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#50 4/9/08 #6



Writer: Judd Winick Artists: Ian Churchill (pencils), Norm Rapmund (Inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

Oh, my. Sometimes I don’t know whether to be Randy, Paula or Simon. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Randy might say: “Yo, yo, yo, check it out, Judd. You know, this story was pretty good, a little pitchy in places, but you were doing your thing! You worked it out.”
Paula would say: “Ian. Your characters are beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re a beautiful person. You have your whole life ahead of you. What are you doing later?” *wink wink*
But I think, for the rest of this review, I’m going to have to be Simon. Because if I’m going to be honest, I found the whole thing rather appalling.
The book started out nice enough, and I have sufficient good will toward all the characters that I would have taken just about anything. As beginnings go, the old classic “we’re all being targeted” is tried and true. But as the book wore on, the same Winickisms we’ve seen again and again came up. And matched with Churchill’s relentlessly shallow pencils, I couldn’t keep my optimism through the whole book.
Let’s take each segment in turn. Nightwing is under sneak attack. He’s expelled from the building with shards of glass protruding from the back of every part of his body. Ouch. Brutal and a neat effect. This sequence and a few others were strong for Churchill.
Next we have Koriand’r. Remember the rule of Winick – there should always be at least one naked person. Combined with Churchill, the probability is doubled. Of course, it’s just to sell comics, and not to traumatize Buddy Baker’s son into early puberty. But when her villain rears its ugly head, I knew she was just being used: she cries out “X’hal” while facing AWAY from the monster. So WE can see that SHE can’t see what’s behind her. Gosh, if only comics weren’t a visual medium!
And newsflash, guys: you’re not going to sell a story with T&A. See, there’s this thing called porn, and it met this thing called the internet, and you just can’t compete. Nor should you even try. That’s NOT what this medium is about. First and foremost, it’s about telling stories.
Next on the list is Raven, who hasn’t caught up to even last year’s fashion, and wears her thong underwear straps rising up out of her low-cuts. She’s hanging out with two girls and much mutual dislike is going around, which was not the Raven I remember. It’s not even the all-EMO Raven. (*snicker*) Except for her un-manga body, she seems very much to be channeling Raven from the TEEN TITANS cartoon. What’s up with that?
Red Arrow is attacked by killer stalagmites. Okay, next.
Garfield is being attacked by killer monologuing. Oh wait, that’s us being assaulted by the monologue. Garfield is being attacked by some fast moving fiery hell, and since he’s a proven leader with years of experience, he high-tails it out of there as a…a…a flying squirrel? They don’t really fly, of course. They float. Great tactical choice, there, Ian…I mean, Gar.
Wally West has a few lines while in the shower. Didn’t one of the characters in TITANS EAST also have a conversation in the shower? I guess that’s an easy place to put naked people. You know, Winick says (via Kory) that the United States is obsessive about sex, but since almost every blockbuster movie in the last 20 years has been PG-13 or less, I’m wondering…if that might be projection…on someone’s part.
Meanwhile, in the land of no continuity, Tim Drake leads the OTHER Teen Titans (which includes Supergirl, Blue Beetle and Miss Martian) back to the mansion, having recently beaten their older counterparts. And we then jump to the events immediately after the TITANS EAST special from a few months ago. I do give everyone here a free pass, however. Timing issues are often out of the control of writers and artists. So no big.
We learn that Power Boy is still dead, but all of the C-listers are breathing. Hawk and Dove are still alive, too. More importantly, we learn that Dove wears thong underwear. Vic Stone/Cyborg is somehow stable, despite the fact that his entire lower torso, hips, groin and legs have now been removed, with only a severed spine sticking out of him. Hey, aren’t there supposed to be some lungs in that torso, somewhere?
Now, here comes the big part. The Big Reveal. Every major player is assembled and figuring out that something is after them. Cue the ominous music.
But Red Arrow is wearing a different costume. Kory has one on, at least. Donna is in her old Wonder Girl britches. And Nightwing is standing there with shards of broken glass STILL sticking out of the back of his body! Man, that had to be an uncomfortable flight from Gotham! I just had to laugh.
Look, Churchill draws some pretty people, but has he ever drawn a woman that wasn’t at least a C-cup? If Liefeld drew people with terran anatomy, I think it would look like this. In fact, I double-checked the cover to see if I had picked up an old IMAGE book. Churchill draws powerful, beautifully rendered people – and when he goes for nuance, he can do it. He just doesn’t seem to do it that much. And a book full of splash pages is a really quick read, especially for a book already light on story.
Along those lines, I’m really not that impressed with the team, because all I have seen them do so far is react as individuals. So once again, despite all this criticism, the book mostly gets a pass, because it’s unfair to judge a team book until the narrative has given them a chance to work together as a team.
But keep in mind, this may be a reunion of the most successful Teen Titans ever, but these are not those same kids. These are battle hardened warriors, on par with the Justice League. Heck some of them are IN the Justice League! Most of them having more experience in their short lives then the leaguers did when THEY were formed.
These folks will NEVER be the Titans they were. And that’s the way it should be – we already HAVE young Teen Titans. I hope we see some serious finesse and teamwork with these heroes, as is befitting their history, or you can count me out.
Dante “Rock-Me” Amodeo has been reading comics for thirty-five years. His first novel, “Saban and The Ancient” (an espionage/paranormal thriller) was published 2006. He began writing for AICN Comics in 2007 and his second novel (“Saban Betrayed”) is due 2008. He’s often told he has a great face for radio.


