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(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: EMPRESS #1
BLACK WIDOW #1
SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN #1
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS #1
Indie Jones presents OVERRUN #1-4
JUSTICE LEAGUE #48
THE GODDAMNED #3
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #4
Indie Jones presents 18 DAYS #9
BLACK MAGICK #3
In stores April 6th!
EMPRESS #1Writer: Mark Millar
Art: Stuart Immonen
Publisher: Marvel Icon
Reviewer: Russ Sheath
Mark Millar, it seems, is on something of a Sci-Fi trip at the moment as he follows CHRONONAUTS and JUPITER’S CIRCLE with his new offering, EMPRESS. EMPRESS doesn't look to 'a galaxy far..far..away' for its sci-fi origins, rather Millar takes us deep into Earth's past, 65 million years to be exact.
In EMPRESS, Millar introduces readers to an ancient yet technologically advanced, galaxy spanning, civilization ruled over by the despotic Morax, a king who's challengers would rather face 'death by T-Rex' (you'll see) than at the hands of their leader. While Morax may rule his subjects with an iron fist, his wife, the Queen 'Emporia', is an entirely different matter and Millar wastes no time in revealing the true heart of the story, a woman who wants to escape the oppression of the man she fell for amid the naivety of her youth.
If you look to any of Millar's 'greatest hits', from WOLVERINE: ENEMY OF THE STATE to KICK-ASS, the old Steven Spielberg adage of 'ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances' is prevalent. Admittedly, there may not be many things 'ordinary' about an ageless mutant with metal claws or a foul-mouthed prepubescent assassin in mauve, but the core of the story is always a very 'human' one. In EMPRESS, the key protagonist, Emporia, simply comes to realize that the best place for her and her three children is to be as far away from her husband as possible.
Naturally, Morax doesn't agree with this abrupt separation... Aided by her loyal Bodyguard 'Dane', you get the sense of a 'Deenerys / Jorah Mormont' relationship between the two, that of a loyal servant devoted to his queen but one which is destined to become more complex as the story plays out. Equally complicated is the relationship between Emporia, Morax and their children, particularly the eldest, Aine, a sardonic teenager caught in the conflict between her parents and who wants to stay with her father.
Millar does fast paced, high adventure incredibly well and launches into the high concept quickly as Stuart Immonen's art takes centre stage, the veteran Marvel artist presenting himself as one of the strongest artists to partner with Millar in quite some time. Channeling his recent work from Marvel's Star Wars comics, In Empress, Immonen's designs feel fresh and not at all derivative, as can often happen in comics and was a downside to much of the design work in several of Marvel's recent Star Wars comics...they simply didn't look or 'feel' like STAR WARS.
Back to EMPRESS, and Immonen avoids those pit falls, I hope we get to see Immonen's 'pencils only' version of this book in due course, its a real treat to behold. In short, EMPRESS # 1 represents Millar at his best and may be his most accessible project in recent years. You can picture the Sideshow statues and almost hear the movie soundtrack playing as you read the comic. Speaking of movies, if you follow @mrmarklmillar on Twitter, the casting of the movie has already been teased. In the meantime, enjoy this great, galaxy spanning, operatic romp of high adventure. EMPRESS # 1 is available to pre-order and in stores on April 6th.
Follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and @russellsheath on Twitter.
BLACK WIDOW #1Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I like to think that we’re in (or at least beginning to enter) a bit of a golden age when it comes to inclusiveness in comic books. And, yes, I know, when someone throws around the ‘I’ word like that you assume that there’s going to be some Social Justice Warrior hippie bullshit, but I assure you I’m not starting a rousing round of “Kumbaya” here; my hands hold no bongo drum. But while I understand and myself find myself a little annoyed at how vehement the more ranks of the “everything must be for everyone” crowd can be – as exemplified by my gritting my teeth to dust watching the umpteenth “How Marvel failed by Not Casting an Asian American Iron Fist” bait piece come across my feed last week – I genuinely feel comic books have been doing a better job of making people of all genders and races and religions feel more at home when it comes to presenting characters to the general public. Maybe not so much when it comes to presenting jobs for all kinds of folks, given behind the scenes rumblings that make their way to you, but everything is a work in progress. But you know what is a great way of being progressive when it comes to the comic book page? Just presenting the character as being fun and a total badass, and not deliberately focusing on any of that stuff to make a statement.
