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#4 5/24/06 #5

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

An @$$itorial by Buzz Maverik
Indie Jones presents CHICANOS #7
Indie Jones presents JUDGE DREDD
Indie Jones presents…
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents EUREKA 7 VOL. 1
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents QWAN VOL. 1
RIP Alex Toth

The honorable Buzz Maverik has a few words to say in response to the news that Avi Arad is leaving Marvel Comics. To those faint of heart and humor: The opinions expressed on the back of a hamburger wrapper left laying on the floor of the @$$hole clubhouse do not reflect those of anyone sober.

You’ve been warned.

Dear Mort,

I'm not going to beat about the bush making a bunch of namby pamby, mealy-mouthed small-talk because that's not my style and you know it! It looks like somebody fired Arad's @$$ and I am ready to take over his old job.

See how it rolls off the tongue. Buzz Maverik: Chairman & CEO, Marvel Studios. Chief Creative Officer of Marvel. Third World Strongman. Generalissimo.

I know it's been announced that Kevin Feige has taken over the job, but let's face it, all that guy ever did was get Brittany Spears pregnant. Him, or any number of people, still doesn't make them qualified to run Marvel.

You can see from my resume that I am the man for the job. I bought or shoplifted every issue of X-MEN from GIANT SIZE # 1 up until it was cancelled in 1991. (Under my regime, our first order of business will be a re-launch with an ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT team except, of course, for Wolverine. This will lead up to the start of a movie franchise. See how I'm thinkin'?).

And do I have experience running things? For the past five years, haven't I been the driving force behind the most reviled comic book review column of the century? Some say I've been dragging the column down, to which I always reply, "Fuck you, I will kick your ass!" The critic is the single most important element in the comic book industry today, I'm sure we'd all agree. All I know is that Harry practically depends on me to run AICN.

Besides that, I've got filmmaking experience. USC, UCLA, NYU? I applied to all of their film schools at one time or another. I know what makes a good superhero film, which is why I was thrown out of DAREDEVIL, THE PUNISHER, ELEKTRA, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, THE HULK and the first two X-MEN movies for making sarcastic remarks.

I'll be bringing in my own people. I call 'em the @$$holes. Joe Quesada? There'll always be a place for him as a Former Editor In Chief at Marvel. Have you heard of Ambush Bug? He'll be handling the day to day operations. Axel Alonso? He doesn't even like comic books. I've got a new young editor named Dave Farabee who just loves 'em. And what fanboy could resist group editors with names like Vroom Socko, Sleazy G., superhero, Dan Grendel, Humphrey Lee and Professor Challenger? And don't worry about such fan favorites as Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar and Warren Ellis, because their books will be taken over by a collective of edgy, if depraved, young talent collectively known as the Cogs.

We're talking good storytelling. Beginnings, middles and ends in each issue of continued stories. No more waiting for the trades because you just can't wait for the next issue. We're going to prove that you can have fast-paced, hard-hitting, intelligent, character-driven action stories with sharp dialogue working smoothly with superior, powerful, narrative fueling artwork.

Exciting shit, huh? Out with the old, in with the new, I always say!

You have my fee demands. I'll get the usual stock options, diplomatic immunity and indoor skeet range, of course. I'm having a team of contractors and decorators fly in to get my office ready and I'm shipping my stuff. Tell those freaks in the mailroom to be especially careful with my ARZACH poster by Moebius.

Enterpisingly yours,

Buzz Iwojima Maverik


Writer: Peter David
Penciler: Ariel Olivetti
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

Now that we have Layla Miller's "origin" out of the way, the respectable Mr. PAD brings us back to one of the main storylines that has been running through the majority of the issues of X-FACTOR since it started as Jamie Madrox has some face time with Damian Tryp, the head of Singularity Investigations (the company that has been a nemesis to Jamie and his friends recently). We also get a long overdue personal moment as Scott Summers of the X-Men stops by to give Siryn the unfortunate news of her father's (Banshee) demise from the X-MEN: DEADLY GENESIS mini-series. Both encounters are met with some somewhat unexpected outbursts and events, but both are very interesting, thereby making this particular issue a very entertaining read.

As always the scenes that take place in the pages of this book are ripe with comedy and drama. Siryn's state of denial over her father's death is a prime example of both of these. As we see her try and come to grips with this saddening news it's even more heart-sinking to see her total lack of belief in the matter, though there are some comedic results of it as she's confronted by her teammates with it. It's also a nice little commentary on the revolving door that is known as superhero death. And I have to admit I got a bit teary-eyed by Banshee's little farewell video to his daughter. I know he's a lesser tier character, but I always thought he was fun when he showed up. Kind of a shame he went down in such an inconsequential manner.

