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#46 3/25/09 #7

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #31 NEW AVENGERS #51 SUPERMAN #686 NOVA #23 / GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12 THE PHANTOM: THE GHOST WHO WALKS #1 Retro Review of VENOM: THE MACE Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents SAMURAI 7 Vol 1 dot.comics presents… CHEAP SHOTS!


Writer: Dwayne McDuffie Artist: Shane Davis (pencils) & Sandra Hope (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

An optimistic freshman art major will find the latest cover of JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA rife with symbolism about closing chapters and new beginnings as Batman (you know, the one that fucking died), Superman and Wonder Woman saunter away from the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA logo and saunter off into the sunset.
Personally, I think the “Trinity” read a sneak peek of this issue and voted unanimously (Superman raising Batman’s hand like a posthumous puppet) to distance themselves as much as possible from the horrific tailspin in what I pray is the end of the end, not the beginning of the end for JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA. Yes, if this was not a family title I believe the coveted three would be dropping their spandex undies and mooning the logo it was that bad.
For the past twenty years or so, the League has been like Dumbledore’s Phoenix being born, atrophying, dying and ultimately being reborn on five year cycles. Sometimes these rebirths are just what the doctor ordered, as was the case in ‘86 with Giffen’s JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL and in the late 90’s with Grant Morrison’s JLA relaunch. Then there is the current incarnation of the League, which was more akin to afterbirth than being reborn.
Founded in the Batcave, the members were selected from their Polaroid pictures like a clandestine low-tech NFL draft. Were these new members being brought together to thwart a global crisis like the very first League? No, they were brought together because without a Justice League, the world would not have a Justice League. Try to look at it with the clarity of an ADD 5 year old on a sugar high and everything will make sense. Then there was the headquarters. At one time this great team occupied moon bases and gargantuan satellites, this time around though they evicted the Wonder Twins and Gleep to occupy the 1970s Super Friends Hall of Justice. I guess this was the only place they could successfully construct the pocket dimension Escher staircase meeting room.
My seething hatred toward this issue is not directed at McDuffie, but once again towards "the asleep at the wheel" editorial staff at DC. What the hell is a writer to do when forced with tying in their book to the bedlam of FINAL CRISIS four months after the series closed. The Justice League has always been about unity, bringing cohesiveness to all of the disparate characters that inhabit the DC universe so they can unite against epic evils. Even fans of all the Infinite Crisis’ over the past few years will have to agree, cohesiveness and unity were not any of the series’ strong suits.
So how does the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA end? With a shit load of whining and fishnet stockings. The group is being splintered through apathy and differing ideologies of what policing “America” means. Before I go any further can we all agree that the time of the universe’s greatest heroes simply protecting America is passé and laughable. When faced with the choice of stopping a sun from devouring a planet or protecting the Washington Monument, I sincerely hope Hal Jordan would save billions of lives and let the ole’ phallic symbol crumble to dust. Twenty three years ago, the A was dropped from JL and this was way before the Internet brought us all closer together. To this day I can not figure out why it was ever brought back. Please DC, let it die.
Anyway back to the whining, I mean plot. Black Canary is taking her charge of running the League seriously by trying to keep warm bodies inside the Hall of Justice. Some past members like The Flash can’t commit to the League because of life obligations, others like Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen want to form a new league, a Proactive League. At first I thought this meant banding together with Jessica Simpson in the war on acne, but on closer examination we find out that the league has always just waited for danger to happen. Really? I can reference several stories from back in the day when the Justice League Europe actually investigated dangerous doings way before continents were burned or slipped into the ocean. That’s kind of why they had Ralph Dibney, the funny detective of the DC universe. I guess the apathetic League Hal and Ollie are referring to is the new post Sue Dibney violation ret-con league. Even though I make fun of it, this promise of a Hal and Ollie team-up gives me a slight glimmer of hope for the future.
If all of this folly wasn’t enough to make you sob uncontrollably at the final fate of this venerable team, add to this injury a huge editorial name gaff in the opening page, a side note to dialogue that references a book that will be out in July (these side notes used to reference past issues to help the reader, not serve as schills to sell upcoming books) and you can understand why Batman (even though he’s dead), Superman and Wonder Woman have literally turned their backs on JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. "What if the whole world had superpowers? Find out in the pages of Optimous’ original book AVERAGE JOE. Read the first full issue on Optimous’ New Blog and see original sketches by fellow @$$hole Bottleimp. If you are a publisher or can help these guys get AVERAGE JOE up, up, and on the shelves in any way, drop Optimous a line."


