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Advance Review: FU JITSU #1


Writer: Jai Nitz
Artist: Wes St. Claire
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter

What was your favorite comic book as a child? Chances are that it probably doesn’t ready like many of today’s most popular comic books (Mine as I’m on the record as saying before was TMNT ADVENTURES). I’m not here to argue whether or not that’s a good or a bad thing, but for the most part today’s most popular comic books, from BATMAN to WONDER WOMAN, all have a more serious tone to them.

That’s why it was refreshing to read FU JITSU #1, a new comic coming out on September 27th from AfterShock comics. FU JITSU is a throw back to the ridiculously fun, unconventional, and kind of out there stories that can only be told in a comic book. There likely will never be a FU JITSU television show or movie down the road, because this entertaining adventure really is meant to be a comic book.

So what’s it about? It’s about a 120 year old boy genius who has mastered sub-atomic Kung Fu and must save the world from danger. The danger is Robert Wadlow (known to many, especially Ripley’s Believe It Or Not fans, as the 8ft11 world’s tallest human) who employees James Dean (yes, James Dean) as an assassin. I told you the story was kind of out there!

Fu has spent the last 3 years in a sensory deprivation chamber to enlighten himself and forget about his breakup with his ex girlfriend. When he awakens, Wadlow has regained his atomic katana (forged by zombie blacksmiths in the fires of Nagasaki) and he has sent James Dean to kill Fu.

The story is written by Jai Nitz (KATO ORIGINS/SUICIDE SQUAD MOST WANTED: EL DIABLO AND BOOMERANG) and it is a fantastic blend of humor, action, martial arts, and sci-fi elements. As crazy as the premise is, the story flows very well throughout the first issue and it leaves you wanting to read the second issue right away. It’s a story that knows it’s ridiculously fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I hate to admit that I’m only a little familiar with Nitz’s previous work, but after this I’ll be definitely be digging into some long boxes to check out more of his writing.

The art is by Wes St. Claire’s (TEEN TITANS ANNUAL/ANATHEMA) and it really flows throughout the first issue as well. The two main characters, Fu and Wadlow, look great and the artwork looks as fun as it reads. I’m hoping that future issues have more advanced Kung-Fu visuals, because I loved St. Claire’s action panels with Fu using his sub atomic arts.

Forgive me for sounding like a broken record (or a fan boy for that mater) but FU JITSU #1 is another great addition to an already solid AfterShock lineup. AfterShock continues to build an impressive roster with a little something for everyone, and this book is for the old school fun comic book fans. I give FU JITSU #1 a score of 4 ½ out of 5 katana. Check it out when it hits your local comic book shop on September 27th.


Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Rod Reis and Joe Bennett
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man

Marvel's latest crossover event, SECRET EMPIRE, comes to what was suppose to be it's final issue, but it seems Marvel or Spencer wanted more. And issue #9 here is one of those issues that usually gets me in trouble in the talk backs, because it's a good issue.

First off, the very talented Leinil Francis Yu takes over the art chores. Rod Reis does his usual 'dream state' pages and Joe Bennett tosses in a few pages to help get the issue to the printers on time. And all of them do a great job. For the record, this makes Yu's third issue (4, 6, 9) and they are the best of the lot. The rest of the series is a crazy quilt of artists, who style don't mesh at all. Daniel Acuna did two issues (0, 8), Steve McNiven will do two-ish (1 and sharing 10 with David Marguez), and Andrea Sorrention did four (2, 3, 5, 7). While it's nice that Marvel got this bi-monthly series out on time (for the most part), I think they sacrificed too much artistic integrity to do it. It's like they gave no thought to the artists, and just pulled names out of a hat.

As to the story, it's also one of the best of the series, making... two (?) good issues. Mind you, it's a tale of two stories here. The issue is quite good, by itself. In the context of the greater story, it's text book bad event writing.

