ANNIHILATION CONQUEST #6 (of 6)
Writer: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning Artist: Tom Raney, Wellington Alves Inker: Scott Hanna Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoMost people have nothing but praise for this series. But over the course of the next 1000 words or so, I’m going to point out the myriad serious flaws that have just ruined this for…okay, I’m completely kidding. I love this book!
What’s not to love? This series has succeeded on so many levels, it’s not funny, except when it wants to be funny.
On a logistical level, it’s been a triumph, with the culmination of the WRAITH, STARLORD and QUASAR mini-series moving seamlessly into the main series. And NOVA, the newest A-lister in the Marvel galaxy, has also moved the series forward. I was thrilled to see him AND the Technarchy as the cavalry.
On a character level, I enjoyed knowing the backstory of so many of the characters. It’s an amazing accomplishment on the part of the writers that I know (and care) so much about people that were barely C-listers two years ago. Some (like Wraith) I still can’t really muster much emotion for. But some (like Bug, Peter Quill, Mantis, and Rocket Raccoon) are simply begging for their own book (which is coming!) And some arguments, I have found, can be ended simply by me adding, “I am Groot” to the end of any statement.
And some characters, like the ever-arrogant High Evo-douchanary, really need a come-uppance and a cosmic pimp-slap. Man, I would love to see that day, but I know that the reason I feel that way is because of the excellent character development in this series.
The artwork was also excellent. Raney did most of it, Alves put in a few extra pages for framing the story, but Hanna’s inks gave the whole thing consistency, and both artists are great: panel to panel to panel, well-done and finished. Someone(s) took their time, and it shows.
I could go on and on, citing all the neat little moments: Nova telling the troops “It is critical that you pay attention at this time!” Groot’s last act of sacrifice. Mantis getting clocked. Nova arriving on the scene. Warlock arriving on the scene. And on and on and on.
You really, REALLY are missing out if you didn’t pick up this series. You’re really missing out if you aren’t getting NOVA. I’m guessing you’ll kick yourself if you miss the first few issues of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (especially if a certain “One who knows” shows up.) We’ll see.
But for the time being, this was a brilliant end to an exceptional book, as pure a comic book experience as you are likely to get. Do not argue with me. I am Groot.
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.
TANGENT: SUPERMAN’S REIGN #2
Writer: Dan Jurgens Pencils: Jamal Igle Publisher: DC Reviewed by: BottleImpWhen DC reintroduced the Multiple Earths during the INFINITE CRISIS miniseries, I was surprised to see the Tangent superheroes make an appearance—I had assumed that the Tangent line of comics had been swept under the rug along with the short-lived Impact and Milestone imprints. Never having read any of the original Tangent books, I picked up the first two issues of SUPERMAN’S REIGN on a whim, hoping that my lack of familiarity with the characters wouldn’t be a problem.
Thankfully, Dan Jurgens seems to be writing the series for readers like me—the plot is easy to follow, enough explanation of the characters is given within the story, and each issue has a back-up story detailing the history of this alternate earth. Here’s the gist: on this earth (Earth-9) Superman has made himself the supreme totalitarian ruler of the planet. It’s up to the few scattered heroes who survived his ascension to power, along with the displaced Flash and John Stewart of Earth-1, to put a stop to his oppressive regime. It’s a nice throwback to those old “Flash of Two Earths”-type stories of the sixties and seventies. What makes this series stand out is that the Tangent universe is a lot more intricate than the typical parallel universe of comic book lore.
I’d like to make the comparison of DC’s multiple earths and Elseworlds stories (some of which have been made into alternate earths, i.e. KINGDOM COME) to cover songs. There are some decent covers that sound fine, but they don’t have any spark that makes them stand out as being all that different from the original. Take Stone Temple Pilots’ version of “Revolution”—to me, that’s Earth-2. Sure, the Justice Society is great, but it’s pretty much the same as the Justice League once you get down to the core of the matter. Then there are covers that are godawful—such as Avril Lavigne’s “Imagine.” That’s the equivalent of BATMAN: CASTLE OF THE BAT, a horrible re-imagining of Batman as the Frankenstein monster—I shit you not. But every so often, a cover song like Ben Folds’ “Bitches Ain’t Shit” shows you how an idea can be spun around into something new and unique. This is the Tangent universe—Superman, Batman, and the Joker—hell, even Detective Chimp--are all there, but only the names are the same. The original spin on their characters is what makes this seemingly familiar crossover miniseries something new and exciting. I’ll definitely be picking up the next issue, if for no other reason than to see what other familiar DC names get the Tangent treatment.
IRON MAN #28
Writers: Daniel & Charles Knauf Art: Reberto De La Torre
IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM #1
Writer: David Michelinie Art: Ron Lim (pencils), Bob Layton (Inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugHave I let you guys know how much I hate the Extremis Virus?
