Monday, February 27, 2012

Seven Questions with Near Death Creator Jay Faerber

This week William R. Davis Jr. gets a chance to have a short Q & A with Near Death creator Jay Faerber, whose critically acclaimed trade paperback vol. 1 of Near Death has been creating quite a buzz lately in the comic world. Mr. Faerber is also currently a writer for the CW television series Ringer.


Issue two of Near Death was one of the most thought provoking comics I have ever read. It seems that the worst and most unforgivable crime in modern America is rape or molestation. Issue Two deals with Markham having to
decide between protecting a convicted sex offender or letting him get killed
by the family of the rape victim. No spoilers here, but my question is: Is
there a crime in society that there is no atonement for? If that is your
belief, what is that crime? Why do you feel that way?

Jay: Currently, I think there is no crime that you can't atone for.
However, that's with the caveat that I've been fortunate to have never
been impacted by a serious crime. No one I know has been sexually
assaulted or murdered or anything like that. If that were to happen,
my views might understandably change. But NEAR DEATH isn't a platform
for my own beliefs and values. It's the story of one man's own sense
of morals and how they may -- or may not -- change as he goes forward
with his life.

William: You have done some work on Superman and Superboy in the past. As a lifelong
fan I have to ask: What is your favorite Superman story arc ever?

Jay: I honestly can't pinpoint an arc from the comics. I know this may
sound blasphemous, but I think my favorite version of Superman is
where he's the only super-hero in the world. That's why I love the
first Superman movie so much. That's my favorite "arc."

William: There are a lot of crime themed movies, television shows, books, and comics
out there right now. What do you feel separates your work from the rest of
the genre?

Jay: Crime is probably the most popular genre in all of fiction -- although
I admit "crime" is a pretty broad umbrella. The TV show MONK falls
under the crime genre, and so does THE WIRE, although they couldn't be
more different. So I think what separates my work from the rest is
simply my voice. Every writer's voice is shaped by his or her own
personal experiences, so my stories are always going to be different
from every other writer's. I think NEAR DEATH is a nice combination of
character study and episodic storytelling.

William: Markham has a life changing near death experience that leads him to protect
those he once tried to kill for profit. Markham admits that he personally
has no problem with killing, but does not like what he saw on the other
side. What is his motivation to protect these people despite his core
beliefs? Can someone be forgiven for a crime even though they have no
genuine remorse for their past actions?

Jay: Markham is motivated solely by self-preservation. All he cares about
is not spending an eternity in Hell when he dies. So he's willing to
completely change his tactics and start saving people instead of
killing them. But like you said, he doesn't really have any remorse
for his past actions, so his heart hasn't actually changed. You've
heard the phrase "fake it 'til you make it." Right now, Markham is
faking it. But if he fakes it long enough, will he GENUINELY change
and become a better person? That's the story we're telling.

: In Issue Four Markham says: "I was a killer." This is a statement he made after shooting Brewster in the head at point blank range. Is Markham a
killer? Is it justifiable to kill people in the name of good? If so, in what
situation is the killing of another human being just?

Jay: It's interesting that you mentioned that scene where Markham shoots
Brewster in the head, because you're right -- he just shot a guy at
point blank range, but in future issues he's said he no longer kills.
And we've seen him go out of his way NOT to kill. So why did he shoot
Brewster like that? I'd chalk it up to "force of habit," since this
was his first case after his near death experience.As for the other questions you raise, those are questions Markham himself is wrestling with, as we saw during his conversation with the priest in issue #5. So I'm content to let that play out in the book itself.

William: Is there an end date for Near Death? Where do you see this character going in the future? How many issues of Near Death can we expect to see on comic store shelves?

Jay: I don't have an end date in mind for the book, but I DO know how it
ends. I just don't know WHEN. As for where we're headed in the future,
I'd like to keep shaking up the locale of the book. Markham moved from
Seattle to LA after issue #5. I don't know how long he's staying in
LA, but the book's co-creator, artist Simone Guglielmini, lives in
Italy, so we may have Markham go to Italy for awhile. I'd love to give
the book an international feel.

William: Your past work has dealt with mostly superhero books. Your new
book is a crime book. Are there any new genres we can see Jay Faerber tackle
at some point in the future?

Jay: With my work in television, my time is pretty limited, so I don't know
how much comic book work I can do aside from NEAR DEATH. Crime is
probably my favorite genre, so I could tell stories in this genre for
quite awhile. But I'd also love to try my hand at a high adventure
book -- some kind of pulp serial throwback, or maybe something
involving time travel. I just need to find more hours in the day,

We at The Hammond Comics Blog want to personally thank Jay Faerber for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Near Death trade paperback vol. 1 and new issues of the ongoing series can be found at your local comic shop. Go pick them up today- WRDJ

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ennis's Dicks and a Zombie Love Letter


