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#21 10/1/08 #7

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) CITY OF DUST #1 THE AUTHORITY #3 MARVEL APES #3 JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #25 FANTASTIC FOUR #560 Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents PORTUS Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents VARIANTE VOL 1 Indie Jones presents 100 COVERS OGN Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!


Writer: Steve Niles Art: Zid Publisher: Radical Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

Steve Niles is best known as the guy who brought horror back to the forefront of comics, and I tend to agree with that statement for the most part. Although Niles has his fair share of misses, I find myself enjoying quite a few of the books he puts out there right now. A horror fan at heart, I always find something in a Niles book that will entertain me. CITY OF DUST stands as proof to this. This, the third title to come from the multi-media publisher known as Radical Comics, is another impressive debut in both story and art.
The story takes place in a Bradburian nightmare world where books are outlawed along with all form of creative thought. It's a literal world the characters of CITY OF DUST reside in. A world not that different from today where art programs are disappearing with more frequency from schools and corruption within the church casts a long dark shadow on today's society. Phillip Khrome is Niles' latest hard nosed detecting creation. He's a man plagued by guilt from his childhood when he told his teacher about a bedtime story his father told him. This use of creativity caused swift action, resulting in Khrome never seeing his father again. Now Khrome tracks offenders of the crime his father was accused of; arresting people for praying, reading, or using their right brain at all. Khrome is another interesting creation by Niles, who is fast becoming one of the lead noir writers as well, as seen in CRIMINAL MACABRE from Dark Horse, DEAD SHE SAID from IDW, and even his work on Batman at DC. Here, Niles puts a new interesting spin on the detective genre: science fiction.
Setting this story in the future opens up all sorts of new doors of possibility for Niles to venture through. I like the way Niles is blending elements of horror and noir and placing it in a futuristic environment. There's an especially effective scene in issue one that tells a lot about the environment this story is placed in when his literal-minded tech-bots come across a dead body that defies all forensic detection. Khrome is forced to think outside the tightly sealed box society has built around everyone in order to crack the case. The mystery has only begun, but when Khrome finds a book of monsters, it appears Niles is going to utilize some of our old Universal favorites in order to illustrate that a literal world overlooks a lot of important and dangerous things.
The art by Zid is simply fantastic--painterly, dynamic, and vivid. It's dark but not muddy. The panels are angular and varied, but not distracting. I've never heard of this guy before, but this Zid is someone to look out for.
I like a lot of the product Radical is putting out these days, but so far, this is my favorite. It is proof that Niles' strength lies outside of the mainstream. He's treading through familiar territory with the detective noir and the horror, but putting a fresh new spin on it by plopping it firmly into sci fi territory. I'm looking forward to seeing what futuristic takes Niles has on the classic monsters of old and what kind of bumps Niles' new detective, Phillip Khrome, will receive when he encounters them.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out a five page preview of his short story published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 (AVAILABLE NOW at Muscles & on his ComicSpace page. Bug was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics about indie comics, his own artistic process, the comics industry, and other shades of bullsquat. Look for Bug’s follow-up this Fall in MUSCLES & FRIGHTS!


Writer: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Artist: Coleby Publisher: DC Wildstorm Reviewer: Optimous Douche

