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#9 7/2/08 #7

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) ASTONISHING X-MEN #25 THE ALL NEW ATOM #25 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #16 THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: RAISING CAIN #3 HOUSE OF MYSTERY #3 JOKER’S ASYLUM: THE JOKER #1 dot.comics presents SHADES Webcomic Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents PRINCESS RESURRECTION VOL 1-3 Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!


Writer: Warren Ellis Artist: Simome Bianchi Publisher: Marvel Reviewer: Optimous Douche

With this latest issue of ASTONISHING X-MEN, for the first time in fifteen years I can I feel a sense of cohesion within the X-universe. This phenomenal inaugural issue by STORMWATCH savior Warren Ellis coupled with Brubaker’s latest run on UNCANNY X-MEN, make me feel like I’m part of an X-Men Renaissance reminiscent of the early 90’s. While there were a few minute editorial speed bumps surrounding this issue, I’ll forgive any trespasses to watch Ellis meticulously craft the foundation that moves the X-Men in a familiar yet all new direction.
In the early 90’s the X-universe ran like a well oiled Blackbird. There was never a question as to the roles played by each title. You had the main team in UNCANNY, the spillovers for the disciples of Xavier found a home in X-MEN (yes, I know there were like five covers for issue one, but lets move on), the rebels operated under the X-FORCE tag , and X-FACTOR, as it does today, wove tales on its own plane of existence.
There was a glimmer of hope in Morrison and Quitely’s run on X-MEN for continued success, but then out of nowhere we were bombarded with the mass bedlam of mutant explosions, mystical genocides and some horseshit about a mutant messiah (where the hell is that kid anyway?). I give the team at Marvel credit for trying to shake up forty years worth of status quo, but in the process they turned their universe into an utter state of disarray. Each title was embroiled in a battle of crossovers, never able to tell its own story, and relegating the mutants we have grown to love to fountains of exposition or catch-up dialogue. What had been lost were the diverse and rich characters, the unique voices possessed by each member of the team. Every fan knows that Scott Summers should be stoic, The Beast, flip, yet wise. Bobby Drake, douchebag, etc…when you take away this element, frankly you take away the X-Men.
ASTONISHING up until this point relished in its ability to be apart from other X-titles in every sense. From the bi-annual publishing schedule to flinging the team halfway across the galaxy in the Breakworld storyline, it was assured that they would be separate from all other X-shenanigans. No more. Ellis brings ASTONISHING back into the fold full force. In fact, unless you read the last trippy issue of UNCANNY you might wonder what the hell is going on.
I know this is supposed to be a review of ASTONISHING, but thanks to this title being ahead of schedule for the first time ever, we need to do a brief recap of the events in UNCANNY and piece together the rest since all will truly be revealed in the yet to be released UNCANNY #500.
Ellis shows us in this issue that the team can have fun somewhere other than on the softball field. Actually, the X-Men finally smarten up and decide to forsake the annihilation-prone Graymalkin Lane residence altogether to set up camp in San Francisco. In the issues leading up to the landmark #500 of UNCANNY (maybe, I’m hoping), the X-Men had thwarted the dealings of a nefarious individual that wanted to keep the city in a permanent acid flashback to the summer of love. In gratitude, the city establishes a pro-mutant policy and offers the team a safe haven on its golden shores. In return, Xavier’s brood must help in times of crisis.
Naturally, crisis ensues. What set the crisis in this issue apart from the norm was the casting away of the mutant-of-the-week storyline. In the first true first acknowledgement of mutants being once again the minority, the only ones carrying the X-gene are Cyclops, Storm, Emma Frost, Wolverine, Armor and Beast. Apparently the central danger is extraterrestrial in origin and all of the clues to unraveling the mystery involve a trip to a spaceport scrapheap nestled in some third-world toilet.
Again though, while I find the story engaging, what truly hooked me is the fact that Ellis has brought personality back to the X-Men. Scott broods and laments his seeming happiness, Emma acknowledges the disdain felt towards her by returning teammates, Armor pines for a new name while also trying to conjure one for the team’s new base of operations, and Wolverine is…surly. And all together they once again feel like human beings instead of plot devices.
Simone Bianchi paints a damn pretty canvas. The cover art is just short of astounding and each panel of the book follows suit. The heavy lines used to render each panel harmoniously jived with the team’s new subterranean lair and the fact that mutant existence has been thrust back into the shadow of humanity.
To finally see ASTONISHING and UNCANNY have their own voices yet still offer cohesion outside the context of an “over-arching” event or convoluted cross-over is not only refreshing, it has restored my faith in the altruistic concept of just delivering a damn good story. Sales be damned.
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.

