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Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. We try to shy away from intros in this here column because we know you want to get right to the reviews, but every now and then, a few introductory words are in order. Let’s face it: I don’t know too many people who have picked up a comic book for the first time as an adult. Usually, it is somewhere during our childhood that we are turned on to these fantastic monthly mythologies. I remember reading my first book at seven and talking my father’s ear off about it until he bought me more just to shut me the hell up. Since that day, I was hooked. Now, I know we all like to justify our four color addictions by calling them serious fiction and intellectualizing them ad nauseum. But let’s face it. These are kiddie books and we’re all kids at heart. Every time you crack open that new comic, you’re taken back to your childhood and I’m not afraid to admit, this is a refreshing feeling that is one of the main reasons I still read comics in my thirties. That’s why I am very excited about our first review.
Although, in the late nineties, the government issued a secret order that the @$$holes are not allowed to reproduce in a pre-emptive strike against an uprising in loud and opinionated online blatherings and a possible vicious coup, some of us have fallen through the cracks and actually spawned some offspring. Professor Challenger Jr. is one of the next generation of @$$holes. He’s eleven and our first review in this week’s column is his first review ever. I hope to hear more from this fresh, new talent, and you all should remember that one day, not too long ago, you too were reading comics for the first time. With all of us adults gabbing it up about comics, it’s nice to hear a new voice from an untapped population in online reviewing: the kiddies.
Now I just have to get over the guilt I’m feeling every time I toss out swears and lewd references to my pants in a review.
(Click title to go directly to the review)
THE THING #7
THE PUNISHER: THE TYGER ONE SHOT
Comics Catch-up presents DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE, and SON OF M
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents NO MAN’S LAND Vol. 1 and 2
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents DRAGON HEAD V.2
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents BASILISK V.1
Indie Jones presents SCATTERBRAIN #2
Indie Jones presents DAISY KUTTER: THE LAST TRAIN
Indie Jones presents ARTESIA: BESIEGED #1
Indie Jones presents…
THE THING #7
Writer: Dan Slott
Editorial Note: The following review is submitted by the 11 year-old son of "Prof. Challenger." It's his first time ever trying something like this but he loves Slott's THE THING comic so much, he asked if he could write up a review of the latest. A shout-out request to the Talk-Backers to take all that into account if you feel like commenting on his work. Thank you. Now, on with the review.
Artist: Kieron Dwyer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Jr.
Okay people, I read this THING comic, and it is soooooo funny. This is about Ben giving Alicia a big birthday surprise. He knows that the "Venus de Milo" is her favorite work of art. So he takes her back in time to see . . . oh, sorry Alicia *ahem* be there when Alexandros finishes it. As you can probably imagine, it doesn't go exactly the way Ben planned it.
For example, Ben meets Hercules back in ancient Greece. Herc thinks Ben is a "rocky troll," and tries to protect Alicia from him, so they get in a huge fight! And since Alicia was able to predict Ben saying "It's Clobberin' Time!" they thought she was a blind oracle.
Now to the serious stuff. I thought this comic was cool because it was kind of like a bonding between Ben and Alicia. I'm not saying that Arlo isn't still Alicia's boyfriend, but Ben realizes that he can still be her very good friend. And about the art, Kieron Dwyer was very good. I could hardly tell a difference between him and Andrea DiVito. Anyway, that is what I thought of this comic.
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THE PUNISHER: THE TYGER ONE-SHOT
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: John Severin
Publisher: Marvel MAX
Reviewer: Sleazy G
I’ve spoken here before about how happy I am with the work Garth Ennis has done since THE PUNISHER was relaunched as a MAX title. He’s had a demonstrably more mature approach that proved he was finally taking both the character and his work on the title more seriously, and as a result the series was a vast improvement over its previous incarnation. There has been the occasional slip-up—I didn’t much care for the BORN miniseries—but for the most part, I’ve been impressed.
THE TYGER, though, is something else altogether. I’ve always known that if Ennis jettisoned the more childish and scatological aspects of his writing, or at least exorcised them in the right sorts of projects, he would be capable of truly impressive work. I’ve enjoyed much of what he did, but sometimes felt as though some of his impulses were holding him back as a writer. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the eternally delayed CITY LIGHTS because I thought that was where he would finally get the chance to truly prove himself.
