Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reinventing The Man of Steel

Writer: George Perez
Pencils: Nicola Scott
Ink: Trevor Scott

Arguably the most significant and iconic comic book hero ever created is Superman. Action Comics number one (first appearance of Superman) is the most recognizable, valuable, and collectible comic in history. The words "faster than a speeding bullet" are well know to even the lowliest pop culture Philistines. The Superman logo is even more popular than the comic itself, and has found it's way to almost every corner of the world. Merchandise ranging anywhere from stickers, hats, and tattoos generate millions of dollars in sales each year; and the majority of these transactions are conducted by people who have not ever read a single issue of the comic book. It is the idea of Superman that people really love. Superman has become a symbol of strength, invincibility, and uncompromising morality in an immoral world, the embodiment of our ideal selves.

Rebranding an icon of this magnitude is the biggest thing to happen to the world of comics in years, maybe ever. Before the reboot, Superman had become so stagnant that the book itself was almost unreadable. Grounded as a storyline had immense potential in my opinion. Contemplating the idea of a world without Superman is not a new concept, but an introspective Superman searching for his adopted nation's identity on a walk across America could have been a great read. In the end, it might have been the worst Superman story arc ever. Kingdom Come did a much better job. Red Son, while not exactly in the same vein, gave the reader a glimpse of a world where Superman was now a citizen of communist Russia, and in my opinion is hands down the greatest "what if" series ever written. There were some big shoes to fill in the Superman mythos, but the man tapped to do the job had already penned another fan favorite: Crisis on Infinite Earths.

It would take an almost Herculean effort to erase Grounded from memory. There was so much backlash from the fans, but it could be argued now that the bar was set so low last year that almost anything would be an improvement. The reality is somewhere in-between. I probably read issue one five or six times. At first, I did not like anything about the book. The style was wrong. The story was wrong, but I did take into account that no one would be harder to please then myself, a lifelong fan with a chip on my shoulder. Action Comics set the bar very high; Superman did not have the immediate appeal of Action, but I believe it is a lasting and relevant title. What I expected was the same present with different wrapping paper, but George Perez had a much more ambitious view. Thematically the book is very strong. An improving and growing Metropolis is evolving but being built on the backs of the poor. The presence of Superman is helping develop Metropolis and keeping the city safe, but at what point is the price of progress too high? With every battle, human life is lost. Some citizens are starting to think that Superman is more of a magnet for trouble then a deterrent, and at this point in the current arc they would all be correct.

Superman is a solid book. Action Comics has been a more compelling read to date, but seeing an adolescent superhero developing his powers has a lot of appeal. Action has more cheap thrills and guilty pleasures for fanboys, but Superman is a great book for completely different reasons. It is a dense, detail filled, well drawn, and well written superhero tale that is actually thought provoking. George Perez took a struggling title and made it socially relevant again after over a year of futility. The reboot has been kind to both Superman franchises, and both books have taken their rightful place as some of the best DC titles out right now. After a year of throwing rocks at the throne the man of steel is back and better than ever. All is right with the world.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tales from the Dumpster: Sifting Through the Unwanted Comics of Yesterday.

Alf: Issues 34-36

I’ve been trying to get kids hooked on my various vices (comics, board games, and Zagnut bars) in order to keep the demand up for these products through the next generation or two, so whenever I see some kiddee comics (at least when I see them for cheap, I’m not going to plunk down no 3.99 for an Archie Digest anytime soon) I pick ‘em up and distribute them (usually by mail because every kid likes to get a package in the mail and this way I don’t actually have to see the kids).

What I usually find are one of the umpteen Archie titles, but this time (besides some slightly valuable old Charlton Popeye comics), I found this three issue run of ALF from 1990. I had been holding on to the comics, so I can send them out in lieu of Christmas presents to the offspring of my breeder friends.

This morning, the trailer was cold and I knew I had a leaky faucet to take care of in the bathroom, so I dipped in to the stack of comics and hurried back under the blankets. I had never really taken a shine to the TV show, and had actually taken to punching my friend Mike in the arm every time he followed up a bad joke with ALF’s tagline “Hah, I kill me.” However, I was afraid of plumbing new depths of geekdom by utilizing pictures of Betty and Veronica to take care of my morning wood (or heaven forbid, Olive Oil) so I opted for the ALF.

