JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK HC OGN
Writers: Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti Art: Tony DeZuniga Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugSo word on the street is that the new JONAH HEX film is pretty bad. Like all three PUNISHER movies level bad. And that's a damn shame. Much like the Punisher, Jonah Hex owes an awful lot to the movies. Like Frank Castle to Charles Bronson's DEATHWISH films, Jonah Hex embodies the type of spaghetti Westerns that starred Clint Eastwood. So why the hell can't filmmakers get the characters right on screen? Just make a cool Western or revenge flick. Or better yet, take a winning story like any arc from Ennis' superb PUNISHER MAX series or even the book that is the subject of this review and adapt it into a film.
If JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK were made page for page into a motion picture it would be the best Western movie in years. Gray and Palmiotti have taken an anti-hero they've grown accustomed to and elaborated their usual one-off, single issue stories into a full scale graphic novel and it's about as perfect as it gets when it comes to what anyone would want in a Western story.
The bigger tale allows Palmiotti and Gray to stretch their legs and elaborate on themes and scenes that normally would be truncated because of the done-in-one style of the regular series. Don't get me wrong. I love the JONAH HEX series; named it Best Ongoing Series of the Year in this year's @$$ie Awards. But sometimes I've been a bit disappointed in how fast some of the ideas wrap up in 22 pages and wish for more. If you've had that feeling of wanting more while reading the single issues of this series, NO WAY BACK is the book for you.
The story is pretty epic in scope as it follows Hex as he travels from Nevada to Arizona and finally to Heaven's Gate, Colorado. Along the way we find out more about Hex's origin than we've found out in all of the series' issues prior. While the series relies mostly on the present (well, present for Jonah, Old West timey for us), this book has room to go back and show us how Jonah's mother left him and how his bastard of a father treated him and blamed him for her departure. We also get to see the dastardly origin of one of Hex's long time villains, El Papagayo, and why he hates Hex so much. Finally, a third origin is injected into the mix, a long lost brother that Hex never knew he had is introduced. All three origins tie together poetically. There's a particularly effective scene late in the story between Jonah and Joshua, his brother, who is the sheriff priest of Heaven's Gate, as his brother reveals why he took the path of God. It's basically the central scene of the book and one that smacks of both irony and smart writing.
But in the end, this is a rock solid Western. A lone man rides into town with a checkered past and brings hell and gunfire with him. For such a surly individual, though, Gray and Palmiotti write Hex in a completely sympathetic light. He's a man to be feared to be sure, but also one to be pitied. In many ways, Joshua is what Jonah may have been had one or two things happened differently in his life. Jonah's monologue at the end of the book cements this. But it's not all heartfelt musings and lollipops. This is a dirt in your teeth Western with gunfights, knife fights, gangs of bandits, women in states of undress, whiskey, and plenty of sin. Hell, it's even got a mangy dog and a parrot. My one criticism lies in the late introduction of El Papagayo to the story. His entrance into the story felt a bit late to me and took me out of the story for a beat. His role is crucial later in the tale, but had he made his stage entrance sooner, it would have felt more seamless. But this is a minor criticism towards a superb read.
Tony DeZuniga is one of those names that anyone who's been reading comics for years knows. He drew some of Hex's original adventures in the 70's. His return to the character in this book is solid, gritty and harsh. Fans of clean and crisp art may be disappointed, but DeZuniga's art fits the tone of this dark graphic novel perfectly. When one of his characters get shot, the bullets explode out the back of them. His women are drawn curvy, his men gnarly. DeZuniga's style is authentic to the time. Much of his work looks as if it were drawn with a jagged pencil, the way a good Jonah Hex story should look.
I'll be seeing JONAH HEX the same time you all will even though reports of the film seem bleak. I seriously don't understand why the Powers That Be don't wisen up and adapt the stories that made the character great in the first place into films instead of glomming the worst of the storylines together and making shit up as they go along to please the masses. Jonah Hex is not your typical comic book. The readers of the series know it, and so do Palmiotti & Gray. Giving Hex powers to talk with the dead and a gatling gun toting horse may read epic in the boardroom, but anyone reading the comics will be rolling their eyes at how awful the ideas are and how different it is from the comic. JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK is the perfect example of making a full length comic book cowboy story into a cinematic masterpiece homaging those classic Westerns of old. It's a good thing we have comics, though, since Hollywood seems to be getting it all wrong. One of the best hardcovers of the year from one of the best creative teams in comics. Don't miss JONAH HEX: NO WAY BACK. It's comic book perfection.
