Friday, September 30, 2011

A DC Fan's Lament: With Our Deepest Apologies

Green Arrow Industries (Flashpoint):

This was incredibly disappointing. I thought I had just picked up a copy of the new Green Arrow book. Instead, I grabbed this “Flashpoint” bull. I just don’t get it. Instead of the bad ass arrow flinger, I was given some Tony Stark weapon manufacturing rip-off. Let me look again. Yep, the cover says DC and right there on the cover is the green stud himself. Beyond that, it is a huge disappointment. Truthfully, I can only really blame myself. You see, I am not a real follower of DC. I think the last DC comic that I read was actually a Green Arrow book and that was almost ten years ago. Other than that, the only connection that I have with DC is that fact that one of my best buds, Saint Swantner, is a collector of all things Batman. I read his collection whenever I could. Truthfully, I like Batman. Always have. I still think to this day that the villains in the Batman books are the greatest evil-doers of all time. The Joker tops the list. I mean what’s not to like about a psychotic murderous clown?

In all honesty though, I am a Marvel guy. Until this ridiculous “Spider Island” story line crawled out of the gutter, I thought I always would be. Heavy Rick D on the other hand is the DC aficionado. In one of our many conversations about Marvel vs. DC, he managed to convince me to “broaden my horizons” and “dip my big toe” into the world of Gothem and Metropolis. Enthusiastically, I jumped in head first. THIS is how I’m repaid; FLASHPOINT??? The good news is having been left with a lingering case of “green balls,” I dug out my old Green Arrow books and basked in their excellence. Maybe for a die-hard Green Arrow fan this book would make for an exciting and joyous read. For me? Not so much. Why didn’t anyone warn me about Flashpoint?

Resurrection Man #1:

I knew right away when I mentioned to “his holiness” Rick D, that I had blindly picked up a copy of DC’s Resurrection Man to review, that I was on to something. I knew this because Rick D’s reply was, “Who the hell is Resurrection Man?” After only one book, I can now say, with a clear conscience, that this character has found a secure home at #2 on my all time favorites list (second to only spider man).

It was the bad ass cover that initially drew me in. I’ve been on this zombie kick as of late. It’s truthfully becoming some kind of obsession; so how could I resist the ragged man clawing his way out of his own grave surrounded by scattered skulls, femurs, and rib cages? I couldn’t.

This character is one of the most original and unique creations that I have ever been privileged enough to wrap my brain around. I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but at the same time I want to tell all. It’s like the secret you just have to tell someone…..everyone.

It works like this: First Mitch dies. Then a half an hour later he is resurrected with all new powers. That’s right. Every time he dies (he only dies once in this book, but what a gruesome death it is….he gets sucked into a jumbo jet engine) he comes back with a different and unique super power. Damn it man! Think of the limitless possibilities with an ever-changing character.

Mitch’s soul has a wanted sign stapled on his back. Both heaven and hell mean to claim it. It seems he has become quite the prize. But riddle me this true believers; how do you claim the soul of a man who can’t truly die? I don’t know, but I want to find out.

By: Cody Miller

Breathing Life Into Aquaman

Despite it's cancellation as a regular monthly series over four years ago, there has been substantial buzz surrounding the release of Aquaman #1. This is mostly due to Geoff Johns taking up the mantle, but as a fan of Aquaman I would have read the title regardless of who wrote the script or did the illustrations. After finishing and rereading the book, I am relieved and excited. It was extremely well done on all fronts. My only issue with the book itself is that the title page would have made a way better cover, but you got a sweet title page so there's nothing to complain about there. The covers have not been that great on the new 52 with the exception of Swamp Thing. That has been disappointing.

There has consistently been a lot of criticism directed towards Aquaman in the past, and I have never understood this because in my opinion, the parallels between him and Thor are almost too numerous to mention. Thor is a successful book, why not Aquaman? And Aquaman had the advantage of being one of the most human superhero books around. The man created The Justice League, Aqualad died, and his death nearly caused Mera and Arhtur to divorce. What's not to love? You don't see that kind of stuff often in mainstream books. It took a mind like Geoff Johns to realize that there was a story to be told, and although it appears that the setting is going to change, it may be for the best. After all, the old Aquaman didn't have much mass appeal in the past, that could change for DC fans now that the series has been rebooted.