Story: Garth Ennis
Art and Cover: John McCrea

This is undeniably the craziest comic I have ever read. Hands down. No contest.
The main story follows Dougle and Ivor around Belfast City. Ennis goes straight into the action as Dougie is racing Ivor to a toilet before he shits himself. They stop at Ivor’s uncle Shuggies and Ivor is forced to baby sit Shuggie’s pet snake, Eve. For most of the story the snake is used
randomly to torment people, until it gets loose in the pub. She later appears out of a man’s fly as he is set to piss. The man happens to be wearing a shirt that says, “I’ve got a two foot cock.” Sadly, the snake gets flattened under the wheels of an army truck. The insanity continues with Uncle Shuggie dropping dead (heart attack after learning of Eve’s flattening). Dougie gets married and like every good friend does, Ivor throws Dougie a bachelor party. Ivor spikes Dougies beer with something that will make him have violent shits while on his honeymoon. In the morning, Dougie is found (by the same army guys that flattened the snake) butt naked tied to the back of his van with a giant dildo hat and the words “I Fuck Sheep” emblazoned across his chest. After the reception, Ivor goes to give his best man speech. “Dougie and Valerie, God bless yez both.” Ivor screams as he whips his pants down revealing his large hairy ass (complete with portraits of the couple on his ass cheeks) and projectile poos into the crowd. The craziness ends with the fellas in the hospital…as it should be.
After the main story, it gets even better. There are a bunch of one or two page shorts that happen to be my favorite part of this issue, such as:
“How the fuck did they do that?”
“Trio, the fucking whore.”
“The history of wanking.”
“Great Belfastmen in history.”
“Just give me a beer”- starring Mick O’Lobb and Buddy Wiser. It is a really funny and interesting few pages to say the least.
“Bad ideas for super heroes #2433- which happens to be the Abortor. That’s right, his catch phrase is “Coat-hanger On.”
Having not read a ton of Ennis’ stuff I am unsure about his intentions. Was he trying to offend shit tons of people? Do people expect this from Ennis or was this one of those moments in his life when he says, “I’m Garth Ennis?” I’m going to write this, you’ll read it, be offended, and love every minute of it. He might not have thought that, but I did.
I can’t wait for issue two. I can’t wait to see how much more Ennis can come up with. Mostly, I hope he continues the shorts. They offend and entertain me the most. The art was pleasing and really interesting.
So, if you are looking for a change of pace, or a good laugh, or maybe just a reason to hate, buy this title. Now if you'll excuse me, I need a shower.

Nazi Zombies #1

Story: Joe Wright
Art: Ben Dunn

This title was originally to be released weeks ago, but for whatever reason was not. I have been extremely disappointed weeks in a row because of it's absence from my pulled books. I was rather surprised to get it this week, but it was well worth the wait. I fell madly in love with it after the first time I read it.
I don’t want to hear any BS about glorifying Nazi scum or anything about that. That’s not how it is at all. Nazi’s are still the bad guys only they are zombies (go figure). Zombies are the trendy “in thing” at the moment. Thanks mostly to The Walking Dead comic and T.V. show. That being said, Zombies are everywhere and it really takes something special to stand out in the crowd.
The Nazi SS enlisted a group of scientists to create an invincible soldier. You can guess where that goes from there.
I like the fact that both the European and African fronts are both included.
The art and writing are both, in my humble opinion, fantastic. The cover of the book was bad ass as well.
This title is from now on rooted firmly on my pull list. I haven’t been this excited about a new title in a very long time. This oddity turned out to be a real treasure. Maybe I am just a sucker for a good zombie regardless of its political beliefs. Read this one at all costs. You don’t need both kidneys but you need this book…..all the cool kids have it, so steal it from them.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Avenging Spiderman #4; Winter Soldier #2

Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Greg Land

So you want a Spider-man book that has no baggage, no continuity, and that will get in the way of your enjoyment,with no required wiki homework to catch up on the character? Well, this is the book for you. Avenging Spider-man’s premise is simple, for now. It is a series of team-ups with his fellow Avengers. The first three issues he was teaming up with Red Hulk in order to save Jameson who was kidnapped by a tribe of Moloids. The Moloids are being led by a new Conan like bad ass. That is the first three issues.

This issue was actually focused more on Hawkeye, and one of his insecurities as being the only non-powered member of the Avengers. It was an interesting idea that panned out. It really wasn’t a Spider-man book at all. This title has been very direct, and I can appreciate that. But I fear it may be too simple. But, I guess if I want 50 years of back story and convoluted continuity I have Amazing Spider-man, so this has room to be just a fun book.
But here lies the problem, I get Spider-man from so many different sources, I really don’t want or need this one. Zeb Wells is one of the best writers to handle Spider-man in years, aside from Dan Slott, who I consider to be the best since JMS. They both know the character, and what Spider-man’s books should feel like. However, I just can’t get pumped about this title regardless of how well Wells writes.
Land’s art is solid as usual, he has seemingly toned down the happy O faced super model poses. If you don’t know what I am referring too, simply google Greg Land and check out the images. His art in this issue looks far more natural and fluid than a lot of his past stuff.