Writer: Joss Whedon Art: Brett Matthews Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

You can’t rush perfection, and as a rabid disciple of Joss Whedon’s scribing I do expect perfection from anything with the SERENITY name attached to it.
Sadly, perfection is not what was delivered with this latest installment to the SERENITY: BETTER DAYS trilogy. From cover to interior, the project felt rushed. This isn’t to say I hate this latest installment. Were it anyone else at the helm, I would laud the virtues of this piece. I just know from past experience that Joss and his crew at Dark Horse can and have done better.
Hughes’ cover work bothers me. The juxtaposition of the hyper realistic heads bobbling on cartoon caricature bodies is just not my cup of tea. Now, I’ve been reading comics long enough to realize that not every art style will cater to every fan; it’s for this simple reason that in my last review I left my comments about the cover to “Harlequin Romance novel meets Buck Rogers”.
This time, however, I can not let this point go. At least on the last cover everyone’s hastily sketched bodies were in proportion to their straight from the television craniums. On this outing it looks like many hours were painstakingly dedicated to rendering each head in photorealistic quality, while the rest of the scene was drawn on table napkins at Denny’s over a Grand Slam breakfast after an all-night coke binge. Jayne looks like a junior high student after spending his summer break bulking up, working diligently on his biceps, while letting the rest of his body remain waif like and pre-pubescent. Shepard Book’s head doesn’t even look attached to his body. He reminds me of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float at the end of the parade route. The cranial chamber is filled to capacity with helium, while everything below the neck seeped out somewhere over Madison Avenue. Plus, is it too much to ask that everyone’s skin tones remain the same from head to toe? I had this problem with the colors in the last issue as well, specifically on Wash. Even though we have colonized the cosmos, we have yet to find a cure for the disease Vitiligo?
I’m of a mind to think that this run should have been stretched out to four issues, instead of cramming everything into three. I loved the concept of the entire team regaling stories of what they would do with their ill-gotten gains from the last issue, but I wanted more of it. The tales were light hearted, clever and utterly in character. Whedon could have easily built an entire entertaining issue around this concept, instead of shoehorning in a page here and a panel there. In particular, I would have loved to see more of River’s acid induced fantasy land.
The dialogue this time was sharp, but I expect laugh out loud moments from anything that seeps off of Whedon’s keyboard. I was close in a few instances, but I was then ripped away from the moment for the sake of keeping the story moving. Sometimes I wonder why there is an allegiance in the comic book industry to adhere dogmatically to 22 pages. If you have more of a story to tell, then tell it. Let the consumer worry about coughing up the extra buck for more pages. If the story is rich enough, it will be money well spent.
Not every middle story can be as phenomenal as, say, “Empire Strikes Back”, nor will they all be as atrocious as “Back to the Future Part II” or Jan Brady. SERENITY: BETTER DAYS falls somewhere between the two. This was far from an awful outing aboard the Firefly class ship; it just wasn’t the best ride I’ve taken with these characters.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. Optimous is looking for artistry help, critical feedback and a little industry insight to get his original book AVERAGE JOE up, up and on the shelves. What if the entire world had super powers? Find out in the blog section of Optimous’ MySpace page to see some preview pages and leave comments.


Writers: Paul Dini and Sean McKeever Artist: Freddie Williams II Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

Simply put, it comes down to good points and bad points.
Good points:
1.) Freddie Williams II is the artist. 2.) Mary Marvel’s inspired choice of weapons against Donna Troy. 3.) Atom’s decision to pull a “Gardner”, i.e., break things. 4.) And a nifty last page.
Bad points:
1.) Either Freddie or his inker seems like they had to rush. A lot. I would love to blame it on the inker, but that was Freddie, too. Sorry man, you know I love your stuff most days. 2.) Insipid dialogue, like “You dare lay your hands on Fill-in-name-of-meglomaniac? You DARE?” Ugh-o-rama. 3.) Mary Marvel saying, “Keep still!” while fighting, and no one makes fun of it. 4.) Mary Marvel suddenly talking like bad-girl Faith on her worst day. I get the whole seduction of evil thing, by the way. I just can’t stand the ham-handed way it’s been handled. Dark Mary (Proud Mary?) was primarily painted as a petulant child. With her re-exposure to “power” (not even ALL of her power, just more than current levels) she’s completely over the edge. I can’t buy the fact that it’s just a zeal for power that made her crazy. It’s never been her nature, and there hasn’t been sufficient setup for a complete personality change. And now that she has all this power (power levels she has wielded for years, mind you, before the whole magic war thing), she’s talking about ripping out people’s vital organs? Sorry. You lost me at “contrived.” 5.) Two words: Olsen flavored. I’m REALLY trying to care about him, but after all this time, I’m convinced he’s like the hominy of super-dom. You can put all kinds of spicy things around it, put other fantastic entrées next to it, but in the end, it’s just not that exciting. And 6.) Nothing kills my excitement like favorite heroes acting like extras. Black Canary reaching for Black Mary, like scratching her is going to help! Hello, sonic cry? It’s a distance weapon that won’t get your bones crushed, unlike an ill-advised hand-to-hand maneuver. And further, she apparently goes down, and struggles to rise on page 12. On page 15, she’s STILL struggling to rise. Why? Script called for struggling heroes who make no impact, that’s why.
I don’t mind finishing my vegetables to get to a good dessert. I would rather it be french-cut green beans slathered in butter and garlic, with a dash of olive oil. But I will choke down unseasoned hominy if the payoff is sufficient.
Two more issues. Grumble, grumble…gulp. Fricking hominy. This better be worth it.


