Ain't It Cool News (


#33 1/3/08 #6

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here welcoming you all to another year of reviews, interviews, previews, roundtables, and all around @$$ie goodness from your favorite troop of @$$Holes. After a small hiatus, we’re back fully rested, a few pounds heavier with another year of comic book readin’ under our belts, and ready to share our picks and pans with the rest of you, our Faithful Talkbackers. As an added bonus, be sure to look for a very special Q & @ with Marvel EIC Joe Quesada, new AMAZING SPIDER-MAN writer Dan Slott, and Spidey Editor Steve Wacker to be posted very soon (probably today or tomorrow!). In the meantime, enjoy the reviews!



Writers: J. Michael Straczynski & Joe Quesada Art: Joe Quesada & Daniel Miki Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

OK, I'm not going to go on a rant regarding the direction Spidey is moving in this review. I'm sure all of the @$$Holes are going to have something to say about it when the first issue of “Brand New Day” hits the stands. Instead I want to focus on the issue at hand, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #545, which left me entertained, frustrated, and feeling curiously odd by the time I finished the book.
By now, everyone knows that Mephisto has offered Peter and MJ a deal in order to save the life of Aunt May. Joey Q has made his feelings clear about Spidey's marriage and even went so far as to bring up these feelings so many times at this year's Chicago WIZARDWORLD that the Marvel Sheep began baa-ing back the words in unison and agreement. In this issue, the retro-fix is made. One of the things that bothered me about this fix is that it doesn't really come from what I think of when I think Spider-Man. Religion, metaphysics, the occult--I think of those things when I think of Doctor Strange. Spidey's stories have always been rooted in kookified science, not mysticism. Sure, some of the best stories come from placing the hero into a situation or scenario that they are not normally suited for, but this is a major turning point in Spider-Man's life and for it to be so reliant on faith and stuff that can't be explained with a microscope and a Bunsen burner it just seems...well...I dunno, just odd.
Although I don't agree with the decision, I have to say that this didn't stop me from enjoying the issue at hand. Say what you will about Joey Q as an EIC, but I've always been a fan of his art. A while back Mike Deodato made his return to comics. It was an impressive one as the artist who once looked like an early Image Comics clone came back with a mature and vibrant style all his own showing that he grew as an artist. Joey Q shows the same type of growth in this issue (although I still can't help but be weirded out by the way he shades his noses). I'm not sure how much of the mood is set by inker Daniel Miki, but the art really does act as a conductor for the drama, working well to convey dark themes (when Peter and MJ consider the deal that they have been presented) with dark and heavy panels, while making the panels looking back on their marriage look bright and crisp. The communication between artist and writer is evident in this book; one adds to the other, a trait that is not as common as one would think in comics.
And despite my distaste for the editorial decision for this story to occur, the story itself is pretty strong. JMS does what he does best, which is tell a human drama that really does grip the heart and doesn't let go. JMS has always been best when the focus is on the smaller stuff. His run has floundered when it goes all high concept such as the Spidey Totem stuff or the Unmasking or the Children of Gwen storylines. It's the intimate moments shared between two or three people that stand out as something special. The final moments between Peter and MJ are in fact well written and painful to read. The conversation about if it is the right thing to do and that maybe it is May's time to go is a mature one (one that would make me respect Spidey more as a hero that accepts his fate instead of whines about it and does any desperate and character-damaging thing he can to change it). These scenarios play out well and although this is a talkity-talk issue, the action was there in the words and character. I never felt any panels were unnecessary or any word balloons were placed in there nervously because the writer can't stand silence. And although the drama was high, it never felt too over the top. JMS doesn't miss a beat and makes Peter and MJ's final moments resonate.
But after the deal...well...not so much. Time for a SPOILER WARNING. I can't say that I liked the way the story turned out. Sure the fact that basically Spidey has been retro-fixed to fit into the mythos of the movies with the return of Harry Osborn, Peter living at home with Aunt May, the organic web shooters, et al. It seems as if he's been de-aged too, and yes, everyone doesn't know he's Spider-Man anymore, which brings up the question of how he's going to be in the New Avengers (but that's one of those continuity questions we don't want to worry our pretty heads about, do we?). What bothers me the most about these few pages is the fact that Aunt May appears in three small panels. Peter wakes up, hops out of bed, kisses Aunt May goodbye, and goes off to meet his friends. So for the last year, we've been angsting with Peter over the life of his dying aunt. He finally finds a way to save her and we get all of three panels to see how "crazy important" this person it to his life. I know Peter isn't supposed to remember the fact that his Aunt May was dying, but would a scene dedicated to showing why Aunt May means so much to him be asking too much? No, we rush right past the old biddy in order to reintroduce Harry Osborn and a few girls that will most likely be interests of some sort for Pete in his new swinging single life. This is where the conflict that seems to be prevalent in this book from the beginning appears plain as day. The point of the story was to save Aunt May's life, not break up Pete and MJ. That's the story JMS seemed to be telling, but in the end, Joey Q (who wrote those last ten pages) wins again and May is made a sidenote in this finale making the emotional resonance of the huge decision made mere pages earlier land with a disappointing thud.
The final page of this book is the thing that really left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It consists of a bunch of quotes from the Marvel Elite (Millar, Bendis, Loeb, Stan Lee, JR JR, Harlan Ellison, and Kevin Feige) circle jerking to the "super-awesomeness" of JMS' run on Spidey. While the praise is thrown around high and heavy, no one really acknowledges that the events that happen in this issue renders all of JMS' stories null and void and therefore not really consequential in Spidey's long history in comics. This made me feel for both the writer and myself as the purchaser of pretty much all of those comics that JMS has written. Sure there were storylines that infuriated me. But at the same time, JMS made me care about Spidey by doing what he does best: adding the human element to the tale. And although many of those elements were surrounded by misguided editorial mandate, I still feel oddly melancholy about JMS' departure. Writing a mainstream hero with such history and notoriety in both the comic book world and the general public eye is a no win situation. JMS did a decent job with what he had and his run may have possibly been one of those all time classics that the final page touts had he been able to write a story and not translate what the bosses wanted to happen.