Ok, so I feel about complaining about something here, and that’s Joe Mad. He did the art on first arc, which was a selling point for Marvel, and is honestly the ONLY reason why I decided to give this a shot. He's gone already? Are you kidding me? I hate to be a stereotypical ranting fanboy, but come on. I love Mad’s work, but if he can’t do more than 5 issues of a book then I would just prefer him not do anything, just to give the book has a little consistency. The last thing he did for Marvel, to my knowledge, was Ultimates 3, and I refuse to get into that piece of shit right now. His talent just seems utterly wasted and it’s sad.

I am not overly impressed with this book. It serves its purpose, and does its job well. If you are a hardcore Spider-man fan and just can’t get enough of him in Amazing Spider-man, Fantastic Four or New Avengers, then pick this up as I’m sure you will enjoy it to some degree. Or if you like the character, but just don’t want to do much “heavy reading” then you will probably like this book. If you were on the fence about the title, stay there. It isn’t going to offer you anything new. I really don’t think I am going to continue to read it.

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice

So you saw Bucky’s chest get caved in Fear Itself too right? Ok, cool…I thought maybe I was the only one. In what I think is one of the lamest attempts to save a character, Bucky is now back in his own Winter Soldier title. Not to say that I don’t like the character, or the direction they have taken him. I do actually; his retcon return to the Marvel Universe was executed very well by Brubaker years ago. I just thought the way he was saved in Fear Itself was ridiculous. To the unenlightened, here is what happened…spoiler alert if you haven’t read Fear Itself or its satellite books.

Skadi (Sin, the Red Skulls daughter) impaled Bucky’s chest with the end of her magic hammer and tore off his cybernetic arm. That’s pretty much it; he was saved by the last few doses of Nick Fury and Black Widow’s Infinity Serum (which is how Nick and Natasha retain their current age). I was never aware it had healing properties, but hey it’s comics. To almost everyone, excluding Steve Rogers, Bucky died that day. They decided to keep it a secret so that Bucky could become the Winter Soldier again and deal with loose ends from his past. I am curious to see how long it will take for the editors and writers to forget that Nick Fury and Black Widow are now susceptible to the effects of aging, I would be shocked if they actually stick to that plot point and have it come up at a later date.

After all is said and done, Bucky is no longer Captain America. Most comic fans I know have actively hated “Bucky Cap”, I didn’t. I didn’t really like it either; I just didn’t really care because I knew it was temporary. I prefer him as Winter Soldier personally. Brubaker has done a lot of work with Bucky the past few years and he is in good hands. If it were any other writer handling the character, I probably wouldn’t of decided to give this a shot. Brubaker is one of those writers who rarely disappoints me. I LOVED his Daredevil he did a few years back. He is right at home in the crime drama, noir, and espionage genres.

So, how is the first two issues of Winter Soldier? Not bad, but not great. I usually give books the three issue treatment. If I can’t find something to latch on to in three issues, I hang it up. But, I know Brubaker works very slowly and it almost always pays off. The plot synopsis is that Bucky and Black Widow are tracking down old soviet super soldiers that Bucky trained back in the Cold War and were put in stasis long ago. At least one has been bought on the black market and activated by a former Latverian Prime Minister and The Red Ghost. Kind of a run of the mill plot I think, but the fact that these two sent their newly acquired soldier to attempt an assassination on Dr. Doom himself is what I am interested in. As with most of Brubaker’s stuff, there is more going on than what you can immediately see. Oh, and there is a giant machine gun wielding gorilla in there too, FYI.

I am not familiar with this artist’s work, but it fits the nature of the title. It is very Steve Epting or Alex Maleev. At times, it got sort of confusing, especially in the fight scenes. But it works pretty well in general. I would rather have either Epting back or David Aja who worked with Brubaker in his relaunch of Iron Fist to be honest.

So, do I recommend this book? Eh, unless you are a fan of Brubaker or the character, you definitely don’t NEED to read this. It’s not your typical “super hero” book; it is going to be a slower paced title and a lot of people aren’t into that. If you like the writer and the character give it a shot, if not, this title certainly won’t change your mind.

By: Josh Loe

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Birds of Prey #6; Wolverine #301

This week Cody (Marvel Guy) and William (DC Guy) each picked out one Marvel title and one DC Title and we decided to see where we stood at the end on each book. Hey, at least we're trying new things here at The Hammond Comics Blog. Enjoy.

Wolverine #301

Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Jason Keith; Steve Sanders; Sotocolor
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit

Hand Ninjas, loin cloth wearing Yakuza thugs on crotch-rockets armed with chainsaws, Saber tooth, the Silver Samurai and oh yeah, Wolverine. How could you go wrong?
No matter how off the wall and farfetched the story line contained within was, I still enjoyed myself. The art wasn’t bad and the writer really threw a lot of action in for just a single issue.
At one point, the Silver Samurai uses his suit to blast Wolverine to bits and in the following frames, his skin continuously grows back; I loved that part. Sooo cool. Over all, this book was just about how I expected it to be; lots of action and Wolverine fought Saber tooth, but doesn’t he always? I can see why you would read this one, but I’m not really a huge Wolverine fan so I most likely won’t.

