(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: GUTTER MAGIC #1
DEADPOOL & CABLE #1
JUSTICE LEAGUE #47
Indie Jones presents TURNCOAT #1-3 CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE #5
Available January 13th!
GUTTER MAGIC #1Writer: Rich Douek
Artist: Brett Barkley
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Looking around at the state of pop/geek culture these days (because, if you have not been paying attention, these things are one and the same) you would notice two themes that are pretty popular: magic and smarmy, roguish lead characters. We are in an era where Harry Potter and its derivatives are still king, and not only has “Han Solo light” become kind of a thing, but fucking Han Solo himself even reemerged this past month just for us to fall in love with the character again. Therefore, it would be understandable for these two items to meet up with one another in story form more and more often as the market for these tropes explodes a bit more into public view. The key to this, as always, is what these stories present as this new wave hits from a creativity and originality standpoint, from which I present to you all GUTTER MAGIC from IDW Publishing.
GUTTER MAGIC does two things right from the get go: It lets you know it’s gothic/steampunk as hell with skies full of airships, and goggles and duster jackets galore and also shows you this isn’t quite your traditional magic tale. Yes, there are magic labs filled with potions and spells on chalkboards and experiments galore from some highfalutin’-looking study space, but these do not belong to our heroes--they’re here to steal from the joint, because GUTTER MAGIC is just that: it’s magic from the slums from people that don’t normally wield the stuff, like the rather angry wizard with the well-coiffed beard who catches our would-be thieves and protagonists, Cinder and Blacktooth, in his domain. And it’s all that Cinder, a should-have-been magician, has to try and claim his squandered birthright.
We find out after the mostly-botched heist that Cinder, a handsome and sarcastic human male packing a rune-enchanted revolver, comes from a family of mages but does not have access to the power himself--hence his need of such tools as the revolver. So he has dragged his goblin cohort, Blacktooth, to dangerously grab job after job trying to find something that would unblock his access to the magic energies and give him the birthright he feels he deserves before all his shenanigans finally catch up to him. This heist, much as it almost ends up with him and Blacktooth becoming a literal cinder, finally puts something promising in front of him toward his goal, except that it is a spell--the thing he can’t perform as long as his lineal access is blocked.
This debut is what we like to call one of those rollicking good times because of how it plays in those gutters. Cinder is very much that rogue in more the Starlord archetype of the word, in that he doesn’t really have a reputation, and for those who do know his name it’s not exactly for flattering reasons. He’s also got that same style and smugness to go with his rep, but is kind of a doofus, too; he’s got skills, but he’s not exactly the epitome of “smooth operator.” He and Blacktooth also have themselves a pretty solid rapport with a lot of fun back and forth between the two, especially in circumstances where Cinder’s overzealousness looks to be responsible for their early demise before luck or happenstance pulls them from the jaws of whatever fate awaited them given the situation. It’s that bond and a strong world around them that made this GUTTER MAGIC debut something I’m now looking forward to seeing more of.
Really, the magical world that GUTTER MAGIC plays in is striking overall, not just because artist Brett Barkley is presenting some very well-sketched visuals but also because the actual design is really neat. As I mentioned earlier, it does have that gothic/steampunk flair, but it also looks like it has aged a little beyond the Victorian Era you would normally associate with that steampunk setting and more into a 1900s NYC backdrop. Though the dress and fashion of the characters in this world is definitely more Victorian flair, there are skyscrapers and crowded streets as far as the eye can see like you would kind of expect from a bustling New York vista in the Roaring Twenties. They all have their mystical accentuations, though, like an Empire State Building where the top ten floors are actually cut away from the rest of the structure and floating a few dozen feet above the building that really makes a visually unique locale. But, again, most of this story takes place in that seamy underbelly, in the backroom pubs where the thieves congregate and the tent-filled bazaar of the Goblin’s Market where Cinder and Blacktooth go with their spell to get into more trouble, which is also energetic and striking. It’s a very smooth, fun, and detailed art style Barkley has, reminding me a good bit of maybe some Barry Windsor-Smith with its forms and designs, especially given the coloring scheme.