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. Order VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #21 in May's Diamond Catalog order # MAY10 0828.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Art: John Romita Jr. (pencils) & Klaus Janson (inks) Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Professor ChallengerI didn’t hate this comic. And I don’t hate Brian Bendis. And I don’t hate John Romita Jr. In fact, to be fair, I’ve only ever read 2 actual issues of a comic by Bendis (ULTIMATE SPIDEY #1 and ALIAS #1). And, truth be known, I love JRJr.’s art. And Marvel has me interested, at least conceptually, in their “Heroic Age” titles.
But here’s the “but.”
I think JRJr is ill-served by Bendis and Bendis is ill-served by JRJr. The best stuff I’ve ever seen by JR was his work on THOR, where writer Dan Jurgens obviously let JR…well….be JR. For my money, about the only time I really got JR being JR in this entire issue was when Thor blasted the shit out of Kang with his hammer. Let’s not talk about the stupidity of the moment; that bone-headed over-reaction by Thor is more something we should expect from the impulsive Hercules, not the prince of Asgard. But that’s what the criticisms all come down here. The team of Bendis and JR is just not working. JR needs to be able to cut loose with action and power and instead he is saddled with dreadful tasks like a freaking double-page spread with nothing but a bunch of individual head shots or panel after endless panel of costumed heroes standing around sipping coffee and standing and sipping coffee and standing. I may be wrong, but I believe Bendis writes full-script, which means JR is stuck having to fit in endless exposition and coffee sipping and head shots…well…because that’s what Bendis wants. Right?
Maybe that could work with a different artist. I dunno.
It seems to me that Bendis has come up with some good interpersonal conflicts here and a potentially exciting plot but what would make this pop would be for him to lay out the plot and let JR do this book in classic Marvel style, then let Bendis come in and dialogue after he’s laid out the storytelling in art. Bendis missteps throughout. He spends too much time on the back and forth between Tony and Steve. And he sprinkles too many downright silly or stupidly forced interactions between the other characters like Spidey and Hawkeye, Wolverine and Spider-Woman, or worst of all Capt. America and Thor. Bendis clearly doesn’t understand how to write for Thor.
As it is, though, I just couldn’t ever get into this comic even though I was really looking forward to it. I actually like the idea of Steve Rogers running around now as sort of the “face” of the Marvel Universe taking control of the heroic side of the equation. I always like a good Immortus/Kang time-travel story, and this one includes the future children of the Avengers and the future Hulk. All really good ideas; I just wish the actual writing was better and the art was not hamstrung by the relentless idiocy of coffee drinking panels.
One more gripe. I don’t like the “Heroic Age” trade dress. It almost gives the titles a “Marvel Adventures” look.
I wanted to love this comic. Instead I found it just….forgettable…and that’s just a terrible thing to have to say about a comic titled THE AVENGERS #1.
“Prof. Challenger” is actually Texas graphic artist and lifelong reader of comics, Keith Howell. He really digs Green Lantern, most recently completed the cover art for the upcoming book THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER, and has contributed award-winning art, design, and editing to a number of books and magazines. He occasionally updates his website at at profchallenger.com and welcomes feedback from readers, both pro and con, but if female please include an attached pic in a tasteful state of undress. Thanks for all the fish.
BRIGHTEST DAY #2
Writers: Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi Artists: Reis, Gleason, Syaf, Clark, & Prado (whew!) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewed by Humphrey LeeBRIGHTEST DAY is the first time since 52 where I would say that I’ve actually let myself get excited for one of these lynchpin books and, sad to say, I am starting to become reminded of why my enthusiasm for that title diminished like it did. Obviously that book and this comes with great talent, I do not want to knock them at all. But, we’re on the third issue of this run, this is stemming out of what was being hailed as one of the biggest events “evars” in comics and all I can feel out of this is the dreaded effects of “sloooow burrrrrrn.”
Yes, the dreaded effects of slow burn, which was a staple of 52 which, to be honest, was better than the staple of COUNTDOWN, which was to be crap. And I get why this tends to/arguably needs to happen. This, like 52, is supposed to run a year with an ensemble of characters that each need a proper amount of face time. The thing is though, for half the characters involved, when they get their face time, it feels like almost literally nothing has happened.