By:Cody Miller

Wolverine, it's been awhile. When I agreed to do this dual review thing with Peaches Miller, I knew that he would be the one picking the Marvel offering, and who knew it would be issue 301 of the coolest superhero in my fourth grade class. One of my great regrets as a collector was not picking up issue one for $20 when I was little, but that was an astronomical amount of money at that time. Not so much today. Wolverine has changed quite a bit: No Yellow Costume and no cigar. And this incantation of everyone's favorite mutant put him in the middle of a bloody ninja Japenese style movie romp. That is exactly what this one was at the end of the day. There were no ephipanies or explorations of the soul in 301, just a lot of blood and dismembered limbs. I'm sure fans of Wolverine enjoyed this book thoroughly because it was fun. The story bordered on the lame side, but the art was great for a supe book. There are still a few DC books that I would hold in higher regard artistically, but this one looked great. For a violently unapologetic read, pick this one up and give it a go. Personally, I think that there are some ultra violent books that get the job done a little better. If this is the kind of book that appeals to you, check out Crossed by Garth Ennis. That is some of the sickest shit you will ever see in print, and the story's pretty good as well.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Birds of Prey #6

Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Art: Javier Pena
Colors: June Chung
Letterer: Carlos M Manguel
Cover: Jesus Saiz and June Chung

So this was my choice. I was heartbroken when Travel Foreman left Animal Man, but I heard that he was getting added on to Birds of Prey and that's why this one made the cut. The only problem is that he wasn't to be found anywhere in issue six, and that fact was quite apparent, because as far as the art is concerned this one needs a lot of help. Issue six was some of the most pedestrian art I have seem in quite some time. It could have ended careers truthfully. The story was pretty interesting, but a plot synopsis would be too spoiler heavy. The Birds of Prey have never impressed me in the past. I like the idea of them more than the actual super group. The new Birds of Prey are sans Oracle, but DC's version of Charlie's Angels managed to be a pretty good read in the end. There is nothing to look at here, but once Travel Foreman starts arting it up I'm sure I will tag along for a few more issues. Maybe there's an audiobook version of issue six. That's the one you're going to want to go with here.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

I’m sad to say I just couldn’t really get into this title. It’s cool having an all-female team like this but just not for me. I’ve never read or seen much about Birds of Prey really at all. With limited DC knowledge, I was having trouble figuring out who was who. Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and Katana I know of but the Black Canary and Starling were new to me. I think my favorite member is Katana. Bat girl seemed lame. Poison Ivy was interesting with all her vines going every which way. The current story arc involves mind control. All female cast and mind control. Sounds about right. Pass.

By: Cody Miller

Monday, February 20, 2012

Road Rage #1

Road Rage #1
Writer: Joe Hill and Stephen King
Adapted by: Chris Ryall
Art by: Nelson Daniel

I was hoping this was going to be something new but it’s really just an adaptation of Hill and King’s “Throttle.” Think Sons of Anarchy with a little Mad Max and Easy Rider thrown in.
“I’m an okay mechanic with a GED; the only thing I do well is outlaw.” (Jax from SOA) The book follows a motorcycle gang called the Tribe. The first issue really does build up the characters enough that there is already a connection between the characters and the reader.
A guy named Clarke has taken a large sum of cash from the Tribe and they aim to take it back. They show up at Clark's cabin and like the book says, “It all slides down the red hole from there. Away from reality and into the territory of bad dreams. As Roy, one of the Tribe cuts Clarke and little honey into millions of little tiny pieces. Vinre, the gangs’ leader, and his son Race are having a heated discussion about the plan to find the money and about what Roy had just done. A mysterious shrouded trucker overhears part of the conversation, but as he’s noticed, he speeds off.
A few pages later the Big Rig from hell shows up and starts splattering the guys all over the pavement. It’s a crazy action packed last couple of pages.
So, yeah, the arts working and the story seemed like it was meant to be. I like it and will be following it at least for a few more issues.
“People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have a heart of a small boy. It’s in a jar on my desk.” – Stephen King

By: Cody Miller

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hulk #5 ; Secret Avengers #22

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Whilce Portacio
Cover: Leinil Francis Yu

I have distanced myself from all things Hulk focused ever since the whirlwind of ridiculousness that was World War Hulks and Fall of Hulks. I HATED Red Hulk when he was first introduced, mainly because Loeb was writing him. But since then, I have actually grown to like the character. But when the previously stated two story lines were happening, it was just out of control. I was curious about the Intelligencia, but after seeing the ungodly number of spin-offs there were, I said no. Since then, things have seemingly settled down a bit in Hulkdom, and Red Hulk has found his place with the Avengers and the greater Marvel Universe. I think making Ross Red Hulk was the best thing to do with that character (though I still don’t know why he loses his damn moustache...). Red Hulk’s own book hasn’t even been that bad; I will possibly review it at a later date.

