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#51 4/29/09 #7



Writer: Neal Bailey Art: Joshua LaBello Publisher: Bluewater Comics Reviewer: Ambush Bug

So Bluewater’s got another political comic coming out now. I checked out the first two books of this FEMALE FORCE series which focuses on important female figures in recent history. The HILLARY CLINTON and SARAH PALIN books surprised me in that they succeeded where other biographies have failed: they actually proved to be entertaining reads.
Bailey tries to stay objective, though, focusing on Michelle’s controversial thesis and how she may or may not be perceived in the black community. He delves deep into her college thesis which focused on classism in regards to racism and I must admit that this was the most interesting part of the book for me. But even though he does touch upon Obama’s tough times, you can still tell he likes her an awful lot.
Joshua LaBello does a decent job of getting the faces of these important well-known faces accurate. Occasionally, the flubs a face but I think drawing real life people lends itself to that due to weird camera angles, shading, and whatnot. There were also a few phenomenal pages where he gets the faces just right and not only that, but the emotion exuding from those faces. He’s a talented artist, one I’d like to see let loose without the real life trappings of this book.
Although the writer was less objective in this one, it still is a great installment in this stand-out series. Bluewater’s getting a lot of recognition for these political comics these days and as long as they keep on churning out product like FEMALE FORCE: MICHELLE OBAMA #1, they deserve it.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years. Check out 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 in stores October 2009.


Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Billy Tan Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Liam ‘The Kid’

Note: ‘The Kid’ is 8 years old and has been doing reviews on his own site since August of 2008.
There were two stories in this comic. The main one was about the Green Lanterns going after one of their own guys who was going back to his home world and he was attacked by Orange Lanterns. The little blue Guardians know that there is an Orange Lantern and they kept it a secret because they’re tricky and always lie to the Green Lanterns about pretty much everything. They do their own thing and try and make up all the rules and then they change the rules whenever they want. In other issues they were mad that Green Lantern Hal got a blue ring but now they want to know how it works and they’re acting like they’re his friend but they really only want it for themselves.
When all the Green Lanterns get to the planet where their friend is the Orange Lanterns attack. There is really only one Orange Lantern because they are very greedy and don’t want to share. The main Orange Lantern wants all of the rings so when he finds someone he takes them over and when they die they become like a ghost Lantern but they’re part of the Orange team. They’re really creepy and powerful. They gang up and take the one Green Lantern and pretty much eat him up and when they do that he turns into an Orange Lantern. I really liked the way the artist drew all of the Orange Lanterns, especially on the one page where the Green Lantern gets turned into one. He looked like a scarier version of the Hobgoblin from Spider-Man comics. Another one of my favorite parts was when the main Orange Lantern finds Hal and gets crazy when he sees that Hal has a blue ring too. He just screams ‘I want one’ and is ready to attack him. I like how the Orange Lantern holds the battery close to him all the time like a little kid that doesn’t want to share.
I didn’t think the Orange Lanterns would be that tough because they’re really just the one guy but so far they’re beating everyone that they fight. The ghost Orange Lanterns basically just gang up on everyone until they kill the person and take their ring and turn them into one of them. I like how the artist makes all of the Orange Lanterns look really scary. Some other lantern teams have humans and friendly looking creatures but all of the Orange Lanterns are ugly and scary looking. I thought that the Red Lanterns were tough but the Orange Lanterns might be even more powerful because they attack all crazy and stuff. The good thing is that the other Lantern teams are strong too and they really only have to attack the main guy and if they beat him he won’t be able to control the ghost Orange Lanterns.
The second story was more cartoonish and it was about how one of the Orange Lanterns, Glomulus, became that way. He was a little alien creature who kept stealing food until one day he got caught by one of the Orange Lantern’s ghosts and became an Orange Lantern, too. It was a real short story but I liked how they showed all the rings that the Orange Lantern collected around his base. I liked how the comic also showed one of the Purple Lanterns which is the all girl team. The main girl used to want to hurt one of the Green Lanterns but now that she has the ring she only feels love and is good now so it looks like the Purple Lanterns will be on the good team.
GREEN LANTERN is a great comic. I like all the pages that show the whole team of Lanterns getting ready to fight and how all of the Lanterns listen to Hal because he’s their friend instead of trusting the blue Guardians. The story with all the different types of colored lanterns is really fun and I like how in the Free Comic Book Day Green Lantern comic they showed a lot of pages about each of the different Lantern teams. I liked seeing everyone who was on the team and all of their names and powers and it even talked about what their weaknesses were. The guy in charge of the zombie Lanterns shows up in the book too and he is starting to dig through graves trying to bring back old dead superheroes into his own zombie Black Lanterns. That is going to be a great story.
Rating: 10 out of 10