I say this because that is the real downside to a more all-encompassing approach to entertainment making, at least to someone like myself who wants to see a continued push for seeing more diverse characters in media and people in stores buying the same stuff I love. When these pushes are made, sometimes you get a lot of bravado and chest thumping about what they are presenting. Not so – to finally get right to it – with BLACK WIDOW. What Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (ESPECIALLY Samnee) do is take Marvel’s premiere spy and have her fuck shit up and do cool-ass spy stuff. Almost every panel in this kick-off of a new volume in the life of the fiery Russkie epitomizes the term “breakneck.” No modifiers are dropped to emphasize her gender to make it seem that much more impressive that she’s kicking ass all over the place. There’s not “she’s just one girl!” being exclaimed as she jumps and flips and kicks her way through wave after wave of combatants. She’s one of the most dangerous “normal” humans in a world full of gods, and she earns every bit of that reputation as she wades effortlessly through throngs of SHIELD Agents.
What’s that you say? SHIELD Agents? What the what? Black Widow is a character that lives and thrives off of intrigue, and that’s a big old helping of the stuff served up right there watching Natasha Romanov dance her way through her former handlers. But that bit of role reversal will take center stage at a later date, as the thrust of this issue truly is showing off her formidable skill set. The real formidable skill set that absolutely must get the bulk of the praise here, though, is that of Chris Samnee’s deft penciling hand. I don’t know how the scripting process worked on this one, but I’m going to assume knowledgeable veteran Mark Waid turned in twenty pages that all said “Draw Natasha Being Fucking Awesome” and Samnee made it happen.
This debut really is the prime example of how much an artist’s skill can make or break a book. Obviously, I’m going to assume that Mr. Waid had some input and has some really great ideas coming up as we move to the next issues, especially involving just what the hell happened that Widow is now on the run from her former employers, but this particular show is carried almost completely on that art exhibition performed by Samnee and Matthew Wilson on coloring duty. The design and detail work is staggeringly perfect, but what is really impressive is the pacing. A lot of these high octane action piece comics are usually full of big spreads, and while they may look gorgeous you blow through them in three minutes because they average three panels a page. Samnee here, though, is fucking meticulous and hands out panels like Donald Trump hands out derogatory statements about minorities, and the reason it works so well is because it really emphasizes the character and how she works. All the panels and smooth transitions and the motion they exhibit portray such grace and honed skill, it plays fantastically into the ballet history that has sometimes been a part of the character’s past. Funnily enough, it’s been only a week since we unleashed our @$$ie awards on the world and now I’m already wondering if I’ll be writing up this performance for next year’s ceremony.
If the standard set by the Waid/Samnee/Wilson trifecta in their DAREDEVIL work together is assumed to be what we will be getting here (and it will be), then that’s a call for an exponentially higher level of excitement on top of a strong female character getting more spotlight. But that spotlight is key because it’s coming from a top end creative team, and even with a profile like Black Widow has in the wake the Marvel Studios projects with her. BLACK WIDOW books are infinitely more commonplace than they were before five years ago, but this is still a character that couldn’t be bothered to have her own action figure alongside her fellow Avengers as those movies hit. Every nudge forward helps, especially when that nudge is one of the most kickass comic book presentations by far in this fledgling year.
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.
SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN #1Writer/Artist: Neal Adams
Script: Adams and Tony Bedard
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
One-time king of comics Neal Adams is back for some more fun. A few years back he had some fun with Batman in BATMAN: ODYSSEY; this time, it’s Superman’s turn.
