Hey folks, Ambush Bug here for AICN Comics. There are a few things worth mentioning before we dive into this week’s column.
First, we have a pair of contests going on at the moment. One is a drawing contest for Fox Atomic’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES: THE BEGINNING. Scan and send your “demented crayon drawings as if done by a psycho-child” in to me to qualify for a free copy of that book.
We also still have our HARBINGER: THE BEGINNING contest, where you have to write up a pitch for a reboot of a Valiant character. Send me a short paragraph mapping out how you would bring back your favorite Valiant character.
Submissions for both contests should be sent here and don’t forget to include your full name and address.
I also came across something pretty cool that I felt was worth sharing with the AICN audience. Comflix Studios is just about to launch its website which provides a new way to read comics online by adding effects, voice-overs, and musical scores. Comflix is having a soft launch and wanted AICN readers to be among the first to give the site a test drive. The official launch of the site is July 20th, but you guys can try it right now by following these easy directions:
got to www.comflix.net
The username is: comflix
the password is: superhero
****all lowercase case sensitive
And as a thank you for checking the site out, you will have an opportunity win an all expense paid trip to Los Angeles and hang out and have lunch with actor Doug Jones (FF: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, HELLBOY). So check out the website and enjoy some comics, folks.
And now, on with the reviews.
One James Patrick is the writer of the comic book DEATH COMES TO
DILLINGER, the critically acclaimed CRACKURZ, LIONXOR, as well as providing backups for HERO HAPPY HOUR. He's also written ANGEL for IDW and is set to write an unannounced ongoing series. Currently though, the sequel to DILLINGER - DEATH AND THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE - has come to print. In order to tell us about these comics, Mr. Patrick was kind enough to do a little Q & A about the titles.
James Patrick (JP): Basically, the first book DEATH COMES TO DILLINGER is about the figure of Death in the old west setting. And it's not subtle. He's a skull and bones with a hat and six shooters and riding around from town to town. He has a satchel full of stop watches with his "victim's" names engraved in them. When the time on a watch is about to expire, Death rides into that person's town before they die. And people don't fuck with him. Firstly, it's kind of the way things are out there. It's how things are done. Secondly, he's a son of a bitch with the pistols, which is why he has the job. In DILLINGER, the father of a sick child stands up to him, and it ain't pretty. In this new sequel, DEATH AND THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE, someone steals their own watch from Death and, well, it ain't pretty either. Because the person who steals it isn't a nice guy. 'Cause, you know, if it was the pope he'd probably just give the watch back and the story would be done is five pages. Instead, a bastard son of a bitch mother fucker gets his hands on it and Death is on his trail.
Humphrey Lee (HL): So, to start, why don't you give us a quick rundown of what's going on in this Old Western front you guys have created?
HL: Well that sounds like a Western should. Evil bastards all about and death coming for their worthless hides. And with more swearing. That's aces. So, since that "sounds like a Western should", that brings me to the next part: Is there any sort of traditional Western story that you took any prompting from? Is Death in here sort of your more "spectral" version of Clint Eastwood from HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER or insert random classic of his?JP: Yeah. Busted. Though you don't have to look too hard to notice it's more Eastwood than Wayne. More THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY than anything else. It's quiet. It's deadly. There's not a lot of snappy dialogue or monologues or anything like that. Especially in the first one. We took this deadly tale and we dipped it in a creepy mood and we served it on a stick. IT really is A FEW DOLLARS MORE meets OUTER LIMITS. As for a traditional story? Oddly, it resembles HIGH NOON more than anything in its structure, but it has the feel of all those other things I mentioned. Honestly, I'm not really a Western writer. I'm better at crime, more noir-like earthy things, but this book got a head of steam and so I didn't stop with it. I still find it strange that my first real non-humor or widely-released book ended up being a horror western. Though the truth is I'm not about writing genres. It's more about what fits the story I guess, and that's this story.
HL: I was going to say, the captions and overall bits of dialogue were very terse; a little on the hard boiled side. It works though because it also has that grit that comes with that Western flavor. So since you consider your forte more on the noir side, how did these "Death" books come to be?JP: I was going to pitch WESTERN TALES OF TERROR, Josh Fialkov's (ELK’S RUN) anthology, and things just got out of hand. What was a small story really just grew into what it became. For Josh's book, I just had this idea of a skull-faced rider -- because it was, uh, cool. And then one day that bolt of lightning just hits you. In this case, the bolt was the pocket watches and how he rides from town to town and his arrival means somebody will die.
Immediately, it goes from image to concept, and then that concept just seems to have a lot of tension in it. I mean, you see this guy ride into town, you start wondering, is he here for me? Is he here for my neighbor's sick kid? If you're fucking around with some guy's wife, you wonder if that guy is going to come and find you and put a bullet in you. And then it starts to expand and work in that capacity, and ideas build around it. Like, I could see Death sitting in a saloon drinking his whiskey while fate takes its course and everyone waits for whoever to die. And that image was always the strongest to me. That and him riding into town. But I'll get to that in a second. But I just fell in love with him sitting in that saloon. It seemed much more dangerous than him taking a life himself or waiting outside someone's door. And like I said, him riding into town was the other thing. I didn't want it to be subtle. I wanted him to ride in and there he is all skull and bones and on his white horse and this means someone will die and that's how it is. There's just no apologizing for this thing being what is, skull face and all. It's not a trick of the eye, or the sun, or people's mind's interpretation. It is what it is in this world. It's Death riding into town and someone dying. Blah, blah blah -- my point is, these things start to flesh out this concept that was once just an image and that's how it came to be.