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: A shitload of people… Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

So what is it with Bendis and masks?
I have a little brother. When we were little, he would never want anything on his head. He didn’t like wearing hats. He never slept with the covers over his head. Never liked putting his head underwater. Cried like a baby when he had to wear masks for Halloween.
Is this why Bendis hates masks?
Or maybe it’s because he’s bald. I know that when my hairline was starting to part like the red sea and I shaved my head it was a glorious, freeing experience. I felt as if I shed the old insecure me that hid behind his receding hairline by growing his hair longer (did that for a while) or combing it forward (did that for a while) or even covered it up with a cap (did that too). Shaving my head, in a lot of ways, was my way of shedding the trappings of who I was trying to be and accepting who I was underneath it all.
Is that why Bendis unmasks all of his heroes? Is it a bald thing?
Or does he think that wearing a mask somehow makes a hero less than heroic and that (like shaving one’s head) only discarding the thing covering up one’s head can one truly show the real person underneath? Is wearing a mask somehow less heroic to Bendis?
Or is Bendis the type of person who desires recognition? Does he need the spotlight and doesn’t like to be in the background, therefore, baring his character’s puss to everyone is his way of saying “Look at me! Love me! Accept me!”
I’d really like to know. One masking. I could look past it. Two and you’re in danger of repeating yourself as a writer and teetering into hackitude. But three, and you have a downright, psychologically seeded, Tarantino foot fetish-like obsession that deserves some kind of explanation. I mean. Unmasking has been such a big issue with so many of Bendis’ stories that it’s now become laughable.
OK, I don’t want to go on a negative-Bendis rant here, but what happens in this issue drove me nuts.
So let me get this straight…after a year of stories with Spidey back in “Nobody Knows Who You Are” mode, in one issue, Bendis comes along and unmasks him again. Not that I liked the first unmasking. Or that I liked the way that they ridded--is ridded a word? ahh, who cares…--ridded the Marvel U of the knowledge of Peter Parker’s secret identity. But what I have liked is the past year of stories taking full advantage of no one knowing who Spidey was underneath his mask. And now, the Great and Powerful Bendis has decided to unmask Spidey again in front of the New Avengers in this issue.
And it wasn’t just that. It was the lackadaisical, overwrought way in which he did it. I mean, it’s not like his mask was pulled off in battle and everything came to a standstill as Spidey has a breakdown to cover up his secret identity. No. That’s to action oriented for a Bendis comic. What we get, once again, is another Bendis sittin’ and talkin’ issue.
That’s basically all this issue is. There’s a lot of the blah-ditty-blah regarding what the team is going to do in the wake of “Secret Invasion” and “Dark Reign.” More blah-ditty-blah as Strange tries to seek out the next Sorcerer Supreme. If you like Bendis’ blah-ditty-blahs, there are tons here to slobber over. I think it’s tolerable and sometimes fun, but like much of Bendis’ work, he doesn’t know when to quit when he’s ahead. And it appears editorial doesn’t know when to tell him that either. One blah-ditty-blah with Strange could have been made more special had the second blah-ditty-blah with the Avengers been saved for another issue. I dunno. Maybe a fight or something exciting could have taken its place. Basically, this issue is one conversation leading to another conversation only to have the person doing the first conversation show up at the end of the second conversation as some sort of cliffhanger with the action that occurred after the first conversation and during the second conversation completely glossed over in favor of, you guessed it, conversation. But this is the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from a Bendis title, so I can’t really complain for the guy doing what he does best…
Or the only thing he knows how to do…
Sheesh. Talk about stuck in amber…
But the real thing that annoyed me about this issue is that once again, quite a few people now know Spidey is Peter Parker and we’ve tread down that road before just a short while ago.
How soon before another visit from Mephisto is necessary?
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out previews to his short comic book fiction here and here published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics. Look for more comics from Bug in 2009 from Bluewater Productions, including the just-announced sequel to THE TINGLER for their VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS ongoing series.


