deratorrrrrrr!
Are those the haunting groans of the crypt I hear? What’s that stirring in the darkness? A spectre? A spook?
Oh, it’s just you, Schleppy. What do you want, @$$hole mascot, smelly monkey, and thorn in my side?Schleppy’s faithful steed, Gonzalez, bring Schleppy here for a reason. You seem to have lost faith in duh @$$holes.
Well, you’re right, you malodorous primate. All they do is bitch and moan about the state of comics today. I swear, I don’t think there is anything out there on the shelves that will please them. All of this griping and groaning makes me want to give up.Dat’s why Schleppy and Gonzalez are here. To show you dat even duh @$$holes can say positive things on Christm@$$! Tonight, you will be visited by three…or four…or maybe seven @$$holes.
Wait, Schleppy! Where are you going? Are you going to disappear into the ether again?No, Schleppy will be sitting over here in duh corner next to Gonzalez.
Oh.Maybe eating a buh-naner. And Gonzalez will busy himself somehow too.
oh.Prob’ly by licking his testicles.
…Here’s Humphrey Lee
ABSOLUTE WATCHMENOkay. You all know by now (or at least you should) that WATCHMEN is arguably one of the best (if not THE best) comics of all time. I'm not going to try and convince you of the book’s quality here because you've already been there and done that. What I am going to do though is tell you that this deluxe hardcover with slipcase is well worth your $75 if you're a fan, or you have a loved one who's a big fan of this work. The re-colorization of this book is absolutely amazing, making art twenty years old seem surprisingly fresh, and even though there's only about fifty pages of extras, they're all very interesting. The character breakdowns and rough sketches are nice to see, and being able to read Alan Moore's script for the first issue is a joy if you like the more "behind the scenes" stuff. All in all a great upgrade for a wonderful book and well worth the money (especially if you decide to hit Amazon or whatever for it and get it at less than cover price).
RUNAWAYS HARDCOVER Vol. 1The little book that could. This hardcover collects the entire first volume of one of the most cultishly followed books in mainline comics. Following the tale of several teenagers on the run from their super villain parents, this book has been nothing but a joy to read for me. While a little rough around the edges at first, great dialogue and interesting characterization and scripting made this one of the most fun to read books I've encountered in a long while. The package is surprisingly light on extras, but being able to get all eighteen issues in an oversized format is a pretty good deal as is. Plus, this is a great way to get caught up for the second volume, which has been just as fun, and almost flawless in execution. A great gift for those who are tired of the "same old, same old" when it comes to superhero comics and for those who like some humor with their teenage angst.
DEMO TPBIn my opinion, this has been one of my top ten reads over the past couple years. Each issue of this twelve issue series (all collected in this TPB) is a self-contained story blending everyday ideas and emotions like loneliness, or being confronted with the idea of actually growing up, or falling in love, and combining those with supernatural or "superhuman" concepts like some stories involving psychokinetic abilities or even immortality. Every story hits home in some way, invoking any of the aforementioned emotions and then some. Brian Wood's dialogue ranges from sharp and to the point to poetic and thought provoking. And Becky Cloonan shows great range with her pencils, bringing just the right style to match the themes of each issue. This is definitely one of those books that has something for everyone.
TRICKED OGNA "follow up" to his previous work BOX OFFICE POISON, TRICKED is a 300+ page Graphic Novel written and drawn by the fantastic Alex Robinson. Featuring an expansive cast of characters, this is a story showing just how sometimes a person's life (or a group of people's) can intertwine and have ramifications in the lives of others they don't even know. The book flows between characters greatly and each character is very unique in their own way, but also serves as a means to show aspects of everyday life like love and romance, dread, fear, greed, feelings of ineptitude... even a bit of the old craziness. And the overall story bringing all these characters together is a very well told tale, and makes every chapter enjoyable as things start building onto each other. A great book if the reader really enjoys their "Slice of Life" material.
TOP TEN: THE 49ERS OGNA book three years in the making, and worth every bit of the wait. This book has everything you could want in a superhero title: lush scenery, interesting characters and powers and high-concept super heroing. I did a more in-depth review of this title earlier this year, but this here is just a reminder of how wonderful this book is. Between the writing and the amazing painted art from Gene Ha, this was easily one of the best works I read all year, all with the good old hardback binding for preservation.
How’s dat for a positive recommendation?
Bah!Buh-naners, you are a bitter old schmoo. Well, howz about something from Original @$$hole Dave Farabee?
