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#39 2/10/10 #8

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) FABLES: THE GREAT FABLES CROSSOVER TPB FORTY FIVE HIT MONKEY #1 PHANTOM JACK: THE COLLECTED EDITION TPB DARK AVENGERS #13 DC GOES APE TPB VENGEANCE OF MOON KNIGHT #5 Raiders of the Long Box presents ZERO HOUR Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents dot.comics presents AXE MAN CHEAP SHOTS!


Writers: Bill Willingham & Matt Sturges Artists: Mark Buckingham, Russ Braun, & Tony Akins Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo Reviewed by Professor Challenger

“Even if we don’t stand a chance, it’s better to go down fighting.” -- Hilary Page
The story so far…
I am one of the multitudes who follow the FABLES series strictly through the trade collections and I have been anxiously awaiting this latest one. THE GREAT FABLES CROSSOVER was originally a 9-part story that crossed over (clever ain’t they) between FABLES, JACK OF FABLES, and THE LITERALS. The basic story involves a threat to the existence not only of the FABLES but of every living thing. Willingham and Sturges fill this colossal epic with so many solidly entertaining bits of characterization that it is hard to single out one or more for special attention here. Suffice to say that after so many years now writing within this world, both writers smoothly tag-team throughout without missing a beat. Jack is still just a horny asshole and his reunion with Rose Red is pointedly disturbing in the wake of Boy Blue’s death. And speaking of Boy Blue’s death, the story begins with a strong commentary on religion and a strong messianic-apocalyptic vision of Blue’s eventual return from the dead that is surely more than just prophecy but actually a teaser for the reader of a future story arc.
Now, since I have discovered FABLES strictly through the trades, and so far I have only made it to the first JACK trade, I did have a little bit of the feeling of coming into the middle of something and playing catch-up. So, fair warning to those who aren’t also reading JACK OF FABLES alongside their FABLES. However, I got caught up to speed pretty quickly since the bulk of the plot device for this crossover springs from JACK and not FABLES proper. For example, these “Literals” who are integral to this story are a spin-off out of the JACK OF FABLES series and contributed absolutely some of the most interesting aspects of the story.
Basically, you have a Literal named Kevin who has a magic pen and he’s planning to use it to rewrite the entire universe. And trauma, drama, action, pathos, and comedy ensue as Jack pulls in Bigby and Snow and others to try and figure out how to stop Kevin from writing them all out of reality. Willingham and Sturges’ story reeks of satire and it works throughout as a commentary on the emotional struggles that a writer experiences in the act of creation – facing a blank page. The literal personifications of the various genres are inspired and clichéd at the same time.
I don’t want to do the whole spoiler thing here because any FABLES fans will want to let this book just unfold without spoilage. But I will say that my favorite volume is the WOLVES volume, but by the end THE GREAT FABLES CROSSOVER ranks second for me.
Artistically, I was glad to see that Mark Buckingham handled nearly all the chapters, but Ross Braun and Tony Akins held court quite well with him. For me, however, FABLES without Buckingham is always going to have the feeling of missing something. I do surely have great love for the Brian Bolland cover (and covers preserved inside) but, like I said about Buckingham, the absence of James Jean to the covers is a blow for me. Bolland is one of my favorite artists but there was an emotional archetypal resonance to the beauty of Jean’s covers and I miss it.
Yep, another homerun for FABLES.
“Prof. Challenger” is Texas artist Keith Howell and he resides in the Austin area. Married 20 years and raising 2 talented kids, he digs comics, books, is disgusted by both sides of the political spectrum, is a theistic evolutionist, secretly thinks there’s a slight possibility that Dan Didio has a birthmark that looks like “666”….oh…and he harbors a not-so-secret celebrity crush on Amanda Conner. Check out his website at sometime.


