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#47 2/7/07 #5

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) SHAZAM! THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL #1 IMPALER #1-3 ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #105 FELL #7 ACTION COMICS ANNUAL #10 Big Eyes for the Cape Guy presents IC IN A SUNFLOWER Indie Jones presents CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD #1 Indie Jones presents HEARTBREAK TPB Indie Jones presents FIREBLAST: ADVENTURES IN THE 30TH CENTURY #0 Indie Jones presents CTHULHU TALES: THE RISING Indie Jones presents MAINTENANCE #2 CHEAP SHOTS!


Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

Magic within magic could create a terrible paradox!- Shazam
You should know that I love Capt. Marvel comics and have always wondered why the character cannot seem to be successful in a post-50s comic book world. It's weird. Capt. Marvel once outsold Superman, at some points selling over a million copies a month ON THE FREAKIN' NEWSSTANDS! So, what's going on? When DC first brought him back in the early '70s, the comic was basically a carbon copy of what it had been before but the audience had apparently disappeared. So, they tried updating the look of the characters with some gorgeous Don Newton art. But that series in ADVENTURE COMICS never translated to a new SHAZAM! series. SHAZAM! A NEW BEGINNING gave the world a 4-issue mini-series that tried to update Capt. Marvel for the '80s. That didn't catch on and was ignored as a source of continuity. Jerry Ordway produced nearly 50 issues of THE POWER OF SHAZAM!, which did a good job of bring Cap and the entire Marvel Family into line with the current post-CRISIS continuity. But still, nobody seemed to be able to justify why Cap is not just redundant in a comic world where Superman reigns supreme. So we have to stomach the nauseating and just wrong TRIALS OF SHAZAM! going on right now. And it's in that environment that DC finally hits the stands with BONE creator Jeff Smith's long-anticipated SHAZAM! project.
Artistically, the comic is a slam-dunk. Smith's cartoony art is absolutely perfect for Captain Marvel's world. And Smith absolutely nails one aspect of the Cap/Billy relationship that every modern creator from the '70s through today (including Jerry Ordway in POS, J.M. DeMatteis in JUSTICE LEAGUE, and Alex Ross in KINGDOM COME) - Cap and Billy were not the same person. In other words, look at those original CAPTAIN MARVEL COMICS if you don't believe me, when Billy became Cap his thought balloons were not filled with self-referential thoughts as if his mind was still Billy. In fact, he thought and talked about Billy as a separate person. Mary didn't call Cap "Billy." It's an interesting interpretation to put the mind of a child in the body of an adult, but that's really not what Captain Marvel was about. It really was more of a body-switch between Billy and Cap. Smith returns the concept to that original interpretation even going so far as to include a scene at the Rock of Eternity where both Cap and Billy are co-existing and interacting together. I liked that a lot.
I really wanted to just gush about how wonderful this comic was - but I can't. There are some real problems with it. The first thing is that Billy Batson looks like he's five years-old or has a serious physical development problem. I would guess that Billy's supposed to be somewhere between 10 and 12 years old but he looks like he's kindergarten age at best. That's just a disconcerting visual, especially when Shazam informs him that he has a "baby sister" and I'm wondering if she's even out of diapers yet.
I also thought it was a huge mistake to spend so much time retelling his origin story. The entire origin sequence, including introductions of Mary and Junior, could've been done in a two-page spread on pages 2 and 3 allowing the MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL story to really get going. As it is though, out of 48 pages of story and art, the reader gets a measly 4 pages at the end of the first issue that really advance the MONSTER SOCIETY storyline that the mini-series is supposed to be about. Now, considering the fact that the original MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL ran monthly for a good two years, at this rate, Smith is not going to even get through the first part of the story before the mini-series is complete.
I own the original MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL in a huge hard-bound collection published years ago and it's a classic piece of long-term storytelling that offered a monthly encounter between Cap and one of his greatest villains. Each month a new villain (Sivana, Ibac, Capt. Nazi, etc.), but they were all involved in a grand overarching plot put in place by the mysterious "Mr. Mind." The revelation of what "Mr. Mind" really was and his ultimate defeat became the stuff of legend and fans demanded his return.
Taking MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL and attempting to retell it for modern audiences is clearly a bold undertaking, but expectations were high coming into this project considering how long Smith has been working on it, plus his track record with grand adventure storytelling in BONE. I'm therefore a bit perplexed why he would turn this into an origin story for Cap and the Marvel Family because it seems like if the title of the mini-series is MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL that this should be the focus. Instead, rather than seeing an established and confident Marvel Family facing down Mr. Mind's Monster Society, we're going to be subject to an odd mixture of a story of power and family discovery while trying to juggle a parade of villain introductions as well. If he wanted to do an origin story, maybe DC could've published that as a separate volume. Yeah, I think that was a huge mistake that drags the story momentum down and I think will be a turn-off, ultimately, to new readers. The two-page recap would've told them everything they needed to know.
I'm sure I'll be picking up the next issue because even with my complaints about the emphasis on Cap's origin, it's still a good comic book and a pleasantly fresh and joyful adventure of a Captain Marvel who actually looks and feels like the "real" Captain Marvel. That's something I can support and hope to see more of.


