Hey, gang—Sleazy G here with a quick note. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, I was on G4’s “Attack Of The Show” last week along with Axel Alonso. We were there to talk about the controversial decision to have Peter Parker reveal himself to the world as Spider-Man. It was a great opportunity and I’m glad I did it, but the irony wasn’t lost on me that after using a screen name on AICN for half a dozen years I was going to have to finally reveal myself in front of TV cameras to talk about Peter’s doing the same. I had a lot I wanted to talk about but didn’t get to because the time flew by far more quickly than I expected, and I was just about to jump on Axel regarding one of those points. There are things I would definitely do differently if I could, but I’d never really done TV before, much less live TV, and I guess it threw me a little. Still, I’ve been told I didn’t come off that badly (not that I would know—I can’t bring myself to watch it).
I know some of you have already seen and discussed it, and I had done a bigger write-up for it last week, but some “technical difficulties” caused by “weather conditions” got in the way of it being posted in a timely fashion. Of course, by “technical difficulties” I mean a lack of electricity or internet access, and by “weather conditions” I mean “full-out assault on the @$$holes’ safehouse in Whitebean, Ohio by the Intempirates”. Still, anybody who’s interested and hasn’t seen it yet can find it by going to www.g4tv.com and doing a search for “spider-man”—the clip will be the first hit. I got more freaked out about the whole thing after I did it than I was before, but I’d still like to hear what you all think about how I did and what Axel had to say, so chime in down there in the talkbacks and let me know.
(Click title to go directly to the review)
CSI: DYING IN THE GUTTERS (Promo Ashcan)
ASTONISHING X-MEN #15
52 – WEEK 7
THE ULTIMATES 2 #11
X-MEN: FAIRY TALES #2
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents MONSTER V.3
Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents BLOOD SUCKER V.1
Indie Jones presents ONIPALOOZA!
Indie Jones presents…
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: John Romita Jr. (pencils) & Danny Miki (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
Doesn't hurt that ETERNALS boasts the best work by John Romita Jr. yet. And that's saying something. JRJR has been one of my favorite comic book artists since…gawd…I was in 8th grade, but his work just gets better and better as he gets older. He is truly a master storyteller and makes the most of the canvas he's given by Neil Gaiman's cosmic story squeezed down into a more intimate human level. The art sold me on the story, which, while intriguing enough, came off to me as a bit derivative of some of Gaiman's other works. Think Kirby's ETERNALS smushed together with Gaiman's NEVERWHERE.
See, if Kirby was writing a comic, as cornball as the narrative and dialogue might be, there was always something exciting happening and the thrill of the unexpectedly bizarre. With Gaiman, he's hit or miss for me. I never got into SANDMAN, but I loved SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE. Didn't care for AMERICAN GODS but totally dug CORALINE. Hated NEVERWHERE, but loved 1602 (except for the weak conclusion). So, the NEVERWHERE comparison here is a negative for me. But, what Gaiman does with Kirby's ETERNALS is still a masterful lesson for the wannabes out there as to how you can embrace continuity, yet forge ahead for a new audience without pulling a "MAN OF STEEL" or "DOOM PATROL" and rebooting within continuity.
Kirby's ETERNALS was the first comic book series that I went back and collected every issue of, the basic conceit of the series being that intelligent life on this planet was sparked by these massive stone robots called Celestials for some unknown purpose. They took the proto-humans and transformed them into humans. However, they also transformed them into Eternals and Deviants. The Eternals looked like idealized humans, but had super-powers, were immortal, and mostly good. The Deviants were grotesque and mostly evil. Kirby's idea for the series was that these Eternals and Deviants were the real-life inspirations for all the ancient mythologies. He even chose names for his characters that evoked the names of well-known gods, goddesses, and heroes.
Here's the problem: Kirby never intended the ETERNALS to be a part of Marvel continuity. It's clear even to the point where, to promote the HULK TV series, Marvel pushed him to make the Hulk a guest-star, and Kirby instead had the Eternal, Ikaris, encounter a Hulk "robot" and a bystander recognized the Hulk as that guy from the TV show. In other words, Kirby was making it clear that this may be a Marvel comic, but it was not a part of the continuity. Kirby knew that his concept did not work within Marvel continuity because Marvel already had well-established that the Norse, Greek, and other pantheons of gods actually existed. In the ETERNALS, they were intended to be the source of all those mythological pantheons.
And whattayaknow, as soon as ETERNALS came to an end, Marvel up and guest-starred the characters in an issue of THOR. And then the continuity floodgates opened wide and the Eternals eventually were revealed as having some sort of convoluted connection to the Kree and the Celestials judged Earth favorably in THOR and Sersi became a member of the Avengers…and…oh I can't even remember it all but I know they had some awful attempts to do new ETERNALS series but they all just sucked. What a mess.
Then they just kind of disappeared.
And now Neil Gaiman has picked up the tale. And not only have the characters all been forgotten by the world at large, but the characters themselves have forgotten who they are. Ike Harris is tortured by fevered dreams about himself as an immortal and the Celestials. He's come to believe his dreams are true and is now attempting to track down the other Eternals, in their human guises, and attempt to (1) convince them of who they really are, and (2) that he's not completely insane. He believes the mass forgetfulness to be brought on by some sinister plan hatched by the Deviants. As the next issue unfolds, we're likely going to see that Ike is right.
As I said, it's a good set-up. It works as a way to hook new readers in without jettisoning the continuity of the previous series. As massive as the Celestials are and considering that a lot of attention came their way by the end of the original series, Gaiman specifically addresses those events in that context: How can everyone have forgotten such an important event?