Well, I do. I think it is the single worst idea to come along in an IRON MAN book in a long time. My main objection with the virus is that it makes Tony Stark into a superhuman. So basically, Marvel has taken away one of the main things that made Stark cool, his humanity, and replaced it with a tired plot device that can pull him out of every catastrophe by speaking with any kind of machinery and even giving him a healing factor whenever he is harmed. And don't forget his ultimate power: douchebaggery, as shown in almost every Marvel crossover for the last three years. Iron Man, these days, is a cross between Wolverine, Mitchell Hundred from EX MACHINA, and a hot water bottle I found at my great aunt's house that smelled funny.
I guess it all started with Warren Ellis. Not only was his unnecessary relaunch of the title horribly, horribly late (blamed on the artist, but that didn't make up for a three issue story stretched out over six issues), but it took what made Iron Man accessible (he's just a regular flawed guy) and made him into a god the likes of Thor. I know Stark's drive made him reach for bigger and better ways to improve his Iron Man armor, but Ellis pushed it to the max with the Extremis Virus, which gave him all of the aforementioned god-like powers. The thing that makes Marvel heroes so accessible is their humanity and Ellis comes along and strips it all away. Something tells me that the film (which looks pretty damn good and look for Sleazy G and me at Capone's AICN Chicago premiere this Monday night, yipee!) will steer clear of Extremis since they are going for the version of the character that appeals to the largest audience. Too bad the ad wizards at Marvel aren't following suit.
After Ellis left, Marvel hired the Knaufs, the father and son team behind HBO's cool CARNIVALE series, to take over the tile. Now, I'm a fan of CARNIVALE and was among those hoping and praying that it would come back for a third season. But not once while I watched CARNIVALE did I think "hey, these are the guys who I think should write a story about a technological genius with a drinking problem who likes to dress up in armor and save lives!" The problem with the Knaufs’ run on IRON MAN is the same problem many writers coming in from another medium have: they just don't understand the concept of comics. But TV writers should, because a good ongoing comic should advance the storyline a smidge while being a satisfying read as a whole. Like a good TV episode, a good comic should be satisfying in and of itself as well as add to the overall storyline. Knaufs’ issues are more trade-paced than anything else. Issues creep along. The 25th issue of this series was pretty lackluster and instead the arc finished on the book at the center of this review, #28. And after sitting through the Knaufs’ arc, I think they could have shaved off a few of the drag-tastic issues and made the big battle with the Mandarin occur in issue #25 and it would have been a much stronger story.
Unnecessary details such as board meetings and congressional hearings are given center stage instead of panels dedicated to Iron Manning. In the end, the Mandarin's big plot comes off as a lame carbon copy of the exact same story that is going on in CAPTAIN AMERICA (which is a much better story, mind you) where the Red Skull infiltrates a corporation and impersonates the executive in order to get to our hero without him knowing it. You'd think Marvel's editors would talk a bit.
Issue #28 also perfectly illustrates both the fact that the Knaufs completely ignore possibly interesting story developments and the annoying way Extremis is the answer for every single problem in the book. During the final battle with the Mandarin (who has grafted his rings into his back for some reason), Iron Man gets the lower part of his foot blown off (not sure why he had to take off his boot in the fight, but he did). This is an interesting development in the life of Tony Stark. Stark could deal with the fact that he has lost a limb in battle. He could try to build a new one, and therein lays some pretty cool Cronenberg-ian story potential. Instead we get Extremis rearing its ugly head again. Along with his heart, though, which was healed by the Extremis crap a while back, Tony wakes after the battle to find that his heel healed as well. I'm paraphrasing, but I think the one panel dedicated to this development said something like, "shucks, that Extremis sure is a humdinger." Then everyone does a He-Man laugh.
I wish this Extremis would just go away so I could get some real Tony Stark action.
But hello, what's this? IRON MAN: LEGACY OF DOOM #1? Bob Layton and David Michelinie? Holy poopin' crap!
Yes, LEGACY OF DOOM reunites the classic IRON MAN team that got me hooked on the character in the first place. This is old school fun with Iron Man and Dr. Doom bickering like they should be (not like that crappy attempt recently in MIGHTY AVENGERS). The dialog is a bit stiff, but there’re more action scenes and cool twists in this book than in a whole arc of the regular series. Plus the guest at the end of the book is sure to raise a few eyebrows given his recent interactions with a certain Wall-Crawler.
The art is crisp and never looked better. This is the IRON MAN that should be. It's iconic. The story moves fast. The characters are right on. And the best thing of all is that this issue is set in the past so NO EXTREMIS VIRUS! Yay! This is the IRON MAN I grew up reading and loving and it's the one that is going to please the most readers too, I imagine.