Written by Grant Morrison Art by Tony Daniels Published by DC Reviewed by Stones Throw

There was one moment in this issue of THE BATMAN that really reminded me of the joys of the superhero genre. Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. the Batman) is getting ready to skydive over Gotham with his new girlfriend Jezebel Jet when the Bat signal hits their air balloon. Bruce tells Alfred to let Jet know he got lost in the alleys, then Alfred pulls a switch and the skydiving suit tears off Bruce and he dives through the signal’s beam to rendezvous with Commissioner Gordon.
Seems simple, but the way it’s presented, going from the colorful and odd panels of Bruce and Jet diving from a hot air balloon down towards Gotham followed by a full-page splash of Bats mid-air and harshly illuminated by the bright Bat signal, reminiscent of the old convention of sliding down a fireman’s pole and emerging in costume in the Batcave, is the coolest of cools. I love that someone as unconventional, inspirational and downright weird as Grant Morrison is popular enough to be allowed to work on the industry’s biggest icons. He isn’t disappointing me on this book. Okay, I skipped most of THE RESURRECTION OF RA’S AL GHUL after loving the first issue, but then I really didn’t want to have to buy BATGIRL or NIGHTWING or shit like that.
I think Grant Morrison is the one guy who can make superheroes momentarily not feel like a relic of past eras, and re-instill in them a new, visceral quality all over again. These issues have felt fresh, odd and cutting-edge modern. He isn’t afraid to follow his own trends or go where others would fear to go and as a result he frequently writes the best superheroes out there. For this run, he’s taking cues from the mid-1950s hinterland of Batman comics. That should give you an idea of whether you’ll enjoy it or not. Batman fighting space aliens and being transformed into the zebra Batman and stuff like that, before Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz revamped the character and set in motions the steps that gave us the one we have today.
“I’d hazard a guess that you and Master Dick were often the victims of one too many exposures to Scarecrow gas or Joker toxin, Master Bruce.”
I mean, if you think Morrison is weird try reading some of those comics. I imagine lots of people are hating this direction but I happen to be having a buttload of fun with it.
And oh yeah, he brings back Bat-Mite here as well. That rocks too.


Writers: Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch Illustrator: Franco Urru Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Jinxo