THE ALL NEW ATOM #25 (last issue)

Written by Rick Remender Art by Patrick Olliffe (pencils), John Stanisci (inks) Publisher: DC Comics A lament set to the lyrics of Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" by Ambush Bug

Goodbye Ryan Choi Feels like I never…knew you at all You had the power to shrink yourself While those around you grew.
Kooks crawled out of the woodwork Whatever spewed from Simone's brain And those tiny little quotes were cool, Even made Byrne seem…not so lame.
And it seems to me…you lived your life Like an Atom in the wind. Never knowing…where to shrink to When bad sales set in. And Remender tried to save you. He wrote the best that one man can. But your series ran out far too soon, You tiny, Asian man…
Low sales were tough The toughest foe that you have ever faced. Although Chronos and Giganta fell, You were no match for fanboys' bad taste.
COUNTDOWN kind of sucked, But you fought on anyway. Only to find that Robinson… Wanted Palmer… In the new JLA.
So goodbye Ryan Choi From the young man on the 52nd Earth Who sees you as something more than a fill-in, For that whitebread…Ray Palmer.
And it seems to me…you lived your life Like an Atom in the wind. Never knowing…where to shrink to When bad sales set in. And I would have liked to read more But I was just one fan. Your series ran out far too soon, You tiny, Asian man…

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 & Muscles & was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City about indie comics, his own artistic process, the comics industry, and other shades of bullsquat.


Writer: Joss Whedon Artist: Karl Moline Inker: Andy Owens Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

