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#51 5/12/10 #8


Advance review! Released in July! Available in May's Diamond Previews Catalog order # MAY10 0828!


Written by Mark L. Miller Art by Manoel Magalhães Published by Bluewater Comics Reviewed by Stones Throw

Comics by an acquaintance always pose a thorny problem for the online critic. Pen a glowing review and you endanger an invaluable and carefully-constructed reputation for those journalistic virtues of honesty, integrity, and, prized above all others, @$$hole-ishness. Call it a steamin’ pile o’dog crap and you endanger a friendship and risk exclusion from the @$$hole Clubhouse.
My dilemma is even more profound, since the writer of this particular pamphlet is AICN Comics editor Mark L. Miller, AKA Ambush Bug (and not Scot and self-promoter Mark Millar). Even if I opt for journalistic integrity and force myself to identify flaws, how do I know Bug won’t just snip ‘em out and make my review an unqualified endorsement of a superstar writer in the making, rivalling Alan Moore if not Stan Lee himself in his way with words? How do I know he isn’t doing it right now?
Happily, I can report in my own words that the comic in question, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21, falls somewhere between the two hypothetical extremes. It’s good, but not great, without being ghastly. You’ll find this WITCHFINDER generally recommended.
That’s a pun on WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the 1968 film by Michael Reeves, which starred Vincent Price as the eponymous Witchfinder. Continuing VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS’s premise of adapting the actor’s flicks, #21 is in fact a prequel to the movie, showing how Price’s Matthew Hopkins generally came to find witches.
Bug does a good job with a script that has a twist in the tale. Though it seems obvious in retrospect, when I first read it the turn for the worse made me laugh out loud at how hilariously black it was and the dramatic sleight of hand that let it creep up on me.
I was also impressed with the art by Manoel Magalhães, who communicated well the important qualities of the two main characters: Bethany, sensible and capable but under her surface still innocent and impressionable; and the young Matthew Hopkins, a daydreamer whose distance from the world around him quickly becomes lethal. There was one panel where the two are dancing in a clearing in the woods which Magalhães drew in a wide, proscenium view that nicely suggested Matthew Hopkins’ imagination that it’s a ballroom, showing the momentary connection between the two characters but also emphasizing their distance.
While the ending was a nice twist which also portrayed the injustice and senselessness of witch hunts, the idea that Matthew Hopkins’ murderousness was caused only by spurned love seems too trite. A few minutes’ searching on the internet found this cool article about Hopkins by the historian Malcolm Gaskill, in which he argues that the witch-hunting of 1640s England is inseparable from the Civil War and the religious Puritanism of the time. Almost one in ten men died in the fighting between the Royalists and Parliament which lasted throughout the decade. Rebellion against the monarchy was often religiously motivated – Puritan, Protestant resentment of the extravagant, Catholic tendencies of Charles I – and prominent republicans like Oliver Cromwell and John Milton believed the Second Coming of Christ was just around the corner. Matthew Hopkins himself was the son of a Puritan minister, which seems a more probable explanation for his enthusiasm for witch-hunting and belief in Satan’s presence in the world.
Admittedly, the original film isn’t exactly a history text book. But lines like “entire villages being left in ruin” by the witchfinders and panels that show rotting bodies hanging from trees, Ku Klux Klan-style, seem like a misrepresentation of the truth. Gaskill writes that witchfinders like Hopkins worked within and exploited the wartime disruption of the justice system: at one trial, “the judge was not a professional but a Puritan soldier, the Earl of Warwick.” Plus, he points out:
It took a lot of people to hang a witch: witnesses, constables, search-women, midwives, magistrates, gaolers, clerks, judges, jurors, sheriffs, executioners, gravediggers and so on. Witchfinders gave people confidence to act, and they lent their expertise, but little more than that. In some ways, too, Hopkins the bogeyman deserves to be seen as a man of his time, rather like the fanatics of the New Model Army, the iconoclasts who stripped parish churches of their ‘superstitious’ decorations, and the regicides who signed the King’s death warrant. However misguided and intransigent, such men were inspired by the purification of society and the belief that they were living in the “last days” of man.
The best comic book portrait of a tyrant motivated by purity is probably Neil Gaiman’s depiction of Robespierre and the Terror of the French Revolution in SANDMAN. My ideal WITCHFINDER GENERAL comic would be something like that: a story of fear, suspicion, stupid judges and innocent women being put to death with a fanatic intent on purification at its centre. VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21 isn’t quite that comic, but it is an effective and well-produced horror story.

Early review! In stores today!


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: John Romita Jr. Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Johnny Destructo