Writer: Andi Ewington Art: Various Publisher: COM.X Reviewer: Mr. Pasty

I remember Roger Ebert talking about the chore of reviewing movies. How for every LA CONFIDENTIAL there are ten HOTTIE AND THE NOTTIE clones before and after it. Now that comic books have transcended the boundaries of geekdom (thanks to countless movies both good and bad), graphic novels are big business. How many titles can we crank out? How many twists, turns and arcs can we infect our books with? I remember reading ACTS OF VENGEANCE in the late eighties, when the cliffhanger told me:”TO BE CONTINUED IN QUASAR #5!” Not for me it wasn’t, because I didn’t read QUASAR. And how much fucking allowance did these people think I made anyway?
There are only a finite amount of stories you can tell in one character’s lifetime. I’m as big a PUNISHER fan as anyone, but seriously Frank, your kids have been dead for thirty years and you’ve massacred half of New York. Can we move on already? Hulk’s no better. Green Hulk, Grey Hulk, Red Hulk, Son of Hulk, World War Hulk, Ultimate Hulk, Hulk 2099, smart Hulk, dumb Hulk, Rick Jones Hulk, I’m beginning to think that S.H.I.E.L.D. should have just murked Banner back in issue #337 when they had the chance.
My point is that when you’re knee-deep in graphic novels on a weekly basis it gets harder and harder to find something that reminds you of why you fell in love with them to begin with. As TURNCOAT in FORTY-FIVE says, “Same shit, different heroics.” I fell in love with comics because they inspired me to believe in a world where men and women were capable of great things. Comic book villains, in their dastardly deeds, were a metaphor for all the ills I suffered as a child. In return, I lived vicariously through the heroes and their ability to vanquish evil and become mighty in thought, word and deed. FORTY-FIVE, by Andi Ewington, has restored that sense of wonder by deconstructing the super ones in an unexpected but delightfully entertaining way.
FORTY-FIVE is just what it sounds like. A journalist, James Stanley, interviews 45 carriers of the Super-S gene in an effort to better understand how they live their lives and cope with being different. Stanley believes that if he’s done his homework, he’ll be better equipped to deal with the pending birth of his child should that offspring possess the increasingly common gift (or curse) of the Super-S gene. A lot has been said about the concept behind this book and I can’t deny its effectiveness. An online reviewer used the term “lightning in a bottle” but I disagree. This is the whole fucking storm.
I used to contribute to a professional wrestling blog a few years back. I would report the usual happenings like who was going to be at Wrestlemania, what happened on last week’s RAW, etc. Nobody gave a shit. Then one day I posted an editorial called “The real story behind the Montreal Screwjob” and the numbers went through the roof. That’s when I realized that pro wrestlers were just like any other celebrity. People care more about the action, comedy, romance and drama off camera than anything they can put on screen. People talked about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the movie MR. AND MRS. SMITH for about five months. People have been talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie off screen for about five years.
The same principle applies here. I don’t care about MAJOR ACTION and how many times he’s saved the day or how many villains he’s beat up. But if you tell me you’re going to ask him how he feels about that kid that accidentally got killed when he defeated ABRASION, well hot damn, move out of the way because that’s something I want to hear. “Look buddy, I’m fighting a war here!” in case you were wondering.
I devoured FORTY-FIVE in one sitting. And the next day I went back for more. It reached me in a way that comics rarely do. It made the characters real. More importantly, I made a connection. When FIRETRAIL reflected on the bad decisions he made that changed his life, I was like, “Fuckin-A, I know what that feels like!” Somehow, with just one page of art and a few questions to reveal it, I felt exposed to a lifetime of memories that ranged from elation to apathy to regret. This book is a triumph. And I still can’t believe that with the sheer number of artists that contribute to FORTY-FIVE there isn’t one page that falls short artistically.
Don’t buy FORTY-FIVE because it’s different than the standard fare that litters the shelves (it is) and don’t buy it because you’ll find a handful of characters that mirror the ups and downs of your own life (you will), buy it because you have the opportunity to experience a lifetime of superhero exploits in one sitting. FORTY-FIVE doesn’t have a final resolution and you’ll never know what happens to the supers after their time with James Stanley – unless of course you have a wonderful imagination that is easily lost within the fantasy world of comic books. I wasn’t sure I still had it until I had the good fortune of reading FORTY-FIVE. How terrific is this book? It’s even got me looking forward to next month’s issues of HULK and PUNISHER.
Contributing artists for FORTY-FIVE include Charlie Adlard, Jeff Anderson, Seb Antoniou, Robert Atkins, Dan Boultwood, Dan Brereton, Lee Carter, Anthony Castrillo, Simon Coleby, Boo Cook, Rufus Dayglo, Ross Dearsley, Neil Edwards, Gary Erksine, Rodin Esquejo, Dan Fraga, Eduardo Francisco, Lee Garbett, Randy Green, Trevor Hairsine, John Higgins, Sally Hurst, Frazer Irving, Jock, Kevin Kobasic, Alvin Leigh, Wayne Nichols, Sean O’Connor, Ben Oliver, Carlo Pagulayan, Sean Phillips, Jordan Raskin, Dom Reardon, Kenneth Rocafort, Dave Ryan, Steve Sampson, Liam Sharp, Barry Spiers, Fiona Staples, Stephen Thompson, Matt Timson, Andie Tong, Gus Vazquez, Tim Vigil, Kit Wallis, Calum Alexander Watt, Bob Wiacek, Admira Wijaya, and Andrew Wildman.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.

HIT-MONKEY #1 (One-Shot)

Writer: Daniel Way Art: Dalibor Talijic Publisher: Marvel Comics Guest Reviewer: KletusCasady

HIT MONKEY. Yup I said it. HIT MONKEY. I said it and I read it. And I liked it.
I was not a fan of all the MARVEL APES stuff; in fact, I think it was stupid as hell. Maybe one comic with that theme, then let it go--but a whole fucking series about Marvel super heroes if they were monkeys….worst Elseworlds tale EVER! It seemed like a writer for Marvel walked by DC’s Elseworlds office and saw the idea in the trash can next to a dirty tissue: “what if all the superheroes were…{stares around the room as if this idea is going to blow the roof off of the building}...monkeys! Yeah, so we got Batmonkey, Supermonkey Green Monkey Lantern, Booster Monkey…you know…guys…guys?!?!”
I’m sorry, but you guys are the House of Ideas and MARVEL APES (I use ape and monkey interchangeably because Marvel did it and so will I) is a bad frickin' idea.
Now that said, I did not read those series but I did flip through it and it was riddled with bad jokes having to do with monkeys and how they were alike yet different then their super hero counterparts. Now my friend Kris, who I trust his comic book judgment besides him picking up MARVEL APES and reading it cover to cover, said the series was pretty good but he also liked 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS (I think every one of those movies is terrible) so I don’t know. It just seemed like Marvel was trying to start a new craze like the whole Cthulu craze from about 2 years ago (what the hell was that about?). And Zombies are the hype right now so MARVEL ZOMBIES I can understand, plus those series were pretty good and seemed less…what’s the word I’m looking for….oh yeah…STUPID. What I mean by that is that they were treated realistically while, at least to me, MARVEL APES seemed like an inside joke that I wanted no part of. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to judge but I don’t think it was the best idea Marvel ever had and I don’t think anyone who writes for them, including who ever wrote MARVEL APES, would argue that is was. The best part of the “Coming of the Apes” were the alternate covers by Frank Cho (and others) that ran through every title because I didn’t have to invest $2.99 into a comic about a damn dirty ape (my personal fave was the Punisher monkey with a gun in each hand, each foot and his tail had a gun).
Now on to HIT MONKEY, which sounds like a cruel trick they would have played on me in middle school, where the result of the joke would be me getting kicked in the balls while everyone laughed….ahhh, memories. I hated middle school. Anyway, Daniel Way is now currently writing DEADPOOL (who apparently is the new Wolverine with 80 plus books coming out this year) and WOLVERINE ORIGINS (which after a rocky start, not just my opinion, is actually a book I look forward to if only to see if Romulus dead so I never have to hear that name again). Around the time that ORIGINS started, I saw Daniel Way at Mega Con in Orlando; everyone from Marvel had a line to get things signed…except for him. I felt bad, the guy is a Marvel Legend for god’s sakes but I think his only book was ORIGINS which, at the time, wasn’t that popular (again not just my opinion). Enter Deadpool (sounds cool huh? Like a Bruce Lee movie), now I bet this guy has dudes fighting over autographs, girls having their boobies signed, guys wanna be him & girls wanna be him, you know where I’m going with this. Basically DEADPOOL is funny as hell, Way’s the man and should be receiving international love for that book. The other DEADPOOL titles are definitely not as good. A guy I worked with had just come in for his shift and the only thing he said to me was “Hit Monkey” and he was serious. I think he chose it solely based on Way’s DEADPOOL success, so I followed suit. This book is good and I had no idea it was a one shot which made me like it even more because now I’m wondering “what happun nex?” Its basically an origin story but I’m pretty sure its not like any origin story you’ve read before and it’s all written in a serious tone and there’s no build up, the story is just there and you’re immediately “in medias res” as they say. If you read the first page you WILL finish this book I bet you 5 dollars (we can’t shake on it so forget about it). It’s really interesting to see how Hit Monkey comes to be (did I really just write that sentence?) but beyond this comic I’m not sure this character will stand on its own. There are just too many unanswerable questions, UNLESS (and this is a big one) UNLESS he becomes a Deadpool villain because then all logic and reasoning, much like the Tim Burton PLANET OF THE APES, will be forgotten about. The artwork by Dalibor Talijic is pretty damn good; it’s a cross between Marcos Martin (but not as clean) and Pia Guerra (of Y THE LAST MAN fame). I’ve never seen this person’s art but I like it and I’d like to see him on something more high profile like a comic that doesn’t have to do with a damn dirty…what?...I already said that…oh…um ok. This story reads like a campfire legend that old people (that happen to be apes...who talk) tell to their grandchildren and I like that and that’s why it works well as a one shot because it ends before too many questions arise but if this becomes an ongoing series I’m not sure I can make another journey to the planet of the apes but I might reconsider if Deadpool’s involved. Curious George eat your heart out! Literally!