Jamie's encounter with Mr. Tryp is also a bit on the surreal side. There's a bit of your typical good guy/bad guy stand-off banter, but some of their conversation takes some wild turns. Everything from bantering back and forth about Tryp buying Madrox's new X-Factor Investigations for fifty million bucks, and talks about medical and dental benefits... not really your typical "Oh, I'm on to you" kind of banter. And then it escalates into what you'd expect it to be for the most part. Lots of angry posturing and finger pointing and then someone gets thrown out of a window. Same old, same old. But nice levels of tension around it.

And on art chores this issue we have Ariel Olivetti, and I don't see the title "Guest Artist" anywhere around and am hoping we have a new regular pencil under his hand. Most of my previous exposure to his work came in the form of whatever art he did for the Versus Trading Card game, but now that I've seen regular interiors from him I'm most pleased. This book has been scrambling and rotating for artists ever since the talented Ryan Sook took himself off of it and I think Olivetti's art is and would be a nice regular addition to the creative team. Smooth lines, nice range of facial features and emotions, and some really good detail in the characters and backgrounds. Definitely works for me.

So again we have another solid issue in what is still a consistently good series. The Layla Miller nonsense from last issue aside (more the lack of a definite background to the character, not the character herself) everything so far in this run has been entertaining. The characters are fun and are enjoyable to read about, and the overall story and how it ties into the House of M and Decimation stuff works too. The Singularity Investigations stuff has been sorta dragged out, but now it's nice to see why they're such a big deal and events finally coming to a head. I can't wait to see where this goes next.


Writer: Tim Seeley
Pencils: Nate Bellegarde
Inks: Mark Englert
Publisher: Image
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Wonderful sermon you gave yesterday by the way. The scholars put THAT one directly into the BIBLE PART TWO.
-- Bishop Parrish to Jesus Version 2.0 after a televised battle with a horde of vampires.
That pretty much sums up the tone of this book. I am not a religious man. Although I can understand why people get offended by books such as this, I can’t help but laugh at those who take things so freaking seriously. I respect those whose beliefs and morals are strong, but there are no taboo subjects in the Book of Bug, so blaspheme away, I say to all. Not too much offends me, so I’m not going to shout outrageous, indignant comments about the use of subjects such as patriotism, the Bible, and 9-11 in this book. Yes, those who are picketing out in front of DUH VINCI CODE may have a new comic to make shoddy poster board signs out of now that LOADED BIBLE has hit the stands, but there’s room for all types of voices on this big blue marble and a book such as this is something that one should take note of.

In a lesser pair of hands, the concept of Jesus Christ versus Vampires could be a cheap one-note joke of a book. I myself joked to my comic book dealer that with a name like JESUS VS. VAMPIRES, it’s got to be good. But writer Tim Seeley shies away from this notion of frivolity and to dismiss this book as fluff is doing it a great disservice. This one’s got substance. Substance that goes past the smirk one might decorate one’s face upon hearing the title. Turns out, Seeley rolls with the idea that the world is spinning further and further towards the End of Days. After acknowledging the rise in global conflict and even showing a panel depicting the burning World Trade Center Towers (taboo—according to those who attend OMEN premieres), Seeley skips into a fictitious future, where the discovery of the existence of vampires sparks a rise in faith in the Catholic Church. After the nuclear holocaust, only the vampires (who have taken over the scorched America) and the Catholics (who live in a golden dome called The New Vatican) have survived. On a large monitor, those inside the Vatican can watch the vampires scavenge the barren American landscape and battle their savior, Jesus Christ, sword in hand and much vampire @$$ on his boots, and witness the making of the New New Testament—NOW WITH VAMPIRES!

But after seeing Jesus answering “You rang?” as he saves a fledgling archangel who takes the His name in vain, if you read on, you’ll find that there’s much more afoot as Jesus stumbles into a secret Catholic conspiracy that centers on martyrdom and manipulation and rings true not only in this story but in relation to how religion has functioned to some since the time when the first version of the Bible was written. With this new revelation, Jesus leaves the golden dome to find his true purpose.

That summation doesn’t really do the book justice though. It’s a smart, adventurous read that isn’t afraid to take risks. Seeley is pretty creative in his fleshing out of the world of the vampires; casting the leader of the vampires, Lilith, the first Vamp, as a half-ape, dung-flinging Cro-Magnon. That’s right: the main villain throws dung at an image of Jesus on the television. Fun, fun stuff.