Johns humorously delves into his checkered past and lukewarm acceptance. Throughout the book, it becomes evident that barely anyone respects Aquaman. The police, the average American, and the criminal all view him as a second tier superhero. He is not even taken at his word by a "blogger" about the existence of Atlantis. The man won't even let him eat lunch in peace, he even has the nerve to ask: "How does it feel to be no one's favorite superhero?". Hilarious, pointed commentary and a good mix between fact and fiction.

A lot of number ones set up the story poorly, Aquaman #1 was not one of them. When reading Swamp Thing, I knew that the book was going to be good later, but besides some of the dialogue it was pretty uneventful. Johns did a great job of setting up an ongoing story arc while managing to keep things interesting at the same time. I even thought that Ivan Reis created some great stuff stylistically in terms of the art. Those creepy bottom dwelling fish at the end of the book looked like something straight out of a National Geographic documentary. Specifically, one of those shows about fish that live at the bottom of the ocean in areas so deep that they are not penetrated by light. I am ready for issue two, but hopefully the story itself doesn't become predictable and stays sharp. I will definitely be picking up every issue to see were Johns is going to take Aquaman in the future.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reaching Across the Aisle: My Review of Ultimate X-Men #1

I have never been much of a Marvel fan. In my youth, before the bars and the women, I read everything I could in comics. Therefore, I do have maybe five hundred Marvel books stashed away that I don't read very often, if ever. I do like X Force (the later issues anyway); I have maybe the first ten issues of one of the newer series. I can remember vaguely that it deals with the genocide of mutantkind, and the characters are the survivors of this ethnic cleansing. So, when I asked the man playing hero clix at the comic store yesterday to find me a marvel book to review, it seemed apropos that he picked Ultimate X-Men #1.

This review is all about my attempt to keep an open mind. Cody Miller writes for this site. I respect him, so I figured that maybe I could try and leave the prejudices behind and discover something new in comics that suited my tastes. Honestly, I wasn't holding out too much hope. I'm barely hanging on to my own DC titles, and in a lot of ways those books are more of a homage to my misguided youth than anything else. But in fairness, the adult comic world has been missing a little something lately, and while that genre is on the decline, DC comics is coming out with new, interesting, and innovative stuff almost every month. And although I personally feel that Sweet Tooth, The Walking Dead, and The Unwritten are the best books out right now, it is unfortunate that the rest of the adult themed field is regrettably concerned with fitting in as many "fucks" in per issue as possible, pages of inanely topless women, and people exploding or being torn to shreds in every other panel.

Back to the matter at hand. The things that I have always hated about Marvel were the stupid jokes that were crammed in to every page, the poorly developed characters, and a certain book about a patriotic super hero decked out in red, white, and blue whose McCarthyesque existence seemed to revolve around felating the people at The Comics Code. The same people who set the medium back about thirty years.

There was an adaptation of The Stand Marvel produced that I had to purchase because of my love for all things The Stand. The lettering in that book looked like Times New Roman font and the thing was slapped together, truly a piece of shit on so many levels. So let's get into Ultimate X-Men #1, and see if the artists and writers at Marvel were able to change my mind.

The book starts with a great opening scene. Nick Spencer develops the setting well, and a father killing his mutant daughter in her sleep merely for being a mutant was a great way to set up the fear and the desperation gripping the majority of Americans in the reality of this book. Now I accept the fact that superhero comics recycle a lot of the same plots. I know that at one point Stan Lee famously said something about how he wanted the appearance of change in Marvel books without actually making major changes. Admittedly, some changes in mainstream comics are bad. Dick Grayson as Batman sucked, and I had to read letters pages month after month that were nothing but a futile ego exercise. It honestly seemed like the editors went through and handpicked letters from every kiss ass idiot talking about how great these new Batman books were when the majority of fans knew this simply wasn't true. The applesauce you tried to feed us did not cover up the taste of the medicine DC. We’re smarter than that.