Writer: Michael San Giacomo Artists: Brett Barkley, Mitchell Breitweiser, Sean McArdle Publisher: SPEAKEASY COMICS Reviewer: Optimous Douche

Even an epic douche must sometimes concede that life is not always one big shit storm. Last week the East Coast was hit by a mammoth snow storm leaving me with aching muscles and confined to Douche Manor on the comic collecting Sabbath. With no new books in hand, and the power burning out every five minutes leaving me no time for my new passion of Star Trek Online, I began to traverse some of the trades still waiting for some review love from last year’s Wizard World. Enter PHANTOM JACK.
You guys probably don’t realize how dedicated the @$$holes are to comics. If you took our reviews as a sign of the number of books we read each week you would be mistaken. We read a ton of books, but we only have time to write about a few. PHANTOM JACK’S lack of review love was a byproduct of comic overload, not the quality of the book, because once I cracked the first page I was hooked!
PHANTOM JACK is the superhero name for a guy who frankly isn’t a superhero – he’s a newspaper man — an invisible newspaper man. He’s also authentic. Just because Jack Baxter develops the power of invisibility thanks to some chemical misdoings on the part of the US government, does not mean he has the foggiest clue on how to actually use these powers. In the first of many issues that fatten this hearty tome, Jack is a cub reporter in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Being a native of this region myself, I was elated to see San Giacomo using actual locations and landmarks. Jack’s accident happens in Norristown, an area with more factories and warehouses than people (hell there’s even a Chemical Road – these days it has a Target and Best Buy, but you get the idea). This is not an action packed origin since Jack and his long-time partner in newsiness Vinnie pass out after the accident, but again I applaud San Giacomo for authenticity. What’s more likely: immediately walking away from a chemical overload in your system or passing the fuck out until your body adjusts? I pick the latter and I’m glad San Giacomo did as well. What’s most enticing about the origin, though, is what happens to Vinnie as he starts abusing this power. Again, so authentic it’s genius in its simplicity and enjoyment.
Flash forward a few years and we start the true story arc. A five issue storyline, in fact. Keep count, kids, so far you are looking at six comic books for the low price of $15.00. And not to sound like the guy that hocks the Magic Bullet, but there’s even more special offers inside. Sorry…a good value always kicks my ADD into overdrive.
Set amidst the backdrop of America’s second incursion into Iraq, one will almost get a nostalgic remembrance for the early aught years of the 21st century. A time when we actually believed Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction and our collective faith in government was still swelled from the events of September 11th. After Jack’s origin he gets a job in NY City with a major metropolitan newspaper. He’s used his invisibility to his advantage to make a name for himself. While I would have loved to have seen some of these adventures that allowed Jack to become the top reporter in the business, I understand San Giacomo’s choice to forego further exposition – simply and sadly, it was unnecessary.
Life events find Jack leaving his desk at the Clarion Newspaper to mount a rescue mission to save his brother, a reservist that strayed across the Iraqi border. Naturally Jack uses his invisibility for this rescue effort – and he does it poorly. Again, the authenticity just jumps off the page. Jack is not an International Man of Mystery; he’s simply a guy that can turn invisible. San Giacomo does an amazing job painting the picture of the demon regime that was the Saddam Hussein’s army, especially if you look at the fact this piece was written before all of America knew just how terrible this region was. Personally I would chalk this up to the fact that San Giacomo is a newsman by trade—a man in the know if you will. I don’t want to give everything away because I want you to read the book, but I will say Jack discovers he’s not the only one that can turn invisible in this world.
The tonality in the art of this book was spot on. Whether by necessity to get the project off the ground or simply by accident, the juxtaposition between the art styles of the origin and the further books into Iraq could not have been planned better. When times are good during the origin story, Berkley’s light lines paint a picture of optimism for tomorrow. Likewise the dark heavy lines of Breitweiser during the Iraq story perfectly convey the horror that was Iraq under the totalitarian thumb of Saddam.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, there are two more supplemental stories written in prose format with splash page art work supplied by Sean McArdle. Even though McArdle only supplied a few images, he had the heavy duty of trying to convey an entire story with one picture, a job he did quite admirably.
Do I have any complaints about this book? Actually, yes I do. Where, oh where, are the continued adventures of Jack? This idea is not just a well of stories, it’s a fucking reservoir of future material. Keep writing, Mike. Please.
Optimous is lonely and needs friends. Even virtual ones will fill the gaping hole, join him on Facebook or he will cry like a newborn kitten.