Wow. This book is just such a total “best of times, worst of times” deal. When the first issue was reviewed I hadn’t read the book yet. Couldn’t get it as it was sold out. So when complaints were made about the art I had no idea if the art was really as bad as was claimed. The statement was made that the art was so bad that a major reveal on a major character at the end of issue #1 was ruined because it was hard to figure out WHO the character being revealed actually was. Turns out the art is that bad because I couldn’t figure out who it was either and, truly, I didn’t figure it out until I picked up issue #2.
But the “best of times” element is that as truly shockingly bad as the art is, the story is amazing. The first reason I couldn’t figure out the reveal at the end of issue #1 was the art. But adding to that was the fact that in my mind I don’t think I would ever have imagined that they would do what they do to that character. When I realized what had happened… I was floored. In keeping with Whedon’s normal modus operandi from the series, he’s once again just flipping everything on its head and keeping nothing sacred. And all in a way that grows organically out of what went before. Again, it was said previously that Wesley sticking around as a ghost might cheapen his death. But no way. It’s something that should have been seen coming and that I utterly didn’t. The fact that working for Wolf Ram and Hart extends beyond death was established on the show. Just chilling to think Wes’s good intentions have led to his own contractual damnation. Likewise Gunn’s new place in the world is equally logical while even more distressing. And then they go from those downbeat turns right into Spike’s which is 180 degrees in the opposite direction with how hilarious it is.
I like reading the Buffy comics but mainly for the characters. I’m not deeply concerned about the unfolding plot. It’s good enough to go for the ride but I’m pretty sure everything will turn out okay in the end. With Angel, I’m actually deeply invested in the plot. Whedon and Lynch are sending the story spinning into such unexpected directions that I’m not sure where it’s going or that in the end anything will turn out even close to okay. On this ride the train has jumped the tracks and I’m frightened but thrilled that at any point we might be running straight off a cliff.
If only the art wasn’t just so forgettable. No… it’s worse than that. If it was forgettable that would at least mean it could be ignored and I could focus on the plot. But the art is actually actively distracting from a truly freaky fun plot. That’s bad. The thing is I can tell it doesn’t have to be this bad. There is the odd panel here and there that looks not so bad, like time was invested in getting it to look how it should look, but then the rest look like they were done in a hurry. There’s just no excuse. You can’t do a decent job on just a couple of panels of a book and yadda yadda over the rest. No way.
As bad as the art is the story carries the day and this book will continue to be at the top of my stack every Wednesday it comes out.


Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Cary Nord Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

Considering that 90% of this comic was exposition, you’d think I would rag on it unmercifully. I am not one to simply write Warren Ellis a blank check, as if I would sign off on any thing he does just because he does it (in fact, I can’t think of any writer I would do that for, nor any real writer who would want me to.) Truth be known, I’m always waiting for inventive writers to settle into their peculiar but predictable flavor of hack-dom. Some do early. Some never do.
Well, I’m still waiting with Ellis, because this was a good issue. I love the way he pulls from a variety of different disciplines:
It could be the field of science (“Is this polyploidy I’m looking at?” – Hulk traditionalists would probably say diploid, though Peter David might go with tetraploid…)
It could be the field of covert operations (“Remember when the old C said…” – The head of MI6, no matter who they are, is traditionally called “C”, as everyone who worked in the Intelligence sector *ahem* knows.)
Or it could simply be the field of sounding cool (“There’s carbon fullerenes in his skin…” - Funny, I wonder if Warren read the same article I did about Buckyballs {no, that’s not a bad Winter Soldier joke} last month.) Whatever the topic, Ellis delivers.
Nord’s art is alternately bright or moody, detailed or symbolic. I do wish he had more in the way of backgrounds, but he doesn’t often do floating heads or single/dual figures without at least some kind of background, usually exploiting a unique angle. Where the backgrounds are sparse, Stewart takes over and adds enough color that you don’t realize there wasn’t actually anything drawn in that space, it was the colorist practicing his craft. Good one-two punch.
Story wise, this is not a premise that reeks of originality: Bruce Banner is looking for a cure for his Hulkish condition. I think that was the plot for about 81 of the 82 episodes of the Hulk’s TV show. But it’s all in the presentation, folks.
And for that matter, with Ellis, the premise doesn’t even matter. You never know where his stuff is going.


Writer/Artist: Jonathan Hickman Publisher: Image Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