A LOT of people are going to be happy when this hits shelves tomorrow. Everyone who hates change will be basking in the warming 40-watt bulb of Been There, Done That. Much like BRIGHTEST DAY over in the DC Universe, things are supposed to be looking a little brighter in the Marvel U. The dark times are over, and now begins The Heroic Age, but if this issue is any indication, THA is a lot like the 80's/90's revisited. Everything about this issue (except BMB's dialogue) feels like the AVENGERS comics published when I was just knee-high to a grasshopper. And I know most people will probably be ecstatic about that. The problem, for me, is that I never LIKED The Avengers back then. Every so often, I would tune in and see what was what, be interested for one or two issues at the most and then drop it again. The last couple years will go down in my history as the most entertaining, interesting and unpredictable time for the Avengers. This issue, however, will not be part of that history.
As creators, I cannot express how highly I regard Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr. This isn't an attack on them or the standard that they set just by being in the business. Crazy talented, those guys. But this issue is not a shining example of their creative prowess. The artist story-telling is strong, the pace is fast on both ends, but it just isn't hitting for several reasons. SPOILERS NOW!
Art: While for the most part the book looks downright beautiful, there are a couple things that took me right out of the book, art-wise. Every woman with long hair has the same lazily drawn long hair. It all comes straight back off the forehead, back over the scalp and down the shoulders in a form that makes Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman look like they have a giant slug laying over their head. And then there's Maria Hill. The big reveal of Maria Hill just made me go "Wait. Maria Hill? Is she hiding behind the misproportioned Annie Lennox with a bad wig on?” And there's a scene where she's standing behind the team and says "Wow. I hate that guy". I actually had to flip back a couple pages to find out who that dude was and why he was there. Oh, nope, that was Maria Hill. And why does Steve Rogers look like he's in high-school, while Tony Stark looks old enough to be Steve's pappy? By anyone else's standards, it's good stuff. But by what I've come to expect from JRJR, not so much. As for the…
Story: The dialogue is all there, funny, casual yet weighty when it needs to be. But the plot? Really?
Doc Brown: Marty! Ya gotta come back with me! Marty: Where? Doc Brown: Back to the future! Marty: Waitaminnut whaddayadoin, Doc? Doc Brown: I need fuel! Quick, get in the car! Marty: Wait, what? What happens to us in the future, do we become assholes or somethin'? Doc Brown: No no no, you and Jennifer turn out fine! It's your kids, Marty! Something's gotta be done about your KIDS!!
Yeah, the end of BACK TO THE FUTURE is the first issue of THE AVENGERS, but without the bad-ass "Roads? Where we're going, we don't NEED roads!"
Kang shows up and basically says "Your kids turn out to be assholes in the future. Fix it." Granted, there's a little after that I'm not gonna spoil, but that's the gist. For a first issue jumping-on point, it's not exactly new material we're seeing here. The only reason I'm gonna keep picking it up is because of my trust in BMB and JRJR. These are quality guys who consistently do quality work, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt. I have no doubt that Bendis is going to build on this and make it something pretty cool, but this issue just feels so "done" to me, sadly.
And hey, even if it turns out I don't like THIS Avengers book, I'm sure I'll like one of the other 17 Avengers titles that are starting up.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here.


Writer: Grant Morrison Artist: Chris Sprouse Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

Choruses of angels are weeping right now over the radiant beauty emanating from the marriage of art and story in this book. Over the past year I’ve been more pro Dick than Harvey Firestein, not only welcoming young Master Grayson into the Batman cowl, but masochistically hoping someone would steal the plotline for the inevitable return of Bruce Wayne. Well, Dick, you’ve been a fun diversion and I wish you the best in all of your future endeavors. But the moment I saw Brue Wayne looking out over our pre-historic forefathers in the first of so many amazing images in this book, I realized Dick will always simply be the living legacy to the leader of the band.
Hell of a lot of spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
As we all remember from the closing moments of FINAL CRISIS, Bruce Wayne is trapped in time, but as you will learn in the closing pages of this book, “unstuck from time” would be a far more appropriate description. Yes, it’s been alluded to in the past few issues of BATMAN & ROBIN that there are multiple Bruces throughout the ages, but I applaud the briskness that Morrison’s structure is going to bring to this title by having Bruce hop through the ages each issue. When I first opened this book, I thought for sure that we were going to be mired in each age for far longer than necessary. Shame on me. Speaking of the set-up for this book, I can’t applaud DC and Morrison enough for the perfect gelling of BATMAN & ROBIN and this first issue of the RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE (ROBW). My nipples are on high-alert excitement for future issues of both books as Dick and Damian work their way backwards through time towards Bruce, while Bruce bounces forward. Who will go faster in which direction? No idea, but I can’t wait for it to unfold. Sorry, I’m getting way ahead of myself.
This was more than just a tale of cavemen or a chance for Vandal Savage to stake his claim in history as DC’s first villain. Yes, those parts were superb, but what’s most important in all of this is that Morrison is finally able to reap the seeds he started planting almost two years ago. I’ll fully admit I was one of the many obtuse individuals who thought R.I.P. was meant to be taken literally. Granted, we were all schooled after-the-fact by Gaiman’s follow-up arc and countless Morrison interviews, but I was pretty damn resentful that supplemental material was required for our collective weak minds could “get it.” It turns out that a little bit of patience would have made everything clear. Just as R.I.P. tore the Batman mythos apart atom by atom, the kernel of ROBW lies in rebuilding the multifaceted entity that is Bruce Wayne and Batman: the detective, the man of privilege, and as this issue spotlights — the barbarian.
It’s always best to venture on a journey of discovery right in step with the protagonist. Whether it was an Omega Beam or merely a nasty bump to the noggin, having Bruce forget who he is while still maintaining his instincts was a narrative choice that helped me feel this story instead of simply being a passive observer. Morrison also astounded me with the caveman dialogue. Simplicity married with wisdom is the best way I can describe the speech patterns of this intrepid tribe that befriends Bruce. Also, the way Morrison portrayed Bruce’s dialogue (well, utterances would be more accurate) merits a gold medal in creativity. It was just garbled enough to make you go WTF, yet still discernable if you were patient and gave the words a second pass.
I once thought that only Frank Quitely could harness and translate Morrison’s tsunami of insanity, but Mr. Sprouse deserves a straightjacket statuette all his own for his artistry in this issue. Not only was each panel exquisite, but Sprouse paced this issue in almost perfect meter. Splash pages are often gratuitous exercises in self-indulgence on the part of artists, or filler for a writer’s laziness. Not in ROBW, though. Every splash page floors you for its artistry, but also serves a grander purpose by instilling a sense of awe.
A secondary story kicks off in this issue as well. Several well-known DC heroes appear seconds after Bruce is whisked to the next epoch in time. Apparently Bruce’s journey home could be the undoing of everything. How? Why? What? I don’t know about you, but this feels almost like a bonus adventure unto it self. Thank you DC!
I’m not a betting man, but if this first issue is any indication, I would say that Morrison has a hit on his hands on par with ALL STAR SUPERMAN. The only reason it wouldn’t reach the same level of gravitas is simply because of its shorter run (6 issues as opposed to 12). At the very least I predict this being a comparable cousin in greatness.
If you don’t pick up this book, you hate comics.
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 Art: Olivier Coipel Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Jinxo