For instance, the opening sequence with the returned Firestorm, now an amalgamation of the original, Ronnie Raymond, and young Jason, the more recent addition. For four pages their segment is almost nothing but the two personalities arguing while prepping for an experiment with them that will involve the Atom. There’s a solid bit of characterization in there, but nothing we haven’t seen for a couple issues already. Then the world goes to hell, shit explodes, off to the next segment. A decent character moment or two, a cliffhanger moment, and that’s a third of the issue. Again, I get why these kinds of setups happen in a book like this, but it’s agonizing when it’s not completely riveting material.
And then the rest of the book plays out like it plays out. Martian Manhunter spends several pages reliving his past/origin on Earth as he impersonates the man who brought him here to talk to the guy’s daughter. The Hawks spend a couple pages on the subject of Hath Set and how he’s murdered them through the ages and decide to do something about it. And then Boston Brand spends a couple pages still fretting about his newfound re-existence before being put in front of the Anti-Monitor. Slow burn + blitzkrieg cliffhangers just do not do it for me. I do appreciate the base elements that make up the book, though. There are some solid character moments by two guys who know these characters very well, and I’m glad the art is much more stable than it has ever been for a book of this type, but it is still early so we’ll see where that goes. The bi-monthly schedule should help this. But, at the end of the day, the way it’s playing out just does not really beg me to continue with this, especially given the revitalization of DC’s line and all the other quality books I could be putting six bucks a month towards. Maybe I'll even bet that cash on JMS keeping a deadline with his upcoming SUPERMAN and WONDER WOMAN runs! Perish the thought.
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.
ENTER THE HEROIC AGE One-Shot
Writers: Christos N. Gage, Jeff Parker, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Jim McCann, Jeff Parker Artists: Mike McKone, Gabriel Hardman, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Jamie McKelvie, David Lopez, Kevin Walker Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Johnny DestructoWhile AGE OF HEROES #1 just seemed pointless, this issue at least, is here to get us interested in particular upcoming issues. It's a big ole advert for other Marvel titles, but it makes sense, since there's been a shake-up in the Marvel U. I can understand the need to whet people's 4 color appetites; it's good business. Now, how was it? For the most part, this was pretty strong. The first story is a nice bridge between what just was in the Marvel U and the new status quo, since the H.A.M.M.E.R. jackasses are trying to clean house before they get shut down completely, disposing of evidence, which includes eradicating poor Humberto Lopez (a.k.a. Reptil). It's a quality little story but even with the art stylings of Mike McKone, a 16 year old with a giant dinosaur head looks a little silly. Supposedly he's "the future of the Avengers", but he seems more like a throwaway character then anyone with any amount of staying power. I'll check out AVENGERS ACADEMY, though I have a feeling it's not gonna hold my attention for more than an issue or two.
The second story is about the Agents of ATLAS. It doesn't read much like a Marvel comic, which isn't meant as a slight, it's a fun little story. It's definitely a valiant attempt, but fails to get me involved enough to want to read further when ATLAS #1 comes out. It also doesn't help that The 3-D Man is supposed to be the cliff-hanger. Does anyone care about this guy? Please, defend him if you can. Him and that afterbirth of a costume. Blargh.
The third story is a little out of place since it seems to take place in the middle of the current BLACK WIDOW mini-series (which, if you aren't reading, you SHOULD be. It's awesomotron.) I like the new focus on making Black Widow stories more spy-centric. She's a character that works across many different genres, and still feels fresh. This story could have taken place in her own title, and I'm curious to see how it ties in, but hey, if this vignette gets some of you jokers to pick up her series, all the better! And it's always a pleasure to see Jamie McKelvie 's storytelling getting stronger and stronger with every story.
I REALLY want to like The Hawkeye/Mockingbird stories. I do. Romantically involved super-heroes bantering, flirting and kicking ass? Sounds perfect. Maybe it's because I never had much exposure to their relationship pre-Ronin, or maybe it's the writing, but I just wasn't feeling this one. David Lopez's penciling was on-point though, the action scenes were dynamic and easy to follow, the backgrounds weren't lazy...really solid work here, art-wise. I WANT to like this so much that I'm still gonna check out HAWKEYE & MOCKINGBIRD #1 even though the writing didn't capture me this time around.