In the recent months since Jonathan Hickman's debut in comic books with THE NIGHTLY NEWS he's been called many things: Innovative, visionary, exhilarating, etc. But quite frankly I'm here to call him one wordy motherfucker. But it's okay! Because, goddammit, this is the first time in I don't know how long where a comic has earned every last penny I spilled out on it, simply based on how long I spent digesting it. There's a lot to appreciate in a book that knows the value of a dollar...
Just like with THE NIGHTLY NEWS, Hickman's first issue in the four issue mini that is PAX ROMANA here lives up to all the adjectives I threw around to begin this review. Right off the bat you can't help but notice the art with its ruggedly smooth lines and unbelievably lush colors. Already if there's anything I've come to be excited about with the man's work, it's the art. Most times there's not a lot of panels, and yes, there's more word balloons in this issue here than possibly in all the other comics of your weekly stack combined, but it still remains untameably vivid, rife with symbolism and iconography. Hell, I've only seen a whole seven comics of this stuff (and a few stray pages from the POPGUN anthology TPB) and I'd pay top dollar just to have an art book detailing Hickman's creative process as he creates his visuals, and art books are something I rarely, if ever, purchase.
Okay, enough with getting all gooey over the line work, how's the story and what exactly is PAX ROMANA about? PR is actually a pretty intriguing mess of Religion, Politics and Military Ops all wrapped around a creamy Science Fiction center dealing with the concept of Time Travel. The main conceit of PAX ROMANA is a future seemingly dominated by the Holy Roman Empire and the tale of how this came to be, from a point in its past (our near future) where the first scientists to successfully bend time to their whim weren't from the employ of Governmental or Independent science groups dedicated to the concept, but that of the Vatican. From there the pages of PR denote in great detail (I did mention this book is wordy right?) a domino effect of events leading to the unthinkable: The Pope and Cardinal Council devising a plot to time displace a unit of handpicked soldiers and scientists into a period of history where their nudging hand in that society can most effectively lead to a world dominated by the Church.
... Fuck me, I guess Mr. Hickman isn't the only wordy bastard in the house...
But, all said, even with the half hour read time this issue took me, I wouldn't have changed a thing. This is stylistically the same approach Hickman took with his NIGHTLY NEWS and it worked there just like it works here. Yes, there's a lot of information being dumped here, but it never once makes for a boring read; in fact it actually makes for the opposite as all the info fleshes out the world the story takes place in so much that you can't help but be enveloped in it. Really, the only issue I had with THE NIGHTLY NEWS is that in the end it was actually a little predictable, and even though it knew what it was and tried to avoid comparisonal pitfalls, it really did run a bit like some of its influences, mainly the movie NETWORK. PAX here, though, is a story unlike I've really encountered with comics. Yes, of course I've seen a dozen times the use of Time Travel in comics to "reshape the world in some diabolical image!" or whatever but PAX ROMANA is working on a much more human and fundamental level than the norm. As stated in the back matter of this issue, this is a book about sociology, not necessarily to make a stand on Religion or what have you, and I see a lot of intriguing concepts and debate coming out of this on the matter of a society and extra-societal forces--cause and effect type stuff.
Already I can tell this book is probably smarter than I am, but dammit I'm still in for the duration. Hickman's thought processes when it comes to just what a comic book can be are something that the industry needs to take note of. It's just simply thinking at a different wavelength that the majority of books out there aren't. These stories might not be terribly new in origin, but they're working at least a step or two above conventional thinking when it comes to the subject matter and how it is presented to us. Hickman is simply stepping up and doing what always needs done at some point: pushing a medium along and progressing it to the next level. Here and now is the time to see what the future of comics is...


Written by Tom Beland Art by Juan Doe Published by Marvel Reviewed by Stones Throw

Tom Beland, purveyor of sensitive indie romance in TRUE STORY, SWEAR TO GOD and resident of Puerto Rico brings us this special Puerto Rican FF adventure, chock-full of exciting lines like “There are 225 species of tree native to Puerto Rico, 23 of which grow nowhere else” and “That fort has successfully repelled attacks from several foreign powers such as the English and the Dutch” (though not the Spanish, I suppose). I dunno, maybe the Puerto Rico tourism board sponsored the book. Or maybe Beland stands to profit from more visitors? He might run some kind of souvenir stall, or perhaps sell maps to homes of the rich and famous. Eh, I’m only kidding. There were FF-centric clunkers like “These things are more annoying than Skrulls!” too. Besides, for all I know, Tom Beland might be the most famous guy living on Puerto Rico, home of autobiographical indie cartoonists.
Anyway, this was a fun comic although there were several annoying things about it. I would absolutely hate the art if it was on the main FF book but here it is simply gorgeous and an interesting experiment for the Fantastic Four, bringing to mind a more colorful Scott Morse. The story is the type that back in the day would have been a normal-length inventory story that would be published when a hitch in the schedule occurred. Nowadays they just delay the book while the overpaid, under-worked artist or writer protests “I really though I could do it this time!” The character arc is kind of rote, with Ben Grimm (the Thing) again coming to accept himself, and the action isn’t all that exciting, since it doesn’t seem like the FF are ever in any danger. The appearance of the Mole Man kind of tips the whole thing a little too far, and I think this is the first time he’s been cast as an environmental campaigner. I suppose hideous subterranean dictators have got to keep up with the Joneses. I mean, Bush thought the USA’s carbon emissions were caused by cows, what must it be like leading a whole posse of gassy monsters? Maybe he’ll start planting trees to neutralize their carbon footprint.
I also thought it all seemed to take a lot of space for such a light story. For example, Johnny Storm asking the Thing where he’s going (Puerto Rico) and the Thing refusing to tell him takes three pages. That’s two panels, tops. It’s a breezy, enjoyable read, but I kind of wish it had been 22 pages in FANTASTIC FOUR ADVENTURES or something like that.
(Note: For the non-Spanish speakers in the audience, the title translates as FANTASTIC FOUR: ISLAND OF THE DEATH. Puerto Rico, I believe, means “rich port”.)