In a bizarre parallel with the current DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE, this story has more Kryptonians running around and causing trouble as well. Or at least that’s what it looks like, as three men wearing Superman costumes, talking about what it’s like to have Superman’s powers, show up on Earth to save the day. As they immediately fly into action against Kalibak (normal-sized Kalibak, not the oversized Kalibak from JUSTICE LEAGUE), Superman himself is hanging out in the Middle East dealing with typical troubles there. He’s then basically forced to adopt a young boy after talking to a very scary-looking djinn. Once back in Metropolis, Superman decides not to meet the new Supermen (odd) and then the djinn reappears to warn him about some kind of Darkseid (they say it’s not stoneface himself) who once ruled ancient Egypt. Shades of Apocalypse, eh?
Crazy enough for ya? Because that’s pretty much what it is: craziness. On some level I can’t even grasp what’s going on because the story moves very fast and nothing really gets explained, although Lois Lane (think original DARK KNIGHT RETURNS) gives us a running commentary for the entire issue via her show--commentary that doesn’t really add much to the story, which is odd because there are several inelegant transitions in the book that her commentary could have helped bridge better. So storywise, Adams is just running like a wild man, and Bedard’s script isn’t doing a very good job explaining it all in digestible fashion.
Artwork-wise, I’ve heard people at the store saying Adams isn’t what he used to be. While I’d agree Neal Adams’ artwork isn’t the fine wine it used to be, I still think his work is quite impressive, and I think Frank Miller has corned the market on artists who don’t deliver like they used to. Here, Neal’s art is as high impact as the story and Superman is a perfect physical specimen as always.
SUPERMAN: THE COMING OF THE SUPERMEN looks to be an insane trip around the bend with a former comic book great, a bit like how BATMAN: ODYSSEY was, although S:TCOTS plans to wrap up in six issues instead of 13.
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS #1Writer: Kyle Higgins
Art: Hendry Prasetya
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Aw man, the theme song starts playing as soon as I look at the cover. I can’t help it; it’s an automatic reflex to start shredding the guitar in my head when I see it. Looking at the team kick some putty butt as I walk up to the shelf brings me back to Saturday morning, waking up super early to catch the newest episode of some of the best television created by the human race: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Frequently imitated, never matched, no matter how many series came after, the OG Power Rangers are a piece of classic Nineties broadcasting. Now, twenty three years after they first came into our lives and onto our screens, a slice of that rainbow-colored awesomeness is back, this time in paginated form, courtesy of BOOM! Studio’s new series by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Hendry Prasetya.
That guitar-melting nostalgia is not lost on the creators of this book. For a first issue, Higgins wastes as little time as possible setting up the premise, relying on us the audience from page one to come in with at least a cursory understanding of who such people as Bulk and Skull are. That said, the two knuckleheads use the familiar convention of filming a video (for their podcast) to immediately launch into some blatant exposition about the current status quo. Interestingly, though, the story picks up just after the introduction/conversion to the good side of the Green Ranger rather than bothering with any earlier origin story for the team--another gesture from creators that know that the bulk of their audience already has a built-in knowledge base.
After this introduction, Higgins and Prasetya don’t linger on the past too long and instead follow in the tradition established by books such as ARCHIE by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples by taking these classic characters and pulling them forward into 2016, both in themes and aesthetics. Gone are the primary colored flannels and “radical” slang of the 90s. Instead, they’ve been replaced by hoodies (admittedly as color-coordinated as ever) and angst about fitting in, while secrets amongst the team abound. Already this issue has distinguished the series as decidedly contemporary. Out of twenty pages of content, a mere four were focused on in-suit fighting--certainly a departure from a show that would always end each episode with some giant monster bashing.
Personally, I think this is a strong move. Higgins and Prasetya are clearly trying to bring something new to the table rather than just resign themselves to an easy nostalgia cash-in. It would have been easy to just do their best imitation of the old show, throw in a couple of “aiee-aiiie-aiiee!”s from Alpha-5, and go home. Instead, they’re seeking out what the obviously twentysomething year old actors of the show could never really capture: what it would ACTUALLY be like to be a sixteen year old with super powers tasked to take on 30 story tall monsters.