Story & Art by Minetaro Mochizuki English Adaptation: Aaron Sparrow Publisher: TokyoPop Reviewer: Ambush Bug

If not for the reviewers of this column, I'd be like you all. Seems the consensus out there is that those who read this column aren't really interested in manga. I understand why. To the normal American comic book reader, I can understand why giving manga a chance would be intimidating. The comics are read backwards by American standards. The books come out in volumes, book length graphic novels, and are more of a commitment to sit down and digest. Plus some of the translations are somewhat awkward and difficult to understand since it's from a different culture. I understand why you would breeze past this review once you find out it's for a manga book.
But I implore you. Don't.
And especially don't miss DRAGON HEAD. The final volume hit the shelves a week or two ago. Unfortunately, I missed out on volume 9, but that lead to the fortunate matter of reading two consecutive volumes at once, quenching my DRAGON HEAD jones a bit more than usual. Yes, volume ten is the final issue of this series, and boy oh boy, is it a doozy.
Since the beginning, this book has been buried in mystery. Writer Minetaro Mochizuki did a great job of planting the reader firmly onto the shoulders of the main characters. They didn't know what the hell was going on and neither did you. Because of this, once you reach the end of this story, you feel as exhausted and weary as the survivors. It's a visceral and bleak journey, one I doubt you will forget if you make it to the end.
I named DRAGON HEAD Best Manga of the Year in this year's @$$IE AWARDS, but in actuality, I think I limited this book by doing that. As much as I liked NOVA's series (my choice for best ongoing), looking back, I think I should have chosen DRAGON HEAD for the honor. The story is extremely involving and unravels with precision and weight. Every revelation asked more questions, but unlike LOST (which incorporates the same sort of device) you don't get frustrated, just more engaged in the story.
This is a bleak tale, one that isn't afraid to hurt the main characters and take them to places that are impossible to get out of. Although the main characters are children, the writer doesn't hesitate to put them through extremely mature and dangerous situations. These dangers are around every corner of Japan and its surrounding areas which appears to be cut off from the rest of the world by a cloud of dark smoke and ash that blocks out the sun. Cities are completely destroyed and our main characters have no clue what caused it. It is about as compelling as you're going to find on the shelves today.
This story doesn't only delve into topographical dangers, but it peels back the brain and goes for cerebral scares and dissections. How does the complete destruction of civilization affect the human psyche? What types of groups form in a time of great tragedy? How fragile is our own sanity and how far can one's perceptions of home be stretched before it either snaps completely or warps beyond return? This is an often heady dive into a somewhat real life situation. Looking at Minetaro's depiction of a devastated Tokyo, one can't help but think of 9-11 and how a tragedy can affect a populace in both good and bad ways. Here, amidst the destruction, there are slivers of hope, but the author/artist doesn't make it easy for our survivors.
In the end, I both breathed a sigh of relief and had an overwhelming sense of dread. Hope was the only thing keeping these kids alive through these ten volumes. When the journey home doesn't turn out to be planned, it is a devastating gut-punch, but you can't help but feel that if the characters made it this far, they would hopefully survive.
You won't find more detailed and textured artwork anywhere. The use of bizarre sound modifiers is both fascinating and haunting, almost providing a bizarre soundtrack while you venture through the ruins with the survivors. The detail puts detail-meisters like George Perez to shame. The story made me fly through the pages, but the art forced me to slow down and absorb every nuance.
DRAGON HEAD was an absolute classic read, and I would have missed it if not for my fellow reviewers here at AICN Comics. As I finished the last page, I was overwhelmed with feelings: I found myself happy that the characters came to some sense of resolution in the end, inspired by their unflinching drive and hope, saddened that this book is at an end, and inspired to seek out more manga books like this one. The search is on for my next manga fix. DRAGON HEAD will be a tough one to beat, but there's a whole lotta manga out there to choose from.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for close to seven years. Look for his first published work in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 from Cream City Comics. Bug’s Word Fu is stronger than your Word Fu.


Writer: Judd Winick Artists: Mike Norton (pencils), Wayne Faucher (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