So let's say you're walking out of the IRON MAN movie and feel the urge to run into your nearest comic book store to feed your Iron Man Jones. Skip the ongoing and head straight for LEGACY OF DOOM. I guarantee it will be closer to the one you enjoyed on the screen and it'll be a far superior read too.
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 available now from Cream City Comics. Bug knows where the nose goes when the door’s is closed.
Writers: Dini/McKeever Art: Scott Kolins Publisher: DC Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI’m trying to decide right now what has been the greatest waste of time in my life. Was it the day my Dad and I stumbled across an all day marathon of “Saved by the Bell” on TBS when we watched every episode of the show from Ms. Bliss to the Vegas wedding, or was it the past 51 weeks I’ve spent reading COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS?
Even though our reviews come out a week after the books hit the shelves, I make every effort to not let any spoilers seep into my write ups. Unfortunately, it was the main event of this book that has caused to me doubt the past twenty-five years I’ve invested in comic collecting. It also made me pontificate whether I should have diverted the $150 dollars I’ve spent over the past fifty-one weeks on COUNTDOWN into a “Saved by the Bell” collector DVD edition complete with a Zack Attack collectible keychain.
This should be an event that makes any fan of DC comic books, animated specials or collectible underoos take pause and truly reflect on the sheer gravity of what this will mean to the entire DC universe. After all, Darkseid has been the embodiment of pure evil in DC canon for the past thirty years. Hell, the guy reigned over a planet called Apokolips for God’s sake (no pun intended). He is the only being in the universe that gives Superman pause before a fight.
So why was it that when Orion ripped the heart of evil from Darkseid’s chest cavity, I met the moment with the exact same exhilaration I have when my wife says “can we go shoe shopping?”
Perhaps it was the cover, where Darkseid is locked in fisticuffs with an oversized lizard with the hair of Buster Poindexter. On closer examination the monster has freckles, so this is no doubt Jimmy Olsen harnessing one of his newfound powers. I’m sure Irish people everywhere are rejoicing that their genes are so dominant that they will still come through even when implanted with an evil device of infinite power.
Or maybe it was the fact that the big compelling reason to find the Atom was so that he could shrink down to remove this item of unspeakable evil from Olsen’s innards. Couldn’t an MRI have picked this up? And how does the Atom destroy this device? Must he carry it to the fires of Mount Doom and cast it into an enchanted lava flow? No, he squashes it with his hand. I guess the whole universe is reeling from the recession, because I see no other reason for Darkseid to outsource the creation of their evil devices to the lowest Chinese manufacturer.
Finally, it might have been the fact that while Orion and Darkseid are destroying half of the city in their grand final battle, the Justice League stands on the sidelines posing. At one point someone asks, “Should we help?” Superman gazes off into the distance and says something along the lines of, “No, this is between Father and Son, this is a battle between Gods.” Since when did Superman put the needs of anyone over humanity, even Gods? It’s fine if you don’t want to get involved in the actual battle, but how about giving an assist to all of the cancer kids and litters of cute puppies stuck under Darkseid’s left foot?
Aside from the countless mistakes in character and form in this single issue, my general apathy towards the whole event stems from exposition overload. Between INFINITE CRISIS, 52, COUNTDOWN and all of the ancillary one-offs associated with the impending FINAL CRISIS, I’ve just stopped caring.
While I applaud DC’s ability to get this book out the door weekly, I’m still left with a bad taste in my mouth. I would have much preferred 26 weeks of quality story telling over 52 issues of unnecessary filler.
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.
X-FACTOR # 30
Writer: Peter David Pencils: Valentine De Landro Publisher: Marvel Reviewed by: BottleImpI’ll confess I’ve never been a big fan of the X-Men. Part of this is because I didn’t have a comic store where I grew up, so my only source was the local convenience store, where the selection was always…spotty. I remember getting a couple of sequential issues back when the X-Men lived out in Australia and everyone thought they were dead. Then the store stopped carrying X-MEN for a while, and when they finally got it back, Storm was a kid and Psylocke was Asian. Needless to say, it was hard for me to just jump back in. I started reading David’s first run on X-FACTOR because I heard that Havok was going to be in it (I liked his costume with the goofy hoops on his head—so sue me). Though I was initially disappointed that the costume was gone, I soon realized that this comic was far better than X-MEN, because the characters acted REAL. The stories were full of comedy and drama (not MELODRAMA, which was a staple of Claremont’s X-MEN) and interesting, flawed personalities. Once David left the series, it drifted back into the melodramatic stew that all the other X-books simmered in.