The last one is the one that really made me excited though. Ever since Warren Ellis left THUNDERBOLTS, I haven't really been reading it. The "surprise" reveal about who's going to be Sgt. Slaughtering these baddies into shape has me pretty excited. Luke Cage is a character that I didn't care about until Brian Michael Bendis decided to bring him to the forefront of the Marvel U, but I have since really grown attached to him as a character. I can't wait to see what's going to be happening with him from here on out. Hopefully, Jeff Parker will keep making him as interesting as BMB did. The art by Kevin Walker was HEAVILY influenced by Humberto Ramos, but is strong nevertheless. I would, like to question what exactly Bryan Hitch has him doing on the cover of this issue. Seriously. He's striking the pose from the end of THE BREAKFAST CLUB, while Mockingbird is doing The Twist in midair. It just seems Sillyville to me.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here.
BATMAN: STREETS OF GOTHAM #12
Writer: Paul Dini (2nd feature Marc Andreyko) Art: Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs (2nd feature Jeremy Haun) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: KletusCasadyThis book really surprised me. At first I thought this would be a Batman book similar to LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT where every once in a while there would be an ok story in there but most of the time it was kept as the C-team Batman book, meaning you really only read it if you were like a Batman fanatic thus reading everything in print that had Bat in the title (kind of like how I was for Spider-man for a while…can’t afford it now though). In fact, I didn’t even read an issue until number 5 dropped and the cover intrigued me. I should have known since Paul Dini is a Bat genius not to mention he wrote some of my favorite BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES episodes such as “Almost got ‘im”, “Heart of Ice” and “Over the Edge” (thanks wiki). I love that damn show and I will never doubt you again Dini…please forgive ‘ol Kletus…I will never forsake thee again.
One thing I love about this book is the single story single-issue format that this book mostly sticks to (I think there were a few two parters but mostly one and done stories much like the animated series). I think this is directly related to the way the stories were written for TV. There isn’t a lot of time for any extraneous shit in these issues and Dini gets right to the heart of the matter and the ball is rolling before you get a chance to be distracted by your silly girlfriend wanting to have sex (just kiddin’ babe!). Who would have thought I would actually give a shit about character like the Carpenter who probably had like 5 total appearances in the entire Batman tapestry. Dini is a writer that can make you care about anyone he puts in a book. Again I think this has a lot to do with the TV show because you don’t have much time to develop these characters, so a writer must A. Introduce these characters in a way that not only grabs your attention but keeps you wondering why this person was introduced in the first place…what is their role in this story? B. Link this person to something that has been touched on in previous issues thus giving them an anchor to an already established theme or issue. In this case, The Carpenter is approached by the Broker (guy who organizes the sale of affordable housing for super villains) to build an elaborate death trap for Batman for a third party maniac investor but you can never trust a villain thus bringing us to our conflict. I love this book because it shows the other side of a lot of these conflicts that Batman eventually gets involved in. We never see a villain purchasing their lair or find out how they built it with anti-Bat traps and things of that sort. Even with conflicts that the Batman is involved in, the focus is really on the surrounding circumstances behind the incident rather than having a camera attached to Batman’s hip. This series has done a lot to flesh out Gotham city and the dirty deeds done dirt cheap in this town. I’ve even got a little more respect for Damian after this series, not only because he went toe to toe with Zsasz but I’ve also got to see more of his…well…non bratty, sympathetic, not just another Jason Todd waiting to happen side. Ok…ok…ok…damnit…I like Damien now ALRIGHT I SAID IT. He’s definitely a brat but I got a soft spot for him…I better not hear a pedophile joke either. Basically, Dini is “da man” and you should pick up anything he puts his magical fingers on…damn what’s up with me today.
I didn’t like Dustin Nguyen’s art work at first (I’m very picky which is why I say this all the time) when he was on DETECTIVE COMICS but it has definitely grown on me and his water color art is really amazing. If they made a new animated series with Dini he should definitely draw it. His artwork is very fluid, mixing great action scenes with shadow heavy solemn parts that still have a very unique stylistic tone to it. I usually try to make a comparison and the closest person I can think of is Scott McDaniel (drew Robin for a while) mixed with J. Scott Campbell but Nguyen’s shit has a lot more detail and doesn’t have a bunch of sharp extraneous line work that can leave character’s body parts looking a little too sharp. Nguyen may be in the realm of those artists but in my opinion he’s way better.