Writer: Rob Williams Artist: Trevor Hairsine, Travel Foreman Publisher: COM.X Reviewer: Optimous Douche & Ryan McLelland

Optimous Douche (OD): CLA$$WAR exemplifies what’s wrong with the comic industry today, because it took nearly seven fucking years for one of the most ferociously intense and meticulously crafted mini-series I’ve ever read to make into a collected edition. Williams unleashes a story that is eerily clairvoyant for a book written way back in 2002. His predictions of America’s present day societal cannibalism delivered in a disillusioned version of our greatest symbol for truth, justice, and the American way, makes for fear inducing fiction and let’s face it reality.
Ryan McLelland (RyanMC): CLA$$WAR was a phenomenal book when it first arrived on the scene "post 9/11." It is nice to see that though the world has changed a lot in the past few years the book still packs enough punch to be relevant in today's world. The story of one superhuman government employee who has had enough with the lies under W. and the wrath he brings down on the world and himself still can sting with every relevant nail biting page. Beyond the politics the book is one hell of a superhero story about what the world will go through to stop such a powerful man from unleashing the truth.
OD: This is a book that not only entices you into a second, third or fourth reading…it demands it. The first pass will get you acclimated to this slightly shifted version of our own reality, where instead of forcing Nazi scientists to work on the bomb, we had them tinkering with the human genome to infuse future generations with super powers. On the second pass you realize the personalized hell that comes with power and knowledge. The central character, The American, is clearly based on Superman, but never comes across as a carbon copy like you see in most deconstructions. There are neither aw-shucks moments nor chances for redemption when he uncovers that the American Government is merely a puppet whose strings are being pulled by a corporate-led shadow organization. He disseminates the evidence to the American public and then goes right to the White House lawn without fear or reservation to confront the President. When The American flies the President high above Washington and sears the word liar into his forehead, it was one of the most cathartic releases I’ve had in ages when reading a comic book. Amazingly, all of this transpires in the first twenty pages of the book; then things really get good.
RyanMC: Which is where my main fault lies with the graphic novel. There's a great build-up that launches into six amazing issues. It's a powerful story that hits you like a ton of bricks no matter how any times you read it. Yet the series simply ends after issue six. No new issues as of yet. It is a series that begs to be told and hopefully as the cover reads this is 'Series One' perhaps a 'Series Two' may be on the horizon. Now is that so bad? The lone gripe being I want more? No it is not. It is the sure tell sign of a comic book that has deeply impacted my psyche. Is it the most powerful comic book series ever done? No. Does CLA$$WAR rank up there amongst my favorites of all time? It's hard to say simply because the series feels like it still missing something. It's because I'm ACHING for more. The work that Rob Williams and Trevor Hairsine put into this comic pays off in spades.
OD: Yeah, Hairsine deserves a blowjob while eating ice cream for this work. Every panel of the American shredding F-14s and Battleships like tissue paper felt more fluid than the front page graphics of the Daily Prophet. Ferocious is the best way to describe the action sequences. My one gripe, and really we should just call it a nit, was with the portrayal of Bush. Not because they made him evil or a dunce, but he was stuck at both extremes and it just didn't add up. Truly evil deeds are not perpetrated by morons.
RyanMC: I'd say, "Yeah I'm sure that Trevor Hairsine is going places!" but everyone already knows the man has gone on to bigger and better things at Marvel. Same goes for Williams and Travel Foreman (who took over for Hairsine after the third issue) who have gone to do work over at the House of M. Point is a lot of their success stems from the work they did in this series and it has paid off for them tenfold.
OD: Normally, it gets me into Douche rager mode when creative teams switch in the middle of an arc; it’s generally more jarring than a Sunday drive in chitty-chitty-bang-bang. The Hairsine/Foreman transition, though, was better than the Darren switch in BEWITCHED. Sure you knew it was a different guy, but he embodied the predecessor so well you just thought it was the original artist trying something new.
RyanMC: Overall the series is a powerhouse and this new hardcover collection certainly rocks - especially with an incredible amount of extras thrown in. I've actually reread this collection twice just while writing this review and still amazed by it. CLA$$WAR is a book I'm proud to have in my collection and one that will become very worn out over the years to come.
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 @$$hole Bottleimp. If you are a publisher or can help these guys get AVERAGE JOE up, up, and on the shelves in any way, drop Optimous a line."
Ryan McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$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 The first issue of his new WISE INTELLIGENCE miniseries can be found here.