But, yeah, this is just a fun book. I like Cinder’s brand of rogue in that he’s not a complete dickbag but you can see how he’s made himself a bunch of enemies to get to his end goal. Meanwhile, though, he has a natural charisma that presents itself well in his “buddy cop” relationship with Blacktooth, and you somewhat sympathize with his plight despite him being kind of a reckless schmuck about everything. The backdrop is simultaneously gorgeous and dirty, which makes for a fun dichotomy and looks fantastic. And mixed into that are some really energetic escape sequences by our not-as-dynamic-as-they’d-think-they-are duo, especially one particular spread in the Goblin Market that was a joy to follow visually. Wrap that up with a dual cliffhanger of Cinder and Blacktooth running into some trouble they could not shake off and a highly intriguing revelation of who the man responsible for the spell Cinder now holds is, and there is a lot of motivation to come back to this book once more of it arrives on stands. Meanwhile, though, I would encourage anyone here intrigued by what I’ve said about the book to try it out when it hits stands next week--January 13th I believe is the mark. Cheers…
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.
DEADPOOL & CABLE #1Story: Fabian Nicieza and Reilly Brown
Script: Fabian Nicieza
Pencils: Reilly Brown
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
Deadpool stories are always hit or miss, simply because of the character’s personality and how he’s written. Either Wade is obnoxious in a fun and entertaining way or he’s just plain obnoxious. There is definitely a writing art to handling Deadpool, which some writers nail and others completely fail at. Luckily, Nicieza did an excellent job of handling everyone’s favorite Merc With A Mouth and didn’t overdo Deadpool by being Deadpool. Of course there’s Cable too but, at least in this issue, he felt like more a Robin to Batman rather than an equal partnering.
DEADPOOL & CABLE #1 is a pretty straightforward story. While Cable no longer has any of his prior abilities, for whatever reason, has been getting premonitions regarding the future’s fate. This one involves Deadpool and how he leads to the destruction the universe. Recently Deadpool has saved a scientist from HYDRA, Doctor Carl Weathers (with this becoming a running joke throughout the issue), and at some point in the future Cable has seen a vague premonition of Dr. Not-Apollo-Creed Weathers targeted and Deadpool holding a smoking gun. This leads Cable to believe somehow Deadpool kills the Doctor, thus leading to the newest universe-wide catastrophe.
This was a seamless story: solid writing, quality art and an overall very well done comic. The majority of the time, DEADPOOL or any comic involving Deadpool gets dumbed down to levels of cringe-worthy stupid. Luckily, Nicieza still sticks with the low brow humor of Deadpool--just not to the extent it seems like a twelve year old wrote it. Nicieza fills the issue with every trope associated with Wade, even to the extent of a blatant fourth wall-breaking advertisement for the comic.
Again, Cable really takes a back seat and is really just used to introduce plot for the upcoming story. There are some great exchanges between the two, where Cable begins asking about Wade’s life from being married to having a daughter and how he’s been, but generally the bulk of this book is left to dialogue from Deadpool, with Cable essentially on sidekick status.
Writing-wise, Nicieza creates clean conversations between the characters, does an excellent job of handling Deadpool’s humor and keeps the comic comedic without it becoming annoying. I’d call it classy comedic writing, but I’m not sure if classy can ever be associated with a Deadpool comic. It’s clean comedic scripting without becoming childish, while the pencils by Reilly Brown are on point as well. Brown does a superb job of capturing the character’s emotions, and the action sequences are rendered tremendously. I think the selling point of Brown’s work in this issue is really the variety of emotion and visual expressions used in all of the characters. I wouldn’t say they are anime levels of over-exaggerated, but every emotion is emphasized to a point, while it keeps the darker scenarios in DEADPOOL lighthearted and based in comedy. There weren’t any noticeable issues I can remember with the artwork.
Overall, DEADPOOL & CABLE is far from a groundbreaking comic, but it’s quality in every aspect. The scripting is simple, with an interesting enough story. The dialogue is the book’s best quality, along with some very well done artwork. This is easily a must have for fans of Deadpool or fans of the original CABLE & DEADPOOL series, with a few throwback lines to it. It’s even worth checking out as a solid title and first issue.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #47Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
DC’s big event in a series kicks off its third chapter (even though solicitations say second) “Gods of Justice” with the return of artist Jason Fabok, who is clearly the best thing about this issue. Fabok, like Ivan Reis before him, is an artist who likes to go the extra mile to show off how good he is and give us readers a good time. The action and characters all look great. The storytelling is good, and the attention to detail is second to none. This is what a superhero comic book should look like, especially an epic one like this.
