(Click title to go directly to the review)
CROSSED PLUS 100 #1
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #1
Indie Jones presents WOLF HANDS SEASON ONE
TOOTH & CLAW #2
THANOS VS HULK #1
THE SHADOW NOW VOL.1 TPB
CROSSED PLUS 100 #1Writer: Alan Moore
Art: Gabriel Andrade
Publisher: Avatar Press
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
CROSSED has more potential than the WALKING DEAD. There, I said it, and I am now going to use this review pulpit to apologize to every CROSSED fan I have labeled as simply wanting to have their gore and eat it from a severed titty-bag, too.
CROSSED was always described to me as a zombie book. Why? How is the unleashing of the human id by viral infection even remotely akin to zombies? Because those bearing the Cross scar eat people? That’s called cannibalism by anyone who isn’t trying to seem like one of the cool kids. Fuck zombies, we’re done with them. It’s why every tale out right now is giving them some simpleton form of sentience. As soon as the purest form was overexploited, we needed zombies to fall in love, or try to hold jobs, or whatever zomropomorphism the next hack vomits off their cash for words assembly line to make a trite concept zing again for one last hoorah.
I read WALKING DEAD for Rick’s journey, plain and simple. Zombies are a ridiculous construct that I shunned in the past, not for my weak stomach activated by a strong imagination, but simply because I find the threat ridiculous. Getting attacked by a zombie is as bad as getting mugged by someone with advanced multiple sclerosis. I applaud the death of anyone who is taken out by zombies, because chances are that this slow-as-shit monstrosity that telegraphs its attacks just did the human gene pool a favor.
I now read CROSSED to see how humanity holds up without a superman in an oversized sheriff’s hat. I read CROSSED because these infected individuals have never felt like “zombies” in the here and now, and Moore confirmed where my brainpan saw them evolving towards in my few past dalliances in the origin story, rape train, and the one where the Crossed decided to create Coach clutches from mammary material.
Perhaps my zeal is unfounded; I will let those of you who have married the main CROSSED series in the past guide me before I go and spend tons of money on trades. Yes, I am that committed to becoming more familiar with this world and Moore is my tipping point. The balances of evolution and devolving have been tipped and there is no crossing back for homo sapiens no homo-crossed.
This is a story of lament, a reflection of loss on the decadence of an age we will not soon recapture. As we all bitch incessantly about life’s trivialities, we forget that our bitching is transmitted via the most complex plumbing unit since Romans grew tired of smelling their shit. We live in a marvelous age which was halted one day by four planes being used as weapons. If every fan of Honey Boo Boo and followers of the Kardashian’s asses one day became blood-boiled and wicked strong, I have no doubt the civilized would crumble. Even without the blood boil of infection these people are poised to take over the world from sheer breeding and lack of self-awareness.
The aforementioned lamenting is delivered in future speak derived from the journal of Future, a plucky young gal who is part of a coal-based caravan looking for a new home. Future’s mission is to learn all she can about this glorious age we now live in--the time before the plague. Future’s offerings are scant this far past paper’s half life, but media still abounds for her to pick up on CD and mp3 to play on her locomotive’s makeshift multimedia center.
I fell in love with Future, mainly because like me she thirsts for the abstract ideals of humanity found in sci fi. Unlike those of us who read it today and see possibility, Future’s perspective is that of what we could have become, but never will. It is tragic to see our grandchildren dream so far les than we ever can. While her tale of woe is engaging in Moore’s best humanistic capacity, some like my fellow podcasters were stymied by the way she speaks her ”skulling” of the greatest mystery in this arc – the evolution of madness.
Going back to zombies, they are mere fodder for a shuffling benign planet moving forward. In CROSSED +100, we see the forming of culture amongst the Crossed beyond the basic family unit. What Future and her crew discover is the same startling thought that crossed the cro magnon sloped skull when homo sapiens arrived, except this time, it is the lesser brain struggling for humanity that could very well thwart the larger brains of less physical prowess. Culture begins with symbology being created for abstract thought; a Crossed-infected shrine shows that these apes with their hieroglyphics are about to build a shining new Cairo amidst the rust of our failed Pax Americana.
Andrade brings the horror of the Crossed to life in new ways as well as giving a wonderful differentiation to the caravan who very well could have been dialed n without affecting the story. Each background person is unique, and the Crossed are equally as unique, but also part of the same visual barbarism that keeps them separate form our lost next next next generation.
Moore is a comic maestro whose off-panel pulpit pounding leaves many forgetting why he is able to capture this media attention. CROSSED +100 will remind you of how Moore once changed comics and is still struggling to bring the deepest meaning possible to this meeting. If WATCHMEN was a home run, CROSSED is a solid double ready to steal third.
