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Issue #49 Release Date: 4/20/11 Vol.#9

The Pull List
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: ACTION COMICS #900
SIGIL #1-2/RUSE #1
’68 #1
Advance Review: AVENGERS #12.1
Indie Jones presents…

Advance Review: In stores today!


Writers: Paul Cornell, Damon Lindelof, Paul Dini, Geoff Johns, David Goyer, & Richard Donner
Artists: Pete Woods, Dan Jurgens, Rags Morales, Ardian Syaf, Jamal Igle, Ryan Sook, RB Silva, Jesus Merino, Gary Frank, Miguel Sepulveda, Matt Camp, Brian Stelfreeze
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

In June 1938 Siegel and Shuster not only released on the public consciousness a new mythology with the creation of Superman, but also forever changed the illustrated serial medium. All of the comic books we enjoy today, and the tropes of the medium that have become the fodder for Internet mockery and fanboy rage, spawned from this Big Bang of the comic universe. So how does this homage to comic’s grand old dame hold up to not only its venerable history, but also the new age of cynicism? In some cases, as with the main story, it turns out exactly as we would expect. But also tucked within this 96 page, advertisement free extravaganza were surprises that ranged from “awwww” to “awwww shit, did they really just do that?”

The brunt of ACTION 900 finishes Cornell’s fascinating exploration of Lex Luthor and his quest for the prize of the Black Ring energy. It’s a satisfying resolution if not surprising. Superman finally makes his first appearance in this saga and of course he saves the day, but Cornell uses this conclusion to highlight the man part of the Superman. It’s interesting how human he tries to paint Superman, but still relegates Luthor to a pure reflection of evil incarnate. This didn’t strike me as I was reading this particular vignette, but after reading all of the supplemental material, Superman’s humanity is an overarching theme that can’t be ignored. In some of the back-ups it is blatantly stated as the walk-away. We’ve always known Luthor is evil, but in recent years this evil has been painted as almost altruistic, in that he does these evil deeds for the betterment of mankind. Not so much the case here; this guy is really just a big cry-baby prick when all is said and done. Once dark Luthor is resolved the rest of Cornell’s time is spent setting up the next big Super arc with the team of Doomsdays created by General Lane. You can tell this was Cornell’s least favorite part to write. And I have to wonder if multiple Doomsdays is a great arc choice, especially given some of the supplemental pages in ACTION 900, which if they are in fact canon, they could produce some damn thought provoking next steps for the Big S.

So what were the supplemental tales by the cast of who’s who in comics today? I’m going to break them down by most impactful and therefore the most interesting on the Optimous scale.

Goyer provides a timely and topical tale that takes Superman in a direction we have been clamoring for as fans for years. It’s no secret that the comic community bemoaned in loud choruses against Superman’s “Walk across America.” Aside from sounding like a money raising activity for feline AIDS, the story didn’t really ground Superman as much as make him look like a loafer. Goyer’s story, “The Incident,” is the real deal on how Superman should be behaving in today’s world climate and adds governmental cloak and dagger that truly makes one fear the White House instead of collectively laugh at it. Superman flies to Tehran during a demonstration for a free government and stands between rebels and government forces. Not a punch was thrown in this vignette yet the impact of his simply standing is the most far reaching change we have seen since Superman’s inception. When the American government gets wind of this action they set up a clandestine meeting between Supes and our National Security Advisor. Goyer brilliantly positions Kryptonite-wielding snipers in strategic locations as S gets his ass handed to him for his actions and the fact that people associate his actions with America’s. So what’s a Superman to do? One would expect kowtowing instead of his choice to (SPOILER ALERT) renounce his American citizenship. As I said earlier, I have no idea if these stories are canon, but if they are, I expect a few rabid hate articles to appear on FOX News within hours of this book’s release. This is Superman against the backdrop of today’s world and Goyer gets the highest marks for finally recognizing how small the world has become since Superman’s inception. To relegate the most powerful man on Earth to the protector of one city is stupid, and I hope DC has the testicular fortitude to further germinate this wonderful seed.

My next favorite piece was Lindelof’s “Life Support.” The story is basically a retelling of Jor-El preparing to send zygote Kal into space. The humanity Lindelhof brings to the piece, though, is simply gut-wrenching. There are no crystalline spires, nor is Jor-El adorned in super space garb acting as an emotionless void. It’s a take on Krypton I have never seen before and telling the story through the eyes of a young scientist hired by Jor-El to help him build Kal’s ship was a point-of-view spark of originality I haven’t seen since I saw the POV channel on RedTube. Two fathers waiting for a world to die — brilliant in its simplicity. I do have one nit, though, on the art side. Krypton’ sun is red…that is all.

The other back-ups are nice, but not earth shattering. Plus they really were slightly heavy-handed in the message of Superman being as human as the next guy. I was worried when I saw the Johns/Frank team-up in the credits for this book. The Douche will not abide any activity that diverts their attention from BATMAN: EARTH ONE. Fortunately it was simply a two-pager about Lois bringing the Legion of Super Heroes to Metropolis for a pizza party. The same can be said for Donner’s storyboard about a suit that enhances human capabilities and Dini’s story ‘Autobiography.” Again, these play on the concept that Superman is human and they both use that line as a walk away just in case you are too obtuse to understand subtext.