I am an unapologetic AUTHORITY disciple. Even during what some consider the dark times for THE AUTHORITY, when there weren’t superstars like Ellis or Millar at the helm, I still felt the stories were ten times better than anything else on the shelves that week. I like to give this warning because if you are the type of reader that has been lukewarm to past volumes of Ellis’ brainchild, then there’s really no need to read the rest of this review. Because despite the fact the team is up shit’s creek without a carrier thanks to WildStorm’s apocalyptic “World’s End” event, make no mistake, this is still THE AUTHORITY. Now, if you are the type that has found the arrogance of THE AUTHORITY grating and receive some sort of sadistic thrill watching those you hate suffer, by all means keep reading; you might actually enjoy this latest volume for all of the wrong reasons.
My adoration for this deconstruction of DC’s JUSTICE LEAGUE wells from one source - political realism. Half a century ago, it was plausible to believe in the virtue of government and comic readers could easily buy into the concept of the world’s most powerful heroes following the bidding of the world’s governments. Why? Because there was a collective faith our governments were always looking out for our best interest. Whether it was Johnson’s “bungle in the jungle” or Nixon’s WATCHMEN presidency that pulled back the curtain to show us that Presidents, like super heroes, are people too, our faith that government is fundamentally good has been lost. These days the plausibility of beings with infinite power performing the bidding of special interests is simply ludicrous. THE AUTHORITY never kowtowed to governments within their stories, but were also never maniacal dictators; they simply always had a better way for all of the people in their universe. I don’t know about you, but I would certainly like to see Jack Hawksmoor with a well-equipped alien carrier as a third choice in our current election.
Now as much as I adore this band of virtual Gods, I will admit that the suspense level at the end of each book was starting to become akin to reading Superman. You know that when a character or team is always right and fighting for the “greater good” in the end things will wind up in their favor. Well, not anymore.
It appears the Wildstorm universe is within the throes of a world ending cross over shitstorm and even THE AUTHORITY is not immune to these overarching effects. With the Bleed-traveling carrier deeply embedded in what is now called Unlondon, every member is trying to do their damnedest to keep the last vestiges of humanity alive within the carrier’s rotting metallic husk. I sound unlearned about this event, because frankly I am. But I think the simple fact that I’m enjoying this book despite not having the big overarching picture in my sights is a glowing testament to this writing team. The world is in a world of trouble and that’s basically all you need to know. Hawksmoor, the man who derives his power from the vitality of cities, is a crippled wheelchair bound waif; thanks to a huge EM pulse the Engineer is now just a woman dying underneath earth’s blackened skies; even the all mighty Apollo can only travel to Terrafirma for brief stints because his solar sustenance can only be absorbed from space. Pretty much only Shin and Midnighter seem at full fighting strength, even though both of their spirits are dampened by the woeful world they now occupy. I have never seen THE AUTHORITY this beaten, this despondent nor this interesting in a very long time.
Perhaps in the end all will work out or perhaps not. It’s this type of uncertainty, though, that keeps me buying this title every month and enjoying every damn minute of it. This universe-wide commitment to a world on the brink of utter collapse is compelling me to forgo my tainted early 90s predispositions about other WildStorm titles and venture back into the house that Lee built. Time shall tell.
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.


Writer: Karl Kesel Artist: Ramon Bachs Publisher: What part of “Marvel Apes” do you not understand? Reviewer: Jinxo

See, kids, this is what happens when you drink and cartoon: you get a weird, crazy comic where the Marvel Universe is populated by monkeys. And, apparently, if you drink a whole lot…somehow the damn thing doesn’t suck. Hmmm…this may send the wrong message about drinking and drawing.
I honestly started buying this book with low hopes. I bought it with the same mindset I figured it had been created with, as a goof. Such a weird idea I had to look. I was expecting the typical cute animal/Spider-Ham level of spoofery. Take the characters, make jokey animal versions of them with pun-filled names and plug them into a generic, typical plot for the characters in question. The plot doesn’t have to be good, just good enough to hang a series of jokes on.
That ain’t this book.
To my amazement, MARVEL APES actually serves up a real plot with its silliness, filled with a good number of twists and surprises. The whole plot starts with the real Marvel Universe character The Gibbon, a man who looks like a monkey, and human scientist Fiona Fitzhugh being thrown into an alternate Marvel Monkey-verse. A failure as a hero in the human world, The Gibbon manages to be quite a hero on this world. Only he quickly learns that just because this world is parallel doesn’t mean it’s identical, as he sees some surprisingly brutal monkey justice dispensed. I think that was the moment when I realized this was not going to be all cutesy jokes. And at that point you think, “Well, it does make sense. They’re apes, not humans. That would explain things.” Only the story twists again proving THOSE assumptions wrong. The book does a really nice job of zigging when you expect it to zag.
The best compliment I think I can pay this book is to say that the story it tells is good enough that it would actually be a compelling alternate reality story even without the monkey gimmick. Some bits wouldn’t work but most of it would still be really good. Again, instead of a generic hero story spoof, this is a tale that actually digs very deep into the Marvel continuity it’s monkeying with. I mean, who would expect a book called MARVEL APES to reach all the way back to The Invaders and their foes?
At the same time…heh…they’re monkeys. And the book is populated with ads for non-existent Marvel Ape titles as if the book itself fell out of that alternate universe. And then there’s the backup story in each issue featuring the monkey version of The Watcher recounting Marvel Apes history. This is a Watcher who seems to “watch” us like we watch reality TV. He doesn’t seem to pay strict attention, gets more than a bit hammered as he tells us his story and gets some of his facts wrong…come on, how can you not love a book where an issue ends on The Watcher saying, “Stupid booze…why do I do this to myself?”
Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.