Writer: Geoff Johns Penciler: Dale Eaglesham Published by: DC Comics Reviewed by: BottleImp

First things first: anyone who has a problem with superheroes remaining in full costume as they hang out with one another at barbecues, birthday parties or other social events, don’t even bother with this issue. It’ll just make you mad.
That being said, this was Johns’ final issue as writer for the Justice Society (I presume his departure is so he has more time to put the rest of DC’s ramshackle universe back in some semblance of order). And let’s be blunt—a creative shake-up on this title was long overdue. I’ve always had a soft spot for those Golden Age characters—must be those wacky costumes—and was a big fan of the JSA title that was begun by James Robinson and David Goyer back in 1999, though I ended up dropping the title not long after DC re-introduced the Multiverse in INFINITE CRISIS. Flash forward to this latest relaunch of comicdom’s first super-team—I bought the first few issues, realized I had read three issues in which there was a minimum of interesting action and a maximum of boring internal monologuing. That was the end of my Justice Society phase.
As this series progressed, I’d glance through an issue once in a while, but never saw anything that grabbed my interest. Instead I saw more and more “legacy” heroes (Johns’ term for new characters carrying on the costumed identities of their forebears) filling the ranks of the JSA, but these updated versions of third-stringers such as Mr. America, Steel and Ma Hunkel felt even less interesting than the originals. And then there was that whole KINGDOM COME thing…
I think our own Ambush Bug put it best in last week’s review: “[Johns] just seems to be somewhat obsessive compulsive in his writing.” Geoff Johns has labored so carefully to fit all the tiny little pieces of the Justice Society together with their Golden Age counterparts and with the once-Elseworlds world of KINGDOM COME (and can I just say how much I hate that KC is now part of the “real” DC Universe? Can’t a good story be allowed to just exist on its own anymore?) that there’s no wiggle room. These characters don’t feel like they could ever exist as real people (with one possible exception, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment)—they’re just too tightly pigeonholed in the anal-retentive continuity that Johns has crafted to breathe a little, let alone act like human beings. Granted, the Golden Age heroes of the JSA were always more about the Ideal rather than the Human, but when you have a dozen or so people of different ages and from different backgrounds lumped together in a group (like any workplace in America, for example), there is no way in hell everyone is going to be all smiles all the time. Superman on his brightest day comes off like Lobo compared to Johns’ JSA.
How fitting then is Johns’ final tale—not a climactic battle with a supervillain or saving the world from an alien conqueror, but a group get-together for Stargirl’s birthday. Whoop-de-doo. Now, I must say that Stargirl has always been the most three-dimensionally realized character in the JSA roster, and I’m guessing that the reason for this is that she was based on Johns’ real-life sister Courtney, who had died in a plane explosion. Don’t get me wrong; I think that it’s wonderful that Johns was able to honor the memory of a loved one by using her as the inspiration for this character. The problem that came out of this tribute, however, is that a lot of the JSA and JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA storylines became Stargirl-centric. There were a couple of times when I thought I was reading something more along the lines of STARGIRL (and the JSA). Take this issue, for example, where the original Green Lantern and Flash and Wildcat tell Stargirl that she stands alongside them as one of the vets of the team. So characters that have been active for 60 years (or however long in comic book time) will accept a teenage girl with braces as an equal.
Nice sentiment, but bullshit.
Basically, the JSA has been reduced to a bunch of friendly people being happy and friendly with each other, and nothing kills drama more than a sense of contentment. You did some good work on this series, Mr. Johns, but I’m not sorry to see you leave. Hopefully the next writer will bring some stormy weather into this comic’s sunny and warm (with a chance of hugging) climate.
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.


Writer: Garth Ennis (duh) Artist: Carlos Ezquerra Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