Imagine my surprise, then, to find him proving himself right here in a dismally underpromoted PUNISHER one-shot. Ennis once again explores a formative experience in Frank Castle’s past, peeling back the layers of the character and helping us understand how he became what he is today. Unlike other stories of its type, though, this one reaches back much further. I don’t recall ever having glimpsed Frank at such a young age before, and while a ten year old Frank is certainly more innocent than the one we know went to Vietnam, we learn here that his life has already been touched by too much ugliness. Frank’s parents are clearly blue collar, and hard working, and loving, and good people at their core. At times, though, there’s a hardness that comes through: the hardness that comes from being beaten down and taken advantage of for so long that it’s the only way to respond to your situation.
Frank isn’t completely broken at so tender an age, though. Ennis reveals him to have been a sensitive soul, a quick study who loved to read and enjoy poetry—a side his mother nurtures over his father’s objections. There’s a poetry class Frank is allowed to tag along to, and he usually goes with a friend—a neighborhood girl a few years older than her that all the guys in the neighborhood have a crush on. In the end, something terrible happens to her, the kind of thing usually discussed in hushed tones. Frank himself is helpless to do anything, but he watches as the girl’s brother exacts the kind of vengeance Frank later comes to embrace himself.
The title of the one-shot comes, of course, from the well-known William Blake poem of the same name. In the hands of a lesser writer, it use would be clichÃ©d: either overplayed until we’re beaten over the head with it or underplayed to the point where it held little meaning. Not so in this case, however. Rather than just use the poem as a framing device, it plays a very specific part here. While in the poetry class Frank suggests a reading of the poem whereby the tiger was not created by God, but by someone more likely to create the dark things in the world. The priest conducting the discussion assures him this can’t be the case, but Frank chooses to pursue his own beliefs on the subject, and we see him do so again at a museum. Even as a child, he has both a fear of and an appreciation for predators, and in time comes to view himself as one of them: not among God’s creatures, but rather born of something far more sinister.
THE TYGER is more than just a major accomplishment for the author, however: it is also among the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve bought in recent memory. John Severin is a legend in the field, but I’m not old enough to have encountered much of the work that earned him that reputation. I’ve been impressed with some of the work he’s done on westerns like DESPERADOES over the last few years, able to see his gift for storytelling there. Nothing else I’ve seen him do thus far could possibly have prepared me for what I found here. The postures, the emotions the characters put across, the play of shadows and light are all transcendent. This is clearly the work of a master, and even the most wretched of stories would have been worth buying just to have the art on hand to flip through again and again. I lack the training and vocabulary needed to describe what Severin does here, and it’s a damned shame. All I can say is that he uses some sort of technique which makes much of the backgrounds and details look almost engraved. Honestly, I just feel woefully underequipped to describe just how fantastic this issue is. Just pick it up and flip through it and you’ll see that it’s so unique, so distinctive, that it’s unlike anything else you’ll buy this year.
I really am awestruck by just how impressive THE TYGER really is. If anyone had ever told me that so powerful and impressive a piece of work would come from a book featuring The Punisher—a character I’ve bought for going on two decades—I would have laughed outright. The combination of Garth Ennis and John Severin has proved me wrong here with a thoughtful, heartfelt and startling look at the character. What I found here was completely unexpected and absolutely amazing. This is easily the best Punisher story I’ve ever read. That Marvel has done so little to support it prior to release is completely beyond me, and must be disheartening to the creators who put so much into this issue. If you have ever been interested in The Punisher, you owe it to yourself to pick this issue up—it’s well worth the $4.99 price tag. If you’re not someone who’s paid much attention to Frank Castle, I think you’ll probably like this issue anyway since all but a handful of pages are set in the character’s past, prior to his vigilante existence. I simply can’t recommend THE TYGER highly enough—it’s easily the most unexpected thing I’ve come across from one of the major publishers this year.