After the scathing words I had for TITANS #1, you know what this one is going to be like, don’t you? Don’t be so sure.
I liked it. I know some people are predisposed to dislike the Juddster, and I know he has a penchant for using some of the same devices over and over. If they work, however, then that’s not a bad thing. I pick up each book earnestly trying to judge it on its merits. And I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this book.
For one thing, Winick didn’t go for any easy laughs. He sets things up, knocks them down and takes them apart. The Hal Jordan sequence at the beginning was excellent stuff, and milked for a good amount of yucks.
The interrogation scene was, uhn…mildly disturbing, but pretty damn funny. I thought about it afterwards, and if something like that happened in a serious movie or comic, I don’t think it would have worked. But I didn’t question it as it happened, and that’s because Winick sold it to me. He sold the tone, sold the setting. I completely bought it, and that’s good writing.
The bar scene was well-played, a lot of “I know what’s really going on.” “I know you know.” “I saw that you knew when I…” kind of stuff. Spy vs. Spy, and again, played well: the required amount of fisticuffs and some good snarky dialogue. This is Judd’s weakness and his strength. He writes almost all of his characters that way, but generally, everyone is not supposed to be clever all the time.
In this instance, however, it’s a known fact that all three main characters here are major smart asses. So it works. All we need is some straight guys (no pun intended, though I’m still waiting for Judd’s traditional insertion of a gay person into the narrative.) And Gambit…uhn, I mean, Piper plays off them well. Hmm, Piper…I wonder if HE’S the…oh, nevermind.
Let’s take a moment here and recognize how good Norton’s artwork is. I think I was halfway through the book before I realized these were not Chiang’s pencils. I really like the purity and deceptive simplicity of Norton’s work. It seems like Faucher “gets” it, too, because his inks have that same powerful economy.
In the final scene, we find that the path to hunting down Conner’s attacker runs to the door of one of Batman’s oldest (literally) rogues. This may seem like an obvious ploy to bring in the Bat, but I don’t think so. For those of you who followed BIRDS OF PREY, you may remember that the Canary has a history with this certain rogue…a romantic history. I’m sure Judd will play it as much for laughs as for drama, and I’m looking forward to that.
I know that all this grinning and winking may seem inappropriate given the circumstances, but as anyone going through a tragedy can tell you, sometimes you just have to…you just NEED to laugh. The fact that these characters are not deadly serious just tells me that this is how they deal, and that’s okay. In this case, Winick is playing to his strengths, and I appreciate that.


Writer: Mark Smith Artist: Paul Maybury Publisher: Image Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

When I first saw the solicit for AQUA LEUNG I automatically assumed there had to be awesomeness within. I mean, look at that cover! That is pretty much the epitome of epic. Combine that with the excitement of some good old fashioned hack and slash fantasy, something that I realize I've been depriving myself of in comics because, well, there really isn't much to choose from when it comes to that genre, and I was completely ready for this thing to rock out. Like, “3 Inches of Blood” or “Dragonforce” level rocking out. Now that this sleek little package, complete with that still totally epic cover, is in my greedy little hands I can say that it does indeed rock, but not awe-inspiringly/face-meltingly rock. More like “An Inch and a Half of Blood”, which still isn't bad if you ask me.
The best thing for, and actually kind of against, AQUA here is that it feels so familiar. You know those fantasy stories from your youth where the young boy or girl is whisked away from their banal days of being ignored by the other kids to find out that they're really part of some royal bloodline and there's a threat to their newfound Kingdom? Yeah, that's where we are here. But they don't call it "tried and true" for nothing. And like it's worked before it works here, at the very least because this is a bit more mature than you usually see with media of that nature. AQUA is the jump from PG to at least PG-13 for blood and gore. Hell, sometimes it's borderline R, which is why I went through all that effort of using the “3IoB” reference a second ago.
And on the subject of familiarity, the supporting cast that litters AQUA is also a bit on the rehashed side. They're enjoyable characters nonetheless, what with your standard Teacher/Mentor, and your gruff Bodyguard type with a tragic past, and so on, but it still works. In fact, it might be the nostalgic essence of these characters that helps the reader latch onto them, because they remind you so much of versions of those archetypes that you've met before. And it helps that Mark Smith apparently knows these kinds of stories well, and he's able to work them and his own tale very well around the type of mythos a story like this is derived from, all the while giving his creation its own air to breathe life into it.
Take all those elements above, combine them with an intriguing setting and history, cool looking monsters, tons of glorious violence all wonderfully rendered by Paul Maybury's "Scott-Pilgrim but colored"esque art style, and a nice, brisk pace that will enable you to take it all in in a single sitting, and you've got an enjoyable way of passing an afternoon and one that will leave you waiting for more. Consider the second volume on pre-order already.
Humphrey Lee is a long time AICN reviewer and also a certified drunk whose claim to fame is making it up four steps of the twelve step program before vomiting on steps five and six and then falling asleep on steps one through three. Also, chances are, he's banged your mom (depending on the relative hotness of said parental figure) and is probably the father of one of your younger siblings.


Writer: Geoff Johns Artists: Dale Englesham (pencils), Prentiss Rollins (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

”Green Lantern, Green Lantern!” That’s all I ever hear about Geoff Johns is his Green Lantern. Well, he writes another book and you should be reading that one, too: the JSA.
JSA is a finely layered team story, one where most the players are in motion, and everyone gets at least a little time in the spotlight. Considering how little I knew about these characters in the first issue, and the sheer quantity of characters, and the amount of knowledge I have now in just these 14 issues – now THAT’S some good writing.
And as far as the coming CRISIS goes, forget COUNTDOWN (and I know some of us are desperately trying to.) Lemme tell you, when the you-know-what hits the fan, you won’t be looking through those back issues for things you should have known. You’ll be looking through THESE back issues for groundwork regarding Superman, the Fourth World, Gog and MaGog, the time-lost Legionnaires and a slew of other things I’m probably missing.
Dale Englesham is drawing some great stuff, as usual, and every panel seems to be a story to itself. Lush jungles. Meeting rooms. Cityscapes. This guy’s artistic energy is amazing. He really doesn’t shy away from anything. I just keep turning the page, thinking he’s going to let up, back off, rush things or at least show some fatigue, and he doesn’t.
To the writer’s AND artist’s credit, I didn’t realize just how bad and how critical things got until the page where Gog appears, and then all hell breaks loose. Talk about your titans of old. As much as I love poise and finesse, this was just a good old fashioned brawl. The last page lets you know that the fun will keep going next issue, too, and more than likely gets turned up to eleven.


