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#32 12/17/08 #7

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) NO ENEMY BUT PEACE #1 (one-shot) WATCHMEN (new printing) #1 AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #19 DC UNIVERSE HOLIDAY SPECIAL ONE-SHOT #1 PROOF VOL. 2: THE COMPANY OF MEN TPB THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL Novella Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER V10 Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents BLACK LAGOON V1 Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!

NO ENEMY, BUT PEACE #1 (one-shot)

Writer: Sergeant Richard Meyer USMC Artists: Martin Luna & Richard Meyer Publisher: Machinegun Bob Productions Reviewer: Optimous Douche

There are some that have the audacity to say “Without soldiers we would not have war.” To negate the necessity of war in its purest form is idealistic and foolish. Equally foolish is placing the blame for conflict on the men and women who risk their lives each day on the frontlines. Thankfully with our recent unending conflict in the Middle East, a majority of the world community has remembered to turn their ire towards Washington instead of the barracks. Anyone that hasn’t yet needs to pick up a copy of this book written and drawn on the frontlines by American soldiers and realize the palpable danger they place themselves in each day for duty and country.
I’ll be the first to admit the cloak of subterfuge Mr. Bush tried to drape across our collective eyes was as worthy of impeachment as Mr. Nixon’s recording sessions. We first entered Iraq under the guise of weapons of mass destruction. When the intelligence failed our Commander, our cause became the noble pursuit of instilling Democracy in a region perpetually ruled by fear and oppression. I still believe the fundamental reason America works as a Democracy is because it was an ideal we as a country were willing to fight and die for, and I am still unsure that this ideal will be venerated and cherished when it is put upon a nation, but only time will tell. However, for one brief half hour as I traversed the pages of NO ENEMY, BUT PEACE, my pinko liberal pontificating was smothered by the horrific reality of combat in a climate that hasn’t been fit for comfortable existence since the year 0 A.D.
Generally in comics the story centers around people with varying levels of invulnerability achieving heroic feats against unbelievable odds. What made the story of NO ENEMY, BUT PEACE saturate my palms with sweat and start my heart racing is that one man with no scientific or mystical endowments faced danger with merely his own courage and ingenuity. When the Marines of unit Golf 2/5 rolled into the Baghdad suburb of At-Tarmiyah, they were expecting nothing more than the heat and dust of another boring patrol. Instead, they were attacked, without warning or personal provocation.
The real hero of this fateful battle is Sergeant Marco Martinez, once a gang-banger on the streets of Los Angeles, who found a sense of purpose and duty within the elite Marine Corps. Trapped without a weapon, Martinez used ingenuity and courage to lay waste to the insurgents by turning their own weapons against them. For his courageous deeds he was later awarded the Navy Cross, which stands below only the Medal of Honor. That’s the “what happened”; now how Meyer and crew get there is a heroic feat of comic publishing.
From the first panel, before a bullet is ever fired, Meyer’s strong storytelling made me feel as though I was stranded with this unit in the apparently abandoned town. Casual phrases like “I hate this country” and laments asking “How long are we going to be here” helped set the stage for the quiet before the storm and gave this non-military guy a true sense of what happens when soldiers are in waiting for the next shit storm to pass over. When the action does kick in, they were panels that made me hold my breath. Even though I knew from my e-mails with Sergeant Meyer and my own online research that Martinez and company would survive, I was still nonetheless on the edge of my seat through every panel.
Even out of the context of this book being produced in the middle of a war zone this is a damn fine comic book--certainly comparable to anything that is birthed from the big houses’ comfortable air conditioned offices in New York. Meyer’s passion to tell this story exudes from every thought bubble. You can tell there were two artists on the book. While each brings their own flair, I have to applaud the artist that conquered the full page spreads. I would place the second artist on tier with the likes of Jim Lee and Mark Silvestri. When these men come home or look for livelihood beyond the Armed Forces, they could certainly find it in the comic medium.
Thank you for bringing this book to my attention, Sergeant Meyer. Not only was it a fascinating read, but as we get ready for a season of remembrance you certainly put life into perspective for those safe on the home front thanks to yours and all of the Armed Forces efforts. Good luck and God Speed.
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.


Alan Moore: Writer Dave Gibbons: Artist DC Comics: Publisher Vroom Socko:Watching

Presumably in anticipation of the coming movie, DC has reissued the first issue of WATCHMEN. Not only that, it’s selling for the original (sensible) price of $1.50. If you’ve been putting off reading the greatest comic book of all time, or you know someone who still, in this day and age, looks down on comics as immature crap, then this is the book to pick up this week.