I recently read an article about the dumbing down of America. Apparently, the kids today are so addicted to distraction that in the time it takes you to read one paragraph of this review, they’ve checked Facebook and MySpace to see if anyone has updated anything. Twice. In catering to that mentality, the world rewards media fashioned like the articles Jeff Goldblum lamented in “The Big Chill” (you know, any article that takes longer to read than the average trip to the toilet) are now akin to “War and Peace”. It’s sad.
I think this is part of the reason people complain about the Buffy-verse being so inaccessible. The scripts frequently mine all manner of media, everything from Nick Fury to Shakespeare’s speech on Crispian’s Feast Day. So much of that goes over today’s readers: too much effort to figure it out. And then there’s the rich inner mythology and in-jokes and common events that get referenced from time to time…who has that much energy? Who has…whoa, is that a MySpace alert? What were we talking about?
To that I say: it doesn’t matter. This issue tells me none of that matters. You can still enjoy a good story even if you don’t get every nuance behind it. Just because I can’t name all the spicy ingredients doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy me some Lemongrass Chicken. And Season Eight, particularly this issue, goes down like the very best Takee-Outee – leaves you full, and wanting more, at the same time.
In this first part of a new arc, Buffy and crew are investigating some cryptic messages (are there any other kind?) regarding her scythe. This leads them to New York, where Buffy acts like Buffy. Meanwhile, Xander is dealing with “not dealing with” his recent loss, but still notices what a fine filly Dawn is.
The whole of the plot is to put Buffy within punching distance of Fray, the eponymous heroine from Whedon’s OTHER slayer series, set in a far future that brings back the art of solo-slaying. I recently re-read the FRAY mini, and it holds up well with frequent re-reads. Moline was the artist there, so this is a reunion of sorts of diehard Buffy fans (are there any other kind?).
Even though it’s mostly buildup, this journey is well worth your participation. Half the fun of any destination (particularly with Whedon) is getting there. Rarely does he fail to provide some manner of satisfying payoff. But you have to possess an attention span and a little patience, or you won’t find it nearly as satisfying. So take your time and enjoy. Sit back…take your shoes off…and read. Look at the pretty pictures. Take it all in. And then relax in the knowledge that next month, it will probably be even better. You don’t have to catch it all to appreciate a well-told story.
As an end-issue treat, and in an odd twist (perhaps a sly acknowledgement to all those who feel they’re only getting half of any given conversation in Whedon’s World) Buffy herself is hoisted on the petard of unfathomable vernacular. Fray actually out-lingos Buffy. Classic.
If you haven’t checked SEASON EIGHT out, give it a shot. At the very least, amongst the trappings of another sweeping arc and ever-deeper characterizations, you’ll get a dozen or more instances of clever Whedon-speak. Clever Whedon-speak…I ask you, is there any other kind?
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: Bruce Jones Artist: Chris Gugliotti Publisher: DC Wildstorm Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Reading this book reminded me of how I often feel when I see a talented boxer fight a no namer in an exhibition bout. Sure, a fight between two wizened boxers is always awesome, but occasionally, it's interesting to see a fighter just outclass the other in 90's Tyson-esque fashion. The relationship between writer and artist is often like that of two boxers. It's great to see two creators on top of their game producing an amazing product. But sometimes it's just as interesting to see one part of that team excel while the other falls a bit short. And although he may be the more wizened of the two creators, writer Bruce Jones clearly is playing the long in the tooth Ray Mercer role, while artist Chris Gugliotti is swinging more like Tyson after a sparring match with Robin Givens.
Boxing analogies aside, this is an uneven comic. Chris Gugliotti is definitely an artist to watch. His muddy yet cartoonish style is reminiscent of Ted McKeever, but is definitely more restrained and cohesive than McKeever's amazingly warped visuals. His characters are all shaped distinctly and in a comic starring a bunch of inbred cannibals, this facet of Gugliotti's talent shines through all of the darkly colored panels. His panels are detailed, skewed, and angled, forcing the reader to twist their necks in order to perceive just what's going on - another aspect of the art that makes for a horrifyingly good and uneasy reading experience. Plus there are little visual gems that stand out as original such as the panel where the inbred mother repeatedly stabs our hero Cain the bounty hunter repeatedly in the chest with a knife. The hand and knife are drawn numerous times in the same panel at differing angles to suggest a frantic stabbing motion. This is nice stuff that suggests movement in a genius manner.
Now the boxing metaphor comes into play because despite the strength of the visuals Gugliotti is setting up, he has to deal with dialog like this from Bruce Jones: "kin yew stick around a bit?" (then the inbred woman stabs him with a knife) or "don't get yourself all hung up!" (then he hangs her on a meat hook). This kick-to-the-taint pain-inducing dialog is enough to make the writers of Freddy Krueger's puns wince, let alone this reader. This is a perfect example of a writer not knowing when to trust the artist and just shut the fuck up. There's no need for constant dialog here. The art is amazing and the action itself is pretty damn brutal, or would be if the writer wasn't tossing out bad puns like hot dogs at a White Sox game.
You know, it's been a while since I subjected myself to Bruce Jones’ writing. After his uber talent of inflicting both pain and snores in his HULK run a while back, I told myself "never again" and avoided his NIGHTWING, WARLORD, and VIGILANTE runs. Avid horror geek that I am, I have been picking up all of WildStorm's horror titles and even after seeing his name on the cover, I went against my better instincts and bought it anyway.
The story itself isn't horrible. Unlike previous TCM issues, it focuses on a pair of new characters; Cain and Abel, twins separated at birth - one brought up by the cannibalistic and inbred Hewitt clan, the other raised by a normal family. Turns out both grew up to be lawmen--one a bounty hunter, the other a crooked cop--and there's a bit of serendipity going on with the story coming full circle in the end. I can appreciate the type of O. Henry ironic twist that Jones is going for. He has definitely improved his comic book writing skills and hopefully by now the guy knows that just because you're talented in one medium, that doesn't necessarily mean that you will excel in another. But the overabundance of word balloons are tell tale signs of a guy who doesn't fully understand the medium.
So this is a book that turns out to be good when it could have been great. Had the writer trusted the artist to convey the horror, it would have been a much for effective read. And that's what I want here. I want to see a good TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE story, and a good FRIDAY THE 13TH story, and a good A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET story. So far, though, the product WildStorm has been putting out has been the best renditions of these horror icons, but the titles have been just shy of great, despite the fact that this is an industry that houses some of the best modern writers. This book should be sought out for the art so that you can see Chris Gugliotti before he gets big. Sadly, that's about the only reason to read it.