HL: I can see that. I don't really consider myself much of a writer (cue snarky comment from the audience) but I know what it's like to have a small idea and before you know it you've got a full fledged story on your hands you didn't think could possibly exist before. Do you see this concept extending itself past this current mini-series anytime soon, or do you think you'll try something more in your "roots" before you send Death after some more men of ill repute?JP: Both actually. There's a third death book in my head. It's hard to say when it will get off the ground though and we're basically just focused on finishing this one. But yeah, there's a third, and when and if it comes out it comes out. There are a number of factors that could make the casualness of that approach to the third book change. Either way, I push on with my other stuff. And yes, my next (creator-owned) books are more in line with my roots, or at least my strengths. They're more modern, have a little more "flavor" in the dialogue ( I can use fuck more. Yay!) It was nice to get back to that stuff after the quiet and more visual narrative of Death. And some humor stuff, too. I actually got my initial, though small, recognition with a little book called CRACKURZ, and I've been punching some of that stuff up for a trade. It's just nice to go from the saturated mood of something like DEATH COMES TO DILLINGER to kind of a default area in my writing for a little while. I love dialogue, and yet in DILLINGER the antagonist doesn't talk, and in its sequel, one of the protagonists doesn't talk.
HL: So, overall, given that it's a bit of a departure from your normal style, how proud are you of how these Death stories have turned out? Is it somewhat odd that you've got a book that normally you wouldn't consider, and yet you're already churning up another book for the series in your brain-space?JP: I'm proud. I mean, I look at the first book and I can see it's not my best work, and yet it still connected with a lot of people, and there are parts of it that I feel completely worked, so that makes me happy. I wasn't familiar with the genre, it wasn't in my comfort zone, and sometimes I really felt like I was just trying to not fuck it up. Not fuck up this thing that had gotten started and I realized was going to be done because when you're starting out you take what's given to you. So when I look at all that, yeah, I'm proud. Now watch the stuff I think I'm better at come out and everyone thinks it completely blows. Ha.
As for turning out another book for the series, I've just honestly become more comfortable with what I'm doing in the genre. Everything I just commented on was about the first book, DILLINGER -- but the new book – MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE -- doesn't feel like that at all. It comes out of me a little easier and I like it a little more. I think I've learned to incorporate some of the things I'm good at INTO the genre, as well as just settling in overall. And when it comes to that next book it's simply about having more stories to tell and maybe finishing the story that's started.
HL: Well, that wraps up the Q&A part of this, and I'd like to thank James for taking the time to answer those little queries for us. As for the book itself the review is coming up next so just sit tight to see if it indeed panned out like our guest hopes it did...
DEATH AND THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE #1
Writer: James Patrick Penciler: Se7enhedd Publisher: Silent Devil Reviewed by Humphrey LeeWell as that little interview kindly let us in on, this book is exactly about what the title implies: Death is out on the western plains, looking for a man named Josiah Clark who has somehow stolen the "Death Watch" that has his name on it, thereby rendering him pretty much unkillable. This was actually my first exposure to this DILLINGER series of books. I always meant to check out the original DEATH COMES TO DILLINGER series but never did, so I hoped this would be a good place to start and it worked out pretty well. I'm actually kind of embarrassed to admit, but upon my first read through I didn't really understand the significance of the pocket watches, but when it finally dawned on me the second time through I really liked the implication of it. It's a solid, if not a bit poetic, device to drive a plot that is honestly somewhat standard but aggressive enough with its presentation that it hooks you anyway.
So while this first issue of this series more or less runs right through assuming the reader will pull in the base premise (which they will, I just happen to be a special kind of moron) it spends a lot of time setting up the presence of this mini's antagonist and just how big of a bastard he is. The true brilliance behind this is not so much showing him actually committing certain heinous acts, but more by implying his bastardry via some sequences showing how brutally anyone associated with him in the slightest was punished just for that reason. There's also some very clever play with the narrative that culminates into a little twist at the end that I also didn't see coming (this time cause it was well written, not for my lack of intelligence...I hope).
And speaking of the narrative, the tone in THE MAN WHO WOULD NOT DIE is very appropriate. Very gritty and aggressive, you can almost hear the captions and dialogue being spoken to you through clenched teeth. It plays along very nice with the pacing of the story as it unfolds and puts you at home with the setting given you're familiar with these types of stories to begin with.
The art is also very appropriate as well. It plays a lot with shades and jagged lines; it actually reminds me a bit of Daniel Zezelj’s style, who coincidentally enough has been most recently making his rounds doing LOVELESS stories for DC/Vertigo. I really like the design for Death himself though. He's very much properly imposing up on his white stallion, which was also a nice touch going against the conventional as anyone and their mother would immediately assume he would be mounted upon a "Steed as black as the pit that spawned him" or some such cliché. The prairie shots are handled well too, being appropriately littered with what you'd expect them to be; rattlesnakes and cacti and whatnot. But put a check mark next to art for handling its fair share of setting the mood and helping to drive the story.
I'm really glad this book finally made it my way. It's just a very solidly crafted, very entertaining book. It knows what its appeal is, that being seeing despicable people dying the way they deserve to, and it knows how to make a story out of it. If there's any complaint I have about this particular issue, is that there is one gun fight towards the end that seems a little superfluous, like it's there more because this issue is a little action light, but you can write that off because, well, people should be expected to die at any moment in a book like this. But I'm hooked in, I want to see how the main plot twist of this series plays out, how Death gets his man and how that man meets his end and all that comes with it, and I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend that you give it a look over yourself.
WONDER WOMAN #10
Writer: Jodi Picoult Artist: Paco Diaz Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoWonder Woman continues her sideways slide into banality courtesy of Jodi Picoult. While I have no doubt that Jodi has serious writing chops (ironically, I recently read a huge article about her in Writer’s Digest a few months ago) it does not show here. The wonder of Wonder Woman here is “I wonder who I am,” woman or goddess or what?