What? You need more than that? C’mon! It’s the greatest comic of all-
Wait, what does that even mean, The Greatest Comic of All Time? It’s not my favorite comic. That’s AKIRA, with the Tintin books coming in second. It’s also not my favorite Alan Moore book. FROM HELL takes that honor, followed by TOP 10. So what does Greatest mean then? To my eyes, it means that WATCHMEN is the most literate comic of all time.
WATCHMEN is the flashpoint of comic book storytelling. Every storytelling technique in comics prior to the mid-80’s is on display in these pages. Every comic book convention that followed had its start here as well. It’s widely considered to be the first Superhero Deconstruction comic, but it’s also an examination of the nature of power (both political and personal), the dangers of a black/white view of morality in a grey world, the nature of humanity, the uselessness of heroes without tangible villains to confront, and about a dozen other themes. There’s more detail, and more theories about those details, than you can imagine.
Hell, I once wrote a paper for my English 300 class that was a close reading of the Tales of the Black Freighter segments. The main argument was that the narrator of the comic was, for all intents and purposes, the same person as Ozymandias. Both characters had salvation in mind, both made their efforts on the backs of dead men, and both were damned for their efforts. Or do you not think that the final image of the final issue was a harbinger of the undoing of all Veidt’s work?
Of course, that idea is predicated on the notion that Ozymandias is the villain of the piece. But what if we were to approach the story saying that in the end he was right? That would make the villain Rorschach. And let’s face it, the uncompromising brutality and right/wrong linear thinking he displays doesn’t exactly fit within decent society. And, if his notes do bring down Veidt, then Rorschach will have brought down an entire civilization. Sounds like a villain to me. Then again, who’s to say that either of these men are villains? Does the story even HAVE a villain?
That’s why WATCHMEN is remembered. It’s the kind of work that people read, then never stop discussing. It’s one of the stories that not only changes your expectations of what is possible in comics, but also grows in your mind as you read. It grows as you reread. It forces you to question it and yourself. That’s what literature is made of. There have been other comics since WATCHMEN that can be called literature. SANDMAN immediately comes to mind, as does BLACK HOLE, MAUS, and BLANKETS. (The most interesting example I’d give is PREACHER, but that’s another column…) But I don’t think that any of these would have been given the chance they had if not for the critical and commercial success of WATCHMEN.
That’s what makes this the Greatest Comic of All Time.
Vroom Socko, known as Aaron Button to Portlanders, was originally going to write a whole “They got Alan Moore to do a movie adaptation comic?” shtick, but it really didn’t turn out all that funny. Oh, he managed a B+ on that paper. He credits it for his passing the class.


Writers: Dan Slott and Christos N. Gage Artists: Harvey Tolibao and Bong Dazo Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Jinxo

Maybe it’s just me but I think the SECRET INVASION plot in AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE has been better than the plot in the main book. For me more than the main book this plot captured the feeling of a truly massive invasion, covering tons of characters, tons of locations and running with a plot that felt bigger and more of a threat. The main title had big jumbly battles that threatened The Savage Land and New York mainly. AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE showed the whole country in peril. With multiple battles only having time to be given a panel or two I still felt like I got more pointed info about what’s going on. And, oh yeah, there were solid arcs with some real importance for the characters.
This issue actually takes place after “the big victory”. Only it builds up an additional final threat that, again, I think trumps SECRET INVASION’s big New York battle. The second stringers end up putting more on the line and end up saving the country from a massive threat the A-listers would have missed. Action, drama and a sense of humor. Solid stuff.
I do however have one big complaint about this issue. Solid stuff until the second to last page. As I’ve said there were character arcs going on with some real meat to them. One in particular involved a Skrull posing as a hero who actually had a change of heart and decided to fight with Earth’s heroes. At the same time he kept the fact that he was actually a Skrull secret. It was a complicated and really interesting plot. Since the start I’ve been wondering where they were going to go with it. Sadly the resolution of this story, for me, was given short shrift. They could have done so much more with it. If that weren’t bad enough, not only do they cut the end of this plot short, they also step on the built up drama by ending it in a way that felt like they were going for a joke. There’s literally a panel where looking at it in my head I could hear the comedy, “Wah, wahhhh…” music cue or a rim shot. Yikes. Way to step on a moment. Other than that though, another solid run on this title.
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.