When it comes to Garth Ennis war stories, I've noticed, you seem to be working on a ratio of about four out of every five is a hit and you get in one miss, or something that ends up being just off the mark. The thing I've kind of decided myself is that, for all the hits, the reason they are so is that he so completely encompasses all the themes that a good war story should: the horror of war, the (usual) incompetency of the men that were in command while waging it, the camaraderie, the atrocities, etc etc. And the previous two BATTLEFIELDS stories, THE NIGHT WITCHES and DEAR BILLY, have been just that, all the while giving fresh perspectives that I can honestly say I've never really seen in a war comic, and I've read dozens from the man in question alone. But, in those rare occasions you'll get something from Mr. Ennis that either just doesn't ring true for some reason, or maybe just feels a little derivative from these types of stories you've read of his before (which, I mean, is bound to happen - like I said he does write a lot of them) or - and as you can probably tell from where I'm going I'm feeling a little off about TANKIES here - he tries to inflect some sense of very dry, very droll humor with lots of blood, and "fragging" of officers, etc, etc into - I'm looking at you OPERATION BOLLOCK - and really, it just doesn't work, at least for me. Maybe I'm just not down with the UK enough, I don't know, but here again that writing style has reared its head in THE TANKIES, and here again, I'm kind of glad it's just a three issue mini.
Now, I don't want all that above to come out like I'm completely down on this comic. Unlike the aforementioned OPERATION BOLLOCK, which I hated so much I couldn't really tell you anything about it, THE TANKIES does have some aspects I find compelling and somewhat "fun" in a morbid way - imagine that coming from an Ennis comic. There were two plot points/themes in here that I felt have some potential or had some momentous effect. The first being that of the occurrence where an S.S. soldier, taken in as a POW, decides to knife down a field surgeon with his own shears as he's trying to help him to get in one last kill instead of getting taken to camp. Stuff like this really helps to put the emphasis on just how dirty things were then, especially from the die hards on that particular side of the war, and it's not something you see addressed terribly often. I know “Saving Private Ryan” toyed with it at the end with the released prisoner, but that was more a commentary to me about the rise of Germany between the two World Wars and the killing of the Jews...but I might just have read into all that WAY too much. Anyways...
The second thing I liked about this was just the sheer terror invoked by the sight of the Tiger tank. I'm not going to pretend to be any expert on the subject of the tech and armor back then or anything, but from what I do know the Tiger was a monster on the battlefield. Not exactly very agile, but still shit-your-pants terrifying nonetheless because of the cannon and armor, and I love to see it given its proper respect in something like this. Of course, there was some jocular embellishment in the big scrap in this book, where a Tiger took down a handful of Churchill's and the main pilot popped out to wave smugly at the British forces they made piss themselves for it, and that's where I started focusing on all the derivatives. The fragged stuffy lieutenant, his replacement with the thick, indistinguishable cockney accent, the over-exaggeration in the gore during the tank "fight" at the end where men are getting their faces literally blown off... it just takes away from all the good. It's not that I don't mind a little humor in these books to take all the edge off, it's that I don't want to see a farce in a war setting. THE TANKIES tows the line a little bit better than I've seen before, but instead of being engaged in this mini like I was all the past couple, I'm already counting down the time until the next one begins, and that's never a good sign.
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: Harvey Pekar, Others Artist: Ed Piskor, Others Publisher: Hill and Wang Reviewer: steverodgers

THE BEATS, an anthology by Harvey Pekar and friends, takes us through a mildly interesting, but mostly disappointing, graphic retelling of the lives of some of the famous and not-as-famous Beat writers. Pekar writes most of the stories, and gives the most pages to the big players: Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, with the rest of the book on shorter stories and biographies of Beat figures like Corso, Whalen, Ferlinghetti, et al. Ed Piskor does the art of the major writers, with a style that is workmanlike, portraying the likeness of the protagonists as more atmospheric than photo-realistic, but with a downside of being somewhat creepy and distracting. The rest of the stories, mostly written by Pekar, are drawn by a hodgepodge of artists, some more successful than others.
I discovered Kerouac at 18 and 3,000 miles from home, living in shared housing and working at a bingo hall in Berkeley, CA. In the way that only an obsessive, underemployed teenager with loads of time on his hands can, I devoured most of Kerouac’s books—and books about him and also about the Beats in general. To this day, out of genuine interest and nostalgia, I get any new Kerouac work or scholarship that comes out, and one of my favorite things to do in the world is to drink beer under his merchant marine portrait at Vesuvio’s in San Francisco and just soak up the Beatness (well, as Beat as you can get drinking a 5-dollar-beer and texting my wife). Needless to say, this book should have been right in my wheelhouse; instead, I found it vapid and irritating.
I have no idea whom this book is for – it’s not for the guy who is into the Beats, because there is nothing new being said. The only thing I learned is Harvey Pekar’s sophomoric excitement about male writers and their friends occasionally having sex with one another. The facts seems goofy as well; there is a panel of Kerouac typing On the Road while drinking beers, when I thought it had been settled long ago that he had only been high on coffee. A caveat to the book is in the introduction by Pekar, stating his treatment of the Beats is not meant to be “definitive,” but rather “vital”; however, to me this is just a clever way of not having to verify one’s scholarship. The book is located in the history section after all, and though “it’s a comic,” you would hope it had its facts straight.
This book is also not suited for a reader who may have a passing interest in the Beats, as it somehow manages to suck the life right out of anything that made them interesting. It also doesn’t highlight the thing they did really well: write. If this was the first thing I read about the Beats, I would have thought them all to be boring, man-hungry whiners and would have stuck to comic books. Pekar does a good job of capturing the Darkness-- Kerouac slipping into bitter drunkenness; Burroughs strung out, killing his wife; Ginsberg learning of his mother’s death—but none of the Kicks and the Joy, none of the ambling arm and arm, happy-to-have-found-each-other, mutual admiration, like-minded gladness that brought these guys together in the first place. That’s the part, beyond their writing, that makes you really like these guys, and Pekar misses it entirely.
The best I can say about this book is I have hope it may pique the interest of a new reader who will be inclined to track down all the books, poems and readings that these guys left behind. Some of the shorter stories in THE BEATS are about people I wasn’t as familiar with, and which definitely make me want to hit the library stacks. Mostly though, this book reminds me of how the work of the Beat Generation is still vital and relevant, and sadly this comic is neither.