Writer: William Harms Artists: Nick Postic & Nick Marinkovich Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

The vampire is a strange subject in the horror genre. It is a monster that has taken many forms throughout the years. From the whiny fops from the Anne Rice novels to the romantic leads of such films as LOVE AT FIRST BITE and Francis Ford Coppola’s DRACULA. My favorite version of the vampire? Aside from Nicholas Cage’s genius rendition of a vampire in VAMPIRE’S KISS, I would have to say the original NOSFERATU. This creature of the night wasn’t wooing ladies or kvetching about eternal life. This was a monster who traveled in shadows and crept into your nightmares. This was a creature to be feared.
This is the type of vampire that shows up in the pages of IMPALER. It’s a step away from the romanticized version of the monster. These vampires travel in packs like wolves and descend from shadows, engulfing their prey and animalistically tearing it apart like a pack of rabid hyenas. These characters hiss instead of toss out discourse about “The children of the night.” In fact, they have very few lines at all. Like a plague of locusts, the vampires descend on New York City and engulf it entirely in a matter of hours.
And that’s what this story is all about. IMPALER is a slow-cooking story with many explosions to make the time both worthwhile and interesting. The first two issues of the story are a police procedural as a select few cops begin to investigate a growing amount of attacks throughout New York. By issue three, these attacks have intensified and by the end of the issue all hell breaks loose. It took a while to get there, but the story is masterfully plotted to crescendo in each issue, teasing and tempting the reader to come back for more. And with the state New York is in by the end of issue three, it looks as if the forces of good have their work cut out for them.
This is a great read. One that’s bound to get better as the Impaler himself shows up in issue three. He seems to be the only one who knows how to deal with these creatures as they tear through everything the cops have to throw against them. These first three issues seem to be the prelude to a much bigger story. I have to admit, I am hooked. I hope to find out more about the Impaler in future issues. His design is really nice and his actions are truly bad@$$
One of the biggest draws of this book is the drawings themselves. The art team of Postic and Marinkovich do a great job of setting the mood for horror and their designs for the vampires are both unique and memorable. These vamps are more like walking shadows with teeth. Powerful blacks seep into every panel suggesting danger and fearful unknowns. Action is conveyed nicely and the splash pages featuring the carnage as the vamps decimate New York are both loosely drawn to convey fluidity of movement and highly detailed to make the action seem all the more intense.
All in all, the first three issues of IMPALER make for a fun read. If you like your horror intense and original, try IMPALER on for size. The way the vampires are portrayed alone makes this book worth a look and now that the damage is done to New York, it’s going to be fun watching the Impaler clean house.


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Penciler: Mark Bagley Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

So the Ultimate version of "The Clone Saga" has finally wrapped up in this special epilogue issue and honestly, the only real...feeling it left me with was "Haven't I read this before?"
And no, I'm not making some asinine joke about yet something else being ultimatized in a run that has seen a little too much of it (though I'm sure I'll stoop that low later in this review, I am an @$$hole after all) but I mean more this issue itself. It seems to me that there's a bit of a pattern emerging in this run of Bendis' on this book, and in my probably unpopular opinion, I think it might be time for a change, or at least a little bit of an overhaul. But I've been on this title for a quite a long, long while, and it seems that a lot of these stories are starting to run together, and not in a "everything is connected" LOST kind of way.
So yeah, that brings me back to patterns. What I'm getting at, is that I've seen this before. And before anyone jumps on me, I will say that this issue did succeed in what it set out to be; a touching revelation about Peter and his relationship with those around him. Bendis again shows that he does personal issues as good as anyone in the business, but the key word in that sentence there is "again". Anytime we have one of these six or seven part harrowing sagas, we get this issue right after it's over. We got it when Gwen died, we got it when Harry went apeshit and almost killed MJ, and a couple other times I'm too lazy to research right now (sorry, I've got seven other books to cover). Simply put, this felt like it was the four or fifth time I've read this issue.
And what doesn't help is that now this series is going back to another old standby, Ultimatizing Bendis' flavor of the month, which in this case happens to be Ronin. Yes, you heard me, fucking Ronin.
Look, I'm not here to backhand this title, for the most part it has been almost always B grade or better quality. But the thing is, there's too many other GREAT titles out there for me to be wasting my time on something that has basically decided it's okay to relish in the same old same old over and over again. It's played out, and I hate to see someone of Bendis' ability having to fall back on the tried and true. I've read ALIAS, I've reveled in TORSO, and I still think POWERS is one of the top twenty or so books on the market. I've seen what comes from that beautiful bald head of his when he's really trying... and I really don't see that same effort being played out on this book anymore and now I think it's time for me to step away.
Mark Bagley though? Still not a wasted panel. Sure, he doesn't put out Bryan Hitch-like spreads with so much detail you swear you could the pimpless on the ass of some cannon fodder Hulk or whoever is putting their fist through. And yes, his forms and facial features tend to have a little too much likeness to them. But none of that matters. What matters is that he has as wide a variation of facial features to tell any sort of story or situation you can think of, and there is no such thing as empty space on one of his pages. What matters is that he's still one of the top storytellers in the game, and that's much more important than your "so detailed it takes four months to do an issue" art chores that are becoming the norm it seems.
I'm not dropping this title lightly. It has brought me a lot of joy. Obviously there's the stand-alone type issues like where Pete tells MJ he's Spidey, or the one where May goes to the therapist and so on, but this book hasn't really instilled anything in me for a while running now, and I think it's time to go while the getting's good...
And come on. Ultimate fucking Ronin? What the fuck is that? I need that like I need the image of my sixty-two year old mother blowing my dad instilled in my head all day........... oh, fuck......


Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Ben Templesmith Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Baytor

I’m not sure why I haven't read an issue of Fell until this one. Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers, I've got the trade paperback on my wish-list, and I've even started reading an issue or two but got distracted. If there's any bright spot to this situation, it's that I'm coming to the seventh issue almost ice cold; the only thing I know about the book is that it's about a cop. And from a reviewing stand-point, this is very good for a book that prides itself for each issue being 100% self-contained.
The good news is the book lives up to that boast. Fell #7 is as easy to follow as the random episode of Law & Order or CSI. There's one or two lines of dialogue that sound as though they reference a past issue (or not), but those lines only add color to the characters and don't erect a barricade to the casual or new reader.
The really good news is this book is really good. I admit, I'm not completely sold on the artwork of Ben Templesmith, whose work is rougher around the edges than I prefer, but he manages to capture the emotion of Ellis' script quite well, so I'm left with no real complaint on the art front. Quite a feat considering this is almost entirely a talking heads comic, and could be dead boring in the hands of even the most competent of artists.
But the real draw here is the story by Warren Ellis. He's obviously a fan of television shows where a near-genius police officer takes great delight watching a crook squirm as he unravels the crime. Imagine popping in during the last 10 minutes of CSI or L&O: Criminal Intent to catch the final interrogation and you get the basics of this story, and for the first 12 pages it unfolds in a thoroughly entertaining (albeit very familiar) manner; then Ellis hands us the twist in the final few pages. Given the familiarity of the set-up, I found myself experiencing the same confusion as Richard Fell did, because this is not how these stories are supposed to end.
So my first foray into the world of FELL was quite enjoyable and there's no question about return visits. If this issue is any indication, Ellis has managed to craft a truly rare beast in comics: a police drama that's actually entertaining and compelling without resorting to action movie clichés. Now, if I could only figure out why it took me so long to finally read an issue.


Writers: Geoff Johns and Richard Donner Artists: Art Adams, Eric Wight, Joe Kubert, Rags, Gary Frank, Phil Jimenez, and Tony Daniel Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

"You will not deny me my revenge, Jor-El. You will use your science to save the planet Krypton and one day we will return, and when we do, I will be Krypton's ruler. And then I will make you the slave to me that you are to the Council. You will kneel before me. Both you and one day, your son!"- General Zod
Packed in a groovy retro-checkerboard design, ACTION COMICS 48 PG. GIANT ANNUAL hits the stands. Boasting the writing talents of the highly regarded Geoff Johns and Richard Donner and an all-star team of artists continuing the current trend towards crafting a slick new modern vision of Superman that fully and purposefully reincorporates those key elements of the classic Silver Age Superman with the post-MAN OF STEEL version and a good dash of the cinematic version. But the real question is: Was the comic worth the money? Well, let's take a walk through the jam-packed multiple stories, sneak peaks, and special features and see how it looks.
The cover boasts a solid Silver Age-feel with the classic DC ANNUAL design with the main story featured in a large center image flanked by six smaller boxes on the sides spotlighting some of the other features to be found within the book. The cover art is a beautiful mix of Adam Kubert and his dad, the great Joe Kubert.
The Many Deaths of Superman Illustrated by Art Adams, the first bookend is a four-pager. It's not a complete story but more of a vignette focusing on Lex Luthor's inner monologue running through all the things that the uninformed reader needs to know can kill Superman. All this happens while he's machete-whacking his way through (presumably) the mountain jungles overlooking Addis Ababa, Ethiopia tracking down a fist-sized chunk of green Kryptonite.
It's a nice little bit that gives us some insight into the mind of Lex Luthor and features such beautiful Art Adams art that it drives home the fact that it's a crime against humanity that Adams is not currently drawing a series for DC.
Who is Clark Kent's Big Brother?Illustrated by Eric Wight. Now, the whole time I read this story I was convinced that Wight was the guy who illustrates ROCKETO. But a quick Google search told me I was wrong about that. Instead, he's the guy who does MY DEAD GIRLFRIEND, but primarily he's an animator - which explains why his work looks so much like my current sweet comic art love, Darwyn Cooke. One thing animators bring to comics is a really clear idea of how to economically tell a story with sequential images. I loved the heavy brush look to his inking and texturing. He's a real find and should be a keeper for DC.
Storywise, this is a retelling of the classic Silver Age story of Superboy and Mon-El. The only real difference in this retelling is that Clark doesn't put on tights and go around publicly as Superboy. But now he's got pretty much everything else from the Silver Age, including the underground tunnel into his Smallville home and he flies around doing super-hero stuff wearing a big "S" on his chest by way of his Smallville High shirt. They really ought to bite the bullet and just retrofit Superboy in tights back into continuity because they've already done everything but the tights.
When I say this is a simple retelling of the Mon-El origin, I mean it. They could've basically just reprinted the original story and whited out the costume on Superboy to replace it with regular clothes. So, if you already know the story there's nothing new to see other than Wight's artwork. If you've never known Mon-El's origin, then it's a fine and complete 14-page story. Pick up the ongoing SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES if you want to see what happened next in the life of Mon-El.
Mystery Under the Blue Sun The Bizarro World is back. Illustrated by Joe Kubert, this little two-pager is a huge disappointment simply because there's no clue as to what in the world is going on. We've got some Thanagarians in a ship discovering the classic cube-shaped Bizarro World orbiting a blue sun and then they get smeared by three Bizarros who fly through the ship saying "Hello." And that's it. Nothing else. Not even a "To be continued!" blurb. Wha huh? Grrr.
Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude Dead sexy gorgeous two-page spread by Phil Jimenez illustrating the Fortress of Solitude, which is now a perfect amalgamation of the movie Fortress with the Silver Age Fortress - even going so far as to include the old giant gold "Key" as one of the interior displays. This is one of those types of things that used to appear in those huge Treasury Editions. I kind of wish it was featured that size so that the details could be seen better.
Special Advertising Section Yep. That annoying little Wii-playing a-hole is back again taking up space in the middle of my DC comics-readin' time. Listen dude, I don't own a Wii. I don't want to own a Wii. And I sure don't give a crap about your virtual console and Wii remote. You wanna play Wii with an @$$hole ? Fine, here's Squashua's number: 8980 7585 1015 3348. Now get the hell out of my comics and stop interrupting the story flow. Half the time I don't even realize I'm reading an ad and just think the Mad Cow is kicking in because I don't remember this character's name.
Hate that kid!
The Criminals of Krypton With art by Rags Morales and Mark Farmer, this 12-page story is the real keeper of the entire comic. Johns and Donner take us back to the days before Krypton exploded to allow us a glimpse into Zod, Ursa, and Non that reveals a ton of backstory in a small amount of pages. In the movies, Zod and Ursa are really just one-note megalomaniacs and Non is their "pet," of a sort. But here, we do gain some understanding of their motivations so that they do not remain two-dimensional villains. Non especially benefits from this story. I'm not going to detail the story because it deserves to be read rather than spoiled. Non's story is a heartbreaker and you will be surprised by his relationship with Jor-El. This story has really ramped up my anticipation of the next few issues of ACTION COMICS where Superman faces down these three Kryptonian criminals. Will there be a glimmer of recognition when Non meets the son of Jor-El?
Superman's Top 10 Most Wanted!Special feature that, like the first story in this comic, reads like a good old-fashioned catch-the-new-readers-up-to-speed type of thing. It's cool though. Nice Tony Daniel art, especially his Bizarro portrait, and really good text pieces on each villain.
Mystery Under the Blue Sun They're back, folks! Green Kryptonite! Red Kryptonite! Blue Kryptonite! Gold Kryptonite! and Lex is using all four to upgrade Metallo (apparently against his will) to finally fulfill his obsessive desire to kill Superman. This three-pager illustrated by Gary Frank and Jonathan Sibal bookends the 2007 ACTION COMICS ANNUAL.
Is this worth $3.99?