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Mike Deodato Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: William

What do the Sentry, the Red Hulk, and the TV show “Lost” all have in common? They’re all clearly being made up now as the writers go along.
It’s issue #13 now in the excellent DARK AVENGERS series, and yet again there’s another mysterious twist to the Sentry presented here. Last issue it was the fact the Sentry could manipulate molecules, far and above that of the Molecule Man no less. This issue reveals that the origin of the Sentry is not the happy-go-lucky one that was fed to the public, but rather delves into a much darker set of circumstances. I won’t ruin it for the reading audience here, but suffice it to say it certainly goes against the more staple origins within Marvel’s roster of superheroes. If the Sentry truly had come out during Marvel’s Golden Age of heroes back in the 40‘s and 50‘s, this new origin would‘ve given the CCA a field day.
With yet another twist revealed here about the Sentry (with nods to Moses, yes THAT Moses no less), it still felt nonetheless like a lackluster issue to me. This was nothing more than a filler issue by Bendis, with more of the Sentry’s “struggles” towards his inner demons yet again becoming the focus. How many times am I going to read about the Sentry and his issues? I swear he is the most indecisive superhero out there. Norman Osborn’s current struggle over his own personalities works because there’s such a large history to fall back upon. When I read that SIEGE: THE CABAL issue, I loved how it opened with Osborn talking to his “mask” again. It’s amazing how a simple shot of Osborn sitting on his bed, holding that Goblin mask in his hands, can become so effective. Much like in the “Spider-Man” movie, it works so well because we as readers know the struggle that Osborn had already gone through, and how easily he can fall back into that world (in fact, it’s safe to say that we are all waiting for that great moment to happen). With the Sentry it doesn’t because he’s still such a new hero, and it just seems like Marvel is stalling his actions while they try and think up of the next revelation. If there is one thing that’s for certain it’s this: Marvel should be careful in adding so many twists because it’ll only confuse both old and new readers later on. The origins (and subsequent powers/abilities) of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and other classic heroes work so well because they’re simple but effective. Here the Sentry’s is slowly becoming more and more complex, to the point where it just seems like senseless dilution.
I still like the Sentry character though, for now. Visually his costume is iconic, with obvious parallels to Superman while still maintaining a safe distance. I also like the idea that we have yet to truly see the full extent of his powers. Any future issue of the Sentry going up against say Galactus, or a resurrected Thanos, would certainly get picked up by me at my local comic book shop.
In any case, add this issue if you’re a Sentry fan out there. FYI, the artwork by Deodato remains outstanding. His use of shadows and photo-realistic artwork is perfect for the darker themes presented here. (And on a side note, I still love how he uses Tommy Lee Jones as the basis for Norman Osborn--there’s just something about this that fits so nicely). This issue won’t add much to your collection, but it’ll certainly provide some specks of new information here and there.


Written and illustrated by various Published by DC Comics Reviewed by Stones Throw

Sophisticated comics?! To that I say EEK OOO AAK AH AH!
Let me explain. Marvel Comics has recently been putting out series like MARVEL APES and another one called something like MARVEL PETS or PET AVENGERS, even though DC was always the publisher that had Krypto the Super-Dog, Comet the Super-Horse, Ace the Bat-Hound etc. When did we ever see Peter Parker’s Spectacular Spider or Daredevil’s Guide Dog or Wolverine’s pet wolverine, I ask you?
As for apes, I’ll give you Gorilla-Man, but the Gibbon is a mutant and Daredevil’s Ape-Man is just a guy in a suit.
So, this being comics, DC yelled “STOP COPYING ME!” and put out this collection of classic ape tales from the archives. A year or so later, I got ‘round to reading it, meaning no one in particular profited from that petty bout of sibling rivalry.
The story goes that sales of the 1950s sci-fi comic STRANGE ADVENTURES peaked one month when a gorilla appeared on the cover. Editor Julius Schwartz was told to repeat the trick and soon gorillas were all over DC. Unorthodoxly, however, this collection begins with a SUPERBOY reprint introducing Beppo the Super-Monkey, who isn’t really an ape at all.
I won’t hold the anthropological inaccuracy against them, though, since never having read a classic Superboy story before I enjoyed learning that the parodies by Kyle Baker and Alan Moore are accurate and Ma and Pa Kent are every bit as put-upon as you’ve been led to believe. On the first page, Superbaby and Super-Monkey join together in ripping the wheels off Pa Kent’s car. Then Pa runs a bath only to find himself accidentally sitting on Super-Monkey, who’d dived in when he wasn’t looking.
Having put this domestic strife behind him, we find the fully-grown Superman fighting a King Kong-sized ape called Titano in a tale illustrated by the canonical SUPERMAN artist Wayne Boring, in which we can see where Messrs. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely got much of the tone and style of their ALL STAR SUPERMAN series.
I also enjoyed a 1960s ANIMAL MAN story which shows that Morrison’s interpretation of Buddy Baker as a loveable loser wasn’t so new. In the first panel we see him thrown at a barn door by the Mod Gorilla Boss and in the next he’s making a girl cry when he says he can’t marry her. “We’ll make the church scene some day!” he responds tactlessly. Buddy Baker’s first-person narration, his unconventional powers, the 1960s slang, Jack Sparling’s unusually rough-and-ready artwork and the fact that Animal Man is an amateur superhero who carries his costume in his car and gets slapped around more than most make him a distinctive Silver Age DC character.
Best of all, though, was a Carmine Infantino FLASH story featuring the Flash’s nemesis, evil genius Gorilla Grodd. Grodd invents a ray that makes everyone who looks at him—even the Flash—become infatuated with him. Seeing a realistically-illustrated gorilla wandering around Central City with crowds cheering stuff like “He’s wonderful!” and “He’s marvelous!” is hilarious. Eventually Grodd decides to run for governor of whichever state Central City is in. We see a billboard advertising GRODD – THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE, a great pun.
Unanswered is why Grodd would want to be governor. Probably just to piss off the Flash. Still, I imagine many Americans in the age of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sarah Palin and George W. Bush will wonder wistfully why they can’t vote for a super-intelligent gorilla.
The best thing about these comics is how completely free of irony they are. It’s not until a fairly recent Joe Casey-written Kid Flash story that the idea of talking gorillas is treated with any kind of insincerity or knowingness. Why are gorillas the villains? Purely because they’re interesting to look at and make for fun and visually exciting comics.
So I say you can take your “six-issue plotlines” and “in-depth characterization”: I’ll be looking for more Carmine Infantino Gorilla Grodd comics.