Writer: James Robinson Penciler: Renato Guedes Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImp

I jumped onto this series back when James Robinson first took over the writing duties, and I lasted all of three issues. There was just something wrong about the mix of Robinson’s words and Superman’s universe; the two never quite gelled. So I quit buying SUPERMAN and for all intents and purposes forgot about this title. But seeing Mon-El on this months’ cover (along with the fact that Superman himself was apparently absent) melted my resolve and made me give this series another chance. The main reason for this U-turn is that I didn’t like the way Robinson wrote Superman—with Supes gone, surely Robinson’s dialogue would feel more palpable and less stilted, right? The second reason is that I love Mon-El—and I don’t really know anything about the character. But when I was a kid of no more than five years old, I read my first comic book: an issue of LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. I remember seeing Superboy (who I assumed was SuperMAN) alongside this guy who looked a lot like him, just with the colors of the costume reversed. And I thought that that guy who was so much like Superman looked way cooler in that costume than Superman did in his. And that simple enjoyment of a costume has stuck with me all these years and is partially responsible for me shelling out another three bucks on a series I had given up on. But enough about the whys and wherefores… the question is: is this issue any good?
Unfortunately, not really. Robinson has fallen into the trap of writing nearly every character with a similar speaking voice, so instead of a wide colorful array of individuals, we have a bland bunch of people whose lines could be switched with anyone else’s without much trouble. And even though Superman appears in only the briefest of flashbacks, he still manages to come off awkwardly, speaking stilted lines like, “I know you’ve not worn the armor as much of late,” and then being folksy with Jimmy Olsen on the next page. I don’t know what happened that made James Robinson lose his ability to write characters well, but whatever it was must have been pretty bad.
It’s been said that great art can save a poor story, but SUPERMAN doesn’t even have that leg to fall back on. Guedes’ drawings are okay, but he tends to give every line the same weight, which ends up making the completed page rather flat and lacking the depth that a varied line weight can give. The burden of adding volume to the image falls to the colorist, but in this case the colors (by David Curiel) are so muted and washed-out that they tend to sap the life from the page rather than add to it. The end result is a comic book that never manages to draw the reader into its world.
The sad part is that the core of the plot is solid—basically, we have Mon-El filling in for Superman while at the same time becoming acclimated to his new home; it’s the classic “stranger in a strange land” situation. But the script and the art are so sub-tastic that I can’t justify spending money on a series that is maintaining a steady “C-“ average when there are so many more comics out there that are maintaining their “A” game.
And just to add insult to injury, it looks like Mon-El’s costume—the one I loved so much as a kid, the one that inspired me to paint over my Super Powers Superman figure with Testor’s red enamel and cut up one of my blue t-shirts to use as his cape, the costume that inspired enough nostalgia for me to buy this comic—it looks like Mon-El’s costume won’t be featured, as he wears boring gray armor in his “civilian” guise as a member of Metropolis’ Science Police. It’s a shame, because this title really, REALLY needs some more color… but I don’t think that’s going to happen as long as the current creative team is at the helm.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast. You can see some of his artwork athere. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.