Gaiman spins the original characters around a bit and has some fun revealing where they are now in their human forms. Makkari is running around now as a med student named Mark Curry, dreaming of going fast. Sprite is the star of his own obnoxious tween TV sitcom called "It's Just So Sprite." Sersi is basically a fast-talking party girl. I was amused by how her dialogue was written like she sprang out of the GILMORE GIRLS or something (chatter chatter chatter chatter jeezabeeza). Druig's doing something naughty with the former Soviet Republics and Thena's working for Tony Stark. All this is happening smack dab in the middle of the current Marvel continuity - replete with superhero-registration commercials and everything. And it works…very well. Gaiman seems to embrace the Marvel characters in a way he didn't with DC and I'm kind of glad to have him taking on the ETERNALS. One of my favorite old 20th century series is now a solid little mini-series for the 21st century and it all feels right.
CSI: DYING IN THE GUTTERS (Promotional Ashcan)
Writer: Steven Grant
Artist: Stephen Mooney
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
“What was that about?”
“Online gossip columnist, thinks he’s Harry Knowles. He’s a pain, but he’s nobody.”That gave me a grin. It’s a summation of comic industry gossip-monger Rich Johnston in a 12-page preview of a CSI one-shot that sees him taking a fictional dirt nap. With a title spoofing Johnston’s “Lying in the Gutters” weekly column, DYING IN THE GUTTERS takes the ire he provokes to deadly (and amusing) extremes and proves to be such a hoot even in dinky li’l preview format that I decided I had to give ‘er a shout. I’ve never watched an episode of CSI, never read any of IDW’s other CSI comics, and the full DYING IN THE GUTTERS issue won’t even be out till August, but when a mere 12 pages can make me laugh out loud multiple times, we’ve got worthy pre-order material!
What you really need to know: your enjoyment of this book will likely be in direct proportion to your knowledge of comic industry business. Do you follow Newsarama or The Pulse? Bounce around between creator message boards? Did you read Rich’s column this week where he reported on John Byrne calling me a “complete asshole”?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, keep reading.
DYING IN THE GUTTERS begins with the CSI crew jawing about comics as a handful of ‘em make plans to hit a Vegas comic convention. Do the characters jibe with their TV incarnations? Couldn’t tell you, but writer Steven Grant gives ‘em some fun banter that seems an accurate reflection of how non-comic-readers think about the medium: “What’s wrong with comics? I used to read LITTLE DOT and BETTY & VERONICA.”; “I hear graphic novels are big business.”; “Japanese comics. I hear all the kids in her school are nuts for them.”
The real fun begins at the con itself, where Grant has a devil of a good time tweaking the noses of fellow pros as prelude to the murder. One scene has Ed Brubaker hurrying past former GOTHAM CENTRAL co-writer Greg Rucka on the convention floor, late for a meeting with Marvel EIC Joe Quesada…
Rucka (deadpanning): Sure. Can’t keep Joe waiting. He might make you write a sequel to RAWHIDE KID or something.Quesada himself arrives shortly thereafter, or at least a hilariously caricatured take on him. Like DeNiro’s Al Capone in THE UNTOUCHABLES, he struts onto the scene cigar in mouth, entourage at his back, all smugness and bravado. Between the lighter stuff, Grant seems to take a few actual jabs at Quesada, like this sequence where he has an altercation with writer Chuck Dixon:
Dixon: And what’s with the cigar?
Quesada: Hey, the no-smoking thing in our comics is strictly for my image and public sympathy. Wolverine can’t smoke, but I can. Besides, the character has gone in a different direction from when you wrote him. You have to take that into account.
Dixon: You wouldn’t say that if I wrote novels, or TV, or for Howard Stern.
Quesada: Man, I have to turn down so many pitches from those guys in a week. But no hard feelings. What’s your address, I’ll send ya a TV.The preview’s jam-packed with great bits like that, from Ashley Wood looking for assignments with “robots and girls” to Robert Kirkman’s whacked-out pitch for a Machine Man revival to Dixon’s own plans for a book where a Conan analog hunts down Osama bin Laden. If those creator names don’t mean anything to you, you might not get anything beyond a slightly wonky CSI outing from the story, but I was laughing my ass off at all the insider stuff.
Rich himself doesn’t appear until the last page or two of the preview where the creators spy him taking notes on all their feuds for his column. Sparks fly as the scene sets up motivations from multiple creators for the murder that’s at the heart of the story. Apparently the full suspect list will include Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Marc Silvestri, Tim Bradstreet, Ed Brubaker, Peter David, Chuck Dixon, Phil Jimenez, Robert Kirkman, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Jim Mahfood, George Perez, Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, Beau Smith, J. Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmith, and Ashley Wood. It’s a shame the list doesn’t include the most hardcore real-life Johnston-haters, John Byrne and Mark Waid, but I suspect their inclusion might provoke real murder (or at least litigation). As it stands, it seems like all the creators featured likely gave their permission for a little skewering; they’re all thanked for “playing along” in the indicia.
Folks, this might well be THE popcorn book for industry voyeurs. The art’s a little perfunctory, but the caricatures are solid and this is really a writer’s outing anyway. Rich is a great target (and no doubt loving the publicity), his death sure to be an amusing extension of the near-homicidal posts that dot comic book message boards everywhere. And Grant, probably best known for writing the first PUNISHER miniseries and for his own sharp column on industry doings, seems to be the perfect guy to satirize a little death and dissent in the biz.
Plus: I think I like his cacklingly evil Quesada better than the real thing.
ASTONISHING X-MEN # 15
Written by: Joss Whedon
I have a confession to make.
