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#47 4/14/10 #8

The Pull List (Click title to go directly to the review) BRIGHTEST DAY #0 KILL SHAKESPEARE #1 HOTWIRE: REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD TPB SECRET SIX #20 PUNISHER MAX #6 IRREDEEMABLE SPECIAL #1 THE YEAR OF LOVING DANGEROUSLY OGN Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents TWIN SPICA Vol.1 Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents PLUTO #8 Indie Jones presents… CHEAP SHOTS!


Writers: Geoff Johns & Pete Tomasi Artist: Fernando Pasarin Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

“Live” my eyes this one simple word clearly ends the perpetual fanman debate as to who has the best “zombies,” Marvel or DC.
BRIGHTEST DAY 0 (I wonder how long before first issues start getting numbered with negatives) and its mammoth predecessor BLACKEST NIGHT aren’t about death at all, they are about life. It’s about exploring the questions we all have--“Why are we here?” “How do I fit into a world that has passed me by?” “What’s next?” It’s also about second chances. Personally I shouldn’t have lived through the 90s with the amount of substances I imbibed during my college days, but I did, and it fully makes me appreciate the life I have today and the choices I make going forward. So when we look at the resurrection of these 12 DC B-listers and C-Listers including Aquaman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl (ahhh good ole pre-politically correct sexism), Maxwell Lord, Reverse Flash, Boomerang, Martian Manhunter, Jade, Firestorm, Osiris, Hawk (who I guess is not a real man since it’s not said in his name) and of course the new White Lantern Deadman (who is now technically Aliveman); we are not talking about the time they spent alone in death. No, we are talking about how they come to terms with a world that has passed them by and how they will once again fit into things. Therein lies Johns and Tomasi’s greatest strength: relating the real issues we all grapple with and packaging those ideas inside a shell of spandex clad heroes and sci-fi feats of fancy. I enjoy their writing for the same reason I always loved “Star Trek”; the geek stuff was always secondary to the human drama.
BRIGHTEST DAY is no exception, and yes I enjoyed it as thoroughly as I enjoyed BLACKEST NIGHT. But does this mean BRIGHTEST DAY is for everyone? Hell no, which is one of the reasons I can’t fathom why DC would a tag a 0 to this story, the numeral traditionally used to entice new readers. Is it impenetrable to new readers? No. Will they really enjoy it though? I gotta once again go with no. The reason I was so “gushy” in the pants area for this title is because I’m old. I remember Maxwell Lord back before he turned into a mirror of Lex Luthor (minus the whole mind control thing of course), I remember the one glorious summer when Hawk was transformed into Monarch and I remember Martian Manhunter back when he was the Justice League’s voice of reason and played an analogous role to Data on “Star Trek” (searching to be human). I and other long time DC fans have all of this rich back-story locked inside our frontal lobes to make us “feel” something towards the return of these characters. Readers say under the age of 25, probably not so much.
So the question we really need to ask, “Is this a cool story if you love DC?” That answer is an emphatic yes. This story is extremely cool and exceptionally crafted. A little bit of violence, a little bit of romance and a deepening mystery as to the exact nature of this new White Light is sure to make DC zombies everywhere rub their little plastic give-away rings with glee.
This issue was also therapeutic for me. It helped me get over my BLACKEST NIGHT misgivings as to why these particular characters were chosen to live again. Basically I don’t care about who was chosen anymore, but how they will fit into the DC universe going forward. As Aliveman’s new White Ring made him bounce around to the different lives of these heroes post-resurrection like a voyeuristic Ebenezer Scrooge, I realized the ring on his hand was more than a mere cosmic resuscitation paddle. Johns and Tomasi portray the White Ring as an almost sentient being. To put it in the exact words of the ring “Help me live.” Rings have always been able to “talk,” but only at the direct requests of its bearer. The White Ring is going to deliver something entirely new to the Green Lantern and DC mythos alike. Is it that alien fetus looking thing we saw in BLACKEST NIGHT or something else entirely? No answers, but I will say I’m intrigued.
For anyone that has been put off by Johns’ past “slow-burn” stories (JSA), fear not. This story moves faster than Wally West doing a line of coke off the speed force’s tits. Aliveman bounces from vignette to vignette at a two page clip. Spanning the globe from Star City to the Middle East, he witnesses how each hero deals with the “day after,” the events of BLACKEST NIGHT concluded. Johns and Tomasi gave each character their own unique baggage and each piece of emotional Samsonite fits really well with each character’s history. I won’t spoil all of the moments, just my favorite ones.
Aquaman is busy knocking boots and now has a fear of the water! Flash had some amazing moments with his two rogues; the time spent with Boomerang borders on haunting. My absolute favorite though was the Martian Manhunter; methinks Mars will not be a dead planet for long. The only vignette I had a “problem” with I eluded to earlier in this review. While the boys did portray Maxwell Lord juicing his power in a pretty nifty fashion, let’s please be careful not to make him too much like Lex Luthor. Not all villains perform their misdeeds trying to help humanity. And yes, since ol’ Maxie stopped hanging out with Oberon — he is now indeed evil.
This was a dense issue packed with great art and nary an advertisement until the end. I forgot how disruptive advertisements can be until you come across an issue or trade without them. Most books these days are like watching a movie on TBS. Still a good flick, but the stop/start of the advertorials does break your aesthetic distance with the piece.
I’m still not going to retract my closing remarks from my BLACKEST NIGHT review. I think we will see a drop in success for this series compared to BLACKEST NIGHT. Why? Well, I think I’m a unique type of reader; nice disposable income so I don’t have to be selective with my comic choices and I love basking in nostalgia. I know the rest of the world is just not wired the same way, though. I hope I’m wrong because in many ways I think BRIGHTEST DAY will trump BLACKEST NIGHT quite easily from a story quality stand-point, the question will simply become whether the average fan can handle yet another event.
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.