NOVA #23

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Art: Andrea Divito


Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning Art: Wes Craig Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Apologies in advance to those out there that might get a little confused about my intertwining reviews of these two books together, but given that they kind of, sort of linked up this past week, and that I have some similar commentary on the both of them, I kind of felt it would be for the best. Plus, it saves me from having to write two separate intro paragraphs, and by god do I love to cut me some corners when I can. And while I'm at it, instead of fluffing this any more than is necessary, I might as well just make like the Dow Jones and plunge right in. Ahhh... current event humor, the most common denominator...
Anyways, both titles right now, it seems to me at least, have been simultaneously kind of meandering (in the loosest sense of the word) a bit for a couple issues, but also now crash coursing their way to their inevitable parts in the next big cosmic hubbabaloo, WAR OF KINGS. Likewise, these most recent arrivals have some very obvious themes at play that both made me go, "Well, that's interesting" while wondering if they're going to play into the aforementioned WoK, or if they're getting kind of shoe-horned in before the shit hits the fan so they wouldn't have to be played out in the aftermath. I'm referencing of course the transformation of Richard Ryder in NOVA to the all-new Quasar, and Phylla Vell in GUARDIANS to, well, the Avatar of Death I guess (see why I made that disclaimer at the beginning? Sometimes I just love to bite off more than I can chew). And I'm perfectly fine with both developments, especially the former as it'll be a great way for Richard to find the ability to confront the Worldmind and his newly formed and manipulated Nova Corps, again, I just don't know when the plan is to have this conflict go off since it's about time for he and the Corps themselves to become involved with the "shit-flipping" going on on the other side of the galaxy. I fully expect it to play out quite nicely - Abnett and Lanning have done anything but let me down since I got into these titles - but you can't help but expect something to go awry when you've got a lot of threads to tie and a big cosmic event going on.
And as with the new found identities that have been taken on recently, there's be some revivals as of late too. First we got ourselves back the Quasar from, well, I guess now it'd be two Quasar's ago, as Wendell Vaughan came back somewhat incorporally in NOVA, and now we're getting the return of the Marvel U's Sinead O'Connor, Moondragon, as Phylla makes her own sacrifice to restore her. Again, a fine development, though something I didn't really expect to happen so soon after her death, or even at all for that matter (I mean, let's face it, not exactly the most popular of characters we're talking about here), but I'm again left to wonder if this is something that was getting thrown into the mix because it's going to become relevant immediately, or are we just getting it out of the way for future storylines before WoK comes in to detour things for the next handful of months. Either way, the issue itself (of GUARDIANS that is) played out pretty good, especially during the conflict between Wendell, Drax and Maelstrom who I can't help but be astounded to see him in a comic again, which is awesome in its own right. Leave it to the A&L Connection to bring him back into play.
Sadly though, there's been another common theme the last couple issues as well and that also kind of plagued these newest ones as well - the need for the return of the regular artists. Not that the (I assume/hope) temporary art chores have been bad mind you, but they haven't been terribly more than competent. Which is odd too, because normally I love Andrea Divito’s art, especially during the first ANNIHILATION story, but in NOVA this week it seems like the lines were too “soft” if you know what I mean? Mainly what came through to me was that the characters felt like little more than cardboard cutouts based off their posturings and expression. And, oddly enough, the opposite kind of came through on GUARDIANS, where the art tended to be a little over-active and exaggerated in parts, which kind of made me look at the pages funny trying to figure out why they looked that way. But really, I don't want to bad mouth either of these outings too much, because they are fill-in jobs, and lord knows how much time these peeps had to actually show off their wares. I was more making the point that considering how much is usually going on in any given issue of these titles, a consistent hand on the art chores is a must. I'll be so glad to see the regulars in Alves and Pelletier back on these, whenever they come back.
The best thing about these books though, is that even with more "diversionary" storylines on the horizon, the best I could come up with criticism wise is basically summed up as nitpicking and speculation on what COULD happen. And really, if Abnett and Lanning have shown us anything since they started this revival of this area of the Marvel Universe is that they're always going to take your benefit of the doubt and turn it into something fun and exciting and unexpected. Hell, after what could be really narrowed down to just a couple lines of exposition and a few linking panels to "crossover" these two books, I can't help but wish they intertwined more. At the very least, I want some more goddamn Quasar in my funny books, and that's either a compliment to how well these guys bring characters like him to fruition, or just one of those situations where I guess limited exposure to a character makes you want to see them more. But that's a totally different tangent. The point is, even in these somewhat off-kilter issues they're still at the least entertaining and doing well to bring more ideas to the table for future development. There's a heck of a juggling act going on here, and a big old flaming chainsaw by the name of WAR OF KINGS really getting worked into the spectacle now and I'm really excited to see how this all plays out, despite the occasional reservation.
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: Mike Bullock Artist: Silvestre Szilagyi Publisher: Moonstone Books Guest Reviewer: Mitchell Hall

I heard that Phantom was getting a relaunch, so it's something I had to pick up. To me, The Phantom is Australian. He's a part of Australian folklore. I know he was invented by Americans in America. Yet he's someone who Aussies just love to claim.
The comic kicks off with The Phantom on board a cruise liner that gets attacked by Somali pirates. He can't figure out why some of the Pirates are Arabs and not Somalis. An explosion rips through a UN food depot. The Phantom must find the ringleader. It's awesome to see The Phantom in his dark purple outfit, kicking ass and the Phantom ring again making it's mark.
The artwork is crisp and lifelike. I love the coloring of this issue. Rich colors and shadows. The detail on Mr Walker and Wolf is what I want to see in a Phantom comic. And the art and writing in this issue is impressive.
I'm just in the mood right now to read a comic with some thigh slapping adventure. I'm sick of heavy comics. I just mentally can't read that right now. I want adventure and I want humor. The issue also includes a sparkling tribute to Sy Barry. This kick-start has got me interested in more Phantom and I will be collecting the next three.