I was stoked when I found out that Peter David was writing a new X-FACTOR series, and I love how he’s further developed the characters that he first breathed personalities into back in the early ‘90s. In this issue the team is trying to escape deathtraps planted by Arcade, one of the X-Men’s goofier foes, who David writes here as a cross between the Joker and “Austin Powers”’ Dr. Evil. Some good gags are played, some interesting plot thickens, and we’re left with a nice juicy cliffhanger. But through it all, as in the rest of this series, we see the events through the eyes of Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man. In my opinion, this is what really sets this book apart from the other X-books on the shelves.
Madrox is the ultimate everyman—his duplicates all manifest different personalities and viewpoints; he is quite literally “every man.” Seeing through his eyes, having the comic set in the middle of the city, and a noticeable lack of spandex costumes make X-FACTOR a down-to-earth superhero comic (if such a thing is possible). This series should be the model for the writers of “Heroes” of how to make superheroes believable. David’s X-FACTOR is as much of a treat now as it was back when he first breathed personality into Madrox and Guido, and anyone out there who’s sick from stale Wolverine over saturation should pick up this series for a breath of fresh air.
BREAKFAST OF THE GODS: BOOK TWO
Webcomic by Brendan Jones Can be found HERE Reviewer: Ambush BugOne of the reasons I like covering so many indie and webcomics is that I get to see the evolution of artists. All of the big names in comics came from meager beginnings and it's cool to know that while others are worshipping the mainstream talent of the month, I got in on the ground floor of someone who is working to be that talent. A while back, I reviewed a little webcomic called BREAKFAST OF THE GODS. It tore characters straight from your cereal boxes and placed them into an epic story of betrayal, loyalty, love, loss, and adventure. I really liked the first book (which now turns out will be a trilogy) mostly for the nostalgia factor and the imaginative way Jones reduxed the characters to fit into his story. It was breezy. It was fun. But I wasn't sure how far Jones could take it before the nostalgia factor wore off.
After reading the second book of this trilogy, I'm happy to report that Jones has gone through quite a metamorphosis as an artist and a writer. The story is much more involving. What was once an exercise in picking out recognizable characters from my childhood has now developed into an honest to gosh story. I actually began to forget about the characters as cereal box icons and saw them as characters I cared about in peril. I became invested in their well being and hopeful that the forces of good would come out alive. I know cheering for the Trix Rabbit and Cap’n Crunch sounds like an infantile and goofy thing to do, but like DC Vertigo's FABLES, Jones captures the essence of what makes these characters iconic and utilizes them to full effect to push along the story and capture the audience.
Along with the strong storytelling, Jones' art has improved as well. His lines are stronger, his panels more varied, and his characters are more fluid. All in all, reading BOOK ONE and BOOK TWO, the growth Jones has shown from one book to the next makes me anticipate the third and final chapter even more.
Check out BREAKFAST OF THE GODS. As always with more independent fare, I implore you to step outside of the DC/Marvel box and check out some of the other stuff out there. But with dot.comics, you've gotta be pretty lazy not to at least give these stories a shot. It's just a mouse-click away and it's frikkin' free! Expand your mind, extend your mouse, and check BREAKFAST OF THE GODS out. It's one of the more entertaining webcomics out there.
THE DAMNED: PRODIGAL SONS #1
Writer: Cullen Bunn Art: Brian Hurtt Publisher: Oni Press Reviewed by Humphrey LeeI've previously stated my love for the DAMNED "universe", as now I guess we get to call it with the addition of this new mini. I was already overjoyed with the setting before it even began because I'm a sucker for all the 1920's buggy car, Al Capone, tommy gun-like stuff you can dish out to me. It took me an issue or two to be won over by the supernatural/spiritual hook (that of almost all the mobs in town being comprised of demons of some sort, for those of you not in the know) but with some quality execution and a great lead character it did indeed win me over. And now we're back in the trenches, taking a more in depth look into the past and familial side of our lead character Eddie's life, which turned out to be a lot more intriguing than I would have thought.
The emergence of Eddie's brother, Morgan, into the storyline is really what makes this issue run because it makes for some great conflict as we're let in on their checkered past. Each brother bears a curse: Eddie and his tendency to stay not dead though his brother's still dead remains a mystery and it's something he apparently is taking the blame for. Whether it's just Morgan being upset with him by association considering the crowd Eddie runs with or what I don't know. Could be, or I could be off base, but their relationship is what is driving this mini and it's one that definitely makes for good drama. There's obviously some brotherly love there despite some bad blood that has boiled over since their childhood together. It sure as hell made for a fun and interesting sequence at the end of the book as Morgan was basically the only line of defense between an, uh, "incapacitated" Eddie and the typical assort of demonic mob goons out to get him.
And speaking of Eddie's inertness, I have to say that was a hell of an unexpected play from Mr. Bunn and Eddie himself. It's a hell of a gamble in order for him to hopefully find his mother in the Purgatory-like realm he goes to when he's not amongst the living, but it's a clever twist that definitely makes the stakes a lot higher in this volume of THE DAMNED, as well as that fantastic chase sequence at the end of the issue like I said before. All these developments combined with the always excellent Brian Hurtt art (I seriously adore his character designs) has already cemented this as another satisfactory installment in an already stellar and highly underrated series.