Creator: Mitsukazu Mihara Publisher: Tokyopop Reviewer: Dan Grendell

"A master plying a mystic hook, he only fishes for miracles..."
Mitsukazu Mihara is a fairly well-known name in manga. She is credited with having helped shape the GothLoli look, and her manga DOLL and THE EMBALMER are quite popular. This particular book is a collection of some of her short manga work, and there are some really intriguing and thought-provoking ideas here, as well as some beautiful artwork.
The opening story, "Keep Those Condoms Away from Our Kids", won Mihara an award in 1994. It deals with a near-future where an anti-AIDS vaccine has killed sex drive, and to revitalize sagging birth rates and respark desire teenagers are taught how to have sex using pornography in school. This includes a live test that must be passed.
The next tale, 'The Iron Maiden", is one of repressed emotion and abuse that is truly touching and scary. After that comes "The Sunflower Quality of an Integrated Circuit", about a robot maid who serves both a loving master and a cheating, hateful mistress. "The Other Side of the Rose Wire", next, follows a teenage delinquent who falls for a girl caring for her old father.
In what was my favorite story, "Fish Out of Water", a mermaid captured and kept in a bathtub refuses to speak to her captors. But all is not as it seems... After that is the creepy and touching "Mister Mineral", about mental instability, and the final story, "Alive", a great piece on just what it means to be alive.
The artwork throughout the collection is top-notch. Mihara is rightly famous for her art style, and these are great examples of why. Several of the earlier stories are not as refined artistically as, say, DOLL, but the talent is clearly there and the effect is striking.
Even if you have no interest in the more Gothic side of manga, I'd suggest picking up IC IN A SUNFLOWER. The stories are noteworthy additions to any reader's shelf.


Writer: Garth Ennis Artist: Jacen Burrows Publisher: Avatar Reviewer: Baytor

I've been waiting a while for Ennis to really connect with a new series. THE PUNISHER is always worth a look as Ennis has a good handle on that sort of character and knows how to take it to new and interesting places, but it's never been a place where Ennis can truly stretch his legs, either being too silly in its Marvel Knights incarnation and now too serious at MAX. THE BOYS (currently awaiting another publisher to pick it up) had some moments of mad glee, but Ennis always seems to keep super-heroes at arm's length and it rarely displays the heart that Ennis' best work is known for. And then there's the various one-shots and miniseries, which are often quiet good, but don't spend enough time with the characters to evoke the same sort of feelings he so expertly mined on PREACHER and HITMAN all those years ago.
The thing that made those two series so great was they dared to go anywhere and everywhere. Farce stood side-by-side with serious melodrama and heart was never in short supply.
And while it's too early to predict where CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD will fall among Ennis' work, I like that I see the same sort of spirit in the first issue. Plotwise, there's not too much going on here, as Ennis presents a brief character study of the man who turned his back on his destiny as the Anti-Christ. He's got a beautiful loving girlfriend of several years who he loves deeply, a pet rabbit that talks and terrorizes people on the Internet, a good friend in the Second Coming of Jesus, a repulsive rival in the cable television business (where Wormwood has made a profitable niche for himself with intelligent and demented programming, such as Secret Santa, a show about a hitman who performs hits wearing a Santa suit), and is carrying on a torrid affair with a woman (Joan Of Arc) he despises.
It's CITIZEN KANE with dick jokes, following a man through the different aspects of his life, fully aware of his contradictions. And for the most part it's rather good, although the television interview sequence halfway through the book overstays its welcome and ends with a rather weak joke. The farcical content is rather high, but Ennis manages to ground most of the major characters, so they don't feel like they're in service of one of his sick jokes.
The big question mark about this book is whether or not Ennis has a plot as interesting as the characters he's presented, and the final page would seem to suggest Ennis has something more in store for his characters than conversing in bars and purchasing carrots. Until then, I can't say if this will be as much fun as HITMAN or as engrossing as PREACHER, but this is the best debut issue I've seen from him in a long time.