Now, the Hulk is back in his own book, and it’s focused on him and Banner again, for which I am thankful. The past five issues have established the new status quo for the Hulk/Banner situation. They have finally, truly been separated from each other. Hulk has decided to live deep below the surface of the Earth made a life for himself among a tribe of Moloids, and was seemingly content with his new friends and beard. Banner, on the other hand, has not been dealing too well with the loss of a sizeable chunk of his psyche. He has secluded himself on an island, where he has been desperately trying to re-create that gamma incident that formed Hulk. Needless to say, he has lost his mind and is now creating gamma irradiated creatures on the island that consider him to be their father. He is rapidly closing in on villain status, which is a cool twist for the character.

Enter the US government’s response to the mad scientist threat. Led by Amanda Von Doom, no relation, her and her team’s objective is to assassinate dangerous mad scientists around the globe. Their quarry is now Banner, and they promptly enlist the aid of Hulk. Issue five reveals who is actually responsible for the separation of the two, and it’s awesome. I love everything about the idea of doing brain surgery on the Hulk with an adamantium chainsaw! I don’t want to spoil anything so I will just leave it at that.

So, how has the book been? It’s great actually; I have really been digging it. Jason Aaron can seemingly do no wrong. I used to think his portrayal of Wolverine was his best writing, but the more I read Incredible Hulk, the more I start to think that he is a true Marvel renaissance man. The issues read fast, but that’s ok given the directness of the story. There is no annoying set-up that takes 4 issues; it’s fast, efficient and best of all, entertaining.

The art has a scratchy “Marc Silvestri” look to it. But it’s good, it’s coherent and the action looks really cool. I usually prefer a more traditional Joe Mad or Ed McGuinness type style for Hulk, but this works really well. So, my point is…read this book. If you’ve never read Hulk, give this a shot- it’s a pretty good jumping on point.

Writer: Rick Remender
Penciller: Gabriel Hardman
Cover: Art Adams

Finally, Secret Avengers is back on track. I have to admit, I have really disliked Secret Avengers the past six months. Warren Ellis has written nothing but a series of one-shots that I just couldn’t bring myself to care about. That’s not to say they weren’t well written, I just didn’t get into them even though I usually love Warren Ellis’ work. This is the perfect place to jump into this book, if you haven’t already.

The premise is that Captain America is being stretched too thin with all of his other responsibilities and has chosen Hawkeye to be the new leader of the covert Avengers team. The group consists of veterans Black Widow, Pym, Beast and Valkyrie, along with the “Irredeemable” Ant-man and the newly initiated Captain Britain. I love the fact that Beast is in this book still, but I am biased towards the character, as he is one of my favorite X-men. I just think he fits well within the team, and it makes sense, as he has a history as an Avenger and has had a falling out with most of the X-men. I kind of wish they had kept Shang-Chi and War-Machine in the group - maybe they felt they had too many characters with hyphens in their names. But you can’t win ‘em all, I suppose, and regardless, the team is interesting. Their first mission is to investigate strange energy signatures in the Middle-East. Not much is revealed about this arc’s villains; they seem to be new, but I could be wrong. The last page especially has me scratching my head, but my attention is definitely grabbed.

One reason why I always really liked this book when it was first created was the whole “black-ops” aspect of it. It’s a different concept beyond the typical Avenger team with a slightly different roster; it gives it character that the others generally don’t have. I think that all team books should have their own concept or mission statement to set them apart from the others. I don’t know how many times I have gotten what happened in different X-men or Avenger books mixed up.

The art isn’t amazing but serves its purpose. Nothing can really compare to some of Deodato’s art in the first few arcs of this book when it was launched. I hate to hold everything to that standard, but hey, I am. The art did get kind of confusing during the end of the book, but other than that, no major complaints.

I am interested in the story and team and will continue to read. I am happy to finally see this book head in the right direction. I recommend jumping on now if you’re curious, I think you’ll enjoy it.

By: Josh "Bun in the Oven" Loe

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thief of Thieves #1

Story: Robert Kirkman
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
Colorist: Felix Serrano
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sina Grace
Creator: Robert Kirkma
Cover: Shawn Martinbrough and Felix Serrano

The man with the Midas touch seems to have done it again. Thief of Thieves is sold out, but I am sure a second printing from Image is on the way. This is the same Kirkman of The Walking Dead, and Invicible, but his newest fare seems to be hell bent on conquering another genre in the world of comics. This one is all about grifters, cons, and the problems that people in this profession might possibly face in their day to day life. But just because Kirkman has now been fashioned into the new golden calf that idol worshiping fanboys have deemed Teflon, that does not mean he gets a free pass here at The Hammond Comics Blog. Let's see how this one came out in the end. Thief of Thieves Issue One: Let's go!

This book is rife with cliches at every turn. The first issue is about a master thief main character cut from the same cloth as the films Oceans Eleven and The Thomas Crowne affair. The story is not bad at all, it's actually pretty good to tell you the truth, but the only thing new about Thief of Thieves so far is that it is not a movie and is instead contained within the pages of a comic book. There was one very interesting and informative scene involving the best way to steal a car, but the rest of it involves a grifter executing a well thought out con, a cookie cutter love interest, and a proclamation (cliffhanger?/spoiler alert/blech!) at the end which is nothing more than a Stephen Baldwin Usual Suspects moment: "One job? One job?". Yes, it is true. He actually says as his parting words in issue one: "I quit." Yawn, didn't see that one coming.