Back to Ultimate X-Men. I quickly realized that this plot was almost the same as the X-Force plot that I liked back in the day, and it was a huge coincidence considering that the one Marvel title I actually picked up happened to be almost the same book that I was reading now. If you love something, you do not mind the same repeated incantation of the object of your affection. People get married every day. I have seen a lot of the same plots recycled again and again in the DC universe. But at the end of the day, I like a handful of the characters in DC books way better than anything Marvel could ever produce. To me, Marvel characters were always like a Chinese buffet of luke warm food. DC only has six or seven characters that I really like, but they are steak and potatoes, not chewy nasty pieces of General Tso's chicken that are barely edible. I don't want to eat something just because there is a lot of it; quality over quantity.

There was a new twist (new to me anyway). The United States Government initially created mutantkind through Weapon X, and mutants were not a product of evolution; they were not a more evolved version of humanity. I sensed that this aspect of the story may change over time, but I wasn't necessarily happy about that plot change anyway.

At the end of the day, you really have to love superhero books to get excited about them, and most of the time I am reading actual books as opposed to comics because most of the stuff out there just isn't done that well. There are hundreds of titles at my local comic shop and I maybe read eight regularly. I didn't think that Ultimate X-Men #1 was a bad book. The story was recycled. The art was average. In the end, I am going to go with my DC titles for now, but this is not the last Marvel review this fanboy will have written. I am still trying to keep an open mind, and hopefully find something entertaining and new to read in the process.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Comments on The Madman Presents

“…I will miss Peter….By that I mean it’s not everyday that one of the greatest characters of all time is killed off.”

Spiderman is dead. I don’t follow Marvel. That’s pretty ballsy stuff. Be careful what you wish for, Dick Grayson as Batman was no bueno.

“Lots of Blood-n-Guts as it should be with the Punisher.”

I have no problems with The Punisher. I actually picked up a bunch of the really early issues for dirt cheap at this place in Muncie. I think I have like 5-30 in really good condition that I got for like a buck a pop. Also, I own this Punisher t-shirt that might be the softest shirt in the world.

Amazing Spiderman 669: Spider Island part 3

This story sounds extraordinarily stupid in every way.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

A Love Letter to The Unwritten

With all of this talk surrounding the "new 52" this last month, I thought I would take this opportunity to revisit an old favorite of mine, and one that should be yours as well. The Unwritten is the best book out right now. In terms of creativity and execution Carey and Gross stand above all other writers and artists. It consistently has the best covers and the best writing in the business. And in the land of adult themed comics, it doesn't get by on shock value as is the standard by most adult comic writers these days. The Unwritten explores the world of literature wrapped in a theme of shared consciousness that defines it’s reality. The Kantesque leanings themselves are great on their own, but when you get to read stories involving characters in classic literature, the possibilities and the amazing things that happen within the pages are endless.
Tom Taylor is a fun character as well. His pseudo celebrity persona is well written, and although the exact details behind his true identity have still yet to be revealed, the consistent jabs at the absurdity of obsessive Harry Potter fanboys are welcomed; I think it’s hilarious.
The current story arc is even more interesting because Mike Carey explores the world of comics as literature and tackles the issue of a woman's place in the publishing world at the turn of the 20th century, and Gross has been cranking out beautiful throwback golden age comic covers for the last two months. The last two issues honestly make me feel ashamed that they are bagged, boarded, and cataloged away anonymously in long white comic book boxes. They are in themselves, a form of high art, and I should probably frame them both in order to give them the respect that they truly deserve. The Unwritten is one of the best and most entertaining reads in any medium. I personally own every single issue (and multiples of some of my favorites). Go out and buy the trades. Do it. Worth every penny.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