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.
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #1Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Phil Jimenez
Substory Writer: Marguerite Bennett & Kieron Gillen
Substory Art: Stephanie Hans
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
It’s worth noting, I think, that part of the reason I picked up ANGELA #1 was because I’m a fan of Gillen’s writing and might not have been as inclined otherwise to check out first issue. I don’t know much about Angela as a character outside of a few, mostly random issues of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and reading THOR & LOKI: THE 10TH REALM. I’ve never read anything prior to her pre-Marvel days and basically only know what the internet has provided me, presenting the opportunity to be introduced to a character I know nothing about.
ANGELA #1 follows in the aftermath of THOR & LOKI: THE 10TH REALM and the events almost directly after, it seems. Angela has been shunned by the angels of Heaven and is dealing with the reality of her Asgardian heritage. Gillen presents a character who is still set in the culture and ideologies she was raised with by the angels even after learning of her true heritage. The story follows as Angela is currently being hunted by two different groups--one which she easily dispatches at the beginning of the book and the second presented on the very last page, with the majority of the book establishing Angela’s code of honor, or really the ideologies of debt payment she was raised by the angels with. The story does a good job for someone like me, to know what her motivations as a character are.
The issue flows smoothly between present and past while painting a picture of who Angela is and some personal quirks about her. There is a good mix between action and dialogue, along with narrative in the text boxes. I think ANGELA #1 covered basically all of the needed requirements for a first issue. A basic caricature of Angela is presented. We get enough of a backstory about her, to understand the direction of future issues and establish some basic story or character points, to allow for further character growth over the course of this run. There isn’t anything that necessarily jumps out, but this is the first issue and ANGELA needs time to grow. This is a solid starting point with an interesting character who has an interesting past as presented in the issue. Gillen makes you want to know more about Angela and how her journey and newly discovered family history, will play out in future arcs.
In the pencils department, Phil Jimenez was a pretty good choice for this book. His actions sequences are detailed and interesting, allowing for Angela’s apparent vicious fighting style to shine. Jimenez actually switches up with Stephanie Hans for ANGELA’s substory and does an excellent job in her own right. Hans’ artwork had an almost space odyssey feel to it, mixing the mythological elements with something Flash Gordon-esque. Both styles fit the story and, by mixing them in between flashback and present, helped with the flow of the story.
I thought this was a pretty interesting book, and its hook made me interested in future issues. I really like the whole Heaven vs. Asgard dynamic, with Angela being in the middle as a character now trying to reestablish who she is. I think the story is worth checking out and hope the future arcs pick up into something excellent, because this book has potential.
SHAFT #1Writer: David F. Walker
Art: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
When I went to a Dynamite Comics panel at New York Comic Con this year to see what some of my favorite writers had to say I didn't expect that it was newcomer David F. Walker who would steal the show by passionately talkin' about Shaft. He explained that although we think of Shaft as a popular movie it began as a series of novels by writer Ernest Tidyman. Walker even visited Tidyman's widow to discuss the character as preparation for the comic series.
The movies may have turned Shaft into a prime example of blaxploitation, but the original novel series was actually a much more serious tale of a Vietnam veteran struggling with post traumatic stress disorder that made his living the only way he knew how: through violence. This Shaft is a more realistic and grounded character living back in 1968. He's a guy who grew up on the street, got in trouble, went to war, and still struggles to find himself. This issue manages to say all of that with the sort of elegance that can only be achieved in a comic book. We immediately know that Shaft may not be a saint, but he knows who the bad guys are and isn't afraid to stand up to them.
One of the interesting things that I learned back at that Comic Con panel was that David F. Walker not only writes that comic, but does that lettering as well. This may have come from a background in independent comics where they didn't have the money to hire someone to do lettering, but it also gives him a lot more control over the flow of the book. Walker is able to edit himself as he goes so that every panel and word are carefully placed and exist for a reason, which makes for a quick and enjoyable read.
For added value the comic comes with a QR code to download a free Shaft prose story, also written by David F. Walker, that compliments the comic. Each issue will include a new code for a new part of the story, so essentially you're getting two for the price of one. There is also an accompanying playlist of songs to set the mood in case you like to enjoy your Shaft with a swanky soundtrack.
The name may be familiar, but this is a Shaft that most readers probably haven't seen before. On top of that it's also an origin story, which means we'll have the pleasure of seeing him grow into the badass mother we all want to see. That said, this issue isn't very action-packed, but I get the feeling it will pick up the pace quickly. SHAFT #1 is a strong start to what I hope will turn into a long lasting series. Damn right.