Almost everything done in the first issue has been done before on the big screen, but it is too early to tell whether this one is going to be up there with The Sting, or plummet to the depths of that Edward Burns gem Confidence (sarcasm, cough!) that a few of us cinephiles picked up in a bargain bin for three dollars at the local supermarket. On a side note, Burns does some great work in Independent films these days, he just missed the mark by a mile on that one. Kirkman is known for his characters having a very real and human element, and I'm sure that he does need at least one issue to set up the premise of the story, right? I'm not sure that even Kirkman can pull off a comic book version of Dinner with Andre.

One thing is for certain, I wouldn't bet against the book just yet. The Walking Dead and Invincible are too good to write off Thief of Thieves after only one offering.Thief of Thieves does contain a great essay in the end entitled "Why I Believe in Comics", that essay right there puts issue one just over the average mark. He makes a great point about comics as a medium. To paraphrase, he says that you never hear people say they are movie fans. Everyone watches movies. The same can be true with comics now that they are more than superheroes and more superheroes. The stigma against comics books might never change, but it could. Comics are that good these days. And who wouldn't rather pay their comic book store than Comcast every month? Seriously, my cable company has customer service issues up the ass. My butt is so full. And I'm paying these guys $150 every month for their shitty equipment that doesn't even work half of the time. Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Edward Burns does make some pretty decent films but you definitely have to sift through the oatmeal to find the marbles contained within. Nice.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

House Call of Doom

Murky World
By: Richard Corben

I read this and immediately had to read it two more times just to make sure; I still didn’t understand what I just read. I read it again and it almost made sense. Let me just throw out the brief story line. Man is looking for his horse. Man finds deadings (zombies). A giant bald dark skinned woman saves Man from zombies. Woman tells Man Sorgof, the necromancer stole his horse- who also happens to have said tribal woman’s even bigger twin sister held under some magical charm spell. Man saves the twin, kills the necromancer. The twins steal the old guy’s horse and leave him in a treasure filled cave. Then it happens. I turn the page. I find in great amazement there, coming back to her lair, is a colossal black female Cyclops who happens to be a taxi driver of sorts. She soon bites this poor bastards head clean off. The hero says it best himself, “holy crap.” The hero comes out from hiding and kicks the Cyclops in the ass sending the one eyed giant off a cliff. Enter more zombies and……what the hell did I just buy? Why was this comic book written? Why is it filled with black women who get larger the further you read? There are a few references to not being able to trust women…..could Corban have some women hating complex? I just see no point. That’s been happening a lot lately. A decent cover and some clever gimmick and here I am. Even for a “one-shot” this book lacked no real focus and seemed to be banking more on shock value then true viable content.
There were a few bright spots…..the art and the great dialogue helped to save this book from being a epic fail. It made the crazy story line seem more bearable. After reading it a couple times, it truly was. Something I’m glad I read but something I would never buy again…..unless it had a cool cover….Ha!

The Incredible Hulk #5
Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciler: Whilee Portacio

Lately I’ve been picking up these newer “hero” books and it seems more times than not, by the time I finish I’m so depressed and disappointed that it’s just the same stories with new costumes or just too watered down. The plots become plots within the plot branching off into multiple titles and costing tons of money just to follow one book’s story. I’m so happy this one…this jewel is none of that. Only pure gamma rage powered exciting things going on over here.
Five issues in and the art by this team is blowing my mind.
In this issue what the first four books were building to Banner vs. Hulk. In a mind blowing revelation we learn the true identity of who separated “the man” from “the beast”……spoiler alert……none other than Dr. Doom himself. This is one of the few comics that if I didn’t buy it I couldn’t live with myself. Not in this worn out and beat down age of heroes everyone’s selling to us now. Read Hawken, until the new issue then read the Incredible Hulk and Scarlet Spider….because I don’t care what he says. It’s good and I know things.

By: Cody Miller

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tales from the Dumpster: They Shoot Hands Don’t They?

The Rawhide Kid vol. 2 (Four Issue Limited Series)
Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Herb Trimpe, John Severin, Dan Bulanadi

This series was launched in 1985, which was when I first seriously began reading and collecting comics. I remember seeing this being shilled, and I remember having absolutely no interest in it. Even superheroes at the time were a bit of a stretch for me. The only reason I gave the dubiously attired supes another chance was that I was spending a few weeks at my grandparents in suburban Chicago, and had little to do but walk to the comic shop to keep me from going crazy. (I had picked up a Spider-man comic a few years prior, but it was one where he wrestled with his lame-ass inner demons and I decided to stick solely to reading Conan, a guy who only fought external demons, and without being a whine-ass about it.)