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It happens to me all of the time. As the responsibilities of the real world rear their ugly heads, the stack of comics on my bed stand grows. Pretty soon, I end up having to take an entire afternoon to read entire arcs or, in this case, entire miniseries. Or sometimes, the voices from the Talkbacks (or are those the voices in my head?…sometimes I’m not sure) are loud enough to make me go out and search for a few issues of a comic I don’t normally read. That, my friends, is when I deem it time for yet another Comics Catch-Up…miniseries-stylee.
THREE RECENT MARVEL MINISERIES WORTH CHECKING OUT!
DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON #1-5
As frustrated as I am with Marvel these days, what with their mainstream titles lacking in almost every thing that ever attracted me to the company’s characters in the first place, Marvel has been producing a handful of pretty interesting miniseries in the last few months. Three of them are just coming to a close and I thought this would be a good time to catch up with them and point out what makes these miniseries so much better than their ongoing brethren.
#6 to be released next month.
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art: Khari Evans (pencils) and Jimmy Palmiotti (inks)
IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE #1-6
Writer: Joe Casey
Art: Frazer Irving
SON OF M #1-6
Writer: David Hine
Art: Roy Allen Martinez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Catcher-upper: Ambush Bug
First on tap is DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, following the sassy adventures of the Marvel Universe’s own bail bondswomen, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing. One’s a street tough ex-cop with a bionic arm, the other’s one of the world’s most dangerous samurais. Together they work to bring in the Marvel U’s criminals to court. Everything I know about the world of bail bondsmen comes from watching JACKIE BROWN and those who love the retro-70’s vibe from Tarantino’s films will definitely have to check out this miniseries. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who are kicking all sorts of @$$ at DC with JONAH HEX) bring the same kind of excitement to this series as the Daughters of the Dragon bound through the Marvel U in search of criminals on the run.
What makes this miniseries stand out is the way it completely enmeshes the vast cast of characters of the Marvel Universe into the story. Like the legal firm in Dan Slott’s amazing SHE-HULK series, this premise is ripe with potential and limitless possibilities. Virtually any villain in the Marvel U, be they Orca, Rhino, or Humbug, can be clients of Wing and Knight. And despite the fact that they are not major power players, they hold their own with sass, confidence, and attitude. It also helps to have friends like Iron Fist (Misty Knight’s boyfriend) around as back-up. Palmiotti and Gray give this book the same type of incorporated universe feel that Geoff Johns did so well in JSA and Dan Slott does in his Marvel books. You don’t have to know the Punisher’s whole story when he makes an appearance in issue #5, just that he’s a madman vigilante who has no problem helping out the Daughters--a fact clearly shown as the Punisher leisurely walks past the blood-soaked sheet covered corpse of a person he just finished torturing while talking with Wing and Knight. Issue five also shines when the Daughters pay a visit to see the Mole Man allowing him to try to woo them with this line:
”The Mole Man has so much bling and no one to share it with.”To which, Misty Knight responds:
”Please…don’t say bling…ever again.”This miniseries is filled with fun moments like this.
The only criticism I have of this book has to do with the clothing styles Wing and Knight sport. It’s not that they aren’t cool looking, because they are. They’re probably the best dressed super powered bailbondswomen in the Marvel U. I guess it is just that the styles are so trendy that not only does it make you feel uncool as you read it, but it automatically dates the book as wholly embracing the “this just in” style of the moment. I get the same annoyed feeling when I see the uber-stylish clothes the RUNAWAYS run around in. They’re children…living on the street…and yet they dress as if they walked straight out of IN STYLE magazine.
I dunno. Maybe I’m just getting old.
But in the end, the modern stylings just add to the appeal of this book. It’s a hipper, trendier BIRDS OF PREY with SHE-HULK sensibilities. With a mixture like that this miniseries is proving to be great and an intriguing prequel to the upcoming HEROES FOR HIRE series featuring the same cast.
Next on the list is IRON MAN: THE INEVITABLE. I reviewed an issue of this series a while back and told you all that this is the IRON MAN comic you all should be buying, and not Warren Ellis’ annoyingly late and overly-deconstructed run that restarted the ongoing series. THE INEVITABLE follows a determined Stark as he fights to save the life of a fellow scientist and find what’s left of his former nemesis, the Living Laser. Along the way, Spymaster and the Ghost team up to cause Stark more problems.