If you like BATMAN: TAS, one and done stories, great artwork and a fleshing out of Batman’s Gotham City do yourself a favor and read this. While you’re at it pick up anything with Dini or Nguyen on the cover (including ZATANNA) and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
AGE OF HEROES #1
Writers: Kurt Busiek, Rick Remender, Paul Cornell & Dan Slott Artists: Marko Djurdjevic, Chris Samnee, Leonard Kirk, Ty Templeton Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewed byJohnny DestructoReading the cover from the top, it proclaims: "The Heroic Age - Age of Heroes". I would assume, with the new status quo in the Marvel Universe, the title that states it twice would be the issue to read, and would really drive it home as to just how different things are with our favorite characters. But are the first ones to cover really J. Jonah Jameson, Doctor Voodoo (I still call him BROTHER), and Captain Britain? And this is the first issue! What's next? How AGE OF HEROES is affecting Vermin or Typeface? With all the heroes showcased on the cover, I was really hoping for a bigger level of excitement from this book. Instead we get JJJ being a douche (no offense, Optimous), doing his usual and hating that super-heroes are popular again, we get a date mishap for Doc 'Doo and a 30 second debate about whether or not Cap Britain is gonna be an Avenger. Oh and a page featuring Spider-Man that reads more like one of the Hostess ad from the 70's/80's.
But I suppose that's appropriate since this whole AGE OF HEROES move just seems to be a giant step backwards, besides Steve Rogers being the new "top cop" of the Marvel U, which is actually a pretty good idea. It seems right. And I love that BuckyCap is still shield-tossin', but otherwise, I don't really see too much to get involved with so far. At least over in DC, BRIGHTEST DAY has a mystery surrounding it. With Marvel it just feels like someone hit the giant red "reset" button. I'm already bored, and this is…what? The first week? It's not even off to a strong start! It doesn't start with a bang and it doesn't appear to be building towards anything just yet, which is unfortunate. I've been extremely satisfied with the 616's forward momentum, but it's just ground to a halt. Between AVENGERS #1, AGE OF HEROES #1 and the ENTER THE HEROIC AGE One-Shot, I'm really left disappointed. I know it's the end of the 7 years of universe-spanning crossovers, but that doesn't mean there can't be a unifying, underlying sense of cohesion or mystery, of something looming. I know in the comics realm, everything resets eventually, but I guess I got a little spoiled. But hey, at least I got a good 7 years of thrilling new ideas. Maybe I'm expecting too much. What do you guys think? Excited with the way things are going with this new/old Marvel U?
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1
Writer: Paul Levitz Art: Yildiray Cinar (pencils) & Wayne Faucher (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Professor Challenger“You’re all humans, you bastards—how can you do this to me? I did it all for YOU!” – Earth-Man
This past week was a good week for me regarding comics. I bought a much larger selection of comics in one week than I can remember probably over the last 2 years worth of Wednesdays. I'm something of a sucker for (at least in concept) the BRIGHTEST DAY and HEROIC AGE themes running through the Big 2 right now. But interestingly enough, this new relaunch of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES is not directly tied into it since there is a noticeably lacking tradedress for BRIGHTEST DAY tie-ins. However, I am sure it was not a marketing "mistake" to tie the first story arc into the Green Lantern mythos and especially to feature a hand sporting a GL ring and a Legion Flight Ring on the cover. So, yeah, the marketing guys at DC know how to push my buttons sometimes.
I am a Legion fan going back to the period Mike Grell was drawing the SUPERBOY & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES series. I was there when Superboy got dropped and the Legion took over the title and DC started THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY (with gorgeous Kurt Shaeffenberger and Dave Hunt artwork). I was there when “The Great Darkness Saga” unfolded and when they spun off a second LEGION title available “only in the Direct Market.” I was there when Giffen and the Bierbaums jumped the characters 5 years ahead for a new “adult” LEGION series. I was there after Zero Hour when the first actual “reboot” of the characters happened. That was the first time I found myself falling away from the title after about a year or so. I was there for Mark Waid’s “reboot” of the characters and I liked a whole lot of what he did with the title, but eventually I fell away again…and even bringing on Jim Shooter as writer couldn’t bring me back to the title. It took the work of Geoff Johns in ACTION and LEGION OF 3 WORLDS to reignite my interest in the characters. Geoff found a way to roll us back to the Legion I grew up on but updated to fit better with the current DC climate. So, that’s where I’m coming from. I’ll confess that bringing on Levitz as the writer made me feel some interest, but too often the old-school writers just can’t recapture the magic, but I wanted to give Levitz a chance here.