Writer: Dwayne McDuffie Pencils: Ed Benes, Doug Mahnke, Darick Robertson, Shane Davis, Ian Churchill, Ivan Reis Published by: DC Reviewed by: BottleImp

I just wanted to say right off the bat that I picked up this issue cold—I was not following the storyline; in fact, for reasons I’ll explain shortly, I haven’t been reading this title since its relaunch a little over two years ago. So why did I choose to jump on now, right in the middle of a story arc? A couple reasons.
First off: Animal Man. I’m guessing that, like most readers, my liking for this character comes from Grant Morrison’s work from the 1980s. Even though Buddy Baker was never as interesting or as groundbreaking again as he was in Morrison’s run on ANIMAL MAN, I hold enough leftover fondness for the character to have a look at whatever titles he appears in. It was a pleasant surprise to find that McDuffie is using Morrison’s Animal Man—the one who was made aware that he existed as a figment of a writer’s imagination—as a springboard to his current plot involving Animal Man, Vixen, the JLA and Anansi, the African Trickster god.
Anansi is the second reason I bought this issue. Comic books have always tended towards adopting mythological figures as participants in their universes, but these gods and goddesses tend to be European—chalk it up to the heritage and ethnicities of those comic book creators who were making it up back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, I guess. Up until recently, African, Native American and Far Eastern mythologies were largely ignored (one notable exception is John Ostrander’s FIRESTORM run from the ‘90s, which incorporated African deities). The use of Anansi as a villain is a refreshing change from the moldy old Norse or Greeks, but it is also integral—both because of Vixen’s West African origins, and because Anansi, aside from being a Trickster figure, is the owner of all stories.
This brings us back to Morrison, and what McDuffie has brilliantly done is to take Morrison’s Fourth-Wall-Breaking Animal Man story and integrate it within the DC Universe. All stories belong to Anansi, including the stories of a baby from Krypton, a boy whose parents are murdered after a night at the movies, and so on… and Anansi rewrites those stories so that the Justice League never exists. It’s a subtler version of what Morrison had done when he wrote himself explaining the world to Buddy Baker, but it touches on some of the same themes of creator/creation cause and effect—just in a more conventional way.
(I’m not saying that as a bad thing—conventional comic book storytelling can be some of the most entertaining when it’s done well, as it is here.)
So what kept me from hitching a ride on this title earlier?
Mostly Ed Benes. This isn’t really a fair issue to judge, since his work only accounts for ten pages or so, but I really don’t dig his artwork, and I remember not digging it when I flipped through the first issue of this relaunch. It’s a lot of over-muscled people with Jim-Lee-esque busy hatching with bland expressions and boring panel and page designs. Just take a look at the first few pages of this issue—especially page 4, where Red Tornado’s girlfriend accepts his marriage proposal with a cold, dead look on her face. It’s not Rob Liefeld-bad, but it’s not great.
And one more little gripe: the first page is devoted to a roll call of the JLA members, yet when the characters appear for the first time within the story, a name caption pops up beneath them. A bit redundant, isn’t it? Although it is much better than when Brad Meltzer was writing and had internal narrative captions from three different characters running simultaneously on the same page… oy, talk about over-writing.
But griping aside, the Anansi plot looks to give us some pretty cool alternate versions of the Justice League in the next issue, so I’m there…whether or not McDuffie will be able to keep me as a reader any longer, well, I’ll just have to wait and see.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast who's given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.