By Jonathan Rivera and Nick Destefano Publisher: 1130 Studios Re-reviewed by Ambush Bug

Bug note: I reviewed this material a while back, but it recently has been repackaged in trade paperback form. Since I dug the original material so much and since this is Valentine’s Day, I found it fitting to repost this review and had no reservations reminding you about this really great read. The contents have been cleaned up a bit in this new version and a few bonus goodies have been added, but my opinion that this is a book that will strike a chord in anyone who ever picked up a comic still stand. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Alright guys, let's face it. If you're on this site and reading this column, chances are you were at some point, and maybe still are, a geek. It's not a put down. Not a snipe. Just a simple, ugly fact. I know that throughout my high school and college years, if I were a hit with the ladies, I wouldn't have spent so much time reading comics. Or maybe if I wouldn't have spent so much time reading comics during that time, I would have got a little more than I did. Who knows? My point is that with all of the "strengths" the geek culture has going for it – large egos, overactive imaginations, a great memory of unimportant factuals – livin’ large with the ladies ain't one that we're known for.
It's a hard fact to swallow. I know and I'm sure the TBs will be filled with those in denial, stating, "I don't know about your geek @$$, but I get laid all of the time." To that, I say, "No. No, you don't. No one really does. Only in the movies do guys go out on a consistent basis and get laid and pick up girls as many times as I piss on a three day drinking binge." And I'm not saying this from the standpoint of a guy who never gets some. Oh, the Bug gets some. I do and that patting sound is me stretching my arm back to congratulate myself. But the thing is, I'm willing to admit that at my core, there's a geek. That person that is not so confident. That person who makes himself look like a complete jack@$$. That person who over thinks their actions before they do them and is haunted by said actions long after they do or don't happen. I know I'm not the only one.
If you're honest with yourself and strong enough to admit it, HEARTBREAK is the comic made for all of us. The endearing thing about this comic is that these romantic misadventures are looked back upon with a heavy dose of insight, a wizened viewpoint brought on only by years and years of taking chances, making mistakes, and learning from them. Creators Jonathan Rivera and Nick Destefano are able to look back at the times when they have struck out with the ladies, not in anger or melancholy, but with the humble attitude that without these experiences, they would not be the people that they are today.
The thing is, if you're a geek – and we've already established that in some way or another, we all are – your experiences with the opposite sex may not be frequent, but they are memorable. Memorable because as geeks, we think way too much. Memorable because they don't happen that often and when they do, they stick with us. Memorable because, for a moment or two, that gripe you had with the way Wolverine was portrayed in issue #33 or that flame war you had in the Talkbacks ceases to matter and life suddenly becomes more real than usual. And that’s what HEARTBREAK is all about.
On a girl by girl basis, HEARTBREAK tells the story of two guys who have tried over and over to find that one girl for them. Each issue is split in two, with each story narrated by Rivera or Destefano. Although the art is often simplistic, both Destefano and Rivera show promise in their use of framing sequences, telling stories graphically, and their use of simple lines to convey facial features and emotion. In issue #1, like a geeked-out Rod Serling, Jonathan Rivera (circa now) takes us on a trip down memory lane, stopping at each time he comes into contact with a potential girlfriend and telling us how each connection went horribly, horribly wrong. In a later story, Nick Destefano tells us how he goes through an elaborate plan in order to get a girl who is out of his league in high school. Destefano and Rivera are two types of geeks. Rivera is the outcast rebel-type, who shuns mainstream trends and operates on the outside of the cool crowds at school (but secretly wants to be a part of it). Destefano is more of the shy nebbish-type. Both are lovable losers and you see yourselves rooting for these guys to be successful in their pursuit of love and cringe when you see the situation take a turn for the worse.
So check out HEARTBREAK. You can order copies of the first three issues right here. These books speak to the geek in all of us, even if you're not willing to admit it. I had a lot of fun reading about these guys’ experiences and comparing them to my own. I'll bet you will to. These stories are empowering in a way. These guys have made mistakes, but they seem to be coming to terms with them in these stories. This series is a brutally honest read, but the ups and downs with the opposite sex in these tales are inspiring in that these guys are learning from their mistakes and not giving up despite them. So take this Bug's advice. Order a copy of HEARTBREAK. Read it and maybe you’ll learn from the experiences of these lovable losers. Then put the comic down, turn off the computer, go outside, and take some chances of your own.


Writer: Ace Masters Artist: Nichx Publisher: Masterpiece Comics Reviewer: Dan Grendell

"No, I'm not okay. Having three attempts on my life doesn't make for an okay day."
This is what looks to be a cool new book from a new company. A sci-fi book with an interesting premise, it involves Mack Fire, a private detective about to open his own agency. Everything looks good until someone tries to blow him up. When that doesn't work, a shooting and another bombing attempt follow, and Mack is off on his first case - trying to find out who wants him dead! The answer is surprising and a nice twist on this sort of story, and sets up some nice possibilities for the future.
Masters does a good job with characterization, producing interesting people to read about. Mack is a bit of a coward, with a smart mouth. His computer assistant Perfecta, who appears via hologram, is calm and logical but still comes off as fairly human, a neat trick. We don't see much of Mack's girlfriend or landlord, but from what we do see, they look like trouble. Other characters introduced similarly have their own strong vibe.
Part of the credit for that belongs to artist Nichx. Each character is distinct, and their mannerisms and body language are portrayed quite well. Nichx could use a bit more work on backgrounds and detail, and perspective - there were a number of panels that were a bit off in those regards. The biggest issue I had with the art, though, was that there was no sense of animation in the panels, no sense that the characters were actually moving. Each just looked like a series of cut scenes. Overall, though, the art was decent.
It's always good to see a new sci-fi comic that doesn't focus on giant robots or aliens. I'm curious to see where this one goes.