Writer and Artist: Roger Langridge Publisher: BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Kids Reviewer: Liam ‘The Kid’

Note: ‘The Kid’ is 8 years old and has been doing reviews on his own site since August of 2008.
THE MUPPET SHOW is a really fun comic. I can’t believe that they made a comic about Muppets but I think it was a good idea. This issue is all about Fozzie Bear and how he wants to be funnier on the show and make people laugh. He thinks he’s a really funny guy but no one else ever likes his jokes and the audience boos him and throws things at him all the time. It’s always funny when Fozzie tries to tell a joke that no one likes and he gets food thrown at him. The two old guys who watch the show are pretty funny, too. They just complain about everything no matter what it is. They’re never happy about anything until someone gets in trouble on the show then they like it.
There are a lot of smaller stories inside the comic that have to do with the big story about Fozzie but they’re really short and it makes the book a bit different to read. I liked the stories with the Chef and the crocodile who is chasing some bird looking creature around. The only story I don’t really like is the Pigs in Space one. I don’t think Miss Piggy or any of the other pigs are that fun. I like it better when they do some of the sillier characters like Gonzo or the Chef and people like that. There is a pretty good part when the scientists bring a piece of cheese to life that was really silly. I think it would have been good to have the living cheese show up a bit more since he was crazy and destroyed the lab and was chasing the doctor and his helper all around.
Kermit doesn’t get to do that much in this book. I like how he is trying to put on the show and is the boss of all the other Muppets but they don’t always listen to him. He wants them to practice and he is trying to get all of the people to do the right thing but it never works out and he just gets upset about it. But Kermit had a really big story in the first issue so it’s okay that he isn’t in this one that much.
One thing that is a bit strange in the comic is the way some of the characters look. The artist does a good job of how he draws all of the Muppets and you can tell who everyone is but they don’t look exactly like the real Muppets and in some parts they look a bit creepy. I think it’s kind of cool how he draws them like that because if Muppets were real they would probably be a bit strange and not so cute and friendly looking. And I really like how the artist fits a lot of stuff into his pages. He isn’t just drawing the characters but all these other things that are going on and I like to look at the pages and see what he’s putting in there.
THE MUPPET SHOW is a pretty good book and I’ve liked both issues so far. It would be better with less Pigs in Space but it’s still a fun comic to read and I’m going to keep getting it.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10


Story by: Garth Ennis Art by: Steve Dillon Published by: Marvel Comics Reviewed by: Baytor