Written and drawn by: a whole buncha people Published by: DC Reviewed by: BottleImp

So call me corny, but I really like it when comics put out Christmas themed issues. There’s just something about superheroes with yuletide spirit that feels simple and clean… like comic book characters used to be, you know? And as a bonus, it only happens once a year—no worrying about getting bogged down in years’ worth of continuity or following countless subplots, and very little chance of the Christmas story having long-lasting repercussions on your favorite titles. Just a chance for comic creators to write good short stories that PROBABLY won’t feature gratuitous bloodshed. Case in point: DC’s HOLIDAY SPECIAL, which at $5.99 is still a better entertainment value than any and all issues of FINAL CRISIS. This one-shot features an assortment of short tales, some more closely tied into the holidays than others. And like any anthology, the quality within varies.
Some of the better stories include “A Day Without Sirens,” which finds Commissioner Gordon pleasantly surprised by a lack of crime, Paul Dini’s interpretation of “Good King Wenceslas,” which features the beautiful painting of Dustin Nguyen, and “It’s a Wonderful Night,” a nice story that touches on the emotional connections between Nightwing, Robin and Boomerang.
There are a few of the stories that feel a little more generic in terms of the message, but have artwork that elevates them to a higher level. “An Angel Told Me,” featuring the Huntress in your basic “after-school special” type of situation of helping out a troubled teen, is a great showcase for the slightly cartoony and graphic designs of Rafael Albuquerque. Likewise, “The Night Before Christmas…” deals with the Teen Titans (characters I couldn’t care about less), but Mike DiMotta’s amazing art pops off the page—the painterly colors and slightly angular drawing style remind me of J.C. Leyendecker’s Saturday Evening Post covers.
The least-Christmas-ey story in the bunch is definitely “Let There Be Light,” a standard superhero/supervillain slugfest that seems to be geared more to establishing Dr. Light (the female one, not that rapist one) as a major hero than as a way of spreading the Christmas spirit. Again, the art sets this one apart as the coloring on Rodolfo Migliari’s pencils gives the pages a near Alex Ross-ian quality in their realism.
The worst story in the bunch has to be “Somewhere Beyond the Sea,” a bizarre tale that sets Aquaman in the place of one of the Three Wise Men in a new version of the Nativity. I’m not sure if it was meant to come off as surreal, or magical, or if it was supposed to be “reality.” The writing itself is also kind of clunky, so dialogue and text that is supposed to feel profound gets nudged instead towards Ed Wood-style pretentiousness. The writer here? Dan DiDio, who really should stick to editing (or not).
All in all, this is a pretty nice change of pace from the average monthly title, if for no other reason than it lets comic book heroes lose their hang-ups and spread a little comfort and joy—if only for a few pages.
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: Alexander Grecian Artist: Riley Rossmo Publisher: Image Comics Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

Just two short volumes into this series and I'm already in love with PROOF. Image Comics, first the House of Spawn and now more the House of Kirkman, has definitely found themselves another winner in the pages of this take on the world of the mythological and long thought extinct of our realm. The Chupacabra, "Bigfoot", fairies, and with this second volume of this exceptional series we now have ourselves dinosaurs. PROOF is a book revels in the wonder and mystery surrounding such beings but also does its damndest to give you some great human characters to try and go with the main attraction of the book, John "Proof" Prufrock (the big talking sasquatch-y fella). Like a more buddy comedy-like version of the X-Files, but with that little hit of cop drama to keep everything on the level, the world of PROOF is one that isn't lacking for themes and plotlines to keep you coming back for more.
The first volume, for those of you still uninitiated to the series (which is why I'm here to rain accolades down upon it), gave us a broad introduction to the kinds of beings we'd be seeing inside the pages of this wondrous series, and which also presented to us our main lead Proof (the walking, talking, highly educated Bigfooty gentleman as I said earlier) and our two human protagonists, Ginger (a former NYC beat cop who asked too many questions for her own good) and Elvis (a small town sheriff with a striking resemblance to a certain personage of music royalty, and whose mother was devoured by the Chupacabra in Vol. 1). We're also presented with The Lodge, the highly secretive government organization that employs and shelters Proof and that deals with all these very "real" entities of folklore and myth that roam and thrive through the underbrush of the world.
And it's all excellent. Now that I've laid the groundwork for you, it's time to hit you over the head with the praise. This book is damn excellent.
The characters are as wonderful and exciting as the beings that inhabit its pages. Ginger and Elvis have great chemistry between themselves, as well as playing off of PROOF, who in and of himself is a great central character, as his inherent traits of being the big strong guy type but mixed in with his "humanization" that has developed from being amongst them for so long, combined with his level of intelligence, his mysterious past, and the themes of loneliness and uniqueness that come with him being pretty much one of a kind, make for a great hodgepodge of characteristics in one being, as well as making for great interaction between the three. And with this volume, we're given a look into just how many forces at work in this world of the fantastical. We see that there's a lot more going on than just The Lodge's efforts to keep these creatures from having detrimental effects on humanity, but there's other organizations and people out there willing to destroy them just for sport. And this has just been one example so far--lord knows what other kind of sleaziness is abounding out there, but from the looks of it The Lodge isn't alone, and its head members look to have a deep past with these less savory gentlemen. From here on out, it looks like things are going to get ugly...
I've become a big fan of the presentation of the book as well, even though it took me a couple issues into the first TPB to get used to it. At first the art by Riley Rossmo seemed a little..."off". It was just so raw and the colors seemed a little dull (meaning washed out). But then I realized, that's kind of the point. This isn't a pretty world and it really shouldn't be presented as such, and that's when I came to enjoy what I was seeing here. The way Rossmo puts the emphasis where it needs to be in every single page and panel by going minimalist with whatever isn't quite important at the time, whether it's just background items presented in simple line or the colors (at first handled by Rossmo and now with help from Fiona Staples and Adam Guzowski) on certain aspects going monochromatic. It really is a visual feast once your eyes know what they're looking for, besides the fact that he's got an amazing sense of panel placement and really knows how to work your eye from one scene to the next. And Grecian's scripting, between his playful dialogue, his impeccable timing with just enough exposition to get you caught up on something you may just not fully understand because of shady circumstances, and his use of his "Cryptoids" (little "Pop-Up" info bubbles that give you information on a person, place, or thing) gives the book that extra hint of playfulness to go with the sense of wonder that it naturally provokes. From a craft aspect, PROOF has the goods as well.
Finding myself as tired as I have by more "conventional" comics this past year, books like PROOF here, along with a good bit of the Image line to be honest, have really given me a sense of hope that the industry isn't going to eat itself in a fervor of yearly "events" and gimmicks. Grecian and Rossmo have created themselves a wonderful little world to play with and they seem more than happy to play it out for us on a monthly basis (I think, anyway--I am buying this in trade form, after all). They've given us great characters, a great setting, lots of intrigue, a little buddy action here, some hints at romance there, as well as nods towards a much broader picture across the board, and the occasional double cross as well. It doesn't just make for good comics; it's also proof that this book has a lot of creative momentum going for it and doesn't look like it's going to let up at all anytime soon. This, this right here is one of those fabled "damn good comics" that should be saved and preserved on everybody's bookcase or in their monthly pull list. And unlike the creatures that inhabit its pages, the more people that know about this, the better. Cheers...
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Writer: Adam-Troy Castro Publisher: Creeping Hemlock Press Reviewr: Ambush Bug