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.
THE DEPENDENTS #1 Alterna ComicsMartin Fisher (the mind behind the excellent zombie comic RISERS) returns with a twist on the Jekyll/Hyde or more closely Banner/Hulk tale. This story focuses on a young woman who finds out that the monstrous urges inside of her (the kind that usually comes to me while making my way home from work through traffic) take shape and kill when she lets loose. Fisher does a good job of making the struggle real, highlighting the need each personality has for one another (hence the name of the book). Ben Hansen (pencils) & Levi Skeen (inks) add to the tension by making the panels sharp, vivid, and skewed. The monster design is a nice schmeld of the Hulk and something that dropped out of a Lovecraft story (all teeth and tentacles). Unlike the HULK, this story amps up the horror aspects of the split personality putting the young woman at odds with her vicious alter ego. The first issue ends on a nice cliffhanger and the tone of the book will truthfully be told by whatever happens next. I’m looking forward to finding out… - Ambush Bug
LITTLE VAMPIRE V 1 First SecondThis volume collects three stories featuring the Little Vampire, his best friend Michael, and a haunted mansion-full of monsters. Like the work of Gorey, the pictures are expressionistic and have an antiquity about them. Unlike Gorey, whose works tend to be on the more acidic and bent side, this book has a ton of heart and soul. The characters are good intentioned and learn valuable lessons from mistakes made. Artist/writer Joann Sfar makes the Little Vampire as cute as can be with his cantankerous devil dog constantly at his side causing trouble. The stories are simple tales of morality, mostly safe for kids, but the talent of Sfar's storytelling and panel work make it fun for a big kid like me to get into it too. My favorite of the three tales is the first where the Little Vampire forms a relationship with a school kid by haunting the school at night and doing his homework for him. Fun & sweet stuff. - Ambush Bug
GABRIEL: A GRAPHIC NOVEL OGN By Jaime "Jimmy" PortilloMuch like HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, VAMPIRE'S KISS, and other glimpses into the minds of murderers and what paths they take to become one, GABRIEL is an engaging and harrowing journey. This is a fictional account of a series of real life disappearances that occurred on Southwestern America. Jimmy Portillo takes the real life reports and fits them into a fictional vampire story. Set in modern times, Gabriel isn't your typical bloodsucker. He's kind of a regular dude. Someone you'd chat with at a bar. Self-deprecating and somewhat shy, yet able to hold an interesting conversation. After an unfortunate run-in with a cute Goth chick vampire at a dive bar, Gabriel is turned into a vampire. The shift from insecure guy to power-mad vampire is a slow process and I appreciated the logical way Portillo evolved this character. In the beginning, Gabriel is such an everyman that you sort of root for him. You're on his side. But after he becomes a vampire, he slowly devolves into something pretty ugly. This story pulls no punches and shows Gabriel as a pretty awful monster in the way he disposes of his victims and even desecrates their bodies after they die. This is a harsh story, not for the squeamish, but descent into madness stories always interested me, so I really liked this one. The art is photo-referenced and black & white, but the characters don't seem stilted or posed like most photo-refs. There's a natural stance the characters have and the harsh black and whites make for a moody and bleak tone to the entire story. If you're one to be offended by murder, rape, and other fouls sins of man, you might want to check something else out. But if you have the stomach to see a likable character become an out of control monster done in a way that maximizes the horrific, the tragic, and the depths to which the human soul can plunge, then you may enjoy this book as much as I did. This is a very strong debut for Mr. Portillo. - Ambush Bug
STORIES 1 2 3 4 #1 Alterna ComicsAs the title indicates, writer Kurt Belcher and artist Philip Neundorf provide four stories that range from historical facts to melodrama to straight up horror. Story One reminded me of a Lovecraft/Clive Barker story with its bizarre sexuality and horrific elements. Nuendorf’s scratchy and gritty art shines in this story adding to the tension and gruesomeness. Story Two, titled “Toilet”, is simply a conversation between two people. What makes this interesting is the comfortable way the two characters interact with one another. Writer Belcher takes the spotlight here with his skill turning the word balloons in this story about an artist considering his audience and how that affects the end product. Story Three is a bizarre HG Wells meets Edgar Allen Poe-like tale about obsession and real life monsters. I’m not sure of the order or sequence, but it appears as if the quality of both art and story improves as the pages are turned. It’s nice to see this type of evolution in one comic. Story Three is especially strong. The tension builds to the big reveal at the end which is both beautiful and bizarre all at once. The final story focuses on a military sniper. It’s all based on fact, which makes it all the more haunting. What makes this book stand out above the rest of the other horror anthologies out there is that Belcher and Nuendorf don’t rely on the O. Henry twist or cheap cop out scares. These guys are going for the jugular with really meaty psychological frights and the end product is some of the better horror shorts that I’ve read this year. You definitely get a creepy feeling after reading these stories. Check it out if you like real horror. - Ambush Bug