Art by: John Cassaday
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: superhero
I hate the X-Men. I mean, I really hate the X-Men.
Yes, there once was a time, long ago, that I thrilled to the adventures of Marvel’s Merry Mutant Brigade. There was a time when there was only one X-Book. There was a time when the continuity of X-History wasn’t a jumbled mess. And, yes, there was a time when the X-men’s popularity didn’t outshine that of Marvel stalwarts such as Captain America and the Fantastic Four. In a Marvel Universe much less convoluted than the one we have today the UNCANNY X-MEN was a book that starred the outsiders of the Marvel U. Not many people knew about them then, it’s hard to believe I know, but those of us who did felt like we were onto something special…that the X-MEN was a book that was made for us and only us. There was a time when the X-MEN felt like an independent comic in a mainstream superhero universe. It was the time of John Byrne and of Paul Smith. Yes, of course, it was especially a time of Chris Claremont as well but more importantly it was a time of Claremont before he had even thought of the term “psychic knife”.
Yes, those were great times to be sure but times like those must always end and unfortunately the end times for my beloved X-Men were just around the corner. Before you could say the word “Sentinel” Marvel whored out the X-Men universe by adding X-book on top of X-Book. With that change more plots and subplots were introduced and dropped without resolution, which helped make the Marvel universe a mess of almost DC Comics Silver-Age proportions. What’s worse is that the X-Books ended up essentially becoming the focus for the Marvel Universe, overshadowing all of the other heroes and books that Marvel published. Suddenly, Namor was “Marvel’s first Mutant!” and you couldn’t have a book on the stands that didn’t guest star Wolverine or at least one of the X-Whores. Where the X-MEN had once been the little team book that could, that had a heart and spirit of adventure as big as the blue area of the moon, by the mid ‘90’s it had become a bloated corporate franchise. Gone were the X-Men that I truly loved. They were replaced with silly mutant after silly mutant with names like “Cable” or “Marrow” or “Maggot” hoping to cash in on any success that X-Books had left to offer.
As the dawn of the 21st century arrived there were some flickers of hope in the shape of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-FORCW/X-STATIX run. Or some great flashes of inspired storytelling in Grant Morrison’s NEW X-MEN. But in the end the X-Men that I loved were long gone, never to return again.
,br> That is, until now.
With the current issue of ASTONISHING X-MEN I can truly, finally say that an X-Men book has arrived that truly captures the spirit of the X-Men that I knew and loved once upon a time. Finally, someone who gets the X-Men the way they should be got. This book is straightforward X-Men the way it was done in the glory days. The way Claremont and Byrne did back in the day when superhero comics were written as superhero comics and not in glossed over Mamet-speak. Whedon has done the impossible. He has brought the living, breathing heart back to the X-Men in a way no one, not even Chris Claremont, has been able to do since Colossus and the Juggernaut duked it out in a bar after the former broke up with Kitty Pryde after returning from the Secret War world. The X-men is a truly great read again, boys and girls, and I am thrilled.
And boy does Whedon know how to write! It’s all here: the devious villains, the X-Men in peril, the school under attack, the young mutant fighting for her life and the no-win situation that was a hallmark of the old X-Men tales. This is the way the X-Men should be written! With drama and humor and action! This is the X-Men I’ve been waiting years for! This issue fires on all thrusters and gives us a Hellfire Club that’s finally a threat again. Not only that but it pays homage to, in more ways than one, the bygone days that Whedon has recaptured so well. Hell, if the last panel alone isn’t worth the price of admission to long time X-Men fans then I just don’t know what to say. With this book Whedon seems to be reveling in giving us a taste of the old along with inspired bits of the new. Take a look at what happens to Wolverine in this issue and you’ll see what I’m talking about. As far as I know it’s something that’s never been done to Wolvie but it’s such an obvious tactic that I’m surprised that it took a writer this long to come up with this ultimate way to humiliate Wolverine. It’s inspired and it’s hysterical and it’s just one of the many reasons why I loved this book.
John Cassaday continues to bring his “A” game here as well. The storytelling in this book is so fantastically straightforward that there were times that I felt I didn’t even need the word balloons to see what was going on. It’s to Cassaday’s credit that the book moves so quickly and at times the progression of the book just felt downright filmic. I felt like I was almost reading storyboards while I was flipping through this comic book. Cassaday is a master sequential storyteller and he’s another huge reason why this book works as well as it does.
So, yes, it’s official: a minor miracle has occurred. Joss Whedon and John Cassaday have me buying an X-Men book on a regular basis. Not only that but they have an X-Men book being one of the first I read off of my weekly pull list. That’s a big statement coming from someone like me who’s hated the X-Men comics for as long as I have. Maybe, just maybe, if these two are on this book long enough I may just learn to love Marvel’s Mutants once again. At least the ones in this book, anyway.
52 – WEEK 7
Writers: Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, and probably some Giffen
See that cover up in the summary? There. Now you've got the gist of what happens in this issue. Nothing close to Newsweek kicking scores of Marvel zombies in the nuts a couple weeks ago, and if you've been reading 52 religiously you've seen this coming, but spoiler covers are always a tad annoying.
History of DCU Writers: Jurgens and Rapmund
Artist: Lashley & Draxhall
Publisher: DC Comics
Two of the various threads crossover this week, with Booster Gold and Ralph Dibny (the world-famous Elongated Man) taking the stage, while only a couple of the other plots (Montoya, the planet-lost heroes) crawl along their respective trails. Starfire and Animal Man's general uselessness is addressed and we get the much media-publicized first official appearance of a new OYL secret identity, but there's none of the LOST-esque intrigue from last week, which is fine; best it be delivered in small doses. As always, the dialogue is top notch, Giffen gets to slip in a couple of his trademark 9-panel layouts, fan-favorite Manthrax makes an appearance, and we're privy to some very heated Elongated Man on Booster Gold action.