Some books you read, finish the last page, and then move on to what’s next from the ol’ reading pile. But other books are weightier than that. More deserving of additional thought. THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL is one of those books.
Although not a comic book, THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL is a book deserving to be read by those who love fiction, graphically illustrated or not. Occasionally, I like to take a look at books without pictures. It makes me feel all sophisticated and shit. Plus if you’re a fan of comic book horror, this 56 page novella isn’t going to be too much for your ADD addled minds to digest.
The story is more metaphor than anything else--a creative, symbolic expression focusing on familial relationships and how an ugly separation can spawn ripples of tragedy to children caught in the middle of the warring parties. Jen is a young woman whose life has been dedicated to training, pleasing her father, and directing her rage towards her estranged mother. After her birth, her parents separated…badly. So badly that a pact was formed, a sort of competition agreed upon. This agreement stated that one day father and mother would meet to settle their differences once and for all in one final match-up measured by strength and will. Years later, Jen meets her twin brother, Ethan, a mountain of a boy, who has been living with her mother (who she affectionately calls The Bitch through the entire story), and training just as hard as her. Now, trapped in an empty pool in the middle of the desert, Jen and Ethan will meet and battle to settle the differences between their parents.
In the ugly game of shattered marriage, children are often caught in the crossfire, innocent victims twisted and manipulated by people who care more about fighting than raising a child properly. In THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL, this scenario is taken to a brutal and bloody extreme. Not for the squeamish, this is one hard core story that will rattle your teeth and make your insides squirm. It hits you on a visceral, primal level with both the vivid descriptions of violence and the emotional salvo of a family devouring itself in a feeding frenzy. I have a pretty high tolerance for grue, but there were times during this read that I winced once or twice from the brutality. But even though the violence is abundant, it serves a purpose to the story: a hideous reminder of how reckless parents can be when priorities shift and responsibilities are neglected.
Tough as nails, brutal and relentless, writer Adam-Troy Castro bludgeons you with words right up to the last word on the last page. I’m going to be on the lookout for more work by Mr. Castro. THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL is some great reading from Creeping Hemlock Press if you can find it, and a read that beats itself so hard into your brainpan that you’d be hard pressed to forget it. Check out their website here to see if it’s still available.
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. There you can also see a five page preview of his short story in MUSCLES & FRIGHTS! Bug was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics.


