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#21 9/26/07 #6
Logo by Ambush Bug



Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with the winners of the AICN/Fox Atomic “Send in your nightmares!” THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY Contest. to celebrate the first issue of Thomas Ligotti’s THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY original graphic novel. The owners of the following night terrors will be receiving a copy of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY autographed by Thomas Ligotti himself. Thanks to all who entered. Now let’s take a look as some of the nightmares that won. Be warned though. These are some pretty creepified dreams, so be sure to read them with the lights on…

From James Stewart My nightmare is straight out of “Jaws” and it flashes forward and backwards. I think it’s because my brain is trying to process the dream, but it always made me think that it was the last moments of my life running through my head over and over. The water around me is full of my blood, and my organs are floating out of me. (flash back) I'm swimming frantically towards a boat and my uncle has his arm stretched out towards me. (flash forward) I'm sinking below the surface. (flash back) I turn in the water in time to see the shark's jaws open and swallow my leg up to my stomach and I scream myself awake.

Yeah, swallowed by a shark ranks pretty high on my nightmare scale. I think it really clicks with some kind of primal fear. It’s that type of fear that I was looking for in this contest.

Like the next dream that appeals to the child in all of us. Who hasn’t been scared shitless by moving shadows in the middle of the night…?

From Casey Clark One of my worst nightmares I have ever had was when I was a child...when I was roughly 7 or 8 years old I had a very large water bed that faced the wall where the entrance to my room was, so that if my door was open I could see out into the hallways and catch shadows and light from down the stairs and from in the bathroom and the other hallway leading to my brother and parents room. One night I was asleep. I laid there, frozen in bed, unable to move, unable to scream as I saw a man walking up the stairs, he was an old man, with very long grey hair, a skeleton like figure, almost anemic appearance. He had a cane and a large hat on his he walked closer to me, he jittered a bit, almost like he was stuttering from his bones, he moved in closer to me, his long boney arms must have reached out for 10 feet, he grabbed me by the neck and began to lift me out of my bed...and bring me closer to him. As the moonlight entered into my room it started to illuminate his face more and more, the man had no eyeballs, and a mouth that looked as if it were something from the prehistoric times: he had big teeth, almost piranhalike, his eye sockets were larger than normal, almost alien. He then began punching me violently with multiple arms and fists that came out from around his back. He started to punch me so violently I could not cry, I could not scream, I cold not beg for mercy. He then threw me into the air and with some type of substance that made me stick to the ceiling and he left. leaving me alone to die. After a good amount of time I fell to my bed waking up before I hit the surface.

This next one was just so out there, it had to be on the list. Some of you guys need professional help.

From Chris DeHaven I'm in the basement of my house, looking for my friend Frank. He's hiding from me, I know it, the practical joker. I enter the laundry room. The open door conceals the room's corner. I bet he's hiding behind it. I swing the door open. "HAH!"...Just an empty corner. Where the heck can he be? In the next room over, I can see, taped to the window, a small note. I enter the room and can read what's written. "FRANK'S HERE" I notice right next to me the body of Frank, hanging there by his neck, the rope pulled taut by time and his weight so that his toes drag the ground, knees bent. His eyes are glazed. Stuffed in his mouth is a dead rat...

Here’s another one with some pretty disturbing imagery. I’d love to see this one on film. “Moms in trouble” was a pretty common theme, but this one was the spookiest.

From Kyle Johnson I'm in a room. It's made mostly of old, rickety wood. Very cabin-esque. There is a man in there with me, he seems vaguely familiar. There are windows, but nothing is visible outside. It's dark, faintly blue. The man and I are sitting at the opposite ends of a table. He's smiling at me. He's bloated and deathly white, his eyes are sunken and cavernous. He opens his mouth to speak, and small black insects fly from holes burrowed in his teeth. He says "Your mother will be here soon." The table begins to get longer, until he is pushed back into the dark of the room, where I can no longer see him. I can't move from my chair. Then a scream rings out from the chasm of blackness in front of me. It sounds like my mom. Then, I woke up. It ruined my entire day.

Not all of these nightmares were especially scary. This one made me laugh out loud when I read it. Though I guess it is scary in a manner of speaking.

From Chris Maynard I have a recurring nightmare that I am trapped beneath the fold out couch in my living room while my girlfriend fucks a stranger above me. I don't think our relationship will last and I'm probably in need of some therapy.

Here’s yet another with some pretty scary imagery. Being eaten alive is probably the most awful way to go. But not being able to see what’s eating you is worse!

From Jonathan Soweidy I'm alone in a dark closet. And I keep hearing murmuring in the closet with me. I keep asking who is there, but I just keep hearing the murmuring. I'm freaking out and starting banging on the door screaming for someone to let me out. I hear voices outside but no one is listening to me. The murmuring is getting a louder. I think I hear the words “help me”. I reach out my hand and say “how can I help you?” and then I feel the crunch on the tip of my index finger. I scream out in pain. I hear the voice say "we're hungry." Then the biting really begins. I feel a tear at my cheek, another at my leg. Everywhere my flesh is being bitten. I try to hit someone or something but nothing stops it. I scream and scream, pleading to the voices outside of the closet for help but nothing comes. I can feel every bite and tear; the worst is when my eyes are bitten out. Even though I was in the dark before, there’s a sense of finality that comes as I feel the blood flow from my eye sockets. I don't stop screaming but all I feel is hopelessness. Eventually I feel this huge chunk taken out of my throat and I wake up.

If you’re a man, this is one dream you never want to come true. This is a wince-inducer that I had to share.