So jump ahead over 25 years, and I found myself checking out a comic shop from the necessity of having to get out of my sister’s house in suburban Detroit. Now I have a pocketful of money, so I no longer have to debate whether I should get a regular 75 cent comic, or splurge an extra quarter for a copy of Marvel’s Epic line’s Groo (cartoon barbarians were also very acceptable in my book), but I still can’t bring myself to drop $4 a comic. Fortunately few people in Detroit have money, so there as I walked in were sets of comics bundled up and in addition to being quite reasonably priced, were selling “two for one.” For $1.50, I get 4 issues of The Rawhide Kid and 4 issues of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch mini-series, a price that would have even tempted my 12 year old’s mentality into giving a guy with a red neckerchief and white spats a try (and this was way before they “made him” gay in 2003) as well as comics about a girl and a red, green, and yellow robot.

Now, however, I find the Rawhide Kid interesting because it’s different. One thing you feel quite quickly when you are sifting through a bargain bin somewhere is how much the comics all seem to be the same. I guess looking at the regular stands should be the same thing, but perhaps a $4 cover price and a better display make the latest “team-book” at least look better than the busy-bee, spandex rave happening on every cover of Wildcats, Gen 13, or the glut of X-mags that seem to predominate the bargain bins.

And to the end of finding something different, I’m willing to accept lameness as a “positive,” quality, (as do, thankfully, my friends). Because, make no mistake, it was a lame idea bringing The Rawhide Kid back...because, well...why? Did people really miss him? Perhaps they thought that people would want a break from the Secret Wars II stuff that was tying all the regular titles together? Maybe Bill Mantlo begged to write the series (like he did for The Micronauts after seeing the toys)? I really would like to see the sales figures on the series to see how many people picked it up.

First off, the cover flaunts the lamest part of sanitized westerns: the shooting of guns out of people’s hands. If it was a comics code issue, I don’t quite get why Conan could gut someone with a sword, but good cowboys merely could make the perpetrators feel silly for a bit, standing there gunless before they were inevitably tied up, so it must have been a choice. But yeah, it’s just stupid. Oddly enough, however, they use it to form a major, though clumsy, motif through the series (we also see him wrestle with his age and development, “I’ve never felt like a Rawhide Man.” and occasionally make comments about his arthritis in between acrobatics).

In his first encounter, we see the Kid avenge his uncle’s death (his UNCLE BEN!) by tracking down his killer and shooting the guns out of their hands without looking, over his back shoulder. In fact, the dialogue often draws attention to the more unbelievable sharpshooting with dialogue that would be appropriate for a radio play, but not really necessary next to a picture of the action.

Panel: RK riding and shooting guns outta people’s hands. Balloon one: “H-how can he ride and shoot like that at the same time.” Balloon two: “Why, he’s the Rawhide Kid!”

Panel: RK shooting the gun outta passenger’s hand through a window while clinging to the outside of a train. Balloon one: “Mercy! The Kid shot the gun out of that gent’s hand—while clinging to the top of a moving train.”

But what’s weirder is that there’s another flashback sequence where this amazing shot, just plugs a guy and 25 years later wonders whether “mebbe” he could have shot the guns out of the guy’s hand, though both his friend and the narrative box assure us that he “did what he had to do.”

The bulk of the series revolves around a wandering RK having trouble with his gunfighter reputation and an “understudy” who wants to learn how to shoot like him. In issue two, I thought the series was going to grow some balls as we learn why the understudy needs to protect himself from the Pinkertons who are following him.

“The foreman, Sis hated him, but he promised to get her out of the slaughterhouse if she’d only...well, anyway--she did--and he broke his promise to get her out of that place. I went after him with a cleaver. He fell in the sausage pit. Guess somebody somewhere had him for breakfast.”

But no, issue three has a sequence where it looks more like the understudy is preventing a rape, not just avenging a non-payment for services rendered contract.

But regardless, RK teaches him how to shoot guns out of people’s hands rather than kill them, saying “Helps me t’ sleep a mite easier at night,” but eventually after lamenting the plight of drunk Indians in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (and flirting with Annie Oakley), teaching a black bounty hunter not to betray “his own people” by convincing him to help RK defend a black town from roving, white- hooded (in the interior pages) Klu Klux Kowboys (charming him with such lines as “Don’t call me ‘Kid’ bounty hunter—an ah won’t feel tempted t’ call you “boy”), the Pinkertons finally show up. RK is knocked out by a lucky and plot advancing sucker punch from the understudy who goes out to face them all by himself. Woozy, RK comes out and shoots down all the enemies of his past, which turn out to be the Pinkertons when he comes to clarity, but while in his daze, it’s explained to him by the ghost of his understudy that he has to forget his past and accept his fate.

And given the bodies of the 15 or so Pinkertons littering the town, perhaps Marvel was hoping that his fate was to be reintroduced as a more edgy character, like the ascendingly popular Wolverine and Punisher of the time period, but given how uneven most of the themes were, perhaps RK and the Marvel family finally accepted that shooting guns out of people’s hands is fucking lame.

By: Frank "Peaches" McGirk

Friday, February 10, 2012

The New Avengers 20 ; Venom 13

The New Avengers #20

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Mike Deodato Jr

Osborn is back, and so are his Dark Avengers. Well, at least in spirit anyways. The “Iron Patriot”, and what is apparently going to be his new schtick, have returned to stick it to Luke Cage’s team of Avengers. Osborn has been broken out of jail and formed an army of A.I.M., HYDRA and former H.A.M.M.E.R. agents as followers. This issue, the New Avengers butt heads with this new version of the Dark Avengers in what will surely be an on-going series of two super groups locking horns. Bendis does his Bendis thing; nothing new or exciting.