by Yukito Kishiro Released by Viz Media Reviewer: Scott Green

In the mid 90's, when I first started really paying attention to manga, I remember thumbing through a few volumes of BATTLE ANGEL ALITA and scoffing at segments depicting its heroine engaged in a sort of cyborg rollberball. I was coming off GHOST IN THE SHELL, and robots fighting over a ball on a rollercoaster track struck me as a bit sillier than what I was looking for. Fortunately, it wasn't long before my antipathy was corrected. On someone's recommendation, I went back and tried reading BATTLE ANGEL ALITA from its beginning. It did have a girl doing robot-fu against a cyborg Gene Simmons, and I didn't yet have sense to appreciate that sort of inspired oddity, but in my mind it came to represent the quintessential example of what good manga does well. Few would arrive at a manga about bread making (YAKITATE!! JAPAN) or one dedicated to the game of go (HIKARU NO GO) with a preexisting fascination with the subject matter. However, this disinterest does not factor into the equation for a good manga. With compelling characters, Takehiko Inoue's SLAM DUNK made basketball popular. HIKARU NO GO revived interest in go. Because a reader like myself is given reasons to care about Alita, and because watching her twisting mid-air as she kicks the KISS-bot or hurtling at literally break neck speed down a roller-track is dazzlingly rendered, BATTLE ANGEL ALITA establishes why it deserves attention.
Deep into the second incarnation of BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER Vol. 10 is more of a transitional volume than a showcase, but it does still demonstrate Kishiro's extravagant approach to his manga. Groups of strange creations come and go, only spending enough time on panel to impress the reader with the weird spectacle of seeing micro-saucer Space Invaders fighting robot gunslingers. The action itself gets similarly creative, with a match of full contact thumb wrestling and a particularly brutal exercise in lateral thinking used to decide a Dirty Harry stare down.
Starting in 1990, Yukito Kishiro chronicled the tangled second life of a cyborg cranium found discarded in the Scrapyard. Given a new body and the name "Alita" by doctor/bounty hunter Daisuke Ido, over the course of nine volumes, Alita repeatedly tried to establish a life for herself. She was a bounty hunter, a musician, a revolutionary and a rollerball contender. She found and lost love. Constantly evolving, even her body was swapped four times during the series. Kishiro began exploring the cosmos that he had established, particularly the relationship between the Scrapyard and the supposed paradise suspended above it, Tiphares. Then, in 1995 health concerns drove Yukito Kishiro to park Alita's story at a spot well ahead of the one that he had envisioned.
Kishiro continued experimenting with Alita's world. He paid tribute to Frank Miller's SIN CITY with gritty prequel Ashen Victor, and looked around Alita's life with a collection of "Another Stories" shorts. Then in 2001, he returns to Alita in earnest with the monthly LAST ORDER. This one ran in the seinen anthology ULTRA JUMP (from the same family of publications as NARUTO/DRAGON BALL/One Piece's SHONEN JUMP). In contrast to the evolving format of the original, BATTLE ANGEL ALITA: LAST ORDER adapted the model of a fighting tournament. The manga quickly introduced the revolutionary effects of the late Battle Angel revelations on Tiphares before explosively expanding the cosmos to include Tiphares' orbital elevator based sister city Ketheres, terraformed Mars and Venus, Dyson Sphere enclosed Jupiter and Lagrange point parked interstellar colony ships. In the midst of these expanding horizons, Alita along with her cutesy mono-molecular wire armed clones Elf and Zwölf and her bellicose, masculine clone Sechs are entered as a team into the Zenith of Things Tournament (Z.O.T.T.).
Given that he was working off the model of a tournament fighting manga, Kishiro took the opportunity afforded by the formula to digress down the path of an extended history of one of the fight’s participants. So volumes eight and nine left the Z.O.T.T. in favor of chronicling a chapter in the history of Caerula, Alita's opponent from the Stellar Nursery Society (space-traveling war orphan care-givers), a Maetel-looking Habsburg vampire, trained in "48 schools and 125 divisions" of kung fu, whose actions in the frozen wastes ensure the survival of humanity in the post-Apocalyptic pre-history of BATTLE ANGEL ALITA. Yeah, "extravagant" would definitely be the adjective I'd use to describe Kishiro's design.
Volume 10 passed the baton back to Alita.
LAST ORDER has continually created spectacular situations and action. BATTLE ANGEL was restricted to the Scrapyard and later Tiphares. LAST ORDER removed those boundaries and without that closed system, Kishiro has manically gone about fitting in new pieces into the scope and history of this setting. That same inventive energy is applied to the manga's action sequences, which have always been new and flamboyant, but also intricately considered.
Motivation has not been handled as masterfully. In the original series, Alita was newly reborn into the world and about the business of living her life. Decisions and conflicts came back to haunt her in ways that robbed her of her ability to set her own course, but ultimately, it was Alita contending with what life threw at her. In contrast, LAST ORDER casts Alita as a game piece in a larger conflict. The carrots, the sticks, and promises of revelations compelling Alita's involvement in Z.O.T.T. have all felt like external forces. She's a primary gear in a plot engine rather than a free agent, and as such, Last Order has developed Alita far less in 10 volumes than Battle Angel did in nine.
Volume 10 does not necessarily fix this, but it does take action to reinforce why the Z.O.T.T. matters to the characters and fans of the characters. It casts aside one of the standing reasons for Alita's involvement that always seemed too much a plot conceit. It makes Alita the primary agent rather than just a significant participant. And, it makes tremendous strides and establishing the conflict between Alita and LAST ORDER's antagonists. Sechs receives an opposite number, and the pair shakes up the physicality of the Z.O.TT. with thumb wrestling of all things. Old enmities are renewed. Old bounds are evoked. It's still cleverly weird. It's realigned such that we want to see our heroes righteously kick some ass, and all's well in the cosmos.
There are snippets of Volume 10 that I'd show someone to pique their interest in Alita. I'd also say that if you're going to read an arbitrary volume of Alita, this one is the least friendly to new readers. After the Caerula volumes it's a promise to long time readers that Alita is back in the forefront of the story, and that what's to come will matter to the character. The qualities of Kishiro's storytelling have always been the chief appeal of his work, but returning focus to the beloved character is certainly welcome icing on the cake.
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.