The art is equally good. Reminiscent of Kevin O’Neill’s visceral work on MARSHALL LAW, artists Nate Bellegarde and Mark Englert give the book a vibrant and comic tone. These artists don’t pull their punches on the gore factor, filling every vampire fight scene with goo and grue, while straightforwardly telling the complex story. This art team is especially good with distinguishable faces and making the vampires look extra mean and menacing. All in all, a very slick looking book.

Fans of humor that is smart, poignant, and dark are definitely going to want to take notice of this book. Its comical style takes a backseat, though, as the adventure and coming of age story comes into full bloom in the last half of this 48 page first issue. If I were a pitch team in Hollywood, tossing out the premise of this book, I’d call it PREACHER meets THE GOON. It’s got the attitude and heft of Garth Ennis’ classic biblical opus matched with the gross-out sensibilities of Eric Powell’s carnival show of a comic. Those who are easily offended should stay home and eat soup. This is satire with balls. It’s got laughs supporting good storytelling and I can’t wait for issue two.


Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Sleazy G

The Spectre has been one of my favorite characters since I first stumbled across him in a giant-sized reprint of Winter 1940’s ALL STAR COMICS #3, which featured the first appearance of the Justice Society of America. I was a little kid who got his hands on the oversized issue and reread it dozens of times. Each of the characters in the story shared a brief story of a bizarre encounter they had experienced. While many of them leaned more towards the supernatural than just dealing with bank robbers and the like, lending the book a delightfully creepy air, few of the characters could compete with the likes of The Spectre. The fact that he existed only to punish the guilty for their sins in a highly ironic and gruesome manner really grew on me over the years, as did his host, police detective Jim Corrigan.

Recently, though, the character has fallen on tough times. A new-age hippie writer turned him into a Spirit of Redemption instead of Vengeance, sucking all the horrific fun out of the whole “God’s Wrath” thing. Thankfully, though, the Big Reset Button known as INFINITE CRISIS came along, and we’re back to the old-school, ass-kickin’ Spectre I loved as a kid.

On to the real question: how well does Will Pfeifer handle The Spectre and his less-than-accomodating new host, Crispus Allen?

The honest answer? Pretty well, but with room for improvement. There’s no question that having an honest cop who’s murdered as a host for God’s Wrath makes a lot more sense than giving it to an intergalactic villain. I like Crispus as a character, and seeing him murdered in GOTHAM CENTRAL was a helluva shock, so seeing him back is great. There’s a strange little bit here, though, where Crispus initially refuses The Spectre’s offer. Specty’s response is to give Crispus a year to think about it. A YEAR. Does it fit right in with the whole “One Year Later” initative over at DC? Sure. A year of Crispus seeing his family but not being able to communicate with them, though, seems a bit cruel—as does having him witness crimes he can’t prevent. There’s also a huge jump in logic you have to overlook as a result of this jump: The Spectre lays the blame for an unimaginable number of crimes at Crispus’ feet, because had he merged with The Spectre he could have punished criminals rather than allow them to continue to commit further crimes. What—over 5 billion people on the planet, and only ol’ Crispus is good enough to get the host gig? Sounds to me like somebody’s got a crush on a dead cop…but it also sounds like the kind of thing that would drive Crispus nuts over the course of 12 months. Let’s just say I’m not convinced Crispus is really as stable as he appears in this issue, huh?

Still, if you can look past that problem, there’s plenty here to like. Seeing the worst kind of criminal getting justice old-school Spectre stylee—devoured by the tools he used to harm others—is a pleasure to see in a comic again. Crispus Allen is clearly being given a plenty to learn and a think about here, laying the groundwork for a lot of potential character development down the road. It’s clear he’ll be in opposition to The Spectre much of the time, and frankly, that’s what works best for this character: someone to challenge the inhuman presence and keep him grounded, reminding him (and us) that things aren’t always as clear cut as they initially appear. There’s also an interesting moment where Crispus finally gets the answer every cop in Gotham wants: the identity of Batman. Having Crispus walk away feeling under whelmed at the revelation was a nice touch, and one I didn’t see coming.