With a fourth of the issue taken up by Bulk and Skull’s intro video and the rest dedicated to setting up the various to-be-developed plots, however, it was hard to really get much of any one voice squeezed in. Luckily, the cast already reads more real than their on-screen counterparts. Unfortunately, Prasetya’s art is often as stiff as those 90s performances, making a lot of scenes feel a bit static. If the book is going to focus on the emotional range of the kids behind the masks, Prasetya has to step it up with his renderings of said emotional range. That said, the Ranger costumes were straight off the screen and I couldn’t help but grin when Tommy and Kimmy kicked some Putty butt, so when they get to the big Megazord fights, Prasetya won’t have to do too much more work to knock it out of the park.
Now, I know that this is by no means the first property to attempt the “gritty reboot” move and it will not be the last. Heck, not only are they doing this reboot comic, but an updated version of MIGHTY MORPHIN is going to be on the big screen again in 2017. Despite that, this issue has proven that the series has a lot of potential. While this issue didn’t have too much in the way of content as a standalone issue, there was a solid mix of throwback and update, with a hook to Tommy’s character that I think could be particularly fun. Similarly, the two page Bulk and Skull back up by Steve Orlando and Corin Howell was only ok, but it too has some very obvious potential and sets up a circumstance that can easily be as much fun as the main story.
Like I said, Higgins and Prasetya could easily get complaisant with their licensed property book and no one would blame them. But if they take the momentum they’ve started in this first issue and push this series into hitherto unexplored areas of this already built-out world, then I think they could do something really interesting.
The fans have lined up, the characters are here, you’ve set up some really solid plots; now all you have to do is “Go go Power Rangers! You Mighty Morphin Power Raaaannnngggeeerrrsss!” and you’ll have a really good book.
Cue the wicked guitar solo.
OVERRUN #1-4Writers: Andy Ewington & Matt Woodley
Artist: Paul Green
Publisher: Jetpack Comics (Sold by Forbidden Planets)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (artist formerly known as Optimous Douche)
If you find the “Tron” anthropomorphizing of a computer’s organs passé, but “Matrix’s” message of code with feeling too esoteric (at least I think that’s what “The Matrix” was about), then I think OVERRUN will pacify the positronic pathways quite nicely.
OVERRUN takes the concept of the computer come to life at a more micro level, perfectly befitting an age when companies like IBM just released a server, the z13, that can encrypt every packet of data before sending it out into the ethertubes. Today the terrors of tomorrow happen one infected file at a time. We are slowly leaving the age when hacks will happen with USB sticks and point of sale signal pilfering. OVERRUN is a modern day MAC adventure, where digital denizens seek to save their home and the ethereal “cloud.”
To start the story off with action in panel 1, Ewington and crew’s digital protagonist was not spawned from the super security machine I mentioned earlier. In fact, he’s a filthy and disgusting virus on the superhighway to go poison the plethora of data storage outside his own box of cyberspace.
Before he can make his way to…the Cloud, his connection is disrupted by much larger forces at play in the booming metropolis of data.
OVERRUN is fun, especially for computer dorks like yours truly. Excel files are boring as shit businessmen. Porn files are awesome. Video game files forever live in a state of defeat or victory, giving them complexes and personalities befitting the perpetual winners and losers of the real world.
There’s also a “Lion in winter” play here with the appropriate dose of skullduggery. It’s heady stuff when a book that revels in jokes like bus lines becoming physical buses transcends to moral conundrums like duty to the greater good superceding duty to family.
Elusive? Yes. I’m being that way on purpose. To say more would spoil the plot of this four issue run. It’s the tidy finite story we look for these days as fans that builds a full Freytag pyramid.
The art is gorgeous--appropriately cartoony to draw in video game fans and comic fanatics alike. Cheesecakey and a little 90s muscly are perfectly allowed when it supports the story material. We surf porn not to settle. Right? Hyperbole of style should be the order of the day when action and emotional stakes are being constantly overclocked.
Fun, friendship and just the right amount of geekery so you actually start to care about the characters by the time the plug is finally pulled on the whole affair. It takes an accomplished team to make me care about McAfee, the hard broiled cop that keeps the city safe, versus laughing at the obvious antivirus play. I cared a lot, and I laughed not at the book, but always with it.