Writers/Artists: Various Publisher: Villard Books Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Like its parent book FLIGHT, the revolutionary and always highly entertaining anthology series, FLIGHT EXPLORER is filled with imagination and wonder as well. I know the word flight is used in the title to suggest actual flying, but the book covers more than that. It signifies the flight of ideas that can happen within the minds of artists and writers. It's a place where artists can express themselves in any way and the results are often quite spectacular. Let's take a look at each chapter of this book:
"Copper: Mushroom Crossing" is a cautionary and funny tale about a boy and his dog as they decide to cross a canyon of mushroom tops instead of going down the road a piece to cross at the bridge like they should. It's a moralistic, yet fun short about friendship, manners, and following rules that is written and drawn by Kazu Kibuishi.
I loved "Egyptian Cat: Perfect Cat" in that it exemplifies the attitude most cats seem to have. Writer/artist Johane Matte channels Tex Avery and Tom & Jerry for this popularity contest between two royal cats in the time of Ancient Egypt.
"Jellaby: First Snow" is about as sweet as you can get. A boy and his monster go outside for the first snow, toss snowballs, and look at the individual snowflakes as they fall. There's a calm and serene feeling to this piece that takes its time and doesn't beat you over the head with sincerity. It's by Kean Soo.
"Big Mouth" is another fun adventure of a large mouthed creature who is in search of a friend. Like many other stories in this anthology, this one (by Phil Craven) is very sweet in nature and could be shared with kids while still admired by adults.
The 20 page opus that is "Missile Mouse: The Guardian Prophecy" by Jake Parker is definitely one of the highlights of the book. The makers of this book think so too since they let the space-suit wearing rodent decorate the cover. I liked the cartoony yet dynamic and somewhat realistic artwork. Parker has a good handle on proportion and body positioning. The fight scenes especially pop with Missile Mouse leaping into action. This was a fun read, worthy of the spotlight this book shines upon it.
My favorite of the book, though, was "Fish N Chips: All in a Day's Work" by Steve Hamaker. This fun tale about how a fish saves the world from an asteroid is imaginative, twists comic book conventions, and ends up being acidically charming towards the end. The comedic ending twist has been done before, but in this story, it fits and makes the actions of the heroic fish all the more memorable.
"Zita the Space Girl: If Wishes Were Socks" is another cautionary tale warning us to be careful of what we wish for. I love the light pencils and inks in this one, colored by what looks to be water colors. I like the fun bizarro versions of the characters by Ben Hatke.
Rad Sechrist offers us "Wooden Rivers: Rain Slickers" which I admired mostly for the stylized and fun art since the story went by so quickly. The panel with the cat wearing a raincoat was pretty chuckle-inducing.
Another story that can be enjoyed for its lush art is "Delivery" by Bannister. Not because the story is bad, but because the story is so short. Bannister's depiction of animals and especially the vibrant color scheme of the panels is nice.
"Snow Cap: 2nd Verse" by Matthew Armstrong finishes up our book as a kid and his rambunctious monster share quite a few panels doing very little, but the actions that do happen resonate. The story is playful, simple, and show quite a range of emotions with only a few subtle changes from one panel to the next.
All in all, this is another high quality offering from Villard. It's like a mini-version of the massive FLIGHT books. So if you find yourself with the urge for some amazing art and stories limited only by the artists’ imagination, yet don't have enough time or room in your book bag to carry the massive FLIGHT books, check out FLIGHT EXPLORER. It's short and sweet, yet carries the exact same amount of heart, imagination, and talent.


Written by Jason Martin Illustrated by: Dennis Budd, Jerry Gaylord, Dan Mendoza, Josh Howard and Jason Martin Published by: Super Real Graphics Reviewed by: superhero

I've been pretty much the @$$hole cheerleader for SUPER REAL ever since the book debuted several years ago. Despite its sporadic publishing schedule SR has been a consistently fun read. Jason Martin and his motley crew of super reality show contestants return for another romp in SUPER REAL VS. THE MOVIE INDUSTRY and it's pretty much the same enjoyable stuff that previous installments have delivered.
In this particular volume the SUPER REAL crew are set against a gamut of movie inspired threats in what ends up being another test of their various abilities. It's a neat read to be sure, as everything from indie sci-fi thrillers like “Cube” to mega blockbusters like “The Transformers” end up being used as threats against the protagonists of this book. It's a clever use of the book's backdrop as a reality/game show for meta-humans and it's a device that serves to deliver some amusing and action packed moments.
My only problem with this volume of SUPER REAL is that after two specials (SUPER REAL VS. THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY and this one) the story hasn't really moved forward at all. In the main series, SUPER REAL, there was an actual story, or at least the beginnings of one. In this book, like the other special, it's just the characters being put through their paces. While it's a neat read I'm ready to see where the story will go from here. I understand that it's a fun prospect to see your characters face off against templates from the comic book and movie industry. I just feel that it's time to get the story moving again. In my mind one special was enough and creator Jason Martin could have better utilized his time in continuing the development of his story and characters in the main book. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with SUPER REAL vs. THE MOVIE INDUSTRY. It's a fun read…as are all the SUPER REAL books…but I was actually interested in the comic because the concept seemed to be something that could really go places. Unfortunately, with the past two editions of SUPER REAL nothing much has really matured in the book. They've been amusing but they're been missing that creative spark that the first three issues of the series had.
So I was more than happy to see an ad at the end of this book proclaiming that the regular series will be returning. While I enjoyed this volume of SUPER REAL I feel it's time to get back to the main storyline. In any case, if you're already a fan of SUPER REAL, as I am, SUPER REAL VS. THE MOVIE INDUSTRY is a fun ol' time. Heck, even if you've never heard of SUPER REAL before this book should be an entertaining read. It's got action, humor, and, yes, attractive characters in painted on spandex outfits. What more could any comic fan ask?
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at