If you’re still looking for a reason to pick this issue up, flip it open and check out the second page. Give it a few seconds, then flip through and look for a few more panels with The Spectre prominently featured. That oughta do the trick. I first developed a real appreciation for Cliff Chiang’s work when he was on the woefully under supported HUMAN TARGET series. Chiang is a master at working with light and shadows, and he does a terrific job of conveying the characters’ emotions visually. The subtle changes to The Spectre’s body language and appearance when he merges with Crispus Allen are a nice touch: it’s more than just adding a goatee to the same figure. It’s as if you can tell when Crispus is driving the figure and when he’s not. It’s a difference you can feel, and it adds extra depth to the storytelling. The faint glow given to The Spectre via the coloring is a nice little touch, too.

This isn’t a perfect issue, but it gets a lot right. It gets the mood, the mission and the attitude of the character right and it looks good doing it. I have minor quibbles with some of the decisions made, but there’s no question there’s a lot of potential here. After the mess that was made of the character a few years ago, I can’t imagine any long-time fans will be disappointed: the issue takes several steps in the right direction. Those of you out there who were fans of Crispus Allen in Gotham City over the last decade or so may be interested as well, and anybody who’s ever enjoyed the more supernatural side of the DCU should be pretty happy with what they find here. With any luck this series will do well and we’ll get to see The Spectre in another mini some time soon.


Writer: Carlos Trillo
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Small-Eyed Dan Grendell

"You think I'm stupid, don't you?"

Ah, Argentina. Land of the Pampas, the Perons, and, apparently, great comic talent. Plenty of you are already familiar with Eduardo Risso from his work on 100 BULLETS, and if you aren't, shame on you. But Carlos Trillo may be a new name, and he's good. Real good. CHICANOS is a translated reprint of a comic that first appeared in Europe in 1997, and is only one of several collaborations between these two fellows. I haven't read any others, but most are available through Diamond from SAF Comics, so I think I'm gonna check 'em out.

The basic premise of CHICANOS involves, duh, Chicanos. More specifically, one Chicano, Alejandrina Jalisco. If you live under a rock, a Chicano is a Mexican-American. Jalisco is a short, skinny, enormous-chested woman with chicken legs, quite a sight when run through the Risso wringer. In fact, that's half of the greatness of this book - how Risso makes every character a real character, if you know what I mean. In addition to being very odd-looking, Jalisco is a private investigator in the city of New York.

Now, New York isn't generally portrayed as a nice place, but you see a whole new side of it when you see it from Chicano eyes, especially the eyes of a P.I. In this issue, when Jalisco is attacked by someone who thinks she knows a secret, she runs to the police station - and they ignore her. As she's being beaten. But when she tricks her assailant into hitting one of the cops, well, that's something else entirely. Welcome to life in New York as a less-than-person. Sometimes it comes in handy, though - being able to go wherever you want because people assume you’re the cleaning lady can be useful.

Trillo has put together a combination of interesting stories and social commentary here, and though Risso was still developing his style it is still incredible and a strong part of the book. This is a great import, and an awesome find.

Written by John Wagner
Artists: Will Simpson, Colin MacNeil, John Burns
Written by John Wagner
Artists: Simon Fraser, Carlos Esquierra, Ian Gibson, Colin MacNeil, Charlie Adlard
Written by John Wagner, Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie
Art: Cam Kennedy
Published by 2000AD
Reviewer: Ambush Bug

I know I’m a little late in saying this, but fuck Danny Cannon! Fuck Sylvester Stallone! Fuck Max Von Sydow and Rob Schneider and Joan Chen and Balthazar Getty and Diane Lane and Armand Assante and…okay…Jurgen Prochnow gets a pass because he’s kinda cool. But fuck all of the rest of the people who had anything to do with the JUDGE DREDD movie! I had successfully avoided this film when it was released all of those years ago, but a few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I found that it was on in five minutes on a cable channel and decided to give it a go. This just so happens to coincide with me coming across a slew of the original JUDGE DREDD material originally published in 2000AD MAGAZINE and recently repackaged in trade paperback form. After watching the film and reading the material, all I have to say that the film did a great disservice to the JUDGE DREDD property, and quite possibly, the character would be a much bigger icon than he is had the film never existed.

Part cop procedural, part noir, part political commentary, the stories of JUDGE DREDD are all of the highest quality and tell some of the best sci fi fiction I have ever come across in comics. Luckily, the kind folks at 2000AD have repackaged the tales of Dredd and the streets of Mega-City One for mass consumption. I sat down with three such compilations and was satisfied equally by all of them.