From Shannon T. Stewart The reality: 8PM 05 Sept 2007 I awaken in the recovery room of Legacy Emanuele here in Portland, Oregon. Intense lower right quadrant pain just before Sunday's dead-dog party @ SDCC sends me to a bevy of medical professionals after flying back up here (made it to the party too, fool I am). Eventual determination: 5 kidney stones, the largest the size of a frozen pea causing the kidney to swell. These will not pass. Solution: put in a stint, run a laser up in me and play Asteroids. Agonizing month later this happens, now not 9 hours ago.
The nightmare: Everything is just as it occured. Same excitedly pleased ‘this was an easy one’ vibe in recovery, quick exit to nurse’s holding station - one successful piss and a signature away from convalescing at home. As before, I fold back the sheet and take a look. Still there. Looks good, to be so bold. Same black thread (connected to stint) exiting from and extending several inches below the tip of my penis. Except. Except now the thread seems kinked at its exit. Just enough to warrant straightening. Ever so gently, I do. Ever pull the thread of a favorite vintage shirt and have the seam simply fall undone? This. Like the goddamned Taun-Taun. Yet no entrails, no pain, just a Toth’s cheeks as he dares the Ark ease. Just...unzipping. And with it the emotional abyss of the knowledge that once undone, there is no redoing.
The reality, which still seems a mix of the above: I wake from my stupor, in a sweat, the rather so real pain hits. It’s a relief. Reading to distract, your entreaty for entrants calls. A little long, but so's this string.

It was the last line that made this one stand out. Thigh-eating is a new one.

From Justin Combs So, after my grandma went crazy and died from brain cancer, I had a dream that I was in her house and everything was all decrepit and sepia toned and from the root cellar I heard this consistent banging. When I opened it my dead grandma lumbered up the stairs accompanied with the smell of brimstone. She looked like she had been ripped in half and then crudely stitched back together with thick leather straps. She told me "I'm starving in Hell." But before she moved to eat me completely she was overwhelmed with hunger and snapped her spine so she could bend completely in half and eat the meat of her own thighs. I woke up screaming.

File this one under “Too batshit crazy not to be included.”

From Axel Medellin Machain Donald Duck has some black ooze over his right thumb, which starts pulsing and moving with a life of its own, and Donald starts running in panic, trying to get away from his hand...the voiceover in the Disneyland show says: "And then he understood that this was a spiderweb that had come to steal his skin". Then we see a skinless Donald walking over the same path once and again, watching his evil thumb pulsing harder. Well, it did kept me a week awake, then.

I saved this girthy bastard of a nightmare for the last. The imagery in this one is so vivid and disturbing I had to include it despite the length.

From John Kramer I am alone on the edge of a woods at twilight. Everything is immensely overcast and tinted a deep blue. It is very close to my grandparent's property in Fishing Creek, Pennsylvania. There are lots of dried pine needles and cones on the ground, and I walk down a little slate path laid clumsily into the ground. I approach a house that is in a state of serious disrepair, and I can see even from as far away as the path that no one could possibly be living here. It should probably be condemned. The trees thicken considerably around the path as it gets closer to the stone steps leading to the front entry. It almost seems like the sky is being choked out and I am being hurried to the concrete slab of porch and its doorless frame. Nobody has cared for this property in quite some time. I feel the trees swagger and yawn above and around me, and I enter the house. I turn and look out of the glassless window back at the trees, and I see in the dark half-light that they have no leaves. The dark shapes that adorn them are like silent human silhouettes clinging to the branches. I squint at them to make them make sure that I am seeing what I'm seeing. A panicky feeling starts to seep into the back of my thoughts, and I anxiously stalk around the open floorplan of the house, not sure of what I'm really looking for. The inside is even worse than I'd imagined; all matter of degrading paper materials that may once have been magazines, old tin coffee cans rusting in the damp mildew of the kitchen, wooden slats discarded in some corner along with soiled dolls, a woman's shoe, and other curiosities. I come to the foot of the stairs connecting the first and second floor. I am puzzled by what I see. Surely, this cannot be something of the previous owners'...but there it is, lying on the stairs. From my feet all the way up to the rotting, ebony stained door is a bright, new, red velvet carpet. The subtle floral patterns of the velvet create a shimmering spiral that beckons, like a finger, for me to come upstairs. I tread softly on the runner as I scale the steps, looking over the dark door and its faux pearl handle. I take a breath and open it. The hinges squeal their unused years at me, and I enter a room with no light. Even if the windows were covered, they might let in some light, but I blindly enter and grope in the dark for a switch, as the door sneaks itself closed behind my back. As the door clicks shut, the room illuminates. There is no source, no bulb. There is no lamp. The room merely...whitens. I am in some Kubrickian milky hall. The walls themselves, clean and textureless, shock my eyes with a cold, bluish light. I am not alone. My eyes adjust and I see that the red carpet runs through the hall-like room to a door on the other side. Along either side of the carpet are two rows of cadavers, hanging nude and grey in the eerie light of the room. They do not hang from any hook or harness that one could see, but are merely suspended by some invisible force gripping them between the shoulder blades. As i look into their faces for a sign of life or movement, I begin to slowly creep my way through the room, towards the other door. When I reach the very middle of the room, the light shuts off. In the dark, I hear sighs and deep gasps for air. The fragrant humidity of dead mouths hits me in the face and I choke on their century-old breaths. Tiny golden theatre lights along the edges of the carpet come on, and I can see their underlit faces contort and stretch as they reach for me. Their torsos are heavily stitched and stapled shut in large Y patterns. Leathery hands grip my bicep and squeeze with a force that would startle even the most athletic of men. Their chipped and ancient fingernails digging into my neck and their mouths snapping at my hair, I turn to the door on the other side of the room and I run as hard and fast as I can. After running what feels like miles, I pause and look around me. I have moved no closer to the door at the end of the room. I quickly turn and run back the other way, feeling the air rush past my face as I dodge arms and lurching into a gallop. When I am too tired to run any longer, I pause...I am no closer to either door. I am still exactly in the middle of the room, and the mindless dead men are surrounding me. I collapse to the ground and the lights go out again...and fall into my sleeping body with a jolt as I snap awake.