WAR IS HELL: THE FIRST FLIGHT OF THE PHANTOM EAGLE #2 Marvel ComicsTwice in the past month there's been a Garth Ennis comic with a couple engaged with each other inside of a heart on the cover, and both times it's meant absolutely nothing like what the tenderness that image implies. You'd almost think Garth has gone soft or something, but no, it's still the Garth Ennis we know and love. So far with WAR IS HELL, the more "brutishly humorous" Garth has dominated the series, but there has been that air of the serious version of him; the one that made the WAR STORIES series so dramatic and poignant. Thing is, I don't know if I like that combination here in this case. I dunno, the jabs of humor are great, but it makes the book predominantly comedic which kind of offsets the serious undertones of the book too much. Especially since it's a subject matter (early day war pilots that is) that is rarely touched on in most media, let alone comics. I kind of wanted to see this one played mostly legit, with the occasional joke thrown in for levity. This is still an entertaining series in that pure Garth Ennis way, but I guess this is just a case of a personal preference being handed a slight setback. - Humphrey
SALVATION RUN #6 DC ComicsI dunno. I guess this miniseries lost me when they killed off Gorilla Grodd. Sure, seeing the Joker and Luthor square off like Jack & Locke is fun, but the wanton killing at DC has gone on long enough. It's like people have become so lazy at writing that the only way they think they can make an impact with the reader is by killing off a character with years upon years of history. There are others ways to entertain, DC. And sure, I know Grodd will be back. He's too much of a major player not to. But that makes me dismiss this book all the more since it doesn't really seem to matter much in the grand scheme of things. I'm hanging in there with this one till the end, but mostly for the fun Sean Chen art and, I have to say, the sleazy slickness of Vandal Savage is pretty damn good. - Bug
CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (of 5) Marvel ComicsVery interesting. So Mar-Vell is “officially” back. I don’t know all the history behind the licensing of the character or how long a property can go unused before it loses some of its copyrighted power, nor do I care. I DO care that we had a good story, cleverly told by Brian Reed, well illustrated by Lee Weeks, that kept me involved for the last few months. I like the fact that a whole host of stories are now opened up: what happens when he meets Rick Jones? Phyla-Vell? Is there enough of Mar-Vell’s DNA to re-attract his old “cosmic awareness?” If you didn’t get this issue by issue, then pick up the inevitable TPB, set aside an hour’s worth of time, some Mountain Dew and some Pringles, and have yourself a good Reed. Uhn, I mean, a good read. - Rock-Me
THE INFINITE HORIZON #3 Image ComicsUsually I'm not one to say this, but the wait between issues on this mini have really killed its momentum for me. The thing is, I still love the Odyssean elements to the story, but at this point those and the Phil Noto art are really all I'm looking forward to. That actual storyline itself, as well as the characters, are ones I vaguely remember. All I do remember them as are as Homer-esque parodies, not as new creations based off the previously named epic. Credit where credit is due, though; the way things developed this issue, particularly the arrival of the "Cyclops", were very well done, especially in the theme of the amalgamation of modern day warfare with that literary classic. This truly is a good series, but I really wish it came out more consistently, especially since it's just a mini-series. - Humphrey
INCREDIBLE HERC #116 Marvel ComicsDamn, this is some old school Mighty Marvel Manner shit! Alongside ANNIHILATION: CONQUEST & NOVA, this was the best Marvel read of the week. It's a good old superhero misunderstanding issue where Hercules sneaks off at the base of the sleeping Celestial (last seen sleeping in Gaiman's ETERNALS miniseries) to take a piss and runs into Ikaris and Thena, who think he's a fellow Eternal in need of waking up. The fun begins when Ikaris actually almost convinces Herc that he may well be Gilgamesh The Forgotten One. This series continues to surprise me with every issue and I have to say that despite the odd way it ransacked and took over THE INCREDIBLE HULK's numbering, this is one of Marvel's best ongoing series. Here's hoping for many more issues of this great series that embraces the Marvel U and all of its traditions while providing a refreshing and smart spin on them. Highly recommended for those of you who are sick of all of the hyped up marketing and just want to enjoy a Marvel book that loves being a Marvel book. - Bug
ROUND ONE / BRACKET FOUR
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.
Huntress stepped onto the field of battle, tense with anticipation. Staring into the inky blackness, she screamed out her challenge.
“I know you’re out there! Show yourself!”