The true draw of this series is the art and design work by the talented artist Frazer Irving. His work has been seen in DC’s KLARION THE WITCH BOY, but although I recognized the talent in the brush-like panels of that miniseries, it wasn’t until this series that I stood up and really took notice of his talent. I love the way Irving uses real patterns to give a three dimensional feel to the walls and surfaces. Irving draws some truly bizarre humans. His organic forms give me an uneasy feeling--a feeling that disappears when the armor goes on and you enter the world of the tech. In a book like IRON MAN, this is an aspect that is welcome since Tony Stark himself often feels more comfortable with his machines than humans.
Writer Joe Casey throws in just about everything that makes Stark one of Marvel’s coolest characters into this series. Casey remembers Stark loves the ladies, has to avoid the drink, and is very much a man struggling for control over his world and his body. He’s an impulsive genius who often overtaxes himself and has control issues. All of this is perfectly illustrated as the search for the Living Laser continues and the Spymaster and the Ghost play their hands. This miniseries embraces Iron Man’s rogues and casts them as powerful foes, something the regular ongoing has failed to do for ages.
The final issue of this series ended a bit abruptly for me. The Living Laser was taken care of a bit too quickly and the red herring regarding the fallen female scientist never really came to fruition to my satisfaction. But this miniseries deserves recognition due to its amazing visuals and complete understanding of the character.
Last, but definitely not least, is SON OF M. I wasn’t initially interested in this series, but after hearing requests from the TBs, I decided to take a gander to see what all of the hubbub was about. I had liked David Hine’s take on DISTRICT X enough to have faith in the writing, but HOUSE OF M left such a bad taste in my mouth, I swore off any spin-offs like the plague. Turns out I shouldn’t have stayed away from this series because it was one of my favorites so far this year.
I can only liken this miniseries to the experience I had when I saw the movie PLEASANTVILLE. Although the stories are nothing alike, as both stories unfolded, pleasant surprise turned to sheer enjoyment and then to complete awe. SON OF M starts out small but ends, quite literally, with a bang heard around the entire Marvel Universe.
After the HOUSE OF M, the Scarlet Witch obliterated the powers of most of the mutants in the Marvel U, including her brother, Quicksilver. Quicksilver has always been an arrogant shit. Although he was an Avenger and a member of X-Factor, no one besides his family really liked him very much. Even his marriage to Crystal the Elemental Inhuman fell to pieces. Writer David Hine understands Pietro Maximoff’s history and incorporates it into this story of a stubborn, proud, and flawed hero with good intentions. Now slow as the rest of the humans, Pietro wants at first to end his life, and when that is foiled by Spider-Man, he decides to go on a quest to get his powers back. This quest leads him on a trip to the Blue Area of the Moon and the island of Genosha (where the events of HOUSE OF M took place).
Like the first two miniseries in this Catch-Up, this miniseries builds on the histories of the characters and highlights the Marvel Universe to be a fascinating place filled with imaginative characters with rich histories. As the drama unfolds, Quicksilver steals the Terrigen Mists and his daughter, Luna, from the moon. Turns out the Mists can spark the mutant gene snuffed out by the Scarlet Witch. Like an illegal drug smuggler, Pietro tries to convince the powerless mutants that he can restore their powers and their place as the next step in human evolution. All the while, Pietro is oblivious to the effect this new quest has on his daughter ,who is quickly becoming addicted to the Mists herself.
Hine casts Pietro as a desperate man in need of a quest. Throughout this miniseries, Pietro assumes many roles: father, outcast, husband, deceiver, misguided hero, and possible future threat to the entire Earth. It is a complex and adult tale, picking up the pieces of a mess of a crossover and making it interesting.
As this miniseries came to an end, I found my self saying, “Holy shit! This is major some shit going on right here!” What started out as a small story about one desperate man quickly unspiraled into something that could have huge ramifications of the Marvel U. Hopefully, Hine is connected to whatever story will unfurl from this miniseries because he did one hell of a job with this one.