And that’s it, folks. Remember, these nightmares are all subjective. A pee-inducer to one could make another giggle with glee. Congrats to the winners, you should be receiving your copy of THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY soon. Thanks again for all of the participants. It was a damn hard job trying to find just ten winners. If you didn’t win, seek out THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY when it hits the shelves. Until then, pleasant dreams…


Writer: Dwayne McDuffie Art: Joe Benitez (pencils) & Vistor Lamas (inks) Publisher: DC Comics An @$$Hole Two In One review with Ambush Bug & Squashua

BUG: It's that time of the week gang, dibs are up and I call JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #13.
SQUASHUA: Ah, crap.
BUG: Que?
SQUASHUA: I had a few, shall we say, problems with it and wanted to address them in a review. Can you touch on them?
BUG: What problems? I see no problems here.
SQUASHUA: Well, for one there's the book's overuse of posturing and lack of backgrounds. For what is supposedly a top tier book, the artist wasted plenty of opportunities for atmospheric artistry. It's just pose after pose and strutting with absolutely nothing in the background for the last few pages.
BUG: Here's the thing. I was sort of pleased with the art from Joe Benitez. It reminded me of a more subdued McFarlane. I enjoyed the skewed proportions and especially liked his version of Gorilla Grodd, which has a fun yet menacing look to him. But after re-reading the book, I had a chance to look at the backgrounds and yes, I have to agree, a little more attention to them would have been nice. There is a lot of posing, but with some attention to the little details, I think Joe Benitez could be a big name in the biz.
SQUASHUA: Well, good for him, but "little details"? There's nothing behind the characters for multiple pages. Just colors. On my scorecard, that's a lazy cop-out. Granted, the faces and poses were iconic and I agree with the Grodd design (there's a real JLU thing going on here), but as one of the #1 books for name recognition, JUSTICE LEAGUE is supposed to set the precedent. If they're going to have purportedly epic confrontations, I want epic atmosphere. Just because the book is a top seller doesn't mean the powers-that-be can be so dismissive with the art as to allow Benitez to do this. I can accept garbage artwork from SUPERMAN / BATMAN or JLA: CLASSIFIED, but not JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
BUG: Yeah, during the second reading I noticed your criticism of the lack of backgrounds. It's something that a lot of people (myself included and apparently the artist himself) overlook. I understand that grounding each character in a background in every single panel would be a bit of overkill, but there still needs to be some attention put to it. And yes, as the issue went on, the background vacancy was definitely more of a problem. Still I liked what was going on in the foreground enough to give Benitez props. So, what else?
SQUASHUA: Alright then, how about the whole "I'm the new writer on the series and I'm black, so let's focus on the black guys having a discussion about afro for a bit, black black blackkity black" thing felt really forced. Admittedly, it was an amusing conversation, but it just didn't feel like it belonged with the rest of the script.
To put it in my perspective, if Peter David wrote a scene with Ray Palmer and Batwoman making their way to a crime scene and gabbing about where they're breaking the Yom Kippur fast and discussing the guilt from their respective mothers for a few panels, I'd be wondering if PAD had overdosed on Manischewitz.
BUG: This is another thing I didn't have much of a problem about. And I think this works on multiple levels. First, it seems as if McDuffie is intent on giving John Stewart a personality, something that the character has lacked for ages. He's been the stoic and strong Black Green Lantern (sure MOSIAC was nice, but c'mon, that was like twenty years ago). Anything to amp up the personality meter on Stewart is welcome. And the fact that Stewart and Black Lightning immediately click didn't seem forced. I think it is a societal thing for people of the same race to have a tendency to be drawn to one another in social or work situations. America is an integrated society, and I work in a very socially integrated hospital, but at lunchtime, I look around and see the African Americans sitting together--same for Asians, Hispanics, etc. Let's put it this way, if there were two Martians on the team, would it bother you if they interacted on a more familiar level than the rest? I think it is just natural for people from the same cultures to be drawn to one another, so of course, on a super team where mostly everyone is white (hell, even the android is white), Black Lightning and Black Green Lantern would gel.
Oh, and being the proud owner of a negative comb-over, I found the conversation about Black Lightning's fro to be pretty damn funny.
SQUASHUA: You're bringing up MOSIAC? Stewart has had plenty of development opportunities since then, just not as blatant. I'm sure he had development in DARKSTARS, and I remember his recurring role in the Kyle Rayner GREEN LANTERN issues with an architect gig and the restoration of his abilities, and I believe he's been quite prominent in the GREEN LANTERN books; didn't he infiltrate some bounty hunters a few issues back? He's been given a sense of humor in those books, and has also been revealed to be a talented and calculating tactician. I can understand that without their own books, developing these characters is always a priority, and though I do like the hint that they've teamed up before, the conversation itself just felt entirely out of place.
BUG: John's been popping up here and there for years, I know, and I've read most of his appearances. Sure, Stewart was a Darkstar and a GL and he even hosted the @$$ies two years ago, but still he is the dullest of the Green Lanterns. And I'm glad McDuffie is trying to make him out to be defined as more than just the only Green Lantern with pigment.
SQUASHUA: Getting back to the topic, I went back and re-read the issue and I now understand why I felt the GL/BL conversation felt out of place; the rest of the script was bland, and this little bit stood out. So I gave it more scrutiny than it required. If the rest of the book had been more entertaining, I guess it wouldn't have stood out to me as it did.
BUG: I gotta disagree again. This was a set-up issue. Sure the real set-up was in the JLA WEDDING SPECIAL, but this is the first issue of in this series by McDuffie, so I’m willing to give a little slack for it being slow. It reminded me of a more sophisticated version of s SUPER FRIENDS cartoon.