Writer: Mark Millar Art: Bryan Hitch (pencils, inks), Andrew Currie & Matt Banning (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

One of the more awkward moments from the 2007 Chicago WizardWorld took place during one of the many Marvel panels. It was announced earlier in the con that there would be a big, Big, BIG announcement in one particular panel, so the fanboys, fangirls, and fanbabies piled into the auditorium and waited not-so-patiently for the announcement. At the beginning of the panel, Joey Q made the announcement; Mark Millar would be taking over the FANTASTIC FOUR with Brian Hitch in tow on art duties. Millar was present and talked briefly about his plans with the title and answered some questions from the audience. When the hour was almost up, The Q asked for one final question. A lone audience member raised her hand and said "We were promised a big announcement for this panel, did I miss it?" Joey Q squirmed a bit and repeated "Uh...yeah...Mark Millar be writing...FANTASTIC…FOUR..."
I had nothing to do with the book and that made me wince.
Unfortunately, that "meh" feeling that permeated the hall that day has carried over into the title itself. Now, I love FANTASTIC FOUR. I made the observation in one of our Roundtable Reviews many years ago that as I get older, my appreciation for the title keeps increasing. I think it has to do with the concept of family and how important that bond is in times of trouble. It's not about living in a world that hates and fears you. That's the X-Men and proof positive why it's a popular concept with teens to this day. The FF is about finding a place in this dangerous world that one can call a safe haven and finding people around you that you want to share that comfort and security with. Also in the FF's case, it's about protecting that family and the world from challenges both cosmic and extraordinarily earthbound.
And I guess Millar is running with that theme here. He's definitely put the lives the FF lead in turmoil and danger. That part he's got covered. But somewhere along the way, something just with Millar's FF. Like this is a story of what someone thinks a family should be like, but that the writer doesn’t really have a firm grasp on what that means. I don't know much about Millar save for the fact that I usually don't buy his books, so I wouldn't want to make any assumptions, but it all feels as if it were an alien writing this title; someone foreign to what real people think and feel.
That's a feeling I get a lot when I read Millar's titles. There's this wall of smirk and snark that seems so impenetrable that finding some form of genuine emotion is all but impossible. There's a good writer in there somewhere, but I think the main issue that I take with Millar's books is that he panders to his audience and writes what he thinks they want to read rather than just coming up with a story and telling it. It's the type of decisions by polling numbers way of running things that has me infuriated with the current state of politics (but I digress). I'm sure Millar is in some way satisfied with the load of cash he's made from his comics and scripts, but I think that he's a script or two away from writing something that is actually genuine.
Unfortunately, a comic book about a family needs some kind of sincerity and genuine emotion to cut the mustard. It's not that Millar's stories aren't dynamic. They are. But if you're going to be writing about the First Family of the Marvel Universe, then, well, you've got to give it a little extra oomph.
As a straight up adventure story, though, this issue isn't bad. We've got time traveling anti-heroes, a betrayal or two, some subplots involving Ben's new squeeze, and of course, Doom and Johnny chained together (always good for a laugh). The stories aren't necessarily groundbreaking, but they've been done capably so far and move at a decent enough pace. Ben's new love interest and Sue's new business venture with the Wasp and She-Hulk are running neck and neck for the most boring subplot so far. The previous arc featuring a love triangle of sorts between an old girlfriend of Reed's, Sue, and Reed himself is an interesting setup, but without the aforementioned emotional weight to it, it played more like a kooky plot of a “Three's Company” episode with a weirdly placed Captain America robot starring as a nosey Mr. Furley. This new setup focuses on Johnny's new squeeze, who happens to be a supervillain, and her "family" of super-villains from the future who have traveled from a dying future Earth to the present using energies leeched from the lifeless husk of Galactus. Again, we have a pretty dynamic situation set up here, albeit kind of a weird set of guest stars in tow (a few descendants of the Hulk and some other characters who seem to have few ties with the FF at all). Interesting concepts aside, it's all spectacle and little by way of emotional heft. It's a Michael Bay movie. All flash and high concept. Little by way of relatable characters or recognizably effective interactions.
Hitch's artwork is equally blase. His work on ULTIMATES was at least crisp to the point of looking like the comic book version of hi def. Here, when inked by Andrew Currie and Matt Manning, the panels look muddy, as if traced by a Sharpie. Hitch also has a way of drawing faces that appear lacking of life or energy. All of Hitch's characters have a bored super model quality. It's detailed enough, utilizing all the right dynamic angles and paneling, but the inscrutable characters had me checking if I had picked up an issue of THE WALKING DEAD instead of FF.
Let's face it. It's painfully obvious that Millar appears to write everything as if it were going to be the plot in an upcoming feature film, made apparent by the stunt casting in ULTIMATES, and the sale before completion of WANTED, KICK-ASS, and whatever else he's working on this month. There's a place in comics for that, I'm sure. Multi-media presentation has its benefits. This issue ends with a cliffhanger that'll keep me buying for a bit, but this book has a firm place towards the bottom half of my to-read pile. Millar's FF has some interesting ideas and all the right spots for 'splosions, but if you're looking for a story with some kind of heart or depth, Millar's FF is not the place to look for it.