100% (TPB)It's not just a great holiday item, it's only the best trade paperback of all 2005! Would I kid you? Sir, I would not. Writer/artist/hipster Paul Pope is the man with the plan, and as great an artist as he is, I feel this is his first work where the writing really rises to the occasion too. The story follows a lively pack group of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings as their lives meander in and out of a smoky, sexy nightclub in near-future New York. Pope's kinetic, you-are-there art insures you'll shiver at the bite of the winter snow and groove to the throb of the club's pounding bass, all the while being drawn into a series of street-level romances that ring with tough realism and genuine charm. Full review.
DC COMICS ENCYCLOPEDIA (Hardcover)It doesn't matter that my interest in DC’s superheroverse has dwindled to nothing in the last year – I still love their characters and call this book the best damn superhero infotainment on the shelves. And don't let that $40 price tag put the fear in ya - this baby gets it right where Marvel's handbooks keep on getting it wrong. The name of the game? All-inclusiveness. This oversized tome has got everyone, with the big guns all getting full page entries or double-page spreads, but characters as obscure as Doll Man, Gunner and Sarge, King Solovar, and Arak (Son of Thunder, dontcha know) all getting at least a few paragraphs. Holy crap, it's even got the Human Defense Corps and John Byrne's Lab Rats! The entries aren’t particularly exhaustive, but there's lots of art, good overviews, notes on key storylines, vehicle and gear write-ups, and again, EVERY-DAMN-BODY is in it! Buy it, put it in the can, enjoy for years to come.
THE LIFE & TIMES OF $CROOGE MCDUCK (TPB)Know any kids? Maybe have a brood of your own? Well I've got the perfect comic to hit ‘em with in those formative years when they're just a bit too young to appreciate comics where Silver Age villains are recast as rapists – hey, those are Daddy’s big boy comics, Junior! What Don Rosa has done here is craft an Eisner-winning origin story for adventurer and gajillionaire miser, Scrooge McDuck. In my full review, I described it as a Horatio Alger story by way of Indiana Jones, and I still think that fits quite nicely. It's all-ages adventure at its purest, with actual bits of early American history interwoven throughout and an obsessive/compulsive faithfulness to the continuity of the legendary Carl Barks duck stories that inspired it. All that and lots of bonus notes and sketches from the creator! Throw this bad boy at the rugrats and turn 'em into comic fans overnight, but don't be embarrassed if you just plain buy it for yourself. It's a mere 17 bucks for twelve issues and all the extras – I bet even a miser like Scrooge would pony up for a bargain like that.
CONRETE Vol. 1: DEPTHS (TPB)Not to burden this extremely readable trade with the weight of "greatness," but when I first read the stories it reprints…it changed everything about how I viewed comics. The short version is that CONCRETE is about a senatorial speechwriter who finds himself mysteriously trapped in an enormously powerful, but enormously isolating rock-like body. The question of "what next?" is the series' driving force, as Concrete hits the talkshow circuit, dares great deeds he couldn't have before (like swimming the Atlantic Ocean), falls in love with the biologist studying him, bodyguards for an eccentric rock star, and nearly kills a comedian. It's funny, it's sad, it's real, and it's the book that put a fledgling Dark Horse Comics on the map. Find out why in this new, definitive collection. Full review.
THE LAND OF NOD - ROCKABYE BOOK (TPB)I'm not wildly enamored of every comic Jay Stephens has put out, but for my money, this particular volume is about as close to pure, perfect entertainment as a graphic novel will ever get. Stephens sets the tone in the opening pages with a series of wonderfully juxtaposed quotes from the likes of Joseph Campbell, Beck, Frank Baum, Tex Avery, and Henri Matisse. Would ya believe they perfectly describe the hilarious, sometimes touching surreality to come? In particular I loved the strange Hanna-Barbara tribute, "Space Ape #8," the charcoal-drawn Tutenstein stories which evoke kids’ picture books like CURIOUS GEORGE, and the mildly creepy outing where little-girl superhero Jetcat grows up to marry Space Ape. Mere words cannot describe the hilarity and endearing absurdism of this collection, but the introduction has Paul Pope likening Stephens’ cartooning to Jeff Smith's and calling him "one of our best." If ya can't trust the Pope, who can ya trust?
See? More good stuff from duh @$$holes!
Bah!Still not convinced? Here’s superhero.