The Madman Presents

Ultimate Comics Spider Man #1

As a life-long diehard Spidey fan, I’ve been looking forward to this issue. I had to know what having someone other then Peter Parker under the red and blue was like. That’s right, in case you’ve been living on another planet you already know that Peter’s a thing of the past. Although, I will miss Peter, I think the idea of someone else taking the mantle of web head is thought provoking. By that I mean it’s not everyday that one of the greatest characters of all time is killed off.
The new kid on the block is just that; a little black boy named Miles Morales. The plot of this book is mostly just a background and set up for the following comics in the series. I was extremely disappointed that Miles and Peters’ stories almost mirror each other at this point. Why kill off Peter to just replace him with another character with the same powers, same costume, and the same villains? I am anxious to read issue #2 for this reason. I want to see where Bendis is taking this story line before I buy in or judge it too harshly.
The cover was more of the same. I bet I have 100 spidey comics with almost the same cover. Hopefully they’re just saving the best for later.

The Punisher #3

I loved the cover of this book; in fact, all of the artwork was outstanding. It reminded me of Frank Miller’s work, very dark and dreary. There wasn’t much of a plot as the whole book was one long fight scene. I also liked the fact that Castle didn’t say a word the entire book. He didn’t have to. I missed the first two issues so I’ve no idea why the Vulture and Punisher are fighting, but I’m glad they are. I think Rucka’s writing and Marco Hollingsworth’s artwork are going to take this title to wonderful and exciting places, at least I hope so. Lots of Blood-n-Guts as it should be with the Punisher. I will for sure be picking up the next issue.

Random wife comic #1

I had my wife pick me up a random book thinking it would make for an interesting read/review.

Amazing Spiderman 669: Spider Island part 3

I must first say that I’ve been avoiding this series ever since the first spider island was released. I wanted nothing to do with this ridiculous story line and I still don’t. The plot is too fragmented and poorly executed. Pretty much everyone on the island of Manhattan has been bitten by infected bed bugs giving them all spider powers. I’m not kidding. This story line is reminiscent of the clone saga of the 90’s, and we all know how that all came out. Trash. Truthfully I couldn’t even finish half the book I was so pissed. The art is so so. I really liked the cover with the shocker having six arms but that’s the only thing I liked about this book. If you want it you can dig it out of my garbage and make it your own. I actually felt like the more I read of it the dumber I got. The worst part is that it won’t be over until November, but I guess that gives me time and money to explore new titles.

Cody Miller

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Harvey Pekar: How One Man Changed My Life

I have always taken comics seriously. No one that I knew growing up took them seriously, but even as a boy I could remember thinking of the potential that could exist within the pages of a comic book. When I read my first page of American Splendor I realized I was not alone in the world in many ways. His life is full of issues and revelations just like anyone else. Dealing with loneliness, depression, sickness, arguments at work, a trip to the grocery store, American Splendor covered many aspects of everyday life. But he was also a much different man than most, and his uniqueness made the book even more appealing. Harvey was an engineer of truth. This guy could not be anything less than completely genuine, and it was dark, and a wonderful mess, and none of it had ever been done before. Every story about unrequited love, the endless string of shitty jobs, and this broken planet that we are all struggling to navigate in a peaceful way made my life a little bit easier. I felt that after reading his work, meeting this man was now my only priority. I've never wanted anything more than the ability to create something real in an ugly and fake world, and this desire to manifest itself developed only after I read the work of Harvey Pekar.