What the hell happened here? I really enjoyed the first three issues of SIEGE as a well planned out small war saga. With all the tie-in issues and such mostly everything seemed to track and make sense taken as a whole. It had flow, it had big memorable moments. It was kicking it! Then this last issue comes out and I felt felt like when a friend gets excited to tell you some big story, they get really excited sell the hell out of it and then at the end...they blank out get frustrated and then just throw away the end. That's SIEGE. So good and then the end is just meh.
Part of the problem is that the final issue entirely switches gears from what everything up until now has been about. The first three issues are about villains pretending to be heroes forcing a war with outlaw heroes in Asgard. Add in Norman Osborn losing it, the reunion of the Avengers' big three...that's crazy good stuff.
But then they switch gears at the end of issue #3 to the Sentry losing the last of his marbles and becoming the sum of all evil, so bad that even bad guys are thinking maybe this whole siege thing was a bad idea. From there it just feels a bit like Bendis didn't know quite how to defeat this nut. The Sentry is billed as having the power of one million exploding suns, after all! The attempts to defeat him just seem muddled and unfocused. If it felt like it was muddled on the heroes’ end that would be one thing and actually be understandable since they are in the shit. But it felt muddled from behind the scenes. Looking back on it I even realized all of the plot points used were good ones, just in the entire wrong sequence and not taking full advantage of the potential drama.
Normally we try not to talk specific plot points but I don't know how else to dissect this without talking specifics, so...spoilers ahead.
So as written...The Sentry is attacked by the majority of the heroes in the Marvel universe along with the remaining population of Asgard. This has no effect. Realizing things are not going as planned, feeling guilt for his actions, Loki switches sides and magically super-boosts all the heroes’ powers. Still, the magically boosted combined forces of the Marvel universe don't do much at all. So as a last ditch attack, Tony Stark turns the H.A.M.M.E.R. Helicarrier into a missile and runs it into the Sentry. That finally takes the Sentry down at least temporarily.
Okay, pause there. That makes no sense. It would seem to me you want to start with the weakest attack and build to the biggest and most powerful. I don't see that the helicarrier is the most powerful of the attacks. Really? The helicarrier explodes with enough force to top "a million exploding suns." Okay, maybe that suns claim is hyperbole but, still, come on. It doesn't practically or dramatically seem strongest. The hero pile on is your finish. Try this resequence. Heroes attack. Fail. Don't go right for hero Loki. Let him stew in his own horror and shame for awhile. Show it! Play it! Meanwhile Iron Man in desperation goes for the everything plus the kitchen sink move, throwing the helicarrier at him. Huge explosion from which The Sentry/Void walks out less injured than pissed off. That's when you having Loki snap out of it and power everyone up for the final throwdown.
Now, in the end the thing that defeats the Sentry/Void is his Achilles’ heel, his alter ego Bob Reynolds. For some reason the helicarrier attack knocks Sentry/Void back to just being Bob Reynolds. Despite Bob/Sentry supposedly being a great hero "back in the day" all we readers have ever seen of him is a mopey downer. This beat does give us a chance to actually see Bob Reynolds at his selfless, heroic best. Back to normal he tells the heroes, Thor in particular, to kill him. Meaning, this is your one chance, do it. Thor, apparently assuming he was in whiny mopey mode, misunderstands and assumes he's just wanting the easy way out, and starts lecturing Bob. What? WHAT??? How do you... kill him ya idiot! But, no, he blows it and Bob starts going monstery on him. Thor realizes his error and starts attacking the evil monster Bob has turned into and finishes him off. Which is odd because I'd think then Bob/Sentry/Void would be back to being unkillable. But it's easier to have the good guys kill a monster than their buddy, isn't it?
The base idea that Bob is the key to defeating Sentry/Void I think is actually really good. But, again, having forced up to endure Super-Mope's Debbie Downer crap for YEARS, why not at the finish really allow us to see him shine as a hero? Instead of Bob regaining control from an attack that should never have worked, why not have Bob earn that control? As I said above, end on the power-boosted heroes in the big final battle with Sentry/Void. Meanwhile, have Bob fighting him from the inside. You've saddled us with this depression plotline, pay it off. Have Bob literally battling his inner demons on the inside while the heroes battle him on the outside. Then let Bob win just a moment of control. For a moment, boom, he's Bob shouting for them to take their shot. I doubt then Thor would misunderstand and start yapping. Bob takes control, yells for the attack and the heroes are forced to kill not a monster but their friend. More dramatic. Bob Reynolds gets a solid moment for ONCE. And the heroes are left with a victory but at a high price.
I have a feeling that Marvel wanted to for once have a pure happy ending without anything negative, no baggage that would carry on past SIEGE (I think the idea of them wanting a pure happy ending can also be seen in funeral for The Sentry in FALLEN SUN. But more on that in THAT review) I think that is likely why they made sure in the end the heroes did not have to kill nice guy Bob. But...come on. I get wanting a happy ending but complicating things a bit, having there be some sort of emotional price for that victory...that's valid. And it reads truer, less contrived than...well, than this whole issue feels. This series started as an amazing touchdown run but stumbled bad at the goal line.
Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.