It’s not a total slam dunk, but I think he did very, very well at picking up on the plots left dangling out there by Johns and crafting a thoroughly satisfying and exciting first issue. It’s not a reboot…it’s a return to the Legion I think of when I think of the Legion and I’m very happy with the result. Levitz does a good job of giving the reader all the information necessary to understand the characters he’s working with in this first issue. If you’re already familiar with the characters then there are plenty of little visuals that you will appreciate, but the plot is what drives this issue. The primary setup is a threat to destroy the universe and Levitz chooses to shock the reader with a dramatic moment that drives home this threat that the Legion must face. The secondary setup is the choice of who will wear the Green Lantern ring for the 31st century and both plots segue right into each other as any good operatic comic like this one should.
The art is good. Cinar does not seem daunted by the interactions of so many different characters and venues. He seems well suited for the title and I look forward to what develops as he and Levitz get into a synergistic groove together. Levitz demonstrated an ability in the past on this title to develop a real collaborative style unique to each artist, whether Keith Giffen, Steve Lightle, or Greg LaRoque. This is a more than solid start to what I hope is a long and healthy run with Levitz at the helm once again and clearly loving what he’s doing.
AMERICAN VAMPIRE #3
Writers: Stephen King & Scott Snyder Artist: Rafael Albuquerque Publisher: DC Vertigo Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI have to thank Vertigo for not forgetting that the red-blooded American male enjoys vampires just as much as the ladies. Every effort over the past few years to resurrect our favorite undead blood suckers has pretty much defanged the entire mythos. From TWILIGHT to TRUE BLOOD, the instant our vampire protagonists fall in love they become the equivalent of undead vaginas, performing way more brooding and pining than actual blood sucking. I won’t be so bold to say these other pieces lack value, I know personally I enjoy a lot of things that have been deemed crap by entertainment erudite, they just seem to make the whole aspect of being a vampire ancillary and unimportant.
I always thought my biggest problem with TWILIGHT was the fact that the vampires could be out during the day, you know, thus negating any and all downsides to being a vampire. “Wait, you mean I can live forever, be beautiful beyond compare, go out during the day and merely glisten like a pretty diamond, have untold strength and agility, and all I have to do is drink some deer blood? Sign…me…up…NOW!” Well AMERICAN VAMPIRE has proven that my issue wasn’t with vampires catching some good ole UV rays. No, my problem lied in the fact that every single vampire should be brutal, visceral and always thirsting for that next delectable neck of sustenance. Shit, even Brad Pitt, the grand-father of the wuss vampire movement in INTERVIEW OF THE VAMPIRE, eventually learned that a vampire’s gotta do what a vampire’s gotta do. As soon as vampires stop treating humans as sustenance or fodder to fill their ranks, the fear of vampires is no more.
King and company have obviously recognized the rampant Twi-hater movement across the globe, because even though an American vampires can go out during the day, they also need to feed — and feed they do.
I’ll admit this title has had me on the fence for the past two issues. By having two different writers focus on two different epochs of time — the American Old West and roaring twenties Hollywood — a reader’s first inclination will be to look at them as separate pieces, especially since the connective character tissue wasn’t made truly apparent until issue two. Issue one thoroughly enthralled me with King’s story of Sweet, an Old West vampire trying to escape the talons of European aristocratic vampire elites. Snyder’s story about two gal pals in roaring twenties Hollywood, was cute and sassy, but lacked any figurative or literal bite until the very last page. Issue two was the exact opposite. Sweet’s tale became one of convoluted entrapment, where Snyder’s story about Pearl was a horrific awakening into her new life as a vampire. Issue three though has finally bled together the two stories to show that they are in fact part of a greater whole. And it is wholly great.
This is all really Sweet’s story. I’ll blame comic overload for the fact I was just too damn obtuse to notice that Sweet was the vagrant by Pearl’s pool in the first issue of the book. Basically, the connective tissue has been in place the whole series it was just a very very small piece of sinew. The European elites have been the big bad vampires all along, hating Sweet and any other vampires he creates because they can embrace the sun sans becoming a vampire flambé. What I find most clever in the whole proceedings is how both King and Snyder have allowed the traditional vampires more time in the sun as technology improves. Sun screen can block UV rays and thus give a standard vampire a fighting chance at escaping a second death. Issue three is all about vengeance; both Sweet and Pearl have scores to settle with the standard vampires--Sweet for the time they made him spend in a watery grave and Pearl for being robbed of her youth and chance at a normal life. The dichotomy between how Sweet and Pearl feel about being vampires is also a high point of this series. It makes sense that a son-of-a-bitch would be more apt to embrace the life of the undead over a sweet li’l gal from nowhere America.
