|Issue #49||Release Date: 2/22/12||Vol.#10|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
I, VAMPIRE #6/JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #6
NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1
THE THIRTY SIX #3
NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #6Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mikel Janin
I, VAMPIRE #6Writer: Joshua Fialkov
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
If you’re like me and only enjoy light meat when it comes to turkey, I invite you to step inside the wings and thighs of DC’s dark meat offerings I, VAMPIRE and JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. Both of these titles, along with ANIMAL MAN and SWAMP THING, represent the horror side of the New 52, where we forsake science mumbo jumbo in place of…well, mystical and spiritual mumbo jumbo, but it is different, damn it.
This is probably one of the worst places to start a review for either title since as formula is proving all arcs end with issue 6, but these are the most recent books and they are set on a collision course into one of the New 52’s first cross-over events, “Rise of the Vampires.”
I had concerns about both of these titles in the beginning with I, VAMPIRE sucking up most of my internal consternation. I understood why DC was going here; vampires are still a hot commodity despite the mass saturation into pop culture and subsequent mass cynicism in recent years. My concern related directly to how they were going to integrate mythical characters that are as powerful, if not more so, than any spandex schmuck to slap on a cod piece and emblazon an emblem on their chest. Masterfully, DC kept the two forces of greatness separate and directly pointed out the white elephant wearing the S emblem in the room. The vampires were basically the top dog on the food chain until five years ago and their concerns about this “new” crop of heroes has them more nervous than being invited into the garlic saturated kitchen vapors of Bucca di Beppo. Also, Fialkov took a myopic approach with this book, focusing on the romantic longing between ex-lovers and archrivals Mary and Andrew. Smartly, DC editorial made their world self-contained with only a hint of reference to the ever-changing universe around them. Up until issue 6, I, VAMPIRE has been an exercise in fighting the temptation to love that which we know will destroy us. It’s a great story and even the recent influx of Batman last issue did not taint that basic story structure.
The inclusion of JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK to the New 52 lineup concerned me on two fronts: one, do we actually need another JUSTICE LEAGUE, and two, could a team fueled solely by magic offer the kind of “will they, won’t they” escape drama that is a prerequisite for serial-based storytelling? In the past magic was always the golden parachute. “The Master of Evil has defeated Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. What do we do?” “Quick, we better call in Zatanna to speak backwards.” Basically, in the past magic was a crutch rather than a deep exploration of the dark arts. Where JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK first won me over is that it’s simply better than the other team books. Sure, if you like big shiny objects like a cooing toddler, then JUSTICE LEAGUE proper might keep you happy. Personally, I need more depth and less quips from the title. Sure it’s fun, but it ain’t earth shattering. JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, the one nostalgia had me most excited for, turned into an absolute train wreck. The jokes are bad, the threats are lame, and as much as I love the bastard, Booster Gold is a contrivance of the 80s. Greed is no longer good and neither is Booster without his usual supporting cast. Where JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK won me over was less the magic and more the crazy nut-jobs wielding that magic. The first arc was not without fault; there were times during the hunt to thwart Enchantress that I’ll fully admit required a second and third reading for true understanding. But the virtues far outweighed the fallacies. Madame Xanadu, Shade, Deadman, John Constantine and Zatanna’s mixed bag of emotional turmoil and desire to be left the hell alone offers a schadenfreude level of joy akin to the mixed bag of personalities thrown together during the JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL from the 80s. This latest issue left behind the nonsense with Enchantress and basically told this team you better stick together…or die. I’m perfectly OK with destiny and Madame Xanadu’s prognostications being the driving force behind bringing a team together. It feels more natural and original than current driving forces in other Justice Leagues of Bad Guy X attacks earth or past recruitments that were akin to kids swapping baseball cards (No, Mr. Robinson, I have not forgotten).
So now we see the two titles collide: Andrew the stalwart Vampire is seeking to eradicate Mary’s ambitions to vamp the whole world and it looks like JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK will be throwing him a big assist. I think this will bode well for JLD since it will give them a tangible legion of baddies to tussle with. As for I, VAMPIRE, we’ll have to see; I can only hope that the intimacy of the first arc will still carry through once I, VAMPIRE is thrown into the bright light of the larger New 52.
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-2012 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1Writer: Angelo Tirotto
Artist: Richard Jordan
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
Honestly, that's what grabbed my attention. I hate to be a stereotype, because I pride myself on being anything but; however...yeah. Boobs. That say "Surrender". Then...oh, it's called "No Place Like Home". Must be a retelling of Wizard of Oz, but with boobs. Sigh. I've already seen one episode of the television series “Grimm”, and several unfortunate episodes of the series “Ever After”. On top of that, I've been subjected to the absolutely awful “Tin Man”, wherein Zooey Deschanel's huge eyes portray a modern version of Dorothy (named Dee Gee) and travels to a place just like Oz (or Outer Zone), but everything has an ironic or "cool" name twist. Ugh. Just awful.