This would be nice if it were not for the fact this concept has already BEEN explored from time to time by Wonder Woman (and more notably, THOR!) for the last 50 or 60 years. And I certainly don’t see it as being the centerpiece of AMAZONS ATTACK. I mean, it’s like heading off to a jazz recital worried about the color of your socks. It’s just not a central issue. Yet WW explores it anyway. For instance, wondering about her motivations for doing the right thing – is it because SHE wants to or because HER MOTHER wanted her to? I think these kinds of questions have been pretty well answered for everyone - except maybe the people who only read a few issues before they started writing it.
I’m also thinking that as the Amazons are slaughtering helpless humans by the truckload, MAYBE Diana would be grappling with issues like “Even if my mom is crazy, how can my sisters betray our noble ideas with such brutality? All this death and carnage! Oh, the humanity – even if I’m not sure I’m one of them.” Screw her heritage. This is good vs. evil, not Amazon vs. human! I’m thinking that the Diana that I know would be outraged over ALL the slaughter, not just over one guy who was stung by the terror-inducing Stygian Hornets (ahem, Stygian KILLER Hornets, lest they be confused with the Stygian baseball team of the same name).
Also, just because Nemesis is the nearest boy toy does not make him the next Steve Trevor. I can see why one might appreciate him. But I haven’t followed why she’s flirting with him. And the flirting with Tom as she saves him, one panel after she and her mom are trading blows – best case, it simply dilutes any tension that could have been had from the conflict between mother and daughter. At worst, it takes you out of the story.
You know, I thought this arc was going to explore the Diana Prince side of things. But it’s just as well that we are into the action, as exploring Diana Prince meant exploring the world of a secret agent who didn’t know what a credit card was, or a gas pump, or was unable to work the intricacies of a turnstile (in her defense, these things were not on the secret agent entrance exam.) Thing is, this ain’t a “Year One” book, but over and over she grapples with issues that are more appropriate for a teenaged Wonder Woman. And this is not a girl, but a full grown woman who recently served with grace and distinction as an ambassador from Themyscira, complete with her own embassy.
Before I finish, I should mention that Paco Diaz’s artwork is good but a little inconsistent. Some odd poses and anatomy that sometimes feels like professional artwork, and sometimes feels a little rushed. But it IS pretty, and he’s getting better with age.
As for the ending, we’re left with the old “I know you’ve been trying to kill me for the last few pages, but now I’m going to put the gun/knife/Britney Spears record INTO YOUR HANDS and now let’s see if you can really go through with it.” This will no doubt lead to as scene in the next issue, roughly “Oh, the spell is broken and I love you” and someone breaks the gun/knife/Spice Girls records for good measure. OR whatever. It’s all just so…comic-booky. Like someone’s idea of what a comic-book must be like. At this point, I’m wishing Diana would give ME the Max Lord treatment.
LEGION OF MONSTERS: SATANA #1
Writer: Robin Furth Artist: Kalman Andrasofszky Back-up story writer & artist: Jonathan Hickman Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugI’ve always been a fan of the more monstrous aspects of the Marvel Universe. The characters highlighted in these LEGION OF MONSTERS one-shots plus characters like GHOST RIDER, MOON KNIGHT, and even SPIDER-WOMAN have proved that horror has a place in mainstream comics and it’s good that, like the giant monsters and western tales from previous years, this corner of the Marvel U is getting the spotlight. The first two installments of this series of one-shots featuring the monstrous characters of the Marvel Universe (MAN-THING and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT) were less than amazing. In fact, they were craptastic. This offering, though, makes up for the sheer stinkyness of its predecessors.
The main story, focusing on Satana the Devil’s Daughter, does a pretty nifty job of fleshing out this oft one-note character. Satana is trapped by a wanna-be enchantress and ends up getting a little payback. It’s a tight little story, somewhat trivial, but in the end, it made me want to see more stories with this character. The art does its job of making Satana look hot and sultry. I especially like Satana’s furry little booties. This isn’t going to be one of those books that make you see the world in a new light or inspire any intellectual debate, but it was a spooky yarn that I kind of liked…
Or maybe I just like Goth girls.
The back-up story is the true standout of the book. It’s a retelling of the origin of the Living Mummy that sprinkles factoids throughout the narrative. This short feature is a true artistic standout. Writer/artist Jonathan Hickman has a great visual sense making the panels unique and gorgeous. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing any of Hickman’s other work, but he’s definitely an artist that will go into my mental rolodex as someone to watch.
Although not great, this LEGION OF MONSTERS issue is by far the best yet. It features characters and writers/artists that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. If you have a few extra bucks and a hankering for some mainstream superhero horror, this is the issue to pick up.
BLUE BEETLE #16
Writer: John Rogers Artist: Rafael Albuquerque Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoDoes anyone remember a boy named Will Peyton? He was transformed into the yellow and purple incarnation of Starman, a good kid given enormous power, and I bought every issue. I loved the “Gee, whiz!” factor he brought to each story, sometimes alone, sometimes teamed with various heroes, never considering himself to be in their class - though he was. And then he died.
It was a nice book, enjoyable and poignant. It was a lot of good things. But I’ll tell you one thing it wasn’t very much. It wasn’t funny. Humorous, occasionally, but not funny.
And Blue Beetle? He’s an immensely powerful boy who has all the makings of a true hero. The stories are enjoyable and poignant. And man, can it be funny! Whatever the danger in each issue, Blue Beetle manages to bring a smile to my face at least once, and many issues, I get an outright belly laugh.