Writer: Greg Hurwitz Art: Jerome Opena Publisher: Marvel Comics Guest Reviewer: KletusCasady

Dear Moon Knight, We met when I was a young child, I was in love with your moon shaped…..wait that’s sounds bad.
Dear Moon Knight, I was 11 when I first gazed upon your radiant glowing eyes…no that’s not really working either.
Dear Moon Knight, We’ve known each other for a long time. One of my first comics was with you and Shang-Chi. I can’t really remember the story now but I know you guys were fighting some ninjas and I remember reading this comic over and over again because it was one of the ten comics I had at the time. I even remember when you and the Punisher took on some snake like zombies in PUNISHER ANNUAL #2: ATLANTIS ATTACKS! (which I just recently purchased again) where Punisher got bit or did you get bit? I think it was you and Punisher had to fight you until the poison was out of your system. Even though it was his comic, I was rooting for you. It was based solely on your costume but I was in your corner none the less. One of my favorite crossovers was the ROUND ROBIN: SIDEKICKS REVENGE with Spider-man (sorry I’m in-like with him more than you), The New Warriors, Punisher, and you. Now you may not have been my favorite of that group but I damn sure appreciated you being there (again mostly based on the costume but whatevs). Basically what I’m trying to say is I’ve known you for a long time but…we need to talk.
I followed your new series with Charlie Huston and David Finch (love that guy’s stuff!) and it was cool, the art work was stellar and the story started out pretty cool but then something happened that made me not want to be “with” you any more. Not only did the art change after a few issues, but you went bat-shit crazy and I was afraid to be around you. The art threw me for a loop (can’t remember who it was) because you were crazy as hell and after missing like two issues you were so fucked up in the head I had no clue what was going on. I didn’t know if you were fighting yourself, who anyone was or why you had an urge to murder everyone, I mean damn…it took Spider-Man swinging in to stop you from killing a damn purse snatcher. You need to fight people like The Hand or someone you can kill and not feel bad about it. Even Captain America had to have a talk with you during CIVIL WAR just to set your ass straight. I did like how you sassed him and said something like “I don’t care about your war or finding out who has the better super powers,” only to have Cap respond “ If you cross my path, I’ll show you who has the better super power!” Pretty cool exchange if you ask me…but Cap could probably kick your ass…no offense…I’m just saying…if had to place a bet. Anyway, I will always at least look though your comics because of the impression you made on me as a kid.
This brings me to your latest adventure. I was kind of thrown off by your new comic series at first because it seemed to start the exact same way the new PUNISHER series did with the same artist (Jerome Opena). Both you and Punisher fought Sentry in your first two issues of your new series, and I believe both issues had a cliffhanger with Sentry flying above in some schizophrenic godlike pose saying something like “We need to talk”. That said this new series has been pretty fun and fast paced (eerily similar to the Punisher’s new series) with not much dialog but a lot of action. This action is complemented well by Jerome Opena’s art whose fight and flight sequences are spot on. When someone is running, fighting or hell even standing still the art looks as if it’s moving on its own. Not in like an Andy Kubert way where everyone kind of looks like they’re attempting to do a back bend but I guess it’s more related to the angles he chooses to show the action from. To me it seems that it has less to do with the actual movement of the character than the angle he chooses to show it from. The story isn’t bad either; Greg Hurwitz has done a few PUNISHER one-shots and maybe an arc here or there but I can’t say his MOON KNIGHT is as good as those but it’s not bad by any means. Those who like you, Moonie (that’s what I call you), will like this comic because there’s not much to dislike and it seems as though your murderous, psycho, talking to evil imaginary imps ways might be working its way out of your system and I for one am happy for you MK. You look good. Your book looks good. I think we can start seeing each other again. Maybe I can get this letter to you before Valentine’s Day but if I don’t please don’t call my mother’s house looking for me.
Yours Truly, Kletus

Every comic shop has them… battered long boxes jam-packed with dog-eared titles ranging from forgotten heroes of the 1970s to multiple copies of chromium-covered “collector’s item” comics from the Big Bust of the 1990s. But if you are patient, and dig deep enough, you just may find something special…

RAIDERS OF THE LONG BOX takes a look back at
ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME miniseries, 1994 (Issues 4-0) Writer and Breakdowns: Dan Jurgens Finished art: Jerry Ordway Published by: DC Comics Dusted off and reviewed by: BottleImp