Part house cleaning, part set-up and part some new directions that could truly have legs if DC decides to run with them. But in the end this is a monumental achievement that should be praised (and not just for the lack of advertisements, although that was a very nice true bonus).

Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2011 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.

SIGIL #1-2

Writer: Mike Carey
Art: Leonard Kirk, Patrik Olliffe, Ed Tadeo


Writer: Mark Waid
Art: Mirco Pierfederici
Publisher: Marvel/CrossGen
Reviewer: Irish Rican

Was anyone truly surprised back in July of 2010 when Marvel Comics, after being acquired by Disney, announced a relaunch of CrossGen Comics, which had also been purchased by Disney years previously? Certainly the past few years have shown us that was is old is now new again with Red Circle, Wildstorm, and Milestone getting ushered into the DC Universe and Warren Ellis' short-lived yet incredible take on the New Universe. I won't be surprised to see Marvel figure out the rights to the Ultraverse in upcoming years (Prime Time!) and Valiant actually publishing new books. Hell, I bet you Jim Lee and I will be doing a DEATHMATE sequel by the close of the decade.

I was never much of a CrossGen fan. As one who gravitates to the quarter bins I picked up many issues at a cheap price which only caught me small parts of the larger story. The one CrossGen product I loved wasn't put out by CrossGen at all - Intec's phenomenal Digital Comics only made a blip in the comic world back in 2002 but it schooled me pretty deeply into the worlds of WAY OF THE RAT, SOJOURN, NEGATION, MERIDIAN, and SCION.

SIGIL had been one of CrossGen's longest running titles but Marvel's SIGIL isn't a sci-fi book like its predecessor. In fact the series has something akin to that of Newuniversal where instead of having multiple books that interweave, we have one book with many reintroduced characters. Sigil is the perfect name for such a book as it explains the StarBrandish power tattoos that certain characters bear throughout the universe.

SIGIL #1 has been out for a month and deals with a young girl named Samantha Rey. She's bothered in school by a mean bully and her friends, she daydreams about pirate ships in class, and she's a hot redhead. Yeah the last one is more indicative of the character then the plot, but she's that hot Mary Jane type that I would have tried to mack on. After being chased down by the bully in issue 1, Samantha is whisked away into her fantasy world where she lands on a pirate ship known as El Cazador. Another pirate, the dread Pirate October, has picked this moment to engage the El Cazador looking for some sort of map. Sam's in the middle of it all, with a new fresh Sigil tattoo that has suddenly appeared giving her powers she doesn't understand and warping her in and out of all kind of realities.

The action is SIGIL is fairly quick and the story moves at a rapid pace. In fact there might have been too much setup in the first issue when you put into perspective that Sigil is only, at this point, a 4 issue miniseries. With the action heating up quickly in issue 2, and having only 2 more issues to go at this point, it makes me wish that we would have gotten to the action a bit quicker in the first issue.

That complaint is my lone complaint for the series. The positives on this relaunch can land squarely on the shoulders of Mike Carey, still doing amazing work on his awesome DC/Vertigo THE UNWRITTEN, who delves right into the CrossGen folklore. I'm truly unsure of where Carey is taking us on this journey he's cooked up but in two issues he's done what most of the other CrossGen books had failed to do: he's hooked me. I'm hooked. Will Sam's journeys take her to other worlds familiar to those who know CrossGen? Will her SIGIL take her to deep space to hang with the NEGATION crew (please), to learn kung-fu from the Jade Rat (please), or hang out with SOJOURN's Arwyn on Quin (pretty, pretty please)?

Sky’s the limit at this point and one can only hope that this relaunch is successful enough where this is just the beginning for Sam. Combined with Leonard Kirk's beautiful artwork (this book is damn pretty), SIGIL has become my first must-own title of 2011. While I'm sure there are some who would love to see all the books suddenly restart right where the titles left off, I'm already loving what Marvel has done with this once forgotten universe.

Flip over to Marvel's other CrossGen book and you'll find a wonderful Victorian Era detective series called RUSE. I'm not sure if RUSE starts off where the title left off but everything seems to be in place including protagonists Simon Archard and Emma Bishop, mysteries that need solving, and RUSE's familiar writer extraordinaire Mark Waid.

Not familiar with the book? Like I said - it's a witty detective series. We launch straight into the end of an investigation where detective Simon Archard has just unmasked a murderer. Luckily his "sidekick", the lovely, talented, and overworked beauty Emma Bishop, is there to actually help capture the suspect once he runs off on Archard. With yet another victory under their belts the duo launch straight into another investigation - this one involving the search for the person who would love nothing more than to kill Bishop.

Being a detective mystery series I hate giving too much away. That, and the first issue really serves as a 'welcome back' to the characters who were very beloved in their original series. Having read random issues of the original series I know that a lot remains intact from the CrossGen-to-Marvel transition, especially Waid's writing. Welcome back to RUSE, Mr. Waid. You've been sorely missed. If you are looking for a Marvel book that is very different from the status quo then you don't have to look further than RUSE.

Yeah I know I'm coming across like a frickin' CrossGen pitch guy but I honestly don't remember ever being this impressed with any relaunch. Launching only two titles has me near salivating for the next issue and I'm very much looking forward to reading RUSE #2 when it hits shelves this week. How do you make a guy who never cared much about CrossGen care about CrossGen? By making great comics - which is exactly what Marvel has done.