Just for the record, the last issue didn’t count. Guest writer, guest artist. This issue, we have John Rogers back, who had Guy Gardner spouting off-the-hook one liners in issue 14 that STILL make me laugh. Rogers brings the funny this issue, as well. But Jaime is more than funny – he’s a nice Latino kid who never wanted to be a superhero, but is having a little fun and making the best of it. And he’s doing what a superhero is supposed to do: making noble choices. Getting his butt kicked. Getting back up.
As we face off against Eclipso this issue, we have a guest shot from Traci 13, the daughter of Doctor 13. She’s a saucy vixen who trades barbs and quips with Jaime (BB) Reyes in a way that you just KNOW they will hook up – but off panel, like they used to do in the old days.
I hope she stays as a part of the supporting cast, though also I’m quite fond of Brenda and Paco (especially after this issue), both of whom are appealing as individuals and in tandem. Not seen in this issue is the rest of Jaime’s family, featuring a mom and dad who are loving AND sane (surprise!) They don’t feel “missing” but they definitely add to the book whenever they’re there.
And none of these characters would be nearly as enjoyable without Albuquerque’s pencils, a nice mix of indie form and mainstream function. Although he’s relatively recent as full time artist, it’s hard to imagine these characters in any other form.
So many icons have come out with these “Year One” books, trying to recapture what is going on in each issue of Blue Beetle: Wonderment. Optimism. Discovery. And, however naïve, heroic selflessness. Maybe someday he’ll get jaded – I sure hope not. But for now…do you like stories where the hero is learning what it means to be a hero? Where his friends are…I dunno, friendly? Maybe some Silver-agey, old-school team-ups? This is the world you enter. I’ll pay three bucks for the monthly trip, easy.
GREEN LANTERN: SINESTRO CORPS SPECIAL #1
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ethan Van Sciver Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerIn blackest day/In brightest night/Beware your fears made into light/Let those who try to stop what’s right/Burn like my power/Sinestro’s might! So, here’s the deal. Because I was completely taken aback by the excellence of this comic, I arrived at @$$hole headquarter and promptly challenged new guy Roack Me Amodeo to a staring contest to steal his claim on the chance to do a write-up on this comic book - all the while Sleazy grumped along mumbling something about how much he hates Hal Jordan and Kyle was screwed over--grumble grumble grumble. Annnyhoo, since the new-guy didn’t realize that I have bionic x-ray eyes, I won that contest handily. Eat THAT, new guy!
There is just some inexplicable something about Green Lantern - from Alan Scott to Hal Jordan to Guy Gardner to John Stewart to Kyle Rayner. I just love the whole Green Lantern thing. But the stories have so rarely lived up to their potential--until the last couple of years. What Geoff Johns has done over the last two years on GREEN LANTERN has culminated in one of the truly great single issue super-hero comics I’ve ever read. It is such a tough thing - much tougher than many fans realize - to take the history and convoluted continuity of a character like Green Lantern and craft stories that resonate with both the past and the present. This single comic allows me to mentally set aside my distaste over INFINITE CRISIS and replace it with heightened expectation over where Johns is taking the Green Lantern mythology now that he’s elevated the Star Sapphire and Sinestro to archetypal and universal conflicts: Green Lantern=Will Power vs. Sinestro=Fear vs. Sapphire=Love. The scope of Johns’ vision of Green Lantern is one that could sustain its own universe of continuity set entirely apart from the DC Universe proper (Hollywood take note).
When I saw the first page, I worried that Johns was going too creepy and weird on us with focusing on Sinestro’s lantern image burned onto his back. But I shouldn’t have worried. He and artist Ethan Van Sciver promptly got Sinestro into his nifty all new black and yellow duds. Whoever it was who claimed that yellow was not a “tough” looking color for super-heroes/villains never saw the Sinestro Corps. Yellow as a symbol of fear and coupled with the black and creative Corps logo and alien design work by Van Sciver? The yellow of the Sinestro Corps is intimidating as hell!
For those who don’t know (live in a van down by the river or something), the formerly lame mustachioed former Green Lantern, Sinestro of Korugar, through a complicated backstory has formed his own version of the Green Lantern Corps. However, rather than searching out the universe for quality individuals capable of overcoming their fears, the yellow rings of the Sinestro Corps search for individuals capable of instilling great fear. Where the Green Lantern Corps functions as an organized police force, replete with carved out space sectors for their “officers” to patrol, the Sinestro Corps functions as a universal organized crime force. Its members include genocidal mass murderers, liars, cheats, and more. The power rings of the Sinestro Corps are powered by the Parallax entity that once upon a time took control of Hal Jordan and committed multiple murders through Hal.
Now, what was so phenomenally enjoyable about this specific comic book were the abundance of “Wow!” moments. The story peaked and dipped throughout with those moments interspersed between character bits. This one single comic also followed through on a wide range of dangling plotlines from a number of series. Furthermore, the back up Tales of the Sinestro Corps feature provided a clear rationalization for Sinestro’s actions. All truly great literary villains never see themselves as “evil” but rather misunderstood or their ego is such that they do not believe others to be able to comprehend how right they are. Sinestro was once heralded as the greatest of the Green Lanterns. All that he has done and plans to do with his own Sinestro Corps is to prove to the universe once and for all that he truly is and always will be the greatest Green Lantern. Can we say crazy?
Going back through the comic, there’s much I appreciated. I appreciated the attempt by Johns to make sure that all the essential info was there so that even a new reader unfamiliar with the minutiae of Green Lantern lore could follow. The use of the JLA scene was helpful just to establish the greater landscape of the Green Lantern insofar as his role in the DC Universe before quickly shifting gears into outer space to focus on the Sinestro Corps formation. It also gave Johns another opportunity (assuming again new readers who are not regular GREEN LANTERN readers) to play up the fact that the Sinestro Corps actually sought out Batman because of his ability to instill great fear. Batman, however, had the strength of character to reject the temptation even after the ring gave him a taste of the God-like power available to him.