Nine years ago, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon ushered Frank Castle back into the comic limelight with their black comedy masterpiece, “Welcome Back, Frank”. This was no easy feat, as the character had only recently crash-landed three on-going books and his previous come-back attempt reeked of utter desperation.
A regular series followed, Dillon eventually left, and Ennis morphed it into the much more serious and superior MAX series. Ennis wrapped that run some months ago, and now he’s re-teamed with Dillon for a celebratory romp in the old style.
Reading WAR ZONE, I was filled with the sense of wonder that something this silly could have ever been allowed to happen to the grim ‘n gritty avenger, but remembering just how perfect it felt back then. Yeah, the “cum-eating paraplegic poop jokes” got old after a couple of years, but for a time, there was no book on the shelves like it and I eagerly looked forward to it every month. WAR ZONE manages to effortlessly slip into that old sweet spot where Frank Castle was the ultimate straight man in the midst of utter insanity and it didn’t feel like Ennis was trying too hard to top himself.
Granted, it doesn’t always work. There’s an entire sub-plot involving a low-level mob soldier named Schitti and a pumpkin that starts off with a smirk and goes on long past the point of good taste or humor, but for the most part the plot unfolds like a Rube Goldberg machine, with a hapless mob chauffeur, a jealous lesbian cop, a second generation villain, multiple quadruple amputees, penis eating vultures, and why one should never surrender to the Punisher at a backyard BBQ. I think the key to all this is that Ennis never portrays the Punisher as humorless. He’s not going to yuk it up with anyone, but he stoically notices the absurdity of what’s going on around him.
This is where Steve Dillon’s contribution really shines. I don’t think anyone has managed to get bigger laughs from a slight change in facial expression. Frank is not the most expressive of characters, and most artists can get the stony faced bastard look down, but Dillon is the only one I’ve seen that can convey a wide range of emotion while maintaining the stony, humorless exterior. If there are any laughs in the pumpkin fiasco, it’s that tiny sneer of disgust on Castle’s face.
The old Marvel Knights set-up is dependent on someone being the hapless victim of all this madness, which is split between the aforementioned Schitti and Molly Von Richtofen, Det. Soap’s lesbian partner from “Welcome Back Frank”. Schitti is a one-joke character like Soap, whose entire existence consists of falling victim to one indignity after another and I was already losing interest in the character before the pumpkin sub-plot. Det. Von Richtofen is a lot more interesting, as she’s an extremely competent character who is just having one hell of a bad day, which isn’t helped at all by her bad attitude.
And then there are the villains. The Elite, the nutter social warrior from “Welcome Back Frank”, is replaced by his equally nutter son. He’s got the money and skill to be dangerous, but his dubious mental state and inexperience is his constant undoing. Ma Gnucci, the quadruple amputee veteran of a couple of Ennis stories, supplies a necessary sense of menace for her ability to unite the splintered gangs of New York. Both are obviously played for laughs throughout (especially The Elite), but he never loses sight that they’re supposed to be a credible threat.
If you have any fondness for Ennis’ old approach to The Punisher, this volume is a must-read, as it is a near-perfect companion piece to “Welcome Back Frank”.


Publisher: Tripwire Publishing Ltd. Reviewer: Ambush Bug

I don't make it a habit of reviewing magazines. I'm too busy trying to work on reading my ever-growing 'to read' pile on my nightstand. But those looking for an alternative to the often breezy WIZARD MAGAZINE should look no further than TRIPWIRE. While this particular issue focuses its sights mainly on product from the Big Two publishers, it does offer frank, informative, and entertaining features that are beefier than your run of the mill comic book mag.
This issue in particular has got it all. It features coverage of THE WATCHMEN film (with a behind the scenes story and an inteview with artist Dave Gibbons), the KICK-ASS film (with interviews with writer Mark Millar, director Matthew Vaughn, & a JRJR sketchbook), an interview with Bendis on all things "Dark Reign", a pair of interviews with Geoff Johns and Dan Didio on the state of post-FINAL CRISIS DCU. My favorite of the bunch is an interview with Paul Cornell who talks extensively about the cult favorite CAPTAIN BRITAIN & MI13. There's also a pretty juicy interview with Lying in the Gutters' Rich Johnston, a cool retrospective of the Golden Years of Comics, and you can get your fanboy on debating if they are right or wrong about the top ten graphic novels of all time.
All in all, TRIPWIRE turned out to be slickly produced and filled with more than a ton of cool features. Although I'd love to see more coverage of some indie fare, TRIPWIRE proved to be a good read.