Written by: Anthony Del Col and Connor McCreery Illustrated by: Andy Belanger Colored by: Ian Herring Published by: IDW Publishing Reviewed by: superhero

I’m not an expert on Shakespeare. I’ve read several of his plays and actually performed some of his monologues in the past but I’ve never been what you’d call a Shakespeare scholar. I suspect that many of you out there reading may be a lot like me…maybe you’ve read some of the Bard’s plays, maybe you’ve even performed in one of them at some point in your life but like a lot of people out there in today’s modern world maybe you’re not as well read up on Shakespeare as you’d like to be. Or think you should be. Or, heck, maybe there’s a lot of you who just, as others I’ve come across, just hate Shakespeare. Whose eyes just glaze over at the mere mention of his name. Who’ve never read one of his plays or cared to. Who’ve never seen one performed or who would know a Montague from a Capulet if one stabbed you in a duel. Or maybe you are a Shakespeare scholar and know every inner working of every play the man ever wrote or was reported to have written.
Well, whatever frame of mind you have regarding one of the greatest playwrights of our time I’m pleased to say that KILL SHAKESPEARE will probably please each and every one of you out there. It’s got all of the trappings that every great Shakespeare play has: a tortured hero, a mad and devious king, creepy soothsaying witches…the whole shebang. It should have all of these elements, after all…it stars most of the big “S’s” characters and they’re used to great effect. Most of all, you don’t have to know every little detail of their histories to enjoy the comic itself. KILL SHAKESPEARE has made itself easily accessible by taking what’s come before and twisting it enough so that it’s own story is entertaining without the reader having to know how each character’s history has been played out in their former incarnations. KILL SHAKESPEARE sort of starts from scratch, as it were, and fleshes out the characters and situations enough so that you don’t have to be a Shakespeare scholar to understand the book and, well, if you happen to know tons about old Bill’s plays then it just makes the experience all the richer. KILL SHAKESPEARE is a smart approach to bringing these characters to a new and interesting world not necessarily explored before.
I’d be remiss if I closed out this review without mentioning the terrific artwork of Andy Belanger and the powerful coloring job of Ian Herring. Belager’s artwork is very straightforward and his storytelling is perfectly executed while Herring does a great job of perfectly complementing each and every panel. This book is professionally executed from start to finish and you can tell that a lot of hard work was put into making this a great looking package. Kudos to all of the artists involved as well as the designers who put this comic’s look together. It’s a top notch looking comic.
From this first issue KILL SHEAKESPEARE looks like it’s going to be a great read and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it as I’m very interested to see how this book pans out. And who’s to say…if anything maybe this book might get someone out there who’s never read Shakespeare a desire to check him out…and that can’t be all that bad, can it?
Discovered as a babe in an abandoned comic book storage box and bitten by a radioactive comic fan when he was a teenager, superhero is actually not-so mild mannered sometime designer & cartoonist, Kristian Horn of Los Angeles, California. He's been an @$$hole for three years. Some of his work can be seen at and check out his blog at


Story: Steve Pugh (Based on a concept by Warren Ellis) Art: Steve Pugh Publisher: Radical Comics In stores today! Reviewer: Mr. Pasty