SQUASHUA: Now, I enjoyed the JLU cartoon as much as (actually more than) the next guy, but I don't know if McDuffie is bringing in the GL/Hawkgirl relationship or just having John be chivalrous or building up to a red herring. Last issue, John is the one immediately on scene for Hawkgirl's "I've been hurt" appearance. In this issue, John pulls out the injured Hawkgirl's chair and later selects her for his team. Nothing wrong with them having a relationship, but wasn't the whole Hawkgirl / Red Arrow deal just set up?
BUG: And what's wrong with a little love triangle, or quadrangle if you still count Hawkman? I just kind of saw that as John Stewart staking his claim and making a few not-so-subtle moves. Again, if this allows Stewart to gain a bit of personality, I'm all for it.
SQUASHUA: You hit the nail on the head. The key words are "not-so-subtle". It isn't the love pentacle (you forgot Power Girl) that's irritating me, it's how blatant the integration of the inevitable JLU relationship is being handled. I prefer my flirtation to be a little less obvious. At this point, John might as well put his fingers in a V shape up to his mouth and waggle his tongue at Hawkgirl through them.
BUG: Sometimes a brotha's gotta be direct! McDuffie had to start somewhere with this subplot. Being courteous and suggesting that they team up isn't exactly asking her back to his apartment to polish his lantern.
SQUASHUA: Well, that's where it's going to lead. She does get all hot during battle. And thinking back, the Red-Arrow-being-hard-for-Hawkgirl thing wasn't very subtle either. I just dread thinking that the upcoming Roy / John confrontation is going to be handled in a ham-handed manner.
BUG: I think that McDuffie is a strong enough writer to make even that confrontation good. It’d be a nice contrast to the Hal/Ollie friendship if these guys didn’t really get along. Plus I think it’d be kind of funny if Red Arrow and John Stewart had this big battle, beating the snot out of each other for her love, then Hawkman shows up at the end, says “Honey, are you ready to go?” and then flies away with her on his arm. So did you have any other problems?
SQUASHUA: Well, the cover has a huge spread with all the villains. Heck, there is even an alternate cover. And yet, only about 5 or 10 of them appear in the book. I think the cover would have been better as something more plot-centric, showing the three "teams" in their situations.
BUG: Picky, picky. I think the fact that 10 of the villains showed up is a good start. They are still picking away at the League. Why blow their wad all at once? They tried the gang-pile approach in the GREEN ARROW/BLACK CANARY WEDDING SPECIAL book and that fight was over in around three pages.
SQUASHUA: I wouldn't know. After being burnt by him over and over, I've called an official personal moratorium on DC books written by Judd Winnick, and I plan to stick with my principles. Maybe I missed it, but I'd prefer a bit more exploration into the background of this new Injustice League.
BUG: I'm sure (well, I hope) it's coming. Again, McDuffie is too good a writer not to have some kind of explanation behind how the whole thing got started. Plus there was the initial roster choice and meeting shown in the JLA WEDDING SPECIAL.
SQUASHUA: I just don't want it to be based solely on that throwaway line about the previous Society that Alexander Luthor put together during INFINITE CRISIS. Speaking of the group, why is it that every time Dr. Light shows up, it's all "Hey, rapey-McRapist, you raped someone, raper!" like that's now his defining characteristic?
BUG: Considering that the comment came from a rape victim herself (Black Canary), I don't see it as forced.
SQUASHUA: I do, when you look at the previous issue when he came up in discussion. If I recall correctly, Cheetah brought it up. You know, Cheetah, who has murdered multiple people, and has a problem with rape. Go, Cheetah. Dr. Light should just put a big scarlet R on his chest and rename himself Doctor Rape; it'd be easier at this point.
BUG: I think the thing you are missing is the fact that both people bringing up Light's crime were women. Now, if Red Arrow ever fought Dr. Light and said "Rape this, you rapist!" then shot a penis shaped arrow at him, well, then you might have a point.
Light has done some pretty despicable things on top of the rape, but still, it's a heinous crime. It's kind of like the way a pedophile, no matter what else he/she does, is still a pedophile in many people's eyes. It's one of those horrible crimes that's bound to follow the person around.
SQUASHUA: I'm not defending rape, but when Superman shows up, people don't scream and point and yell "That's the guy who subjugated us all during that Emperor Superman storyline!" Actually, they wouldn't say that because they'd be breaking the fourth wall, but I guess that's how it is with a third tier character versus a top tier character. Third tiers like Dr. Light and John Stewart are known for that one big blatant incident, rape and I guess MOSIAC respectively, and the top tier has so much crap going on that it all tends to blend together and get forgotten.
BUG: Hopefully, John Stewart will rape something and Dr. Light will be put in charge of a patchwork planet sometime in a future storyline so they will have other things to be noted for.
SQUASHUA: You know what? I'm talking about MOSAIC like I read it. I didn't, and I thought that it was about a planet that he got destroyed, but Prof. Challenger just pointed out to me that it was actually planet Xanshi destroyed during COSMIC ODYSSEY, yet another storyline I never read. All I know is that John's defining moments happened in two books published years ago that I've never read and probably never will at this point. Maybe you're right, for the modern masses, he does need additional character support beyond being "The Black Green Lantern".
BUG: I did read MOSIAC. It’s definitely worth seeking out with some strong stories that developed the character, but very little has been done since by way of quality interesting storytelling with John as the center.
SQUASHUA: I've gone way off topic here though. This issue was your typical "Let's go split into teams and rescue our teammates" storyline consisting of two-and-a-half fight scenes with no resolution. The art was not up to par, and the script didn't move along fast enough to carry any story, just minor character moments, and that isn't enough for me.
BUG: I couldn’t disagree more. It was enough to satisfy me. I found the trip back to the old school team split up angle is a fun hook to hang a JLA story on. There was no resolution to the fight scenes because this is only part of the story. Enough happened with enough attention to character for some characters in need of development to pique my interest. If you like an old school JLA story with modern elements, you’ll like this one.