When Optimous isn't reviewing comics he is making the IT words chortle and groan with marketing for MaaS360, Enterprise Mobility Management. He also has a comic coming out sometime soon; for updates head to robpatey.com.
KARNAK #2Writer: Warren Ellis
Art: Gerardo Zaffino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I’ve been around comic books long enough to know that sometimes in the business shit just happens. Delays come in all shapes and sizes and of a wide variety of natures, but regardless of the reasoning behind them, sometimes they really hurt a book’s momentum, especially when they lag on for several months.
That is very much the case when it comes to KARNAK here, a title that emerged from the primordial ooze of SECRET WARS and immediately impressed me with its sense of stylish bravado. Warren Ellis and artist Gerardo Zaffino really sold the stoic Inhuman as an individual force to be reckoned with, and seemed to be carving a cool niche out in the Marvel Universe for the character on his lonesome.
Then four months passed and the issue we received was mostly a giant action piece (which can be great!) that still felt somewhat rushed despite the time between issues. Again, I know that shit happens and hopefully the folks involved with this book are more intact than the group Karnak dismantles in this beatdown bonanza, but I was already feeling my interest tapering each month this issue did not arrive, and now that it is here I think it may have flat-lined.
Hopefully things can get back on track for the book and those involved, but at the least it feels like things were mishandled here in finding an end around whatever transpired, as a good bit of projects in the wake of SECRET WARS’ delays were as well.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #48Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Jason Fabok
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
The crowning feature of DC’s New 52, “The Darkseid War”, continues to rage on and will rage on up to the Rebirth of the DCU. Earlier in this series I tried to resist calling this a Michael Bay movie (you know, spectacle over story), but this issue really is a Michael Bay issue, and I guess the whole story arc has been too.
The issue starts with the League taking a deal by the Crime Syndicate--a deal which makes no sense, as it doesn’t get the League what they wanted (intel on the Anti-Monitor) yet gives the Syndicate everything they want (freedom, a body for Grid and Kryptonite for Ultraman). I swear, Johns’ Justice League has been dumber than a bag of hammers since day one. So now working together, the League and the Syndicate go after the Anti-Monitor, who is now just Mobius since losing the Anti-Life Equation. For reasons unknown, aside from that he seems to like killing, Mobius is still planning on destroying our world, with his antimatter shadow demon army (which is kinda surprising because I would have guessed the shadow demons were the Anti-Monitor’s shtick, not Mobius’). Things go poorly for our hero –er, protagonists, but the Green Lantern Corps shows up just in time to add to the carnage. The Syndicate still proves to be ineffective losers as (spoiler) Ultraman gets himself killed. Luckily, the real hero of the story finally appears--Lex Luthor, now with the powers of Darkseid (don’t think, just go--Michael Bay, remember)! Meanwhile Grail, daughter of Darkseid, has the Anti-Life Equation (which is more of a glowing ball than an equation) and apparently wants to use it on Steve Trevor (if Lex Luthor can be Darkseid, Steve Trevor can be the Anti-Monitor—sure, why not). Oh and Superwoman is in labor.
So just crazy topped on to crazy here in the Darkseid War. And just like a Michael Bay film, or an amazing car crash, it’s hard to take your eyes off of it. Jason Fabok’s awesome artwork doesn’t help either, because it’s amazing looking. You could buy this for the artwork alone. Yet, like the Trinity War, The Darkseid War has been epically empty, as characters collide in amazing conflagrations with none of their motivations explained and not much actually getting done. With two issues left, you should probably just stop thinking and enjoy the explosions.
THE GODDAMNED #3Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: R.M. Guera
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
The first issue of THE GODDAMNED, brought to us by the SCALPED team of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, was a piece of brutality teased with black humor that really sucked you into its ultra-grim take on biblical lore.