So let's get to the spoilers (note, context to the greater story will be give in parenthesis): So last issue, the heroes all managed to escape their Hydra 'traps'. In this issue they all attack Washington D.C. in a climatic showdown (funny that Hydra had no contingency plans set-up for their inevitable escape – well it was revealed that they had an “army” of mind controlled super villains in suspended slumber, but that seems more like an emergency plan than a contingency plan). Meanwhile, Captain Hydra America is dealing with the captured Black Panther (who's captured was never shown in the series- so surprise!). They now finally have his piece of the Cosmic Cube. As they take him to a holding cell, the Winter Soldier appears and frees him from Baron Zemo (because it's just that easy to sneak into Hydra Washington HQ). Hydra Cap then meets with Emma Frost, the leader of the mutants. He wants her Cosmic Cube piece and he wants to take over her 'mutant island'. She was willing to give him the cube piece, but not the island so, it's game on as the mutants join in on the attack on Washington DC (why they were never involved in the original battle for the U.S.A., we'll never know). Elsewhere, mind control boy Dr. Faustus believes he has finally broken Sharon Stone (although we've never even knew he was trying to- so surprise!). Turns out he was wrong- ouch. In the 'dreamland', Steve Roger's find Kobik, the sentient Cosmic Cube, the one who caused all this. We learn that this 'place' is her 'mind' and this Steve Roger is just her memory of him. Back in the real world, it looks like the heroes might actually win this fight. But then Captain Hydra America himself, dons a suit of armor powered by the nearly complete Cosmic Cube!

So really a lot of good action, a lot of cool payoffs, and a lot of cool character moments. Emma Frost dealing with Cap is probably my favorite scene. But the biggest problem is, so much stuff is happening in the cross-over issues (at least I assume it is, or the problem is even worse than I thought because), all these payoffs have no setup! No plans are coming to fruition, the events of previous issues aren't driving the story to conclusion. It's all just a giant, “And then this happened!” It just seems that Spencer put so much in this series, but never gave any of it enough time. He needed to be way more laser focused on the plot, than on the effects of the plot.

Now, while I did enjoy this single issue, my main thought reading it was: Why did we never get to see round one? In issue #0, Cap took over S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of the U.S. military. He locked Captain Marvel & company off Earth and Dr. Strange & company in New York city. In issue #1, we were told of the failed superhero (the remaining ones) rebellion, but never got to see it? Why the hell not?! Personally, I would have loved to have seen that, opposed to seeing pages about a elementary school under Hydra (which is what Spencer gave us).

Also, Cap managed to takeover a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. due to Dr. Faustus' mind control power. Again, what happened because of that? Have they all been mind controlled for months? Did no U.S. Military organization ever fight against Hydra? Everyone from the Pentigon down to local police forces just let Hydra takeover? Really? Why couldn't we see those stories? Watching normal soldiers rebel against Hydra would have been more interesting than the Ultron dinner party issue we got (mind you good issue, but barely any impact on the plot).

It's a real shame that this concept, that got everyone so upset and curious, turned out to be such a poorly executed event.

THE DREGS. Volume 1: TP

Writers: Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Eric Zawadzki
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Reviewer: Justin Burkhardt and @justinburkhardt on Twitter

Every so often there comes a comic book series that everyone who reads it can’t stop talking about. The most recent one of those for me is Black Mask’s THE DREGS series written by Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler, both most famously known before this as writers for their work at Vice. Many of the comic book readers and writers that I know can’t stop singing its praises, and with the first volume of the trade paperback out now, I figured it is the perfect time to review the series as a whole.

THE DREGS, set in Vancouver, is a horror noir where drug addicted homeless folk are eaten by the rich at trendy restaurants. The story touches on many subjects like gentrification, poverty, and addiction but it never feels like a work of exploitation because it finds the perfect balance of serious subject matter and comic book storytelling. The story is filled with appropriate metaphors that paint an ugly picture of the problems many major cities are facing today, while bringing a fresh new spin on the classic noir genre.

In the story, the area where addicts in Vancouver live is a five squared block area called the Dregs, and as resident Arnold says, “Nobody goes missing in the Dregs. You either get clean and escape, or you live here until you die.” Except that’s not true anymore as Arnold is now searching for his friend Manny who has recently disappeared. Arnold, who channels Raymond Chandler, is the story’s main character, a homeless addict who reminds me of a mixture of Bubbles from “THE WIRE” and Rorschach from WATCHMEN. The Dregs has seen a spike in overdoses, increased gentrification, and now at lease one disappearance. Arnold takes it upon himself to try to figure out what’s going on and if/how these problems are connected.