WOLF HANDS: SEASON ONEStory: Justin Heggs
Art: Nick Johnson
WOLF HANDS isn’t a comic with a mass amount of existential nuances, or rooted with political commentary. You’re not going to find philosophical meanderings about life and love, but what you will find is the result of what a dynamic comics team looks like: just two guys profusely enjoying the medium that they've devoted mass amounts of time and effort into. Independently published by creators Justin Heggs and Nick Johnson, WOLF HANDS is one of those comics that derives comedic ingenuity from its own simplicity.
Following the misadventures of Miller Vaughn and his literal wolf hands, the first season watches as Miller attempts to provide a safe distance from himself and love interest Jenny Rose as psychotic Professor Orchid and his army of Franken-monsters seek to capture Miller and his awkward body parts.
What you will first notice is the art. Exuberantly cartoony and over-the-top, Johnson fully encapsulates the comic’s quirky attitude with bold inks, stark colors, and extremely burrowed eyebrows. Aptly so, Johnson’s facial features, as well as the large emphasis on hands throughout the comic not only complement Heggs' comical dialogue, but reinforce the comedic intentions. The panels are large, vast, with minimalistic backgrounds reminiscent of an episode of The Animaniacs making WOLF HANDS even more of a nonsensical action adventure. The dialogue is smart and progressive without talking down to its audience, while still being incredibly playful and vibrant.
There is Jenny’s desire to go with Miller, not simply because she loves him, but because she is far more aware of her own capabilities to aid Miller in his run. Jenny is completely aware of the danger she is putting herself in, and even continues to point out that she refuses to become the stereotypical female character seen in movies. There is also the comics’ play on the general confusion of who Frankenstein is, whom most of us seem to confuse with the monster. It’s literary references such as this, executed in Heggs’ charming humor, that keeps the comic moving.
The end of the first issue also provides detailed profiles of each character, adding small tidbits and background snippets to the already quirky mannerisms each had shown in the comic. What’s nice about these profiles is the extra characters that have yet to be seen in the first issue, nicely introducing them prior to the next one.
A comic such as WOLF HANDS is a reminder that great comics don’t need to be backed up by a major publishing company to be considered of worth. It’s these small hidden gems, usually found at cons, and by taking the courage to just say hello to a random booth that leads to some great finds. WOLF HANDS is a comic that is enjoyed by any and all ages, one you can definitely get kids into, or even someone you deem to be a potential reader, but isn’t fond of the typical western superhero. Support some great indie comics--get into WOLF HANDS.
TOOTH & CLAW #2Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Benjamin Dewey
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I mostly read comics for the epics. When I got back into this world of pulp fifteen years ago, what brought me fully into the fold again were the sweeping books of the time: TRANSMETROPOLITAN, PREACHER, RISING STARS for all its flaws, etc. This is also why I, as a person who used to spend a day off every two weeks at the movies doing double or triple features, now go to those places maybe once every two months in the advent of our television renaissance. I like scope, I like arcs and characters and growth of the two, and I like it meticulously paced out and in a world that has its own unique flavor. I also like endings and feel all good things should quit while they are ahead. And I also like Kurt Busiek and am happy to see him jumping feet first into a project as such after years and years of being primarily a work-for-hire guy.
I know if there’s ever an opus to be related to the man known as Busiek it’s going to be ASTRO CITY, but I don’t really see it as a true epic. There are epic things about it and it has some absolutely iconic moments in its homage, but throughout its run it has been less a saga and more a collection of anecdotes and origins and trials of the denizens of that now-classic population center. And then there was ARROWSMITH, and… I can’t. The scars run too deep on that one =/
But we’re talking TOOTH & CLAW now, and an epic saga is the name of the game. You can tell he and his insanely talented partner in crime, Benjamin Dewey, have some long-running plans for the future of this new creation as they do a deep-running background for this world.