Writers: Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker Art for #9: David Aja, some inks by Raul Allen Flashbacks courtesy of Scott Koblish and Roy Allan Martinez Art for Annual: Howard Chaykin, Dan Bereton, & Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

This book is still at the top of my “oooh, can’t WAIT to find out what happens next” list. If you haven’t checked this out, you’re missing out. Let me catch you up to speed.
Iron Fist, a former C-to-B-lister with kung-fu skills and a fist that can become “unto a thing of iron,” has languished on the periphery of the Marvel Universe after his short lived (but much loved) 15 issue run back in the 70’s. He teamed up with Luke Cage/Power Man for many years, showed up in various team-ups, and somehow landed a gig with the NEW AVENGERS.
But even there, he’s still hanging out with Cage, which is fine, but it’s been a long time since Iron Fist really stood on is own. He’s like the William H. Macy of comics: always fun to have around, does a great job, but somehow never strong enough to cast as the lead.
Meanwhile, a great deal of mystical, political and historical backstory has languished with him. But no longer. Danny Rand is in the process of receiving a major power boost, but more importantly, a credibility boost. He’s the forefront of a story that only he can solve, because the story is…him.
I’m sorry to wax prosaic, as if I’m getting a per-issue take, but I’m really impressed with how “easily” Fru-baker have moved this character into a series where I really want to know what happens next. In a universe where like one in every hundred people seem to have a super-power, how far do you go when your only shtick is being able to hit really hard? Whoopee. So they’re taking him to the next level, and the thing that makes it so appealing to me is that he’s not going up, per se. He’s going deeper, diving into the “immortal” part of the Iron Fist, and mining the rich legacy of former Fists and the abilities they discovered.
I love seeing more of what Danny can do with his new talents, and he shows a small fraction this issue. I see him in a year or two being able to stand toe-to-toe with the A-listers and not being intimidated.
The art chores are still divided between Aja and some flavor of the month, and I still suspect it has something to do with Aja’s speed, but since so much of the book is discovering the history of so many characters, I think it really works. It gives IRON FIST a real sense of style and storytelling that many others books lack. And Aja is an amazing artist. When I reviewed this comic before, I said I couldn’t see him doing a book that had a lot of supers in it. Now, after seeing the battle between Fist and Fat Cobra, I retract my statement.
I confess, I do miss the old, old, old narration. How many times do you hear a story in second person? “You are Daniel Rand…and you are angry.” It grows on you over time. But I would rather know more about the other six “cities of heaven” (What? You thought K’un L’un was the only O’ne…I mean, one? See, I TOLD you you’ve been missing out) from third person than have things end prematurely.
By the time that some friends of Danny’s appear at the end of the book, he’s deep into his own game, and doesn’t have time for them. I feel the same way. Iron Fist is now a character who can carry his own story.
As for IMMORTAL IRON FIST ANNUAL #1, I’ll toss out this cheap shot. The cover should clue you in: classic pulp, in the style of Doc Savage, or John Carter. If you are already following the main series, you’ll probably dig this (especially the ending), though it gets a bit laden in its own attempts to be tongue-in-cheek. All the built-in nemeses with their corny names and their patented moves and histories can be a bit much. Also, there’s not a whole lot of Danny Rand in this book. But that’s okay, because the flow of this series is about the “Iron Fist” and that is not necessarily Danny. If you took Doc Savage and made him a cocky jerk, and then combined that person with “Tales of the Slayer,” then you would be reading this book. But maybe not word for word. I admit, I skipped some of the sidekick narration. But I have no doubt we’ll see these characters (or their children) at some point in the near future, so in a sense, it was considerate not to tie up a few months of the monthly. Was it a great read? I say no. But I did think it was a good read, and I’m willing to give Fru-baker the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, in six months I may be scrambling for this, saying, “Who are the nine fold daughters of Xao again? And why does Shadu the Shady use so much alliteration?” Maybe.


Written by Darwyn Cooke Art by Cooke and J Bone Published by DC Reviewed by Stones Throw

Anyone who’s been reading the column for…oh, the last two weeks will know that although I possess a US passport (mum’s a Yank), I am what you might call “British”.
The British political system is somewhat different from the American one. Example: there’s no constitution, so whoever we’ve elected can take away whatever rights he wants, provided his party supports it. Another example: currently, our Prime Minister is completely unelected. Tony Blair’s stepped down in favor of former Chancellor Gordon Brown, who has since only risen in popularity, despite his lack of charisma, oratory skills and the fact that all the best bits in his speeches were ripped off from Al Gore and Bill Clinton’s election campaigns. While he’s been trotting out the same old promises and sound bites, everyone seems to have forgotten that he’s been one of the key members of government for the last ten years because he’s become better dressed and started smiling.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Why the hell are you boring us with your political opinions, Stones Throw? Just tell us what you thought about the funny book!”
Maybe you’re not thinking that, I dunno. I kind of hope you are because otherwise that screws up my review structure. Let’s just pretend you are and look at these quotes, from DC’s THE SPIRIT #10:
TV NEWS PUNDIT: “You and your far left cronies make me sick. All this talk of forgiveness and understanding is destroying America!”
THE SPIRIT (watching): “This joker is the king of cable news?”
EBONY (the Spirit’s now non-racist caricature sidekick): “How about it? The scary part is how popular he is.”
Got that one? How about this:
TV NEWS PUNDIT 2: “As you can see, America, my plan is SIMPLE. By hunting down and KILLING all the animals on the endangered species list, we’ll no longer have an endangered species list.”
“If that is what it’s going to take to get these bleeding heart condor huggers to SHUT UP and go away then I say load the cooler and bring me my grenade launcher.”
That one’s from a COLBERT REPORT type spoof of rightist talk shows, but my point still stands. Namely that Darwyn Cooke’s injections of his politics into his comics are just as unwelcome and inappropriate as my intro to this review. I know this issue’s leaning towards a satirical tone, but it ain’t good satire because it fails to make fun of the left along with the right. I can’t remember exactly what THE SIMPSONS writers said about ripping the piss out of Democrats and Republicans alike but it was somewhere along the lines of that WC Fields line: “I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.”
That’s something Darwyn doesn’t quite get. There is a “left wing lesbian daytime chat monster” mentioned early on but this actually turns out to be the SPOILER schizophrenic alter ego of another Republican villain. Now, I know that Darwyn is one of those “bleeding heart condor huggers” Flobber of “The Flobber Factor” describes. He made that pretty clear in THE NEW FRONTIER, in which his morals prevented Korean War fighter pilot Hal Jordan from killing (sort of undermines the fighter pilot thing) while at the same time deifying Edward R. Murrow, the TV journalist of George Clooney’s GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK (who also comes in for some completely misplaced praise here). I’m fine with that. I just wish he wouldn’t keep inserting it in wholly inappropriate situations.
I’m not saying that art or entertainment shouldn’t have a political element. But the kind of stuff in this book doesn’t come off much better than the celebrity name-dropping in THE ULTIMATES. Good art should transcend the time it was created in, even (and maybe especially) if it’s a direct comment on the present. Above all, if you’ve got some political message, make it subtle. A surefire way to switch me off is to have a character suddenly voice the writer’s opinion. This is the same thing that has kept me away from the fan-favorite series EX MACHINA. I don’t read comics or books or watch films to be lectured on the politics of whoever’s writing or directing the piece.
I’m not even saying that it’s impossible to work in personal themes on established characters like the Spirit. But Darwyn using a character that’s about twice his age to voice his political opinions just seems cheap. When you’re writing a character like Batman or Superman or Spider-Man (and I know that the Spirit isn’t as well known as them but he’s certainly as old), when it comes to real-world issues ideally I’d like to see the same degree of impartiality that good journalism should have. (Darwyn gets on his high horse about this mid-way through the book, again interrupting the flow for a diatribe about the state of modern day news and presenting “facts without bias”.) These are characters that mean a lot of things to a lot of people. They’re icons. They shouldn’t just be fodder for the writer to bend to his world-view in some kind of self-assurance or vindication. I could excuse the above examples from this issue if the same critical eye was cast over the other side of the debate, but it simply isn’t.
Otherwise, I pretty much enjoyed the issue. Not one of this re-launch’s best, not one of the worst. One area I always am wowed by in THE SPIRIT is the art. Each new cover and title splash are wonders to behold, and Cooke and J Bone really excel at crafting scenes that plant the reader right in the book’s whimsical, gently old-fashioned tone. Unfortunately, over-indulgent moments of the type that I got hung up on tend to suck me right out of it. I’ve said before that THE SPIRIT is a book I’d buy for the art alone, but keep sticking in these kinds of grating moments and that might be exactly what I end up doing.