Written and Illustrated by: Rei Hiroe Published by: Viz Media Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

Black Lagoon is the kick-ass and take names, shoot-em-up adventure book I’ve been waiting for. Granted these days it doesn’t take much to impress me but it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down and breezed through a book only to go back and read it once again seconds later. Black Lagoon is that kind of book: lock-and-load, take no prisoners, and live with no regrets.
The book follows a team of carriers who storm the seas on their old-school torpedo boat the Black Lagoon. We have Revy the super-hottie assassin in short-shorts and a wife-beater who can kick everyone’s ass at a moment’s notice, we have the dorky-yet-cool Benny who fixes up the junker, and Dutch – the strong-guy leader with a heart of gold (Tiny Lister – if this ever becomes a movie this part is for you!).
The first volume is by no means an origin tale as the team is already in full swing trying to deliver a computer disc. But office dweeb Rokuro gets caught up in the action and is taken prisoner by the Black Lagoon crew. In wanting to cover up the theft of the disc the corporation decides that the disc is completely unimportant and that Rokuro and the boat must be destroyed. Suddenly Rokuro finds that his only allies are those who actually took him prisoner.
The characters completely make this book as you completely empathize with all four of the crew right from the first page. You feel for Rokuro when he gets S.O.L. but love the fact that this drone becomes welcome with the crew after he is able to save their life. Rokuro becomes Rock – and never looks back.
The action is crazy-intense with enough gunplay, cursing, nudity, and adventure to satisfy the cravings of most fans. Writer/artist Rei Hiroe does a phenom job here and keeps the book moving quickly. By the time the book’s done you’ve had such a great time that you want to go back and read it again. I know I did. BLACK LAGOON is great fun and a good read to pick up for yourself this holiday season.
Ryan McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with Arcana’s PHILLY, WISE INTELLIGENCE, UPTOWN GIRL, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at

Greetings Indie-philes, my name’s Ambush Bug and I’ll be your host of tonight’s special End o’ the World episode of Indie Jones, where the focus shifts to comics books outside of the mainstream. This week’s Indie flavor is post-apocalypse. In this especially action-oriented installment, we look at wind-bending post-apocalyptic civilizations, giant robot-filled post-apocalyptic galactic battlegrounds, an anthology sci fi threesome (two post-apocalyptic and one, not so much), post-apocalyptic dog-men fighting post-apocalyptic insectoids on a post-apocalyptic terrain, and a story that is not so much post-apocalyptic as it is post-APOCALYPTO. Throw on your rad suit, go out, destroy humanity as we know it, and check out these comics.

1782: THE YEAR OF BLOOD #1 Bluewater Productions

This is an impressive effort from writer/artist Mike Maydak, whose cartoonish yet vividly meaningful artwork is highlighted in this issue. Maydak’s images may look like the stuff of Disney animation, but the subject matter he is depicting is anything but. This historical tale looks to be accurate according to the actual article printed at the end of this book. Seems a lot of the red stuff was spilt back in 1782. The story focuses on a Native American attack on American settlers and casts the Native Americans in a surprisingly unsympathetic light. I know the PC-er’s in the crowd will hem and haw about how the settlers took the land from those who lived here before, but no long-standing battle is fought by one side and there are no innocents in war. The brutality depicted here on the part of both the settlers and the natives is an unsettling, yet very cool juxtaposition with the aforementioned art where characters have bulky arms and exaggerated faces and do brutal things to one anohter. This is a truly unique looking artistic and storytelling experience that deserves to be sought out. Highly recommended.