Writers: James Anthony Kuhoric(I Hear the Call), Henry Alonso Myers (Are you There, Cthulhu?), Christopher E. Long (Seed of Cthulhu), Hans Rodionoff (The Pull of Insanity), Michael Alan Nelson (For You), Kevin Church (The Art of Noises) Artists: Jean Dzialowski (I Hear the Call), Chris Lie (Are you There, Cthulhu?), Andy Bennett (Seed of Cthulhu), Tim Hamilton (The Pull of Insanity), Andrew Ritchie (For You), Joe Abraham (The Art of Noises) Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewer: Squashua

Hey kids. As the relative noob @$$hole, they'll forgive me (or sic Sleazy and his nine-headed “stick of pleasure” on me) for revealing to you, our fair reader, one of our little behind-the-scenes trade secrets. Every week, on the afternoon of New Comics Day (also known as Wednesday to the philistines or Thursday if Monday was a postal holiday), we @$$holes conduct a ritual known as “The Dibbing”. During this time, one @$$ (lately myself, being the most enthusiastic or least jaded depending on your point-of-view), sends an e-mail to all of the other @$$es proclaiming the “Time of Dibbage” has come upon us. Then it's a free-for-all with every @$$ for themselves trying to be the first to “call” issues for review so that we have a variety of reviews without duplicates. Usually no one gets stuck reviewing, say, POWERPUFF GIRLS #16.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, just sayin'.
This week, like the sexy Italian guy who shows up at the college party and leaves with two hot girls after banging a third in the hall bathroom, Professor Challenger and Humphrey Lee woke up real fucking early and took all the good shit. And that was fine with me. I was all, “Ha ha, you fuckers. I don't care about your SOOPERMAN-ANA-UAL and NEW AVENGERS featuring Grecian cunt-punting; I got what I wanted this week; CTHULHU TALES: THE RISING came in! And I dib that, you cocksuckers. So what do you think about them apples?”
And Challenger's like, “Squash, man. I can't believe you shelled out seven bucks.”
And Humphrey follows up by letting me know WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY came out this week and I forgot to pick up a copy with my stash.
You see, I have a reserved stash of books at the local shop, and for that I get a % discount; I think it's 20%, but it could be less. Returning customer perks and all. Unlike some reviewers who get comp'd, we @$$holes have to pay for our own books. I never really look at the price of the comics; I get my weekly pile and jet back to work before the lunch break is over. But seven bucks? That's a lot. Was it worth it? Well, I bought three 48-pagers this week, so let's break it down, shall we?
ACTION COMICS ANNUAL Price $4.00 Pages: 48, ads inclusive. Pages of actual content: 39 (or 40 if you count the table of contents page). Cost: 10 cents/page. Quality: Read the review; I don't feel like my $ was wasted.
MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL PRICE: $6.00 Pages: 48, prestige format, thick cover, zero advertisements. Pages of actual content: 48 (or 50 if you count the cover interiors and their coded messages) Cost: Less than 13 cents/page Quality: Read the review; worth every penny.
CTHULHU TALES : THE RISING PRICE: $7.00 Pages: 48 Pages of actual content: 46 (there's one ad at the end) Cost: A little more than 15 cents/page Quality: Keep reading, true believer.
CTHULHU TALES definitely cost more per page than the other books. Considering that DC funded the other projects and BOOM! is its own entity, I can understand them trying to recoup the cost of production with a higher price point. But, was it worth it? Well, TALES is an anthology of Lovecraftian stories and I'm more of a Cthulhu buff than any one of you would ever suspect. I know my Yig from my Iod, my Voola Ritual from my “Voorish Rituals”. I own an original print of Machinations of the Mi-Go and a hardcover edition of The King in Yellow. To me, both the Silver Surfer and the Black Racer are simply additional Masks of Nyarlathotep. I walk among you and was more disappointed than enthused with the stories presented in this volume.
The lead tale, I Hear the Call is fine; involving a man who thinks he can beat the system getting in over his head, with a focus on Cthulhu's influence preying on the insane. The art towards the end forces the reader to take a good look to distinguish between fetal positions or death, but determined observers will eventually figure it out (the latter).
The second story, Are you there, Cthulhu? It's me, Margaret., while having dark overtones with cutting oneself to rid of evil, just ended up being way too silly for me, confirming my suspicions set in motion from the more cartoon-y art style that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the book.
Seed of Cthulhu sees our first, and expected in this context from my point-of-view, overextension of Cthulhu as the focal point of the Mythos. As a standalone tale, it does the job quite well, bringing us into an appropriately Lovecraftian science expedition attacked by a loonie, but there are many routes that could have been taken with this, and the classic “alien from outer-space” path just seems like the easy way out. At least Shoggoths were left alone, but there is so much more to the Mythos than just the Big C., and for that I'm disappointed. The art is fine for such a short story and fits the genre, but appears much too rough for a longer run.
The Pull of Insanity, while an entertaining tale and an appropriate use of a classic Whisperer in the Darkness-styled antagonist, and drawn with a well-detailed art style, is a silly, fourth-wall-breaking story that just doesn't do it for me. Though I must admit I felt kinship reading a particular scene. Yes, many of my books are “tainted”, but I don't note it in the eBay sale profiles.
The only problem I have with For you is if you can't use the jewelry and the guy is as ugly as he's drawn, and he's never there anyway, why stick around? Obviously, our protagonist is infatuated with him enough to hire a detective to ensure his legitimacy, so she's a bit of a psycho herself. I applaud the writer for generating his own appropriately named mythos entity, especially since Mother Hydra or Father Dagon would have been so simple to use here. The art is dark and subtly graphic; keep an eye on the people in the background of the restaurant. This story is good, but overall, it was nothing new to me.
The final tale, The Art of Noises is the only one that I really flat-out appreciated. Like Seed, it unnecessarily emphasizes the importance of Cthulhu over other concepts, but the idea the plot sets forth is the only one in this book that truly feels Lovecraftian in scope (with I Hear the Call coming in close second). It's the story of a man slowly driven insane from his proximity to an event that creates an overwhelmingly depressive passion to seek out the truth. And he explains this to the reader, a patron of the same drinking establishment. There is generated a sense of history, and you can almost feel the torture in our protagonist's life as he rants. Noises is the stand-out tale that I would recommend anyone to read.
CTHULHU TALES: THE RISING is hit-and-miss, with a little more emphasis on miss for me. Coupled with the extra hit to the wallet, as a fan of the genre, it truly depresses me that I cannot recommend the purchase of this book. If you're a novice with money burning a hole in your wallet, it might be a good pick-up, but for the more established of you out there, including the die-hard collectors, you might save your change for the upcoming FALL OF CTHULHU series. It appears like it might be more of what, at least I, am looking for.