The only downside to this issue is the History of the DCU backup, which is a simple 4-page summary of Zero Hour. I understand that ZH is a part of history, but how many times do I have to see several Hawk people riding a rainbow? Granted, there are a couple of new facts revealed that I've never seen in the other summations of Zero Hour that we've seen over the years. There's a little more background about Extant, someone punches a wall, and it’s revealed that SPOILERXBXaXrXrXyXXAXlXlXeXnXSPOILER also died during Zero Hour. It's a bit of a yawn that will probably make a better read once collected. I like the idea of a backup, but I don't care for regurgitation.
If you're short on cash and just following the overall mystery, you can skip Week 7 to buy your mac & cheese, but the primary tale is an excellent read and worth it just to see that jerk Gold sweat… and a nifty SPOILERXKXiXrXbXyXSPOILER moment.
THE ULTIMATES 2 #11
Writer: Mark Millar
America Strikes Back.
Artists: Bryan Hitch (pencils) & Paul Neary (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Prof. Challenger
And by that, they mean CAPTAIN America strikes back. Who would've thought, five years or so ago, that the Marvel Ultimates line would be the place where Thor, Iron Man, and Capt. America fight evil together as a team and the Marvel main line would be where Thor's gone and Iron Man and Capt. America are leading opposite sides in a Civil War? Sounds ridiculous, but that's where it stands right now. Up till now, ULTIMATES has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Now, in the face of what's happening with the "real" versions of these characters, I think I'm just gonna have to step up and embrace the Ultimates as the best we've got available at Marvel insofar as the AVENGERS go.
If you've been reading this intense storyline, then you've got to be just like me and cheering through this entire comic as things start turning around. Seeing Cap, Wasp, and Hawkeye kicking butt. (Ignoring Millar's silly, immature digs at the President) And finally, watching Bruce "Hulk" out at just the right moment. ULTIMATES is just rollicking, intense, violent, wide-screen fun.
I've seen this comic referred to as what a Michael Bay AVENGERS movie would be like. I kind of see where that comment is coming from when you see all the "big-budget" destruction and high-tech settings and such. But the truth is that ULTIMATES reads more like an AVENGERS movie the way Sam Peckinpah would shoot it. Go rent THE WILD BUNCH if you don't know what I'm talking about. Nasty group of sons-of-bitches make up the Ultimates, and the bad guys just don't seem to realize just how nasty the good guys can actually get.
Millar also continues to play with the readers about whether Thor is, well, Thor or just a deluded sociopath. But it looks like next issue may finally answer that question once and for all in dramatic fashion. There's not much I don't like about THE ULTIMATES, other than the fact that these 12 issue long stories are too long. But every issue pushes the envelope more and more building towards the inevitably huge climax. I've stuck in here this long, they're not gonna run me off right before the end. Fun writing, outstanding art, intriguing characters, and the best fight scenes in comics today make this comic worth your money and your time.
Writer: Matt Fraction
It's quite simply really. Whenever a comic book comes along, with 28 advertisement free pages, and it only costs you $2, there's absolutely no reason not to try it out. I don't know what other purchases you could be making that week that you can't afford an extra two bucks to your pulls, but I'm sure the effort could be made. Because, hey, you never know, that little two dollar pamphlet might just impress the hell out of you and give you something else to get excited about each month at the shop. And if it didn't, well, you lost out on two 20oz Pepsi's, no biggie. I took the CASANOVA plunge, and I have to say, I'm firmly in the former of those two possibilities.
Penciler: Gabriel Ba
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee
Simply put, CASANOVA is the trippiest version of NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. you'll ever read. And for that alone it deserves your attention. Like any first issue obviously is there to do, this extended version of what I guess we're calling the "FELL format" gives us a look into the surreal and somewhat sexy life of Casanova Quinn. Flamboyant, youthfully arrogant, and extraordinarily confident, and all rightfully so, Quinn is the kind of superspy we all wished to be at one point in our younger days. But like I said earlier this isn't your typical run of the mill spy story fan fare. Oh sure, there's espionage, subterfuge, and exhilarating action just like you'd expect from a book like this, but there's also three-faced floating head things, naive and deadly fembots, cloning, parallel universe travel and tons more science fiction bravado to go along with it. If James Bond was in his mid-twenties, did a lot of hard drugs, and found himself on the set of “The Outer Limits”, you would have CASANOVA. And that is a very good thing.
Now while I already think highly of the premise and tone of this brand spanking new series, this first issue is a bit rough. The main problem is that there's just so much thrown at you in order to get as much of all the kinds of themes I mentioned above into the book. This is definitely a huge crash course on what to expect out of this series and to also set the players that will be recurring as we move along. There's some great moments in here like a scene where our main character Cass is reflecting on the technical schools you see advertised on late night TV and how those are the kinds of places that agencies like E.M.P.I.R.E. (our resident SHIELD analog) go for their grunts, or some great funny bits where Cass is mocking his rather overzealous handler Newman Xeno and his penchant for exposition, but they feel like they get kinda smushed in between the scenes. Now that we've got our introduction to the world of CASANOVA, I'm hoping these little bits can be given more follow through as I felt they were some of the things that made this comic quirky and refreshingly unique. As it is, though, this is a pretty functional introduction into the series, and will definitely give you an idea if you want to read more or not.