These being kiddie-comics I just grabbed the top issue and started reading the issue on top, #36, which had a not too promising cover depicting ALF slopping around scoops of ice cream while saying “I’m keeping this issue in chocolate chip MINT condition for you!”

This was the level of humor that I remembered from the TV show. And Mike.

The first thing I noticed is that unlike most kiddie comics, the author Michael Gallagher (no relation, I hope, to the watermelon smasher) was using the editor-sub box to actually try for some series continuity refer back to previous events in the comic run, which I found kinda cool. The first story about a hypothetical past where two ALFs roamed the cosmos was pretty mediocre, but I found myself enjoying some of the extremely forced puns and word play, e.g. as ALF #2 is threatened by the tyrant into action he quips, “I fear and obey.”

The second story was the real surprise. It had ALF back on Melmac working as a police officer and featured a trio of characters who had escaped from “the underground.” The silhouetted figures were none other than the Fabulous Freak Brothers (complete with dubie) whom ALF greeted with the exclamation “Great Caesar’s Tokes!” ALF then went underground to figure out how they escaped and encountered Zippy the Pinhead and Mr. Natural who help him “dam” up (ALF had a censorship gun but he let that one slide by) the rivulet that lead to the mainstream.

The other two issues were good too. The puns referenced figures as obscure as Elia Kazan, had mock comic strips as good as those in DORK, and the sendups of Judge Dread (#35) and Gone With the Wind (#34) were almost as high caliber as some of the better Mad Magazine parodies.

So these might not make it to the mail. For one thing, I’m not sure the kids will like them due to the obscure references, and for another, ALF’s house mom is one smokin’ hot, red-headed MILF.

By: Frank McGirk

Cosmic Peeping Tom

Point One:

So this was one giant sized issue broken down into short stories. The stories were memories taken from the Watchers archives. Seeing as time has no meaning to the Watcher, they are glimpses into the past, present, and even possibilities that could be or that will never be. Each story has different writers and artists making this book an oddity worth looking into, but I will try and break it down a little bit.

Nova Harbinger
Jeph Loeb- writer
Ed McGuinness- penciler

The art in the first story is average at best. I found myself just pushing through these first pages to get to the next. Nova comes to warn the planet Birj and Terrax about something called the phoenix and the impending doom it’s bringing. Of course Terrax ignores Nova and he and the planet are wiped out. Is this foreshadowing for some new great apocalypse in the MU. No clue. I don’t really care.

The Myth of Man
David Lapham- writer
Roberto De La Torre- artist

So this story line is set in the future. Weapon X and his mutant minions have pushed the human race to the edge of extinction. The only thing standing in Weapon X’s way are the heroes of the X-force. Deadeye, Goodnight, Friend, Horror Show and the leader Prophet (William Stryker). Prophet is the only one who actually does anything in the story. He murders a mutant named Krakken and his wife, and that’s about it. The art is above average. I really enjoy darker art with deep shadows and De La Torre must agree. The story really accomplishes a lot with only a few pages. The uncanny X-Force 19.1 prelude to the Apocalypse #1 comes out in January. I’ll at least check out the first couple of issues.

The Scarlet Thread
Chris Yost- writer
Ryan Stegman- penciler

This was my favorite story in the whole book. The artwork was decent and the writing was pretty good. I am sure you all remember the infamous Spider-Man clone saga. Kaine has returned. At the beginning he’s on the run from the Avengers. He comes across a bank robbery and battles with the idea of ignoring or stopping it. He stops the Robbery and instead of his old ways he decides to capture and not kill the bad guys. It seems after being given a second chance at life he chooses the path of the hero and tries to leave his darker ways behind him. Most people would just as soon forget about Kaine and Ben Riley but I have always been a fan of Kaine the first failed clone of Peter Parker that the Jackle created way back when. He has a totally new costume that I really like a lot. In January, Marvel releases Scarlet Spider #1. Ben Riley’s out and Kaine is in. It doesn’t come out for another month, but this little glimpse into Kaines world has it on my pull list. It’s strange, I am a life long Spidey fan but Ultimate Spider-Man and now Scarlet Spider are on my pull list but none of the 616 titles are, except Avenging Spider-Man. Times are strange.