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Penciler: Stuart Immonen Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Jinxo

Three issues into Immonen’s run as artist on ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN following Bagley’s amazing run and how’s it going? Pretty damn well, actually.
In terms of the plot, I’m loving it. Nothing better than a character taking an action that seems batsh*t crazy but actually turns out to be genius. Norman Osborn breaks out of prison but instead of going into hiding he goes on CNN where he spins and manipulates the story of his imprisonment to paint himself as a victim. Crazy genius, which is where you want Norman Osborn. Plus you couldn’t create a more horrible situation for Peter. Well, unless maybe you were to throw Electro into the mix dressed in a manner that would make fighting him, uh, awkward. Peter is inspired to give him a new name which I think should be his actual name from here on in.
But everyone knows Bendis can spin a good Spidey tale. The real question is, how is Immonen’s art? It’s actually pretty damn good. His drawings have a more angular line to them, which for me pops. He does a nice job both with bringing strong emotions to the character’s expression (Mary Jane’s look of fear, various characters’ looks of anger) and with staging energetic battles. Electro comes across as a much more dynamic threat and presence than I remember him being in his previous appearance.
There’s only one thing that worries me and that would be Immonen’s take on Aunt May. For decades Aunt May has been the old bitty. Then May got an Ultimate makeover. She was still older but she didn’t look like a character from a Dickens novel… or like she had been born while Dickens was still alive. Next thing you know even the 616 Aunt May was looking a bit better (well, until they shot her full of holes). Now Immonen has not changed May back into the oldster she once was, but for a couple pages there he has her sliding more towards dowdy old lady. Just a bit. I’m just saying, Stuart, be careful. Keep her young. I mean, not looking for a May that makes me go, “Oh yeah! Hot-cha!” But she shouldn’t be dressing old-lady style yet either. I’m sure I’m overreacting but with every other character I was excited seeing their new interpretation. But when May popped up I thought, whoah, she got old again.
Really, though, the complaints for this book are minor. It looks like a smooth transition with no let up in the fun and action a Spidey book needs.


Written by Mark Waid Art by Daniel Acuna Published by DC Reviewed by Stones Throw