VENOM: THE MACE (3 issue limited series)

Writer: Carl Potts Artist: Liam Sharp Inker: Bill Reinhold Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: William

*puts on a copy of Weezer’s “Undone - The Sweater Song“* Ah the early 90’s. A time when the America was a much happier place. A time when cellphones were just starting to get smaller than a brick. A time when music videos were actually on music channels. A time when something called a DVD was in its infancy, and the craze would forever look like a success. And a time when comics were experiencing an unprecedented level in sales like never before. FINAL CRISIS would still be over 15 years away, so before anybody could eagerly enjoy that uncomplicated and satisfying success (sarcasm, btw), comic book fans would purchase other items with their hard-earned cash, such as the VENOM: THE MACE limited series that came out in 1994.
Venom was another craze that peaked during the 90’s. On a level that almost toppled the mighty Wolverine himself, Venom was featured in as many comics and cameos as Marvel could put. It seemed like Venom could do no wrong, which was further emphasized though the various limited series that Marvel kept issuing multiple times each year. And at a cost of $2.99 per issue (which btw seems unfathomable even today; I barely tolerate the $2.99 issues now, let alone that kind of price 15 years ago!), fans were eating up each issue nonstop. Venom was an unstoppable success.
But you know the glory days are over when a comic book fan such as myself happens to find this limited series within the clearance bin of my local Half-Price books shop. How the mighty have fallen when a once hot character is now seen for $0.25 per issue, which led me to take a look at this series and see just how different things were back then.
First off it’s interesting to note how different the stories were back in the 90’s. Bad guy basically shows up, good guy takes notice of this, they go straight into fighting and then the story is over. In other words there’s hardly any motive given for either side; they just basically show up when needed and proceed to have page after page of juxtaposed action shots that don’t make much sense, let alone the reasoning behind their fighting. Some guy called The Mace is introduced, Venom mistakenly thinks he’s a bad guy, they fight throughout all three issues in ways that just seem silly, and then they realize they’re both really good guys and decide to join forces in order to defeat a new threat. Harmless fun, but unsatisfying nonetheless. It’s obvious to tell back then that Marvel was clearly catering to the pre-tween crowd, boys aged 10 to 12 who thought something would look cool if it involved poster-looking poses from their heroes.
Call me a progressive but I like the trend that comics have evolved into today. There is definitely more of an adult-oriented theme associated with them. Just pick up one issue today of either CAPTAIN AMERICA, or BATMAN, or FANTASTIC FOUR and so on, and you’ll see that today’s comics are far more focused with themes such as relationships, angst, marriage, politics, espionage, etc. And the fights tend to happen for a reason, not just because it looks cool. The 10 and 12 year of yesteryear, if they were to pick up your average issue of THE ULTIMATES now they’d probably discard it within three of four pages, wondering why there’s so much talkie stuff rather than fighting.
Still VENOM: THE MACE was a nice little retro view into what seemed cool back then. The writing by Carl Potts did the trick, the art by Liam Sharp was adequate for its time. The 90’s were definitely an era where if it was cool it worked, and such was a case with this harmless limited series.


Manga by Mizutaka Suhou Orignal Story by Akira Kurosawa Released by Del Ray Reviewed by Scott Green