Finding people that didn't want to be found on the internet was a field that I had some experience in from a previous job. I decided to put my skip tracing abilities to use and search for the man who meant so much to me. What I was shocked to learn was that his number was in the phone book. There it was: "Harvey Pekar, Cleveland Heights Ohio". So naturally I had to call. My girlfriend and I sat together at the cheap sterile lunch table in the break room and I made the call that would forever change my life. To my surprise, he was polite as hell and I was worried about this because of the way his comics read. I had been working on my opus to comicdom "The Death of God" for some time, and he listened patiently to the plot synopsis and told me that it all sounded good.
This was a guy who sold his entire record collection to self-publish his own comic storyboards that were stick figures crudely drawn on notebook paper, they were full of stories about a guy who wanted to get laid but couldn't and worked as a file clerk at a VA hospital, and I respected him immensely as an artist so it meant a lot when he said he thought I had a good idea. Give the masses Ed Hardy T-Shirts and spinning rims on a bouncing car and they will be happy, I wanted to write a more real story that reflected an authentic kind of existence but in the realm of fantasy, and my inspiration to think differently about the way comics can be written came from Harvey. He did it against all odds. And to those who loved American Splendor, these books meant everything. Spiegelman and Eisner wrote serious comics and had inflated egos, but Harvey wrote the same kind of comic with almost no ego at all. In that way the book was completely different than anything that had ever come before.

In Korea, I might not have made it if not for Harvey. Getting started there was the toughest thing in the world. A two year relationship had just ended, and I was sixty pounds overweight and miserable. I would come home at 2 in the morning and talk to Harvey about everything. He was the most humble guy in the world, and this cat had an honorary PHD in depression. No matter how hard I tried to convey the impact that his work was having on people everywhere, he just never understood. He was one of the great writers of our time, and we had entire conversations about orange soda and jazz and easy money. He had more integrity than thirty men. He would listen to me talk about my shitty life for hours and never complained once.

One day in a small Korean office I shed tears for the man who changed everything for me. No other single human being had more of an impact on my life than Harvey. Rest in peace my friend. I hope that you have now found real happiness, and I hope that somehow you are able to see how many lives that were affected by your writing.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flashpoint: The Last Major Story Arc in the Old DC Universe

Flashpoint in itself and as a concept intrigued my interest right away. Johns has always written well, so I was sold on Flashpoint from the beginning. I put the order in at the comic shop. I wanted all of it, every single issue. I can't remember of exact amount of number one's, but I was floored by the final price tag. I had to pick through every single issue and pick only the best of the best in order to make the series fit my budget, so here are the meat and potatoes.

Did not Continue:

Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown: This one I was on the fence about. The writing was pretty good. Sweet Tooth is one of my favorite books. I really liked the cover, but in the end, it didn't blow me away. It was really close to surviving until issue two. If I had a little more money to spend, I would have bought them all.

Lois Lane and the Resistance: The imagery in this book was ridiculous. Lois Lane was half-naked in every panel. For that reason alone, I didn't continue the book. There was no explanation or any particular reason to draw her that way, and I'm not going to read a Lois Lane comic because of sex appeal. The fact that it was being forced down my throat made me hate it almost immediately. A little part of me felt like it was insulting my intelligence. No more book.

Secret Seven: I don't even remember what it was about, and never thought about it until I flipped through my books to write this review and saw the cover. I can't speak intelligently on the book, but I honestly didn't remember that it even existed until this moment if that tells you anything.

Kid Flash Lost: Same.

Deadman and the Flying Graysons:
Cool cover, but at the end it didn't leave a lasting impression.

World of Flashpoint: Couldn't afford this one.

Reverse Flash: My mom always told me, well, you know what she said.

Legion of Doom: Generic.

Abin Sur: I liked the Alan Moore reference at the end of the book. Honestly, I was pretty pissed while reading it that it never came up. I think that the death origin of the once great Green Lantern is one of my favorite Moore stories. I was on the fence about this one. Maybe I should’ve picked up the next two issues, but in the end I didn’t buy the sizzle.

Booster Gold: Moot.

Citizen Cold:
Interesting book. I like the angle of the hero manipulating the public for his own benefit. It truly mirrors the society we live in today. The fact that you get more years in prison for stealing a TV than you do for creating a national recession and causing people to lose their homes, is completely ridiculous. Are we in Flashpoint? If Citizen Cold would have been wearing a suit, a tie, and had a corporate jet I would have continued the book.

Batman Knight of Vengeance: I love Batman and Detective Comics, but I didn’t care much for Thomas Wayne. Way to turn Gotham into Reno DC. Maybe if I was listening to the Taxi Driver soundtrack while reading I would have continued the book. Travis Bickle Knight of Vengeance? That would have been a better comic book.