Yin & Yang
Fred Van Lente- writer
Salvador Larroca- artist

This story is about two twins with super powers who were separated at birth. The boy named Dragonfire, as his name suggests, has the power to create and manipulate fire. The girl named Coldmoon has ice powers. They were separated at birth and held captive by Taiji Corp. They both escape and reunite. They join forces with the Avengers against Sed Taiji Corp. The art is not all that memorable, but I really like the story. So are Dragonfire and Coldmoon getting their own book? I have no idea and if Larroca’s doing the art, I don’t care.

The Shaman of Greenwich Village
Matt Fraction- writer
Terry Dodson-penciler
Rachel Dodson- inker

I couldn’t really get into this one. I have never really been a fan of Dr. Strange. I only read the first couple pages and gave up. I got bored and skipped past his story. I am sure this is a lead into the new Defenders book. Blah blah blah….no thanks.

Age of Ultron
Brian Bendis- writer
Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary- artists

I know right? How many Avengers story lines do we need? This one’s different. The march towards Ultron starts in Avengers #19. In this short glimpse Hawkeye and Spider-Man are on the run from Ultrons robot warrior looking guys. The art is really eye catching. There are some really great backgrounds and the hero’s look more like real people then cartons and that is always a plus. Overall, a real Avengers fan is going to love this story. Spidey or not, I am going to stay away from the Avenger titles. I am a Bendis fan and I really liked the art, so I don’t know maybe there is something with this Ultron run.

By: Cody Miller

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hawken: The Perrysburg Address

Story: Benjamin Truman and Timothy Truman
Script: Benjamin Truman
Art: Timothy Truman
Editor: Denton Tipton

Hawken Part One: La Paloma Blanca Del Desierto -

“Once there was an old man, he rode a blind mule on a trail called “El Camino de Muerte,” which means “the road of death.” During the course of his long life, the man had done many bad things. Many, many bad things. His name was Hawken.
The father and son duo of Benjamin and Timothy Truman really came up with something special with this series. The writing and Timothy Truman’s art are spot on. Somewhere between the cover and the instant he shoots a priest in the face, I fell in love with Hawken.
Hawken is an old gunslinger with a score to settle and by a score, I mean people to shoot in the face. Scalped, tortured, and left for dead, Kitchell Hawken is back for vengeance and the John Lee Gallis boys are about to have a very bad day.
Forget the horse with no name; how about a mule with no eyes? Why the Trumans have Hawken riding on a blind mule, I can’t quite say, but it’s a great element to throw in. The other unexpected story element is the fact that the ghosts of everyone Hawken has killed, literally follow him around. How interesting and unique is that?
I can’t get over how well these guys did in creating and developing a truly amazing character, with little more than a colt peacemaker and some well placed one-liners that would make Clint Eastwood envious. Buy Hawken, read Hawken, and he just might not shoot you in the face, but chances are he’d do it anyway!

By: Cody Miller

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Occultist: Championing Mediocrity

Writers: Mike Richardson and Tim Seeley
Script: Tim Seeley
Artist: Victor Drujiniu

The Occultist is a great example of a mundane, re-hashed plot accompanied by average art. Issue one of this three part series is a shining example of why some people hate reading comic books. This wasn't a horrible book, and it wasn't great. Beyond a compelling opening sequence, there's just not a lot to love. If you are a huge Dr. Strange, Supernatural, or occult fan, this sub-par contribution to arcane themed tales could have some appeal. But if you are looking to read something new or innovative, put this one back on the shelf.

The Occultist is centered around a forgettable main character, so forgettable I cannot remember his name. The only thing about him that I do remember, is that in one panel he had a Dog Day Afternoon poster hanging above his bed. That only got him a few pity points in the end. Most of the time my attention was drawn more towards the co-cast of extremely attractive cartoon women peppered throughout the pages. Basically, the only thing that I can say for sure after reading issue one is that "The Occultist" is fucking dimes. Sex appeal has never been something that I have found to be important or even necessary in a comic book. You will not find any foil covered books starring women in bikinis holding chainsaws in my collection. Give me a great story and great art, not some escapist spank bank bullshit.