Along with Michael Oeming’s ARES miniseries, these Marvel’s miniseries are the place to go for great action, humor, interconnectedness, and everything else that makes comics cool. Although their mainstream titles may be mired down by ego, crisscrosses, and flash, these miniseries offer more of an intimate look at the Marvel U and utilize that universe to the potential it deserves. I’m sure all of these minis will be compiled as trades, so if you don’t want to dig into the back bins, do yourself a favor and check them out.
NO MAN’S LAND Volumes 1 and 2
Art by: Jennyson Rosero
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Reviewed by superhero
Well it looks like it’s certainly going to be western central in my corner this week because I just happened to come across another great comic in that genre recently. While this book isn’t as terrific as DAISY KUTTER, NO MAN’S LAND certainly deserves a place at the table where all great comic series go to eat.
If anyone’s read the book PRIEST from Tokyopop they’ll find NO MAN’S LAND familiar territory. In NML we’re introduced to a lone gunman wandering the Old West with a mission to hunt down demons and terminate them. But where PRIEST can sometimes come off as a bit jumbled and convoluted NO MAN’S LAND excels with some clear and straightforward storytelling. While the first volume of the series isn’t as compelling as the second book NO MAN’S LAND is a great read straight from the get go. Most of this is because many of the big reveals in the story arc take place in book two with book one being mostly setup for the feel of the whole series. Either way the first chapter of NO MAN’S LAND was good enough on its own to make me keep an eye out and actually purchase book two so the creators of this book must’ve been doing something right.
The art in NO MAN’S LAND is extremely well done and highly professional. Jennyson Rosero is extremely, and I mean extremely, talented. His work is crisp and detailed and crackles with an energy that only some of the best manga artists have. My only quibble with his art would be with some of the storytelling in the first volume. While his style certainly is flashy there are certain sequences that suffer because the pace of the story loses its flow. In my opinion this is mostly due to the fact that Rosero seems to be more focused on dazzling readers with flashy panel setups and angles than just telling a story. But by volume two all of my qualms went out the window as Rosero’s style seemed to mature and his flashy technique took a back seat and allowed his storytelling skill to shine. Rosero is truly going to be one of the hottest new artists out there and you heard it here first.
As I said before, NO MAN’S LAND really grabbed me with the second volume and that’s because writer Jason DeAngelis crafts one of the more interesting origin stories for a mystical gunslinger I’ve ever read. He smartly incorporates real life historical events and mixes them with some truly outlandish fiction so that while the story is obviously not based in any kind of history it still feels like it could be. This was something that I really appreciated about the story. It seemed that while the writer was crafting a tale of the supernatural he still took the time to research the history during which the book took place. It helps make NO MAN’S LAND a really interesting read in more ways than one. The second book is also where the characters really begin to develop and motives are brought to the forefront. It’s the second book where DeAngelis’s writing talent manages to shine. While the first book is good the second volume graduates to truly great.
In short, it seems to me that this book just gets better as it goes along. Hopefully the third volume will increase this story’s trend of just getting better with each volume. Unfortunately, according to the publisher’s website the third volume isn’t due until 2007! What the f#$k??? Oh, well, if the third book is as entertaining as the first two were hopefully it’ll be worth the wait.
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DRAGON HEAD V. 2
Story and Art by Minetaro Mochizuki
This is my first Manga review.
Bug Guy for the Cape Eyes: Ambush Bug
I’ve never been in this corner of @$$hole HQ before.
After reading the positive review of the first volume of DRAGON HEAD here in the Big Eyes section, I was prompted to buy my first Manga comic ever. It was the premise described in that review that nabbed me by the short and curlies and prompted me to search it out. As soon as I finished Volume One, I read that issue two was available and as quick as you can say “Bug has impulse control problems” I was in my comics store, Volume Two in hand, and ready for a second course.
What I love about this book is the sense of horror and mystery that permeates every panel. Three young adults are the sole survivors of a train wreck. The tunnel they were traveling through has collapsed. There are hints that some major shit is happening outside of the tunnel (the radio keeps popping in and out about some kind of emergency and one of the students noticed a change in the color of the sky before entering the tunnel), but no one knows for sure what’s going on. These three kids are trapped in the darkness and they are going mad.