By Osamu Tezuka Released by Viz Media Reviewer: Scott Green

In PHOENIX, Osamu Tezuka made a concerted effort to capture and explore the patterns of humanity. Being an astute observer of the species' nature, a humanist with eyes towards the high and low points, and an absolute luminary in the manga medium, the results were boundary pushing classics. Each of the 12 major works served to move forward from pre-history and backwards from the end of human life on Earth in telling stand alone stories that explored aspects of the universal factors present regardless of time and circumstance. While developing these concepts, Tezuka was inspired by other media to bend light and perception into new forms in experimenting with his storytelling.
The sci-fi entries of PHOENIX tended to be more challenging than the historic epics. In the forward side of the cycle, Tezuka demonstrated a proclivity to leverage the fluidity of possibility to bend the stories and take the works in radically unexpected directions.
NOSTALGIA is a profoundly convoluted manga, to the extent that its theme appeared to be that, in aiming towards a goal or dream, some qualities may endure, such as love and determination, but the cascading elements shaping both future results and past memories are so complex as to be incomprehensible.
The path NOSTALGIA takes is part Judeo-Christian bible and part STAR TREK. It's phases resemble the gambit from Genesis to Revelations and the societies built and planets visited seem to come from the original 'Trek. The foundation starts with Romy and George, who in a storm of idealism and concern use the proceeds from a theft to purchase an uninhabited planet from a literally weaselly real-estate broker. Having been taken in a potentially lethal scam, not only are their dreams of building an island for humanity shattered, but their chances of survival becomes slim. After impregnating Romy, George dies in a robot assisted effort to provide for his family. Determined to go on, Romy leaves baby Cain in the care of the robot Shiva and retreats into a cryogenic sleep in which she'll be suspended until Cain has matured.
As opposed to the entries of PHOENIX in which Tezuka allows the work to slip into comically goofy gags, or presents exotic page construction, the cases where Tezuka breaks form in his illustration of this installment are few. Landscape in geological extremes are painstakingly rendered, but there is little in the panel and shading experimentation of other PHOENIX sci-fi chapters. Instead, the story has the air of a biblical chronicle; a serious minded presentation of a momentous subject. The break from this straight form narrative is a twist to capture Romy's perspective and memory. Her recollection of Earth shifts a number of times, starting with a weeping sphere of nature, spinning into an almost Disney-like forest scene, then a romantic postcard silhouette and finally into a print-like sea-shore landscape.
Beyond the biblical parallels, Tezuka invokes the idea of modern Israel in NOSTALGIA. As with his approach to the topic in Adolf, he seems deeply sympathetic with the desire for a homeland, but a bit ambivalent about the realities. The returnees to Earth from NOSTALGIA’s space diaspora are given an understandable longing, but the desire is also presented as an unsustainable movement. Tezuka doesn't approach the topic too politically, but he does raise the contentious issue as a point of thought.
Nostalgia is an interesting work from a meta-PHOENIX bookkeeping standpoint. For one thing, the immortal fire-bird itself narrates parts and is an active participant. Many elements seen in chronologically later, but previously released chapters of PHOENIX are present, with accompanying foreshadowing/flashbacks. The skilled outcast Saruta, who is in the forefront of much of the cycle, does not appear, but there is a pilot named Makimura who is surely in a different life than the pilot Makimura met a century later in "Universe". A "Chihiro" robot previously/later seen in Resurrection and the strange shape shifting objects of desire known as moopies from "Future" also make appearances. Not that any of these need to be accounted for by the reader, but such is the nature of the complexly interconnected universe and the complexly interconnection work of fiction.
While the PHOENIX works easily stand on their own, KARMA, volume four of Viz's release is probably the best introduction to Tezuka's intensions and abilities. NOSTALGIA is a beautiful and moving piece, but the nature of its progression is alienating by design. Its story mixes so many convolutions and cataclysms that its turns and actions seem precisely constructed to create distance and cause the reader to be taken aback. It's a rare work that balances the scale on a macro and micro level, in which cities and species rise and fall, caused, though not directed by, the love and reactions of a single woman.
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.

Indies, indies, indies. This is Ambush Bug. Indies. Don’t scroll past them. Blah, blah, blah. Indies.


If you liked OBSERVE & REPORT, this book is for you. Serious to the laughable DRAGNET level, NICK ADRIAN: SECURITY GUARD follows the gruff title character as he patrols the mall, trains a rookie, and tries to thwart a shoplifting/fraudulent return scam. Using mannequin arms as weapons, Nick lays down the law in hilarious fashion, never cracking a smile, but cracking plenty of skulls. The book also features previews of future Bag & Board comics--the wonderfully surreal HOFFSTRONOMY & THE U-SQUAD, the quirky sketches of BODEGA GENIUS, an ambitious epic called DARKWORLD, and the best of the bunch, SONS OF FIRE. This first issue serves as a very cool intro to Bag & Board, a company that, by the looks of this issue, is determined to make their mark in comics.