Somehow shockingly and yet unsurprisingly, this creative tandem has not only kept up the adamant pace of this unflinchingly violent storytelling, but they have really started shaping it into the ultimate in revenge pieces. Our protagonist, Cain, literally knows where the world has gone awry and has resigned himself to kill across the Lord’s creation in the vain hope he can get to the creator to extract some measure of measure of wrath upon him for fucking things up so bad. All that is between him and that end game are some of the most iconic of “historical” figures and all the bad attitude and bloodshed you would expect from the horror show of wrath that is the Old Testament.
I honestly don’t know how long these folks can keep up this pace – though if SCALPED is to be the benchmark, they can do it for sixty-some issues – but for as long as it ends up trekking along, THE GODDAMNED promises to be one of the most unapologetically wicked and bloody yet fun pieces of comic book on the stands.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #4Writer: Max Landis
Artist: Jae Lee
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Lionel Putz
I’m roughly two weeks late on my “highly anticipated” (?) review of the fourth issue of Max Landis’ SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN. I wish I could point to a solid excuse for the delay (for my editor, for my colleagues, for myself…), but really I think I’ve just been hesitant to sit down and write this because this was the first issue of this book I didn’t really love.
As with the previous entries in the series, this issue deals with a single day in a maturing Clark Kent’s life. After checking in with him as a grade schooler (review here), an angsty teenager, and a hard-partying kid just about to enter his twenties (great issue, reviewed here), we find Clark well into his college journalism career and on his way to Metropolis to cover the Cerberus Summit, a meeting between three up-and-coming American industrialists: Oliver Queen, Bruce Wayne, and Lex Luthor. There, he’s to meet another winner of “the Daily Planet thing”, one Louis Lane (I…I understand if you need to roll your eyes here). Predictably, the misunderstanding does not make a great first impression with Lois, who is highly competitive with Clark in regards to whom get can an exclusive with one of the budding billionaires.
However—in a callback to the last issue and the first show of direct continuity between the installments—Oliver Queen remembers Clark from when he “impersonated” Bruce Wayne at Bruce’s twenty-first birthday party (seriously, go read that issue). Oliver whisks Clark away for a chat wherein he tells the note-taking Clark that he admired Clark’s “Robin Hood spirit” that day on the Wayne yacht, and is working hard to re-evaluate his world and use his power and influence to help people now. Oliver then introduces Clark to Lex Luthor, who proceeds to lecture Clark on Ayn Randian exceptionalism before depositing him in the LexCorp daycare. The issue steadily goes off the rails from here while Clark meets a pre-teen Dick Grayson before getting an impromptu late-night visit/harassment from a fully-cowled Batman (still pissed about the yacht incident, apparently).
Largely, this issue suffers from failing to do the thing the first issue did so well: tell one small, intimate story that informs the man Clark Kent will become. While this story tries to do that, it relies far too heavily on cameo-laden winks at the future of this particular vision of the DC universe, one we’re not likely to see after this limited series wraps. Beyond that, the characterizations of all the characters who are not Clark are so two-dimensional that they become off-putting. Lois competitiveness, Lex’s hubris, Dick’s detached analysis…they’re all robbed of any depth or nuance.
(As an aside, the Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson relationship has always strained credulity and defied a lot of conventional wisdom about societal norms. Attempting to diffuse this by having Clark and Dick discuss its objective weirdness does nothing make it any more plausible that the still very young Wayne could adopt this orphaned middle-schooler without it raising serious questions for Bruce that would seriously impair his attempts to live as a relative recluse.)
As a whole, this series remains as inventive, human, and enjoyable as it has been, but this issue seems to signal a turn towards more in-series continuity as Clark gets to personally know the larger world of heroes and villains around him. I continue to trust that Landis knows the story he’s telling and where this is going, but the remaining issues would benefit greatly from hewing closer to the intimate character studies the first three were. That said, I’ll continue to happily recommend this book and extoll the virtues of a Superman story told right.