I don’t want to ruin too much of the story because I really want you read it for yourself, but all four issues collected in this volume are all very tightly written and filled with incredible story telling, artwork, and social commentary. There really has never been a detective story quite like this before, and the ending will stick with you once you've finished.

If you didn’t catch issues 1-4 when they were released, it reads just as well if not better as a collected trade paperback. THE DREGS would also make a fantastic cult movie, so some Hollywood studio needs to call Thompson and Nadler ASAP. There’s also still a lot to explore if the writers and Black Mask decide to make future issues (I’d love to find out more about Arnold’s pre-addiction past for example). I’m confident the writers could make an equally impressive sequel that dives even deeper into The Dregs universe should they choose to do so.

The artwork is by Eric Zawadzki (LAST BORN, HEAD SPACE) is very detailed, down to the dirtiest parts. Zawadzki creates a neighborhood in decay that may look a little cartoonish but feels so alive (or dead for that matter) that you could almost mistake it for the real life Vancouver neighborhood Easting Hastings which the Dregs is based off of.

It’s rare that a writing duo’s debut comic is this good, but there’s no doubt that The Dregs is a modern day comic noir masterpiece. It should absolutely be in the discussion for best series of the year when awards time rolls around. Yes, THE DREGS, Volume 1 is as good as you’ve heard it is. I give THE DREGS: Volume: 1 a score of 5 out of 5 needles. Order a copy today, read it, and thank me later!


Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man

Well after DARK DAYS of THE FORGE and THE CASTING, DC finally kicks off it's next big event, the six part DARK NIGHTS: METAL. It's brought to us by the former Batman vunder team, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. One thing kinda of amusing off the bat, in interviews, Snyder mentioned how much he appreciates Grant Morrison's writing. I find it amusing, because Nick Spencer, who is currently writing Marvel's big event, SECRET EMPIRE, mentions he's a big fan of Mark Miller's writing. So in affect, Marvel and DC's latest events are being written by guys trying to emulate other popular writers – huh.

Getting back to METAL itself (who's name apparently comes from Snyder's view of Capullo, being a heavy metal guy – huh), it has two flaws to start off with: 1- The pacing is horribly slow! After 88 pages, the plot has barely moved- at all! METAL #1 pretty much just goes over things we learned (which wasn't much) in THE FORGE and THE CASTING. Heck, the first nine pages have nothing to do with the plot at all! It's pretty much a 'James Bond opening sequence' as we watch the Justice League play Voltron. One can only hope the plot actually starts moving in the fourth, of this full eight issue story. And 2- DC's continuity is a complete mess. So this one isn't really Snyder's fault (although I suppose you could argue he should have kept things closer to what we actually know about the current state of the DCU), as he grabs elements from various DCU timelines and presents undefined relationships. He cracks a joke about Aquaman having a hook hand (did that happen anymore?) The Justice League doesn't seem to know Hawkman or Hawkgirl, or the Challengers of the Unknown, nor the Red Tornado. Now, while that's confusing and all, the bigger issue is, Snyder (much like he did on his BATMAN run) is writing about DC's history. But we have no concrete starting point of just what the hell DC's history is! Now, if those two flaws don't bother you, you're sure to have a good time with this book.