Writer: Keith Champagne Pencils: Scott McDaniel Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Jinxo

Damn. Really sort of missed this one. A weekly four part COUNTDOWN tie-in miniseries which largely fell into our holiday downtime. Still, late though I am, I felt it was worth a mention. While not an out of the park home run I did think this series had much going for it. It starts with a classic premise and does put some nice spin on it: take versions of heroes from various dimensions in the multiverse, put them in an arena together and make them beat the crap out of each other. Usually good fun seeing folks who should run into each other doing just that. Even more fun when you have a good excuse to just cut to the chase and get them pummeling each other. This book makes the choice to have various versions of the same hero beating the crap out of each other. (Gives me flashbacks of my older brother administering the “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!” abuse.) The extra step I didn’t expect was for them to actually make each battle a threeway fight. Actually added a nice extra dimension of complexity to things.
The fights themselves vary in quality but were generally pretty solid. The battle of the Batmen was my personal favorite partly just for how wrong things got. The recent “Search For Ray Palmer” Vampire Batman comic was just so-so but watching him fight in ARENA provided some gruesomely funny moments. The whole series, for me, would be worth it if just for that battle.
But it isn’t all good. COUNTDOWN serves as the launching pad for this book with Monarch forcing heroes to battle to the death so that he can keep the strongest, the survivor, to be part of his army. One of the problems with many of the COUNTDOWN tie in titles is that they don’t stand on their own. Most of them just feel like smaller pieces of the big event. That’s the case here and I think it hurts the book. Getting all these alternate universe heroes together and making them duke it out is good stuff. But in the end it all builds up to… not much. It builds to Monarch revealing his army which will be used in another part of COUNTDOWN that maybe you’re reading, maybe you’re not. And quite frankly if you’re reading the other COUNTDOWN books they’ve already pretty much set up that Monarch is setting up an army of these heroes. The fact that he specifically made them act out “Gladiator” for him isn’t essential. So taken as a book on its own it doesn’t feel like it fully pays off and taken as part of the big picture it’s maybe a bit superfluous. But that said, the book does have some solidly entertaining moments. Just wish the whole book was as good (or better) than the parts.


Written by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente Art by Khoi Pham and Stephane Peru Published by Marvel Reviewed by Stones Throw

Since WORLD WAR HULK was such a great success, the brains at Marvel have decided to get Jeph Loeb to write about some new red Hulk while writer Greg Pak is kicked off the Hulk and given a solo Hercules title, which is why this issue of THE INCREDIBLE HULK has “Herc” written over the Steranko-homage cover in spray paint effect. Kind of makes me wonder what happens if a title ever drops in sales at the House of Ideas.
I don’t know if he can sustain a solo series (although I can probably hazard a guess) but Hercules has long been a favorite C-level character of mine. The best thing about him is that the drunken, over-blown doofus characterization isn’t something that’s been added by later generations, it was there when he first sashayed into JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY courtesy of Jack and Stan. It wasn’t quite as obvious as recent takes on the character, but it was there. He was the perfect foil for the relentlessly serious and worthy Thor, and the idea of a booze-loving Greek god just out to have a good time now that super-powered mortals are back on Earth is still one of the coolest caveats of the Marvel universe for me, and something that can always reliably crack me up.
The makers of this comic book are taking a different approach to the Prince of Power, though. Different approaches are like keeping animals to trim your lawn (this is called trying to inject some color). On one hand they’re a simple way to keep it looking fresh, and might even taste good when all is said and done. On the other, they can really mess it up and leave it looking nothing like the lawn you knew and loved. Anyway, I’m not entirely sure Herc would have stuck around this long if he’d always been the grim, silent type. I’m similarly conflicted about incorporating the original mythologies into Hercules’ back story. This is an interesting idea but addressing Hercules being tricked into killing his wife and kids isn’t an easy fit with the fun’n’frolics of the traditional Marvel take. I mean, some fucked-up stuff happened in ancient mythology. I hear Zeus for example used to assume the appearance of farmyard animals in order to have sex without his wife hearing about it. Maybe a HERCULES MAX tale. And I don’t know what would happen to Thor’s Avengers membership if all that raping and pillaging ever got out. I assume there would at least be some sort of public apology.
I haven’t been reading MIGHTY AVENGERS but I can’t quite wrap my head around why Ares would sit at a desk and sign papers for the US government. Hercules stood by his friends in CIVIL WAR, okay, but even taking that into account why would immortal gods pay the slightest bit of attention to a human government? I would imagine that as soon as things stopped being fun Hercules or Ares would bugger off back to Olympus. Hmm, maybe I can relate.
Anyway, this is a pretty good comic if you are interested. I’m getting kind of sick of SHIELD turning up in every Marvel book like some kind of spandex-clad military dictatorship, and the blanket morose tone across most of ‘em, but this one isn’t bad. There’s some zip and energy, especially in the art, and I even kind of like the new Rick Jones character that’s hanging around. Maybe he can become Bucky when Bucky becomes Captain America. But where’s the Hercules who sung an ode all about punching the Constrictor in the face in Dan Slott’s SHE-HULK? Like I said, it’s not a bad book. I just miss the over-the-top drunkard. There isn’t enough of that type of character in comics.