This current issue, though, is of a much more prescient matter. The debut of TOOTH & CLAW gave us a lush and vibrant world of anthropomorphic magic users in a world that has been seeing the decline of their otherworldly power source. There’s airships, bustling trade including a bison underclass that has become unruly, high councils, and in the middle of it is Dunstan, our white terrier, in over his head lead. Right now it’s a bit of a classic start off that works well because it has been executed well: Dunstan comes from a line of some clout and is privy to the panicked meetings about this culture’s failing magic and also thereby front and center to the whole “shit done gone wrong!” that their stopgap from the debut wrought and is now coming to roost in this one right here. That stopgap plan was to reach back in time and bring forth their Great Champion, who ages ago resulted in the magicks flooding the land. Well, now he’s back, he’s pissed, he’s a HOLY FUCK IT’S A HUMAN!!! (which was admittedly pretty predictable) and apparently he’s packing some hefty dongage too (just to reiterate that even though the world is full of cute people-animals,this is by no means an all ages affair). But anyway…
Even with this issue primarily being an anatomy lesson - not so much in the dongage but more in the way said dong bearer-just rips through the bison men who took advantage of the chaos from last issue in panel after bloody panel – there is already a lot going on in TOOTH & CLAW here, and it is being handled expertly. There is just enough mythos being fed to us that we have the gist of how this world works and are given glimpses at a vibrant history that our creative team can go as deep or shallow as they will with. And the gear shift from last issue to this of showing off all the class systems and architecture and politics to just sheer viciousness and bloodshed puts forth a no-holds-barred attitude you just would not have thought would come given the “Homeward Bound” veneer. It breaks a first impression that a casual flip-througher of the first issue may have had and it also seasons young Dunstan up a bit as he watches the chaos ensue through impressionable eyes. The bloodletting may not even be the most shocking thing to him, as watching the lower caste Bison men who did the bulk of the menial work immediately go Braveheart on their asses and seeing the feverous resentment in their eyes as they do so, obviously a big plot point going forward. There’s a ton of action going on here by the end of this second issue, and not just on the crimson-slicked battlefield.
Depicting all of this warring and bloodshed is Benjamin Dewey who a) have to admit I have not been exposed to before this series and, b) holy fuck what’s with bogarting all the talent, dude? These two issues so far have just been an absolute exhibition. The amount of detail crammed into every panel alongside these animal-man figures gives even the much-lauded Juanjo Guarnido of BLACKSAD fame a run for the furry money, and with coloring thanks to Jordie Bellaire this is some of the most lush and vibrant work on the stands. But the cats and owls and reptiles, oh my. All the figures and the action and the world creation is just a bookseller alone, let alone the quality of what this pencilwork is rendering.
TOOTH & CLAW is honestly a classic piece of fantasy literature brought to life by an industry vet and with all the bells and whistles the comic book medium brings along. We know Busiek knows how to spin a yarn in an extended run. Maybe not exactly in this broad a scope with such a fresh new world, but we’ve seen the man plan many a long-term, character-defining arc with the corporate characters he made most of his hey working on. I’m sure we’re in for some interesting twists and turns with his fresh creations. Even if it’s just a matter of taking conventions we think we’ve seen plenty and turning them on their heads a bit, ala ASTRO CITY, I think we’re in for a great journey here, but the dedication to this book he and Dewey have already shown all but lock in that there’s going to be a pretty sprawling journey ahead. I would hope that after a thousand words of my prattling on about the quality at hand (seriously, look at these damn pages!) and the potential I feel like it is brimming with, you’re also considering sinking your teeth into this project. 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.
THANOS VS HULK #1Writer/Artist: Jim Starlin
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Masked Man
Jim Starlin, the man who all but gave birth to everything cosmically epic at Marvel, is back with another Thanos extravaganza. Though originally this was meant to be an arc in THE SAVAGE HULK, since that has become more of a retro series, THANOS VS HULK became its own thing.
It's probably no surprise that with Thanos becoming a big deal outside in the normal world, as we lie in wait for the AVENGERS INFINITY WAR movies, Marvel Comics wants to keep the boy more active than he has been in recent years (pre-MARVEL'S AVENGERS). So they tapped Thanos' daddy, Jim Starlin, for more work. Starlin has stated he is working on three big Thanos projects, the first being the graphic novel THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION, and the second being this miniseries. One odd thing about this miniseries is that it takes place before THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION--go fig. I assume the main point to be taken from that is, don't expect Adam Warlock to show up in it. Starlin has also said the next Thanos piece, which he's currently working on, will also be rather unconnected to the previous ones.
Getting into the story, i.e. spoiler time, Starlin has decided to play with another massively powerful Marvel villain brought to his attention by Keith Giffen in ANNIHILATION: Annihilus himself. Annihilus still seems to be getting over what happened to him in ANNIHILATION, and has enlisted the Hulk to help him—forcibly, of course. In order to shanghai The Hulk, Starlin has pulled out another one of his favorite characters, Pip the Troll. Being as crafty and unhanded as always, Pip gets the deed done and hands the Hulk off to Blastaar (who now works for Annihilus). Blastaar was also holding Pip's girl(at least until the money runs out)friend as hostage. Pip then decides, for a variety of reasons, that he can't just walk away from what he did to The Hulk, so he applies his craft to the big man himself, Thanos. Thanos, not too surprisingly, tells Pip to get lost but the deed is done, as Thanos' curiosity gets the better of him as he now wants to know what Annihilus wants with The Hulk, so Thanos tracks down the Hulk with Pip in tow.