THE COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBESHonestly, does this even need an explanation? Three huge, beautiful, hardcover bound and slip cased books filled with every Calvin and Hobbes strip ever??? This is a gift that would warm the cockles of even the coldest Scrooge comic fan. Not only that but it’s actually something that’s actually appropriate for and can be enjoyed by the whole family. I actually can’t think of a better Christm@$$ gift for comic fans out there. It’ll entertain and possibly even have the power to educate any aspiring cartoonist/comic artist out there. I can’t think of anything better for the sequential art fan/professional out there this season. This baby’s gold I tell ya, GOLD!
CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, THE ABSOLUTE EDITIONYep, here it is, arguably the greatest Super-Hero mini-series ever and it’s all in one gigantic hardcover edition. If buying the JLA/AVENGERS hardcover set taught me anything it’s that seeing George Perez’s artwork blown up to a large sized format is definitely a good thing. Not only that but with pages this size it becomes much easier to make out the insane amount of characters Perez is able to fit on a comic book page. Make no mistake about it, Perez is a master and this series is the work that made everyone gasp in wonder with amazement and realize that yes this was a god that walked among comic men. And if the art isn’t good enough for you the story by Marv Wolfman is truly compelling as well. The stakes don’t get much higher than multi-verses being wiped out and this one sells the pathos of it all like no one had before and few have since. Plus an extra book of bonus material included in the slipcase make for an absolutely fantastic package.
44 YEARS OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR/40 YEARS OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN CD-ROM COLLECTIONIf you’re like me you hate reading comics on a computer screen but these collections…well, it’s a hard deal to pass up. While, yes, the essential collections make a great alternative to actually trying to track down every issue of these series there has to be something said for having every issue of FF and Spidey on several space saving CD-Roms. If you’re more interested in the actual stories and histories of these characters you’re probably not going to find a better deal than this. Heck, even if you actually have some of the early issues having them on CDs will actually save you from the delicate task of removing them from mylar bags without damaging them any time you want to revisit those classic stories. These could quite possibly be a perfect gift for a Fantastic Four, Spider-Man or all around Marvel fan.
ESSENTIAL TOMB OF DRACULA Vol. 1-4Is your significant other a horror fan who’s fed up with the holiday rigmarole? Well, cure their holiday blues with one of these fantastic trade collections of Marvel’s moody TOMB OF DRACULa series. Sure, they’re not particularly scary but they are some fantastic reading with some of the greatest atmospheric art ever rendered in a comic provided by the likes of master storyteller Gerry Conway. If your beau or relative is a fan of horror chances are they have an affection for the old Hammer vampire/horror flicks and these collections encapsulate the feeling of those old time movies perfectly. Really great reading that horror/Buffy/Angel fans will more than likely adore. And think of the look on your Goth kid’s face when they actually get something called TOMB OF DRACULA for CHRISTM@$$! I’ll just bet that their little Bauhaus lovin’ heart will melt just long enough to give you a small hug which, to you, may be just the X-Mas miracle you were looking for!
SCOTT PILGRIM, VOL. 1 and 2Looking for stocking stuffers? Well look no further. The SCOTT PILGRIM books will make the perfect gift for even the most jaded comic fan. Seriously, I can’t imagine someone not reading these books and not just loving them to bits. Bryan Lee O’Malley has crafted one of the best creator owned books out there and they need to be in your loved one’s stockings because they will bring nothing but joy and amazement to those who read them. Yes, they are THAT good. Filled with lovable protagonists and wacked out situations, this book is unique in all of comicdom. It’s lighthearted and full of warmth and if that’s not what people want for the holidays then I just don’t know anything about this overly mass marketed time of the year. If you don’t get your loved ones any big price tag comic items at least get them this. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.
Doesn’t dat fill your stocking with holiday cheer? Well, then check out what Vroom Socko has to say.
FORTUNE AND GLORYI know, I know, we recommend this one every year it seems. The thing is, though, not only is this the funniest, most down to earth, most gosh darn enjoyable book Bendis has published to date, it’s also just been reissued in a spiffy new hardcover edition. Sure it’s a limited print run, but each one comes already signed by B! himself. Hell, this one is worth mentioning every year. It’s that good.