SHRAPNEL#1-2 Radical Comics

Radical Comics' new series of miniseries, SHRAPNEL, is a multi-layered commentary on military and politics set in a future that is not very different from our own reality, and that's what makes it so damn scary. It is altogether plausible that this is what we have in store for us in the future if we are lucky enough not to kill each other before then. In SHRAPNEL, instead of warring nations, we have warring planets in our solar system. Planets break away from a universal union. The military shows its force in the form of big, giant robots of some very cool designs. And politics go on as usual, except instead of men in suits and military uniforms playing with the lives of entire countries, they gamble with the lives of whole planets. This is a large scale saga, fitting for the son of Carl Sagan, Nick Sagan, to tackle and prove that he was taking notes from his sci fi pioneer of a pop. Writing credits also go to Mark Long and M. Zachary Sherman (a former marine, whose experience shows in the authentic style of writing the military). As usual from Radical, the art is superb. There are some scenes where marines battle large tank machines battle big giant robots that clang and blast right off the page and into your lap (watch the nads, ya bucket of bolts!). I'd say this was another winner from Radical, but it's the reader who is the real winner here with an intense and intelligent story partnered with art that makes your eyes drool. SHRAPNEL #1 will be available January 7th. Don’t miss it.

THE WIND RAIDER #1 Ape Entertainment

Aside from maybe the recent JONAH HEX book, you really don't see comics looking like THE WIND RAIDER. And that's what makes this book so special. The art by Gabriel Hardman looks like it is better suited in a PRINCE VALIANT comic strip or some old Western comic, but here it gives an authentic and gritty feel to a story possessing heavy doses of grit and originality itself. Sure, we've seen post-apocalyptic stories before, but this one combines elements of STAR WARS, DUNE, and ROAD WARRIOR in a fresh way. Writers Richard Finney and Dean Loftis rely quite a bit on Hardman's art to tell the story with silent panels focusing on a nerve-shredding sand buggy joust between our hero, Tristan, who has the power to bend the wind to his will, and a group of savage sand pirates. The Ki Warriors in this story do act a bit like Jedi, but the writers make their actions and their place in the story distinct enough that the similarities are not off putting. The story doesn't shy away from the bloodshed and the last few pages provide quite a bit of back story and character notes that show the writers are taking this world and the characters in it very seriously. But in the end, it's the artwork that is going to be the main thing forcing me to pick up upcoming issues of this miniseries. THE WIND RAIDER is something fresh story-wise and the art makes you feel that if you tip the book just right, a load of blood stained sand will fall into your lap. Fun reading and good eyeball food, THE WIND RAIDER is. Check out more WIND RAIDER coolness here.


This book is comprised of three short stories, all focusing on different aspects of the sci fi genre. Story one, HAVOC BRIGADE, by Neal Marshall Stevens, reminded me of the old Valiant comic THE ARMORINES. Unlike the outlandish super heroism that occurred in that title at times, though, this comic appears rooted in a futuristic reality, with hardened marines donning flying suits of armor to fight in future wars. John Bosco’s splash pages of a battalion of armored warriors charging into battle are truly impressive and make for some dynamic storytelling. Story two is titled FICTIONAUTS and is one of those concepts that have limitless possibilities. The story by Mauro Mantella follows a group of explorers who correct redundancies and mistakes in literature. Any piece of fiction is fair game. The art by Leandro Rizzo lends to an authentic, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN type feel that is perfectly fitting for such a tale. Although the story gets a bit steeped in scientific gobbity gook talk (especially when the main baddie rears his ugly head), it is a fresh take on the time travel story with loads of potential. The third and final tale, called SOLOMON WAKES and written by Eric Martinez, is an enigmatic tale that deserves further investigation if not for the answers to the cause of the sleepless main character’s sleeplessness, then for the Dave McKean/Ashley Wood-esque artwork by David Murdock. His bleak imagery and skewed figures done in a printmaking style are something you don’t often see in comics. Not sure what to make of this one, but I’m intrigued. This book appears to serve as a showcase for books that will be released from Studio 407 in the coming months. From the looks of it, there may be some very cool comics from this company coming down the pike.


KINGDOM is just damn fine comic-booking. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale where battle hardened canine warriors fight a never-ending war against the insectoid “Them.” At times, the story teeters towards a TWILIGHT ZONE/O. Henry twist, which threatens to make the story somewhat one note, but writer Dan Abnett knows better than that. Just when the twists linking the future to a culture we’re more familiar with, BAM! We get another teeth-gnashing action scene. The main character is Gene the Hackman and he’s truly bad@$$. We follow Gene on a journey that is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Artist Richard Elson’s crisp panels and gorgeous character design remind me of the fine work of Paul Pelletier. This is one clever and brutal sci fi yarn that is sure to please fans of the barbarism of CONAN and the future coolness of STAR WARS.