In space, Johns shifts to introduce the reader to the Green Lantern who replaced Hal Jordan back during the Parallax incident, Kyle Rayner. Most DC readers will at least know that Kyle is going by the name of Ion now and that, while he wields the power of the Green Lanterns, he does not wear a ring. What we find out in this comic is that “Ion” is not really Kyle but actually the “Will Power” entity that provides the power for all the Green Lantern Corps (like “Parallax” is the “Fear” entity for the Sinestro Corps rings). The Ion entity has taken up residence within Kyle, and the scene where Sinestro reaches in and yanks the thing out of Kyle is chilling and sets up nicely the level of threat that Sinestro and his Corps can be to the Green Lanterns and to the universe at large.
Basically, the Green Lantern Corps gets its collective heads handed to them by the Sinestro Corps because of one basic difference between their power rings. The Green Lantern rings have a stop-gap that prevents them from using lethal force. The Sinestro Corps rings have no such limitation and the minds controlling them have been driven mad by the level of power they wield. It is truly shocking to see the Green Lanterns scrambling to react. Very reminiscent of the 9/11 scenario where the air traffic controllers and the military were almost slack-jawed in their inability to even comprehend what their own eyes were telling them was happening. And that’s where the emphasis on the Green Lanterns stops. With a successful assault on Oa, many many dead Green Lanterns, and the Corps scrambling to figure out what to do next. Instead, the action rightly focuses back on Sinestro and his Corps.
Further “Wow!” moments occur near the end when Johns provides a big reveal and a massive cliffhanger. Swirling around out there in post-INFINITE CRISIS DC continuity are a couple of real nutjobs. Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg-Superman (who once destroyed Hal’s hometown of Coast City, which was the catalyst for Hal becoming Parallax originally) and the idiotically evil Superboy of Earth-Prime - oops, I’m sorry. My lawyer tells me that I can’t say that. I mean the “Young Superman” of Earth-Prime. Whatever. Anyway, most DC readers know that after the latest CRISIS that Superb--Young Superman was placed in the custody of the Green Lantern Corps who caged him up in a power ring box in orbit around a red sun. You know? Red sun takes away Superman’s powers. Yellow sun gives him his powers. That’s right. A “yellow” sun gives him his powers. So what do you think the “yellow” rings of the Sinestro Corps do to that red sun?
This comic book is called SINESTRO CORPS but much of the emotional impact of the story comes from Kyle. Kyle, when he was originally brought in as the new Green Lantern, brought an energy and emotion that had been missing from the GREEN LANTERN comics for years. So, it makes sense to use him as the emotional barometer for the readers. Sinestro just emotionally assaults him relentlessly in an attempt to break Kyle’s spirit and give the Parallax entity an opportunity to seduce Kyle in a way that it was not even able to do with Hal. Hal’s seduction by Parallax was unwilling and unknowing. What Sinestro wants to do with Kyle is drag him to a point of fear and despair so that he volitionally embraces the Parallax. It’s almost Christological in a sense because Kyle/Ion has been set up for the last year or so as a messiah-type and then through a form of the “passion”, Kyle is faced with a final and devastating choice to make. Does he make the right choice? Pick up the comic and find out. It’s worth it.
Finally, no review would be worthy without a mention of the visuals. Ethan Van Sciver is simply the finest Green Lantern artist ever. His work on GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH set a bar that he’s already crossed with this issue. The double-page spreads are amazing. The scenes on Qward with Sinestro rallying his Sinestro Corps rightly evoke the creepiness of Hitler and his Nazi armies. There is such power and excitement to his work that so amply serves the cosmic scope of a book like this. I’m also struck by the alien designs for both the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps. Van Sciver somehow makes all his aliens look plausible yet keeps a more pleasant appearance reserved for the Green Lantern designs but veers off into disturbing and ugly for his Sinestro Corps. Excellent work. As well, Dave Gibbons suitably does a bang up job on the Tales of the Sinestro Corps backup feature with a more Silver Age look at Hal and Sinestro but flavored with a nice revelation about “The Guardian of Fear.”
So let’s take all this in. To take down the Green Lanterns and take over the universe, we’ve got Sinestro leading a team of hundreds, maybe thousands, of evil characters wielding power rings. We’ve got Parallax. We’ve got Cyborg Superman. We’ve got the Manhunters. We’ve got Superb--Young Superman. That’s an essentially undefeatable group. I can’t imagine how they could be any more formidable. But wait, on the next to the last page, Johns reveals that “with the rebirth of the multiverse comes the return of something else.” And on the last page we finally understand who’s behind this whole scheme, who actually is “The Guardian of Fear” and, you will not believe it, but it’s…
Just buy the dang thing already!
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Mike Deodato Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoThere’s something that I love about this book. And there are a few things that don’t love. So I guess I’m officially in “like” with it. I may even pony up for a ring and make a heart-shaped “you complete me” to it at some point in the future, but not quite yet.
As we finish the sixth issue of this arc, let me list a few of its overall strengths. Survey sez: Deodato’s art at the number 1 position. Deodato ( I would say Mr. but Deodato is actually his FIRST name) has not so much adjusted his art over the years as he has refined it. It also helps that he’s not drawing himself into exhaustion. I think he’s down to one or two books a month, and that’s great. His Venom was a little over the top, but you can do that with a shape-changer (please, no Skrull jokes). And his women! Wow.