Issue one even has a letters page (you got me). One of the letters written by "The Comic Vault" sums up the above pretty perfectly: "Your main character Robert is all right, but nothing happened to build his character; the only thing I know is that he is upset that he has this mystic glove and he is having sex with a hot chick. He is doing pretty good for a hero so far." Be careful of the company you keep comic fans. Why anyone would want to print this specific letter is beyond comprehension. In all fairness, I'm sure there is a limited amount of fan mail coming in about a book that hasn't even been released yet. Sigh. These idiots will take us all down in end. Buy three issues of this crap and you will find yourself sitting front row at a midnight premiere of the new Michael Bay film The Occultist, starring Pamela Anderson, Carmen Elektra, and Paul Walker. They will probably even find a way to premiere the trailer during an intermission at a monster truck rally. I wouldn't wish any of that on my worst enemy, but hey, the world needs ditch diggers too.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Baby June and her Newsboys

Avenging Spider-Man #1:
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Joe Madureira

I’ve been collecting Spider-Man comics for more than half my life. Spider-Man is the reason why I read comic books. So naturally, when Marvel announced this new title, I was already on board. After reading through it a few times, I have come to the conclusion that this could prove to be a very exciting book. Just as the title implies, the content will be short story arcs with the Web Head and his newly acquired teammates from the Avengers. (And by the way, have you seen Spidey’s new white and black digs in the Avengers?) It’s the Web Head and the Red Hulk raising hell in the first issue, although, all of the Avengers make a brief appearance on the first couple pages. As a fan of the new Incredible Hulk, I’m in kind of a Hulk phase right now anyway. And I know next to nothing about the Red Hulk, except he’s General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. He made some kind of deal with the evil Intelegencia and now has super-strength, energy absorption, and of course gamma radiation. Not to mention he’s F’in Huge and Red. He stayed true to Spider-Man and his playful personality. That’s a must for any true believer. I really like the art and color too. The Red Hulk really jumps off the pages with his contrasting red hue.

Look at it this way; you get Marvels most important character ever, equal parts Avengers and a dash of new villains. What’s not to love (except Bette Middler; I really can’t stand that lady, not that she has anything to do with this comic, just thought I’d throw that out there) A team up type of story line in the Spidey folder is just what it needed. With all the chaos in the DC and Marvel empires, the timing is perfect. Besides, I’ve already decided the only Avengers book that I am going to buy are the Avengers Asanction. There are just way too many to be able to afford and follow. Asanction heralds the return of the great and powerful OZ. Oh wait, I mean Cable. That’s right, Cable has returned to the land of the living, and sans X-men too I might add. Cable comes back or is sent back for one mission. He has exactly one day to destroy the Avengers. One mission. One day. It’s like that TV. show 24 it seems. Very interesting if you ask me. It’s sure to have some action packed pages. Also, in December, Marvel releases its new title, Villains, for hire. The bad win in this series. Sure to be something bright and shining in the sea of new titles. Cause sometimes, it’s just fun to be wicked.

By Cody Miller

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spaceman: One Giant Leap for Comickind

Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso

Virtual prostitution, psychedelic drug induced hallucinations, and a main character with a case of acute schizophrenia, all are within issue one of Spaceman, the new nine issue limited series by the creators of the acclaimed title 100 Bullets. And this is only issue one, excited yet? Generally I would wait until the series was concluded to write a review, but think of this more as an endorsement because Spaceman is a must read. Vertigo consistently continues to be the testicles of the DC family, and this book is as ballsy as they come.

Nothing out there reads like Spaceman, Azzarello even develops his own English dialect to break even more ground in terms of content. The new language can be a distraction at times, but it's addition does a great job of creating a setting vastly different from the Earth of today. The story takes place almost undoubtedly in the future, but the exact time and place are hard to determine among many other things. After reading issue one four times, I am left with more questions than I am answers. The setting, antagonist, protagonist, and plot are all up for interpretation and can take a completely different direction in the future. Orson, an ape-like lower class junk ship captain, lives in a lower class slum. He has drug induced dreams of being an astronaut, and these dream sequences appear to be a form of escapism because he deals with a lot of the same problems that most people deal with in life, essentially these hallucinations exist to him as another completely separate reality. He's alone, broke, and addicted to a lime green LSD like substance that transports him to a world where his actions matter; instead of being trapped in a reality where his existence is essentially moot. On Mars he is a man of substance, heroic, and skilled enough to stop an imminent greenhouse explosion on a "suicide mission". The two realities are intertwined throughout, and Orson genuinely believes that he was genetically created in a lab by human beings in order to withstand the rigors of space travel, most notably life on the planet Mars.