Writer: Mike Carey Art: Peter Gross Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Beginning its second year and THE UNWRITTEN – my pick for the best new series we’ve received in comics this past year – is still moving along rather nicely. In fact, it’s really growing like I was hoping it would. The first year was good, great really, but while it wasn’t exactly lacking in depth – obviously there’s a rich tapestry being woven here in the story of Tom Taylor – it was also not really diving beneath the surface of the book. To be expected, but it has also been as big a cock tease as the first season (hell, most seasons) of LOST. This issue, while being a bit nonchalant about it, really makes some strides to giving us readers a glimpse into the bigger picture and the stakes being played for.
What really needed to happen for this book, and which is happening now because Mike Carey is a master craftsman when it comes to books like this and knows how to play out certain elements, is that the side characters needed to grow in some aspect. Tom Taylor, the “real life” model for a Harry Potter analog he may or may not actually be, is an interesting lead more for the circumstances around him so far, not his innate personality, but that’s coming along. Similarly, his companions, the somewhat headstrong Lizzie Hexam and would be journalist Savoy haven’t particularly shown much of themselves up until now, which is starting to change. Lizzie came onto the scene in a “Come with me if you want to live” aspect and has seemed like the know-it-all of these mystical circumstances, but is now being shown to be very much rudderless in her role. Hell, her own identity is manufactured, taken from Dickens, which I never knew because I am a literary savage. And Savoy, it was always known he was inserted into Tom Taylor’s life by some party to this game, and now with the revelation of whose side he was playing for, the game itself and Savoy’s role in it take on some interesting new twists.
As for that multi-faceted tale that is the essence of this book, it’s still delightfully shrouded in mystery and conspiracy, but it’s also divulging its secrets enough to keep the reader apace. Sure, Tom Taylor may or may not be the character he is supposedly based on by his father, but this book is already moving past that. It’s about the idea of story in general, and how all of literature may just be some sort of magical war. How deep this goes and what it all means will naturally come out over however damn long Carey and Gross want it to, but there’s enough moving parts exposed here to somewhat see the machine they are powering. From art down to all these elements, this book is just comic book craftsmanship at its finest. The pacing, how a book that honestly could be pretty “high-brow” with its literary elements and referencing keeps itself well grounded in the modern as well, it all comes together so well. There’s a bigger picture that is still being marched toward, but the troop leaders are as good as they get in their own element, and this is definitely their kind of battleground.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, Facebookand a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.


Writer: Rashida Jones, Christina Weir & Nunzio DeFilippis Art: Jeff Wamester Publisher: Oni Press Reviewer: Mr. Pasty

Let’s not dick around with cutesy intros or comedic prose and get right to the point: I loved this book. The writing-by-committee thing had me a little nervous when I got started, but the opening panels quickly assuaged my trepidation because they’re handled so brilliantly. FRENEMY OF THE STATE (FOTS) is a familiar story about a hot-ass neophyte who gets recruited into the CIA to do their dirty work and quickly learns how to be a super-spy while cracking safes, dangling from rooftops and kicking the shit out of armed thugs. This story is commonly referred to as LA FEMME NIKITA, which is French for “Yes, it’s another spy story starring an ass-kicking model of your dreams.” So why am I getting all pasty over a tired retread?
Well for starters, it doesn’t have any zombies. That already elevates it to a five out of ten for me. And let’s face it, comics are no different than movies. You can successfully tell the same story over and over again if you tell it right. How else could we tolerate Lex Luthor? Or the Leader? Or any other villain that is a recurring threat to your favorite uber-hero? If you take some familiar themes and compliment them with some not-so-familiar twists you have a new story – and that’s where FOTS soars. I also have a deep appreciation for satire and it’s here in earnest.
Our heroine is a high-society snob who became a celebrity for being a rich bitch with no responsibilities. She was born that way. Think Paris Hilton with a Master’s Degree and a face that doesn’t look like Cecil Turtle. Of course I wouldn’t be an American male if I didn’t immediately determine her worth based on how badly I want to bang her so let’s say that Ariana Von Holmberg, like Rashida Jones, is a perfect ten. Now we’re at POINT OF NO RETURN quality but not to worry, we’re leaving Bridget Fonda and her little black dress in the dust. This book is reflective of the times we live in and being an heiress in today’s Internet age means you have bottom-feeding denigrators like Perez Hilton circling the celebrity shit wagon on a daily basis. That persona is present here (STRFKKR) and it’s actually a clever way to advance the narrative in the earlier part of the book.
Of course none of that matters if we can’t invest ourselves in Ariana and I like that the writers didn’t cheat. It would have been much easier to just make her the celebrity that doesn’t fit in, the rogue bad girl, etc., but she is just as rich, rude and rambunctious as you would expect of a girl in her position to be. But she’s also vulnerable and I think that’s where we connect. She’s beautiful and wealthy, but insecure about her boyfriend. She also has authority issues and an emptiness that she desperately wants to fill. That might explain some of her incomplete and erratic behavior but more importantly it makes her a three-dimensional character who just happens to be living a one-dimensional life. Well, at least for now.
Jeff Wamester does a great job of capturing the mood of this story. I think it’s handled just right and I saw a review online that was put off by what seems to be a lack of distinction between character faces. I’m going to say that it’s a valid complaint – but I also believe that it may be by design. Perhaps when you live in Ariana’s world, everyone looks the same because everyone acts the same. The celebrity life is as inviting and tasty as a giant chocolate bunny – and just as hollow on the inside. Ariana has been driven to the brink by that hollowness and her desperation to fill the void has led her into a dizzying array of action sequences and bizarre circumstances that are well written, beautifully drawn and extremely rewarding to any reader willing to give this book a try. With all of the garbage littering today’s comic book shelves, it’s not an exaggeration to call FRENEMY OF THE STATE a must-buy.
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: Brian Michael Bendis Art: Mike Deodato Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: KletusCasady