And this issue specifically was also top-notch. Every panel was well done and fully realized, or if it wasn’t, it was clearly for effect. For example - was it just me, or did Deodato take a Miller-esque turn when he was drawing Bullseye doing what Bullseye does? You know, with the silhouettes and the negative empty spaces. It was as if Bullseye thought he was the star of the show, just like in the old days. And then suddenly, it turned out he wasn’t the star, and the pain began. Deodato reasserted his own style and reality reared its brutal head. Brilliant.
Story-wise, Ellis gets points for style, and for the plotline overall. I just didn’t see half of the stuff coming before it got there. Songbird just outright LYING to Bullseye. Venom’s uhn…zealousness. Moonstone taken out (last issue) in such brutal fashion. And of course, Bullseye’s “reward” which has been long overdue. Most of the Thunderbolts really deserved an ass-kicking, so it was nice to see them get their just desserts. This issue completely delivered in that regard.
Except that this name of this comic book is “Thunderbolts.” And we were rooting for them to lose. And that’s part of the problem, one of several.
First, I have never bought into Norman Osborn being a poor man’s Lex Luthor with an obsession with spiders. I think some of the previous issues’ dialogue was supposed to be kinda quirky and slightly funny, but it came off kinda crazy and slightly lame. Sorry Warren, please don’t kill me. Moonstone has taken a downright EVIL turn, and after all the progress she make with our good buddy Clint (who is not dead and is NOT a Skrull, dammit) I think she deserved a little better – but I confess she WAS written consistently. Penance was completely useless and underutilized – if he’s going to be one, he shouldn’t be the other. Speaking of useless, Swordsman’s contribution was pulling his head from a TV and asking for exposition – ahem, I mean a status report. What else can he do? Nothing, there’s not enough time– there’s too many characters that serve overlapping or no purpose.
Of all the regular characters, Melissa (Songbird) and Chen (Radioactive Man) are the most empathetic, and their friendship borne of necessity is heartwarming to watch. But we barely got to see that go anywhere. This issue at least showed their mutual trust.
Again, there wasn’t enough time to show much else because we had to deal with three other characters whom we now know much better than most of our regular cast. Only we may never see them again, so what does it matter?
I used to read this comic because it explored what it meant to be a “good guy,” how a villain could become a hero, and it was about so much more than simply fighting bad guys. This arc shows the same thing in the opposite way – that certain bad guys will NEVER be heroes, even if they are fighting the “bad guys.” It’s very clever, and an interesting take on the theme. And earnestly, I can’t think of any series that has covered this story in any way.
But I felt a little icky when I finished it, and I’m hoping that the next arc will not leave me feeling that way. But the courtship continues. I might not like it as much as others, but its still one of the first books I want to read when it comes out.
MUSCLES & FIGHTS OGN
Writers: Various Artists: Various Publisher: Bud Burgy/Cream City Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugIn this age of decompressed storytelling and the deconstruction of just about every aspect of the superhero genre, it’s nice to know that there are some artists and writers able to boil the appeal of superhero comics down to the basics, namely MUSCLES & FIGHTS. This black and white original graphic novel is a wonderful showcase of some of the Midwest’s top artistic and creative talent. This anthology focuses on action from cover to cover. Some of the stories are told with a tongue firmly planted in cheek while others seem to take the concept of muscular people wearing spandex and punching and kicking each other in tender areas to an absurd level of seriousness. Whichever route these talented artists chose to go, the end result is an entertaining and surprisingly intellectual look at the superhero genre itself.
Edited and compiled by Bud Burgy and Amado Rodriguez (who also contribute their own chapters of art and story to the book), this is a book comprised of mini-installments that comment on or embrace (and sometimes both) the industry of super-heroing. Like I said before, these are smart stories. Some go for the lowest common denominator when it comes to delivering the laughs, but others take the intellectual high-ground, maneuvering this concept of comic book fights down pathways that are wholly original.
The book is made of up 12 chapters (labeled Rounds in this book), with a few mini-rounds tossed in between. These mini-rounds are one to two panel one-liners that make for a nice little breather in between the meatier entries. This book has many stories of note that stand out, but I’ll only name a few here and leave you, kind reader, the task of seeking this book out to experience the rest.
The very first story, “Super Market Vigilante” by Danno, is a kooky yarn about a guy who misreads a job application and thinks that it involves flexing his muscles and…you guessed it, fighting a lot. It was goofy fun seeing him track down the Fishstick Bandit.
“Dynamite Pilot” by Spanky Cermak is another great read that reminded me of a Moebius or Geoff Darrow book in its finely detailed artwork and fantastical situations and scenery which surround the action of a young man who has a most dangerous job.
Mary Margaret Marvel, the World’s Mightiest Catholic Schoolgirl , is the star of Leith St. John’s “Into the Fire”, the tale of a boobalicious chickadee in a schoolgirl outfit who has a tendency for high moral values and over the top violence. There’s an especially tasty jaw-ripping scene in that one that is truly inspired.
Amado Rodriguez (the co-compiler of the book) supplies some vividly stylistic and eye-appealing panels as a Goth chick prepares for battle set to the lyrics to “Bela Lagosi’s Dead”. The scene quickly shifts to an all-out battle royale to the death where Rodriguez’s (AKA Arex) talent of rendering skewed camera angles and slightly abstract figures is highlighted. Arex fully understands how to make a panel visually pleasing and original.
Bob Lipski provides a fun version of the old workout cartoon found in the back of old comic books where the skinny kid gets sand kicked in his face on the beat in “Uptown Girl”. Alberto Rios AKA Ponbiki displays some of his vivid designwork in the surreal robot battle-tale, “Ocho”. Bud Burgy’s entry, “Meatfist & Gronk in A 12-Ft World of Hurt” reminded me of the work of Crumb by way of a Tex Avery cartoon, displaying all of the best aspects of each. And Eric Lappegard made me laugh over and over again in his story of two verbally violent shellfish entitled “Mussels & Fights.”