Let's get to the spoilers. So we start out with the Justice League captured by Mongul, but with the help of the also captured Toyman, Amadeus Cho- er Hiro Okamura, they break free (oddly enough, there's no sight of Hiro as the heroes fly back to Earth). Since Challenger Mountain (the HQ of the Challengers of the Unknown) has been dumped on Gotham (killing millions I guessing by the wreckage), the League go there on reentry. Searching the cave HQ, they discover the Challengers stored in cryo, with a sign saying, “It's chasing us, run”. Red Tornado, in off mode, is here too (as I mentioned earlier, the JL have no idea who these people are). Green Lantern mentions the weird energy, which he in counted in THE FORGE and THE CASTING is present, and it's even worse- although he doesn't seem to be having any issues with his ring, like he in those issues. As they continue to look around, the Black Hawks show up, a covert anti-apocalyptic team (since when?), run by Lady Blackhawk, aka Hawkgirl (again, the League have no idea who she is). She takes them to Blackhawk Island (which is now a spot where cosmic energy conducts, like Paradise Island and Nanda Parbat (remember, one of Snyder's goals in this series is to connect different elements of the DCU together)). Hawkgirl brings the League up to speed on what happened in THE FORGE and THE CASTING (which is basically big bad indescribable mojo heading our way (dogs and cats living together etc)). She then whips out Grant Morrison's map of the DCU (from THE MULTIVERSITY). And explains the big bad is from the dark multiverse, as she flips the map (proving Scott Snyder was a fan of Netflix's STRANGER THINGS). Apparently, Nth metal comes from the dark multiverse too, which is why everything is connected(?). She also says the big bad got a look at Batman, when he was running around in caveman time (which happened during FINAL CRISIS, when Darkseid zapped him through time), and has pegged him to be the guy that allows him/it/they to come into our world. So, Hawkgirl tries to 'arrest' Batman (with the JL just standing there, good plan). Then for some reason Red Tornado attacks everyone (now why they brought Red Tornado over from Challenger Mountain, I go no idea. It's not even mentioned, he's just there). While Reddy goes ape, Batman runs away to the Batcave, to do more research (??). He discovers Hawkman's journal hidden in Wayne Manor (timey wimey stuff) and declares it's all true. And the surprise guest star shows up: Sandman, who says yes it is. Now what is all true- got no idea. But from the adverts, and evil Batman Justice League is coming our way, which has something to do with the original human clans of the bird, the wolf and the bear... and the bat clan comes from the dark multiverse, I guess(?).

Now while there was a lot packed into those pages, not much happened story wise. Especially, if you read THE FORGE and THE CASTING. In fact they even left some info out! So we can look forward to more recap next issue, I guess. Snyder has promises things will get much bigger as the story continues though. But speaking for myself, the scale of this story has been the least of my problems with it. So far I've spend $15 on three issues and it's been nothing but a cacophony of color and DC lore. If I don't start getting some real story 'meat' soon, I don't think I'll be spending the remaining $25 on this.

Again, if you don't mind the slow pace and the messy continuity, you can easily sit back and enjoy the roller coaster rider. Which is probably the point, like DC's last crossover: THE SUICIDE SQUAD VS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE. Which was a roller coaster ride and not much else. In that light, Greg Capullo does a fine job with this issue. Everything looks really good, and he's an excellent choice for a big event comic. So enjoy, at your own peril.


Writer: Amber Benson & Sara Kuhn
Art: Siobhan Keenan
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Frida Gurewitz

If you ask any girl between the ages of 13-25, they’d probably say Amy Heckerlings’ 1995 movie CLUELESS is “iconic”. While I realize that the 13-25 year old woman demographic probably isn’t AICN’s usual audience I am part of that demographic. With the 1990’s being so ridiculously trendy at the moment its no surprise this so-called iconic teen film staring Alicia Silverstone has made its way into print with CLUELESS: SENIOR YEAR. Written by Amber Benson of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fame, Sara Kuhn (writer of HEROINE COMPLEX), and illustrated by Siobhan Keenan, CLUELESS: SENIOR YEAR does it exactly what its title says. It explores Cher, Dionne, and Tai’s senior year and their quests to find who they really are. Despite considering CLUELESS an iconic teenage film (I went to college where they filmed the high school scenes of the film so I spent 4 years being surrounded by the legacy of CLUELESS) and enjoying reading SENIOR YEAR, I feel as if it falls short of the original source material. It doesn’t fulfill the big Jimmy Choo pumps Cher walked in.

One thing that really makes the CLUELESS film so memorable isn’t just the bevy of nineties-ness it’s the heart and sweetness of the characters. The substance within the style is what really has made the CLUELESS canon so relatable even after 20 years. Benson and Kuhn achieve the style of the dialogue but seem to be lacking the substance and the heart. I will admit the details of this four chapter graphic novel are adorable. Cher makes En Vogue references in English class. Dionne argues about the partnership of Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff with her boyfriend Murray. Benson and Kuhn make a considerable effort to make sure to establish that it is indeed 1995 within the pages of the book. . Each chapter is given a different mix tape loaded with 90’s music to pair with the arc of that chapter. However besides the arc of Cher finding her “the real Cher”, each chapter arc is really only given that chapter to explore themselves. None of them feel truly explored or struggled with. There doesn’t seem to be an “all is lost” to make our resolutions that much more satisfactory. While the writing is clever and fun, the structure of the plot really lets down the sharp dialogue. The voice seems to be more reliant on the style than the substance.