Writer(s): Matthew Sturges & Bill Willingham Artist(s) Luca Rossi & Zachary Baldus Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

I wanted to wait a few issues into this new HOUSE OF MYSTERY series by Bill Willingham and his cohort in crime Matthew Sturges before I decided to type up anything about it. Normally I love to crack right into a review of a brand new series because it seems these days I get most inspired for reviewering when I'm presented with something new and hopefully fresh. But after reading the first issue of this HOM I could tell this series was going to be a bit of a slow burn - that it was going to take a while to get an idea of what exactly this book is going to play with and the plot mechanics it would entail - definitely not unlike how FABLES got started. So, three issues in, here we are and here I finally am, what's say we do this thing, huh?
HOUSE OF MYSTERY is a fine little comic, I'll say that to start. Sadly though, I'm still not exactly getting swept up in it. It really is still getting rolling, and again the FABLES comparison rears its ugly head because as I like to say to new readers of that series, it took a couple stories, TPBs, what have you to build up steam to the stalwart of quality that it is today. HOM is building its own elements, mainly the cast of characters we're predominantly exposed to, all while trying to directly and indirectly build up the mythos of the house itself and the power it holds over its inhabitants. What I really like is how so far this book has managed to be very atmospheric and moody, while at the same time exhibiting the "aloof" sense of humor that this tandem exhibit in their collaborations that make them what they are. This book hasn't really yet to lose itself in an overly dour tone or anything, though the Purgatory-like setting would seem to command it, you would think.
The "campfire" interludes, as I'm starting to think of them, i.e. the short stories that interject themselves in the midst of the overlaying one, are actually a bit of a welcome treat as well. I was worried that they might be too out of place, or chop up the momentum of the book needlessly, but so far they've been entertaining and haven't hampered any of the issues. Usually they're just used as a scene transition, like in this issue, where we'll be taken from one part of the House or the rare scene outside of it and then we're back in familiar territory and hey, we pull in on story time. No awkward cuts and we get a nonchalant kind of goombah story to break up the supernatural stuff. So far it works.
Really, this is an enjoyable comic, I'm just still looking for something fat to sink my teeth into to get really invested. This issue’s ending, with the Coachman, I guess we're calling him/her/it, and Rina from issue one riding off together was really pretty disturbing and showed that this could turn into something maniacal and I could go for a bit more of that. Yes, I know the emphasis on this book is Mystery, but I just want a better idea of what stakes we're playing for here. I'll gladly enjoy what this comic is doing as it's doing it, I just think it could use a speeding up in some aspects. But I'm sure Matt and Bill know exactly what they're doing here and I imagine we'll get some of these notions in no time. I'm really probably just being impatient, but at the same time I just want to be a bit more excited about this book than I think I am right now. This is definitely a case of "time will tell" as we watch the mystery unfold, but I think we're in good hands until then.


Writer: Arvid Nelson Artist: Alex Sanchez Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

Well, the cover is very nice. I should stop there, if I wanted to be nice. But I would rather be honest.
When I saw that Arvid Nelson and Alex Sanchez had teamed up again, I had to take a peek. They were the pair responsible for last year’s execrable run JSA CLASSIFIED, the one where Mr. Terrific
a.) looked like several random black men in various stages of anaphylactic shock, b.) squished a helpless brain into oblivion, and c.) called on Superman for a handy “Übermensch Ex Machina,” because he (the lead hero) was written too weakly to solve his own problems.
Yeah. That run. Well, this isn’t much better, except that it’s done in one. I’m not going to pick on the artwork, except that it looks much like Sanchez’s work on JSA, and subscribes to the rule that “more lines, no matter where they are = better art.”
Joker opens the issue as a poor man’s Crypt Keeper, narrating the reader into a Velveeta-fueled coma, then hijacks a game show. I had to read it twice to figure out Joker was posing as the host, because there was no foreshadowing: it just happens, like bird poop suddenly appearing on your windshield. All the while, he spouts cheesy one-liners, as if the script says, “Insert funny and shocking comments here.” But neither kind of comment shows up. Batman does, however. The End.
The story does nothing for Joker but contort him into a character he isn’t. He is not the master of irony trying to make a point. Nor is he the guy qualified to make social commentary on the ruthlessness of TV ratings. “Oh, the horrible cruelty of syndicated TV!” implies the MASS MURDERER. Give me a break.
But the real question I have is: why did “The Joker” even show up? Surely he’s a bigger gun than we see here. Why THIS game show? Why is he, the character, motivated to play a part in a morality tale? Regarding the hidden camera crucial to the ending: he would have needed to plant his camera well in advance in order to set up the ending, so why all the effort? How did he know that action would be worth his time? These are questions that, when answered, might have lent depth to the otherwise Petri-dish-deep proceedings.
The story brings to mind an old rule of writing. If there’s a gun in Act II, we should see it used before the final act. And if a gun is used in the final act, we should see it somewhere before then. So when was the camera planted? Well, to heck with rules for good writing: the writer needed one to be there, so it magically appeared. Ick.
Also, I don’t know if I can see Joker as a type of evil Phantom Stranger: narrating twisted tales of morality where he may or may not be the star, and interacting with events from a view of relative omniscience. I don’t like it. I don’t get it. I don’t buy it. You shouldn’t either.
But as long as Nelson and Sanchez keep pairing up, I’ll keep reviewing them.