That’s the premise. It’s simple and beautiful and horrifyingly effective all at once.
While Volume One sets up the situation, Volume Two sits back and lets the madness pour out all over our characters as they succumb to hopelessness, despair, madness, and the dark unknowns that tear at their minds in this dire situation. As the aftershocks of what the kids believe to be the earthquake that caused the cave in rumble around them, as the temperature inside the tunnel rises, and the amount of food dwindles, and the smell of the rotting bodies around them begin to reek, these three kids are literally tearing themselves apart.
I loved this book for its bleakness. This is some truly dark shit happening. It’s a maddening experience for the reader as well because you are trapped with these kids in this tunnel, not knowing what caused the collapse, if and when a rescue party will arrive, or if there is a world out there waiting for these kids if they do survive this experience.
All I know is that I’m hooked. This is an intense read. A real nail-biter. Deliciously drenched in evil and darkness. Writer Minetaro Mochizuki makes that tunnel a literal hell on Earth for these kids and it’s one place I can’t wait to return to in Volume Three.
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Original Story: Futaro Yamada
"This battle will decide the next Tokugawa Shogun."
Creator: Masaki Segawa
Publisher: Del Rey
Reviewer: Dan Grendell
I'm a fan of manga set in feudal Japan. It's just a favorite setting of mine, so stories set there have an initial boost for me right out of the gate. Not to say I love them all - just check out my review of LADY SNOWBLOOD if you think that - but they do have a higher base level of interest for me than many other stories. BASILISK is set in a very popular time of Japanese history, the rule of the first Tokugawa shogun, and it features some famous characters from history - Hanzo Hattori, head of the Tokugawa ninja, and Munenori Yagiyuu, Tokugawa fencing instructor.
The basic plot is an interesting one. Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose two sons are each building their own faction and preparing to succeed him, needs a way to decide between them - so rather than waste samurai fighting, he breaks the truce between the Iga and Kouga ninja sects and decrees that ten ninja from each will fight. Each sect fights for a son, and whichever wins determines who will be his heir. Of course, there are no rules, because they are ninja, so what follows immediately is the death of the head of each sect - and the game is on!
An extra wrinkle is that the heirs to each ninja sect are in love and betrothed, and their marriage was intended to bring peace to the two sects - but that peace is gone now. However, only some members of each sect are aware that the truce is over, so betrayals and ambushes are the order of the day. And, of course, each ninja has his own special technique that is really cool. Glue-spitting, razor-threads, throat-spears, stretching, skin control, all sorts of really cool stuff make this manga a fun read and make each battle sweet.
Segawa's art is pretty good at showing all of the different ninja techniques, although some of them get lost in the various speed lines and blood splashes and the like. It is easy to tell each ninja apart, as they are drawn in outrageous ways, and have different personalities that show on their faces. The artwork does a good job of adding to the story instead of taking from it.
Overall, like the anime NINJA SCROLL, BASILISK does a good job of delivering cool ninja battles with interesting techniques. It’s also an interesting story, and is well worth a look.
Writer: Brendan Deneen
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
I gave SCATTERBRAIN #1 an enthusiastic review awhile back. So, I'm not going to just repeat what I said there. But issue #2 holds up the quality and drives this intense storyline forward. It's clearly marked on the covers with a "mature readers" label, and it deserves it. The violence is harsh, the language filthy, and the world presented so dark and unforgiving. I find this comic to be a gripping tale in the tradition of film noir but while the mystery and the mood move the plot along, the real reason why this comic resonates with me is the characters and the way they interact with each other. I'm not talking about flippant "...the hell?" type nonsense, but dialogue that rings true to the characters and not to the schtick of the writer.
Deneen appeared to be so bold in the first issue as to kill off the title character on the last page. Not to give away what follows from that shocking scene, but he continues the storytelling device here wherein the title character is not someone who the reader is given any real insight into. But his mere existence is the force that pulls these different characters together. I find it a very mature way to tell what is, in effect, a super-hero story, but it's more like UNBREAKABLE by way of CHINATOWN or SCARFACE. Every character is just slightly mad, whether hero or villain and the decidedly unsettling artwork by Kudranski perfectly complements that perspective. Expressive and unyieldingly brutal when necessary.