By Jun Abe Released by VIZ Media Reviewer: Scott Green

Either Jun Abe labored intensely to try to make PORTUS work or he enjoyed throwing everything he could think of at the topic, because this is just about the least economic you can get in horror manga without running into Go Nagai/Takayuki Yamaguchi territory. In "J-Horror", David Kalat presented the idea that THE RING and its ilk of "dead wet girl" horror movies were works of an artistic school. While you might need some art appreciation to spot someone who is just aping an impressionistic style, it is easy to spot when a "dead wet girl" story that fails to coalesce. Again, there is too much attempted to suggest that Abe is doing hack work, but PORTUS really suffers for lack of a credible, consistent philosophy. The shame is that Abe demonstrates strong visual notion how to capture that style of movie making in manga.
The titular PORTUS is the video game version of the VHS tape from THE RING. It's an old game, and legend has it that if you get to a certain level, a little boy would appear and ask you "do you want to come to this side?" If you said yes, you would die. (The video game lore is pretty fuzzy. While the game itself looks like it’s from the Atari 2600 epoch, the console looks like a Famicon box). Put in a cursed Kokeshi, traditional peg doll and family trauma, and there is way too much going on. The ideas bump into each other rather than coexist, as if Abe was working from every direction at once. Maybe there is an effective story that can be told through video gaming that doesn't seem like it was plucked as an alterative RING-like vector, but PORTUS isn't the horror that gamers might hope for.
If Abe can't handle any of these different story aspects, he can perfectly handle the diverse of range visual facets. The game itself isn't anything special, but the victims, their visions, and the imagery behind the cause of the haunting is all nightmare-inducing material. There is a tangibility in Abe's work, as if he was sketching something in front of him. This makes a close up of a face looking down, panicked at a cell phone disconcerting; a bit too close to someone who is too close to a brittle state. It makes a school girl's room turned into a news-paper plastered serial killer nest worrying. And, more otherworldly sights, such as a person turned into a bound-wooden doll or almost PAPRIKA-esque person/landscapes, into memorable horror tableaus.
Apart from notable exceptions (DEATH NOTE recently) manga is generally the work of a single writer/artist (with assistants, editors, ect). But, if Abe could be paired with a horror writer, they could produce be superbly creepy, modern horror 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.


By Iqura Sugimoto Released by CMX Reviewer: Scott Green

One of the traits that has made the manga tradition stand out and grab the attention of North American media consumers is its willingness to mix tones within a given work. From NEON GENESIS EVENGELION to TENCHI MUYO to FUSHIGI YUUGI, the anime and manga that was headlining the boom, and later through popular works like FULL METAL ALCHEMIST and NARUTO demonstrated a willingness to rapidly shift gears, evolve and surprise.
VARIANTE doesn't automatically wander off a ledge by trying to mix gut-punch splatter horror with wide-eyed goofiness. It does get into trouble trying to convey a gravely serious tone with characters that unpredictably becomes cute caricatures. If the intention was to cast the heroine as a vulnerable, big hearted girl whose disposition is entirely at odds with her circumstances, and her allies as relatively cool/sympathetic professionals in a world of unfeeling adults, the results were disorienting shifts in tone and an imprecise command of manga storytelling. This first volume of the series does have a few scenes in which the violence is devastating, but the scenes of overplayed glibness stand out almost as much as the shocks.
Aiko was a regular girl, whose semi-distinguishing characteristic was that she played the piano. For the most part, her motivation for learning and practicing was to make her parents and friends happy. But, her life was shattered when she walked in on her parents' violent death. After almost being autopsied, when a pulse was discovered, Aiko was transferred to a lab where her mangled left arm miraculously began to regenerate.
The world just gets more sadistically perilous for Aiko from there. She learns that her arm has been infected by DNA from a chimera, that these shambling monsters are after her, and that they represent a threat to those around her. She's also confined and told that she's a suspect in the death of her parents, perhaps for good reason, because her infected arm has demonstrated the ability to viciously lash out on its own. The young maverick investigator (as demonstrated by his flamboyant head-band) Agent Sudo and researcher Kochigawa demonstrate that they are sympathetic to Aiko, but the powers that be at Atheos Labs put it in no uncertain terms that Akio can either hunt chimera for them as their combatant or be destroyed as a threat.
With Akio, chained like a monster, sent out like a suicide soldier and witness to the violent death of various people she cares about VARIANTE has a vicious meanness to it, but not necessarily more than that demonstrated by accomplished thrillers. The scenes of Akio being locked up and the results of a person crossing paths with a chimera are effecting. The problem is that outside the heat of the moment, VARIANTE will offer pages of Akio looking around with puppy dog eyes or Sudo cartoonishly kicking reporters to the curb. The manga seems to rein in these dipolar tendencies as it progresses. It has some identity work to cement going forward, but if it can stop undercutting itself with attempts to make the characters loose and likable, and it has someplace intelligent to take what is presumably going to be a conspiracy chase scenario, then VARIANTE could become a compelling, pitch black suspense manga.