I know I speak for a lot of maladjusted techno geeks when I confess to a rather simplistic approach to (de?) grading women in comic books. Where they fall on the tried-and-true 1-10 scale all depends on how badly I want to bang them -- should by some miracle they jump out of the book and agree to see if my stalagmite belongs in their cave. Having said that, my plumb was already bobbing after two pages of stalking Alice Hotwire, Detective Exorcist.
Alice is hot, but good looking babes in graphic novels are a dime a dozen – and believe me you get what you pay for. Alice on the other hand isn’t your carbon copy comic crawler but a stripped down (figuratively) street tough with piercing good looks and a seductive wit. She’s not the best looking gal in the bar – but she’s the one you can’t take your eyes off. Why the inordinate amount of attention for Alice? Well, quite frankly, she’s the entire book. You can get away with one-dimensional characters if they’re sidekicks or walk-ons, but if you want to hit the 100-page mark you damn well better have something interesting to say. To that end, Pugh hits this one out of the park.
You’ll notice right off the bat that HOTWIRE: REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD (Requiem) is a huge commitment. This isn’t something you greedily devour in the parking lot of your local rag shop -- but don’t let that deter you. It’s worth the investment, both financially and emotionally. I’d rather have to spend a few impatient nights digesting a story than only getting eight pages to make room for a preview of next month’s issue that’s continued in four different titles across two separate publishers. Characters have to be engaging and pacing, well, is there a more frustrating experience as a reader than hitting every red light on the animated highway? REQUIEM is Route 66: You put the top down and let ‘er fly. Okay, so maybe the narrative flies a little too straight, but it’s an entertaining story beautifully realized in what gets my early vote as artwork of the year.
I’m a Silver Age guy and I like my comics to look that way. It’s not a knock on today’s art, just a personal preference. REQUIEM is a rare exception for me. I think Pugh takes chances here with his washed out blues and foggy backgrounds, but it works. And he takes framing to an entirely different level. How many times have we seen up-and-coming artists throw angles at you like it’s a geometry quiz? REQUIEM could be a handbook for making art mean something. Usually when I say ‘every page looks like a cover’ it has a negative connotation; here it’s a compliment. Pugh fills every scene with its own story without cluttering the panel or showing off. Expressive restraint I’ll call it. And speaking of restraint, you’ll need to exercise it when reading this book. The pacing will have you following bread crumbs, but be sure to stop and look around once in awhile. It’s as much about the journey as it is the destination, even on multiple readings -- which are very highly recommended.
And did I mention Alice was hot? And she’s a Detective Exorcist. How can you go wrong?
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.


Writer: Gail Simone Artist: J. Calafiore Colorist: Jason Wright Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo

The premise from the end of last month left my jaw dropped. On the Holy-Crapometer, I gave it a ten out of ten for sure: the bad guys have Catman’s infant son. And they are ready to kill him. But for every one of his teammates Catman can kill in the next five minutes, the bad guys will let his son live one more year.
I loved the premise so much, I didn’t even mind when Gail used two pages just to recap it, with a few extra nuances thrown in. Deadshot is the first to figure out something is wrong, and reacts appropriately: “Nobody move.” And the scene moves forward from there.
One interesting thing, among many interesting things, is how Deadshot actually sort of cares about Thomas Blake. He knows something’s up, but tries to give Blake a chance, so as to not have to kill him. Another interesting thing is how all Gail’s hard work of building Blake/Catman’s rep has paid off once again. We take the scene seriously because there’s a pretty good chance Blake actually COULD kill most of his teammates before being taken down. Deadshot knows this, so WE know it. The scene completely works, and is beautifully played out. I won’t spoil it here.
All I will say is that, considering the stakes being played and the players involved, you would expect there to be a lot of blood spilt, and you would be right. This is not a book for the squeamish. It’s as visceral and gritty and nasty as you would expect it to be.
Yet there were some offbeat moments, too. Simone is getting better and better using Ragdoll in the most absurdly funny ways. Regarding Scandal and Bane, I didn’t think anything could make me go “ew” like Alice’s affection for Ragdoll, but I was wrong. I can see where “Scane” (or is that Bandle?) is going, and for you Angel fans out there, it makes me as queasy as the thought of Conner and Cordelia. Still, it’s not fact of the train wreck that’s as fascinating as the when, and the where, and the what happens next.
As for that artwork, I’ve been a fan of Calafiore for like, ever. There isn’t much more I can say except that his work here is as good as I’ve seen, and he pulls no punches when it comes to graphic storytelling.
There are comics you can give kids, there are comics about kids, and then there’s a little somethin’ somethin’ for the grownups. This is that last category. And did I mention this is part two of four? Man, April and May are looking better already.
Rock-Me Amodeo is a daytime computer guy and nighttime all kinds of things. He’s also probably the only guy ever to write a book and a movie still hoping he might someday break into comics.


Writer: Jason Aaron Art: Steve Dillon Publisher: Marvel MAX Guest Reviewer: Johnny Destructo