Ryan 'Irish Rican' McLelland has worked in movies and comics journalism for the past several years before joining the @$$holes here at AICN. Ryan’s comic work has already graced comic shelves with GRUNTS: WAR STORIES, Arcana’s PHILLY, and THE SENTINELS ANTHOLOGY. He rarely updates his blog but when he does it can be read at and his "weekly" webcomic RETALES can be found at here.

’68 #1

Writer: Mark Kidwell
Art: Nat Jones, Tim Vigil, & Jay Fotos
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Longbox Girl

[zom-bee] - noun 1. the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and soul-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.

Ironically, the definition of zombie very much resembles the current existence of zombies in comics today. Mute & soulless stories given the semblance of life, but instead of supernatural forces it is being done by wasting the talents of some of comicdom’s more gifted artists and writers, all for the most evil purpose of all: greed.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love a good zombie comic. I will go absolutely ga-ga for a good zombie movie. But just because something has zombies in it does not make it good. This was the case over a decade ago and the situation certainly hasn’t changed today. If you insist on using zombies in your medium, be it film, TV, comics, novels or toy lines, it has to bring something new and inspired to the table. The “something something something with zombies” premise just doesn’t fly anymore. That brings me to ’68.

In this case the “something something something” is the Vietnam War. It was originally a one-shot done back in 2006 by Mark Kidwell and Nat Jones, essentially the same crew that brought us this new iteration, as if the one shot did not suffice. I find it hard to believe that five years later, fans were clamoring for more Vietnam zombies. Unfortunately, with the success of THE WALKING DEAD TV series, the rotting corpse that was the zombie craze again found life and Kidwell & Jones decided it was time to get the band back together. I don’t want to say the story wasn’t decent, or that the art wasn’t above mediocre, because they were. It is just that I didn’t find the book necessary at all. As opposed to taking two talented creators and forcing them to use their abilities to birth something fresh and new, the book screams “please buy this book so we can go to pilot next season”. But I hate to get too soap-boxy on the issue. As an impartial reviewer, I must attack the task at hand and see this book on its own merit, not on its own tired premise.

So how does ’68 stand as a comic?

Not bad. This may not sound extremely favorable, but I assure you I read plenty of comics that are not nearly as lucky to get such a positive stamp of near approval. The writing takes you through the story easily enough without bogging you down with excessive war jargon (although the word Charlie seems to be thrown around a little too much. We get it, you saw APOCALYPSE NOW) or unnecessary back story. As of yet, there is no explanation for the zombies and that may be its saving grace. While the story never really grabbed hold and dragged me along for the ride, it did keep me reading. Admittedly, there is an interesting and potentially creepy situation that the team’s tunnel rat finds himself falling into, but even then the art and story didn’t quite gel enough to give me the willies, like a true horror comic should.

The art in the book certainly wasn’t doing the story any favors. I think with two very distinct genres, war & zombies, the art team had quite a gritty and gruesome pool of imagery to pull from. In ’68, however, that wasn’t the case. The art was typical. It is what I would expect from just your average underwhelming superhero comic. Looking back through the pages it occurs to me that the characters never quite raise their facial expressions beyond annoyed, or maybe “Ouch, I stubbed my goddamn toe” pain. It’s the same reason so many low budget horror movies just don’t make it. You can’t be drawn into a scary situation when all your third rate actors can’t convincingly scream or pull off “terrified”. The art was also very clean, which was more than a little off-putting. For a Superman story, clean art is all well and good. But for zombies smack dab in the jungle during war time, I want PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL grit and filth. In the book’s defense, I will say that even THE WALKING DEAD took a few issues to get me into it.

Just like Romero’s original zombies themselves, sometimes a good zombie story takes off at a slow crawl. Perhaps Kidwell & Jones have big plans for the story that will take them in all sorts of crazy directions. The advantage they have is that their story is taking place in the past. They are in a situation where they can literally rewrite history. If we find the tale taking us out of the jungle and into all that was going on in 1968 there could be a real story. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to see a team of hippy protesters ravaged by blood thirsty zombies? Can you just imagine Richard Nixon trembling behind his desk in the oval office, refilling his pistol so that he can pop a few more zombies right between the eyes? The potential is there, if the creative team chooses to use it.

But as it stands, if ’68 turns out to just be Soldier vs. Zombie in a non-compelling jungle battle then I believe Image would have to follow Rule #2 of ZOMBIELAND and give this title a Double Tap!

Advance Review: In stores today!


Writer: Judd Winick
Art: Aaron Lopresti (pencils), Matt Ryan (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo

Wonder Woman: "Enough! That's the last person you'll hurt today!"Omac Prime: "Please. I think we both know -- YOU are the last person I'm going to hurt today."

I'll admit that this series had a lull or two during its 24 issue run, but god-dammnit it's going out on a high note. I really have to hand it to the writers at DC for giving a couple of their characters some actual growth. The once benign Maxwell Lord has become a mastermind of mammoth proportions and the formerly bumbling Booster Gold has finally grown a pair. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch as these two men followed their destiny to bigger things, on both sides of the morality coin.