Perhaps my favorite entry in this book is an outrageous story of how one simple act of rudeness can cause a catastrophic chain reaction. This story by Earl Luckes impossibly melds vile humor with a pretty moral message seamlessly and what started out to be a simple disgusting tale of an alcoholic hero ends with an absurdly poignant tale that stuck with me after I put the book down.
One of the most interesting snippets from the book is the preface itself, which describes how this book came to be. The books title comes from a fanboy who approached co-editor Bud Burgy at a Con. Burgy and Rodriguez turned a simple comment like “I like it when there’s muscles…and they fight.” into a read that I enjoyed through and through. Anthologies like this are great. You can digest little chunks of them at a time with ease. This meal of a book left me fully satisfied and I think Burgy & Rodriguez have stumbled onto not only a concept that is rich enough for another installment, but a great way to showcase some extremely talented artists and writers. Check out MUSCLES & FIGHTS. It’s got a hot pink cover, so you won’t miss it on the stands.
LOST KISSES #4, WORMS #1 & XO #2
Writer: Brian John Mitchell Artist: Brian John Mitchell (Lost Kisses), Kimberlee Traub (Worms), and Melissa Spence Gardner (XO) Publisher: Silber Media Reviewer: SquashuaWith digital editions of his comics available for free on his website, writer (and sometimes artist) Brian John Mitchell is obviously more intent on telling his stories than making a profit. A few of them arrived in the mail a couple days ago, and they’re presented in an unexpected medium; black-and-white, laser-printed, two-inch square pamphlets with a two-staple binding. It makes an impression.
LOST KISSES #4 is my favorite of the bunch. Drawn by Brian himself, it depicts an inner monologue from a man who relates his inability to cope with the guilt from dealing with the recent cancer death of an ex-girlfriend. It’s an extremely poignant piece, even if it is told from the perspective of a very poorly drawn stick figure. As someone who has physically dealt with cancer, I can agree with Brian’s argument that running for the cure is the most ridiculous thing ever. XO #2 is the continuing story (and I don’t really mean continuing; you don’t actually have to have read the first one) of an extremely troubled and seemingly gentle man who deals with a dangerous confrontation in an ultra-violent manner. I was both entertained and disturbed at this vicious story, the artistry of which kept making me feel like I was sneaking a peek into the notebook of a demented high school kid. WORMS #1 was not for me. Or maybe I’m not for WORMS, which is a psychedelic telling of a government project, worms, a girl and her parents, guns, agents and a storm. I just couldn’t follow it or get into it at all, but at least I did give it a shot.
The stories are available at the related websites, and are at least worth a couple minutes to take a peek. I definitely recommend checking out LOST KISSES, and if you like it a lot, you can support his work by ordering a copy.
DEAD@17 Short Film DVD Preview
A film by Mark Steensland EXIT SEVEN Productions Reviewer: Ambush BugShifting the focus from comics to films based on comics, I got to take a gander at Exit Seven Productions and Mark Steensland’s adaptation of the comic book DEAD@17 by Josh Howard. This is a 10 minute short that looks to be the first of many installments adapting the DEAD@17 comic book series about a pair of schoolgirls who do battle with the forces of evil. It’s chicks in schoolgirl outfits vs. zombies and y’all know that I’s loves me some zombies.
This is a low budget flick, but fun nonetheless. It’s got elements from some of my favorite horror films like Romero’s zombie flicks and EVIL DEAD, plus lest us not forget chicks in schoolgirl outfits with axes. And the best part is that it stays very faithful to the original comic book right down to setting up the scenes to be exact duplicates to the comic book panels. In a day and age when big budget execs who have never even picked up a comic decide how a comic book movie should be made, it’s refreshing to see a comic book film that pays attention to the source material. The makers of this one have definitely read the source material.
And don’t forget the cute chicks in schoolgirl outfits lopping off zombie appengades with axes.