And as much as I personally dig the subject matter and atmosphere of the book, I love the art that sets the stage for these just as much. Gabriel Ba's art actually reminds me a ton of one Eduardo Risso of 100 BULLETS fame. His line work and panel compositions just seem to pull from the same well as Risso's, and it gives a great mixture of a more "hyper-kinetic" dynamic but with a sort of underlying sedateness that just helps emphasize the kind of character we're dealing with here. The green hue used in with the black and white inks actually helps create a somewhat more laid back atmosphere too, as I think straight black and white would have given the book a more "noirish" feel and look, and that's definitely not what they were going for here. But I love the detail in the action sequences, and the characters all each have their own little quirks and flair to them. The art is just a great package all around.
I see some great stuff coming from this book in the future, I really do. Though this is one of those few books I can legitimately see not being "one's cup of tea." Some of the ideas might be a little too off the wall for some, or they might not like the kind of twisting storyline this book presents, but I enjoyed it a bit. It's a bit "Grant Morrison-esque" if you ask me, with a certain mix of thought-bending ideas combined with good old fashioned badassery. As long as Fraction doesn't let the concepts outweigh the way they're presented and stays with a nice middle ground between the two, then I just see a lot of high entertainment coming out of this series.
And it's only two bucks. Score.
X-MEN: FAIRY TALES #2 (of 4)
Writer: C.B. Cebulski
I was curiously interested in the X-MEN: FAIRY TALES mini when it was solicited a few months back. On one level, it seemed a real stretch - X-Men mythology interwoven into eclectic fairy tales from around the world – but in a biz where Elseworlds have cast Batman as everything from a pirate to a Viking to Citizen-friggin-Kane…maybe not so off-kilter after all. And the art looked pretty cool.
Artist: Kyle Baker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by Dave Farabee
Well, the first issue came and went, and it turns out my interest wasn’t so high as I thought. It featured a retelling of a Japanese myth with the X-Men shoehorned in rather awkwardly as the cast. Didn’t take for me.
But round two, happily, is a success! Featuring art by the Kyle Baker and based on an African myth called “The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle”, it’s a parable of strained friendship that, per the X-Men overlay, more specifically dramatizes the relationship between Professor Xavier (the Tortoise) and Magneto (the Eagle). How accurate is it to the source myth? Well, since Disney hasn’t made it a musical yet and my ass is all too Amero-centric, I had to look it up. The original story is mainly concerned with friendship unbalanced by unreciprocated hospitality (hospitality being one of those BIG things in mythology). Writer C.B. Cebulsky, who impressed me several months back with the manga outing of I (HEART) MARVEL, expands on this with somewhat heavy-handed abandon. He adds a harsh backstory for the Eagle to evoke Magneto’s tragic past, whereas the Turtle’s backstory reveals a kind upbringing that still can’t prevent him from being ostracized from the other turtles for the curious “X” pattern on his shell.
So, okay, not exactly subtle. The Turtle’s even shown using Xavier-like mind powers (“I have a sense about these things…”), though thankfully there’s no attempt to bring the Eagle’s abilities so specifically in line with Magneto’s. He’s big, tough, and a fierce fighter, but no pitching around cars or sinking Russian submarines. He’s got Magneto’s attitude, and that’s enough.
Beyond the strained friendship and the animal leads, there’s actually not a huge link between Cebulski’s revamp and the original story. Hospitality issues are tangential at best, and really we’ve got a fairy tale parable of the longtime X-Men themes of hope and tolerance. As anyone who’s ever cried watching THE FOX & THE HOUND knows, though (hey, I was eight), watching friendship dissolve between two cute-looking animals can be pretty heart-wrenching. And that’s where this decidedly odd outing succeeds – on a purely emotional level. Cebulski’s dialogue is simple and heartfelt, achieving the effect of Disney’s more poignant outings, and he doesn’t shy away from the sad ending bound to come.
Bringing it all together is the art of Kyle Baker. I have to confess, after his rich, tightly rendered art for NAT TURNER, Baker’s sketchy, expressionistic art for X-MEN: FAIRY TALES was a turn-off at first glance. It looked messy, quite frankly, but I found myself easing into as the story drew me in. Baker’s ability to capture the fierce pride of the Eagle and the inherent sadness of the Turtle is readily apparent from the first page (note the nice silhouette of Africa behind them). And the coloring, anarchic and somewhat abstract in the pages to come, ultimately lends an earnest storybook quality to proceedings that could have come off as trite in the wrong hands.
What actually cemented the book for me was a surprisingly violent turn toward story’s end. While not overly gory, it lent a weight to the dissolution of the friendship, almost a child’s analog to the melancholy finale of the defining X-story, “God Loves, Man Kills.”
Weird, good, and recommended.
JUSTICE # 6
Written by: Jim Krueger and Alex Ross
Illustrated by: Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross
Published by: DC Comics
Reviewed by: superhero
I love it when the second string members of the JLA come out to play. There’s nothing like seeing the DC characters that for some reason haven’t made it into the public comic consciousness shine. While this issue does focus on some of the heavy hitters of the JLA it’s the spots that featured characters like the Atom as well as Hawkman and Hawkwoman that just got to me. Not only that but I love stories where heroes face off against foes they usually wouldn’t encounter. In this issue the Atom faces off with Giganta (She’s a big ape? Who knew?), the Hawks with Toyman, and Wonder Woman has a vicious duel with Poison Ivy. Add to that a cameo by the Metal Men and, yeah, the $3.50 cover price was pretty justified this time around (no pun intended).