I think my favorite of the bunch was JUDGE DREDD: THE CHIEF JUDGE’S MAN. This future noir-ish tale focused on a villain who proves to be hard for Dredd to track down, as the villain continues to slip through Dredd’s fingers by changing his face and using his talents courtesy of genes spliced with cockroaches and leopards. This futuristic tale of conspiracy and revenge gave this new reader a vividly detailed glimpse at the futuristic legal system of the Dredd universe from the courts system to the prisons to the crime-riddled streets. Dredd is more of a faceless juggernaut (unlike his movie counterpart, this Dredd never removes his helmet) relentlessly treading closer to the wily villain in this book. Shades of noir definitely come to surface in this tale as double crosses lead to betrayal and Dredd is forced to look at his own police force for the real villain behind it all.

Next up is JUDGE DREDD: BROTHERS OF THE BLOOD, which could basically be a sequel to the movie if the movie were any good as Judge Dredd comes face to face with his own clone, a trainee in on the police force. This book charts the journey the Dredd clone goes on as he moves through the ranks of the police force coming into conflict with internal corruption and innate feelings of competition with the real Judge Dredd. Taking the name of Rico, Dredd’s deceased brother, the clone triggers troubling memories for Dredd. This book shows more of the character of Dredd as he ponders whether this clone will go down the path of the law as he has or the darker path that his brother chose. This story was more of a cop procedural, following a rookie as he earns his wings and learns what it takes to be a police officer.

The third volume I had the pleasure of gandering was JUDGE DREDD: THE ART OF KENNY WHO? THE CAM KENNEDY COLLECTION. This volume features a slew of short stories featuring the art of underrated art-teest Cam Kennedy. Probably best known for his extended work on the Marvel STAR WARS ongoing series, Cam’s distinctive artwork is a cross between Fred Hembeck, Walt Simonson, and Carmine Infantino. Kennedy’s work stands out among those comic book greats, though, due to the stylistic facial characteristics and especially unique hairstyles he adorns his comical figures with. The cool thing about this book is that in one multi-parter, Kennedy draws himself in the story as an artist who comes to Mega-City One to get some recognition as an artist, but instead finds that robots can be programmed to copy his artistic style making him obsolete. Kennedy’s frustrations about this futuristic form of artistic destruction escalate to the point where he comes into conflict with Judge Dredd himself. Dredd stories are always textured and so is this one, commenting on many facets of art theory while entertaining the hell out of you at the same time.

These are just three of the books collecting the adventures of Judge Dredd and the police force of Mega-City One. I came across 2000AD late, but I have quickly come to the understanding that this is the company to seek out if you like sci fi. 2000AD are also in the process of collecting just about every Judge Dredd story ever made. I haven’t cracked open the first three girthy JUDGE DREDD: COMPLETE CASE FILES volumes, but I can’t wait to do so. If you like sci fi, don’t let that god-awful movie deter you from seeking out Judge Dredd to satisfy your jones.


Writer: Joe Gentile (from a story by Mac Rauch)
Artists: Stephen Thompson (pencils)/Keith Williams (inks)
Publisher: Moonstone Books
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

Thanks to cooperation from the Banzai Institution for Biomedical Engineering and Strategic Information, Buckaroo Banzai and the Hong Kong Cavaliers finally return to comics graced by a movie-poster-worthy Matt Haley cover. It's long been known that Buckaroo was very pleased with the job that Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter, the writer and director respectively, did in telling the film story of his adventure across the eighth dimension. But I've often wondered whether the fact that more adventures of Buckaroo and the Cavaliers never materialized was really due to movie company head-up-the-ass idiocy or a need for Buckaroo to disappear out of the media limelight. The only reason I can think of why Buckaroo would need to do this would be that the evil Hanoi Xan and the World Crime League was on the verge of a massive dastardly plan of action. Now that this first issue has been published, it is safe to assume that the planet is safe once again, but if this is the adventure that caused Buckaroo to disappear from public view for 20 years, then it is also safe to assume that the danger we were all oblivious to was worse than we can imagine. I'm talking about a plot that involves both those alien scum, the Lectroids, Dr. Lizardo, and Hanoi Xan working together.

And Moonstone comics has the honor of presenting this tale that the faint-hearted should not read. It is a tale that should frighten anyone when they find out just how close the world came to being conquered by Xan and the Lectroids. However, smile because Buckaroo Banzai was on the case when the adventure he's calling "The Return of the Screw" occurred.