Siobhan Keenhans illustration and Shan Murphy’s unique watercolor-esque really support this style. The fashion itself within the book is exactly what you imagine, crop tops, flannels, chokers, and a bevy of mini skirts. A lot of the aesthetics of the book seem to be reliant on the fashion. Which I have no complaints about. The movie is the same. I can say no one is ensembly challenged. At points the illustrations feel a little more 2017 does 90’s than actually 90’s but honestly I don’t really mind. Keenhans illustrations coupled with Murphys cute, candy colored painting spending a year at Bronson Alcott High is a fun visual experience.

Ultimately SENIOR YEAR is a fun read. It’s a little fluffy but like CLUELESS the movie CLUELESS: THE SENIOR YEAR is a good time. Maybe it doesn’t have the deepest most meaningful plots but that may not be the genre. Searching for deeper meaning among the adorable quips and scrunchies maybe as Cher says “as useless as searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie”. It’s simply not going to be there.


Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man

Jeff Parker, fresh off the heels of DC's FUTURE QUEST, which was a team-up of all the Hanna-Barbera superheroes (well Young Samson and Shazzan never showed), is back with a solo Space Ghost mini-series. Oddly enough, the art is by Ariel Olivetti, who illustrated the last Space Ghost mini-series back in 2005 (that one was written by Joe Kelley, had awesome Alex Ross covers).

Getting into the spoilers, the issue starts with some Space Ghost action, then moves on to his current life goal, to rebuild the Space Force. As told in FUTURE QUEST, Parker has combined the Lone Ranger and the Green Lanterns to give Space Ghost an origin (something Joe Kelley did as well in 2005). So before becoming Space Ghost, our hero was a member of the Space Force. An intergalactic peace keeping force, with each member being armed with power bands (Space Ghost's patented three button wrist bands). But the monster Omnikron killed everyone in the Space Force, and ruined their home base planet (see FUTURE QUEST). The sole survivor of the battle, became Space Ghost, and the ruined planet has become his headquarters, Ghost Planet (not bad Parker, not bad). In hopes of rebuilding the Space Force, Space Ghost has adopted two teenagers, who were orphaned during Omnikron's attack, Jan and Jace. You see, it takes years of training, before one can handle a power band. Being also short on power bands, the three, with Blip the monkey, travel to Amzot, home of the Herculoids. There they hope to find more Element Zero, the rare element that power bands are made from. Although, unknown to them, popular Space Ghost (talking the old TV show here) villain Metallus has been waiting for any member of the Space Force to show up. So he can exacted his revenge!

This is near pitch perfect, and this is coming from a guy who owns both the 60's and 80's seasons of Space Ghost on DVD. The set-up is great, Parker gives it just the right amount of pathos and he fits it all together really well. As for Olivetti's part, it's his usual greatness. His digital painting, figures and story telling is all really done well. The only stone I can throw at him is his Igoo. It's just looks like Igoo has freaky marble skin, oppose to being the full on rock ape Alex Toth designed.

So, this is a great starting issue. It tells you everything you need to know about Space Ghost, his hopes for the future, and sets up a great showdown with Metallus. Metallus, Space Ghost fights are always awesome and I doubt very much that Parker and Olivetti will let us down here. If you are a superhero fan, you'd be crazy to miss this.


Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Adam Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

As I write this I’m turning a nice, round thirty-six years of age, that year where maybe you think you could still land a college girl before you remember you couldn’t even land one when you were in college because you were such a loser, and I dunno if it is the age thing or just the fact that there’s real life Nazis while Captain America is a fake life one and everything is terrible, but I’ve been getting to a little bit of a “comfort zone” with my comic book reading. What this entails, basically, is I have been settling a little bit into “my era” of books, some I’m rereading or some I’m reading for the first time, and settling back in with a rotation of secondary characters you may not see before or different roles everyone had back then and yadda yadda. Spider-Man was arguably my favorite superhero growing up so, thanks to Marvel’s Epic Collections, I’ve been going back to that DeMatteis/Micheline/Larson/MacFarlane/Bagley era that, yeah, culminated in a shitshow of epic proportions called “The Clone Saga” that left me with a disdain for comics that had me quit for half a decade, there was some really good times in there before the shit hit the fan. Flash Thompson and Felicia Hardy are an item, the Pete/MJ marriage is in its prime “totes adorbs” phase, I finally read “Kraven’s Last Hunt” for the first time (it was a couple years before my time, sorry), etc. What I’m getting at with all of this is that, at least in the case of some Spider-Man nostalgia tickling, this fledgling run of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN by Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert generates a lot of that “homey” feeling while very much doing its own thing and playing to Zdarsky’s wonderful eccentricities as a writer.