But hey, the boob-I mean the cover looks pretty cool. Beautifully painted, and there's something about it. The way her eyes are staring directly into yours, and she's wearing something that could either be a smile or a snarl, but you can't quite figure out which. But hey, it's probably a different, less talented artist doing the interiors..oh, lookit that! The same artist is actually responsible for the interiors!
With that, I decided I would give it a try.
Yep, sure enough, it's a new take on the OZ story, but if the book's title wasn't so obvious, I'm not sure I would have picked it up. Yes some of the elements are there: a twister, a main character named Dee, a cute little puppy (ugh, the town is called Emeraldsville) but everything else screams horror movie. The girl returns home due to a tragedy, she hangs out with girlfriends who are clearly less moral (and will therefore die), there's a town secret that all the elders know about and hell, there's even the town drunk, paper-bag-booze and all, screaming prophetic DOOM up and down the street. This is the beginning to a potentially great horror story.
I should also mention that while her chesticles are what initially grabbed my attention, like any quality female, there was actual substance. On one hand, I think to myself "Darlin', you are a quality story with a solid head on your shoulders. You're smart, you're strong-willed and you know what you want...you shouldn't have to stoop to showing me your cleavage on the cover. Have some self-respect.” Then, on the other hand...it worked. So who am I to judge?
Speaking of the cover, the artist is not shy with a brush or the ink on it, and this book feels dark even in the light. Richard Jordan has a Steve Pugh style, but much prettier. His women are actually attractive, which is nice. I don't know why I haven't seen his work up until now, but I can't wait to see more of it.
This book was just screaming for me to read it and it didn't disappoint. It's got mystery, gore, punk rock girls and an actual story. As this is Volume One, I'm hoping that this is going to be an ongoing series, because if it maintains the quality of the first issue, I have a great reading experience ahead of me. And so do you--go out and buy this already!
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, drawing a weekly webcomic, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. Follow his twitter @poptardsgo. His talkback name is PopTard_JD. He is also now co-hosting another Comic Book discussion show on Party934.com alongside Bohdi Zen. They discuss comics and play music, check it out live every Saturday from 4-5pm.
AVENGERS #22Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Renato Guedes
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
Also, Vision is in this issue. I don’t actually care about Vision, so this is his only mention.
With Brian Michael Bendis soon leaving AVENGERS, it makes sense to send his run off in style, and bringing back Norman should lay the groundwork for that. After last issue, the Avengers are being systematically taken down one by one, and here...well, the Avengers are systematically taken down one by one. While it is enjoyable to read, it feels more or less like the same issue we read last time.
Writing: (3/5) With many of the Avengers already out of play, much of the issue is spent doing the typical super villain thing of discussing one’s plans with the hero. And after the first time, it begins to slow the pace of the issue down.
If any of them should be here, it’s Iron Man. I maintain that DARK REIGN, DARK AVENGERS, SIEGE--it all hinges on the idea that Norman Osborn has become less of a Spider-Man rogue and more of the villainous answer to Tony Stark. The showmanship, the ability to draw a crowd (there’s a reason it’s always Tony and Norman who are speaking to the press)--the two go about problems with the same method. They both even utilize the same sort of plan to remove the other from the board: trip the armour, the man will fall. The lab scene with Norman’s science team speaking to Iron Man is funny without being indulgent, exciting without relying too much on foreshadowing, and threatening enough to make us wonder how exactly Iron Man will get out of “new threat”. Whereas Red Hulk and Captain America’s escapes are obvious (rampage, and rampage, I’m guessing), I’m actually invested in seeing Iron Man’s daring escape.
With everyone else, it’s a little too on the nose. We’ve seen Captain America strapped to a chair before. In fact, I think I’ve read two other series in the last month that feature that. The conversation between him and Madam Hydra is very cliché, if still well written. The Red Hulk and Spider-Woman scenes are also very prototypical confrontations, and really aren’t that inventive. They’re not badly written; it’s just more of the same.
Quake’s scene, though, is great. It’s nice to see that SECRET WARRIORS isn’t forgotten (because I loved that series oh so much), and it does give the issue some much needed action. I like that she seems to be taking the role formally held by Wolverine in the Avengers (another early Bendis scene, where Iron Man and Captain America discuss having someone a bit darker in the line up), and I like that she seems to be effective in that role.