By Troy Little Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewer: Ambush Bug

One look at the cover of this book and you could tell it was made for AICN's Indie Jones section. The coffee stain and cigarette butt collage above is what came to mind when I thought about independent comic books and the artists that make them and this book is all about those types of artists that sit around in coffee shops, smoking, and doing the starving artist routine. There is an air of pretentiousness about that whole lifestyle too. It's the kind of feel that gives me sensations of distaste for people who over-think and under-do. It would seem that bitching and moaning has become an art form itself with all of the so called artists doing it these days. Knowing that this book is about one of those guys who sits around complaining about how da man is oppressing his artistic integrity while making no art at all would initially make me immediately hate the main character, but then I read the book and found that there's a whole lot to like about this book.
Evidently this is book one in the CHAIROSCURO series and the book does a good job of setting up the main character, who he is, what his beliefs are, and especially what his faults are. One may want to dismiss this book as another angsty read focusing on the decline of the term art in today's society, but I found this book to be surprisingly insightful. The main character isn't one of those pretentious douches wearing a beret and sipping a latte. He's more of a slacker who wants to be an artist than an actual artist. The best part about it is that throughout the story, Steven Patch is smacked in the face with the sham he has built around him, be it an uncomfortable conversation about art for art's sake vs getting paid for it with an actress he has a one night stand with or the possibility for his "work" to be shown and represented by a professional gallery owner. The writer, Troy Little, understands this slacker mentality and the gigantic holes in his character's belief system and exploits those holes in the most entertaining ways.
The art in this book is another treat. From ingenious camera angles to cartoony yet emotional character designs, this is a top notch artistic production. Little knows how to flip a panel and make a story read quickly while making it content heavy. The writer/artist does a great job of understanding how subtle actions can play out on a panel. Often, he relies on the images to tell the story and never over explains.
In the end, I couldn't help but care about the pickle Steven Patch finds himself in when his bluff is called. By the end of this first installment, Patch is faced with something more scary than hitting on a hot girl in a club or being confronted by people looking for a guy who used to live in his apartment. Patch is faced with a challenge to actually do something and make something of his life. This real world scariness is handled with flair and care. Any artist, whatever the medium, could enjoy this book. If you have a single artistic bone in your body, you can relate to these characters and scenarios plotted by Troy Little. This is a truly great comic and I look forward to reading future installments to see how Steven Patch gets himself out of the mess he's made for himself.

NECESSARY EVIL #1-2 Desperado/Big Boss Comics

Comparisons to HARRY POTTER are inevitable, but in this case it is a compliment. Just as J.K.Rowling embraced the genre of fantasy and wizardry for her series of books, writer Joshua Williamson does the same for super-villainy as a pair of orphaned teens are enrolled in a school for super-villains. This is early in the series, so the characters are just being developed, but the standouts so far in this series are the scenes with the kids taking part in super-villainy classes such as Mystic Weapons, Avoiding the Forensic Experts, and Understanding Economics: How to Make Your Stolen Money Work For You. Sure kids in a fantastical school may be a cliché, but this series has imagination and solid storytelling on its side. Plus it’s got some pretty nice art from Marcus L. Harris & Vincente Navarrete which is reminiscent of Todd Nauck, who coincidentally provides the covers to this series. This one’s oozing with fun teenage angst and education super-villain style. Fans of THE FRESHMEN comic and movies like HARRY POTTER and SKY HIGH shouldn’t miss this one. - Ambush Bug