So far with this new Spidey series, everything has been top level quippy and already feels comfortable in its own spandex. Peter is running around NY and bouncing off wise-cracks and appointments with “brother from another mother” Johnny Storm, all while being awkward meeting new ladies, spending his fifth decade being labeled a “menace” by J. Jonah Jameson, and stumbling upon some seedy, underworld stuff that involves some of the more convoluted plots in his history. Chip Zdarsky has shown himself time and again to have one of the more oddball and dopey senses of humor in comics while working on SEX CRIMINALS with Matt Fraction, and it translates fantastically into a Spider-Man world that (sadly) features no villains or heroes that stop time when they orgasm. Zdarsky’s personality is totally on display there, though, and it is an excellent complement scripting-wise for a character of the Friendly Neighborhood with a Motor Mouth variety. The interaction between Peter and Johnny, Peter and a very nice and attractive lady he met back in issue 1, well between Peter and everyone is just as funny and charming as it is awkward. Chip just has the gift of writing the gab and it immediately makes this SPECTACULAR run endearing.

The book plot wise is also pretty enjoyable, but obviously the appeal is how Chip and industry stalwart Adam Kubert are presenting the shenanigans and the characters involved. Pete finds himself mired in a situation I didn’t even know existed until this run, a “sister” named Teresa that was convinced she shared parents with Pete and was had during his folks’ spy days (that old chestnut) which turned out to be a Kingpin ploy, and basically takes it in stride because it’s fucking Spider-Man and he’s seen shit. But the interaction between Pete and Teresa actually is very familial, just like how he and Johnny have their bratty brother moments, and despite a very 90’s esque underpinning to the plot, it also has its moments. We spend some more time setting up one side character – a brother of the Tinkerer introduced in issue one, Spidey, Johnny and Teresa kick some goon ass when confronting the Kingpin, the Tinkerer himself shows face packing some new heat, and J. Jonah Jameson surfs the web. It’s entertaining as hell, it feels like a Spider-man book should from the quips to the action to the depth of fun had with all the secondary characters and watching Pete fumble around in his relationships with them. It feels like home in a Marvel comic book universe that has mostly felt cold in recent years, as it has barraged its base with event after event, and “at home” is a very much welcome feeling these days.

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.


Writer: Brian Joines
Artist: Bachan
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Reviewer: Masked Man

It's kinda mind numbing how many licensed properties there are in comicbooks these days. By hey everyone has their jam. I was definitely a fan of BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and BOGUS JORUNEY; and I always hoped they'd finish off a trilogy with Bill & Ted Play Mars. Heck, I even enjoyed the Saturday Morning cartoon of Bill & Ted (season one, season two is pretty crappy). So why not a comicbook, or a comicbook 25 years after the fact! But that's pop culture, and we are living in the biggest pop culture time ever! So the real bottomline is, of course, is the book any good?

The creative team features Brian Joines, who's known for his Image work, including SECRET IDENTITES and KRAMPUS. The art is by Mexican artist Bachan, who did ROCKET SALVAGE for Archaia. And this is their follow up to BILL & TED GO TO HELL. And like before, this is a good romp in the Bill & Ted U.