I know this is blasphemous, coming from a child of the 80's and 90's, but I never had any real love for the ole JLI crew. Yes, yes I understand the importance of such a comic when comics were getting darker and grittier, and their place in the hearts of many and blim blam blippity blap, but they just never resonated with me as a team whilst my balls was a-droppin'. I'm curious to see what you talkbackers have to say about this series in reference to the old series. This one seems more serious but with some humor tossed in, and I think it works! I think my problem with the old series is that the over-arching stories never got ahold of me, whereas I'm invested up to the aforementioned previously dropped balls in the whole idea of this team of underdogs and their relation to the nefarious ne'erdo-well Max Lord.

It's this relationship that not only holds the team itself together but keeps me coming back on a monthly basis. I don't think the B and C-listers that populate this team are enough to do it, but the obstacles Max throws at them on the daily are really damn interesting. How do you beat a guy that can make the entire world forget he existed? That can alter the perceived realities of anyone he pleases? Is such a victory even possible?

Well, you'll just have to read this one to find out. If I were like Max, I would just make you buy it, but I guess I'll have to settle for strongly recommending it to your face.

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: Peter David
Penciler: Emanuela Lupacchino
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp

Man, I have to hand it to that Peter David. Just when I think he’s juggling all the plotlines that one could possibly handle, David lobs a big blazing torch up there with all the precariously balanced balls. Let’s run them down: we have the current central mystery of why a trio of superpowered female assassins are trying to take down New York City’s Mayor J. Jonah Jameson; that’s the heaviest of the balls. Then there are the smaller balls, the subplots that have been planted in this series: Rahne Sinclair’s half-werewolf, half-Norse demigod baby. Darwin’s transformation from a super-adaptive mutant into a possible god himself. Layla Miller’s still-shadowy deal with Victor Von Doom (I know that a cursory explanation has been given, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s another shoe waiting to drop here). The subtle hints given last issue about the possible deeper connection between fellow Mojo-versers Longshot and Shatterstar. And now the flaming club added to this whirligig: I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet read this issue, but I’ll give you a hint--the dramatic cover by David Yardin has a lot to do with it.

That’s a lot to keep track of, but I’ve gotta say… Peter David is a man who can handle his balls.

But multiple plotlines alone are not nearly as impressive as David’s ability to hit the reader in the gut with a moment of true drama—not the cheap melodrama that is more the norm for the comic book landscape (especially in the superhero genre, where melodramatic emoting seems to come with the spandex), but the kind of drama that sticks in your brain for days, demanding your attention, as that “can’t wait to find out what happens next” monkey securely hoists itself onto your back. And though the reveal at the end of this issue isn’t quite as powerful as the now-famous “Madrox absorbs his baby” shocker from a couple years back, for this reviewer, at least, it’s a close second. Again, I’m not going to reveal any spoilers, but I will say that newer or more casual readers might not comprehend the bombshell dropped at this issue’s close. But those of us who know that Layla Miller’s mutant power is NOT that she “knows stuff” and remember what her ability actually IS—along with recalling the side affects caused by using that power—know that big, nasty things are brewing for the X-Factor crew. Like I said, not exactly the “holy shit” moment of Madrox and his never-existed child, but it definitely elicited an “oh shit!” from me as I came to the last page.

David’s story being presented in the graphic format of a comic book means the visuals need to have as much impact as the words, and once again I sing praises to Emanuela Lupacchino’s extraordinary artwork. Lupacchino combines dynamic composition with exquisite linework and beautifully rendered figures and faces to make the perfect accompaniment to the text; it’s a gorgeous blend of the over-the-top action and pop-art sensibilities of the classic superhero comic and the down-to-earth, human-scale setting of David’s mutant detectives. I also have to point out the brilliant coloring of Matt Milla, which enhances the line art with a sophisticated palette that manages to be both bold and subtle all at once. I read the phrase “superstar artist” thrown around a lot, but mostly about the same three or four artists. Frankly, it’s time that this artistic team got recognized for the exemplary work being done every month on this title—X-FACTOR showcases a near-perfect marriage of text and artwork.

I could go on and on about how great this comic is, but David’s storytelling and Lupacchino’s artwork speak for themselves. If you haven’t yet experienced the amazing juggling on display in X-FACTOR, go check it out—having a mess o’balls tossed in your face has never been so satisfying.

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.


Writers: Geoff Johns & Tony Bedard
Artists: Doug Mahnke & Tyler Kirkham
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

War! Ha! What is it good for? Well GREEN LANTERN titles for one thing. Think about it: before the term war started invading the shores of GREEN LANTERN titles, this universe was so far below B-List Kathy Griffin’s handlers wouldn’t even line her cage with copies of the book. But with the word “war” before words like SINESTRO CORPS, the GL universe transcended from the also-ran of the DC universe to the fulcrum of transformation.

Now we here are 5 chapters into this “War of the Green Lanterns”, the storm that had no quiet to precede it. It’s been one hell of a cosmic ride leading into the relative quiet of these chapters as Johns gets new readers up to speed on this grand new Technicolor mythology he has created; a lost Guardian exacting vengeance over emotional ideology against the big douches that come in tiny packages, the OA power battery infested once again with the Parralax parasite, the entire Green Lantern Corps under the control of Krona (save those immune to its effects), the stalwart bearers of the other light rings bound inside the Big Black Book of Doom!