SHADES Online Comic

First page can be found here. Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Most of the webcomics I read these days are in their nascent stages with only a few pages to click through, so it doesn’t take a lot of time to catch up. But as with buying a DVD collection of a television series, you get spoiled getting to control your dosage of story only to be let down when you catch up and have to wait a week between episodes or, worse yet, a whole season. Once you hit that most recent page, it could be a long wait before the next page drops in webcomics. On the other hand, there are webcomics out there that have been around a bit and have quite a bit of story already which makes for much more interesting reading. SHADES is one of those webcomics.
Author David AJ Burner has quite an ambitious project in the works with 8 of 16 chapters complete and ready for you to click through the pages. I’ve read more than half of what Burner has to offer and I have to say that, so far, the story is pretty damn good. A tailor, Stanley Miller, used to be affiliated with a team of heroes who fought during WW2. Most of them are still alive, but they’ve spread themselves out across Europe and Stanley feels the need to try to inform and possibly bring together the team to face an evil threat. Along for the ride is Stanley’s grandson Sunil.
Writer Burner nails some great character driven moments as an aged tailor and his grandson go on a quest to inform a team of superheroes from the past about an impending danger. Burner asks the question: what makes a hero? A colorful costume or a person’s deeds? The heroes Stanley finds are shades of what they used to be during the war, leaving it up to him to show true heroism. This point becomes clear early on as Stanley and his grandson become increasingly disappointed in the heroes they come across.
The art is pretty damn fine too, by Harsho Mohan Chattoraj. This is bold strokes storytelling with dynamic poses and effective action sequences. The artist also knows how to capture the more quiet scenes between grandfather and grandson. Many artists don’t really give it their all in the scenes in between the big battles. Chattoraj isn’t one of those artists. He seems to give it his all in every panel.
Like I said, this is an ambitious project, but a lot of the story is already in the can. And if you’ve got a few minutes a day free at work and are looking for a fun story to dive into that deals with heroism, nobility, duty, and a love shared between a grandfather and grandson, SHADES is worth a look.