You know, if the Banzai Institute had really tried to get this adventure told through another big budget movie, no studio in Hollywood would have turned it down. But the Institute smartly realized that the type of audience that would really appreciate the efforts of Buckaroo and the Cavaliers would be those inclined to buy quality comic books. Writer Joe Gentile does a very fine job capturing the narrative style of the old BUCKAROO BANZAI: ACROSS THE EIGHTH DIMENSION movie. When Buckaroo speaks, I can hear the actor, Peter Weller (hand-picked by Buckaroo to portray him), deliver the lines. That's a testament to good dialogue work by Gentile working from a story treatment provided to him by Mac Rauch. I noticed that the date is deliberately left nebulous and I think that's intentional so as to not cause panic among the public but also to let the story be read as a timeless adventure as well.

We do know that some time has passed between the events of the movie and the current story, however, because there are a couple of new additions to the Cavaliers that have never been seen before like "Red River Daddy." As well, we begin with the internal conflict Buckaroo is struggling with because of Penny's murder after the events of the movie and before the events of this comic. His confidence is shaken and this puts Buckaroo in a position he's never been in before just as his greatest challenge is about to be put to him. Xan almost seems able to touch Buckaroo's mind and taunt him with his failure.

On the art, overall the work is clean and tells the story well. There are design elements to the art that I'm not a particular fan of, such as the excessive blank margin areas. I can tell it was a deliberate design choice, but at times it looked more like wasted space that could've been used for larger panels or more detail work. I've read an interview where, I believe, Marv Wolfman was asked about working with George Perez when George was starting out. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that the drawing wasn't quite there yet but the storytelling was outstanding. He felt that storytelling is the harder aspect to learn and that if the storytelling ability is already there that the drawing will come with experience. That's similar to how I felt with Scott Thompson's work on this comic. The storytelling is there, but the drawing was not quite to the level of his natural storytelling ability. He chooses good variations in angles and cinematic points of view and moves the narrative so that the story could be followed without word balloons. But I felt the drawing was a bit inconsistent at times. I was glad to see Moonstone pair him up with an experienced professional inker like Keith Williams because I believe he was able to take Thompson's pencils and truly embellish his work, without overpowering it, and make Thompson's work even better. I was very pleased with the artwork and even surprised by the fine color work since for some reason I came into this thing thinking it was going to be a black and white comic. Color me pleasantly surprised.

Longtime fans of Buckaroo and the Cavaliers will be thrilled at our first opportunity to glimpse the fiendish Hanoi Xan. New fans should be intrigued enough by this first issue to want to check out the original movie or the Banzai Institute website to learn more about the world's greatest real hero and his team of adventurers.

Nice package all around and even offers the readers an opportunity for one lucky reader to be featured as the next Hong Kong Cavalier. Who would not want that honor? I can't wait read the next chapter in "The Return of the Screw."


Writer: Peter O'Donnell
Artist: Enrico Badia Romero
Publisher: Titan Books
Reviewer: Switch-hitting Dan Grendell

"You're a magnet for trouble, it just happens around you."

Newspaper strips have always somewhat confused me. Not the humor ones, though I don't really find those funny, I mean the action or drama strips. It always seemed to me that if you missed a few days, you were screwed for weeks until that plot ended. And really, can you tell a decent story by stringing together a bunch of little three panel strips? Then, one day, a friend convinced me to try the first collection of the MODESTY BLAISE newspaper strips that Titan Books was putting out.

Holy shit.

Not only did these strips make a story, they made a damn good one. Several damn good ones. With great art. And compelling characters. And I wanted more. That being screwed thing? Well, these trades collected whole stories, so nuts to that. I felt like somebody had opened my eyes to a whole new world and said, 'Hey, dipshit, why do you think so many people read these for so long? They weren't all retards, you know." Man, do I feel stupid.

When I started reading, I had a vague idea who Modesty Blaise was - a spy or something, like James Bond. Well, I was kinda right. She's a sexy ex-criminal mastermind, adept at martial arts and the bedroom arts, who has retired because she got tired of crime. Bored, basically. Her number two man in crime, the fanatically loyal Willie Garvin, is a master of the knife and will follow her anywhere. Together they get in trouble, often getting involved in spy plots due to a friendship with a government minister, but just as often just stumbling into something or helping out one of their many old friends. And sometimes, the past comes calling.

O'Donnell has given both Modesty and Willie very solid and defined personalities, and you very much want them to win during each caper. Every story is smart and involves something new and interesting, and they go all over the world. They are also pretty steamy, sometimes including topless nudity (imagine seeing that in a newspaper strip - especially one that started running in 1963 in England!) and always with beautiful art. The artist changed a few times over the course of the series, but the look always remained the same - some of the strongest realistic art I've seen, with detailed backgrounds, expressive faces, and incredible line work.