Storywise, Johns barely moves the plot again. Ready for the spoilers? After three issues the Anti-Monitor finally comes out of his ‘egg’ as his former self, Mobius. Grail still promises bad times to come. Green Lantern and Batman still haven’t learned anything about the Anti-Monitor, yet Wonder Woman does manage to get God of Strength Superman to not be so crazy. The real plot development is the JLA’s plan to talk to the Crime Syndicate about the Anti-Monitor, which goes poorly (shocker, I know). They somewhat manage to free themselves, yet still manage to be a pathetic excuse for formidable supervillains. Ultraman is a sniveling coward; Super Woman is just baby crazy for her soon to be born Luthor baby (or is that a Mazahs baby); the M.I.A. Owlman finally shows up but not to free his teammates--he’s there to tell them they must join forces with the Justice League; the Power Ring power ring takes control of the ‘I’m trying to be good’ Power Ring; and Johnny Quick is still dead. With the death of Darkseid, and all the focus on the Anti-Monitor/Mobius soon to be replaced by Grail I’d wager, one wonders if Darkseid will ever appear again in this “Darkseid War”.
Now just like every issue of this story arc, Johns always manages to do things that strike me as odd. In this issue (f.y.i.- spoiler stuff): 1) I’m curious where Steve Trevor is; last issue Superman was about to kill him, now he’s nowhere to be seen. 2) The fire-pits of Apokolips have been renamed solar pits, probably to explain why Lex Luthor thought Superman could recharge his powers in one, I guess. Interesting to note that must mean there is a sun inside New 52 Apokolips, causing the iconic ‘solar pits’. 3) Power Ring downloaded the Grid back into Cyborg, but as I recall the Grid was locked up in Cyborg’s brain/personal cyber world, So I’m not sure how Volthoom (the name of the power ring entity) got a hold of the Grid and how he managed to take over Cyborg, since he was already inside Cyborg helpless. 4) Lastly, how Super Woman got heat vision. She’s suppose to be the Wonder Woman of Earth-3, and basically said she was an Amazon in FOREVER EVIL, her only real appearance (in the New 52) where she never displayed any eyebeam powers. So nothing that really wrecks the story, but they are a constant stream of things that take me out of the story.
Now if you want spectacle, that’s the one thing this issue delivers well, and “The Darkseid War” in general for that matter. Jason Fabok’s art does a great job of selling it all, too (though what happened to the art of ghosting multiple figures to show a character in motion?). Johns’ character moments are all pretty strong, too. Beyond that I’m hard pressed to find anything positive to say about “The Darkseid War”. It’s a poorly paced story whose strongest attribute is to use characters differently in hopes that being different means interesting and meaningful.
TURNCOAT #1-3Writer: Ryan O’ Sullivan
Artist: Plaid Klaus
Publisher: Tpub and web
Reviewer: Rob Patey (a.k.a. Optimous Douche)
It’s not often I review web comics. This isn’t snobbery on my part, but more of an altruistic act to save my comics-buying brothers and sisters from spending their hard-earned cash on crap. If you read a crappy web comic, the only thing wasted was your time and bandwidth to call to the server--both commodities in this day and age.
However, when a comic makes the leap from web to print, it now fits right into my Ralph Nader mission of ensuring consumer quality continues to prevail. Also, this tale of superhero assassins was brought to my attention by a writer/publisher I respect immensely. I met Neil Gibson, the Perry White of Tpub, a few years ago when I had the privilege of popping his review cherry on the first volume of the TWISTED DARK series. He is the Rod Serling of the modern age, taking the Twilight Zone twist to darkly cynical proportions. The man is good with the comic medium as Tpub, and TWISTED DARK continue to grow in voice and publishing prowess.
I give this detailed backstory in an effort to get people to read past the words “web comic”. There’s a lot of garbage out there that never tells a complete tale--merely festers in the realm of concept and a few spec pages. TURNCOAT defies those norms of obscurity and thus gains the spoils of jumping from web to print later this year. Commitment and talent will deliver TURNCOAT to a store near you. How often can anyone say that these days?
Why is TURNCOAT so good? Because it isn’t afraid to revel in the sameness from a plot perspective as many other comics we’ve seen since the dark age of comics was ushered in with the question “who watches the WATCHMEN?” Superheroes taking down even dickier superheroes has been hashed out almost every decade since Moore’s beard disenchanted us back in ’86. But unlike POWERS and THE BOYS, TURNCOAT gives the concept a true coat of parody paint in character and execution.
No one would have fucked with the meaty Butcher from THE BOYS, whether he had powers or not. From leather jacket up to the massive “guns” in the sleeves of that jacket, Butcher was tough. Duke, the lead assassin of supers in TURNCOAT, is a guy everyone would fuck with on first glance. He has the beaten down by middle age face, hairline, gut and even gait to his walk. He also has a gun and ability to shoot with keen accuracy--a serious boon many of us middle agers wish we had in our day-to-day lives.