DC had one big tangled mess of continuity. They had tried to rectify this back in 1985 with the now-iconic CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS maxiseries, wherein all the multiple earths in the DC Universe, each one home to a different pantheon of heroes and villains (Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-3, Earth-X, Earth-S… and so on and so forth), were squashed together onto one ultimate Earth. “There!” the editors at DC sighed, wiping the dust from their hands. “Now there’ll be no more confusion about what Earth the Justice League is on and what Earth the Justice Society comes from. Everybody all in one place—simple!” Unfortunately, rather than undoing the Gordian Knot that was DC’s 50 year publication history, CRISIS managed to twist the skeins even tighter together. The problem was no longer one of location—rather, it had become one of chronology. So the Justice Society had been active during World War II, and the Justice League was active at present—but weren’t Batman and Superman on both teams? And what about Wonder Woman? Was the Hawkman who was a JSA member the same one who was on the JLA, or was the latter still an alien from the planet Thanagar? No, wait… he couldn’t be the alien, because the Hawkman from Thanagar now wears funky orange armor and his wings don’t have feathers…and so on and so forth.
So DC decided to nip all these questions and inconsistencies in the bud with a miniseries that was meant to clean up the convoluted timeline once and for all, while at the same time setting the stage for a new era with new heroes and new titles to reinvigorate the DC Universe: ZERO HOUR.
For such a complex task, the plot of the series is surprisingly straightforward and simple. Anomalies in the timestream are increasingly occurring with no apparent cause. Cities from the future float above the land of the present, a young Batgirl protects the streets of Gotham City while Barbara Gordon remains wheelchair-bound, someone called Alpha Centurion claims that he was Metropolis’ chosen hero, and the immortal Vandal Savage is mystified as the Justice Society’s Hawkman multiplies into half-a-dozen different versions of himself. In the far distant future, the universe is collapsing, sending temporal shockwaves throughout the past. The time-traveling Waverider (the central character of DC’s previous time-travel event ARMAGEDDON 2001…the subject, perhaps, of a future Long Box review) discovers that this destruction is the aftershock of the events of the original CRISIS, and just as the future is being erased, so too is the past. Soon the two will meet and all of existence will be destroyed. But this isn’t just because of the merged worlds of the CRISIS—there’s a puppet master pulling the strings, and his name is…Extant.
Nah, just kidding—Extant is just Monarch, who was just Hank Hall, aka Hawk of HAWK & DOVE (more ARMAGEDDON 2001…trust me, it’s complicated) with new duds, and he’s just the flunky. The real mastermind is Hal Jordan, aka Parallax. This was after the introduction of Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern, when Hal went nuts after Coast City was destroyed. In a logical extension of his desire to bring Coast City back from the dead, Jordan, now brimming with the power of the Green Lanterns’ central battery, decides to use the temporal schisms as a means to remake the universe in his image—a universe where Coast City still exists, where Batgirl was never crippled by the Joker, and where everyone can be happy. Naturally, that doesn’t happen, and long story short, Parallax is defeated and the universe is re-created without outside interference, creating DC’s one true timeline.
ZERO HOUR was followed by DC’s “Zero Month,” during which each title released an issue #0. In the case of already ongoing series, the Zero Issue would give the reader the essence of the comic book and its characters without becoming too bogged down in any ongoing plotlines, becoming an excellent “jumping-on” point for potential new readers. DC also introduced new titles to the stands with Zero Issues of PRIMAL FORCE, MANHUNTER, FATE and STARMAN (which one of these is not like the other?), meant to be the beginning of the new DC. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), this was not to be the case, and DC’s tomorrow turned out to be a lot like its today.
ZERO HOUR can’t be counted as a success, but neither can it be cast aside as a total failure. On the negative side, the new solo titles that were launched—FATE and MANHUNTER—were almost painfully Image-esque in both visuals and storytelling. Just check out that cape and that ridiculously asymmetrical, pouch-laden outfit. The Big Boom that Image had ushered in was already beginning to bust, and DC was jumping onto that bandwagon far too late. Another “new” hero was the new Hawkman, explained in the miniseries as a stabilization of the multiple Hawkmen that had resulted from the chronological ripples from the CRISIS. But by ignoring the past incarnations of Carter Hall/Katar Hol that readers knew, DC only alienated the fans from this new version. Readers would have to wait another ten years for a Hawkman that both resolved the JSA/JLA issues and embraced the character’s publication history, courtesy of Geoff Johns. In short, all but one of DC’s new titles (James Robinson’s unique STARMAN) flopped, and it was back to Superman, Batman and the rest.
Some were also disappointed that several members of the Justice Society, including Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite, were ignobly dispatched by Extant, while most of the remaining members were advanced to their chronological ages and forced to retire. Comics scribe and Golden Age JSA fanatic Roy Thomas blasted the decision in his book THE ALL-STAR COMPANION, basically saying that DC had tossed their history out with the trash…although Thomas’ idea of how to honor his childhood heroes was to have them locked in a never-ending battle of Ragnarok, the Norse myth of the end of the world. Sooo…dying in battle trying to save the universe, finally retiring after over half a century of crimefighting, or getting crushed by giant serpents and frost giants for all eternity. Gotta say, I think ZERO HOUR was a lot kinder to the JSA than ol’ Roy was.
But here are some of the positives of the miniseries. One: the final issue of ZERO HOUR (#0) finished with a fold-out back cover depicting DC’s new timeline. Want to know which JSA member appeared first? Confused as to who was in the original JLA lineup? Who came first, Superman or Batman? Boom—every question answered by looking at the clear four-page guide. No more timeline problems. Two: accessibility. The “Zero Month” event was the perfect way to get new readers on board to DC’s numerous titles. They were deliberately written to be new-user-friendly, easing the reader into the comic book’s world rather than throwing him into a near-incomprehensible mess of plot and continuity baggage. Hell, ZERO HOUR is why I was and am a DC reader from the mid-‘90s through now. I started with PRIMAL FORCE and STARMAN, STARMAN led to JSA, which led to looking for old issues featuring the Justice Society, etc. Three: brevity. The entire miniseries consisted of five issues that were released weekly, supplemented (if one so desired) by the tie-in issues that were woven into DC’s regular ongoing series. That’s right, a major event book, and all it took was one month. In this day and age where it feels like BLACKEST NIGHT has been going on for an eternity, and over at Marvel the ads for SIEGE proudly proclaim “an event seven years in the making!” the thought of a company-changing event needing so little commitment from its readers seems mind-boggling (and I’m not even going to bring up the clusterfucks that are 52, COUNTDOWN and FINAL CRISIS). Even given that ZERO HOUR’s end result was less than stellar, you’ve got to give DC credit for not getting mired down in the series and for focusing on the more important matter of going forward with their publications.
ZERO HOUR is easy to find in the cheap bins, along with many of DC’s Zero Issues. The miniseries is fair, and I would advise picking up #0 if only for the timeline (which is now of course obsolete, thanks to DC’s decision to re-introduce the multiple earth concept in INFINITE CRISIS…why, Geoff Johns? Why?), but there are some real gems amongst those Zero Issues, even for such familiar characters as Batman or Superman. Or you could take a look at MANHUNTER #0 and once again marvel at the unfathomable influence that Rob Liefeld held over the young comic book artists of the 1990s.
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 here. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.