But then, unlike some of the other @$$holes, I’ve been pretty much impressed with this book from the beginning. I mean an Alex Ross book is pretty much a guaranteed purchase for me as I really think that he, as well as the talent he aligns himself with, really understand what makes the JLA tick like few writers do. Sure a lot of this stuff has sort of been done before but never has it looked so spectacular. In my opinion the visual style of this book is better than much of Ross’s previous work and it’s obviously because of his teaming with Doug Braithwaite. With Braithwaite supplying the penciled artwork Ross’s Norman Rockwell superhero world is a lot less stiff and angular. The action flows better and the characters seem to have a bit more spontaneity to their poses. Don’t get me wrong, Ross is a master but Braithwaite provides a tiny tweak that just brings more life to the page. The result is a wonderful visual take on Ross’s work that I’ve never seen before but have been waiting to see come to fruition. Hopefully Ross will grow a bit from this collaboration and start to embrace the more non-traditional aspects of his superhero art in the future because his stuff here is pretty much terrific all around.
The story here is developing nicely as well. Jim Kreuger and Ross really seem to know how to pace their book. They completely understand how to flawlessly blend small character bits with the giant, cosmic moments that are such a staple of the JLA and superhero books in general. Don’t believe me? Compare the page where the Hawks and the Martian Manhunter infiltrate the Toyman’s warehouse with the giant two page spread of Superman flying out of the sun. These two sequences couldn’t be more on the opposite ends of the storytelling spectrum but they work perfectly. A lot of writers and artists would have a problem alternating between large awe-inspiring events and normal conversation pieces. We’ve seen a lot of books that feature either way too much conversation or others that overdo the spectacle while leaving out important, character developing moments. Kreuger and Ross strike the perfect balance in this book and are able to combine both elements so that they flow organically. A great balance is maintained between the two and a lot of writers of superhero books would do well to analyze how well this book is laid out.
The thing that strikes me as I read this series is that I keep thinking that this series is somehow Ross’s reaction to IDENTITY CRISIS. Ross has seemed to come off a quite a purist when it comes to the DCU characters and I could imagine that he may have put JUSTICE together as a sort of reaction to the aforementioned series. Maybe, and this is obviously only speculation on my part, Ross read the story about Sue Dibny being raped and heroes betraying each other and felt he could do better or at least do the characters, well, justice where Brad Meltzer couldn’t. Maybe he felt that he could do a story where the bad guys discover the heroes’ identities without dragging the DCU through the mud. Maybe the title, JUSTICE, has a double meaning that most of us don’t really understand. If that’s the case then I have to say that Ross and Co. have succeeded. If this had been the story that had taken place in the mainstream DCU instead of IDENTITY CRISIS maybe we could have avoided the past two years of sleazy superheroics and had an epic, straightforward JLA story that treated the characters with the respect they deserve instead of just taking them for granted.
Creator: Naoki Urasawa
"I am not an indiscriminate killer. What I did had meaning..."
Reviewer: Dan Grendell
Ah, MONSTER. This story doesn't just suck you in - it takes you places you cringe to go, with one eye peeking open to watch. The story of a doctor on the run, tracking a boy he once saved that has become a horrible murderer, is compelling and frightening all at once. How far will Dr. Tenma sink to stop Johan, once he catches him? And with Johan leaving clues for Tenma at each turn, mocking him yet drawing him onward, who is really in charge here? Is Johan planning to twist Tenma into a mockery of the man he once was by running him through ever more horrible experiences? Will Tenma become a monster by the time this race is run?
This volume has Tenma investigating a city councilman Johan lived with for several years, only to become involved with a thief trying to rob the councilman's house. Pulled into the role of crime doctor, Tenma helps save the life of a terrorist before moving on to his next clue - the orphanage where Johan was raised. The secrets he finds there rock him to his very core, and when he finds a remnant of the 511 Kinderheim project still continuing Tenma is able to shut it down by taking the subject - a boy named Dieter - and running. Determined to give the boy a better life, Tenma looks for a home for him, but Dieter will not leave his side - the doctor has a much-needed conscience to travel with him. Back home, Inspector Lunge has all of his other cases taken away after a political blunder, so he returns his focus to catching Tenma and the chase is on again...
Urasawa's ability to capture emotion is truly astounding. The scene where Dieter is on a throne atop the steps, with his "father" demanding he be like Johan, was downright scary because it seemed so real to the people in it. Every emotion was captured on their faces, in the way they stood, in how Dieter slumped, all of it. That kind of skill isn't easy to come by, and without it MONSTER wouldn't be half the gripping story it is.
MONSTER isn't what I'd call a fun read - but it is what I'd call a great one. This is some seriously great storytelling, and it deserves your attention.
BLOOD SUCKER V.1
Writer: Saki Okuse
"My name is Migiri. Tell me your name, reckless son of man."
Artist: Aki Shimizu
Reviewer: Dan Grendell
Vampires seem to be everywhere these days in manga. I really wasn't expecting much when I picked up BLOOD SUCKER - just another vampire story where the fact that there're vampires in it is the big attraction, but I was pleasantly surprised. There's a pretty cool story here, some interesting characters, and the makings of a fairly exciting action story.
The story starts in feudal Japan, where the vampire lord Migiri and his minions rule behind the scenes in a bloody reign of terror until one of their own, who is also the leader of the shogun's ninja, turns on Migiri. For a hundred years they fight, until Migiri is put down - but not destroyed. Two hundred years later, in modern times, one of Migiri's loyal servants manages to return him to life - and he rebuilds his vampire army, quickly assaulting Tokyo under the guise of the Church of Magoraka, a cult compared to the black plague. Japanese police struggle to fight the vampires, but are woefully underpowered.