The latest weekly run of WHAT IF? Comics have been…okay. The latest features the Spidey/Hulk/Wolverine/Ghost Rider version of the Fantastic Four (although Ghost Rider is quickly replaced by Iron Man) squaring off against Thanos. It’s a fun goofy adventure. Probably should have felt more weighty than it does given that the fate of universes hangs in the balance, but I have to recommend this book to fans of RUNAWAYS based on the running backup feature “What if Runaways became The Young Avengers?” Anyone frustrated with the current state of the real RUNAWAYS book should give this a look. It actually feels and reads the way you want Runaways to. As a backup feature it doesn’t get nearly the same amount of pages as the main story and for the full story you end up having to buy five issues but all I know is reading it I keep wishing it was a real RUNAWAYS arc and not a disposable WHAT IF? This week’s few “What If?” pages of RUNAWAYS beat the wholly hell out of the real issue of RUNAWAYS this week, where the team took a full issue to escape from a bubble of goo. - Jinxo

EX MACHINA #40 DC Wildstorm

As much as I hate to say it, this book has dropped a little under my radar. Still excellent, mind you; I've claimed for years that this is easily one of the top three(ish) books I read and it's yet to let me down in that regard... but it just ships so damn sporadically! I just really haven't found momentum in its pages for a while now because of how little we see it, despite us being in the final "year" of its existence... until now. A story that seems like it'd be more ego stroking than anything has really turned out be not only a love letter to comics themselves and the creative process behind them, but a heartfelt monologue to The City That Never Sleeps and the times and trials it has gone through this decade - particularly around the infamy of 9/11. It also happens to have been hands down one of the best single issues I've read all year, and also a testament to the strength of the character of Mitchell Hundred (who I still maintain is one of best single creations to ever grace the comic book page) and the creative strengths of both Vaughan and Harris. They really flex their talents here - BKV in turning in a script that is not only self-aware and relevant but very playful in and of the absurdity of itself, and Harris by turning it yet another exhibition of his ungodly range of expression, detail and body language. This right here is just a fantastic example of what can be done with the 22 page comic book, and pretty much second only to BKV's instant-classic Y: THE LAST MAN finale earlier this year as the best single comic I've read of 2008. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a build up to an equally stunning conclusion for this title, which I think is BKV's true opus. - Humphrey


A fun little one shot story. For those not in the know, a few years back Joss Whedon tried to get an animated Buffy series up and running focusing on Buffy’s early days in Sunnydale. It didn’t go but the demo animation can easily be seen at You Tube. This issue is a shout out to that concept with Buffy dreaming that she is back in high school with the dream being drawn in the Buffy-toon style. My one gripe would be, with writing as smart as Buffy has I was surprised that they didn’t create a plot where Buffy was aware she was all toony. It also bears noting that the issue was scripted by Jeph Loeb whose son, the late Sam Loeb, wrote for Buffy comics in the past and that some of the profits from the book are being donated to a dramatics scholarship fund set up in Sam’s name. Cartoon violence, getting to support a worthy cause and honor a cool kid. Not bad value for three bucks. - Jinxo


If anyone out there is looking for the kinds of superhero comics they remember from when they were kids, look no further than this title. This series has been consistently good from the beginning—simple yet interesting plot, easy-to-understand back-story explanations, and art that always works well with the story (I still think that some of the artists on this series, including this month’s penciller Carlos Magno, should be put on some of DC’s higher profile books). And forget about the disappointing JUSTICE miniseries—this issue’s cliffhanger splash page sets up what I hope will be a REAL return to the classic Superfriends/Legion of Doom slugfests. Forget Grant Morrison’s rambling, near-incoherent FINAL CRISIS… for my money, THIS is the best DC Universe miniseries event of the year. - BottleImp

DEADPOOL #5 Marvel Comics

Deadpool vs Mercs and Plastic Surgeried Zombies. Winner: The reader. - Jinxo

Missed this week’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column? You missed a lot then. Previews of WONDER WOMAN, GREEN LANTERN, POWER OF THE VALKYRIE, and WOLVERINE: WEAPON X were posted. Plus we had the first in a series of coverage on Peter Tomasi and Keith Champagne’s new THE MIGHTY series, with an interview with the creators of the book and a special black and white preview. Be sure to check out AICN COMICS SHOOT THE MESSENGER posted on Ain’t It Cool News every Monday!

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