I say these issues are relatively quiet, but don’t mistake that for lack of action. These are the planning pages, the climax on how this epic shit storm will stipend. These are the chapters where our old fan favorites Jordan, Gardner, Rayner and Stewart decide just how they are going to save the universe sans infested Green Rings.

GREEN LANTERN opens with Gardner and Jordan fresh off their ring infused spat, still trying to find the entrance to the Green House, a safe-house buried underneath a snowy earth tundra (fun irony there by the way). Gardner and Jordan’s polar opposite personalities have always provided a fun Odd Couple dynamic and Johns seems to relish these moments as they prepare for take-off aboard a shiny space ship parked inside the Green House’s garage. The moments between these two are splendid as was the book’s opening with Krona offering a little Guantanamo Bay hospitality to Kilowog, as he tries to break the Big K’s spirit and bring him to the dark side…well, light side…the dark green side. Jordan and Gardner make it to OA and team up with Rayner and Stewart hiding amongst the shadows from their Krona controlled green brethren. While none of these guys can use their Green rings for fear of their Parallax immunity breaking, Jordan fortunately has the rings of his fallen Rainbow Bright league at his disposal after their unfortunate trapping inside the black book of OA. Gardner and Jordan work off of past experience by donning the red and yellow rings respectively. This of course leaves Stewart and Rayner with their perpetual character conundrum of “what the fuck do we do with these guys?” To keep the story moving Rayner goes blue, because you know he hopes this shit will end, and Stewart goes indigo because that has to be the best ring since it’s all colors combined. Not the soundest logic, but if I wanted real science I would be reading text books instead of comic books.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS was the weaker of the two entries. No fault of Bedard’s; he is sadly left to sweep up after John’s epic construction. This issue is one part training days as the crew gets accustomed to channeling the emotions that will power their new rings and really just serves to bring Mogo, the living Green Lantern planet, into the picture. However, I will place some blame on my “ho-hum” for this issue on Kirkham’s shoulders. After Mahnke’s top notch super detailed renderings in the prior chapter, Kirkham merely comes off as passable. There should simply be more distinction to Rayner and Jordan than hair color and there were times when Gardner was so featureless he looked like one of those kids on the conveyor belt in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Not bad, but it was like going from a slice of filet mignon to a whopper. Both good, but the quality distinction is undeniable.

With BRIGHTEST DAY almost behind us, and the War of the Green Lanterns set for its grand exit right around the time the “Green Lantern” movie hits theaters, I implore DC and Johns to give these titles some down time. There has been a fuckton of new direction thrown at these books and what they need now is to let these seeds grow for awhile without any new elements thrown in. It’s been a lot for old fans to absorb so I can only imagine the confusion for all the youngins that will want to read these books once the movie does come out. Keep kicking in my teeth for the time being, but please provide some soft story tapioca once the next five issues are over.

Advance Review: In stores next week!


Writer: Mark Andrew Smith
Artist: Armand Villavert
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer : Optimous Douche

Mark Andrew Smith is one of the best names in comics you’ve never heard of (yeah, sort of like Booster Gold). While many out there can scribble words on a page, few can capture sheer imagination like he does on the page. I fell in love with Smith’s first work THE NEW BRIGHTON ARCHEOLOGICAL SOCIETY about two years ago. While NEW BRIGHTON was dubbed a “kids book”, I found myself enthralled with his infusion of ancient lore and the way he could speak to the child audience while still making a middle-aged man thirst for more pages.

Needless to say, I was taint tickled when the GLADSTONE .pdf hit my inbox. I have no love of kids, but I do want to see the comic medium survive until I breathe my last douchey breath, which means someone needs to make books that the little shitlins will enjoy so one day they can start creating their own. Smith has succeeded in this endeavor with GLADSTONE and once again crafted material that Mom and Dad will want to wrest from their kid’s tiny sausage fingers after the little terrors fall asleep from their children’s valium.

As the name implies GLADSTONE’S SCHOOL FOR WORLD CONQUERORS is the training ground for tomorrow’s super villains. Smith breaks the fourth wall to create a fantastic fable on the origin of this nefarious training ground housed under glass domes on Mars. Why Mars? Who not? While that question is never addressed Smith does use the first part of the book to tell a tale of intrigue and back-stabbing to get the reader up-to-speed on why the school exists. I don’t want to ruin anything, but let’s just say Gladstone was a shit criminal and he does not run the school, but rather watches over his creation encased in lead at the school’s entry way. After we learn the how’s and why’s, Smith pulls us into what will be the ongoing story for future issues.

Smith must be a bit of a man-child because there’s no other way he can so masterfully capture the child’s voice. He also must be one hell of a comic fan, because every trope of super villainy is leveraged in this inaugural issue. From the school’s curriculum to the Kid Nefarious’ lesson in victory speeches, Smith over turns every comic villain stone and delivers it exactly as a child would view these things. Revenge, blustering, and posturing become cute and adorable while still feeling real. These kids are bad eggs, but you just want to wrap them up and cuddle them until they can one day melt your face off with their death rays.