For those who have read that first issue and are curious about the second, I will say that the villainous Shroud has a lot of page time and for some reason, I had this image pop into my head and I kept seeing and hearing him as if he were being portrayed by Frank Langella with that Skeletor mask he wore in MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE. Har! That kind of helped balance out the disturbing creepiness of the character. Deneen reveals quite a bit more about the son of our anti-hero, Det. Anderfold. We knew the kid was screwed up in issue #1, but I was a bit taken aback by discovering how screwed up he really is. The scenes with Anderfold and his wife (both of whom were shown maintaining blatant extra-marital affairs in issue #1) are effective because they illustrate the deep emotional connection that a married couple has with each other - even when the relationship has been adulterated. Pretty deep insight for a fairly new writer.
One last thing. Both of these SCATTERBRAIN comics that I've read have been very dense in story and art. In other words, the quick little skim through that a lot of Marvel and DC get from me just doesn't cut it for this comic. It requires actually sitting down and giving it a good read through. You won't regret it. It's very good stuff.
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DAISY KUTTER: THE LAST TRAIN
Written and Illustrated by: Kazu Kibuishi
Published by: Viper Comics
Reviewed by superhero
It’s just great when I come across a book that is a perfect representation of sequential art. When I read a graphic novel/comic book that is the pinnacle of characterization, storytelling and art I just giggle with glee. It makes me so happy to come across a book that exemplifies the best in its class and make no mistake about it DAISY KUTTER: THE LAST TRAIN is one of the best comics I’ve ever read. Period.
When I came across this book at the Alternative Press Expo the first thing that sucked me in was the art. This book is just great to look at. Kibuishi’s free flowing and cartoony style brings out the best in every panel. His storytelling is superb. His pacing is fantastic. His character design is endearing. Reading this book is an almost filmic experience. The pages and panels flow easily throughout the book keeping the narrative tight. Kazu Kibuishi knows how to put pen to paper (as well as lay out gray tones) and every page of this book shows off his mastery at storytelling. This book is a joy to look at.
But it’s not enough that the cartoonish style of the book sucked me right in, the story in and of itself is terrific as well. DAISY KUTTER is an old school western at its best. It’s a western the way great westerns have always been done. It’s got a hard nosed yet identifiable character as its protagonist who’s on a mission to find herself in a world that may not have room for her anymore. Daisy Kutter is a former outlaw trying to go straight despite every fiber of her being fighting against it. During the course of the story she loses everything to a bad round of cards and is forced to face the fact that she may have to pull one last job to pull herself out of the hole she got herself into.
Sure, this may not seem like the most original plot to a western but Kibuishi breathes so much life into his main character and her world that I couldn’t help but love everything about it from the moment I opened its pages. THE LAST TRAIN is a book that is as entertaining as comics can get. It’s got everything that a comic book could ever want and more. Trust me on this one. It’s a straight up entertaining and heart tugging read that’ll leave you appreciating the medium of comics more than you did when you began reading the book. This book is a classic waiting for its audience to discover it. Find it by any means necessary and then tell all of your friends all about it.
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ARTESIA: BESIEGED #1
Creator: Mark Smylie
"In our fear, we forget that we already know the only way home is through VICTORY."
Publisher: Archaia Studios Press
Reviewer: Bated-Breathed Dan Grendell
I have been waiting for this comic for two years. Mark Smylie's ARTESIA series is as good as it gets in fantasy comics, and each time I hear even a whisper of the next chapter I get excited. The stories of the warrior-priestess Artesia, haunted by spirits and leading her troops against an incredible army, are grim, exciting, and as sensual as satin sheets. It's a mix that takes a perfect balance, and Smylie nails it. Like nothing I have read before, ARTESIA truly creates the feel of a medieval world where spirits exist, magic is terrible, religion rules people's lives (and not just some insubstantial Gods, but true religions with incredible detail) and the strong and strong-willed dominate.