As if on cue, Natalia Romanova, the Black Widow, emerged from the shadows, seeming to materialize before Huntress’ eyes. The two warriors began to slowly circle each other, each sizing her opponent up.
“Are you prepared for what’s coming, dyavushka?” said Natalia, letting a slight smile creep upon her face.
“I was born ready, you relic. But I gotta warn you, I was trained by the best!” With that, Huntress leapt forward, snapping off rapid fire kicks and punches. Natalia parried each strike effortlessly, circling to her left. Undeterred, Huntress kept coming, letting loose a flurry of punches. Again, Natalia parried each strike, and then flipped back. Huntress tried to take advantage, timing a leg sweep perfectly, but Natalia just rolled with it, as if she had planned it all in advance.
For ten minutes, Huntress kept pouring on the offense, with Natalia blocking and parrying everything effortlessly, all without offering any offense of her own. With fatigue mounting, and her frustration showing through, Huntress let loose a piercing shriek and leapt forward, arms outstretched to grab Natalia by the throat. However, Natalia almost nonchalantly reached up, grabbed Huntress’ wrists in an iron grip, and yanked down hard, simultaneously dislocating both of Huntress’ shoulders and smashing in her face with a series of vicious headbutts. Huntress collapsed to her knees, her face a bloody stew. Natalia then snapped of a fierce roundhouse kick, connecting at the temple. Huntress slumped over, unconscious.
Natalia knelt down next to Huntress’ inert form, leaning in close to her ear. Speaking softly, she said:
“You may have been trained by the best, rebyawnak, but I TRAINED the best!”
WINNER: BLACK WIDOW
Hell’s Kitchen. Midnight. Loud hip-hop blared from the beatboxes of gang kids. A cheap hooker stepped over the carcass of a dead dog. All the animals came out at night.
The city’s protector, Daredevil, stood in the center of the sidewalk, looking bewildered. “Could someone tell me what’s going on?” the Man Without Fear uttered. “I got the rules and de-powering, but honestly, I didn’t hear the whole thing…I suppose I got used to super-senses.”
No reply came. A skateboarding kid landed a crowbar in between DD’s horns. “Hey!” yelled Daredevil, aiming a karate kick at the air before him. “Get back here!”
Matt rubbed his head. “Alright,” he said. “I can do this. It’ll just be harder without my radar sense.”
He sniffed the air. “Let’s see…there’s expensive perfume…funky music…I’m standing on some kind of fur rug…” DD’s foot squelched in the dead dog’s pelt. “I must be in the Playboy mansion!”
Snake-Eyes emerged from the shadows behind his opponent. He wondered why the red-clad fighter was wandering in circles asking for a Braille edition of the August centerfold. A cunning ploy to distract him?
Hornhead bumped up against Snake-Eyes’ black Kevlar uniform. “Oh! Sorry, Mr. Hefner.”
Snake-Eyes did not respond.
In the small portion of his face not hidden, DD frowned. “It is Hugh, right?”
Still no reply.
“No?” said Daredevil. He paused. “That’s not you, is it, Bullseye?” DD said cautiously.
Compensating for the loss of his super-powered tastebuds, Daredevil leant down and chewed Snake-Eyes’ tunic. “Nope. Wrong brand of conditioner…Elektra?” he wondered, feeling Snake-Eyes’ chest.
“Oh, I know!” laughed Matt. “Foggy Nelson, you old son of a gun!” Matt playfully toyed with Snake-Eyes’ cheeks.
This was the final straw for GI Joe’s ninja comrade. He placed his hands on either side of the Man Without Fear’s head and snapped his neck.
“Ouch!” cried Daredevil. “Foggy, if this is about that time I called you a fat pussy who couldn’t get it up in front of Karen, we both know I’d just got back from fighting the Matador and was drunk!”
Walking away, Snake-Eyes shrugged.
“Barkeep, more cheese dip!” Although many bowls of his favorite sustenance had been consumed, this morning’s battle had given Groo an enormous appetite. Just then, a shadow entered the doorway.
Noticing the stares of the patrons, Howard sniped “I take it you don’t get many talking ducks around here.” Being snatched from Duckworld and plopped in the middle of Cleveland was upsetting enough, but to be stripped from the arms of his lovely Beverly and dropped in this smelly joint was enough to put anyone into a fowl…err…foul mood.
Now what’s this guy doing? Howard thinks, Is that a video tape he’s wearing on his chest?
Groo leaps from his stool, arms outstretched, tongue protruded.
“WAUGH!” Howard hops over Groo’s head and assumes a Quack Fu pose. “Listen, I just want a cab back to Cleveland.”
Groo, spork in hand, isn’t listening. He swipes for Howard again.
With a single kick, the spork goes flying from Groo’s hand, flies across the bar, and stabs the barkeep in the eye.