Smith uses this issue to set the stage for intrigue in both the school and the larger universe he’s creating. On the school front you have the popular kid, the bullies and unrequited schoolgirl crushes…Smith sets many plates spinning, but never belabors any of these points. The larger universe is only touched on briefly as a super hero and super villain meet in space to stage the actions and locations for their next epic battle.

On the art front, Villavert is the spot-on perfect choice for this book. He conveys a cartoony style without ever becoming campy and the hyper-saturated coloring will make all those developing minds out there coo with glee. If I had to offer one critique I would challenge Villavert to add more details to his backgrounds, he uses the wash a few times too many, especially on the full page or two-page spreads. It’s no more than you see in any other book; this has just always been something that has gotten me assed up since the early Image days.

I wish nothing more than success for Smith and company. GLADSTONE’S is not just original, it was outright my most enjoyable read this week.


Writer: David Lapham
Art: Kyle Baker
Publisher: MAX Comics
Reviewer: MajinFu

The MAX imprint has a reputation for violence and foul language, thanks mostly to its longest running title, the PUNISHER. What really separated MAX from Marvel was their willingness to explore more mature subjects stretching outside of the mainstream superhero stories. Publications like ALIAS and DESTROYER continued to justify the publication’s existence by telling us stories based in the superhero archetypes. Yes, these comics could be extremely violent, but they were also pushing past the superficiality of superheroes to address issues that are hardly relevant to kids, things like conspiracies, unwanted pregnancies or the complications of aging. MAX is also widely known for snatching up some of the most innovative artists in the industry, so they’re publishing consistently, gushingly gorgeous books. DEADPOOL MAX honors this tradition by dealing with some touchy subjects with all the color and humor that comics can convey, making it a real gem for the reader looking for something to spice up their reading pile.

Comics are a visual medium, so Kyle Baker on art really isn’t hurting this book in any way. The impact of his imagery can be summed in a single haunting flashback of a tragic past, told in a single panel of this issue. The bold color filling solid figures is immediately distinguishable from the scratchier style used in the rest of the book. It speaks more volumes about the character’s tragedy than any of her dialog, which is kind of the point. The rest of the book isn’t as serious, but it’s almost as good looking. Baker uses the same rough style he’s been employing since issue 1, with occasional backgrounds photoshopped in to give the whole thing a surreal twist. His art is consistently moody and detailed, making DEADPOOL MAX one of the better looking books on the stand each month. His characters are also deeply expressive and emote well, which is fitting since this is one of the more melodramatic issues of the series so far.

Yes, I said melodramatic, but don’t let that scare you away from DEADPOOL MAX. Writer David Lapham doesn’t let up on the laughs either. In fact, the first two pages alone are some of the funniest in the series so far, exploring Deadpool’s enthusiasm for fatherhood. Another thing that has separated the MAX line from normal Marvel is the characters, which aren’t necessarily less complicated, but their feelings and thoughts are intertwined in a way that is usually both more realistic and less apt to simply spell out the character’s motivations. DEADPOOL MAX is no exception, depicting a couple that treats each other like garbage when they seem to be the only people available to comfort and listen to each other.

Deadpool’s girlfriend Inez, first introduced as a nurse in the second issue, is an amalgamation of several female characters, namely Domino and Black Widow, with a few more references to femme fatales less observant readers may miss. Her pregnancy, revealed in the last issue, is the primary source for this story, namely that Deadpool wants it while she regrets ever meeting the guy. This twisted relationship is explored through Inez’s multiple personalities, which are played for laughs, but still bring about the downfall of her character. It’s this compromise between comedy and the gravity of the situations that makes DEADPOOL MAX such a winner, as most of the issue deals with the super scary and very real problems of bringing a new life into this world and raising a child with the person you trust enough to try it with.

At first glance, Deadpool doesn’t seem like the family type, which is why this issue is so excellent even when it seems like it’s coming out of left field. The story works so well precisely because he is so blindly invested in a loving relationship that we as the readers know just isn’t meant to last. It’s played for laughs, but there is a tragic twist to the whole story that only skyrockets the overall quality of the book.

Of course, Deadpool is back to his old ways by the end of the comic. That’s no spoiler, as DEADPOOL MAX proves to be a suitable carrier of the MAX logo, taking an archetypal superhero character, in this case the crazed mercenary, and instilling him with multiple layers of deviousness, a struggle to empathize, and dare I say it, a heart of gold. If you aren’t reading this book, you’re missing out on some of the best comics this year, or any year before or after.


Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Brian Hurtt
Publisher: Oni Press
Reviewed by Humphrey Lee

The downside to consistency, the way I see it, is that it’s so… consistent. As a reviewer that tends to lead to apathy as you find yourself leaving the material on the wayside, not wanting to scrounge up a couple hundred words to say “Yep, it’s still pretty good.” The shame of it being, especially in the case of a book like THE SIXTH GUN here, which really has been of higher quality (and yes, consistently so) since its start about a year ago, is that smaller print books like these need the attention. You take a book for granted and then all of a sudden you realize it didn’t get the Eisner nom it probably should have and you feel at least a little to blame (though I admit there’s a bit of arrogance on this end to assume anyone gives a damn about your Internet space). Well, I like to think of myself as a doer, so here’s me doing.