Migiri's first victim upon his return is the girlfriend of Yusuke Himukai, who spends the next several years in a mental hospital while planning revenge on the vampire lord. After learning that Migiri believes Yusuke has some strange connection to the ninja who put him down centuries ago, the police recruit Yusuke, and he joins the ranks of vampires who never wanted to become monsters and cops willing to kill their own as soon as they are bitten in a desperate fight to stop the deadly plague that stalks Tokyo's streets at night. Yusuke gets his baptism by fire when Kigiri sends numerous minions after him and, trapped in a building, he must fight his way out alongside an allied vampire.
Shimizu's art actually detracted from this manga for me at points. The basic drawings were quite good, but often there was an excess of lines, making each panel look over-busy and making it especially hard to follow action sequences. When Shimizu drew cleanly, and that was clearly possible so the extra lines were very obviously a stylistic choice, the art was quite good and got the emotions and intent of the story and characters across clearly. That other style just didn't work for me.
A nice change from the use of vampires just to have vampires, this manga looks to be using them for conflict in those who have been changed but want to remain human in spirit. That's an interesting point to explore alongside the action.
Publisher: ONI Press
by Vroom Socko
Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis: Writers
The subtitle to this, An Amy Devlin Mystery, invites the promise of more stories featuring the main character, and I for one would welcome that. Of course, Weir and DeFilippis’ last book was referred to as a “volume one,” and I’ve yet to see word of the next installment of ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, but that’s neither here nor there. What I can tell you is that this book was actually a whole lot more fun than that project.
Christopher Mitter: Artist
Amy Devlin is a private investigator. Well, that’s what she bills herself as, but she isn’t officially licensed. (Hey, it worked for Travis McGee.) She’s hired by a young L.A. actor who believes he’s the victim of a murder. No, not a murder attempt, a murder. He thinks that he’s the reincarnation of an aviation magnate who was murdered in his home.
Like I said, it’s set in L.A.
Amy soon finds herself looking into this 25 year old murder, while trying to avoid inquisitive cops, porn hustlers, and a killer who is soon looking to finish what they started. What makes this story work is that Weir and DeFilippis don’t cheat the mystery aspect once. They also have an excellent handle on all their characters, which number over a dozen. There’s also an interesting and very fun payoff to the “non-licensed” subplot that should make for some interesting stories to come featuring Amy Devlin.
Now about that second volume of ONCE IN A BLUE MOON…
THE LEADING MAN #1 (of 5)
B. Clay Moore: Writer
There are times when you see a fictional concept to out there you have to wonder for a moment if there might be some truth to them. Movie shoots tend to bring a cartload of cash to their location shoots, more and more actors are going the action route, and even the lesser talents have the most insane requests of the production. The past couple of months have seen Tom Cruise running around Asia, Tom Hanks running all over Europe, and Al Gore running rampant on the lecture circuit. It’s really not that much of a stretch to think that these people might be secretly working for the government as secret agents. (Well okay, not Al Gore, but the rest…)
Jeremy Haun: Artist
This issue is primarily a setup endeavor, with a whole lot of getting to know actor Nick Walker in his role as movie star and as a Solid Snake-style super spy. The issue begins with a whole lot of action in one of his lives, and ends with some action in the other, and I’d honestly be hard pressed to say which looked cooler. There’s also a whole lot of the typical gossip and finagling that you’d expect in a behind-the-scenes-of-a-movie story that manage to dovetail nicely with the treachery and deal-making of the spy genre. All in all, this book is three different kinds of fun. I certainly can’t wait for the next issue.
LOVE THE WAY YOU LOVE #1
Jamie S. Rich: Writer
I’m seriously ambivalent about this particular book. On the one hand, I do like the character of Tristan Scott, musician extraordinaire, as well as his brother Lance and the female protagonist Isobel. And the book does have an interesting look to it. But I can’t help but compare it to that other romance comic that Oni has out currently about a guy in a band (see below) and this book just doesn’t quite measure up to that one.
Marc Ellerby: Artist
I know, that’s a wholly unfair comparison to make. It probably serves me right for reading them back to back. The thrust of the story involves Tristan’s return from abroad to rejoin his band and the studio rep who wants to sign them to his label. Of course, the rep’s fiancÃ©e is Isobel, the girl who Tristan shared a longing gaze with at the airport. It’s a pretty basic setup, and it’s not done badly by any measurement. It just didn’t wow me is all.
Jamie Rich is a skilled writer; I WAS SOMEONE DEAD is proof enough of that. As such, I’m certainly going to be reading the second installment of this quarterly publication. Even without that, the final page does have an interesting hook to it, and the second half has a lot more verve to it than the first. Still, I was expecting a little more from this first issue. Hopefully, I’ll find what I was looking for in the second installment.
Antony Johnston: Writer
Antony Johnston is the official chameleon of Oni Press. I’ve read westerns, romances, and spy books from the man, and each has been a blast. Now he’s got a post-apocalypse saga in the works, and goddamn is it insane. Desert mutants, strange warriors, small, defenseless towns, people with mystic abilities… all that’s missing is Iggy Pop.
Christopher Mitten: Artist
What really makes this book work is the atmosphere that Johnston and Christopher Mitten bring to the world they’ve created. Mitten especially shines here. The blighted landscapes of this book are as different from his southern Californian in PAST LIES as a gin and tonic is from a piece of toast. The action pieces alone are visually astonishing to a surprising degree. The closing moments are especially riveting, with the aforementioned small town dealing with a mutant invasion.