Jim Massey: Writer
Robbi Rodriguez: Artist
Oni Press: Publisher
Vroom Socko: Sweeping Up

There’s one element of the evil scientist lab, be it run by A.I.M., SPECTRE, or Bunsen Honeydew, that is rarely seen in fiction. That is the role of the poor schmuck who has to plunge the toilets. That’s the role that Doug and Manny play at TerroMax, Inc. Of course, working at the preeminent research facility for evil has its own unique risks.
This book is silly. Profoundly silly. Carrot Top looks like Al Gore in comparison with this comic, that’s how silly it is. There’s a surreal gag early on about George Washington Carver that I don’t dare repeat, and wouldn’t even know how to explain in any case. Much of the humor comes from your typical blue collar workplace situations, to be sure, but the true heights of hilarity come from watching these two nitwits interacting with the experiments being conducted at their facility. This issue, for example, features our two protagonists attempting to repair a malfunctioning time machine, with predictable results.
The one thing I’ve loved about this series to date is that each crisis has featured some sort of analogue to characters from the Hanna-Barbera oeuvre. In the first issue, it was Jabberjaw. Here, it’s Captain Caveman. And just wait until you see how he manages to fly.
Creators Massey and Rodriguez have an exceptional piece of levity going here, one that is a welcome addition to the Oni stable. If you’re not cackling like Dr. Evil on nitrous oxide by the time you’re five pages in to this issue, then I don’t think I want to know you.

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.


The fifth and final issue of what I felt was going to be one of the best mini's (let alone series in general) that I read all year, and I can officially stand by my earlier remarks. This was another great war story, in a long line of them, whether it be in the medium of comics, movies, television or what have you. I loved the dichotomy presented between that of Vietnamese footsoldier Vo Binh Dai and Private Everette and why they fight (one for honor, one because Uncle Sam said so). And I was especially glad at how this series focused less on the "atrocities of war" and more on the "why we're here and what did it all resolve" focus of such seemingly pointless combat. The fear and doubt written into the characters’ inner dialogues, the steely resolve when it mattered most, and the fantastic gallows humor; just stellar writing all around. And then there's the real treat of Cameron Stewart's pencils. I don't think any art presentation has impressed me more this entire year with the big exception of Nico Henrichon's mind-boggling job on PRIDE OF BAGHDAD. The panelwork, the storytelling, the character designs and the detail in all of it; the man put on a clinic and it really deserves to be recognized, as does this series as a whole. I said before that this series should be considered for a lot of award nominations; now I really think it should be considered for a lot of award wins. Keep an eye out for the upcoming trade. - Humphrey


This takes the award for most complicated title. One of my favorite things about DARK AGE is the striking cover design. I'm not sure if Alex Ross was involved with the design and faux-neon color scheme but whoever it was deserves some attention for creating a trade dress that literally pops off the stands. This book finally delivers the Apollo Eleven for longtime ASTRO CITY readers plus a bit more of Simon Magus. I can't help but love this book. Every issue gives off the same vibe I used to get in Junior High when I would buy a Marvel comic that was filled with characters I wanted to know more about. Oh yeah. It also finally reveals the real killer of Charles and Royal Williams' parents. So, if you were thinking about skipping this one, you may want to rethink that plan. - Prof.