This is the first issue of the fourth mini-series, but don't worry - the first three are all available in trade and well worth it. Though the sheer number of names getting tossed around can get confusing, there is a short essay about some aspect of the world at the end of each issue to help clear things up. At the end of the third series, Artesia and her soldiers managed to gain safety for the city they were in - the attacker gave his word. They are, however, trapped there. This issue sees them having to deal with the boredom of what is essentially a siege, keeping people from fighting amongst themselves and planning their next move. At the end of the issue, an actual attacker appears - but it is not the one Artesia expected.
Characterizations make this issue, as there is little actual action. Smylie shows Artesia taking refuge in the realms of the flesh - as one of the goddesses she is a priestess of is Dieva, who rules physical pleasures and sex, this makes complete sense. The Baroness of the city retreats into her tower, away from everyone. Old clan-feuds break out among soldiers. The wealthy grumble about food. And the Sultan who swore not to attack tries to spy. I take that back: even with no actual fighting, there is a ton of action.
What really makes the ARTESIA series shine is Smylie's painted artwork (ten page preview). Full of detail and color, but always somewhat muted, it gives the feel of a darker time - and I mean that not just as a time when things were bad but when there were no electric lights - perfectly. Emotions seem stronger, colors seem richer - the colors chosen are spectacular. If ARTESIA were illustrated any other way, it would lose much of its impact.
ARTESIA isn't just your standard fantasy story - it's a comic that stays with you after you've read it, and draws you back again. I rank it among the best I've ever read.
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WAR OF THE WORLDS: SECOND WAVE #3
I’ve mentioned how this book surprised me with it’s second issue and it continues to be a really great read, but this time I have to point out artist Chee’s true skill with the pencil and masterful ability to convey emotion and work with the writer to turn in some of the best use of sequential art I’ve read in a while. Silent beat panels are commonplace these days in comics, but Chee nails the facial expressions so well in this issue that the writer doesn’t need to say a word. I know people label Kevin Maguire and Steve Dillon as the masters of modern facial expressions in comics, but Chee beats all of them with his light, feathery brush strokes and pencil shadings. This series is turning to be a real surprise hit in terms of art and storytelling. - Ambush Bug
ZOMBIES!: FEAST #1
Y’all knows, I’s loves me some zombies! If it’s got rotting flesh and a hankerin’ for cerebellum, I’m all over it like leprosy. Zombies in space. Zombie soap operas. Zombies on a MUTHERFUCKIN’ PLANE! I don’t care where you put zombies, they’re damn cool to me. This first issue jumps right into the action as a busload of hardened criminals crashes and three guards are stuck walking their prisoners through a desolate forest. They’re oblivious to the fact that the dead are walking and eating, but they find out soon enough when they come across an inviting farmhouse that turns out to be anything but. I could have used a little more exposition in this one distinguishing the criminals and the guards from one another. That way, I’d care who gets it and actually feel a little for these prisoners in peril. Right now, there’s bearded guy and black guy, and black bearded guy, and skinhead dude, and that cop, and that other cop. Not much by way of characterization, but the action is pretty intense and the set-up for next issue may lead to some more distinguishing characteristics in our cast. Writer Shane McCarthy knows his zombie formulas and sets things up pretty nicely. The fact that the inmates are chained to one another is a plot device ripe with potential in this zombie populated story. An impressive first issue in a Walter Hill movie type of way. - Ambush Bug
LEADING MAN #1
What if Tom Cruise was really a spy and the fact that he stars in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movies is just a clever ruse to cover his tracks? That’s kind of what the premise of ONI press’ new miniseries is. It’s the kind of lighthearted title that seems to be on the upswing in the current market. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s not a ton of grim and grittiness. It’s a fun romp with some of the most vividly realistic artwork I’ve seen in a long time by Jeremy Haun. He’s definitely got a Tony Harris/Cully Hamner feel to his lines and shadework. The copy I read was in black and white and I can’t wait to get a look at his work in full color. I like the way writer B. Clay Moore chose to wait and let the audience find out the blurred lines between the film industry and world of espionage and how they intersect, overlap, and cover for one another in the main character Nick Walker’s complicated life. He’s your average flighty Hollywood actor…or is he? This is the question posed in this first establishing issue. An impressive issue, at that. - Ambush Bug
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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.