Hey folks, Ambush Bug with another trio of books that those of you who dare to venture outside of the Big Two may want to take notice of. First let’s welcome back the good Professor Challenger for a review of Epoch’s 100 COVERS. Be brave. Step outside of your long box. And enjoy the indepentipity. I'll be back afterwards with a fantasy, a sci fi yarn, and a handful of nail-biters. Enjoy...


Writer/Artist: Rick Lundeen Publisher: Epoch Comics Reviewer: Prof. Challenger

“Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea.” — Charlie Croker (The Italian Job)
It’s a great idea and one I can not believe has never been done before. Independent comics publisher Rick Lundeen and his Epoch Comics has produced an outstanding book that inspired me to come out of the grave and share my thoughts on it with the world.
This gem of a book is, very simply, the first 100 covers from a super-hero team comic series called THE BATTALION made up of original characters: Rockefeller, Mataak, Malator, Rush, Whipcord, Elof. The thing about this series that makes this book so unusual is the storytelling device that Lundeen grasped is to tell their stories using only covers. I’ve seen the occasional comic that told its story entirely in splash pages (MARVEL FANFARE and THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN come to mind), but I’ve not ever seen anything like 100 COVERS.
These eyecatching illustrations do indeed provide tantalizing glimpses into untold stories that just beg to be told, but it is up to the reader to fill in the details. This is similar in concept to Chris Van Allsburg’s THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK, which is a children’s book consisting of a series of full page illustrations and one sentence from nonexistent stories that inspire the reader to conceptualize the story in his or her own mind. Lundeen’s endeavor is actually a more daunting task in that he burdened himself with 100 original illustrations versus Allsburg’s measly 14 illustrations.
The comic book cover that tells a story is something of a lost art these days where covers are little more than pin-up galleries with mastheads. They may often be gorgeous to look at, but there’s nothing to engage the imagination of the casual buyer. A cover that tells a story that is appealing and/or intriguing is more likely to capture an impulse purchase than another bland trading card cover with a swiped Maxim pose. There’s storytelling and innovation in the former and only technique in the latter.
When I start moving through the covers in this book, what strikes me is the charm of Lundeen’s style as he undulates seamlessly through different types of stories. There are times that the covers evoke the classic silver age of DC comics, and then up pop covers that remind me of 70s Marvel Comics. There are adventures, mysteries, comedies, tragedies, and changes that happen to this team of heroes and by the 100th cover, I felt like I knew who these characters are even though I’ve only seen a glimpse of the stories. Lundeen succeeds at creating characters who are consistent in their look and style appear as well-developed as any group would be if they’ve had a successful 100 issue monthly run.
I must admit that I was already familiar with some of Lundeen’s other work through his Epoch imprint, but 100 COVERS is that rare project that I can’t stop thinking about. I’m tempted to call for an actual BATTALION series that tells each of these stories, but at the same time I’m afraid that the charm and mystique of this book would be diminished.
My highest recommendation – perfect antidote if you’re burned out on the ULTIMATE FINAL SECRET CRISIS INVASION or whatever. Check it out. He’s got a preview available here, and you can order it from ComiXpress for $12.95. Lundeen has also informed me that a lower priced digest version of 100 COVERS will be available by the end of the month and Amazon will soon have a version of it available in 3 parts. So, basically, you have no excuse not to check it out and support a project that has the distinction of being an original idea in a business that sees very few of them nowadays. This truly is a great idea and I wish I had thought of it!
Prof. Challenger is illustrator and "Renaissance Man" Keith Howell who is married with two kids, a dog and a cat. Headquartered in the Republic of Texas, he has a glorious ability to annoy people, the strength of ten men, and sometimes updates his website at