Lionel Putz is a lawyer by day. He watched Matlock in a bar last night; the sound wasn't on, but he's pretty sure he got the gist of it. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
18 DAYS #9Writers: Ashwin Pande & Gotham Chopra
Artist: Francesco Biagini
Publisher: Graphic India
Reviewer: Masked Man
The immortal saga of the Mahabharata, as seen through the eyes of Grant Morrison, continues on at Graphic India. As I’ve stated before, the original mythology is frick’n awesome, and for anyone who enjoys reading mythology, it’s must read material. For the rest of us mere comic book fans, this series showcases just the climatic battle--an epic battle between two sets of cousins with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.
After another backstory issue this issue gets back to the final battle, although there is still a flashback in this issue as well. So we get some context on Bheeshma, the grandfather of the cousins and the baddest superwarrior to ever walk the planet. Like most of the warriors fighting for Duryodhana he feels he is fighting on the wrong side, but being honor-bound, he has no choice. Getting back the battlefield, the newest baddest superwarrior to ever walk the planet, Arjuna, goes up against his grandfather.
The fight is the highlight of the issue, as both Arjuna and Bheeshma are amazing fighters with even more amazing weaponry. The flashback helps give context to the battle, but I fear this constant need of flashbacks is starting to weaken the series as a whole. There’s just so many of them, with even whole issues dedicated to flashbacks. It’s becoming hard to keep up with the present situation with so many seemingly random flashbacks. I also think it doesn’t help that the series is bouncing around with three different writers (Grant Morrison stopped helping out with the daily script after issue #4). I just get the sense that one writer needs to be in control to keep the storytelling tight and focused. And while the flashbacks are very important to the story (since we have skipped to the climatic battle), I wish they would use them more like the old anime SAINT SEIYA, which kept up a steady rhythm of new character/flashback/fight to help keep viewers focused (although some fans would argue it was still too many--ah well).
As for the artwork of this issue, the fill-in issue/flashback artist, Francesco Biagini steps to the front to do a non-flashback battle. This makes the second issue in a row that regular Jeevan J. Kang is M.I.A., which is a bummer. Biagini is fine, but his finishing style is quite sloppy (a bit like Tim Sale) and I could nitpick his layout and storytelling as well. I suppose that’s why I hope Kang can return soon.
It seems as if this series has lost its way. There’s no way I’d say it’s a bad comic, but a tighter road map would be helpful in adapting this epic tale. I look forward to them getting it all back on track soon.
UNFOLLOW #5Writer: Rob Williams
Art: Mike Dowling
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
“Are you hunter? Or are you prey?”
I’ve been wanting to talk about UNFOLLOW since it first started coming out, but I didn’t think I had enough of a grasp on it to really explain what I think about this comic. The book has been on my mind almost as Spider-Man (which is a fucking lot, mind you), and this story is about prey and predators, and what makes us better than that.
But we’re at a natural stopping/starting point, so this is as good of a time as any.
UNFOLLOW is fucking amazing.
Suddenly, one day, an app appears on your phone. Across the world, one hundred and forty people are chosen, seemingly at random, and entered into a lottery of sorts. Upon the death of the impossibly wealthy Larry Ferrell, they will each receive a portion of his fortune. Upon the death of one of the one hundred and forty, the remaining money shall be returned and shared amongst the survivors. It’s BATTLE ROYALE and LORD OF THE FLIES, with hashtags. It’s about the circle of life, and how we shouldn’t romanticize what we are. It’s about what makes us who we are. It’s about a heavily armed Christian, Waylon Smithers in an Aztec murder mask, and a talking leopard that may be God or the Devil or the Mufasa or fucking I don’t know maybe it’s just a talking leopard. You don’t know – this book could eventually turn out to just have a talking leopard.
Despite the large cast that’ll be expanded on in the future, I’m sure, it’s primarily about Dave, a normal early twentysomething guy who always finds himself in way over his head. And since he’s so far the only character besides the reader to see the aforementioned talking leopard, he is the definition of in over his head. He and some of the rest of the group – thrill-seeking rich girl Courtney, Deacon that heavily armed Christian I mentioned early who only answers to the name God uses when they talk, stone cold Iranian journalist Ravan, a boring insurance man from London named Jullian, Japanese cyborg Jesus—yes, there is a Japanese cyborg Jesus in this series--known as Akira, and a mysterious oil worker named Mr. Abassi – are brought to a tropical island to receive their share of the money. But as the various players move into position against one another and the killing begins proper – if there were only one person left, they’d get all the money – we’re looking at a battle between good and evil in a world where it truly is subjective. No one here is a hero without being a liar, or a saint without being a bastard. And the people we love betray us and the people we hate have hearts. So what’s the point? What do you do? What happens now? That’s the very human story that UNFOLLOW is about.