Mizutaka Suhou's SAMURAI 7 is a manga based on an anime, which changes the proposition as compared to the more frequently seem situation of anime based on manga. The latter case leverages a proven idea formed in a median with slightly more creative/commercial flexibility. Cutting an unpopular manga from an anthology is less costly than producing an unpopular anime series. Manga based on anime generally serves to extend the product offering for a successful franchise.
Like comics based on games or movies, manga based on anime have not earned a particularly stellar reputation. In this case, the product often reads like a novelization; a quickly constructed change in media based on the design material more than the final product. SAMURAI 7 is neither the best nor the worst of this field. To it's credit, it recognizes an accentuates the appeal of the original. Mizutaka Suhou has a light touch that could have benefited the anime. By its definition, this manga is not doing anything new, but SAMURAI 7 still manages to have some fun with its genre mash-up premise.
Gonzo's 2004 anime series offered a sci-fi reimagining of Akira Toriyama's revered film epic concerning a farm community's ploy to hire masterless samurai in order to protect their harvest from devastating bandit raids. The anime was an early high def TV production, boasting a considerable $300,000 per episode budget. With strong buzz from the promise of a well funded adaptation of a much loved movie, anticipation was further magnified by a breathtaking CG sizzle reel featuring ornate mecha modeled after samurai armor dueling in the midst of battalions of steam-style barrel-like mass production mecha troops. Culminating with a 2D animated swordsman hurtling off a fighter, leaping towards a capital ship, and causing it destruction with a slice of his sword, the preview was exactly the sort of spectacle that might be hoped for from a big budget sci-fi homage to a classic film that genre fans had long adored.
I know there are some SEVEN SAMURAI fanatics around AICN who are fond of SAMURAI 7. I thought it had its moments, but as a series, it disappointed. It took some guts to hand the series over to Hiroyuki Okuno for a significant part of an episode. A similar exercise during the production of Gurren Lagann resulted in a spat that saw Gainax co-founder Takami Akai leave the company. On a more routine footing, there were scenes where the well realized world and the depth of field in the animation succeeded in bringing a new feel to the chambara sword fights. More often, it seemed like veteran director Toshifumi Takizawa was uncertain of how to best utilize what he had to work with. Plot wasn't efficiently distributed across its 26 episode run. Beyond that, the notion of how to repurpose the Kurosawa story for sci-fi never coalesced. While the series captured the theme of bandits and samurai as forces that were both cast desperate and armed into the world after the cessation of formal wars, it often bent itself in awkward contortions to work pre-industrial rice farmers into a world of flying cities and giant robots.
Unburdened by a huge budget or promise of forging a new vision of Kurosawa's legacy, Mizutaka Suhou's manga benefits from diminished expectations. It's still going to provoke comparisons with the film, but, to a greater extent than the anime, it can simply be a story of swordsmen fighting mecha. Its opening pages illustrate this with an explanation of how a samurai, equipped with a taisenshatou sword can carve up a mech many, many times his size. As a symptom of this focus, the groundwork for the farmers' desperate venture into "city at the bottom of the valley" to recruit samurai is slower in coming. The first introduced, and perhaps primary member of a cast that has been modified from the version seen in the anime is the young samurai Katsushiro Okamoto. Katsushiro Okamoto's back story is made more explicit and maybe a bit more involved, but he also serves to simplify the proceedings. Most of the issues of uncertainty pertaining to the samurai have been shifted to this one character. In particular, Kikuchiyo, the raging outsider swordsman famously portrayed by Toshiro Mifune in the film and recast as a red cyborg for the anime, abdicates much of the drama of his role in favor of Okamoto, whose being set up to star as the outsider-novice who becomes an able martial force.
Mizutaka Suhou has also reworked the characters graphically, with a variation on the broad themes of the anime. For example, the captain of the samurai, Shimada Kambei has a Van Dyke rather than a goatee and an outfit that looks more like something traditionally samurai with modern tailoring rather than the anime's exotic/sci-fi white tunic and wrap. However, the point is best illustrated with quiet, hyper-competent swordsman Kyuzo. In either case, the character goes for the bishonen (pretty boy) aesthetic, but again, the manga steers closer to the typical look for samurai, yielding a design that's entirely distinct from the anime's red overcoat, cropped blonde hair configuration. Mizutaka Suhou further departs from the anime with a cartooned, accentuated expressiveness. In terms of a manga with mouths gaping in surprise, I had to go to the horror works of Kanako Inuki to find something that commits to the extent that Samurai 7 does. This lends the manga an air of silliness that isn't entirely inappropriate considering the muddied explanations for why massive flying towers coexist with cities of pre-industrial buildings and swordsmen fight metal titans.
If feudal conflicts mixed with sci-fi hardware, shaped around a recognizable Akira Kurasawa plot doesn't excite you, Mizutaka Suhou's manga is not going to offer a convincing argument as to why you should be interested. This is both the manga's chief asset and liability. It gets about its business, jumping into the proceedings and having fun with the concept, free of the grand notions of importance that tangled the anime. While inconsequential, it is a fast, fun read.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.

Hey folks, Ambush Bug back again with another batch of online comic book treats for you. Although I’ll always prefer the weight of a good comic in my hands and the tactility of turning the pages, I can’t dispute that there are some cool finds out there on the interweb and with times as tough as they are right now financially, you can’t beat the price of FREAKIN’ FREE when it comes to comics. Below are just a handful of webcomics worth a click or two.

WE MAKE CLOUDS By Mike Farah (creator/writer), J. Longo (art), Johnny Storm (lettering)

I’m a bit late getting to this one, but I’m glad I’m finally able to chat a bit about WE MAKE CLOUDS; a fun take on office life. Your typical optimistic young professional enters a jaded and burned out workforce: the results bring on the funny big time. These one page skits depict one man’s struggle not to spill his half-full glass in a work environment full of half-empties. The writer of this one has to have spent time in a real office because the characterizations are spot on. I laughed quite a few times at the dead solid perfect depictions of the permeating sense of banality and futility that hangs in the air of offices that I could swear I’ve worked in before. This ZUDA entry was a real treat and a strip worth visiting when the job gets to be too stressful. Check out the ongoing adventures of WE MAKE CLOUDS beyond ZUDA here.