Howard sweeps Groo’s feet out from under him. THUD!
“Just give me the number to a cab...and maybe a Scotch, and I’ll be on my way.” Something tells Howard he has to act fast. His opponent’s wits may be dull, but despite the video tape on the barbarian’s chest, which he couldn’t explain, he was dressed for battle. If he didn’t end this quickly, he might trigger some kind of berserker rage.
In a flurry of kicks and swats, Howard hits Groo in pressure points about the head and neck.
On his knees, Groo reaches for the video tape. One last roundhouse across the face, and Groo is down.
Howard reaches down to unarm his opponent.
“What kind of idiot uses a video cassette as a weapon?” Howard looks at tape.
“It’s my favorite movie.” Groo mutters then fades off into unconsciousness.
Howard can’t help but feel a little bad. He sighs and places the tape gently back on Groo’s chest.
“Now, about that cab…”
WINNER: HOWARD THE DUCK
Slade Wilson and Frank Castle rush each other, locking in a deadly embrace in the middle of the ring. Frank, sensing that Slade is stronger than him, throws a kick towards Slade’s midsection. Slade, however, just grins and bears it.
“Interesting that you should go for the midsection,” Slade laughs, “I guess you never bothered using yours to father any children.”
At the thought of his dead kids, Frank sees red, bellowing in rage and flipping Slade to the ground. Frank is about to stamp the pattern of his size-12 boots onto Slade’s mask, but he manages to slide out of the way just in time. Frank’s foot goes right through the canvas and his leg is caught in an awkward position. Slade gets up and with almost inhuman speed grabs Frank’s neck and twists it just so, snapping it.
A color commentator comes over for the post-fight interview. “Mister Wilson! How was it that you were able to defeat Mister Castle?”
“Well,” Slade answers, “we’re both parents. But I’ve had to make my peace with killing my own son, whereas I knew he would still be too emotional about his kids killed in a park.”
“But Mister Wilson,” the annoying commentator asks, “What about your son recently being resurrected and working with your daughter –“
At this, Slade grabs the commentator’s microphone, wraps it around his neck, and strangles him with it. “Anyone else want to ask me about my family?” Slade yells.
Seeing the petrified crowd, Slade walks away from the two twitching bodies on the canvas.
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!
Not much is known about Sonia Sato, the latest person to wear the costume of Judomaster. She ran around with the BIRDS OF PREY for a while and proved to be a personable yet inexperienced fighter. When she showed up in JSA for membership, though, she changed dramatically: she spoke no English at all, seemed to improve in her fighting skills tenfold, and also succeeded in creeping out her teammates. Supposedly, she has the power to project an “aversion field” which makes it impossible for her enemies to hit her. Without this power, though (this is a powerless tourney, you know) will she have what it takes to move on to Round Two?
JUDOMASTER VS TYPHOID MARY
You don’t get much crazier than Typhoid Mary, an assassin who usually works for the Kingpin and torments Daredevil in his monthly Marvel series. Mary suffers from multiple personality disorder. Get her on the wrong day and she’ll rip your heart out. In the past, Mary’s powers fluctuated with her personality shifts, but even without them, she’s as deadly as she is crazy.
Neither combatant has all of their marbles. Which will move on to round two?
Bullseye never misses. Kingpin’s top assassin has been a thorn in Daredevil’s side for years in his own Marvel monthly and now he stars as a government agent in THUNDERBOLTS. Anything in Bullseye’s mitts can be used as a weapon. But stripped of all of his playing cards, knives, paperclips, and other projectiles, he will have to use his fighting skills in this match. Will it be enough?
Which man in black for hire will hit his mark?
Valiant Comics brought him back, but this Gold Key character used instincts to fight monsters, dinosaurs, and other evils. Whether he’s called the Son of Stone or Dinosaur Hunter, Turok is no pushover. This time-lost Native American is a master of weaponry and quite a skilled fighter unarmed, too. Looks like Valiant is making a comeback. Here’s hoping Turok makes a comeback as well.
Kung Fu or jungle savvy: which skill will come out on top?
The battle everyone has been waiting for! These two opponents have squared off before, but this time it’s your chance to decide which is the better fighter.
CAPTAIN AMERICA VS BATMAN
Yes, we’re talking Steve Rogers Captain America here. He may be pushing up daisies in his ongoing monthly mag, but he’s A-OK for this tourney. The perfect human specimen with fighting skills that have taken years to hone and a mind as quick as a gunshot.
Batman is a self-made man as well, training since he was a child and dedicating his life to fight crime of all sorts with his keen mind and hardened muscle. Starring in a handful of DC Comics, according to rumor, he may be taking up cemetery plot space as well. So let’s get these guys fighting while we can!
Who will win this battle between the world’s greatest fighters?