Story by Hideyuki Kikuchi Art by Shin Yong-Gwan Released by DMP Reviewer: Scott Green

This stuff is “Wicked City”-rific. If you watched NINJA SCROLL and the horror action anime movies/direct to video works that marked anime's North American presence in the "Not for Kids!" days, Yoshiaki Kawajiri should be a familiar name. Trading in quick, often brutal, regularly sexualized violence and supernatural naughtiness, he was attached to a host of favorites back when anime was "violent porn." Kawajiri's prominence isn't unearned. He certainly honed that material to a sharp edge. That said, there's a notion/assumption that he originated it that isn't quite true. There's the ero guro (erotic grotesque) tradition that dates back to Japan's Taisho era (1912 -1926), the emblem of which is the sensational case of Sada Abe, a woman who strangled and castrated her lover then carried around his organ in her handbag. But, more to the point, there's Hideyuki Kikuchi, one of the pioneers of the light novel form, whose work included genre mash-up VAMPIRE HUNTER D, and a range of pulpy prose, such as the basis for Kawajiri movies like WICKED CITY. The mouths where they shouldn't be. The saliva and ooze. Much of the extravagance of that anime found its basis in Kikuchi's writing.
TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST is driven by spectacle, rather than story or character. It opens in Seoul in the year 200x. An attractive young, Japanese office lady wanders through the late night crowds of Dongdaemun Market. Despite the bustle, Megumi finds herself alone in a blackened alley. A crone appears, and demands 10,000 ($110, if exchange rates aren't too bad) to save Megumi from pursuers. Though initially incredulous, Megumi gives in. And, soon after handing over the money, an eclectic group of menacing folks close in: a towering heavy, an extensively tattooed man in tattered clothes, a couple harsh looking business men, an old man leaning on a cane. Then, there's the ring leader...a busty woman with plenty of cleavage, leather outfit and a whip and her hand. Megumi runs and finds herself in a strange pavilion...a theatre, built around a blossoming cherry tree, with a mural of yokai hags devouring women center stage. Megumi's savior, dressed in the Heian robes, begins a Noh dance. This stranger, presumably an onmyoji mystic is the titular exorcist Akamushi. These adversaries pull out wolf embossed pistols and reveal neighborhood consuming mouths attached to their hands (a variation on VAMPIRE HUNTER D's symbiot), and our anti-hero redirects the force back on the attackers before entangling them.
TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST is campy and obvious. Megumi flirts dangerously close to being the horror movie victim, though maybe she has too much fool's luck for anything really bad to happen to her. She has a bouncy energy that is half oblivious to the danger. Chapter title illustrations show her rollerblading to work. She sings theme songs. She's regularly given the "super deformed" cartoon distortion. "Was everything from last night a dream? Did I drink too much? ...I've still got time. I'll go see my boyfriend, Ryouji." Beyond paying the crone for protection, the extent of her agency over the course of the volume is picking up an umbrella to cave in the heads of zombified coworkers. "...well, they're weak...! No, I'm strong...this power doesn't feel like it's my own. I can beat them! Okay, ladies, time for some batting practice!" This lasts for about a page beyond when the lady in leather shows up with a knife. Megumi does get a stab into her opponent’s cleavage, but her offensive doesn't last. Meanwhile, her ally is strikingly from a prior era and a bit sinister; more Dracula than Father Merrin. While the nature of the character’s intentions hasn’t been spelled out, the mystery is less intriguing than prospect of seeing her carry out his hidden agenda.
So far, there's little to suggest that it matters as to whether one feels chilled by Megumi's circumstances. Kikuchi does do dread and does do gothic. However, the driving focus of Taimashin seems to be the spectacle of nasty creatures meeting to do nasty things to each other in the dark, while regularly bothering Megumi. It might be of some small comfort that she doesn't, or has yet to, come in for treatment as harsh as WICKED CITY's Makie. Yet, while this isn't a Toshio Maeda (UROTSUKIDOJI: LEGEND OF THE OVERFIEND) manga by a long stretch, Megumi does bathe in a hot spring, and while naked, she does get attacked by her leather clad pal, using a bat/snake/whip. And, if you've seen a Kawajiri movie or two, you can guess how chummy that gets. TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST might be rated 16+:young adult, but I've seen less salacious manga shrink wrapped. Rather than horror, think supernatural action with an extravaganza of exploitation sleaze and you'll have a good idea of the engine of TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST. Enjoy it ironically or enjoy it for the transgressive thrill; there's plenty to get a kick out of in TAIMASHIN: THE RED SPIDER EXORCIST.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over eight years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column every week on AICN.