Yes, for eleven issues now THE SIXTH GUN has been a consistently enjoyable read. The end of the second arc here is mostly the level of progress I like to see in a book I assume plans on sticking around for a while. The mythos that Bunn and Hurtt are creating around a period piece in an era that is always fun to visit what with a Wild West that is becoming a little less wild clashing with a “Hoodoo” underbelly. The loas hunting down our main two characters, Drake Sinclair and Becky Montcrief, and the mystical layers that Drake throws down in addition to his bullets to fight back the darkness give the story and action just that bit more depth. I would say that I would like a more expansive delving into the history of this world, mainly revolving around the forces after the titular pistols, but all in due time I imagine.

That theme of consistency flows down into the characters as well, as Becky and Drake primarily steadily show off a little more of the traits we’ve come to expect from them. Drake is a that kind of roguish anti-hero that is jerkish enough that you wonder why you even pull for him but cool enough that you justify it anyway. Becky also plays well in the “wide-eyed girl in over her head but adapting” role as well. I do have some of the same feelings on these two though, that maybe its time we learned a little more than the occasional slip about them, especially Drake, and get a fuller picture of who they are. But again, the little bits we get each issues, particularly Drake’s cunning, are great in and of themselves, and this particular issue was no exception.

Cut it up and parcel it out however you please, this is one of those books that does indeed “have it all” between both a setting and characters that are highly enjoyable and that you want to get to know better. The action that pushes those two primary elements together is exciting (and bloody) enough as well and, of course, exceptionally rendered by the deft hand of Brian Hurtt. Sadly enough, apparently all of this was not enough to get this title a well-deserved Best New Series, but that does not mean it does not deserve to have accolades put upon it. And, of course, it does not make it any less deserving of your discretionary dollars. We’re only two arcs in folks and given the c-word that they have shown and the potential they have built, there’s plenty more quality to come.

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.

Advance Review: In stores today!


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Bryan Hitch (pencils), Paul Neary (inks)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo

Well sweet sassy molassy, that was a bucket of fun. This one has it all, kids! Mystery, suspense, a naked Jessica Drew. A naked Jessica Drew drawn by Bryan Hitch. The Intelligencia, a spaceknight, and something that's always fun to look at: an Avengers round table meeting featuring far too many characters and plates of what look like little delicious...Nilla Wafers. Yup, I'm calling it, the Avengers cater their emergency meetings with plates of Nilla Wafers.

Seriously, there is a lot to love here. Cap's reaction to S.W.O.R.D. director Abigail Brand, evil geniuses...and M.O.D.O.K.! Even though, at its heart, it is basically a set-up issue for a post-“Fear Itself” storyline, it doesn't read like one. It whets the appetite just enough to have something to look forward to in the future without feeling like a commercial, and thank Thor for that.

I feel like I haven't seen a fully illustrated Bryan Hitch comic in years, and god is it a glorious thing to behold. This book is beautiful through and through, but I do have one gripe. There is a gorgeous splash page, where Thor, Iron Man, Protector and Ms. Marvel are all zipping full speed at the viewer...except for Ms. Marvel, who's positioning makes her look like she just remembered that she forgot her keys back at Avengers Tower or something. Everyone is heading, more or less, towards the panel except for her! Maybe I'm the only one, but I actually kinda laughed at that. "Be right with you guys, just remembered I left my vibrator on...I'll catch up."

Oh, and can we please come up with something better to call Noh-Varr (previously Marvel Boy) than "Protector"? Gah. Awful, just awful.

Quick hits of independent comics for brave folks looking for a taste outside of the norm, that’s what Indie Jones is all about.

H20 Comics

Reading a book like THE REDEEMER is always a thrill for me because you can tell so much effort went into it just to get it made. There is a genuine feeling of passion about this book and though occasionally it misses a beat here and there, it’s a book I wholeheartedly can get behind. REDEEMER tells the tale of a detective that’s as noir-ish as they come. He’s lost track of the last few days of his life and it appears that these days have some significance not only to the fate of the city of Pittsburgh, but possibly to the entire world. Along the way there’s a ninja, a nun being set up as the next Mother Theresa, some political intrigue, some war zone action in Jordan, and a whole lot of scenes with our detective Bram not knowing what the heck is going on. Writer Timothy Robert Gray juggles all of these plots pretty well, though occasionally his caption boxes explain a bit too much of what’s going on in the scene. Artist Louis Manna is pretty talented in the way he morphs one panel into the next seamlessly, reminiscent of Gene Colan’s old TOMB OF DRACULA work. Occasionally there’s a word balloon indicator that isn’t pointing correctly to the speaker, but tiny flaws like this just add to the charm of this book. And the thanks in the back of the book oozes with sincerity. You can pick up a copy of this labor of love and support the independent spirit here. - Ambush Bug

RavenHammer Comics

Brian Williams and Rudolfo Buscaglia team up to bring the HARLEM SHADOW to life in a tale set in the late 1920’s about the first “official” black paranormal crime fighter and his impact on the streets of Harlem (duh). Williams, who was so brilliant in LUCIUS HAMMER, does a great job of capturing everything that gave “birth” to “cool” in that era. That includes some pretty nifty dialog and (of course), gangsters and tommy guns. I also like the careful attention he pays to the evolution of his characters but amidst the crime fighting and self discovery, I felt an odd disconnect with the story. It looks good and reads even better, but at times it feels like all heart and no soul. The opening scrawl describes the HARLEM SHADOW as being known for his “scary appearance, vicious hand-to-hand combat skills and mastery of two lethal revolvers,” yet I didn’t feel like he lived up to his billing. Maybe I was spoiled by reading LUCIUS HAMMER first and came in with unrealistic expectations, but for my money, I’m looking forward to a little more paranormal for this crime fighter. - Mr. Pasty