By Yasunori Mitsunaga Released by Del Rey Manga Reviewer: Scott Green

So... there's this regular teenage guy. On sight, you'd expect him to pass an unspectacular journey through high school, to an unspectacular passage through higher education, to an unspectacular career... basically the person destined to be one of the faceless masses presumed to populate a modern, developed nation. Except, in this case, said guy is identified as something special by a girl who is beautiful, exotic, and magical.
Manga has long found success flipping to this section of the wish fulfillment playbook. Nor is PRINCESS RESURRECTION putting a new spin on the material by adding an element of the grotesque. Like PRINCESS RESURRECTION, Yuzo Takada's (ALL PURPOSE CULTURAL CAT GIRL NUKU NUKU, BLUE SEED) grisly horror action 3x3 EYES started with the premise of a supernatural maiden who accidentally tramples a typical teenage guy while he was crossing the street, then, feeling a bit bad about killing the young man, the maiden decides to revive him to become her semi-immortal servant.
What distinguishes PRINCESS RESURRECTION from the would-be earnest AH! MY GODDESS and CHOBIT and the outright adventurous 3x3 EYES is a princess in a tiara and black dress duel wielding chainsaws or humming Molotov cocktails at incoming shambling mummy hordes.
Yes, Hime (literally "Princess"), of the title, falls for hapless, yet intrinsically noble Hiro, after bringing him back to un-life with a bit of her blood. There's an anime-geek term, tsundere, that describes this sort of cold, haughty personality that's destined to warm up to the male lead. And Hime's rather young, triffid planting, impish sister Sherwood also falls for him...and so do a host of amalgams of Universal Monsters and school girl archetypes, such as rage-a-holic half werewolf, with giant fluffy paws Riza Wildman and the vampire queen bee in a long, dark sailor suit uniform Reiri Kamura. To Hiro's normal peers, he remains, an "eh," entirely dismissible presence. To women of the power games among Hime's siblings, the few who remain indifferent to Hiro's nobility are automata, such as Hime's tiny, one word uttering, franken-maid servent Flandre.
Anime/video games podcast “Fast Karate for the Gentlemen” espouse a criticism of parody anime: that most of it, including the well regarded ones, make references without subverting or commenting on the subject that they are satirizing. Staccato anime comedies, from the classic DAICON IV openings by NEON GENESIS EVANGELION creators Gainax, to Akitaro Daichi's work like ELF PRINCESS RANE, to Shinichi Watanabe's EXCEL SAGA, rely on Pavlovian, flash card recognition of out of context, borrowed images. For example, the Gainax DAICON IV sequence elicits laughs by simply featuring the now mature girl from their previous DAICON short in a Playboy bunny girl suit light saber dueling Darth Vader, the Giger alien, a Macross Valkyrie and so on, set to ELO's "Twilight."
Without the ability to swap images at the blink of an eye, this approach is muted in anime's sibling, manga, but it is still present. After exhausting himself on years of DRAGON BALL, creator Akira Toriyama reacted in Neko Majin. That one volume manga became a send-up to the earlier work where the joke was reenacting Dragon Ball in abbreviating form, starring a blue cat.
Along the lines of those parodies, the humor of PRINCESS RESURRECTION is tied to presenting the recognizable in situations outside their native context, for example, the werewolf girl street racing the Headless Horseman around mountain roads. Like those flash reference animation, it aims to inspire a reaction through jarring juxtapositions rather than commentary or insight. Yet, the manga's approach to the joke works in its favor and makes it a genuinely enjoyable example of this brand of humor. It recognizes the ridiculousness of the situation. So, while there are some nice moments between Hiro and Hime, it does not presume the reader's emotional investment in the relationship. At the same time, it plays the absurdity to the hilt and does so with style. Most importantly, it manages to be outrageous without laughing at its own jokes.
The manga sells itself on being good looking and acutely wacky. On the Hiro side of the story, one of the principle gags of PRINCESS RESURRECTION is the character's ability to survive amputation, knife wounds to the chest, and other considerably nasty damage. Yet, despite churning on blood-stained confrontation between Hime, Hiro and company versus other cadres of familiar monsters, it is a light hearted, if severely violent, comedy. The most memorable bits are often the pain gags, such as Hiro noticing that something is wrong after walking through razor wire, then looking back with dismay to see that he has shed a foot and some limbs. It's not just that he's getting hurt, and hurt badly, it's that he's getting hurt by ghost sharks, and the like. For a world with undead kung fu pandas and the Little Mermaid hooking up with a giant robot, Hiro manages to find embarrassingly outlandish ways of sustaining injuries. The manga is sufficiently cartoonish, and Hiro is sufficient rag doll in his demeanor, that it doesn't suggest any guilt in chuckling at his woes.
The Hime side of the appeal is the goth-glam look of an exotic, nonplussed girl assaulting monsters with weapons that would be suitable for a Simon Bisley painting. It is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER taken to comic absurdity: snobby girl in delicate fashion up to her elbows in blood. The naughty impression of a proper looking, or at least flamboyantly dressed princess getting her hands dirty has some longevity, and the black and white fashion plays especially nicely in the similarly black and white manga.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for close to seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.

Hello, worshippers of the fringe! Ambush Bug donning the old fedora and whip to bring you this week’s installment of Indie Jones where we look beyond the big Two companies of mainstream comics to unearth independent treasures to satisfy that Indie Jones of yours. This week we’ve got barbarians, cowboys, co-eds, colorful animal-thingees, and, of course, zombies on tap. Enjoy!


This is the third month of product from Radical and the quality has yet to falter. HERCULES continues to be an exciting yarn that mixes mythology with historical facts while CALIBER is turning out to be quite a surprise in its own right. What I like about the two books is that they show a good range of storytelling: one a more in your face action yarn, the other a slow burner of a story that definitely has a specific destination it's heading in. CALIBER is as much a Western story as it is a clever re-imagining of the King Arthur legend with an enchanted gun taking place of the famous sword. As Young Arthur gathers his knights and tries to figure out the reasons why he and only he can operate the enchanted gun, insidious forces are brewing to come into conflict with him soon. HERCULES has everything one would want in a barbarian comic: action, bloodshed, and weapons clashing with weapons. The panel depicting Hercules’ berserker rage is simply amazing with human parts strewn skyward in all directions followed by waves of blood. Unlike Marvel and DC's versions of Herc, this one is set firmly in ancient times as Herc is experiencing his legendary adventures rather than remembering them as he does in those other books. This adds its own distinct take on a character that has proven to stand the test of time in comics. It'd be a sin not to mention the art. Both books are lushly painted with top notch craftsmanship. HERCULES' art is more rugged and raw, while CALIBER's panels are more softly painted and eloquent. High quality art and diverse storytelling is proving to be the standard at Radical. I look forward to seeing more product from this impressive new publisher.