Hopefully, those of you who entered and won the NIGHTMARE FACTORY Contest we ran a few weeks back have received their prizes and will agree with me that there's some spooky poop-smack in this book. Writers Stuart Moore and Joe Harris do a great job of cutting through all of the wordiness in exchange for upping the scare quotient while adapting these tales of terror from horror novelist Thomas Ligotti. But the thing that impressed me most about this book is how many amazing artists show up to lend their eerie stylings for this book. Horror is very much a visual genre, and the people behind this book seem to know what it takes to use those visuals for maximum fright-filled impact. Gathered for this book are some of the creepiest artists in all of comicbookdom. The highlight of the book by far is seeing Bill Sienkiewicz do what he does best. This time around his images are just as skewed, but Sienkiewicz’s work has a softer tone, almost alluring, tempting the reader in so that they are unaware of the frights they are about to experience. This story is by far the best of the bunch, featuring a spooky clown, a dark secret, and questions about the world that are often best left unanswered. The high caliber of artistry doesn’t stop there. Artist Vasilis Lolos serves up some wispily spooktactular images in a story about a childhood memory of a gas station carnival that haunts the narrator’s adult dreams. Tony Cypress has a great story that highlights his cartoonish style. There’s something really unsettling about his work (in a good way, mind you) when his cartoonish figures meet dark colors and evil overtones. Finally, artist Nick Stakal tells a story of nameless horrors haunting a tower with imagery and lines that chut across the page as if the artist were carving the images with a dull blade. I love Stakal’s raw style. It’s a perfect fit for this surreal short story. Ligotti’s horror isn’t your garden variety spook and monster scare fests. His stories are more heady and abstract. Fans of SAW may be disappointed. But if you like your horror multi-contextual and intellectual, this is right up your shadow-filled alley.

LEVITICUS CROSS #1 Hays Entertainment

This high concept fantasy project stands out from the rest due to its slick production and acute attention to every inch of the panel by the artist. The characters look manga influenced, but the costume and creature designs rendered imaginatively by penciller Hector Sevilla are tops. I loved the variety of the creatures that not only fill out the cast of the book, but inhabit the background. Reading through this book was like the STAR WARS Cantina Scene where every inch of the place has character and you want to listen in on each and every conversation and interaction taking place. Giant lizards, interestingly garbed rogues, and all sorts of beasties populate this book. The story ispretty good as well: a revolution of sorts pitting the gods against the mortals who once worshipped them. All in all a satisfying jaunt into fantasy.


The prolog of this book was first published in the first MUSCLES & FIGHTS Volume (a series of books that deserve a rightful place on any supporter of the independent scene’s bookshelf *and I’m not saying that because one of my own stories is in the 3rd Volume*) and now creator Spanky Cermak follows up his post-apocalyptic “DUNE meets WWII Kamikaze pilot” epic with a full issue of more of the same type of goodness. I’ll always support a fellow MUSCLES & FIGHTS contributor’s work, especially since this elaboration of Cermak’s initial story is just as interesting, just as fast paced, just as in yo’ facey, and just as visually stimulating as his 10 pg prologue. Here Cermak launches his desert missile pilot into a new adventure filled with unflinching brutality. The book has a quick pace and a vivid sense of panel placement. Even thought the action is fast, nothing is lost in the gutters between panels--something that can’t be said for even the most high profile books. DYNAMITE PILOT runs full steam ahead of the pack with an interesting concept filled with reckless and fun abandon.