Arcana Studios

What happens when an alien invasion is accidentally thwarted by the shlubs who work at the local video store? That’s the question answered by this comic, created and written by Jeff Aden and drawn by Ray Catuto, Junior Bruce and Jenn Lee. At first I was thrown off by the fact that the protagonists are a bunch of talking, clothes-wearing animals—a raccoon, monkey, giant red ant, and a couple of unidentifiable beast-men (cats? kangaroos, maybe?)—but then I relaxed my sphincter and thought, “Hey, if Disney can have a dog-sized mouse running around with a duck, why not?” And once I got past my funny-animal prejudice, this book was a hoot. The humor skews slightly more mature than one might expect from the visuals (there are references to feces-hurling and a couple of dick jokes, albeit of the “tee-hee!” variety rather than graphic Kevin Smith-style vulgarity) and lend a snarkiness to the jokes whose juxtaposition with the cute cartoon creatures adds an extra element of fun to the whole thing. Having three different artists with three distinct styles draw the book is a little bit jarring, but all three segments share a common style of page composition, which helps maintain a fluidity throughout the entire graphic novel. Once again I have to invoke the name of Ben Edlund as STRANGER DANGER presents a very TICK-like sense of comic timing, especially in the case of the alien overlord and his minions. Another very fun change-up from the everyday stuff on the stands. - BottleImp

InVision Comics

GENECY was described to me as “Conan meets the Silver Surfer.” What they forgot to mention was that it also takes place on a roller coaster, as Gerald Cooper has the reader up and down through all three opening acts. How would I describe it? Well, there’s lots of spaceships and arguing followed by lots of explosions and brooding. It concludes with lots of magic and blinding light. I got lost somewhere in the second act trying to keep up with all the exotic names and changes in scenery but I can’t deny how sharp the illustrations are. Eddy Barrows has a good command of light and depth and I like the little extra touches he gives to his battle scenes. As far as standard revenge fare goes, GENECY is an entertaining read but I think Cooper can benefit from taking his foot off the gas so the reader can actually appreciate the frames that are whizzing by. There is no shortage of action and lots of epic-sounding dialogue but I was definitely in over my head. This one is for the hardcores. - Mr. Pasty

Lonely Robot Comics

This 6-issue miniseries (created and drawn by Brett Wood and written by Eric Rampson) is a raucous romp through some of comicdom’s best clichés. Aliens, time travel, werewolves, Nazis, more aliens, a big dude who looks like a cross between Galactus and the Watcher, Bigfoot—all revolving around the origin and exploits of a vapid, self-centered, exuberant superhero. The comic is irreverent without descending into the trap of becoming mere parody, bringing to mind the best of the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI stories and Edlund’s THE TICK. If I have one complaint, it’s that the artwork in issue #6 suffers from having Wood’s pencils inked by another artist, and the smoothness of WJ Grpaes’ inking robs Wood’s artwork of the angular, jittery linework that gives so much character to the drawings of the previous five issues. Nonetheless, SILVER BULLET is a shining example of that rare breed of truly funny superhero comics. – BottleImp

ShatterDay Comics

A title like that is just full of win. While I was initially disappointed to learn it wasn’t about the grout in my upstairs bathroom, the MR. MILDEW in question is just as heinous. The story here is about an 8-year-old boy named Jack who has a run-in with MR. MILDEW, an old associate of his grandfather’s. Turns out the old coot hates God because he suffers from psoriasis and survived a great flood. Well, actually it has more to do with his pact with the Devil and some other fun stuff but I won’t ruin the surprise because it’s worth finding out on your own. MR. MILDEW is crudely drawn which actually enhances this haunting little tale rather than detract from it and I was astonished at how easily L.E. Mullin was able to draw me in with such broad strokes in his narrative. That’s probably because he does an exquisite job of getting the reader to see the world through Jack’s eyes and the perils of life as a creeped-out kid. So many stories exploit “the kid” as a cheap plot device but here Jack is used as a guide for the everlasting return. Bottom line: I ate this book up and can’t wait for issue #2. - Mr. Pasty

Image Comics

This is a comics, so if you’re younger than 13, the degree to which you will enjoy this book may have just dropped a few notches. That said, Super Dinosaur is a colorful romp into a world that you could easily see on the Saturday morning cartoons, which isn’t a bad thing in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it makes for some humorous scenarios and some vivid character work, thanks to scribe Kirkman. Howard is one of those artists whose work improves with each new project, and that’s no exception here. He puts in solid, vibrant work that is practically popping off the page, and his style is perfect for the subject matter. If I had any criticism, I’d say the word “awesome” was used a few times too many and the family-spn dynamic presents some problems that I hope won’t plague the story for too long. Still, this was a fun read and one of the highlights of my week. Highly recommended for tykes, or those with tykes, so you can enjoy this book together. - MajinFu

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