OK, folks, I’m not going to lie to you. This book has boobs, gore, sexual perversion, immature behavior, and a well timed R. Kelly joke and doesn’t try to be anything else or apologize for what it is. There’s something appealing about that type of unflappable and gratuitous exploitation. There are those who would snub their noses at this type of thing, but if you are a fan of Troma films, this cheesecakey zombie book will probably appeal to you. Don’t look for heady exposition or heavy symbolism here, folks. It’s exactly what the title says – sorority girls vs. zombies. Issue #0 is structured as a “Survival Guide” of sorts. Don’t expect the level of detail that went into Max Brooks’ ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE, but it does a decent job of explaining how the zombies in this particular story work and offers a decent outlet for the three bimbettes to show off amble cleavage and nipple slippage.


As indicated in the introduction, DREAMKEEPERS is one of those labors of love that one often comes across in the independent comics market. Some guy has an idea and instead of going on with his life, he sticks with his idea and believes in it enough to bring it to life on the page. David Lilly is one of those guys. He's created a beautifully expansive universe full of cartoonish characters doing not-so-cartoonish things and reacting not like cartoons but like real characters while doing these not-so-cartoonish things. I'll bet fans of BONE would like DREAMKEEPERS, a story of a band of adventurers on a quest of gigantic proportions. What stands out the most to me, other than the epic scale of the story and gorgeous character designs of the animalistic characters that populate the book, is the coloring. Gazing across the pages of DREAMKEEPERS, it's as if a rainbow had committed hari kari and bled out all over the page. Vivid shades of pinks, purples, blues, and reds, all brighter than I thought possible on the printed page, are there for your eyes to soak in, eat up, and enjoy. This is something pretty special in comic book form. It's a waking dream filled with imagination and wonder, with characters that are relatable and three-dimensional. So why don't you make the creators of this book’s (David Lilly and Liz Thomas) dreams come true and check this book out? It's definitely worth it for the eye feast alone.

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Mike Kunkel's art is infectious. It's sweet and fun and perfectly cast for this all ages title from DC. The story is pretty fun too, something that I found to be sorely lacking from Jeff Smith's SHAZAM AND THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL miniseries from a while back. I liked this book and I think the breath of fresh air that Jann Jones has puffed into DC's kiddie line is inspired, but looking at the way the pages are set up, I'm not sure if kids are going to like this book. As much as I like the artwork, it's often scrunched into tiny panels packed on top of tinier panels. There are an awful lot of panels, captions, and word balloons in this issue for a kids’ book. Now, I'm not saying that kids are dumb. What I am saying is that if I look at a page and let out a sigh because of so much text and...stuff going on within the page, I'm pretty sure a child (especially children these days weaned on X-Box strobe-icity) are going to be a bit intimidated too. I want to support this line, but the page set-up of this issue is way too cramped, not allowing the art to speak for itself and never allowing the reader to fully soak in the plethora of words and pics crammed onto the page. Here's hoping future issues will utilize the space on the page a little better. - Bug


I haven't really seen much about this Brian Wood production, hell, I haven't even talked about it since it started really, but I figured this issue really deserved some wordage. Why? Because there was enough bloodshed and mayhem to make even your most jaded Actioneer revel in it, that's why. Almost 22 pages of clashing blades, battered and broken shields, and gushes of crimson while using very poignant voicing about the human nature to conquer and to fight bitterly to the death to avoid being the conquered. Now this, this was the level of badassedness I was expecting out of a comic featuring Vikings as written by Brian Wood. Good stuff. -Humphrey