When the hell does this story take place, exactly? Frank’s already calling himself an old man, but the last 5 issues saw the rise of Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin. Bullseye is just showing up in the Marvel Universe, but has already forgone the black and white tights and has a target tattooed on his forehead, as well as a bunch of previously unseen scars on his scalp. And yet this is his first encounter with Frank Castle, The Punisher. Huh? Continuity Cops beware, this series just doesn’t give a razzum-frazzum about previous storylines, or is just completely outside the 616 time-stream.
But you know what? I don’t give a boogens. This is probably my favorite Punisher series in the past 5 or so years. It’s not as batshit crazy as the original Garth Ennis Punisher stuff, but not as boring as the straight-forward stuff that followed, either. But it CERTAINLY isn’t the bullshit FrankenCastle Monster stuff that we’re currently getting in the Marvel U. This is energetic and bad-ass and exactly what I want out of a Punisher story: Frank Castle pitting himself against the Kingpin and his new mercenary.
Speaking of Bullseye, here is a character that I can’t get enough of, when done correctly. The problem is, in situations like this, how does the writer take an unstoppable force and point it at an immovable object and still have a satisfying conclusion? Frank can’t die, because he’s…well, the Punisher.And Bullseye can’t succeed, because he’s going up against ..well, The Punisher. But Bullseye is said to “never fail to bring down his target. He never misses”. So I’m always curious when a writer chooses to have these two types of characters face each other in battle. They are both the best there is at what they do, and are both unstoppable once they get going in a particular direction. How will this finish? That’s a question I am definitely going to stick around to find the answer to.
As for the art, Steve Dillon hasn’t grown or updated his style as long as I’ve been reading comics, and that’s a pretty long time. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is more of the same solid, straight-forward storytelling that I’ve come to love and admire about Dillon. While I wouldn’t want this work in books like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, or THE FLASH, he is absolutely perfect for drawing the seedy, bloody underworld of mainstream comics.
The cover by Dave Johnson is eye catching and well designed, though I think a better font could have been used for the “Bullseye” text on the blade. Johnson has a very specific eye for mixing his illustration style and design elements, while always telling a story with his art. It’s not just pretty for pretty’s sake or a “cool” pinup, like so many other cover artists aspire to. There is always something else going on visually, to tell the reader what they can expect when they open the book.
..And this is a book you should definitely be opening.


Writer: Mark Waid Artists: Paul Azaceta, Emma Rios & Howard Chaykin Publisher: BOOM! Studios Reviewed by: BottleImp

I’ve got a love/hate relationship going on with Waid’s surrogate-Superman-gone-gonzo title. On the one hand, the concept of a godlike being turning on the world he once protected is so strong that I feel compelled to return month after month to see what happens. On the other hand, I usually end up finishing nearly every issue with the unshakeable feeling that I just blew four bucks on twenty-odd empty pages. As I’ve said before, my main problem with IRREDEEMABLE is and has been the fact that the reader is supposed to throw in his or her sympathies with the heroes fighting to stay alive against the Plutonian’s insanity, yet these characters are little more than cardboard cutouts that garner about as much empathy as a dry fart.
The good news is that the IRREDEEMABLE SPECIAL finally sheds a little more light on a couple of the main title’s protagonists in Waid’s ersatz Justice League. The bad news is that the first of these heroes was killed off in IRREDEEMABLE’s very first issue. Nevertheless, the Hornet’s chapter is the highlight of this comic, as the reader is given a glimpse of the earliest exploits of the Plutonian and his relationship with this now-deceased do-gooder. Just as the Plutonian reflects the Superman archetype, Waid has cast the Hornet in the mold of DC’s other big gun, and draws attention to the fact that like Batman, the Hornet is a self-made hero without the gift of superhuman abilities. There’s a nice sequence when the two are talking on a rooftop and the Plutonian says (in a self-deprecating manner that would read just right coming from the Big Red S), “You’re a sniper rifle, I’m a blunderbuss. There’s a precision to what you do that I genuinely admire.” The parallels are reinforced by the final page in the chapter, taking the reader back to moments before the Hornet’s death as he races to save his family from the now-murderous Plutonian. “Naturally I’m first on his hit list,” the Hornet thinks. “He figures I, of all people, would have some contingency in place just for this. He’s right.” Someday down the road we’ll get to see the Hornet’s contingency in action (codenamed “vespa,” though I’m guessing it’s not going to be one of those snazzy scooters…although how cool would it be if it was?), but for now we bid farewell to a character who has the unfortunate double-whammy of being the most interesting—well, at least the most engaging—supporting player in Waid’s series and also being a corpse.
Speaking of engaging characters (and those who are not so engaging) the second chapter in the special features Kaidan, a character that so far has been more or less relegated to the background of the IRREDEEMABLE series. Perhaps better than any other character Kaidan sums up the biggest problem that I have with this comic. She’s got a neat power—she tells Japanese ghost stories and the characters within these tales spring into existence and fight for her—but next to nothing has been done with it so far. With the special the reader finally gets a little more of Kaidan’s backstory and the origin of her abilities, but still there’s no real empathy between the reader and the character. In short, Waid just isn’t making us care about these heroes. One good thing that this chapter has going for it is Emma Rios’ artwork; Kaidan’s test against the giant ghost cat Bake-Neko, rendered in a quasi-Manga style appropriate for the subject matter, looks far better than any of Kaidan’s brief appearances in the main title. And as this chapter is a prequel, the reader is mercifully saved from having to look at Kaidan’s horribly designed superhero costume.
The last chapter features the Plutonian’s nemesis and polar opposite Max Damage, and ends up being a real washout…which is ironic, seeing as how Damage’s INCORRUPTIBLE title has been more consistently entertaining than IRREDEEMABLE. We get to see how Damage ended up with the underage Jailbait as his sidekick, and we learn that Jailbait is, in fact, a real whore. Howard Chaykin gets to draw a couple of spread-legged crotch-shots, but that’s about it. All in all this chapter would have made more sense as a moment worked into Damage’s own title, and the space would have been better served fleshing out other members of the Paradigm who have yet to be given more than a single dimension.
If like me you haven’t been able to get into Waid’s IRREDEEMABLE title, I’m sorry to say that this special isn’t going to change that. Just remember to be on the lookout in IRREDEEMABLE for the big reveal of this comic to appear—the Hornet’s secret weapon—the one thing that will be able to take down the mad demigod:
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.