Intercut between all the action is President Obama discussing with his cabinet the ramifications of Norman’s assault. These scenes drag on, but do manage to show an always-interesting facet of superhero universes: how a more realistic political setting would respond to such an incident. It’s engaging, but does prove a little slow.
Art: (3/5) Guedes does a solid job here; nothing remarkable but nothing particularly bad. The Madam Hydra scene with Steve is the best example of his work throughout the issue. At times, it’s rather good. At others, they seem to have wildly different faces that just look weird. Keith is a good colourist, but doesn’t get much time to do anything here. The issue, more than anything, just doesn’t have remarkable art.
Best Bit: I really did like Tony’s scene.
Worst Bit: Spider-Woman. I like her a fair deal, but she doesn’t really do anything here.
Overall: (3/5) More of the same. While that does mean more good superhero work, it just feels like I’ve read it before.
CHEW #24Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillory
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
CHEW was a book I fell in love with for one simple reason: bugfuck insanity. Well, more like instances of bugfuck insanity that occur in a world that very much lives in a perpetual state of quirk. For (roughly) two years now Layman and Guillory have been building this world brick by brick, quirk by quirk, with those BF moments as the mortar bringing it together. And on this, might as well call it an Anniversary Issue, I think the book as a whole is really gelling.
The last line above, I admit, is a bit misleading toward what this title is doing that it is just now coming together. Since the inception of this book the Lay & Guillory Connection have been introducing more and more concepts on top of the idea of the Cibopath, more characters to develop and play their own roles, and more bugfuckery. All of these things have been giving the book as a whole the kind of momentum you like a longer running indie/creator owned title to sport, but some pretty out of nowhere status quo shake ups I have felt somewhat detoured that momentum. So now I really feel that all these characters and abilities and shadowy organizations and whatnot have really started coming to fruition and CHEW is as great as it has ever been.
Right now I feel the book is about cycles. Our lead, Tony Chu, has hit such a shitty cycle in his life he’s barely in this book. He’s gone from mid-grade detective, to a member of the government’s most powerful agency, to now being a traffic cop that is currently captured and being fed dead baseball players. Meanwhile his old, machination-filled FDA partner is doing important work from the shadows while trying to lure his daughter, Olive, who may have Cibopathic abilities greater than his, into the mix as part of another cycle. It’s really moving characters around and putting everyone into new roles that will undoubtedly lead to conflict – and by “conflict” I mean ooey gooey violence and gore – and solidify where this book is going even more.
Oh, and I didn’t mention the part about the guy who has the power to carve things out of chocolate and have them be just as effective as if they were made out of real parts and pieces. Yeah, he cut a guy in half with a chocolate katana and made a chocolate death ray. That is the kind writing that sets this book apart from the rest. Sometimes I may feel the occasional issue leans more on those aspects in a way that takes away from thread development, but then I tell myself that I’m an idiot and that death rays made of chocolate are amazing. They’re even more amazing considering how Rob Guillory depicts them, which is the second great taste of two that taste great together--unlike that punny line, which is probably a good place to hop off this praise train. CHEW: It’s still awesome so buy it.
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 blog 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.
THE THIRTY SIX #3Writer: Kristopher White
Artist: George Zapata
Publisher: Fossil Creek Productions
You know, despite the amazingly intricate web of technology that exists here in the 21st Century, I often find myself falling into the trap of never looking further than the local comics shop for new and interesting reading material. That’s where being one of the @$$holes really pays off—every once in a while, Ambush Bug shares some independently created graphic storytelling gems that can be as invigorating as a clean spring breeze after the stale, musty air of too many Marvels, DCs or Images. One such bright spot is the mystical adventure series THE THIRTY SIX.
At the core of the series is a familiar theme. A group of individuals, blessed (or cursed) by special abilities, are drawn together in a time of trouble (by chance or by fate—depending on your opinion) in order that they might join together to save the world from evil. Ringing any bells? It’s your standard Hero’s Journey; the same thread runs through such classics as the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, the legend of King Arthur, Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and, of course, the “Star Wars” trilogy. Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m belittling THE THIRTY SIX by making it just another in a long line of similarly-themed works--in fact, the great thing about this comic following such an established, mythic path is that the core simplicity of the theme allows for a wide variety of creative embellishments. I’ve seen versions of this story set in the mythology of the Greeks and the Romans, in the stories of the Norse gods, in a galaxy far, far away or even in a school for wizardry and witchcraft, but this is the first time I’ve seen the theme played out using the legends of Kabbalah, the mystical branch of the Jewish faith. Aside from the story of the Golem--a creature of living clay that can be created by a rabbi, which featured heavily in the first two issues of the series--I’ve never seen Jewish folklore utilized in comics before as a storytelling framework. This alone makes the series stand out from the crowd, but it’s not the only aspect that makes the comic worth reading.