SECRET INVASION #6 (of 8) Marvel Comics

Here’s the whole issue: Captain Marvel, who received a pointless, ignoble and shittily written resurrection, is further cheapened by the revelation that he’s actually a Skrull imposter and then gets killed off. Heroes all over the world alternate between killing and dickering. A bunch of shitheaded NewYorkers immediately side with Skrulls over their own people, and the heroes save them anyway despite the fact they clearly deserve to be eaten by rabid badgers. Thor appears to blow shit up. More random wide-screen shots of a buncha people yelling at each other and punching stuff. Oh, and the “he” in “He loves you” turns out to be, uhh, god. So I guess the Skrulls are like the Crusaders, then? Ugh. It’s thinly written, the reader is invested in exactly nobody, the characters and citizens alike all come of like morons, and I’m bored as hell. Can we get a perspective character? Somebody to relate to? A reason to care about the shooting and the falling ships and the myriad characters nobody’s ever heard of? Nah, I guess we can’t. Another crossover I just want to end. Sleazy G

YOUNGBLOOD #5 Image Comics

I’m kind of torn by this series—on the one hand, I really dig Derec Donovan’s art and the whole concept of superheroes as reality TV stars. But on the other hand, Joe Casey keeps on throwing out names, events and characters from prior incarnations of this series without any explanation of their origins. He’s not exactly making this comic “new reader friendly.” I mean, I know that the original YOUNGBLOOD sold a gazillion copies, but he’s gotta know that the majority of those were bought by speculators who put their ten copies in plastic bags without even reading them. I’m not asking for a return to 1970s Marvel-style “plot exposition on the first two pages of every issue,” but at the same time I don’t want to have to look up YOUNGBLOOD on wikipedia every time an oblique reference is made. Just a line or two to clue me in on who the hell Spacehunter is, or even whatever the fuck Johnny Panic’s power is supposed to be. You’re just lucky that Donovan’s batting 1.000 on the art chores, YOUNGBLOOD, otherwise I’d already be gone. - Imp

NO HERO #1 Avatar Comics

NO HERO, Warren Ellis’ new ongoing series at Avatar, seems to have certain basic elements in common with is recent BLACK SUMMER miniseries: people who want powers for the wrong reasons, heroes who stand against the government not with them, and a clear sign that one of the members has gone off the rails. Much like the initial issue of BLACK SUMMER, the first issue of NO HERO has the promise of both extreme violence and ongoing societal commentary. Since this series is ongoing, though, I’m hoping it’ll follow through on more of the commentary on society’s thirst for vigilantism and less of the splodey, which was perhaps in overabundance the last time around. NO HERO definitely has a lot of potential (and a possible inspiration from the Christian Slater film “Kuffs”): as San Francisco is a real live city where vigilantism is both permitted and paid for by the city, a scientist develops a formula to grant people superpowers, hand-chooses antiauthoritarian types who want to help regular folks, and starts trying to change the world. As you can imagine, things work out wonderfully: he learns how to vat-grow meat so we don’t have to eat bunnies, peace spreads across the land, and the scientist figures out how to harness the power of smiles to run our cars and TVs. Either that or a mugger gets his ears ripped off by a dude’s feet as they slam into his shoulders and drive his knees to the ground, shattering them. Wait, on second thought, maybe more splodey is okay after all…Sleazy G

BATMAN #680 DC Comics

Look, I *like* Grant Morrison. Have for around two decades now. He’s come up with some of the craziest, most outta-left field yet in-love-with-comics ideas I’ve ever seen. But he’s also written some dull, trying-too-hard, and excessively vague stories in this time, and I’m sorry, but the R.I.P. storyline is far from his best work. There are a bunch of characters we don’t know or care about speaking nebulously about nothing in particular (cuz people loved that in that “League of Batmen” storyline); one of them gets yanked through a window by a noose (cuz apparently rope now breaks heavy glass) with no clear indicator of who did it (one would assume the Joker, if he wasn’t standing in the room with everybody one panel later), and I’m left wondering why I even care what happened since it had nothing to do with anything and flowed so poorly. Eventually the Joker tells Batman he knows something Batman never even references, then Batman charges into the death trap the Joker just told him about, and then we finally get the big reveal that we knew was coming all along: you can’t really trust chicks named Jezebel. As a fan of much of Morrison’s work, I gotta say, I just can’t wait for him stop writing BATMAN and start writing something we both understand and care about. Sleazy G

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