This particular volume is the ninth to be released, and contains the stories The Bluebeard Affair, The Gallows Bird, The Wicked Gnomes, and The Iron God. The Bluebeard Affair involves a man who has been marrying and killing his wives to get their wealth, but when his current target is the niece of a friend of Modesty's, he may have bitten off more than he can chew. His two daughters are excellently deranged. In The Gallows Bird, a crazed killer is hanging people, and someone is threatening to blow up the levees of New Orleans - are the two connected? The Wicked Gnomes has a pair of happy-go-lucky kidnappers in it that are hilarious, as a spy-for-spy exchange goes wrong, and in The Iron God, a crash in the jungle causes all sorts of problems when an old enemy appears, ruling the nearby natives.

The forerunner of many intrigue-type comics gaining popularity now, MODESTY BLAISE deserves a look because of its history. If you are like me, you'll stay because of its quality.

BOOM! Studios

I am going to say this as simply as I can: TALENT is the first great comic to come out of BOOM! Studios. For over a year now, BOOM! has created some pretty fun comics. From its hilarious HERO SQUARED series, to its promising WAR OF THE WORLDS SECOND WAVE, to its revolutionarily cool takes on old comics in WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?, they seem to be one of THE comic book companies on the rise, just waiting for that big, Big, BIG breakout title to secure their place firmly on the map. Well, this is it, folks. Trust me. Get in on the ground floor of this book. The concept is cool as hell. It takes shades of UNBREAKABLE, LOST, and X-FILES and uses them in new and original ways. Writers Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski and artist Paul Azaceta have really outdone themselves in creating a memorable tale of survival and mystery. Nicholas Dane was just a regular guy until his flight crashed in the middle of the ocean and he woke up to find he was the only survivor. Now the government wants answers and Nicholas finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy. To add to Nicholas’ troubles, he seems to have acquired all of the skills, the talents, and maybe even the memories of those who died on the plane that fateful night. I’m telling you, my nose was stuck in this book from cover to cover and nothing could tear it away from the story. On top of it all, this is yet another slick production of the highest caliber paper and printing from BOOM!, a company who is quickly becoming THE company with the best looking books out there. Since the company’s inception, BOOM! has been creating quite a rumble in the comics world, but with TALENT #1, they’re definitely living up to their name. Highly recommended. - Ambush Bug

EUREKA 7 Volume 1

Original story by: Bones

Story and art by: Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou
Published by: Bandai Entertainment
Reviewed by: Reviewed by superhero

Toss this one on to the completely undecipherable manga pile.

I picked this up because I had seen some of the anime on Cartoon Network. While I really had no idea what was going on I was impressed enough with the ‘toon version’s animation and appearance to want to find out more about it. So when I saw the manga I scooped it up hoping it’d answer some questions for me.

Boy was I wrong.

Turns out the only thing that the manga did was confuse me even more. I have no idea what this is about other than giant robots that ride giant surfboards through the sky much like the Silver Surfer ala NEON GENESIS EVANGELION. OK, maybe I do know a bit more than that but nothing is really clearly defined within the story’s structure. I can’t tell if it’s the actual writing or the translation but EUREKA 7 sure ended up being a heck of a frustrating read. Why is the protagonist so important? What are the rebel forces fighting against the government for? What’s the deal with the seemingly blank slate of a girl who happens to be the book’s namesake? Nothing is made clear in this book. It’s full of silly little jokes and jumbled storytelling which lacks any real character development.

It’s unfortunate that this book ended up being the storytelling mess that it is because I really wanted to like it. As it is this’ll be the first and last edition of this book I’ll ever pick up. Maybe I’ll just have to go back to the anime to see if I can make something out of the mess that the manga ended up being because the book didn’t help me either way. If anything it’s actually made me less inclined to go back and look at the episodes on Cartoon Network. Talk about damaging a brand. The manga of EUREKA 7 could do just that if too many fans get their hands on it.

QWAN Volume 1

Written and Illustrated by: Aki Shimizu
Published by: Tokyopop
Reviewed by: Reviewed by superhero

Take a demon hunting child, add a wandering and lazy grifter, and insert a bug princess with mysterious political ambitions and what do you get? You get QWAN, a highly entertaining and action filled manga.

A comet streaks through the medieval Chinese sky and splits in two. The next day a nomadic con man meets a strange and mysterious little boy. Eventually he (and the reader) will learn that this boy is more than he seems. Instead of the innocent and airheaded child that this boy appears to be, he is revealed as a mystical demon hunter who feeds on his prey. That’s right. Not only does this kid hunt demons but once he defeats them he turns them into dinner. That’s just one of interesting twists which makes QWAN an all around refreshing read.