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN vol. 6It’s been said by Buzz Maverik (I can’t remember for certain, but most sage advice I get from a fellow @$$hole feels like it’s from Buzz,) that the comics we love at age five will influence the ones we enjoy the rest of our lives. At age five, I’d read some Kirby books, but the ones I devoured were by Herge. Not only was each story a different sort of tale, from mystery to spy story to political thriller to hard traveling adventure to science fiction, each one was thrilling as the next. That’s not to mention the simplest of color work that nevertheless causes all those computerized jobs found today to hang their head in shame. Currently, the Tintin books are available in a nice and durable hardcover edition, collecting three stories in one volume. The one I’m recommending here contains three of the best stories featuring our intrepid hero: THE CALCULUS AFFAOR, THE RED SEA SHARKS, and TINTIN IN TIBET. If you’ve never read any of these stories before, you truly don’t know what you’re missing.
SPIRAL BOUND (TOP SECRET SUMMER)Certain events conspired to keep me from reading this book until recently. You have no idea what I was missing. Everything about this thing is fun, from the Mea- inspired cover design to the labyrinth-like backgrounds. The main characters, insecure artist Turnip, audacious adventurer Stucky, and inquisitive writer Ana are the sort of charming characters that populate other Top Shelf titles like OWLY and GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE, and even if that were the only thing going for it this book would be one I’d recommend. But the story, filled with mysterious locales, secret tunnels and literally underground newspapers is the stuff of childhood dreams. Reading this book brings you right back to the mindset of summertime for an eight year old. For me, that meant mornings at art camp, afternoons running around in the park, and evenings reading about Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators, and The Mad Scientists’ Club of Mammoth Falls. If you had a similar childhood, this book will bring it all back. Even if you didn’t, this story is the perfect thing to bring some summer sunshine in to work out the winter doldrums.
INVINCIBLE: THE ULTIMATE COLLECTION vol. 1I’m sure many of you have passed this title by. Hell, I even did at first; the guy’s dressed up as the Image logo, fer crying out loud! Of course, one I cracked the book open, I realized that not only is this the most fun I’ve had reading about superheroes in a good long while, but the character of Invincible is possibly the only truly standout character the genre’s seen in the past thirty years. This hardcover collects the first thirteen issues, or what amounts to the first act. And what an act it is, culminating in a fight between our young, idealistic hero and a dark, compromised, potentially psychotic veteran. That the fight leaves our virtuous lead a bloody mess at the hands of an older, corrupted hero is a metaphor perfect for our CRISIS-laden juggernaut events currently at the top of the sales charts. Besides, what other book has a character as cool looking as Allen the Alien? None, that’s what!
Dat twinkle in your eye is starting to shine! Schleppy knows dat twinkle. Gonzalez sometimes gets dat way when he’s in duh mood for leg love.
I guess these @$$holes can give pretty good recommendations.Here’s Prof. Santa's Best Christmas List Ever
I have 5 perfect Christmas gifts for those in the world who love pulp/comicbook adventures and have an appreciation especially for both the history and the varied artistic styles that bring those adventures to life. Three of these gift necessities are old, probably out of print, but worth tracking down through Ebay or some other out-of-print source. The other 2 are on my personal wish list for this year and if Christmas passes me by without those appearing under the tree, then I'll be picking them up for myself.
A SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMIC-BOOK COMICSEdited by Michael Barrier and Martin Williams. This 300+ page hardback came out way back in 1981 and I remember checking it out repeatedly from my local library as a high-schooler. As an adult, I tracked one down easily on Ebay for less than $5 a couple years back and I think I appreciate it even more now. For those who are relatively new to the medium of comicbooks, there is simply no better, and more inexpensive, way to be exposed to the rich history of the comicbooks of the 40-50s and their creators. Reproduced directly from actual copies of the newsprinted comics, this volume includes the first appearances of Superman, Batman, Plastic Man, and Pogo. Along with that there are selections of Captain Marvel's adventures, The Spirit, Little Lulu, Donald Duck (by Carl Barks!), and even some of the earliest MAD Magazine spoofs. An absolute must-have for all serious collectors.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN (A Marvel Illustrated Novel)Illustrated by Bernie Wrightson with an introduction by Stephen King. Published back in 1983 by Marvel as an oversized trade paperback, Bernie Wrightson's masterpiece of illustration should be searched out and bought by all fans of brush and line black and white illustration. The black and white cover illustration alone was worth the steep $8.95 cover back in 1983. This is a full-text version of Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN novel liberally illustrated in painstakingly detailed black and white, over the course of many years, by Wrightson. There simply is no finer version of FRANKENSTEIN ever published and I cannot recommend it highly enough to impress upon you how good it is. Best of all, there is a forthcoming 25th anniversary edition scheduled and that information is supposedly available at www.wrightsonsfrankenstein.com, but I couldn't get the site to work for me.