By Vroom Socko

It’s in the very nature of internet comics that, like the internet itself, you’re going to find a vast variety of taste and quality. You like dramatic love stories, or fantasy settings, or killer rabbits? There’s an online comic for you out there. Do you like jokes about movies, or math, or sex? Then there’s a comic out there for you. Do you want to read about a unicorn man and a giant avocado fighting against an evil flying book? There’s a perfect comic for out there for you.
No, I’m not kidding about that last one. A man-sized avocado fighting an evil flying book alongside a bespeckled man with a unicorn horn. And a man with socks for arms. And a talking dog. And a cop with an axe, called Axe Cop. These are just some of the things you’ll find in the comic called, oddly enough, AXE COP.
This example of madness writ large is the product of writer Malachai Nicolle and his artist brother Ethan. Some of you may remember Ethan Nicolle from his Slave Labor comic, CHUMBLE SPUZZ, a story that read a bit like “Ren & Stimpy” only less bipolar and with more satanic pigs. That title was a whole mess of insane fun, but AXE COP is on a whole different level of madness. It makes CHUMBLE SPUZZ look like BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. It’s the sort of mad parable you’d end up hearing if you let a young boy watch DIE HARD, let him mainline a case of Pixie Stix, had him run through a forest, then asked him to tell you a story. And for all we know, that’s exactly what happened. You see, writer Malachai Nicolle is only five years old.
No joke. This comic comes straight from the most active source of imagination you can find, a five year old boy’s mind. The notion of illustrating these stories and putting them online to be read is a stroke of brilliance that is unparalleled. It’s like that scene with Max and his mom in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, only good. Nobody can come up with crazy, fun, violent, and all around badass stories like a kid can. Adults who try either get locked up in institutions or become the director of the TRANSFORMERS franchise. You cannot fake this.
Still, I doubt that anyone would be talking about AXE COP if not for the level of skill and passion that Ethan Nicolle brings to his brother’s musings. There’s plenty of good art on the web, to be sure, but art this good on this sort of storytelling isn’t easy to be had. It’s one thing to just say that a character gets dinosaur blood on him, thereby transforming into a humanoid dinosaur with a machine gun, and it’s another to be entertained by it. But Ethan sells even the most bizarre twist and turn so perfectly that you can’t help but sit back in wonder.
AXE COP is the personification of male childhood joy. It’s weird stuff happening, crossed with tough guys, backed by a mess of explosions. It’s cops and crooks and aliens and dinosaurs and ninjas and a guy with socks for arms wielding a chainsaw. It’s Fun with a capital F. I promise, you’ve never read anything like it.
Vroom Socko, sometimes known as Aaron Button, came up with a lot of crazy fun stories while growing up on Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately, instead of being an artist his brother was a bus driver. He still sits at home alone, wondering what might have been…

STRANGE #4 Marvel Comics

I'm all for shifts in the status quo and shaking up the mythos of Dr. Strange a bit. Booting the good doctor from the Sorcerer Supreme gig was an interesting move and would make for a nice redemption arc. But if the stories in this miniseries are any indication of what we're going to get, I think I'll have to pass. I should have known better after the first issue when a texting tweenie catches Strange's eye as a potential new apprentice. Though not as annoying from the little brat from COWBOY BEBOP, she's pretty darn close. But I stuck with this miniseries thinking that I'd get a decent story from veteran writer Mark Waid in the very least. Well, after sitting and reading the last three issues of this series, the book reads more like an ongoing that got the plug pulled early and maybe that's what Waid was thinking going into this. Not only does issue 3 read like a done-in-one, filler/break issue, but issue four doesn't even have an ending! @@@ SPOILER @@@ The brat gets pulled into a demon dimension and Strange vows to find her. @@@ END SPOILER @@@ Now, with an ending like that, you'd think there'd be another issue where Strange bursts in with both hands in that "Radical, dude!" sign and capes a-blazin’. Nope. It's the end of the miniseries. Either Marvel pulled the plug on this series early or Waid got sick of it. Either way, if this is the kind of stuff Waid has in his bag for the Sorcerer Supreme, I'd rather there be no more issues of the book anyway. On the art front; once again, the covers of this miniseries kick ass. They’re gritty, and surreal, but are totally misleading, as the art inside is by a different artist that's mainly manga influenced. All in all, this was an uneven miniseries, that doesn't necessarily end, rather it simply runs out of pages. - Ambush Bug


Though I liked the first issue of this miniseries, I couldn’t help but feel it started out similarly to the way Scott Allie’s first SOLOMON KANE miniseries began. Going into issue two, I’m happy to report that things are going in a completely different direction. While Robert E. Howard’s tendencies are abundant, Allie really puts our Puritan hero through one suspenseful scene after another as Kane and his French travel partner happen upon an inn with a deadly secret. Though the Black Riders that terrorized Kane in the first issue don’t really make much of an appearance in this issue, Allie does lob in some pretty horrific terrors in just twenty two pages. Two issues in and each have read like a done in one, but both are building to something and I’m definitely going to stick around to see what it is. - Ambush Bug

NEW MUTANTS #10 Marvel Comics

I’ve stuck with this series for one reason and one reason only…nostalgia. I wish I could say the art was as crisp as the writing and that the series harkens back to the original series, which was one of the series that got me into comics in the first place. But every month, I read this book mainly because I’m just happy to see Sam, Berto, Dani, Illyana, Shan, Amara, Doug, and ‘Locke again. Writer Zeb Wells is doing an ok job. The mystery of Magik is pretty good. But there’s something light and fluffy about this book. It’s a feeling I didn’t get from the original series, which seemed to have a confident place in the X-Universe. But because the team seems to be on a journey to find itself; ignoring most of the growth the characters have gone through in almost twenty years of comics, and because the comic is showing signs of being bogged down by that inevitable and frustratingly ever-present X-crossover-itis that editorial seems to keep mandating, this book has yet to come into its own. Nostalgia and crossovers can only go so far. It’s pretty dumb to have newer X-Men like Gambit, White Queen, Warpath…hell even Magneto I hear, be treated as trusted members of the team while veterans like the New Mutants are forced to prove themselves time and time again. That’s basically what this issue is all about; Cyclops and White Queen silently observe and judge the team as they tackle reports of Sauron going crazy in Japan. I’ll stick with this book for a while, but the thing is, that nostalgic appeal is starting to wane, so I don’t know how long my attention will be there. - Ambush Bug

TOY STORY #1 BOOM! Studios

Though this is the second part of the story, it’s the first issue of the ongoing TOY STORY series from BOOM! and Jesse Blaze Snider who did a fine job of redeeming vampires after the defanging the genre received from TWILIGHT, shows his range as he writes a pretty imaginative children’s story. But like TOY STORY itself, it’s a sophisticated style of humor that appeals to both adults and children alike. Basically, everything that made TOY STORY so cool is here. Woody, Buzz, and all the rest. Snider even gives voice to some of the more obscure toys like Rocky, the strongman toy who never really had any lines in the film, but is recognizable as an inhabitant of the toy box. Seeing Rocky muscle his way into the story was a real treat and as t
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