Issue one was focused more on developing a very complex character and creating a world that is unique in many ways. In some aspects though, the setting mirrors our own reality. The subplot in issue one is centered around a Hollywood power couple and their missing daughter. If it is possible, the popular media seems even more pervasive in Spaceman.
A short exchange between the police, publicist, and lawyer of the parents intimates that there may be some sort of cover up amiss, and issues 2-9 are sure to include Orson trying to unravel the mystery to the best of his drug addled ability. Issue one is the price of a shitty cheeseburger, one dollar. No excuses, buy Spaceman today.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

His Name is Robert Paulson

Savage Hawkman #2:

Maybe I'm just getting burnt-out on the “hero” books. Maybe I'm just being too critical, or maybe this issue just sucks. I don't want to keep bashing most of these titles, but come on, I wasn't even remotely entertained. The cover art is misleading. Great, but misleading. It just screams “these pages are filled with mayhem and foolishness.” But no, it's a giant terd wrapped in velvet. The rest of the artwork bored the hell out of me. It made me think of Saturday morning cartoons. The whole storyline was muttled and confusing, and frankly, it wasn't even the least bit engaging. I mean, the best name they could come up with, for the evil black alien, was “Morphicius.”

I bought the first issue just to give a hero I have never read much about a chance. I thought maybe Hawkman wasn't just a “B” lister. The first book was okay, not great but good enough that I (after seeing the cover) bought the second issue. Then, it fell flat. I now, once again, laugh in the face of this lame ass character. Magic alien metal, my ass! Fog Horn Leghorn was more machismo than this guy. I am so turned off; I am not even going to acknowledge the artist and writer. They got my $2.99. Thanks plenty!

On the bright side, there was a preview of the new Batman graphic novel “Noel.” That comes out soon and it looks fantastic. Avenging Spider Man #1 comes out next week. I'm definitely excited about that! This Spider Island rubbish will be a thing of the past soon. I think I just threw up in my mouth thinking about it. After I check out this new Spidey book, I think I am going to shy away from hero books for awhile. Don't get me wrong, there is some great stuff out, but it's few and far between. Besides, I have a lot of catching up to do on the “Walking Dead” and I've been eyeing this western title as well. I've never done western before, but it can't get any worse than “Chicken Man.”

By: Cody Miller

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Super Sweet

Creator and Writer: Jeff Lemire
Cover: Jeff Lemire
Illustrated and Colored by Matt Kindt
Lettered by Carlos M. Mangual
Edited by Mark Doyle

Jeff Lemire remains one of the most innovative creators in comics today. Sweet Tooth is his masterpiece. The art is haunting, a glimpse into a fractured post-apocalyptic world. Each panel is as distorted as the setting itself, the world of Sweet Tooth is filled with survivalists, vigilantes, extreme violence, and the first steps of a new form of humanity. The children in this new world are all born an animal/human hybrid, and Gus the main character is their messiah. The plot is to some extent dense and complicated, Lemire shows remarkable restraint in terms of disclosing the origins of this evolution. The current arc is a flashback, and appears to be a window into Gus's pilgrimage to Alaska among other important plot points.
Some issues of Sweet Tooth can be read in less than 5 minutes, and this is a conservative figure unfortunately. Issues 27 and 26 do not fall into this category. The text developing the back story is written in the form of journal entries, and the art is drawn in some panels as old family photographs. The exciting part is that next issue promises to deliver all of the answers we have been so eagerly anticipating. The tribalistic spiritual overtones are the icing on the comic cake coming in the month of December. Although a lot of books these days seem to deal with mutants and an apocalypse caused by a plague, Sweet Tooth manages to keep me engaged every single moment. Lemire mentioned somewhere (I can't remember) that the series would be wrapping up around issue ninety, and the thought of this wonderful contribution to comicdom ending fills me with an indescribable sadness. I can only hope that all of the loose ends are neatly (not cheaply) tied up when issue ninety hits the shelves. Each issue that is sparse in terms of text finds me annoyed to slightly angry considering this book already has an expiration date. The art is always great. I never feel it is a waste of money and I own every single issue. Pick up this book today if you appreciate creativity. We all know that it is something that is in short supply these days.

By: William R. Davis Jr.