Vertigo has been AMAZING across the board lately, but UNFOLLOW might actually be the best of the lot of them(and considering they’re currently putting out instant cult classics like ART OPS, SHERIFF OF BABYLON, JACKED, NEW ROMANCER, AMERICAN VAMPIRE and CLEAN ROOM, that’s saying something). It’s an objective comparison of Darwinism against humanism, with tits, guns, and murder. The leopard vision speaks to us directly as we watch a fellow human being be brutally murdered, and asks us to think about the purpose we give to life.
“Man, I fucking HATE the Lion King. Saccharine, cutesy Elton John songs about something as serious and upsetting and violent as the FOOD CHAIN. It’s demeaning to my species’ entire life cycle. Hey Elton…this poor guy just SHAT himself as he was dying. How’s this Circle of Life for you?”
ALL NEW ALL DIFFERENT AVENGERS #6Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
A funny thing happened on the way to the AVENGERS STANDOFF: apparently Waid’s first story has been chucked into the wood chipper. I’m guessing here, but the first five issues started very slowly building the trouble with The Vision and the mystery of Mr. Gryphon. One issue/fight scene later, it’s all good and the pieces are in place for AVENGERS STANDOFF.
The issue starts to with the spoiler that Mr. Gryphon is an aspect of Kang (seems that part of Waid’s story idea might have survived this issue) and that he is why The Vision decided to remove his emotion software. Meanwhile, Nova and Ms. Marvel chat about getting kicked out of The Avengers and figure they need to confront The Vision and prove he has gone rogue. By this point The Avengers already know this, and are currently slugging it out with him. Then from last issue’s cliffhanger, Captain (Falcon) America and (Jane) Thor manage to get themselves out of the near future and into the present (Sam also learns that new Thor is Jane). Iron Man then manages to force reboot The Vision, fixing him. Now at full strength, The Avengers take (Kang) Gryphon down.
So while not a bad issue, it all feels terribly rushed. The one cool thing in the book is Captain (Falcon) America and (Jane) Thor dealing with their chronal problem. Aside from that, it’s a pretty ordinary fight issue, and not what I expect from a Mark Waid superhero comic. Artist Mahmud Asrar does a good job drawing it all out. Nothing too awesome, like Fabok on the JUSTICE LEAGUE, but solid enjoyable work.
Next up, AVENGERS STANDOFF! Which does little to excite me, nor does CIVIL WAR II, which supposedly will spin out of STANDOFF. It just stinks too much of a marketing department-conceived tie-in (in name only) with the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA movie. That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, but damn, can’t we go three months without another Marvel event? Answer: Nope.
BLACK MAGICK #5Writer: Greg Rucka
Art: Nicola Scott
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
Like a solid bit of the market, I would wager, I make a lot of my comic book purchasing decisions based off of creative teams I really like, as I did here with BLACK MAGICK a few months back. And with the wrap up of the first arc of this story about Rowan Black, cop by day, witch by night, that creator trust has definitely paid off. Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott have created something really interesting here: an odd but exciting blend of noir meets witchcraft.
There’s a dark playfulness in these pages stemming from Rowan and the people in her life, given what they get up to in their daily lives, but there’s also a shadow lurking around the edges that gives way to some creeping paranoia and foreboding. The first few issues of this book really played to those latter points and our first bit of real payoff here, featuring Rowan and one of her coven under a vicious attack from some otherworldly creature, was properly brutal and horrific.
Rucka and Scott have definitely created a very cool and interesting supernatural world here that is a joy to read and a visual feast to perceive. If you haven’t hopped on board yet, a TPB grab is highly recommended.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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