NOVA #12 Marvel Comics

This book continues to pound the crap out of my preconceived notions of what a cosmic book should be like. And I’m glad. And who knew that Paul Pelletier could draw technology in a scope and detail that even Kirby or Perez might admire? After all, they’re great at drawing machines, but each panel of this technarch practically reeked of power. In this issue, we finally get a Nova who has returned to the peak of his power. I also got a nice surprise in Gamora’s reaction to being “cured.” Unexpected. Frankly, this is more evidence that Abnett and Lanning are not just decorating NOVA’s landscape with props that are nice to look at, but rather with characters who have room to change, grow…or die. This issue marks the end of a stellar (heh!) year, and month after month, I look forward to each issue like very few others. - Rock-Me


Huh. So THAT happened. Not really the way I expected things to wrap up in this Faerie Tale (sorry, couldn't resist) but it works. This ending feels like it was kind of rushed and, generally speaking, the series could be summed up as "Neil Gaiman visits the Hot Topic" but overall I would say it was enjoyable. It had a pretty solid sense of humor about itself and a modern day whimsicalness and charm going for it, I'll give it that. At the very least, this book is worth more than a look just for McKelvie's absolutely gorgeous line work and Matthew Wilson's colors. I don't know if I'd want to revisit this world or particular characters again, but I'm still firmly planted on the Jamie McKelvie bandwagon and eagerly anticipating his next destination, that's for sure. – Humphrey


This issue wraps up the story of a wanderer, his dog, global warming, politics, a sage, and a whole lot of fighting. Aragones' message is thinly veiled given the current state of politics and the environment, but it is entertaining nonetheless as seen through the eyes of this dim-witted barbarian. One thing that stood out in this issue more than any other in this series is the amount of detail Aragones has put into the art in this issue. From the ornate detailings on all of the costumes to the highly detailed battle scenes, this issue is tops. If my eyes had stomachs, they'd be completely full. - Bug

YOUNG X-MEN #1 Marvel Comics

I picked this up thinking the most interesting thing would be the cover, showing Cyclops’ apparent secondary mutation of shooting laser beams out of his ears. As it turned out, the comic was easy to follow and immediately intriguing. I’ve read 10 issues of NEW WARRIORS and still can’t recognize more than two or three of them. Here we have a supporting cast almost as large, yet I still remember some of their back stories and such, several days later (update – two WEEKS later!) And I don’t follow X-books, by and large. If you don’t like mutants, this book probably won’t convert you. But if you have no prejudice against them and you pick up this title, you may find yourself enjoying it without all the baggage that seems to always follow titles that start with X. - Rock-Me

TERRY MOORE'S ECHO #2 Abstract Studio

So far so good is the update on Terry Moore's latest creator-produced comic and its second issue. Things are still moving, like we're getting some insight on our lead character Julie and her personality and history. Plus, more developments are arising what with her newfound, uh, "chest accessory" from the sky that attached itself to her in the premiere issue. Throw in some foreboding towards a future conflict being sent her way from the agency that's responsible for her current plight and it looks like we'll have some fireworks real soon. And, of course, the book looks fantastic. Moore's straight pencils are so crisp and clean and unassuming; it's just some great art, no two ways about it. Two issues in and while it might not be groundbreaking stuff, ECHO is definitely starting to make itself comfortable right in the middle of my pull list. – Humphrey


Sixty-four of comic bookdom’s best fighters enter, only one will be crowned THE SECRET TOURNAMENT OF INFINITE @$$-KICKERY Champion. It’s comics’ version of March Madness with Talkbacks. Ambush Bug here, on behalf of the @$$Holes at AICN Comics, welcoming you all back to a contest unlike any other, boiling fanboyism down to its basics...whether one guy can kick the other guy's @$$.
Before we move on to this week’s fights, let’s see the winners of last week’s bout.


Winning submission by THE T.O.C.

At the end of the bar, Shang Chi sees him. Richard Dragon. The kid from the wrong side of the tracks. Straight from the streets. Full of moves they only whisper about during the latest hours of the most secret of raves.
Shang spent all of his life under the tutelage of his father, the Deadly Fu Manchu, to be the master of all kung fu; but it was his true passion that brought him to the club tonight. Shang didn’t want to battle. Especially not the Dragon, a master of all martial arts as well. Like Shang Chi, he too shared the passion…
…the passion to dance.
If Shang were to be noticed, it would not end well. Shang could see the exit sign up ahead.
Shang freezes.
“You’re not getting out of here so easily.” Dragon declares, downing his bottled water. “You don’t have what it takes to step up to me, rich boy.”
A clack of Dragon’s glowsticks alerts the DJ to start the music. “Dance-off!”
Dragon leaps onto the dance floor, smoothly transitioning into a pop and lock, cracking his body to the rhythm with reckless abandon, then dropping to the floor for a backspin. Like a top, the Dragon spins and uses the momentum to flip up, inches from Shang’s face, ending with a mush, dismissing his opponent.
The crowd cheers and the Dragon walks to the perimeter of the dance floor confidently. It’s Shang’s turn.
Time to risk everything.
Shang begins simply with the Robot. Going through dance moves like tissue paper, Shang seamlessly transitions from the Bobby Brown to the MC Hammer, then back into the most furious Cabbage Patch anyone has ever seen. Shang back-flips, then crunks back to the center of the dance floor for a windmill floor-spin into the Worm into a headspin then back on his feet again, ending where he began with the Robot, powering down.
The crowd explodes. The Dragon, admitting defeat, makes his way through the crowd.
“You have more talent…”
“…and more conviction…”
“…than anyone else I know.” The Dragon lifts his fist.
Shang hits the rock and smiles. “You, Dragon-San, got served.”