“If you told me that after two issues of Mark Waid reintroducing Wally West to the DCU after his slightly less than extended absence my enthusiasm for this book would have already waned I absolutely would not have believed you. But sadly... horribly... inconceivably…it's true. I really just don't care about what is happening in this book right now.”– Humphrey Lee, Ain’t It Cool
So help me, but I’ve been loving Mark Waid’s return to THE FLASH. The one word that sums up this re-launch is FUN. Sure, I could go on and list other words like “snazzy” or “sweet” (sweet meaning sweet, not “Sweet!” meaning cool), but I think FUN about does it.
I’m gonna break with AICN Comics tradition and talk about the art first. If this distresses you, you can scroll down and read about the writing first.
Daniel Acuna seems to be a real love him or hate him artist. Me, I’m firmly in the lovin’ it camp. I can’t get enough of his style. It’s bold, colorful and unique, and it seems perfectly matched for the tone Waid’s going for. I’d go so far as to say that it’s illustration quality, like those swank kids’ picture books they have in bookstores and libraries. His designs for the invading squid monsters are inventive and fun. It’s good stuff.
Now to the writing. If you’re just joining us, welcome. If you did read the paragraph about the art first, man that was a good paragraph, wasn’t it? Those “scrolling down” suckers don’t know what they’re missing.
Like Humph, Geoff Johns’ now legendary run with Wally West (mostly with Scott Kolins, to give the artist his dues) was a high for me. I still get warm, fuzzy feelings thinking about that issue where everything’s going really slow and then we find out it’s how the new Zoom is seeing it, or all the Gorilla Grodd monkeys parachuting down into the prison, or the big Rogues War, or…but I digress. Mark Waid isn’t going for that, though, which is good. Writers who repeat themselves are doomed, and currently Waid is doing anything but, mixing it up with bombastic superhero epic in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and indie noir in POTTER’S FIELD. I’m not sure how much mileage this “Kid Flashes” concept has got in it, but for now I’m along for the ride and having a hell of a time sitting in the backseat.
It helps that Wally and Linda’s kids, Jai and Iris, are being written more or less realistically, from Jai’s “you have an annoying power” comment in the previous ish, to Iris’ tears when she realizes that they can’t find their superhero dad and are all alone in the deserted city while squid monsters are invading and sucking the water out of everyone’s bodies. Like I said, realistic. Seriously though, this is inventive comic book fun which is helped enormously by the more or less true emotional undercurrent.
I can likewise handle Linda West becoming the “science mom”, because Waid takes time to explain it with just the right amount of humor, self-awareness and suspension of disbelief. Similarly, we’ve seen thousands of alien invasions before, but somehow, when it’s treated with the good-natured sweetness and the high-concept science-y twist (the aliens use water as a host and can travel anywhere where it’s present) it seems refreshing and exciting. When was the last time we saw a good old-fashioned alien invasion anyway? They just don’t seem to do ‘em any more.
It would have been nice to have followed Wally on his alien abduction, but the three panels we did see had more fun and invention than about half of all the books I read this month, and, for now at least, I’ve got no problem with the book going in a new direction with the kids. Bottom line, it’s shaking up the status quo without resorting to shock tactics, something which is always a treat. I’m looking forward to seeing the Justice League appear next issue and try to sort out these kids, and to seeing Acuna’s interpretations of them.
Simply put, this week THE FLASH is a good book. It’s classy and from Waid’s relaxed and assured writing style to the snazzily-designed “Previously…” page it doesn’t look or read like any other book out there. They’ve “hit the ground running” and I’m “along for the ride” and I’ll stop there.


Writer: Mike Benson Art: Lawrence Campbell Publisher: Marvel MAX Reviewer: Ambush Bug

I’m very particular with my Punisher comics. In the wrong hands, the character can be made a one-note bore (or, even worse, a parody of himself) when in actuality, there is the potential in this character to be one of the most fully realized and interesting characters in the Marvel Universe. Oddly enough, current PUNISHER MAX writer Garth Ennis has written the character in all three of the previously listed incarnations. His first PUNISHER series was a joke, not taking the character seriously, and probably exemplifying both the worst stories about the Punisher and the worst stories written by Ennis. Ennis did a one-eighty when he moved the Punisher to the MAX corner of the Marvel U, writing some of the best PUNISHER stories ever written. Last year, I named THE PUNISHER my favorite series of the year in the @$$ie Awards and it’s well on its way to being the best of this year too. Rumor has it that Ennis is ending his run and comic book newb/ex-HBO ENTOURAGE writer/future MOON KNIGHT writer Mike Benson will soon be taking over the series, and one might color me interested in what path the Punisher will be taking sans-Ennis.
I found this issue to be a strong first effort on Benson’s part. He really knows how to amp up the intrigue as we follow a low level thug on the run from the Punisher. This is a tale told from the perspective of the criminal and not Frank Castle himself. The panels fly by like a racing heartbeat as the criminal tries to use every resource at his disposal to get away from the Punisher, who relentlessly catches up to him no matter how clever the criminal thinks he is or how fast he runs. As a one shot, this is a strong offering; not as cool as Stuart Moore’s one shots like last year’s X-MAS SPECIAL, but a strong effort nonetheless.
This issue isn’t without its problems though and, to be fair, these problems don’t exactly lie within the issue itself; rather, they lie in how the story is told and what that means for the future of my favorite comic book series.
You see, the Punisher gets very little screen time in this one. He’s sort of a Jason Voorhees knock-off; a great white shark on two legs brandishing automatic artillery with little or no character to speak of. This is a story about how the Punisher is perceived, not about the Punisher himself. And that concerns me. Before Ennis came along, let’s face it, the Punisher wasn’t that much of a character. Mike Baron and Chuck Dixon did a decent job of giving him some solid action stories, but character-centric Punisher tales were few and far between. Worse yet, the last time the Punisher was set to the sidelines was when the embarrassingly bad Spacker Dave and the like populated the book, and I do not want to see a return to those bad old days.
My concern lies in the fact that despite this being a PUNISHER annual, it really doesn’t give the reader a good indication of how Benson would be writing the Punisher if he takes over the series. This was a fun tale. I’ll even go so far as to say it was a strong tale with spectacularly gritty artwork by Laurence Campbell. Although seeing the Punisher through the eyes of a criminal was interesting for this one issue, having this be the theme of an entire series is going to get old really quick. Here’s hoping Benson will be able to focus a little on the Punisher in future efforts. This ANNUAL is worth picking up, nevertheless.