Albuquerque, aside from having the coolest name in comics or perhaps the world, is simply the right man for this job. Dark, sketchy, the perfect mood setter. He also proves my theory that if you need to have multiple creative teams, a switch in writers is far less jarring than switching up artists.
As I said earlier, I was initially on the fence with AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Issue three, though, has me in it to win it until the end. Hell, I’m actually hoping we’ll see a few more issues of Americana after these stories draw to a close.
Optimous' book AVERAGE JOE is being published by COM.X. AJ is a tale that explores what our world would be like today if everyone was gifted with super human abilities in 1938. The guys are looking for top shelf art talent to partner with on this project. Reach out to Optimous on FaceBook for further details.
ULTIMATE COMICS AVENGERS 2 #2
Writer: Mark Millar Art: Leinil Francis Yu Publisher: Ultimate Marvel Reviewer: KletusCasadyHeh. The Punisher gets busy…if ya know what I mean. And I think you do. Sorry, I’ve wanted to make that joke ever since the last Issue. Ahhhh, Millar, there’s something I love about you man. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s out there and through the course of this review, I will find it or DIE TRYING!!! The original ULTIMATES and ULTIMATES 2 are fucking great. They ain’t yer granny’s Avengers and you can be damn sure of that. The modern world approach to the Avengers goes off really well in that book and both of those series weren’t afraid to stray away from the 616 Avengers and kick ass (pun sooo intended) relentlessly and that’s what made it great. We won’t go into ULTIMATES 3 and its muddy artwork that seemed to parallel how Millar’s original ideas were being dragged through wet dirt in a boring, unexciting series. The problem with the Ultimate Universe was that after a while the writers seemed like they just wanted to do stories that were already told in the 616 but in their “own” way meaning almost the same way they were originally done but with very, very slight differences. The Ultimate Universe doesn’t need to do this--do something completely new. Sure, use the same characters but push them in different directions with different results. Most of the Ultimate Universe comics were getting to be very bland so ULTIMATUM came through, killed everyone, fucked shit up and here we are.
This branch of the Ultimate Comics Ultimate Avengers Ultimates is the black ops squad of the bunch, ripe with a crew of badasses who have no problem with killing to get the job done (I know Red Wasp isn’t quite a bad ass yet but I imagine she’ll have a nice kill or two in the near future). Punisher was “recruited” last issue, which was cool because I can’t really imagine these Avengers letting Frank Castle go buck wild without eventually having to deal with him. This issue deals with these Ultimate Ultimates confronting the “original” Hulk about his Tony Montana-esque lifestyle. These are the things that are great about Millar’s Ultimate stuff. Sure, this guy could have become a hero because he had grown into an ultra strong behemoth but no, this guy choose to live the life Lil’ Webby could only dream of complete with multiple ladies, fast cars, and lots of dead presidents plus a body that could wreck any playa hater. I won’t reveal who this guy used to be but there’s some part of me that sympathizes with his decisions (well not the murdering and violence but the decision to do what ever the fuck you want because you can…I guess I’d make a lousy hero) because who doesn’t want to leave behind a mundane life for a life of unlimited money, power, and hip hop honeys even though he did just bail on the folks in his previous life completely. At one part, it took me a double take to understand what this “original” Hulk had done…but once I realized…god DAMN! Talk about snatching a fish going up stream with your bare hands! See, maybe that’s what I like about Millar, that even though this guy is a selfish prick (not Millar- “original” Hulk), he’s kind of cool. Millar has the ability to make any character “cool” and the best part of the Ultimates was that everyone on that team had a chance to shine and I predict that’s the way this team will go. Millar is also the king of awesome cliffhangers; that man had me like a crack fiend for the original Ultimates just so I could get to that next dose. The cliff hanger in this issue is a doozie and I’m starting to get that itchy feeling, my arms are twitching uncontrollably, I’m starting to get ashy chapped lips and I have an urge to sell my microwave for $3.99….must…not…relapse. The last Ultimate Avengers series was pretty good but I suspect this one will be better just because of the characters involved, particularly the person the cliffhanger reveals. I’m ready for a fucking throw down of epic and biblical (hint, hint) proportions.