Buy this book. Buy two copies and give one to a friend. When the first collected TPB comes out, buy that too. And then buy some more. This book kicks seven different kinds of ass. The wait for issue #2 is going to be intolerable.
SCOTT PILGRIM & THE INEVITABLE SADNESS (vol. 3)
Bryan Lee O’Malley: CreatorSpeaking of intolerable waits…
If I called SCOTT PILGRIM the finest example of comics, the most fun a reader can have with graphic novels, then that would be an understatement. The third volume manages to top the insanity of the previous volumes, where the titular hero has to fight the evil ex-boyfriends of girlfriend Ramona Flowers, by bringing in an evil ex-girlfriend of Scott’s.
As to this installment’s evil boyfriend, man is he a doozie. There are two fights between these two: one hilarious battle inside a bargain bin shop, another in a nightclub where Scott’s band is the opening act. As to the abilities this ex brings to the battle… well, he’s a vegan.
Yes, he has vegan based psychic powers. Not only is this the best riff I’ve seen on popularized hippiedom since Fortunato’s tantric sex magic in WILD CARDS, but it leads to a jaw-droppingly hilarious gag reference to AKIRA.
Like the second volume, this third installment is better than the last. There’s a joke on every page, with hardly a miss among them. Honestly, do I really need to recommend a book where a character gets punched so hard her highlights get knocked right out of her hair? That pretty much sells itself, really. This is the best book Oni is publishing. It’s definitely a better book than anything you can find at Marvel or DC. It may be the best book currently being published anywhere. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, what are you waiting for? And if you haven’t read the first two installments, then get your ass to Amazon and order them right goddamn now!
DEAD BY DAWN QUARTERLY #1 & 2
You know you’re reading a comic effective in the scare department if, while you’re flipping through the pages, you have the overwhelming urge to look over your shoulder and make sure nothing is creeping up behind you. I had that feeling quite a few times while reading the first two issues of this horror anthology series. This is an impressive collection of scary stories which range from the horrors of the fantastic to real life chills that lurk in the minds of madmen. My favorite of the bunch is Paul O’Connell’s short about a hotel clerk who thinks he has seen it all come through the doors of his hotel and finds out that in fact he has not. It’s ambiguous and beautifully rendered in shades of black and white (like the rest of the book) but has that creepy proper feel that often exuded from the best of those old Hammer horror movies. Another great one is a cheeky yet somber look at a giant monster who is just trying to fit in. And then there’s the truly disturbing story of an overprotective midwife who works extremely hard to protect her children from a terrorist attack. And then there’s the silent tale “Sky Scraped” about someone who quietly moves through the halls of a high rise building, into one of the apartments, to find…nah, that would be telling. As you can see these two volumes are filled with really creepily memorable thrills and chills fully capable of satiating the appetite to any fan of horror comics. - Ambush Bug
FIENDS OF THE EASTERN FRONT HARDCOVER GN
“Hey, you got vampire in my war story!”
2000 AD Publishing
“No, you got war story in my vampire tale!”
It’s two great tastes that taste great together. I love it when genres crossover. Old conventions are often given that new freshness feel when cast upon another backdrop. Such a crossover appears in the pages of this book as a German soldier finds out that the mysterious squad of Russian soldiers who swoop in and effortlessly destroy enemy troops are actually a squad of vampires. The pacing of this story (which originally appeared as a serial in 200 AD magazine in the early eighties) is somewhat dated compared to today’s deconstructive stories. Much is said in the span of very few panels. But I found this trip to yesteryear’s storytelling techniques to be refreshingly fun. A fun read that will take you back to a time when you didn’t have to read six issues of filler for something to happen. It’s got early Carlos Ezquerra artwork to boot! Fun stuff. - Ambush Bug
FALLING SKY (OGN)
By far, this is the best indie book I’ve read all week. FALLING SKY looks and reads like no other comic. This is the story of a comet barreling towards the earth. It’s one of those asteroids of ARMAGEDDON proportions. But you won’t find Bruce Willis’ hairpiece or Michael Bay’s strobe editing or that annoying Aerosmith song in these pages. This original graphic novel takes this whole doomsday-thing seriously and handles it with a skill and pacing that leaves you filled with anticipation, yearning to find out how it all ends, yet wincing because you fear the inevitable outcome and the inevitability that this most enjoyable reading experience will soon be over as you reach the final pages of the book. Writer/artist Benjamin Dickson focuses on a more human tale of impending doom. A group of kidnappers nab banker Charles Pearson in hopes of getting a healthy ransom, but when masked gunmen track them down and slaughter them, they stumble into a government plot that involves saving only those with enough money to buy their ticket into one of the few underground bunkers throughout the world – bunkers which are the only keys to man’s survival when the asteroid hits. Charles is forced to team up with one of the kidnappers and go on the run. With the countdown ticking in the top corner of each page, my heart really began to race as the asteroid’s impact got closer. Will Charles and his kidnapper survive? Do they want to? What of the rest of the human race? This is a truly memorable read, made even more pleasant by the original look of the book. It appears as if real people were photographed and then scanned. New expressionistic faces and details were then added to give the book a most distinctive look. I know photo-referencing is nothing new, but with the interesting way the characters are surrounded by their own auras of haze and the expressive backgrounds chosen to highlight a specific situation going on in the panel, this book takes photo-referencing to another level. I can’t recommend this book more. It was a great read and would make a damn fine film in the right hands.
Check out this online preview of the book. It’s available in September 2006. Do yourself a favor and seek this one out. - Ambush Bug
Remember, if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.
Remember, if you have an Indie book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.