Lookee here!! By Stones Throw

I’m not gonna do what I did a few weeks back and go through the whole show with y’all – mainly because I found this third and final part of the series to be less vital and informative than preceding installments due to cramming too much stuff in, like when it gets to the “British Invasion” of the 1980s and skips straight from WATCHMEN to LOST GIRLS, leaving out pretty much everything in between. But I thought I’d fill you in on what I found to be the most enjoyable part of the show: the section focusing on VIZ.
VIZ was a black and white independent magazine published by Chris Donald, with his brother Simon and Jim Brownlow, from his bedroom in Newcastle, which grew from an initial print run of 150 copies in the punk fanzine late-70s days to become the UK’s third largest magazine, selling over a million copies by 1989. It took the trappings of comics I discussed earlier like THE BEANO and DANDY – namely a low-intellect character with a high-concept gimmick - and hilariously subverted them in strips like SID THE SEXIST, JOHNNY FARTPANTS, BERTIE BLUNT (HIS PARROT’S A CUNT), BUSTER GONAD AND HIS UNFEASIBLY LARGE TESTICLES, THE FAT SLAGS, TERRY FUCKWITT, the ceaselessly profane ROGER MELLIE THE MAN ON THE TELLY (“Good morning and bollocks”) and the liberal-baiting THE MODERN PARENTS (“have you ever had misogynistic fantasies while masturbating?”). Politically correct it isn’t, laugh out loud funny it is.
Other features of VIZ include the tabloid newspaper parody TOP TIPS (“Don’t waste money on expensive binoculars. Simply stand closer to the object you wish to view”; “A small coniferous tree in the corner of your living room is an excellent place to store Christmas decorations”) which apparently “influenced” McDonalds in a 1996 advertising campaign, spoof news stories (“Princess Diana’s face found in egg yolk”) and supplements like “Favorite Sex Positions of the Sports Commentator”.
Seems kind of like an older, trans-Atlantic cousin of MAD or NATIONAL LAMPOON. It’s still going today (,) but I can’t say I was the right generation when it was at its peak. After being filled in by this program though, I’ll certainly be making an effort to find some collected editions.


Wasn’t sure what “simping” was until reading this title. Turns out it’s a term for a clown. Which makes sense because this is a compilation of stories about an undercover Mega City One detective who just so happens to be disguised as a hard-knocks gumshoe who just so happens to dress as a clown. What I loved about this offering was the fact that it showcases some strong hard-boiled detective stories, yet puts it’s own sarcastic and humorous slant to it by centering on such an original character. There’s the femme fatale story. There’s the story where Jack Point (The Simping Detective himself) must go undercover as a prisoner to ferret out a crime. Then there’s the story where our hard-nosed (or in this case, squeaky-nosed hero) wakes up with a woman with her head blown off with no idea how it happened. All of these stories have been told before, but few have been told so well in comic book form. Credit has to be given to the creative team of Simon Spurrier (words) and Frazier Irving (art) who are currently producing one of the coolest miniseries of the year with GUTTSVILLE over at Image and their level of cool is ever apparent in this trade. Irving’s black and white panels ooze noir, yet embrace the future tech of the Judge Dredd Universe. Judge Dredd himself shows up a few times just to let you know where this story is taking place. This was a true joy to read and well worth seeking out. – Ambush Bug


Although comparisons to LORD OF THE RINGS will be made, this is a fantastical tale that stands on its own as far as excellence in story and especially art is concerned. Civiello is a pretty big deal overseas and his classical painterly style, highlighted with computer generated effects, will satisfy any eye hungry for memorable and beautiful artwork. This story follows a dwarf-like creature named Igguk as he goes on a quest and witnesses the death of the faerie folk of this wondrous land. This book is oversized which makes the panels even more of a feast. The amount of time and effort put into each page is evident. This is a truly classic tale that deserves to be placed on a bookshelf to be read and reread. Highly recommended for those of you who love fantasy, strong storytelling, and amazing art. – Ambush Bug


This is yet another edge-of-your-seat and afraid-to-turn-the-next page thriller of an issue. There’s some really good 007/Jason Bourne style action which utilizes communication or lack thereof pretty effectively. Writer Chip Moser and artist Francesco Francavilla communicate seamlessly to bring quite a few wordless pages to life. There’s also a nice sequence towards the beginning of this issue which educated me about some of the more foul-smelling aspects of Morocco. The level of action and suspense is at a fever pitch. All in all, this is spy fiction at its best. – Ambush Bug


Typically I'm not a big fan of the Annual actually. The thing about them is that usually they're just a bundle of random stories that don't have anything to do with anything in the regular book itself by writers that are the same for four bucks a pop. Or apparently they're now used to end storylines from the main series that should have ended eight months ago but, well, shit happened so here it is now!!!... for four bucks. But this time in this case I'm in full support of the format because this Annual is none of those things. The story (well, stories) in this IRON FIST Annual have everything to do with the main book's current arc but not at the cost of slowing down the action to tell some flashback tales. It's also filled with a great exhibition of several artists ranging from old-schooler Howard Chaykin, who brought his A-game here, to Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic's very detailed painted style (much like Marko Djurdjevic's impressive covers... I assume there's a relation here butt I don't know what exactly it is). All I know is that for four bucks I got to enjoy lots more pages very relative to one of my favorite ongoings, with a great batch of artists, and that had hookers armed with Tommy Guns. This is a much, much better use of the format that I hope to see more of. – Humphrey Lee


According to the cover, Death comes for Superman. Didn’t Death already do that? I don’t think Death needs to bother really. By the look on the cover of Superman’s giant tumorous knee he’s not long for this world anyway. If I was one of the zombies on the cover and saw that…I think I’d take a pass on eating Superman. Even for a zombie, eating that can not be good for you. The story itself is passable. The first issue was a bit confusing. It’s now pretty clear the Four Horsemen who showed up in 52 in robo-form are now on the move, possessing masses of humans, and that we’re in for a superheroes vs. the possessed and the damned. A little slow moving so far but, hey, it’s the apocalypse. That’s always good for a chuckle or two. – Jinxo

SUB-MARINER #4 Marvel Comics

This book isn’t going to win any awards for breakthrough writing, but I have to admit that for the first time in a long time I am interested in a Namor story. Last issue, Venom ended the issue by ripping off Namor’s little ankle wings. In this issue, Namor basically makes Venom his bitch and rips something off of Venom in such a barbaric and cool manner that I have to recommend this book for the sheer bad-assedness of it all. Fun, fun, fun. – Bug


Okay, I’m getting a little excited about this book now that I think I’ve figured out Jimmy Olsen’s deal. There is something special in Jimmy’s mind and it ain’t a sparkling personality. He’s all about defenses popping up to guard him and his, ahem, special purpose. And the guided tour of the new alternate Earths is fun, although it feels like a bargain tour of Europe. Getting to only spend 15 minutes at any given stop could get old. – Jinxo
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