This book really pissed me off when I read the first issue but not necessarily the way you’re thinking. “But Kletus, por qua…POR QUA?!?”…you say. I was pissed in the sense that Norman now had free reign to do what ever he wanted and began putting his dirty green hands on some sacred shit. He raided the Iron Man armor, turned Venom into the black suit Spider-man (any body catch the pose venom was busting?...same as the cover to secret wars #8. Pretty cool in my opinion.), made Wolverine’s bratty son the new Wolverine, made Bullseye the new Hawkeye (this was kind of brilliant to me and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the first Avenger replacement that was thought of, it just seems so natural), and a bunch of other shit that had me saying “No he di-ent!.” I loved it because the heroes pretty much had their hands tied behind their backs for blowing that whole Secret Invasion deal and Norman was there to pick up the pieces. The heroes are there to handle shit like that and they failed in the public eye, thus putting Norman Osborne as the new head of Shield, now called H.A.M.M.E.R which stands for Hey Are Meaty Men Always Right…I think (seriously does anyone know?). This shift of Shield administration led to what was aptly called “Dark Reign” or as I like to call it Osborne Everywhere. This book was a continuation from Warren Ellis’s THUNDERBOLTS, which was an awesome book with awesome art, and I feel the exact same way about this book.
This team was destined to fail, everyone knew it, and even the villains involved were familiar with how batshit crazy Osborne was and were really just there to ride it out until he cracked. It happened in Thunderbolts, so I was pretty damn sure it would happen again. Now I think Bendis has a lot of good qualities as a writer but one of his worst qualities is that he talks too much. There were issues of NEW AVENGERS that I would open up and feel like I was about to study for a damn test. That being said, this book was really helped by lengthy exposition because not only did Norman have to do a lot of talking to keep this team together, but you can be damn sure these villains had a hell of a lot to say about answering to the Green Goblin as well as masquerading around as the Avengers. I will say that the talking was not as long and boring as some of those New Avengers issues but it was also just the meat of what needed to be said. It wasn’t like Mighty Avengers where people had empty thought balloons and crap like that, that just screamed “I’m fat, trim me...please.” Having too much to write is always better than not having enough but you have to be able to trim and delete the shit that’s just extraneous blabber scythe. I think, because of Ellis’s tone on THUNDERBOLTS, this book was able to get under that wing and benefit from the things that Warren (we’re on a first name basis) set up during his run. This issue ties into the end of Siege and if you have read Siege #3 you kinda know the way this issue was going. Norman was exposed as the mad man he is and basically his shit is falling apart as we all knew it would. I was a little upset that a certain two clawed bastard child didn’t get his comeuppance but I guess it makes sense because he’s about as slimy as a salamander in the Gulf (too soon?).
The art in this book by Mike Deodato (I think he dropped the Jr) is ridiculous but in a good way. Between the panel layouts, the shadowing, the contrast between large and small panels (a lot of artists only want to do big panels thus lacking the depth and scale of Deodato’s work), this is the best I have ever seen his work. When he was working on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN “Sins of Past” story line I wasn’t that into his work because I felt like Spidey was little too muscular like he shouldn’t be able to move muscular but his art in THUNDERBOLTS and DARK AVENGERS is stellar and now I have absolutely no complaints. This was a logical conclusion to this series as some of the Dark Avengers are on their way to being locked up after being smacked down, some are offered jobs within the new administration and some are not making it back (There was a really cool scene with Phobos and Thor…someone needs to keep an eye on this little hellion!), and some…well some will be locked away with their alter egos laughing in their face.
This book is about why villains can’t do what the heroes do. They’re too selfish, their motivations too skewed and well they’re just… bad. The story arc with the Molecule Man just showed that the reason why the real Avengers exist is not only because they have the experience but they also have piece of mind to not only see a situation through but rely on their teammates for help. Not these Avengers, there was more backstabbing than gay porn for god sakes. If you like books about villains or books that you know shit is going to go wrong as soon as the pieces fall into place (or don’t in this case) this book is for you. Anyone who stays away from Bendis on purpose should at least check out an issue because this isn’t the typical Bendis and the artwork alone is worth the price. I’m actually sad to see this book go but SECRET AVENGERS is around the corner and that team is cool as shit and with Deodato on art and Brubaker writing, I’m sure my dysfunctional Marvel family fetish is in good hands.


Writer: Gail Simone Art: Ed Benes Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Professor Challenger