Winning submission by Steve “Bucke Down” Crow

“Oh, puuhhhlllease,” Silver Sable groaned. She looked over the advance briefing on her opponent that her Silver Sable International researchers had gathered for her. “District Attorney. Went to law school. Hitting the books doesn’t equal hitting the opponent.”
On the field of battle, Silver Sable approached the rather nervous looking Manhunter.
“Fait accompli? Amicus curiae? Cui bono? Ex post facto law?”
“Sorry, I don’t speak Latin,” Silver Sable replied, hitting her repeatedly. “I keep a team of lawyers on retainer for that.
“Prima facie evidence of physical assault! QED? Ipso facto? E pluribus unum? Ooreyay oingay ootay etgay iedfray in the airchay?”
“So sue me,” Silver Sable shrugged, kicking her into unconsciousness. “Oh, and by the way…you’ve been cancelled.”



Winning submission by Whimsy

Overhead, storm clouds thundered. The jungle grass felt cool on Ka-Zar’s feet. Once pampered and pedicured, his soles are now callused due to barefoot adventuring in the Savage Land.
Catman’s life before donning a cape and cowl was similar, but his new appreciation for the creatures of the jungle left him harder and wiser.
The wild changes a man.
As the clouds open up and drench the jungle below, the two Tarzans race towards one another: Ka-zar mimicking a powerful gorilla, Catman taking the stride of a charging lion. The two meet hard. This is no boxing match between gentlemen. These are two beasts, stripped of humanity, fighting for survival.
Ka-Zar’s meaty fists are like mallets, pummeling Catman about the shoulders and head. Each hit makes a dull thud, resonating throughout Catman’s body.
Catman’s neck is tucked in tight. He quickly swats at his opponent with strong, outstretched fingers, snatching chunks from Ka-Zar’s bare chest and back.
Skin breaks, bruises form, blood splatters. Bits of Ka-Zar and Catman hang from leaves and smear across the ground.
The two jungle warriors get some distance and eye each other. What little sliver of humanity they have left urges them to stop, tend to their wounds, and attempt to come to some kind of truce. But blood has passed their lips, taking them to a place without humanity.
Again, they collide. Catman’s claws rip into Ka-Zar’s side. Ka-Zar beats his back with both fists clenched together. Covered in blood, sweat, and mud from the jungle floor, it’s hard to make out who is who. One falls. The other staggers to stay standing. The rain washes away the mud and blood to reveal Ka-Zar, badly wounded, but victorious.
The Savage Land is much more dangerous than any normal jungle.
The wild changes a man.



Winning submission by necgray

Conan vs Wolverine: The Fight That Spells Doom!!!
The very air vibrates with barely-contained fury as the enemies lock eyes and approach their respective positions. Though brutal, these men are bound by honor and will obey custom.
The official approaches a podium 'pon which lies a microphone. He raises it to his lips and begins the opening call.
"This first word is for Wolverine. Metamorphosis."
Logan closes his eyes and smiles.
"Excellent. Conan, your word is disembowel."
A flash of lightning splits the sky. Conan laughs, stares down at his feet.
"Crom, you have sent me no challenge. D-I-S-E-M-B-O-W-E-L."
The official nods his head, pushes his rimless glasses up his nose.
"Very good, my lord. Wolverine, your next word is xenophobia."
Logan snarls and shakes his head. This word was not on Hank's study sheet.
"Could I have the definition?"
"Xenophobia: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange."
A moment's hesitation only, for Logan does not fear defeat. Only dishonor.
"Xenophobia. X... E-N-O-P-H-O-B-I-A."
The official nods, smiles slightly. Conan cracks his massive neck.
"Conan, your next word is hyperborean."
Conan staggers back, stunned. What witchery of words is this?
"By Crom's beard! Could I have the definition, please?"
"Certainly. Hyperborean: One of a people known to the ancient Greeks from the earliest times, living in a perpetually warm and sunny land north of the source of the north wind."
Conan grinds his teeth, sweat beading on his broad brow. He glares at Wolverine.
"I shall not be vanquished without a fight, wolf man. Hyperborean. H-Y-P-E-R-B-O-R-I-A-N."
The official shakes his head sadly.
"I am sorry, mighty Conan. It ends with an 'E-A-N'. An understandable mistake, given the spelling of your own Aquilonian people."
Though his heart screams for blood, Conan knows that this was an honest defeat. He closes the distance between himself and the man-beast before him. He offers Logan his hand.
"Well met, Wolverine. You have bested me this day." Logan shrugs, retrieves a celebratory cigar from his jacket pocket. Conan pulls Logan closer, growls a good-natured warning.
"But tomorrow we play chess!”