AWESOME MARCUS NINJA By Joel Buxton, Shane Heron, & Ian McKendry

Whether he is picking out a dog companion, getting arrested for wrestling pigeons in the park, having a battle of wits with his arch nemesis Moriarty, guiding his pet pig through Ninja Camp, or just getting fired from his job for polishing his sword too much, Awesome Marcus Ninja never fails to entertain. This is a hilarious comic strip that appears to have quite a history since the first strips were posted back in 2004. Since then, AWESOME MARCUS NINJA appears to have been in many an adventure. I started clicking through the one page strips and couldn’t stop. I got through the first year or so and had to write about it. The ninja star of this strip is most definitely insane and a lot of fun to follow around. One of the real treats to this webseries is watching the writer and artist develop and hone their comedic and artistic skills. Although it may start out crudely rendered, the comedy is prevalent throughout and the quality of the art catches up to the strength of the jokes quickly. Just check out the progression in art by clicking on the left, then right images above. It looks like a lot of fun was had making AWESOME MARCUS NINJA and even more fun is to be had by reading it.

BOAST OF THE DEAD By Keef (script) & Pie (art)

The latest in Abaddon Books’ short series of zombie skits. They are quick reads placing the undead in normal everyday situations or conversations. The results are damn funny a the art is disgustingly splendid. There aren’t a lot of entries into this series yet, but what is here will definitely tickle your funny bone…and then it will eat it. Click to BOAST OF THE DEAD for a chuckle and a chort.

SPELLFURY Written & directed by Travis Gordon

Well, it ain’t LORD OF THE RINGS, but it is kind of fun. I tried to pass this on to a couple other @$holes because I was particularly swamped with review requests, but when they didn’t really seem to like it that much. But I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it a look. Now, I don’t want to oversell this one. The budget is low and the acting leaves a bit to be desired, but there was a certain backyard filmmaking charm about SPELLFURY that made me smile while watching it. The freaky man-baby demon floating around in the woods was definitely something birthed from a cracked mind. The narrative is brisk; something about an enchanted sword, a female elf, and said creepy man-baby. There’s a cool fight in the woods involving all three that utilized some nice special effects. Only three episodes of this live action webseries are available so far, but the effects are decent enough and the brevity of the episodes make this good way to waste two minutes at work. Not sure if this webseries is taking its self series or not, but I have to admit, I had some fun watching it.


HEARTLESS DARK looks to be an ominous read. The website was opened just yesterday and from what I’ve seen from it, the story is as dark as its name. Apparently, it’s about two people following their own path of destiny leading to the apocalypse. I don’t know a lot about this thing other than it is going to be a long-form graphic novel and that the first 15 pages of the prologue were just released with more to drop in the coming weeks. From the pages I’ve read, this is a very dread-laden story so far filled with blood, death, and all of those other things relating to the end of the world. There’s not enough pages available for me to pass judgment on this one yet, but I’m going to keep checking back to this site to see more ghastly images and somber tones in the coming weeks.

ROBOT LINCOLN AND ZOMBIE JACKSON By Jeff Wilson (art/co-creator) & Craig Garrett (story/co-creator)

Simple math, folks. Robots + zombies + historical figures = A WHOLE LOTTA DAMN FUN. You may not know this, but Abraham Lincoln didn’t really die when John Wilkes Booth shot him. Well, he did die. But his mind was rescued by a young Thomas Edison, who placed Lincoln’s brain into a robot body. Also, Andrew Jackson didn’t die either. Well, he did die. But he came back as a zombie. Now the collision course between these two reincarnated leaders is inevitable. ROBOT LINCOLN AND ZOMBIE JACKSON may only have a few pages so far, but it is my new favorite webcomic. I can’t wait for more pages. The first eight that are finished are creative, fun, and have just the right amount of dark humor to give you a devilish smile and make you mutter “cool” under your breath while reading it. Be sure to check this one out and click back as more pages emerge from the web.