This pin-up book is a must for horror fans and appreciators of fine art. Although the best of the bunch are the beautiful paintings by the uber-talented Joel Robinson, this book offers a variety of splashes and portraits of the master of horror in some of his most famous roles. My favorites of the bunch: Robinson's haunting depiction of Price as the Witchfinder General and Paul Temple's cool image of Price as a gardener taking care of his favorite overgrown venus flytrap. Bluewater's VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS has been a fun showcase of fine writing and rich artwork. This pin-up book is a worthwhile celebration of the talent behind that fun series.

SANCHO #1-5 2000 Leagues

I had a chance to catch up with the first five issues of SANCHO, Ian Whelan and Alan Nolan's anthology focusing on a monk/priest with a penchant to stumble upon and subsequently kick the dick in of all things evil. Vampires, demons, zombies, leprechauns, serial killers, sorcerers--Sancho kills them all real good. This is not touchy-feely religious comic where the hero thwarts evil with prayers and kindness. Oh no. Sancho is more like a holy Alan Quartermain/Indiana Jones type; diving into adventure fist-first with his little winged goblin sidekick swooping around and making wisecracks. The adventure is high and the shorts never fail to entertain. Often, with short horror fiction, there's a reliance on contrived twists and endings punctuated with winks and nods. You don't get that here. When they aren't telling SANCHO stories themselves, they leave it to a group of talented artists and writers that they have gathered to elaborate on the wondrous world of SANCHO. Recommended for seekers of thrill and fun.

NOVA #24 Marvel Comics

Once again, this series is pushing all the right buttons for classic superhero adventure. Reading NOVA is like eating a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats—the kid in me loves the out-of-this-world action, super-keen characters and cliffhanger endings, but the adult in me loves the superb storytelling and sense of the dramatic! When a comic makes you feel something for the deaths of characters that have only just been introduced to you, you know that the writers are doing their jobs well. If anyone out there is like me, and has been lamenting the current crop of superhero titles, jump into the fresh-yet-nostalgic goodness of NOVA. - Imp


I think...yep, I think I'm going to be walking away from this title. I hate to do it and I have to apologize to Gail Simone for doing so. She kicks @$$ writing SECRET SIX, but with this comic, I just can't muster the energy to give a fig. Maybe it was the all too Doomsday-esque Genocide story. Maybe it's the lameness of the Manazons. Maybe it's because Wonder Woman time and time again fails to be a character in her own book or that the iconic aspects of the character overshadow any semblance of connection I may have as a reader to care about what happens to her. All I know is that I have been trying this book on for size month after month, hoping that Simone will deliver and make me care about Diana, but no matter what type of story she churns out (and she's tried everything from straight up adventure to mythology to fables to super-villains to romance to talking apes), it just doesn't seem to happen. You can't fault Gail for trying, but none of her stories so far have worked for me. - Bug

SKAAR: SON OF HULK #10 Marvel Comics

Just as the Illuminati deemed the Hulk too uncontrollable to stay on Earth a few years back, in a serendipitous act, the inhabitants of Planet Hulk have decided that Skaar has overstayed his welcome. The moment those still reading this comic has arrived-- Skaar is coming to Earth. There's a lot of potential with this character, but so far that hasn't really be reached in this series. I would have preferred Skaar hang around with the Guardians of the Galaxy or Nova before meeting up with his pop, but at least there's some momentum towards some interesting interactions happening. This series keeps chugging along even though I found the alien world stuff to be kind of boring. I am interested in seeing what happens next, which will ensure my purchase of Planet Skaar and the next issue of this series. And although Ron Lim's art ain't what it used to be (he needs a better inker here), it's still damn cool to see him draw the Silver Surfer again. - Bug


Another fun one-shot mapping out the status quo for Gotham's underbelly. For the most part, it's another successful one-shot with some spot-on characterization by Chris Yost and awesome Bolland-esque panels by Pablo Riamondi. Two-Face and Penguin are battling each other while the Black Mask manipulates the rest of Gotham's worst with the Riddler, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy caught in the middle. Now that the stage is set, I am really interested in seeing how it all works out in this mini-event that is proving to be much better than the universe-shattering events of DC's recent past. - Bug

THUNDERBOLTS #131 Marvel Comics

There should be a rule that a comic needs to be allowed a few issues (maybe 6) before editorial can order a crossover. The T-Bolt team isn't even fully formed and writer Andy Diggle and his rogues are forced into a multi-part tie-in with DEADPOOL. The plot of establishing a team has been put on standby for a crossover that wasn't awful, mind you, but somewhat unnecessary. It only served to swipe valuable time that could have been spent fleshing out this team and what this book is about. Now that the crossover is over, hopefully the book can continue to define and distinguish itself from previous T-Bolt incarnations. - Bug

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

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