LOST GIRLS TPB Top Shelf Productions

I had a 40% off discount at Barnes & Noble online with free shipping.
. . .
I own a lot of porn, 99.999% of it being digital these days, but I didn't expect this.
I mean, I didn't think it would be SO UNBELIEVABLY PORNOGRAPHIC.
I just, I just can't even read it. There's just so much porn.
And the worst part? I just don't feel right jerking off to it either.
That's not going to stop me from trying, but my first couple attempts have failed. I think the feel is all wrong, like my mind thinks that I'm about to crank into a classic copy of “Treasure Island” and then I lose my whole game before it's even really begun.
Damn you, Alan Moore.
At least I got it for 40% off; I just don't feel right letting anyone know I have it. Except you, faceless internet. Except you. – Squashua


This book often gets lumped into the same grouping as CAL MCDONALD and TERROR INC and while I can see the similarities, the sheer imagination and craft put into each issue of this series is something to be admired. Ben Templesmith's art is always good, sketches and paintings digitized and manipulated with a master's touch. But it's the humor of this book that keeps me coming back--that and the imaginative universe Templesmith has built around his main character. He's got a clockwork man, a ghost, and a stripper with tattoos that come alive, all richly developed to their most dramatic and comedic potential. This one shot is a bit trite, featuring an explanation why the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse have yet to end the world, but nevertheless I found it to be another trip into the warped mind of Ben Templesmith that I enjoyed completely. - Ambush Bug


Wow. I used to have five dollars and now I don’t. And getting screwed for just five dollars would normally be a bargain. I’m amazed that something giant sized could have so little inside. Seriously, at a time when both AVENGERS titles are heading into a major event where you’ll be afraid to miss an issue they go and put out a giant one shot with a cover featuring ALL the Avengers from both teams, that looks relevant. Then you open it up and it is just tons and tons of filler. Not only that but the stories are meant to connect in only minor ways and it fails there. The transition into the Henry Gyrich story (yes, he’s the star of one of the stories) states that Gyrich knows a race of aliens worship him. Then you read the story and, hey, at no point does he become aware of that fact. Then there’s a story about Spider-Man being one of the few responsible new members of the Avengers. Then the very next story is about how Spider-Man is the irresponsible chucklehead of the team who needs to learn a thing or two. That second story is segued into with Black Widow saying she doesn’t know how Spidey was given Avengers status and Wasp saying she knows. The story then sheds no real light on why he was. And did I mention the two (TWO) Jarvis tales? Okay, one is a reprint. Then again…ONE IS A REPRINT!!! The finale to this debacle is a reprint of an old Avengers tale featuring JARVIS!!! Whose idea was this? Really. - Jinxo


Damn fine reading is done in this issue. For those of you wondering if writer Jim Shooter still has what it takes, fear not, because this issue seems like a good indicator that the comic book legend still can tell a good old super hero story. Leadership is not an easy job. That seems to be the point Shooter is trying to convey in this issue as some wrong decisions from Lightning Lad (the Legion's newest elected leader) may prove to be fatal for some of the rest of the team. Shooter is working with a gigantic cast and seems to be using Lightning Lad as a bit of a symbol for the task he has set for himself to take on a book like Legion. The characterization is consistent with what former LSH writer Mark Waid has set, the action is heavy, the intergalactic slant on language is fun to read, and the art from newcomer Francis Manapul is a feast for the eyes as well. After being annoyed all to hell with the Karate Kid (aka Coughing Kid from COUNTDOWN), it's cool to see him show a bit of attitude and Manapul’s fight scene between the Kid and an alien is rendered with vibrancy and flair as is the alien attack. I know LEGION is a book that some people are afraid to get into because of all of the previous incarnations of the team. Although I'm not sure what DC has planned for the LSH with some of the Cockrum-looking characters showing up in ACTION and JLA, here's hoping for more issues like this one from Shooter and less tie ins to all of the CRISIS crap that seems to be reeking up the whole DCU as of late. So far so good. Shooter fans won't want to miss this and those curious about the Legion have a good jumping on point too. - Bug

THOR #5 Marvel Comics

This puppy was a nice little surprise. I’ve been enjoying Thor in general but this one stepped things up another notch. It’s so easy to have a super villain who’s the blustering fool with a dumb half-assed plan doomed to fail. But when you set up a villain as smart and you demonstrate impressively he’s smart, man, that just ups the ante. This issue sets up a damn smart villain. The logic behind the opening gambit is solid. Fooled me. The reveal on the mastermind was surprising, the explanation of what is going on, again, was fun and the final reveals promise fun ahead for us and just a lot of annoyance for the thunder god. Plus, you know, there’s cake. - Jinxo