“Something’s come up. We need to get the band back together.” -- Oracle
Ah. It’s like they never went away.
Have you noticed how difficult it seems for writers especially to return to writing a series they once wrote before? I have. It usually reads very awkwardly and somehow never lives up to the memory. Not so in this case, thankfully.
Gail Simone steps back up to the plate with the kick-off of a new BIRDS OF PREY series and slips smoothly right back into it. I’m not sure why in the DC Universe, Gotham City seems to be the only location able to support a female super-hero team but who cares? This comic was a breezy romp and I loved it.
I don’t ask much though. Clever, witty dialogue with strong female characters who have distinctive personalities and art by someone who can draw very attractive and sexy women equal a new series worth checking out.
Each character strikes a note with me. With most readers, Oracle, is the focal character of the BoP. But for me, and I think Gail this time around, the focus seems more on Black Canary. It’s essentially a dual leadership team where Oracle is the brains and the technology, but Black Canary is the strategist and the legs. Canary has developed over the years into someone with true leadership skills and could fairly easily be developed into DC’s strongest female lead given the right writer and opportunity. Huntress has history with BoP, but she also brings to the team a street-level character with training and weapons cache and a troubled past. BoP functions as the family she never had and helps stabilize her whereas without them she could become unbalanced. And this is a hallmark of the appeal of the BoP. They function as a family. Perhaps it is the fact that the characters are women or that a woman is writing the series or maybe both, but this is a “team” where the characters commit to each other on an emotional level. I think this is part of why fans of the previous incarnation also commit to them. The time-displaced Lady Blackhawk has embraced the sisterhood of the BoP and is even used to stretch out the hand of friendship to Dove and Hawk to join the rest of the Birds. An idea I think is brilliant, by the way.
Dove is an easy and safe person to add to this mix of characters, but adding in the newly resurrected Hawk…a misogynistic male…into the team offers untold opportunities to mix things up in interesting and entertaining ways. When Lady Blackhawk wonders whether the overly-masculine Hank Hall/Hawk might be a “fancy” boy, I laughed. I am looking forward to seeing how things develop over the coming months.
What I noticed while reading this issue, which starts with Canary and Blackhawk foiling a child kidnapping, was how much of the dialogue is really devoted to characterization. There is a lot of dialogue and I appreciate that each character has her own unique voice. Lady Blackhawk is particularly my favorite, with her oversexed 40’s era southern gal way of talking. I do appreciate this. One of my recurring complaints with many modern comics featuring teams is that the characters all speak with the same voice. Not so in BoP.
However, if I were to criticize it seems odd to me to have 2 “Brightest Day” comics in 2 weeks featuring a little girl in trouble like this so that the “hero” could come in and start breaking bones and shit. And I’m not particularly a fan of this new trend of having the characters maintaining an ongoing narrative for the reader. I’m not sure why or when the idea of an omniscient narrator fell out of form but I really don’t care for it. It’s not as pronounced here as, say, James Robinson’s recent JLA comics have been (bordering on the absurd) but it still distracts me from the story. As a reader, it makes me take note of the writing technique similarly to the way an obnoxious director’s flourish may diminish or distract me from the story in a film. But any criticism I have has to be balanced against the positives and the wonderfully sexy art and nice storytelling of Ed Benes and the great final panel introducing the villainous *SPOILER* White Canary. I’m just pissed I have to wait to next month for the next issue.
All in all, an excellent beginning and one I intend to stick around for awhile to see where it goes.
Now that I’ve said all that, let me talk about that annoying 5-page preview of the new GREEN ARROW series spinning out of BRIGHTEST DAY. Gorgeous cover. That’s about all the positive I can say. If DC’s goal in trashing all their comics last week with this preview was to make me want to buy this series, well….to steal a term from my middle-schoolers…EPIC FAIL. I am not a fan of the brutality that DC has recently decided is a part of the character of Green Arrow. First of all, we get to see a team of 5 badly drawn punks who look like they just left a “Flock of Seagulls” concert in 1982, attempting to rape a girl who they just chased through the completely empty streets of Star City and into the forest. Here, the bleeding heart liberal who now apparently kills and maims wantonly with his arrows (WTF??) takes them down. In one ridiculously awful double-page spread he graphically rips the nose off one of them by firing his arrow through the punk’s nose ring literally ripping his nose off. Yeah. His nose gets ripped off. And some dumbass decided it would be cool to actually see it rather than ….oh…maybe get across the horror of it in a more intelligent manner by…oh…showing the reactions of others to it. No, instead we get a stupid looking image of someone’s nose ripped off. My god, if you’re going to do something like that at least get someone who can draw that kind of blood and gore in an entertaining way. Maybe DC could get Bernie Wrightson to draw Green Arrow. I’d show up for that. But anyway…then we watch the blood fly as an arrow goes through a hand, then through another’s bicep, and then a dramatic full-page of GA growling about how this is his forest. The dialogue was awful, not even up to Toxic Avenger level, and this entire sequence was just…stupid. BoP featured Black Canary at the top of her form and this preview featured her former love at about the worst I’ve ever seen. BoP = Success. GA = Fail.
“Prof. Challenger” is actually Texas graphic artist and lifelong reader of comics, Keith Howell. He really digs Green Lantern and illustrated THE BEST OF PHILIP JOSE’ FARMER and contributed art, design, and editing to a number of books and magazines. He occasionally updates his website at and welcomes feedback from readers, both pro and con, but if female please include an attached pic in a tasteful state of undress. Thank you and…goodnight.


Written, Drawn and Colored by: Roman Dirge Publisher: Titan Books Reviewer: BottleImp

What is it that makes pairing violence, mutilation, and scatological references with cute little kids such a winning combination? Is it the juxtaposition of the innocent and the profane? Is it the recognition of the deeper themes of growing up in a harsh, strange world?
Or is it just that a little zombie girl going postal and massacring a horde of virile gnomes is fucking funny?
Once a mainstay of Hot Topics (the haven for teeny-bopper proto-goths) and still to be found in your better comic shops, Roman Dirge’s LENORE, the story of a cute little dead girl, is being published in newly-colored trade editions. WEDGIES features a hefty helping of the title character doing the things a dead little girl does—playing with kitties (and killing them), playing with kids (and killing/psychologically scarring them), playing with a dead frog (it had already croaked, honest) and as mentioned above, wiping out an entire colony of underground gnomes. The genius of Dirge’s creation is that Lenore is by no means evil… just careless. Her actions and reactions to the bizarre situations Dirge drops his creation into are almost frighteningly close to how your everyday, healthy, well-adjusted five-year-old would react given the same impetus. Well, maybe the average child wouldn’t shove a chicken up another child’s butt…
Along with Lenore’s adventures, WEDGIES includes some of Dirge’s other work, usually one-to-three page micro-comics that run the gamut from embarrassing moments from the creator’s own life (I have the feeling that these are not all that exaggerated, which of course makes them even funnier) to pseudo-morality stories (such as “Skinless,” the boy with no face) to just downright weird (“Samurai Sloth”). Through all of the cartoons Dirge’s sense of humor remains constant: the gross-out, the absurd, and the bizarrely cute combine to make a comic that will make you laugh out loud even as you say to yourself, “that’s disgusting.” And what I like best about the humor in LENORE is that it is in fact humor. Too often I’ve read underground (or even mainstream, though the underground cartoonists seem to fall into the trap more often) comics that are purportedly “funny,” yet the sense I get is more of a vague weirdness rather than a specific comedic point of view. While I’ll readily admit that Dirge’s sensibilities may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I’d recommend WEDGIES to anyone with even a half-developed sense of humor. That being said…
To be perfectly frank, if you already own a copy of the earlier black-and-white WEDGIES collection, you’re probably not going to want to pick up this new edition. The coloring is nicely done, with a muted palette that manages to meld the two extremes of grisly horror and childlike whimsy, but with no new material to supplement the contents of the original trade, this book is better experienced by those who are venturing into Dirge’s world for the first time. Just prepare yourself for flatulence, potty humor (literally), inappropriate sexual innuendo, and lots and lots of cute dead things.
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.