There are quite a few scares and some nice gore in this 10 minute short that serves as the first chapter of this series. There are also some pretty tense and foreboding scenes building up to the horror. The biggest compliment I can give this short film is that when it was over, I found myself looking forward to future installments. When this short film is available, be sure to seek it out. Keep checking here for when this short film is available for all to see
BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE RAGE #1 Fangoria ComicsC’mon, folks, with a name like that, how can this not be a cool comic? This one’s got freak-shows, mad scientists, murderous KGB operatives, mutants, the cure for cancer, and a virus that makes you shit out your intestines. It’s the comic book prequel to the upcoming movie THE RAGE starring Andrew (WISHMASTER, LOST) Divoff. Thrills and weirdness are fired at you at a rapid pace in this book. I found it to be a fun ride from the first to last page. It’s a tale that definitely keeps you guessing and pulls the rug of expectations right out from under you on a page by page basis. I can’t wait to see issue two of this miniseries to see what the hell is going to be thrown at me next. – Ambush Bug
STREETS OF GLORY Preview Avatar PressOkay, first thing: Two bucks for only eight pages of story in a preview is not exactly the way to instill any good will in me to begin with. And it really doesn't help that those eight pages were pretty bad. I love Garth Ennis, I really do, but this basically amounted to some cheap foreboding and then a cut and flashback to a sequence of events that end in a pretty sloppily depicted gunfight involving our "hero" who couldn't look more like the Saint of Killers if they just copied and pasted it. I know Ennis gets a lot of slack for writing a lot of stories that basically have the same "over the top" factor as each other, but typically he instills in each of them enough of their own identity, and a cast of characters that you fall in love with to differentiate them enough for your enjoyment (like THE BOYS). STREETS OF GLORY already looks to be a really bad case of the "phone-ins" before its even started. – Humphrey Lee
WARHAMMER: FORGE OF WAR #1 BOOM! StudiosWriters Ian Edginton and Dan Abnett do a great job of showing how similar and different a whole bushel of warring armies are in this miniseries spawned from the popular role playing game. There’s not much by way of character in this one, it’s the armies themselves that sort of advance as one, which is an interesting way to tell a story. The art is gritty and illustrates some pretty gruesome battle scenes. I don’t know much about the world of WARHAMMER, but this issue not only provided an easily approachable story, but a glossary of the characters. RPG aficionados will definitely enjoy this and it entertained this newb as well. - Ambush Bug
SHE-HULK #19 Marvel ComicsThose of you who were worried, relax. Dan Slott (and Ty Templeton) are back on form, and Burchett’s pencils have not been inked to cartoony excess. This issue explores some pretty adult subject matter and continues to refine this multifaceted character, as the plot moves along toward who-knows-what kind of resolution. I don’t see where it’s heading, so I’ll keep reading it. In the meantime, the comic book room is full of sly winks to the reader and asides that had me chuckling (or was I tittering? I forget. Chortling?) Anyway, it was a good read, and it will be interesting to see what happens next. That is a high form of praise, by the way. - Rock-Me
THE BRAVE & THE BOLD #4 DC ComicsI know, I know, this review is late, but the best damn comic book on the racks needs to be mentioned, especially when the interaction between Supergirl and Lobo provides some of the most classic panels of the year. The exchange about Supergirl’s x-ray vision v. her microscopic vision had me rolling. Writer Mark Waid is going above and beyond providing some great twists and lines, while George Perez is drawing better than ever. I can’t recommend this book more. - Bug
THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #6 Marvel ComicsThis was the final chapter of the first arc in what so far I think has been a great revitalization of one of Marvel's best B-level characters (or is he C-list? I really don't know who's on what list at all). Though, while on the overall this first story arc has been pretty top notch, I'll admit this particular issue was a little anti-climatic. We all know a certain someone had to die, so when the Grim Reaper finally came a calling for them here, it didn't have the emotional impact it really should have. The problem was that we really needed another arc or two with the character to become attached to him, because he did have a lot of potential being used as a father figure/mentor in the life of Danny Rand which would have made it all the more important when he kung fu kicked that proverbial bucket. As it is most of the excitement from this issue came from a grand appearance from all of the old Heroes for Hire gang and a promising lead in to the next arc which is apparently going to be the mother of all martial arts tournament showdowns (because, honestly, you could not not have a kung fu tournament in this book). It should be quite the ride as they say; I highly suggest you get caught up here and check it out. - Humphrey
THE WALKING DEAD #38 Image ComicsMan, whotta letdown. For about 25 issues or so, Lori has been carrying a big secret (that the child she is carrying is not Rick’s, but actually his friend Shane’s) and in this issue all of the wait pays off in a reveal that takes juuust about three pages to come to a resolution. If Kirkman is going to hype up the drama in this soap opera of a comic, he should maybe spend a little time to make all of the waiting pay off. The big reveal landed with an ineffective thud, leaving me wondering why there was so many issues building up the angst and guilt if this is how Kirkman was going to reveal it. Missed opportunity, this one was.
Oh yeah, and a zombie or two show up for about three panels…
You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my head right now… - Bug
Anthologies are a tricky beast. Even if the bulk of the book is quality, there’s always going to be something in there that’s a stinker. Funny thing though, back in the 90’s there were two separate anthology titles that managed to feature little to no crap stories whatsoever. They did this by virtue of both an astonishingly talented roster of creators and the most sublime of themes…
IT CAME FROM THE 90’s
By Vroom Socko
The first of these centers around the work of one particularly mad and unique individual, the sort of creator that goes out of his way to mess with your head, to piss you off, to make you think, to tickle your funnybone. Oftentimes he does this in the same story. Once I saw him do it in the same sentence. If you know his name, you have an opinion on him, for good or ill. If you don’t know his name, it’s right there in the title of the comic: HARLAN ELLISON’S DREAM CORRIDOR.
(And if that name, implausible as it seems, still doesn’t ring any bells, then for the love of GOD, click on this link, and hear some of his stories from the man himself, including the Borges-esque Prince Myshkin, and Hold The Relish, comments on the nature of Hollywood, and even footage of Harlan chasing down and groping AICN’s own Moriarty.)
If you know of Harlan Ellison, then you have a strong opinion about Harlan Ellison. Whatever you think of him is your business, but I adore his work, essays and fiction both. The reason is simple: passion. Everything he does is loaded to the gills with it, from the simplest feat of fantasy to the slightest gag to the most harrowing tales to movie and tv reviews (You think us @$$holes have been hard on “event” comics and the darkening themes in Marvel and DC? Find a copy of HARLAN ELLISON’S WATCHING and see what HE said about Howard Chaykin, Jim Shooter, and John Byrne. And this was back before Byrne Bashing became an internet sport.).
That passion bleeds from THE DREAM CORRIDOR, where Harlan has managed to assemble an amazing roster of creators to retell and interpret a wide variety of his stories. There’s great, great stories like Knox, The End of the Time of Leinard, On The Slab, and S.R.O. Then there’s the creators on this book, which include Peter David, Neil Adams, Gene Colan, Mark Waid, Len Wein, Tony Isabella, Rags Morales, Steve Niles, Richard Corben, Phil Foglio, Max Allen Collins, and Mike Deodato Jr. Plus there’s the original paintings with stories written around them by Harlan, similar to the work he did in MIND FIELDS and the tales he wrote for Jac