What THE THIRTY SIX really has going for it is writer Kristopher White’s decision to make the assembling of the thirty-six gifted individuals not a prologue to the plot (as it tends to be in the above-mentioned classics), but the driving force of the series. Even more interesting is that the destiny binding these thirty-six people together in no way guarantees that they’ll get along all hugs-and-kisses. This issue finds Noam, the current bearer of the Staff of Moses, attacked by the man who carried the Staff before him—a man who, along with his allies, also belongs to the titular group. I love the idea that though all these people are chosen to band together to save the world, they don’t share the same view on how to go about saving it.
I have to admit that I’m not as sold on the artistic end of the series. George Zapata has a good grasp of page composition and pacing, but his drawing style doesn’t quite gel for me. His heavy, fairly loose linework combined with the simplified figures and backgrounds sometimes gives the panels a muddiness that makes it difficult to discern what the action exactly is. For the most part, the artwork gets the job done in telling the story, but I would love to see Zapata experiment with some variance in his line weight, and maybe use some finer, less scratchy lines to add a little more detail to his backgrounds and facial expressions. With these slight adjustments, I feel that the visual end of THE THIRTY SIX would be elevated to a level that would better complement the writing.
This issue has me hanging on to find out what happens next--not just in a resolution to the cliffhanger ending, but further down the road as the comic grows and unfolds into what I hope will be a long and successful series. The Hero’s Journey is a familiar tale; THE THIRTY SIX encourages the reader to breathe deep of that fresh springtime air and experience the Journey anew.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1Writer: Angelo Tirotto
Artist: Richard Jordan
Publisher: Image Comics
From the cover you can tell that ain’t your ordinary tale of Oz, as Dee Dee zips down her leather jacket and heaves her bosom, also exposing her “Surrender” tattoo above them. This is a dark, dark take, but also one that veers off from the yellow brick road greatly.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME #1 is filled with nods to the WIZARD OF OZ, but less actual connections to the plot. Quick note: I haven’t read the original book since I was a kid, so I’ll be basing my comparisons on the Judy Garland flick. The first few pages trick you into thinking that this could be the traditional twister storm from the WIZARD OF OZ, except for the slight feel of this being modern times and the characters being named Donald and Linda. But the final frame changes the trajectory of the story, revealing to the reader that there is something else brewing in Emeraldsville, Kansas.
That is when Dee Dee pops into town, returning to bury her parents, Donald and Linda. She meets up with old friends, including her best bud Lizzy. This whole plot has nothing to do with the original tale and the creators’ statement at the end of the book tells us that we won’t be going to Oz anytime soon.
Dee Dee has some similarities to Dorothy, though I could never see Judy Garland in a denim mini skirt and having a studded nose. She and Lizzy’s dog, Terry, are the only clear characters that parallel those in THE WIZARD OF OZ and I only consider Dee Dee as one because she is the protagonist.
I have studied fairy tales extensively for the past five years; I’ve even been published on the subject. So I would like to think that I have a strong grasp on them. THE WIZARD OF OZ is considered by most as a fairy tale, though one based on a newer definition. The popularity of revamping these classic stories started in the 80s and more recent examples include Maguire’s WICKED. But NO PLACE LIKE HOME is part of an even more postmodern take on fairy tales where the stories are placed in the present and use the them as a skeleton to be built on. Personally, I find this take on THE WIZARD OF OZ more interesting. We all know the story, but this comic allows us to look at it in a whole new way.
I liked the references to THE WIZARD OF OZ, but I think the choice of naming it the TWISTERS DINER was a bit too much. As for the artwork, I thought the combination of the old and the new was smart. I don’t know if the intention was to refer back to the fact that this is an updated version and that the younger characters represented this as a modern take on the film and their lack of innocence represented how dark this tale would be, but I’d like to think that Richard Jordan put such deep thought into it.
My fellow reviewer Johnny Destructo also covered this book and I have to agree with his assessment. The only exception I would make is the fact that Dee Dee’s less moral friends, like Lizzie, will die due to their morality (or lack thereof). This is not an 80s slasher flick, and already the victims have been sweet geriatrics.
I know that the retelling of fairy tales seems to have been overdone in the past five years. Johnny Destructo lists all those awful adaptations (though it’s not EVER AFTER , Johnny--it is called ONCE UPON A TIME and I happen to love it) and how he had trepidation in reading this book. If you feel like Johnny, I completely understand. Even if you’re persuaded by the boobs on the cover to pick it up, I don’t care as long as you read this great comic.
Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a senior screenwriting major with an English minor at Chapman University. Along with writing for AICN, she has been published twice on the subject of vampire films.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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