Getting into the spoilers, we finally learn where Bill and Ted's mom's are: Traveling the universe, promoting their son's band, Wyld Stallions. Paving the way for a universal tour, in the truest sense, which will also save the universe as well. But before the tour can be cleared, Bill and Ted must survived a giant monster trial from the Grand Cosmic Council. With a really great twist, Bill and Ted pull off a victory and the tour is cleared. Then things turn melodramatic as Bill and Ted's dads show up and family issues run rampant. So much so, that Ted's younger brother Deacon decides to join up with universal stick in the mud, and current Bill & Ted nemesis, Primary Glurm (kind of a space cop). And even Bill and Ted themselves develop issues. As Ted decides not to go on tour, feeling it would have a bad effect on his family (Princess babe and little Ted). Bill feels they have a responsibility to save the universe with their music, so they break-up (gotta say that seemed a little quick and forced). Finally, for a cliffhanger, we learn Glum wants to use Deacon to attack the Earth!

So it's all pretty fun, as you'd expect. While Joines' script isn't the strongest to me, his plot is very good. The twist in the trial was great, and I'm not going to spoil it. The best part of the issue though is Bachan art. While he's not nailing actor likenesses, he has a good overall design style that carries the comic. His work has done nothing but improve over the years, and I feel this is his best work yet. The kinetic energy of the imagery is great, and even talking head scenes are very nicely done. It all really sells the manic action Joines is writing about, and then some. Any Bill & Ted fan should be picking this up. And any fan of funny books should totally give it try.


Writer: Keith Giffen
Artist: Steve Rude
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man

Unless you've been living under rock, you've seen both DC and Marvel doing little things this year to celebrate what would have been Jack Kirby's 100th year on this Earth. The biggest is this 12 issue mini (or is it still maxi) – series: KAMANDI CHALLENGE. Featuring Kirby's last boy on Earth, written round-robin style with 14 writers and 14 artists (12 issues, including a prologue and an epilogue). This issue features long time DC writer/artist Keith Giffen (the only creator to write an issue (this one) and illustrate one (well, the prologue), plus superstar artist Steve Rude!

Let's jump right into the spoilers, shall we? So teenage Kamandi, was living a “TRUMAN SHOW” life when, he was finally kicked out into the real world. Everyone he knew was a robot and he's the last boy on Earth. Although, he is told his parents are still alive, so he goes in search for them, in this “PLANET OF THE APES/ tigers / dogs / rats / bears / etc. /etc.” world.

Suriving the cliffhanger from last issue (each issue ends with a cliffhanger for the next writer to solve). Kamandi finds himself on a Greek Island (though maybe Italy, based on old Kirby maps), populated by Sheep and Wolf people. The two groups have been warring over a coming messiah: Odysseus or rather Ulysses (depending on the side). They both believe Kamandi is he, and the blood shed really kicks up! Kamandi wants no part of any of it, and just tries to get out of 'Dodge', as the holy war really kicks up. As he makes a break for open water, a sea serpant attacks him- cliff hanger!

Now on some level this isn't so much of a round-robin story, as it is just a collect of one offs. As there is pretty much no connection, plot-wise, to these issue. Each issue is: Kamandi meets this, and this happens. Although, this issue does do a mini-recap. And overall, I feel this was one of the better issues. Cause: A) it was drawn by Steve (the dude) Rude. And he's just an awesome classic comicbook illustrator. He's layouts can get weirdie at times (as I think he's always pushing to be different and daring), but everything always looks great. And, B) being such an veteran writer, Keith Giffen probably has more experience than any other writer on this series, for a single issue story. It's packed with action, humor and social commentary- three things Jack Kirby himself always strove for in his Kamandi stories.

Comparing this to the original DC round robin series, the DC CHALLENGE, from the 1980's, KAMANDI CHALLENGE has improved the formula and messed it up a bit too. THE DC CHALLENGE, was one single story, featuring any number of characters a writer wanted to toss into the mix. As a result, the story quickly grew into an unwieldy mess with each issue. To prevent that, Kamandi is the only character in the KAMANDI CHALLENGE. And despite the cliffhanger ending, each issue is a self contained story (like Warren Ellis' recent MOON KNIGHT run). As a result, it's worked a little too well. Nothing is a mess, which is good, but than everything is a bit on the boring side too. Part of the fun of a round-robin story is the craziness that comes out of it. So whenever DC gets the idea to try this again, I hope they can improve upon the formula again, striking a balance between the insane DC CHALLENGE and the dull KAMANDI CHALLENGE. As it is, these are fun one-off adventures with Kamandi (#8 being one of the better ones), featuring a great line-up of comic book creators. It's clearly not a must read book, as it is, what it is.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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