Grodd of War (One shot) : I loved this book. The ending alone is proof that mainstream comics can be written well. Grodd has a moment of peace in an extremely violent world. The final page is him looking off serenely in the distance, and then marching his armies into an unwinnable battle for the continent of Europe. Great suicidal ape tales are hard to find, there are maybe a handful, and this one ranks up there with the best. I personally felt like Sean Ryan also respected the one shot. It was perfect only as a one shot and because of that it was beautiful. It wasn't a series, it was a well executed, thought provoking one shot worth every penny of my $2.99. There is no way I will ever give away or sell my copy of Grodd of War. It is not for sale.

Project Superman:
What is not to love? I was getting so bored with Grounded that this book came exactly at the right time, and I do love Snyder’s work on Detective Comics except for the final issue. It is so disappointing to read a great story arc and then have it end in a lame and contrived way. Seriously, Detective Comics 881 ruined my day. I wanted to go out and find a twelve pack of the cheapest and most disgusting beer in Hammond (Old Style, yeah Old Style), drink it all, and piss all over that book. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, something positive. Sorry. Snyder is a great writer (Almost all of the time. Regardless, I paid my $2.99, it’s still a free country. Wait. What? It cost $3.99. Who drew the line where? I need to find the nearest liquor store. ). Project Superman as a story was perfect for the world of Flashpoint, not Superman as a savior to the human race, but as a state manipulated weapon. And more than that, seeing the most powerful being in the world of comics reduced to a cowering little boy, skinny, cowering in a corner, nothing but a science experiment, great idea, great book. I loved every minute of this one. The characters were great, most notably young Lois Lane. It was really a tender moment when they met for the first time, the character development was really outstanding for a comic book. I could talk about it all day, but no spoilers. Go out and buy the floppies or the trades. You won’t be disappointed.

Emperor Aquaman:
Wow, what a great concept, nature vs. nurture at its finest. I loved seeing Aquaman, one of the greatest heroes in the DC Universe, slowly turn into a genocidal maniac. Help me God, how can I possibly review this book without giving away any spoilers? Well, it was extremely creative and well written. It takes a great writer to make the reader feel sympathy for someone who is trying to wipe out their entire race, even on a fictional level. And it was such a sad story with a great Dr. Strangelove moment at the ending. Beautiful read. Great book all around. Not for sale. Ever. Loved it.

Wonder Woman and the Furies:
You get to find out what the world would look like if Wonder Woman and the Amazonians controlled England and was engaged in a war with another superpower. You get to see a world without Superman there to keep the balance (besides Kingdom Come). There is no Justice League, only a tale about a lost love, a woman manipulated into destroying continents and killing millions. Now tell me that you don’t want to read this book. I mean seriously, the quest for world domination is not a boring subject. I mean, they’ve created board game about it and everything.

Geoff Johns had a great idea. There was a lot to love about Flashpoint, but in the end it lacked focus. What normal human being can afford so many comic books? The story itself was hills and valleys all of the way. There were some really engaging moments, but at the end I had to shrug my shoulders, stick it in a box, and never read the series again. In addition, I thought that the Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Superman series all suffered in the end because they were building up towards this big climax in issue five of Flashpoint. There was just a lot of banality in the whole story. I wish it was a taut and thrilling tale, but it was full of distractions. And it could have been great, it just wasn’t. No one was more disappointed than this guy. I do like what Johns did with Green Lantern, and I’m anxious to see what he does with both Justice League and Aquaman, but this story just didn’t deliver at the end of the day. The ending was predictable and contrived. Even the monologue at the end by Reverse Flash had been done so many times before, and the saddest part was that it had even been done better by other writers in the past. It had the potential to be a great story, but in the end it came off as nothing more than a marketing tool.

Grodd of War
Honorable Mention: Emperor Aquaman
Worst: Lois Lane and the Resistance

By: William R. Davis Jr.