HULK #22

Writer: Jeph Loeb Art: Ed McGuinness


Writer: Greg Pak Art: Paul Pelletier Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: KletusCasady

The Hulk has really hard time finding his place in the Marvel Universe and not just within the comics in the writing aspect as well. Is he a monster? Is he a Hero? Will he get mad enough to kill everyone? Does he poop green? And why the hell is he still wearing those purple pants? These are all question writer’s have labored over for years. Grek (this was a typo and obvious combination of Greg and Pak but I’m gonna go with it) has written some damn good Hulk stories including the “Planet Hulk” arc (the animated movie was really epic, gory and awesome) and his side of the story is pretty good and the art work ain’t bad either. The Jeph Loeb side isn’t as good, not that its terrible but as I stated in last week’s BRIGHTEST DAY repeat review, I’m starting not to care who Rulk is but that is revealed in this book and its exactly who you thought it was (I guarantee it was one of two people you were thinking about.). I was along for the ride with Rulk because the book was fun and hell I liked seeing him run through the Marvel Universe kicking ass and punching Uatu the Watcher was high-larious. So I’ve been following the Hulks since the beginning of all this razzmatazz and it’s pretty entertaining at parts and kind and eye rolling at parts, guess which side is which. Actually a little of both on both sides.
So the basic set up for this is that the Itellegencia, a band of low level villains, probably only about two or three of which you’d remember, have captured the smartest minds on the planet (Reed Richards, Doom, Hank Pym, Black Panther?, and Bruce “I need gamma Viagra” Banner). I guess they plan to take over the world or some shit by taking all of their intelligence via some brain wave stealing device…I read all the issues but there was so much going on I kind of lost some information on the way. Oh yeah and the Red Hulk and Banner have teamed up against the Itellegencia to stop their maniacal convoluted plan. The Hulk side of the story (Rulk that is), is that he is pretty much the last person that could physically stop them because Banner got himself captured last ish but there is only about 7 problems. The heroes were exposed to gamma radiation thus turning them into…wait for it…Hulked Out Heroes…no I’m serious. I can’t remember if the Intelligencia did this on purpose or it was an accident but the fact that they could allow their foes to turn into Hulked out versions of themselves is really dumb. They’re doing all this shit to finally defeat Banner yet they allow other heroes to become super powered Hulks. Who is this helping? Well I guess the heroes aren’t smart enough to handle being Hulked out (that’s the last time I say that I swear) and attack Rulk. THE INCREDIBLE HULK side of this was the better part of this story for me. Banner is locked into this machine that is pretty much the same thing as that alien squid from the Alan Moore story “For the man who has everything” where the machine plays to your greatest hopes and dreams thus putting you in a world where you are living them out, keeping you content, quiet and under control. I liked this one better because I love Pelletier’s art work and this story seemed to have a little more emotional resonance to it. I love that question of if you were given your greatest desires albeit in a false world would you want to stay there or live your real life which was definitely more shitty than you fantasy land existence. I call it the matrix dilemma (that’s copyrighted mofo!). I won’t spoil how Banner gets out of this but he does as you knew he would thus probably starting the downfall of the Intelligencia.
I know that was a lot to swallow but that’s kind of the same way I feel about this story. There are really good points (fantasy world) and really silly parts (Hulke…err…Heroes de la Hulked) but I am curious to see where this is going. The Rulk reveal will not surprise you but for some reason seeing Rulk turn back into{blank} had more of an impact on me than I thought it would and might be because of who was fighting him when he reverted back to {blank}. The artwork from McGuiness is McGuiness as usual with the big beefy bodies and cartoonish style which I once didn’t like but now I do. However when there were more than one hulk on the page, it was a little hard to see what was going on. Paul Pelletier’s work is always pretty frikken good, his art work is similar to Mark Bagley’s with bigger mouths, a little more detail and it looks as though his colorists may compliment his work a little more than Bagley’s. This is a baaad place to start if you want to read Hulk stuff unless you plan on getting some back issues because I’ve read all of it and I’m barely keeping my head and attention span above water. Also the back up stories don’t really interest me at all so I didn’t read them, plus I didn’t want to complicate things for myself any more. Hulk (the green one) is not in these books at all, but Banner is sooo if you like him better than the Hulk then you’ll love this story arc.