The other thing Duke has that is the bane and boon of middle agers is an ex-wife. They started as assassin buddies, then best buddies, but now they sit as fierce competitors for every single contract that comes into their clandestine agency. Two things made this plot point really sing:
One, she always pulls strings to make sure Duke ends up with utterly ridiculous partners, from emos to self-aggrandizing buckets of monologue to, finally, a sentient bear--the sentient bear being my favorite of the lineup, since he eats all of his kills in a horrific manner and finally tells Duke what his only friend, a dog named Dog, actually thinks of him.
Two, every time Duke is ready to throttle his lady love she reminds him when stealing cash from his coffers that the money is going towards their child’s orthodontics or to the kid’s swimming lessons (which her new boyfriend does with the lad, further raising Duke’s ire).
So where does the turncoat part of TURNCOAT come into play? One, life turns on all of us. Most things that were once sweet, like young love, can grow bitter. We only hope it nets out at bittersweet instead of completely rotten as the final step. Duke wasn’t so lucky. The other turncoaty part of TURNCOAT is too big of a spoiler to the plot, and I don’t want to ruin it. Let’s just say not all superheroes are super, and some are dastardlier than Duke’s dark deeds when the public isn’t looking.
Every comic trope is hit in the balls inside TURNCOAT for a dark spit-take. From origin stories to the final pages, I laughed as much as I genuinely felt emotions when peeling back the layers of meaning in this tale beyond the surface jokes.
I hope you enjoy. Let me know.
When not reviewing comics Rob Patey works for the man marketing IT schtuff. Like Star Wars? Do you work in IT? Than you’ll love this little Space Skirmish he just completed.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE #5Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
First off, I want to correct a mistake in my last review of CA:W by properly crediting colorist Dave Stewart. I’m not sure where Sale’s ink washes end and Stewart’s colors begin, but the result is some powerful imagery.
So the latest Loeb/Sale Marvel color series comes to a close (others being DAREDEVIL: YELLOW, SPIDER-MAN: BLUE, HULK: GREY). What we get in this series is a rousing 1940s Captain America actioner juxtaposed with Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) talking about his relationship with Bucky (his teenage sidekick). As with the previous series, which dealt with the hero’s lost of a girlfriend, this one comes from Cap’s perspective after Bucky has died as well—and, in Bucky’s case, before he came back to life as the Winter Soldier. Overall, it adds good color to what can be seen as a rather nondescript Captain America yarn.
Getting into spoilers and this issue specifically, Captain America again comes to Bucky’s rescue, and defeats the Red Skull in the usual two-fisted manner. Cap of course laments not being about to save Bucky in the end, though nowadays he laments letting Bucky getting turned into the Winter Soldier (see how Ed Brubaker managed to have his cake and eat it too?). In turn, Cap saves all of Paris as well. Meanwhile Sgt. Fury and his howling commandos save the Louvre from Baron Von Strucker. The turncoat Batroc gets double-crossed by the Nazis (big surprise, right?) and we learn he is the grandfather of the Batroc we all know and love (or at least, I love Batroc). In the end Cap kisses the girl and Fury finally gives him respect.
High points of this series are Cap’s interaction Fury and Bucky. Everything else is rather mundane for a Captain America adventure. It’s a fine addition to the color series, but it is easily the weakest of the four series in both art and writing. The other three series covered more ground, like a year or more of the hero’s career, allowing Loeb to dig deeper into the relationship between the hero and girl, evolving over time. Here, Loeb covers like one issue of an old CAPTAIN AMERICA comic. The only fresh and interesting angle he finds is having the more ‘lived’ Bucky give the once-nerdy Steve Rogers advice on women.
As for the artwork, which is still quite good, Sale tries to impress us with, like, only one page per issue. The overall artistry is great, but just isn’t as well articulated as the previous series. Even the full splash page of Cap socking the Red Skull in the jaw is underwhelming. I’d say Dave Stewart’s coloring really helps keep the overall look of the series at a high level.
While it’s always unfair to compare works of art, the only reason we are here is because their first three were so good. So despite being solid work, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE doesn’t get a glowing review like the others. Perhaps I’m being a bit stingy, but on the Masked Man’s scale of Crap, Poor, Decent, Good and Great, CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHITE scores a DECENT.
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