Writer: Ted Rall Artist: Pablo Callejo Publisher: NBM Comics Lit Reviewer: Optimous Douche

My recollections of the 80s can be surmised in a few words: Smurfs, M.A.S.K., “Saved by the Bell” and obviously Transformers; rightly so since I was but a wee douche during this time of “Morning in America.”
However, when you remove the naïveté of childhood and strip away the veneer of cloudy nostalgia that we now use to portray this supposed golden time before terrorists and endless recessions, what you uncover is that for some…make that many…”Mourning in America” was a for more accurate description. Sure “greed was good,” but opulence did not always “trickle down” more opulence, instead the trickle was more akin to a golden shower from someone with a yeast infection.
Ted Rall was one of the trickled upon. After two readings, I’m still not sure what I admire most about this book. Is it the fact that Rall not only wears his heart on his sleeve, but rather smack dab in the middle of his forehead by recounting with brutal honesty his down and out days in 1984 New York City? Is it because without books like this we will continue to glorify the past and forget that this decade is partly responsible for today’s economic disparity, the surge of the AIDS epidemic, and mullets rather than learning from these events? Perhaps it’s the fact that my review time at AICN has me believing that comics must be overly produced with as few words as possible, so that when a book like LOVING DANGEROUSLY does come along, I have to read it twice because I am so taken aback by the fact honest-to-God literature is being produced in graphic novel format.
And that’s truly what LOVING DANGEROUSLY is…literature. If you’re the type that shuns Bendis and Whedon for infinite word balloons this is not your book. Rall with a hearty assist from artist Cellajo not only photo realistically creates the Big Apple circa 1984, but Rall also recreates every emotion and feeling of his life during this time period. Even at 128 pages, every morsel of space is needed to get into Rall’s head. So why should we care? Who is this Rall guy and what was so damn special about his life over anyone else’s?
Ousted from the Columbia engineering program from one part his own delusions of grandeur (even though you’re good in math, you might not be cut out to be an engineer), and one part a freakish wart that imbedded so far into his body he missed his junior year finals (and was written up in a medical journal as an example of a fatal dermatological condition), Rall finds himself trying to survive on the streets of New York with only his wits and his good looks to help him get by.
On the surface Rall comes across as a man-whore; as a fellow ex-man-whore this is not a judgment call, but rather a simple fact. Using his looks to find a warm bed and sustenance, the book opens with him breezily moving from woman to woman in search of mere creature comforts. When not able to bed a woman for the evening, he relies on working the system so he can still live on the fringe. A stolen key so he can still access his dorm room, a stolen ID card so he can still take advantage of student job assist programs and health-care, a stolen life that is not his own, but rather a borrowed shadow of what he could have been.
As we come to discover though, Rall is a man of great pride. As much as he uses women for creature comforts, they are using him as well. There’s a fine line between need and want, one that we all cross when we enter into a relationship with another human soul. He might have needed these women for a bed and sustenance, but they needed him to complete our societal obligation of not being viewed as “complete” until we have a partner. Surely he could have tucked his tail between his legs and whimpered home in a funeral march of failure, but that’s the story of a lesser man. Rall’s story is one of perseverance and the desire to make a mark on the world rather than withering away into obscurity.
This is also the tale of the rising empowerment of women during this time period. This is not a story that could have taken place in anytime prior to the 80s. For the first time we saw women standing strong without a man by their side. They could have their own careers and be quite successful without a Y chromosome pushing them along. Again, as much as Rall used these women, they also uses him to feel empowered, their own little boy toy made to order. I was put off at first by Callejo’s art. Again, I blame this on my current diet of reading material. Art has a certain connotation in the comic medium that everything needs to be HYPER. Overly stylized lines, combined with colors so saturated the ink almost comes off in your hands. I liken my initial reaction to Callejo to the same way I felt about the work of Quitely – fuck this is ugly. As I got past the first panel though and traversed deeper into the book, I started to fall in love with what the man is trying to achieve. It’s not about making every line stand out on the page, but rather accenting what is important and letting the reader’s mind fill in the details. This revelation struck me when Rall comes across a woman on the street and while the image was complete, Callejo paid extra attention to the fashion of the times: big hoop earrings and leg warmers. Again, genius in its simplicity.
Not only am I hooked in for the rest of this trilogy, but I’m intrigued to traverse Rall’s other titles to see how the temperance of age and the stark differences of today’s world would be viewed through his eyes.