It's all fairly entertaining stuff as Starlin sets up the plot and gets right into it as well, although I must say the coming conflict between Thanos and Annihilus is much more interesting to me than Thanos and The Hulk. Plus, considering how badly Thanos b!tch-slapped the Annihilators in THANOS: THE INFINITY REVELATION, I really don't see the Hulk as much of a threat to Thanos (Thanos appears to get more and more powerful as Starlin uses him). My least favorite part of this issue is the first four pages with Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. It just seems like Starlin was trying to write an 'Avengers movie'-type scene with Robert Downey Jr. It's not really what Starlin is good at, and it came off as forced. Thankfully, the rest of the issue is much better.
Art-wise, Starlin is Starlin. He always crafts a good-looking book with powerful characters. His work can appear inelegant at times, though, almost like he draws figures independent of each other, then copy and pastes them into panels. I assume he is not doing that, though, being an old school artist. Inker Andy Smith and colorist Frank D'Armata do a good job completing the package. I can't wait to see the fists start flying.
To be mean, Starlin hasn't been killing it like he was in the 70s or the 90s. Still, he's an above average creator, and watching him work on his master creation, Thanos, is always a treat. Aside from watching the characters mix it up here, I'm very curious to see where this all goes, as Starlin promises this will set the pieces in place for what he plans to do next, which should excite any Thanos/Starlin fan.
THE SHADOW NOW VOL.1 TPBWriter: David Liss
Artist: Colton Worley
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Some fictional characters are simply products of their times. While Batman, Superman and many of their contemporaries have changed and adapted over the years to suit the turning decades, other characters were not so mutable, and find themselves consigned for better or worse to the so-called Golden Age of comic book publishing. I find that this is even more true for those precursors to the comic book heroes, the dark avengers of the pulp magazines. Over the years many attempts have been made to bring Doc Savage, The Spider and The Shadow into the modern world, but somehow the iconography of these characters always seems to reject modernization. That hasn’t stopped Dynamite from trying once again, though, as they drag The Shadow into the 21st Century with THE SHADOW NOW.
On the plus side, writer David Liss isn’t simply scrapping the 1930s roots of the character and starting from scratch here. His Shadow is the same Lamont Cranston, millionaire playboy who moonlights as a gun-toting vigilante with the power to cloud men’s minds, as graced the yellowing pages of the magazines on the newsstands decades ago. The same age now as he was in WWII-era America, Cranston’s longevity is explained by his mastery of mystical Eastern meditation. The Shadow’s nemesis Shiwan Khan is also brought back from the pulps (though not youth-acized like Cranston) as he takes control of the criminal underworld of New York City in order to bring about an appropriately fiendish plot. Since both characters have been conscious of the time that has passed, Liss avoids the “fish out of water” trope that all too often accompanies similar modernizations. Unfortunately, he also loses much of the tone that The Shadow gained from his original time period. Let’s face it: Lamont Cranston and his hat, cloak and scarf belong to a different era—a time when men wore hats, women could be referred to as “dames” and the lack of our present forms of instant communication made it necessary for The Shadow to employ a colorful network of lackeys. Though the visual appearance of the character himself is much the same as it always was, The Shadow sits uncomfortably in front of a backdrop that’s simply too clean and modern.
Speaking of clean and modern, let’s talk about the artwork. Colton Worley does a decent job emulating the painted style of longtime Dynamite cover artist Alex Ross—and even apes some of Ross’ panel layouts—but his style winds up looking just a little too slick for my tastes. Part of my problem with Worley is that the majority of his artwork seems to have been created by taking photos of people modeling as the characters, then digitally painting over the photos. While this does give the characters a consistency throughout, it also means that many of the pages look like photos—and not in a good way. This over-reliance on the reference material leads to several instances where the action is confusing, having been created by assembling photographs rather than doing a little more work to map out the scene from scratch. In the end, I feel that this overly realistic approach is more of a detriment to the comic book than a benefit.
Can the character of The Shadow, such an intrinsically pulpy product of a different era, work in our modern times? Maybe he can…but for all its strengths, THE SHADOW NOW doesn’t succeed in wrenching Lamont Cranston and his blazing automatics out of the shadows and into the brightness of the 21st Century. For now, The Shadow remains a vigilante best suited to the age of the dime detective mags.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
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