I'm not sure if it's the sporadic flow of issues of INVINCIBLE itself, or if I enjoy the character of Atom Eve more than I notice while reading said issues, but this first half of a two-parter starring one INVINCIBLE's biggest supporting cast players hit the spot. I think what it was is that it kept so much in tone with its source material and gave a nicely whimsical tale fleshing out our unbelievably Pink heroine that it felt more like an Interlude-al or even backup tale and I felt perfectly at home in it. But there was good humor, some genuine emotion, and the art was really, really solid. Really my only complaint with this issue was that it seemed more like the "voice" of the INVINCIBLE comic itself was up and transported and spoken through the characters--that they themselves didn't really seem to have their own but were more projecting that of their source book. But overall, that little tidbit was pretty negligible and this turned out to be a pretty darn entertaining "diversion". – Humphrey

HULK VS FIN FANG FOOM #1 Marvel Comics

Fun stuff from classic Hulk scribe Peter David as the Jade Giant stumbles across a team of scientists in the arctic who, in a coincidence only found in comics, just so happen to unearth the giant alien dragon Fin Fang Foom from the ice at the same time. Pretty soon, the purple pants party begins as the two green meanies duke it out in a slugfest drawn by the classically skilled hands of Jorge Lucas. Sure, the Hulk's attempts at humor were a bit out of character, but I'm willing to overlook it since this was such a fun book to read. - Bug

ULTIMATE POWER #9 Ultimate Marvel Comics

We sat through nine issues for THAT ending? Oh my God. For a series that started so strong, it sure ended weak. This is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. Only, you know, at least the people at the end of the world get the end of the world! Here you don’t even get that, just…a whimper. Yeah there’s a big battle, but one that there is just no good reason to have happen. “If we let the Hulk loose that will give everyone a motivation to join together and stop fighting each other.” Okay… whatever. And then the big anticlimax where, much like the readers, nobody seems quite able to figure out what villain is really responsible for the whole mess. But seeing as there isn’t anyone left unpunched and it is the last issue…welllll, everybody should head home, except for a few who surprisingly don’t return to their dimension of original origin. If the story finished even halfway decently that would be an entertaining surprise. As it is I just thought, oh lord, let’s just put everybody back where they started and pretend this whole thing didn’t happen. But, nope, now there are long lasting ramifications so ya can’t just write the whole thing off. - Jinxo

FLASH #235 DC Comics

Weird. That's all I can say about this book. I'd like to like this book and I've tried to give it a few issues to grow on me, but there's something, I dunno, weird about writer Mark Waid's choice to have the Flash battle fish aliens that dehydrate their victims. The pacing in this issue in particular is off. Half the issue is dedicated to a Justice League romp into the alien's universe with the Flash all of a sudden changing his mind and leaving his teammates to go back home. The backtracking in this issue seemed unnecessary and ate up too many pages while more important points felt rushed to fill a fifteen page story. I like the "Flash as a new father" angle Waid is working with here, but in this issue, he seems to want to stuff way too much into the issue and have both the adventurer stuff and the Father Knows Best stuff. Doug Braithwaite provides the art for the ongoing backup feature as Wally and Bart venture onto yet another alien world to visit a race of beings who have been friends to past wielders of the Speed Force. The short is like all of the previous ones, breezy and somewhat of an annoying distraction from the main story since the aliens look and act pretty moronically with each visit. All of this alien stuff just seems an odd choice for the Flash. - Bug

THUNDERBOLTS #118 Marvel Comics

This issue starts with a quote from Emily Dickinson. I’d like to start my review by evoking another great mind, Hannibal from the A-Team who was known to say so eloquently, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Well, that’s all well and good but reading this issue, I have to say, myself, I love it when a plan goes to hell in a hand basket making an epic f***ing mess. It can just be soooo much fun. “Let’s make a super hero team out of super villains forced against their will to be heroes. What could possibly go wrong with that?” As it turns out, everything you could possibly imagine. Yay!!! So much hits the fan in this issue it is insane. There’s so much literal insanity in this issue it’s insane. And amazingly enough, it’s not overly loaded down with surprises because it’s paying off a ton of stuff. It’s actually just setting the stage for what’s to come. I won’t spoil anything but if I may indirectly reference my favorite images: the bathroom and “CHROPP”. Heheheheh. - Jinxo

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