By Kou Yaginuma Released by Vertical A preview can be read here Reviewer: Scott Green

When I'm not writing for Ain't It Cool News, my gainful employment is as an engineer for Software Co. In that capacity, I pour copious amounts of effort and thought into enhancing products that improve the efficiency of and solve problems for customers in industry X, and ultimately, raise the shareholder value of Software Co. It's stressful. It's demanding. And yet, as they say, I'm not exactly curing cancer.
A decade ago, I was beating my head against a wall trying to secure a college degree. Pretty mundane aspirations in the scheme of things. A couple years before that, I was fussing over getting out of high school. Something that a large percentage of Americans manage. Even without indulging in self pity, it occasionally occurs to me that it'd be nice to think of these efforts as part of something greater.
So, TWIN SPICA... it follows the efforts of a minimalistically rendered, cherubically illustrated thirteen year old girl as she endeavors to become an astronaut. Up until its conclusion last year, the manga was serialized in Japan in COMIC FLAPPER, a seinen anthology for males in their upper teens (or older).
COMIC FLAPPER does run some mecha, like the manga adaptation of GUNDAM creator Yoshiyuki Tomino's anime concerning a video game champion turned mecha pilot in a post apocalyptic exodus, OVERMAN KING GAINER. It featured a recent incarnation of venerable space psychic sci-fi saga LOCKE THE SUPERMAN. It had the manga version of risqué perfumer/secret agent Najica. But, stories about young girls for that seinen demographic are Comic Flapper's primary niche. Dark Horse published TRANSLUCENT, about a shy girl who literally turns invisible, originated in FLAPPER. CONTROVERSIAL DANCE IN THE VAMPIRE BUND is another COMIC FLAPPER work. I've recently been talking up CHRISTIE HIGH TENSION, AREA 88 creator Kaoru Shintani's stories of Mycroft Holmes' daughter, and that's from this anthology too.
The appeal of these works to their male readership isn't generally as apparently unified as the collection of titles bundled in an anthology like Dengeki Daioh, which similarly features cute girl series. For example, the draw of Translucent was its feel-good aura and optimism about human nature. I haven't read any Dance in the VAMPIRE BUND or seen the anime, but I've read praise for the richness of its world creation and the quality of its action.
The appeal of TWIN SPICA... it's a little girl working to realize her dreams of going into space. You might be in high school, or college or on the job, working toward something of dubious significance, but here's a girl giving it her all to rocket out of Earth's atmosphere. Now that's a goal with some gravity. The desire for meaning is universal. We all want our effort to take us someplace special.
I look forward to the chance to read and write about some manga. While seinen material is often what has me watching my mailbox, Twin Spica wasn't the object of that anticipation. It was a well regarded work to which I thought I'd be indifferent. Maybe due to my dislike of travel in general, though I'm a lifelong geek, space in and of itself has does little for me. Even my considerable admiration for other manga on the subject (PLANETES and 2001 NIHGTS) didn't have me itching to read the next great space exploration story. Coming of age stories aren't of particularly keen interest to me either.
Ultimately, the manga surprised me. Reading about TWIN SPICA's lead trying to go into space, I got choked up.
I have reservations about seinen manga featuring young leads. It tends to open the door to iffiness. I shouldn't say that I distrust escapist manga. I certainly read enough of it. Nostalgia is ok for occasional fun, but it generally strikes me as unproductive. Mono no aware is a can of worms that I probably shouldn't open at this point. Recapturing the spirit of youth often seems to translate to thinking like a child, and that sort of regressive mindset bothers me. It's difficult to imagine TWIN SPICA going in those bothersome directions. Nor will its lead journey be simply a function of determination. It's set to push the character, but instead of regular formulas, it is more sensitive and naturalistic than other space academy manga (even ones I've liked).
TWIN SPICA (named for the binary star system in the Virgo constellation) opens with thirteen year old Asumi Kamogawa quizzing herself on the history of space exploration. She then prompts herself to recall the three tragedies of manned space flight. You can read about the first two on Wikipedia: the Apollo 1 fire and the Challenger explosion. The third occurred when Asumi Kamogawa was one year old. In 2010, (the manga began in 2001 and ran until 2009, so this was always near future) Japan launched its first manned space flight. 72 seconds after takeoff, the liquid fuel in the rocket's boosters caught fire. The space center was unable to activate the "flight stop system" that would explode the craft mid air. As a consequence, the Lion crashed into the city of Yuigahama.
Asumi's mother was one of the crash's civilian victims. Despite, or perhaps because of this, Asumi's dream since childhood was to fly a rocket into space. As TWIN SPICA opens, she's making her first steps toward realizing this hope with her entrance into the space academy that Japan set up.
Though Asumi is evidently working as hard as possible, "dream" is the right word for her goal. The manga doesn't position it as an ambition in a heated sense. "Guts and hard work" aren't the theme here. And, while Twin Spica is attentively realistic in its handling of space, there is an ethereal quality to the manga. I didn't catch any pronounced examples in this volume, but Kou Yaginuma reportedly references favorite children's author Kenji Miyazawa's classic NIGHT ON THE GALACTIC RAILROAD, about an allegorical trip into the heavens. This is haunted manga. It's explicitly subject to spirit visitations courtesy of the "Lion" apparition from the like named rocket, outfitted with a theme park mask. But, that's not the extent to the manga's ghosts.
Asumi's mother did not suffer an immediate death in the Lion's crash. Prior to experiencing her mother's death at a young age, for a number of years, Asumi knew her mother as a mute, featureless mask of bandages. A pair of prequel stories included in the volume explore how Asumi processed those events. What's demonstrated in the chapters is that Asumi has her own way of relating to situations like her mother's, or at least that she's uninhibited and sees her visions to fruition. The preview that Vertical posted serves as an example of how emotionally devastating for the reader Asumi's efforts to bring her visions into reality can be.
Small, practical despite her big dream, occasionally taken by self doubt or trauma, Asumi is an empathy magnet. This engenders emotion that does tread dangerously close to moe territory. Yet, because the manga appears to be devoid of cynicism, it's difficult to hold its similarities to a larger trend against it. TWIN SPICA does not rely on attachment to the character types or the subject matter involved. It speaks to a human need and that effect is compounded by the hope and sadness of its lead. Vertical's Minister of Enlightenment Ed Chavez has noted that TWIN SPICA's plot works a lot harder in driving the series than many other manga's. Yet, a volume in I've found it more driven by emotions. The result is a powerfully effecting manga.
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.