Another All Bug Edition…sigh…


I know I’m in the minority, but I’m really enjoying this series since Slott took over. I mean, lord knows, I know it’s something new for the Avengers to actually get into adventures and straight forward action occurs…in the scene, none-the-fucking-less, and isn’t glossed over by Mamet-aping dialog, but give it a chance, people. This final issue of the first arc harkens nothing but promise in my book. I love the team that’s been put together. The final reveal with the Scarlett Witch is much more satisfying that I expected. The banter between Amodeus and Pym is worth the 299 pennies alone. Sure the rift between Stark and Pym seems a tad forced, but no more than the way Millar and Bendis balloon-animal-ed the characters to fit the last two big events Marvel offered up. I’m looking forward to seeing Pym redeem himself and finally come forward as a major player. I do agree with the criticisms about the art for this book. Although not awful, it is somewhat lackluster for such a big title, but the art on the main NEW AVENGERS books isn’t so hot either. Where are all of those good artists Marvel used to have in their stable? Alan Davis, there’s an Avengers book that’s just aching for your old school cool. In the meantime, sheath the pitchforks and torches, folks. There’s room for both kinds of Avengers books on the shelves. - Bug


Phenomenal! Everything THE MUPPET SHOW used to be without the songs. That’s the only thing missing. The humor is spot on. The characterization is a bullseye. Roger Langridge channels the spirit of Jim Henson and brings to life characters that haven’t been entertaining in years. It’s got the newscaster the two old guys in the balcony seats, a Pigs In Space skit, the Swedish Chef (though his dialog is much less fun to read than it is to hear), and an overall thread that ties the whole issue together. Honestly, folks, this issue reads like a lost episode of those perfect Muppet Show episodes of your youth. Sure, music was a central and important aspect of THE MUPPET SHOW and I found myself wishing somehow comic could have one of those music chips embedded in it to play along as Kermit sings his song about longing for his days back in the swamp towards the end, but lack of music aside, this is just about as perfect a comic book rendition of THE MUPPET SHOW as you’re going to get. Highly recommended for old kids who remember the old show and new kids who want to discover it. - Bug


Not the best story, but one made spectacular by Tom Mandrake’s art. The guy could illustrate anything and I’d stand up and take notice. Both Mandrake’s choice of panels and the swooping, dynamic nature of his figures within offer a sense of wonder that not many artists accomplish. It’s not a terrible story. Kind of a throwaway as Gordon battles Mr. Freeze while waxing about the loss of Batman. But if you like moody, gothic art, check out Mandrake’s work here and tell me that ain’t damn cool. - Bug- Bug


Steve Pugh’s story based on ideas from Warren Ellis about a paranormal investigator battling ghosts in a BLADE RUNNER-esque society continues to be a feast for the eyes. Pugh’s depictions of ghostly possessions and paranormal happenings are fantastic, plus he draws one of the hottest chicks in comics in Hotwire. This is another stunningly beautiful book from Radical, a veritable orchard of artistic talent these days. The story is pretty darn entertaining as well, as the number of possessions are on the rise and paranormal activity is at an all time high, Hotwire is more taxed than ever. Art, story, hot alterna-chicks battling ghosts…it’s an all around phenomenal book. - Bug


This graphic representation of CONAN writer Robert E. Howard’s story of historic supernatural horror will quench any fiend’s appetite. Written by Joe R. Lansdale, this tale of age-old frights unearthed is a horror story from the bottom up. A group of kids enter a house in the middle of a swamp and, of course, nothing good comes from it. Immediately, things get spooky as animal cadavers pile up and flocks of pigeons perch on the roof. Pretty soon, the zombies and ghosts show up and the teens (and the readers) are filling their dungarees with dung. The art by Nathan Fox conveys a feeling of dread that is palpable. There’s a dirty feel to Fox’s art that is truly chilling. His designs for the lopsided ghosts of the swamp are especially cool. Reading this collected trade in one sitting is creepy enough to make you look over your shoulder and praying nothing is perched to attack. If you like feeling that way, then this is the book for you, you sick bastards. - Bug

EARLY REVIEW (In stores today!) NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION #2 Marvel Comics

Another pretty fine issue starring Clint Barton (AKA Hawkeye AKA Ronin) and his former wife Mockingbird. Although I want to see the happy couple a little more happy together, I must admit it is a blast seeing them battling it out and not trusting one another. Writer Jim McCann did his homework here and reminds us through flashbacks that the couple disagreed often in the past. McCann also adds a bit of retro-controversy involving Tigra that I don’t know how I feel about just yet. All it ensures is that this Bug is hooked to this miniseries and likes what he’s seeing, even if it means Clint and Bobbi may not be getting back together as we all thought. - Bug

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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