BULLET POINTS #4 Marvel Comics

Four issues in and J. Michael Straczynski's BULLET POINTS has officially turned into what I was afraid it would: Just a glorified What If throwing a bunch of rearranged identities and overextended exposition to go with it. I was hoping for something a little more heartfelt and epic, something that tapped into the fundamental core and the heart of the Marvel universe and showed how and why it ticked, sort of like, I dunno, a MARVELS... but now I've got, uh, Reed Richards: Agent of SHIELD and Bruce Banner as Spider-Man, I guess. The potential was there, but now it's fleeting. All that remains is some really really stellar Tommy Lee Edwards art and apparently Galactus devouring a planet that doesn't have the weapons to deal with him since it lost its most brilliant mind to superspying instead of inventing devices capable of taking the World Eater down. It was worth a shot, but the results don't do justice to the potential. - Humphrey

JONAH HEX #16 DC Comics

Ever wonder what Jonah Hex would've been like if he'd been a girl? Yeh. Me either. Apparently Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti have wondered about that though. Makes me a bit worried about those two guys. However, Part 1 of "The Ballad of Tallulah Black" kicks off with some sweet full-color Phil Noto art and introduces a female version of Hex himself. This series has been the most consistently excellent series published on schedule by DC for over a year now and this is one of the best yet. The hallmark of the first year was that it was a series of self-contained single issue stories. But with the recent 3-part origin of Jonah Hex storyline, they're embarking on multi-part stories and this issue upped the game dramatically. Tallulah Black is more than just the coolest name in comics but also the most disturbing personal story. Plus there's always something appealing about a females with eyepatches. Can't explain it. - Prof.


This book really, really divides my opinion. On one hand, it's such a great romp that I have a hard time saying anything negative about it. Right off the bat, this issue has a goddamn "How to" on a proper bitch slap? How cool is that? And the rest of the issue is dedicated to a pretty brutal, and right hilarious inter-gender beat down between our titled group of misfits and a bunch of ruthless girlies called The Cherries. But at the same time, not a whole damn lot has gone on in four issues so far. Yeah, I've gotten a solid bit of laughs out of this, but not on as entirely consistent a basis as, say, a NEXTWAVE gives me. It's fun, but I think maybe it just goes by way too fast for $3 a pop. So, I really do endorse this title, but the monthly joy is so fleeting that I think it may have been best to wait for a collected edition, which you all really should do if you didn't in the first place. - Humphrey

MYSTERY IN SPACE #6 (of 8) DC Comics

What?!??!! No Shane Davis???!!!?! CRAP!!! I don't want to diss Ron Lim, but..CRAP!!!! Remember when Lim had the sad job of stepping in on INFINITY GAUNTLET to take the place of George Perez? Thankless job. He's a good sport too. It helps that he knows how to draw comics pretty good. No clue why Davis is suddenly gone but he established a pretty well defined visual look for this series and Lim does a good job working within that visual parameter. Writer Jim Starlin clearly trusts Lim to effectively bring his stories to life and he does do a good job. This month Comet is hunted by some giant bugs who work as bounty hunters. Starlin and Lim provided me with my laugh-out-loud moment. Think windshields. Think bugs. Now think spaceships. The Weird backup continues to rock along with the best ink work of Al Milgrom's career. This continues to be a great series and I hope it continues beyond the mini-series. - Prof.


Just three issues in and this title has jumped to my top ten list. I adore this title, it reminds me a great deal of Alan Moore's TOP TEN series, and that's about as high a praise as I can instill on any comic. The key to the book thus far, and this issue in particular, is how deftly Gail Simone makes us care about so many characters that we've been given little exposure to in the limited life of this book. This issue alone introduces us to a young super-goth-ette by the name of Ajita, and takes us through a very harrowing and heartfelt and even humorous look into her life and the life of the community of Tranquility as a whole. And while she's at it, Gail does a fantastic job of also pushing the mysterious circumstances around the death of Mr. Articulate from the first issue which has been one of the main driving plots of this book, all the while giving us minor insights into the deceased and making us feel remorse at his death, even after the fact, as we see the kind of man he was. I love the setting, and I love the way Gail takes old archetypes and superhero lore and gives them a modern feel with a nice splatter of pop culture humor and cynicism. It's just a brilliant book and I give it high marks all around. Do yourself a favor and pick up the first three issues on your next go around to your LCS. Trust the fuckhead. - Humphrey

THE INCREDIBLE HULK #103 Marvel Comics

The third and final installment of PLANET HULK comes to a close, and all I can say is: Thank @#$%ing God. Honestly, I think the story started off all right. It felt suitably "epic" and yeah, Hulk smashed pretty good, and things were okay for an arc. But then the next one started, and along came some new characters and species that I really didn't care about because they screamed "fodder". But sure, Hulk was still smashing, occasionally humorously, so I was still kind of in it... and then came arc three, and now I'm tired and bored and really don't give a damn about smashing, I just want a nap after reading this. Sure, Hulk taking over a planet is something that shouldn't be done in just an arc, it is a pretty big endeavor, but more than a year for any story arc is pushing it, let alone where really all that was done was stuff was, well, smashed. There were some good thrills in this, but it's beyond time for it to be done, and we really need to work on getting the Green Goliath back home so he can finally smash some familiar faces. - Humphrey

SCALPED #2 DC Vertigo

Just a follow up to my review of the first issue, I'm glad to say that a lot of skeptical issues I had with the first installment have thankfully been alleiviated a bit. I thought the first issue was a little on the gratuitous side, but it looks like it's streamlined itself a little bit better. Sure, it's still sexy, bloody, and has a filthy mouth, but it doesn't feel as forced and isn't anything extra than I'd expect out of a crime-fiction comic (especially a Vertigo one). And this issue did a good job of getting us into the heads of the characters a little more. Our lead Bad Horse is less badassey and more scared for his life, we're starting to see the more devious side of Chief Red Crow instead of a man who looked to just rule through brutality, and now we've got more direction in the subplot involving Bad Horse and Red Crow's daughter, and how it fills in the past of our lead a bit more too. I still think the pencils are a little muddled, and perhaps a little rushed (or it could be something to do with the inking) but they're still pretty good on the whole. This book isn't quite firing on all cylinders yet, but it's starting to show why it was worth that Vertigo stamp of approval on it. Here's to hoping... - Humphrey

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