PLUTO Vol. 8

Written and Illustrated by: Naoki Urasawa Published by: Viz Media Reviewed by: superhero

It’s not often that you finish a series, put it down, and feel like the whole thing has been flawless from start to finish. Most of the time there are disappointments along the way (monkey poop anyone?). A character does something completely out of character, situations get dull and tiresome, or the art just doesn’t seem to hold up to what it once was. It’s a rare thing when you can read anything from start to finish, put it down and feel completely satisfied. I’m more than happy to say that PLUTO is a series that delivers just such an experience.
I’m sure that many of you out there think I’m biased. You may be right. After all, I am the guy who filled almost every one of his best of 2009 picks with selections from both Urasawa’s PLUTO and 20TH CENTURY BOYS. But the other @$$holes will tell you, I’ll be the first one to turn on a book or a book’s creator if they disappoint. I’m not a loyalist by any means and if something comes up short I’ll be the first one to get pissed off about it and I’ll probably be the one to whine the loudest about it. I love the comics I choose to spend my money on and if one of them betrays me, if one of them drops the ball…my disappointment knows no depths.
So I was more than happy when this final volume of PLUTO more than fulfilled my expectations. From start to finish PLUTO has been a fantastic trip to a future world that I’m so glad I got to visit. It’s not exactly revolutionary sci-fi but it is sci-fi with both an intelligence and heart that is hard to match. Sure there are flying robots and big future skyscrapers and mad scientists…but those aren’t what make PLUTO special. It’s the breakneck pacing and tension of the story. It’s the fully fleshed out characters. It’s the seemingly simple yet truly complex artwork that’s able to reach off the page and grab you despite yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again…Urasawa is a genius. His comics are smart, heartfelt, and grounded with a humanity that’s rarely seen in any medium. With PLUTO Urasawa has created another masterpiece and although I couldn’t have given a flying fig about ASTRO BOY in the past I will miss this Mighty Atom and the world he inhabits.
I think one of my slots for top ten comic series of this new decade just got filled. It’s that good.

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another handful of indie books. I wanted to take care of these indie treats before I dove into the pile I got from C2E2. So enjoy these pre-C2E2 indie goodies.

THE CHAIR OGN Alterna Comics

This is a very dark prison tale about a convict on death row and his ties to the prison warden. The story gets going pretty well with some pretty intense prison drama. Midpoint through this story, it really picks up the pace as the history between death row inmate and warden are revealed, culminating with an explosive and unconventional climax. Don’t expect rainbows and lollipops at the end of this story. It’s about as dark as they come, but writer Peter Simeti has crafted a pretty heart wrenching story and artist Kevin Christensen does a great job of making the panels as black and bleak as the story. This is a massive 120 page endeavor that never feels rushed or predictable.

MADAME SAMURAI Vol.1 Scar Comics

Man, this is a beautiful comic. Artist David Hitchcock shines in this absolutely gorgeous story of a young girl who becomes a samurai. This is a very cool origin story by writer Gary Young that takes its time to allow the reader to develop real feelings toward the title character through the hardships that not only she has faced, but her mother before her. The narrative is somewhat complex, as Young hops from the present (England circa Jack the Ripper times) to thirty years before as we see a young girl become the victim to some pretty dastardly samurai. Later, the young girl has a child, but dies in childbirth, and when the lone samurai decides to raise the child as his own, the Madame Samurai is born. Like a vibrant flower, the story unfolds and blooms, but don’t get me wrong, this is a story of a badass samurai vixen and there is copious amounts of action and blood in true samurai style. Hitchcock and Young have crafted a story that seems to be only beginning. Now that the origin of the Madame Samurai is out of the way, I can’t wait to see her enact some swift samurai vengeance in future volumes. Highly recommended.