JOE JUSKO'S ART OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHSPublished back in 1996 with a cover price of $24.95, Jusko spent two years painting at least one illustration of every Burroughs story including Tarzan, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Carson of Venus, Pellucidar, the Lost Continent stories, and even THE MUCKER. This exhaustive illustrated retrospective on the works of Burroughs by Jusko is a primer for all aspiring artists on how portray the idealized musculature of pulp/comicbook heroes without suffering from the problem of the figures appearing posed or static. While some of the pieces are clearly supposed to be posed, most of them are illustrating a scene and there is real movement within the painting. Particularly, the piece chosen for the cover is just roaring with life, and that scene from TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT where Tarzan is shown from behind tearing the cellbars out of the wall are perfection.
MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSE FARMER'S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSEEdited by Wold Newton expert, Win Scott Eckert, this 400-page Monkeybrain Books trade paperback lists for $14.95. Farmer's Wold Newton mythology was surely the intellectual father to the exhaustive heroic continuities of the major comic publishers today and was the conceptual inspiration for PLANETARY and LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Some 35 years ago (or was it even before that?), Farmer devised an intellectual exercise predicated upon a radioactive meteor crash in 1795 that affected a number of pregnant women in a small town in England who then gave birth to the forerunners of pulp's greatest heroes. He even created detailed family lineages tying just about every "fictional" hero from the last 200 years of fiction into one grand family tree. Many of Farmer's novels explored this notion and some other authors (western author J.T. Edson for one) have explicitly established their own works as occurring with the Wold Newton mythology. This book by Eckert is the first extensive collection published with essays and writings by Farmer himself and many others discussing and examining the concept.
GEORGE PEREZ: STORYTELLER: The Art of George PerezFor the total geek fanboy in me, there is no comicbook book I'm drooling over more than this one. This 200-page trade paperback by Chris Lawrence is published by Dynamic Forces and lists at $29.99. I cannot believe Perez has not already received an extensive retrospective like this, but better late than never. Perez is producing the best art of his career right now and I cannot wait to sit down and read through the evolution of his art from those early Man-Wolf backups to INFINITE CRISIS covers today. Perez truly is a master storyteller and this is my personal must-have.
Even Sleazy G put down duh eggnog long enough to write some recommendations.
Now that’s a Christm@$$ miracle.
DRINKY CROW vinyl modelI know most of my compadres are going with stuff for people to read, and that's cool and everything, but let's face it: what to kids really want for X-Mas? TOYS. Toys, toys, toys. So why not buy 'em a toy that will mean more and more to them the older they get? I say go for a coupla pieces of Tony Millionaire merchandise: the DRINKY CROW vinyl model or the DRINKY CROW JACK IN THE BOX . In fact, I wish I had these things myself since Drinky Crow is pretty much my spirit animal at this point. Sure, some would say it's inappropriate for kids, but me? I say the sooner they learn about the harsh realities of life the better.
OUT FROM BONEVILLEOh, so your kids are the types who don't want to sit still and play with toys--they need one of those newfangled video games with the flashing lights and the talking and the so-called music? No problem--just download the free version of the Bone video game OUT FROM BONEVILLE and then decide whether you want to spring for the paid version or just be a Scrooge. They're supposed to be adapting each chapter of the story and releasing the games every four months or so. Sounds like an expensive habit to me, but then again, I buy double that in comics a week, so what the hell do I know?
THE ORIGINALS softcoverIf you've got any teenagers or young adults around (you know the ones--they wear too much black, they're surly, they rebel even when they're not sure what they're rebelling against) and they're all into the Hot Topic and the mall punk, why not give 'em something that manages to combine nostalgia for the Mod culture with a more contemporary style? Dave Gibbbon's THE ORIGINALS is now available in softcover. It's got some of the feel of The Who's "Quadrophenia", but it also has a hip tech-savvy flair and some natty clothing designs that may get the kids out of the "why isn't it dead yet" Suburban Emo look and into the "wait, there are still scooter gangs?" Urban Mod look. Dave Gibbons is one of the best artists in the field, and his black and white work here is visually arresting enough to make this one worth checking out.
And last but not least, Ambush Bug has a few things to stuff down duh chimney dis year.
This holiday season, there are quite a few things that anyone who reads comics would enjoy. Some of them may not be your typical comic book fare, but I believe the use of images and text shouldn’t be restricted to one genre this type of year.