What I like about Millar is that his writing appeals to that brutish, violent, heroes kicking ass side of all of us. I saw someone compare him to Michael Bay and that’s a pretty accurate assessment (well BAD BOYS era Michael Bay at least) as most of his comics aren’t very deep but are super action packed and fun as hell. He’s not 100% consistent, but then again who is? I’d say he’s about 80% which is a “B” and where I’m from that’s passing. He has great ideas, great action, and his shit is just…cool, that’s the best way to describe it. Lenil Yu’s art looks a lot better here than SECRET INVASION because it’s not as stiff as his previous work and it seems as though he’s found a way to draw quicker which loses a little detail but looks more fluid. If you are the kind of comic book fan that loves to see heroes kicking ass with fresh, nerd-gasm type ideas and you don’t feel the need to question every aspect of a comic (not that you shouldn’t but…relax bro!) this will be right up your alley.
DC UNIVERSE LEGACIES #1
Writer: Len Wein Art: Scott Kolins (framing sequence), Andy Kubert (pencils), & Joe Kubert (inks) Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Professor Challenger“You boys face a choice, to walk the straight and narrow path—or to wind up like them, sprawled in the gutter with the rest of the garbage.” – Sandman
DC has been charming me lately by their efforts to embrace the older veterans in the comic book industry and use them and best of all….employ them. I love this multi-generational creator approach to a book about the heroic legacies in the DCU. For the bargain price of $3.99, I get a main feature illustrated by modern artist Andy Kubert, inked by his father, golden age artist Joe Kubert and a back-up feature illustrated by the FINAL CRISIS artist J.G. Jones. All of these wonderful artists in service of the excellent writing of silver age great Len Wein. Scott Kolins contributes art to the framing sequence and those 2 pages are my personal favorite stuff I’ve ever seen from Kolins – subtle and natural and good mood-setting.
Much of the charm to me while reading this issue was the 40’s-era tough-guy dialogue. Wein, coming up old-school, knows perfectly how to capture that type of dialogue. Both the main story and the back-up feature are stories about “normal” people confronted by or encountering in some way the first of the “Mystery Men” who began to show up in the DCU in the pre-WW2 days. These are the days when organized crime was running rampant in the city streets and the need was there for someone to step up. The breakdown for the two stories is interesting in that the main story focuses on a couple of kids who are on a path to crime until a face-to-face encounter with a couple of heroes changes the life of at least one of them. The second feature focuses on a skeptical investigative reporter looking into events that appear to involve supernatural elements. I thought this was a brilliant way to approach this first issue of the series. The first story features the Crimson Avenger, the Sandman, and the Atom. All three characters are alike in that they do not have any super powers. Crimson Avenger is basically the Lone Ranger in the city (even to the point of shooting the guns out of the bad guys’ hands rather than harming them), the Sandman uses a gun with sleep powder in it, and the Atom is just a diminutive boxer punching the hell outta the bad guys. The back-up story features The Spectre and Dr. Fate, both arguably he most powerful supernaturally powered characters in the DCU at the time. It makes for a good dividing point between approaches to the stories.
LEGACIES is retelling the history of the DCU but it is doing so through the eyes of the world around them and that makes this a fresh approach for DC. Sure, Marvel had their MARVELS series which covered similar ground, but this still feels fresh to me. There’s less of a sense that they are trying to pack every little “easter egg” possible into the panels and more of a sense that DC is allowing Wein and his collaborators an opportunity to really focus on pure storytelling -- and they succeed.
The Kubert and Kubert artwork is a joy to behold. Joe knows how to wield a brush and pen and elevates my appreciation of Andy’s pencil work to a level it has not been before. I would almost prefer to have seen this story in sepia tone or gray wash with hints of color to better allow this beautiful inkwork to shine. As it is, there are moments where the modern color processing distracts from the Kuberts’ art. J.G. Jones is paired with Alex Sinclair’s colors on the Spectre and Dr. Fate story and this is an example where the line art and the colors work beautifully together – seamless integration and set the mood of the story perfectly.
Can’t wait for next issue to see what Wein and company do with the JSA and the Seven Soldiers of Victory. Good job.