JONAH HEX #33 DC Comics

If this was the first issue I had ever read of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's JONAH HEX, I'd proclaim them as wordy sumbitches. But it isn't and I won't, mainly because the wordiness of this issue appears to have a point. The story focuses on a man and his son who brave the elements in search of elk. The man is a storyteller and lecturer of sorts, so it would only make sense that the narrator of the story is wordy as well. Add the fact that the narrator himself is mute and unable to communicate the words in his head and all of those heavy captions make a bit more sense. After a series of events, they come across Hex. This is an eloquent tale; one with a moral and some heft. Occasionally this series can be somewhat breezy given the "done in one" format of the book. It's been a pretty even load with some of the issues leaving me with that satisfied and full feeling while others have left me wanting more. This issue was satisfying indeed given the power of the story, but even if the story were shit I'd still recommend this one for Darwyn Cooke's outstanding art. Somewhere down the line, there'll be a collection of Cooke's works on his various DC titles. I'm sure that this one will be among them and as you are gazing across Cooke's ominous snowy landscapes and imaginative ways to convey motion, emotion, and action in a single panel, you'll say "How the hell did I miss that one?!?" Well, here's your chance to enjoy it first hand. This is one of the best looking and best reading JONAH HEX comics yet. Highly recommended. - Bug

THE SWORD #9 Image Comics

You know that part of classic storytelling where you see a good fight coming, and the buildup scene is crafted so well that it’s almost as good as the payoff? Like when Ripley dons the hydraulic Loader at the end of “Aliens 2”, ready for a throw down? Or maybe when Sentry finally got off his Prozac-laden keister at the end of WORLD WAR HULK? Well, this is almost that good. The Luna Brothers are still feeling their way around the superhero genre, but like Terry Moore on the well-done ECHO, can’t quite leave all the character development by the wayside long enough for a good butt-whoopin. Still, I found myself turning the pages as fast as I could read, and can hardly wait for next month. This is a great issue to jump on, as it covers a lot of back-story without much effort, and still manages to quicken one’s pulse throughout. - Rock-Me

PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT #1 (of 5) Marvel Comics

Hellcat gets sent to Alaska to represent the Initiative presence in the barren state. Sure, it's a bit contrived for a city gal like Hellcat to be sent to the sticks, but it's also the recipe for a lot of fun. The art by David Lafuente makes the 299 pennies worth it with his nice costume work and panels that convey fluid motion. His work reminds me a bit of Adam Pollina before he went overboard with the AEON FLUX stuff. There are some imaginative dream sequences, a cool fight scene with a polar bear, and the set-up for a supernatural mystery. It's only the first issue, so maybe writer Kathryn Immonen has more up her sleeve, but the only thing that this story is lacking is an interesting straight man for Hellcat's boisterous and peppy nature to bounce off of. And the generic love interest bo-hunk she runs into at the Moose Lodge doesn't count. Buy it for the art and hope for the best. Immonen did a pretty good job writing Hellcat with her husband Stuart recently in MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS. Looks like she's bringing the same type of quality to this miniseries. – Bug


Wait, wait, come back! You know that kid that died, like, two issues ago? *adopts his best Miracle Max accent* “Well it turns out he was only MOSTLY dead!” And the problem was that DC stuck a filler issue in, last month, without so much as a howdy-do. It’s amazing to me how much DC seems to hate some of their prime properties. But hey: I’m not in charge. The sad thing is, there is a rich subtext that Puckett has been building to, regarding old thinking and new thinking, and stretching the limits of what is defined as normal. The completely disposable filler issue last month threw me off, but I’m ready for part four next month. You should be too. Puckett is really starting to find his voice on this book. - Rock-Me

THOR: REIGN OF BLOOD #1 (One Shot) Marvel Comics

Man, this is some kick @$$, hard core, Asgardian storytelling going on in this book right here. I'm a fan of the regular THOR ongoing by JMS, but holy crap does Matt Fraction know how to spin a good ancient gods/barbarian tale. Filled with morally bankrupt characters such as Loki, the Enchantress, and even Odin and Thor himself, this ain't your pappy's Asgard. I really like the way Fraction depicts Asgard as a flawed and dark society. His twisted tales take these characters we grew up reading in directions that we haven't seen them go before. More reminiscent of stories of the ancient Greek Gods with their flawed personalities and soap operatics, these series of one shots and this one especially (the second in a planned set of three I believe) are some of the coolest Thor stories to come down the Rainbow Bridge in quite a long time. In this issue we get a two-parter as a Frost Giantess sparks the ire of Odin which leads to betrayal, a curse, and a gruesome battle between Thor, a giant mechanical monstrosity that runs on blood, and an army of the undead. Hardcore @$$-kickery follows. The art only makes the book even more of a must buy with art from Patrick Zircher that I never thought he was capable of and top notch work from Khari (SHANNA THE SHE DEVIL) Evans; all colored to perfection by June Chung and Avalon's Matt Milla. On all levels - art, story, packaging, color - this is some of the best stuff Marvel is putting out there right now. - Bug

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