Congratulations all winning participants. Winners will move on to Round Two. Be sure to check out this week’s bouts. But first, the rules:

@ To even the playing field, contestants are powerless and weaponless upon entering the ring. They must win on fighting prowess and character alone! @ Check out the fights listed below and send a 300 word (or less) fight scene to us determining who the winner is and how the fight should play out (remember: it’s best to SHOW, don’t TELL in these submissions. That means write the scene as if it is happening, don’t tell us what will happen…it makes for more interesting readin’, don’t cha know!). @ Be sure to indicate winner of each match in the subject line of your email. @ Submissions are judged by a select group of @$$Holes (hint: we’re looking for the most entertaining one to win, not necessarily the one that has been done and over done in comics before. ORIGINALITY RULEZ!). @ Winners of each match will be announced in the column a week later (that means if the fights were introduced in Monday’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column, the winner will be announced the following Monday, same for Wednesday’s reviews column). @ Submissions can be sent in to @$$Hole HQ via the link below until midnight Friday. @ THIS CONTEST IS NOT FOR PROFIT but done out of love for Fan Fic, comic book store trash talk, and online comic book debate. @ Have fun and enter as many times as you’d like! There can be only one winner, it’s up to you who that turns out to be!

Here are this week’s combatants!


The Black Widow is about as deadly as you can get. She’s fought with Daredevil, Captain America, SHIELD, and the Winter Soldier as both an enemy and an ally (and banged them too). This Russian hottie doesn’t need her patented Widow’s Sting bracelets to kick @$$ in this tournament. You can find her kicking Skrull booty and thinking unnecessary thought bubbles every month in Marvel’s MIGHTY AVENGERS.
Just as deadly, The Huntress is a self made woman who worked hard to be accepted by Batman and the Oracle. Like the Black Widow, she’s made her way around the DCU’s men as well. The Huntress often relies on her crossbow, but even without that, she’s a deadly street fighter, showing off her crimefighting skills every month in DC’s BIRDS OF PREY.
Which femme fatale will prove to be deadlier?


Our oddest match-up yet! Trapped in a world he never made and now residing as a cab driver in Cleveland, Howard the Duck has been known for his acidic wit and penchant to take on lame characters. But few people know that he is also a master of a little known martial art form known as Quack Fu. Howard’s been known to flex his feathers of fury and take opponents by surprise. Fresh off of his own fun miniseries from Marvel, Howard’s more than a match for…
Groo the Wanderer has been crusading across the world getting into one fray after another since he was born. He’s got a penchant for violence, his dog Rufferto, and cheese dip. Groo has never been one to back down from a fight and usually dives into battle without a thought in his head. Not known for his smarts, but feared for his fighting prowess, Groo is one tough customer and just finished up his own miniseries at Dark Horse.
Will it be the duck or the dolt who wins this match?

Bracket Three Fight Seven SNAKE-EYES VS DAREDEVIL

Silent and deadly. No, I’m not talking about my post-burrito bathroom activities. I’m talking about the jet black ski-masked face of GI JOE, Snake-Eyes. He’s the deadliest of ninjas and trained as the ultimate soldier. Although he’s an expert with all forms of weaponry, he’s just as deadly with his bare hands. This mute warrior’s past is steeped in tragedy, but that doesn’t stop him from being the go-to guy during GI JOE’s most dangerous of missions.
Daredevil has ninja training as well. Martial arts, boxing, street fighting…all disciplines mastered by this blind warrior. Daredevil patrols the streets of Hell’s Kitchen and has gone toe to toe with some of the deadliest mercs and assassins in the Marvel Universe in his monthly title.
But without his radar sense, how will DD match up with Snake-Eyes?


Deathstroke makes it a habit of showing up in DC’s TEEN TITANS and GREEN ARROW, tormenting heroes with his superior mercenary skills. Slade Wilson occasionally shows a noble streak, but lately he’s been nothing but trouble…deadly trouble. He may have only one eye, but it’s keen and deadly. In the past, Deathstroke has shown some forms of powers, but that doesn’t matter in this tournament. Here, Slade is going to have to rely on his wits, fighting prowess, and guts to face…
The Punisher has made a living slaughtering every opponent in his path that he deems guilty in his two monthly books from Marvel. But usually he has an arsenal at hand to take out his prey. In this fight, though, guns and weapons are prohibited, but Frank Castle’s military training makes up for his lack of firepower.
Without weapons, which urban warrior will prevail?

There’s this week’s second round of matches. Send in your 300 word (or less) fight scenes to the link below. Deadline is Friday. Look for the winners of these match-ups in next Wednesday’s AICN COMICS REVIEWS Column. And look for the first batch of matches in last Monday’s AICN COMICS NEWS SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column.

You can still participate in those matches too!
Send your fight submissions here!

There are a few of you who are being vocal about displeasure towards the results of the bouts. The ball’s in your court, though, folks. Don’t be a Monday morning quarterback--write up some fights of your own instead of complaining about how it should have gone down after the fact. Good luck, have fun, and go kick some @$$!

Remember, if you have a comic book you’d like one of the @$$holes to take a look at, click on your favorite reviewer’s link and drop us an email.

Check out the @$$oles’ ComicSpace AICN Comics page here for an archive and more @$$y goodness.

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