Everything about this book clicked for me. The art, the writing and the translation were all superb. It’s got bits of humor, action and mystery which kept me flipping the pages in earnest. It’s rare that I delve into a book with this much enthusiasm but something about QWAN just came across as pure fun to me.

If you’re a fan of wholesome adventure manga in the vein of NARUTO then this book is probably for you. QWAN is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed and I can’t wait to get my hands on upcoming volumes. This will be a series that I’ll be keeping up with for the long haul if future editions end up being as entertaining as this first one was.

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.

Marvel Comics

Richard Corben, Edgar Allen Poe, Marvel Comics. One of these things is not like the others. I know it’s surprising to see a master of horror and a master of modern comic book art in a Marvel comic. That’s why this book needs to be cherished. Delivered in delicious black and white, this book not only depicts stories inspired by Poe’s original poetry, it also reprints the poems themselves for you literate types. The stand-out best of the bunch is “The Raven” rendered in absolutely mouth-watering grey tones. I’ve never seen Corben’s artwork look better. The other stories are “The Conqueror Worm” and “The Sleeper” and both are great and scary Poe stories brought to life by one of the most unique artists in modern comics. - Bug

DC Comics

Spinning out of what was in my opinion the best of the Crisis Countdown minis, the boys and girls from VILLAINS UNITED are back and doing, uh, stuff. Mainly this issue's purpose is to give us an idea on what this motley crew has been up to since their role in the big event ended and where they've ended up in that time. Some have gone on to happier things like Deadshot doing what he can with his "family" and trying to set them up for life while Scandal and Knockout have been doing a little good ole fashioned living in sin and so on, but mostly they're all right where we left them. There's a good bit of action in this book as we catch the crew on a mission in some third world despotic hellhole and facing down a small army, and then there's some calm before the storm moments that are both somewhat touching, disturbing, and comedic as the team is somewhat relaxed while on the lam from The Society. The thing is, though, while all the elements that made the first mini entertaining are still here, it just doesn't feel as "special" as it was the first time around. Maybe with a few interesting new developments to make the plot seem less like it's following the last mini's formula and trying to feed off of that book’s success. There's some good stuff here indeed, I just want it to be more its own book than a copy of the book that came before it. - Humphrey

Image Comics

Previewed here a few months ago, THE LAST CHRISTMAS is finally upon us. After seeing the preview pages, I thought I knew what to expect from this book, but in the end, Brian Posehn (MR. SHOW, JUST SHOOT ME, DEVIL’S REJECTS) and his writing partner, Gerry Duggan have created a twisted fairy tale that is destined to become a cracked holiday classic and required reading around the ol’ yule log at the Annual Ambush Bug Family Holiday Hootenanny. After Mrs. Claus and most of the rest of the world succumbs to the nuclear zombie mutant plague, Santa has nothing else to live for and dives into a bottle of booze and self-mutilation. It’s hilarious to see this age-old icon attempt to kill himself over and over to end his miserable days. This looks to be a very whacked-out story. It’s the kind of sense of humor that some may find offensive (definitely not for the little kiddies), but I ended up loving it. Rick Remender supplies some solid work here as he comically maps out this bomb-seared, zombie-ridden world that Santa and his elves inhabit. Once a creative dungheap of comic book pap, today’s Image Comics is proving to be a true force in today’s comics with innovative ideas, uber-talent not afraid to take risks, and perseverance. THE LAST CHRISTMAS is just more proof that this account is true. - Bug

RIP Alex Toth

By Vroom Socko

This past Saturday, at the age of 77, Alex Toth passed away.

Best known for his work at Hanna-Barbera, where he created such characters as SPACE GHOST, BIRDMAN, THE HERCULOIDS and THE GALAXY TRIO, Toth also did design work for the SUPER FRIENDS cartoon, as well as working as an artist for DC. His greatest notoriety at DC came with the story Burma Sky in OUR FIGHTING FORCES, and more of his work can be seen in the recently released Showcase Edition of HOUSE OF MYSTERY.

But it is ZORRO that first comes to mind when I think of Toth. The 1957 tv show starring Guy Williams was a favorite show for me and my father when it used to air on the Disney Channel at midnight, and the work that Toth did to bring the character to life was much beloved by the both of us.

Alex Toth had a style that was unique and an unmistakable talent. The world of comics and art is all the poorer for his passing. We at AICN Comics send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

Alex Toth

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