Though when most people think Asgard, they think Marvel, it’s good to see an alternative take on Norse mythology. Joe McGlone writes a pretty nice introductory issue as our heroine, Sarah Callahan, wakes from a familiar dream only to find the bearded, one eyed, old man staring at her in her dreams approaches her in real life with two talking crows in tow. Yup, you guessed it. It’s Odin himself granting his mortal daughter godly powers for an upcoming threat. Though the art definitely has a indie feel, the real star of this book is McGlone’s script which has some nice poetic lines as Odin passes his power on to Sarah. With a glimpse of horrors to come, Sarah seems to have quite an adventure ahead. This is cool indie fun that presents as a labor of love to those behind it and worth checking out as an alternative to those Norse gods bounding around in the mainstream.

MYTHOI BIRTH: TOUCH #B5 Semantink Publishing

This is another MYTHOI issue introducing another character in the vast tapestry the guys at Semantink seem to be expanding on. This time the main character, Touch, is the product of science and set free to enact revenge on the new leader of America. Like MYHOI BIRTH: TAROS which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, this issue is filled with wide screen action and the kind of uber-violence seen on a lot of the best anime which is definitely a good thing. I really enjoy the art by Jed Soriano, which is reminiscent of manga with an Ed McGuinness slant. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of these MYTHOI BIRTH stories to see the rest of the cast of this epic fill out.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over eight years and one of the original @$$holes. Check out his comic book shorts from Cream City Comics’ MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 and MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1 on his ComicSpace page. Bug was interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics and here and here about his comic from Bluewater Comics, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1-2. Look for more comics from Bug in 2010, including ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS DEATHSPORT in July, and the just announced vampire miniseries NANNY & HANK in August (and check out Jazma Online’s new interview with Bug about NANNY & HANK here). Bug’s latest comic is VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21: WITCHFINDER GENERAL on sale July 2010. Fanboy Radio recently interviewed Bug about it here.

MINDFIELD #0 Aspen Comics

J.T. Krul wrote this pretty suspenseful yarn about a psychic who works for the C.I.A. and attempts to protect the world from real life terror at airports and such. The story is definitely timely and seems to be handling these dire themes in a mature and interesting way. I won’t ruin the twist that goes on in this issue, but it’s a fun one, albeit one we’ve seen in numerous action films. This introductory #0 issue is a good way to give readers a taste of what this book is all about. And with the confident script by Krul and some pretty fantastic and crisp art by Alex Konat and Saleem Crawford, this is a book to watch.


J.T.Krul’s second Aspen opus is the fantastic SOULFIRE, a comic with panels that leap off the page and caress the eyeballs lovingly. Aspen is known for its amazing art, and this issue upholds that tradition masterfully with delicious panels from Marcus To and Saleem Crawford. The story itself is a nice blend of sci fi and fantasy; filled with dragons, robot armor, faeries, androids, magic, and science. And it all surprisingly works well together. These two issues have been my first Aspen books I’ve read in a while and from the looks of them, the company is still churning out some fantastically beautiful art and imaginative stories. - Bug


This is Dan Jurgens’ last issue, and he deserves a solid round of applause for what he’s done with this book. Not only has the art been solid month after month, but the storytelling has been so classically old school that I didn’t recognize how good it was the first few months it was around. This has been, for me, a classic run. I hope the new team (Giffen and DeMatteis! Woot!) honor the emotional and conceptual investment already made. If Booster turns into a clown again…well, he loses any shot he has at A-list status, and any chance of retaining me as a reader, I think. I don’t know where the book is heading, but if you had told me three years ago I would look forward to BOOSTER GOLD book every month, I would have laughed. And not the good kind of laugh. As it stands, I enjoyed the fact that this issue tied off a most loose ends, started one or two more, and was a fitting capstone to an excellent run. - Rock-Me

TOY STORY #3 BOOM! Studios

As Jesse Blaze Snider’s first arc on TOY STORY comes to a close, fans of the movie and all of you who thoughts your toys in the toybox possessed real souls can be rest assured that the property is in good hands at BOOM! Snider’s story is filled with action and heart, showing a full understanding of the TOY STORY mythos and talent for coming up with fun and original situations for the Andy’s toys to tumble into. When Andy’s grandma buys Andy another Buzz doll, the toy box is thrown into a dither as the Buzz’s face off to see who will be the one and only Buzz. This final chapter pits Buzz vs. Buzz in a thrilling race, but it is the surprisingly moral theme through this story that really makes it stand out as something special. And the final pages left me with a fully satisfied feeling and a warmed heart. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this all ages book. - Bug

NEW MUTANTS #12 Marvel Comics

I’ve meant to plug this book a few times before. I’ll just say: it’s not your father’s NEW MUTANTS. A few wicked twists have come round, like the slightly sociopathic return of Colossus’ little sister, Illyana, or Dani’s quest to remain relevant in light of her lack of powers. I’m also enjoying the precise military execution the not-so-new mutants are working within, and the overall arc that gives the story its structure. Granted, Cameron Hodges and the smile-troopers are pretty much in a dead tie for least interesting X-villains of the 90’s, but despite their distraction, I’m enjoying the overall direction of this book. Where will it go in few months, when Hope and whatever she is runs its course? I don’t know. But this comic has me interested, or at least a lot more interested than I ever thought I would be. - Rock-Me

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

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