Writers: Keith Giffen & Judd Winick Art: Keith Giffen, Aaron Lopresti, & Matt Ryan Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous Douche

I hated this book for every reason I enjoyed it. Human beings have always known the passage of time is cruel, and our awareness of this passage is the greatest burden we carry. Thanks for the consciousness God. So, I’ll fully admit it I walked into JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST with very unfair expectations. Since I’m an old fanfuck, I had hoped to be presented with a time that is simply no more: a time when Maxwell Lord was more of a self-serving douche than the embodiment of pure evil; a time when the Martian Manhunter would roll his eyes and give a hearty “oh you guys” at the shenanigans of Booster Gold and Blue Beetle; a time when Fire and Ice were the MaryAnn and Ginger of the superhero set – exuding sex, yet never whorey; a time when Guy Gardner was a man child that would piss himself whenever Batman entered the room. As we all know though, it’s not 1986 anymore: Batman is trapped in time, Blue Beetle is dead, Booster Gold has elevated from C list to B list to…well whatever the hell he is now. This book is a more than welcome compliment to the BRIGHTEST DAY fold; it’s just not my old JUSTICE LEAGUE.
Despite my unrealistic whining, I will say this is the best time I’ve had with the JUSTICE LEAGUE since they transformed themselves into an acronym during the Morrison run about ten years ago. This is the first time in the last five years at least they are coming together for a purpose as opposed to just getting together because…”well, shit the world needs a JUSTICE LEAGUE so we better have one.” The mystery is palpable, the action is high, and the mood is perfectly macabre given the fact the earth was just attacked by billions of undead corpses.
I’m far from a Winick hater; I enjoyed his time on EXILES and GREEN ARROW alike. Although, I do see the issues people have with his writing. Despite my forgiveness, after the last craptacular run on TITANS I was more on edge than Lindsey Lohan at a “Scarface” screening about him taking lead with my beloved JUSTICE LEAGUE of yore on a bi-weekly delivery schedule. Writing a regular comic is a job unto itself, but to produce a comic bi-weekly will test the mettle of even the most gifted story-teller. Fortunately there is a gifted story-teller controlling the strings. Keith Giffen is Grandfather of comic goodness Keith Giffen would be shepherding this project. While GENERATION LOST, lacks Giffen’s signature guffaws and bwahahaha’s the structure of this story is clearly imprinted his guiding hand.
The plot is pretty simple and straight forward. This is not a slight, it’s actually a compliment. Maxwell Lord is on the loose. Since being anointed as one of the coveted 12 to be resurrected he has been on the lamb from the super world at large. As we’ll all remember, ole Maxie boy was partly responsible for the whole CRISIS mess before Wonder Woman twisted his neck into a fleshy slinky. Well, I guess the Catholics had it wrong, because it appears death does not offer absolution from your past trespasses. The entire super world is trying to find Max, but despite their best efforts it takes someone that truly knows him to find him. Enter old timers Power Girl, Fire, Ice, Captain Atom and Booster Gold.
As I lamented earlier, time has moved on. Fire has now found purpose in life beyond lip gloss and headbands that match her pants; she is now one of the top dogs at Checkmate. Ice, still reeling from her own brush with death has become a cowering shut-in, only coerced into the light because of her friendship with Fire. For anyone that doesn’t know Booster’s currents state of affairs, well…he’s currently the greatest hero the world has never known…and since no one knows this they still treat him like a drunken frat boy. Captain Atom is still just a big ass bucket of nuclear ass kickery.
The twist in the story (and the big bad spoiler in this review) comes when our faithful band of heroes corner Max inside an old JLI headquarters and he mind wipes the entire planet with the exception of these faithful four heroes. No one, not even Superman can remember the mere existence of Maxwell Lord. What was once a spandex parade has now become a covert and solitary operation.
There are some great moments in this book, but Booster by far steals the show. Whether it was his one-on-one with Power girl or his one-on-one with max, I can’t think of another DC character that has evolved and grown infinitely more interesting over time.
My whining about the past aside, I do have two real issues that need to be addressed. The Harris cover is 50% wonderful and 50% what the fuck! Captain Atom, Maxwell Lord cool. I have never seen Fire, Ice and Booster though rendered so heinously. Hey, I’m all for ethnic diversity, but for fucks sake make sure it’s the right ethnicity. All three have the same egg tooth of a nose. With Fire and Ice I might buy it, even though it bucks past renderings. Booster though is as WASPy as the day is long.
Finally, there were two typos on the page where Booster meets up with Power Girl. I will fault editorial over the writers, since you know…it’s an editor’s role to catch these things. Seriously, we take a lot of flack for typos in our reviews, but remember this is all volunteer work. In my day job, where I am getting paid for results, there is no excuse. Likewise to the DC editors, you are getting paid to read comics, take your fucking job seriously because there are a million guys (raises hand enthusiastically) that would like to have this gig.
A great first story with high hopes for the future even though it did send me into a slight nostalgic depression.


Writer: Paul Jenkins Art: Tom Raney, Scott Hanna Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Jinxo

If this book was a funeral for any other hero in the Marvel universe I think I would say it was a nice little send off. Good art, some good writing filling in some behind the scenes details we were unaware of. But because it is for The Sentry it is crap. Crap crap crap. I'd wipe my ass with it but that would be redundant.
Why should it being about the Sentry make such a difference? Because everything about the Sentry makes it different. The Sentry is a hero supposedly erased from classic Marvel history. All the heroes have these restored memories of what a wonderful great guy Sentry, aka Bob Reynolds, is. And this book is rife with those memories! He went bowling with kids, he helped people through tough times... and he loved the ladies. Oh yeah! He was THE man.
Only we readers never met that Bob. For the past several years we've been stuck with Bob 2.0. That Bob loved to... sullenly sulk, to mope about, and, occasionally, go batshit crazy. Seriously, do you know what my biggest memory of The Sentry is? The time he got so depressed and bored that he decided to fly to the moon and be miserable there for awhile, bum out the Inhumans. That is honestly the moment that sticks with me most. Ahhh, not so good times... We also know what the heroes don't, that Bob was not a good guy who became The Sentry by drinking a secret formula given to him by his professor friend, he was a junkie who became The Sentry when he broke into a lab and drank a formula looking to get high!
By concentrating on remembering a character the readers never knew, this issue becomes a total misconnect. None of what is presented is resonates with the reader on any level. I'm not sure how they would not see that flaw. And there is actually a solution to that flaw. While the readers and the heroes have different points of view on Bob Reynolds, they both have in common the memories of Bob's recent behavior. Because of that recent behavior this issue should have an entirely different tone and story. In talkbacks last week I
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