I must admit, as a long time Spider-Man fan, I am starting to feel like Osborn is more of an Avengers villain then a web head, and this saddens me. I would really like to see him have a greater presence in Spider-man’s own book. I mean, he did steal Spider-man’s baby after all… (Yes, that’s right Marvel brass, I remember that issue back in ’96, or whenever it happened; I even have the book to prove it!) …unless, of course, Mephisto killed the child during One More Day (along with JMS’s Marvel career). Annnnnnyways, that’s a topic for a later time.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep in mind that, to the general Marvel public, Osborn is a reformed criminal who was granted a high ranking position in the C.S.A. after his successful rehabilitation during the government’s first Thunderbolts program (after Civil War). Thanks to the U.S. propaganda machine, Stark was discredited and Osborn ascended. During the course of Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, Osborn was painted under a heroic light to the masses. Sometimes, I almost refuse to believe that the American people would believe that the convicted GREEN GOBLIN was a changed man and put in the position that he was. But then I just remember how easily people are fooled in real life, and it makes it an easier pill to swallow.

But I digress; this issue was pure set up. This is Bendis planting Avenger seeds that will later bloom into a story tree that will surely have you picking issues off it's spin-off branches within the next year. The fight scene was ok, except for one specific, stand-out moment with Skaar, Spider-man and his dialogue, which actually made me laugh out loud. The art is solid, but not Deodato’s best like his work on Dark Avengers or Thunderbolts a few years back. It just looked too scribbly at times. So, if you’re a hardcore, Marvel zombie, then be sure to read this, because it will be relevant to the overall Marvel story. If you’re not, you could probably skip it.

Venom #13

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Lan Medina

Red Hulk, X-23, Ghost Rider and Venom. What do these four characters have in common? Nothing, you say? Tell that to issue number 13 of Venom. Yes, the moment that nobody was looking forward to is finally here. They are joining up to battle the minions of Hell! And I won’t lie, I kind of like it. Allow me to set the stage for this rather awkward selection of heroes.

X-23 is hunting down a casino owner in Vegas who purchased a vial of her blood to do whatever people do with vials of blood.

Flash Thompson (Venom) is drinking his problems away in Las Vegas after deciding to go A.W.O.L. after the events in the previous issues of his own book.

Red Hulk is hunting down Thompson for running off with the government’s brand new symbiote.

And the new Mexican female Ghost Rider is getting lessons from a now powerless Johnny Blaze out in the Nevada desert.

What brings these people together? Well, a certain son of Mephisto needs to complete a fiendish ritual that literally brings Hell to Earth... and what better place to perform said ritual than Vegas? Now, I understand this premise sounds really out there, but it actually works. Each character gets their fair share of the spotlight, and better yet… the reason for them coming together is actually believable.

The art isn’t amazing, but it suits the comic well. I really didn’t care for the way the artist that drew Red Hulk’s hair for some reason, can’t put my finger on it, but that’s a nit pick. If only the cover artist had done the interior as well. It just simply looked better.

Remender gets the personalities of the characters down, and each has his own voice. However, the book does feel a bit rushed, which might have been helped by another issue. This was a rather big set up that was executed very quickly, which resulted in a very lean issue; there was no superfluous dialogue or time-wasting exposition. It got right to the chase, and when it comes down to it, I prefer the slightly leaner feel to filler issues just put out to get more money.

In closing, it was fun. It wasn’t mind blowing, and I highly doubt that will change, but if you want a nice change of pace from the typical Avengers or X-men titles, give it a shot. It convinced me to follow this motley crew after the end of this story arc to see where they go.

By: Josh Loe

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode 1-5

Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Tradd Moore
Coloring: Felipe Sobeiro
Lettering: Steven Finch

Luther Strode is all about every comic nerd's revenge fantasy. Talk about a book that deals exclusively in escapism, this one has it all. This below average specimen of a high school student gets the girl, develops super strength, pummels bullies into a bloody pulp, and even manages to have an even nerdier sidekick. But The Strange Talent of Luther Strode isn't just about "a bit of the old ultraviolence", and the good guy getting the girl in the end. This book has some great perks located in the back. There are some amazing, well detailed pinups, and some great essays from Justin Jordan that include such gems as "Why I fucking hate Midichlorians". I'm sure most of us have thought that very same thing at some point during the dismal viewing of Episodes 1-3 that were released over the past decade plus. Star Wars, once the greatest science fiction franchise ever, has become nothing more than another shameless marketing tool. George Lucas even managed to ruin the original films with all of the extra CGI added scenes. When that long lipped alien did the cabaret song and dance routine during the Jabba scene in Return of the Jedi, I seriously wanted to kill myself. But his isn't a post about Star Wars, so let's get back to Luther Strode whose creators deserve to be the focus of their own review, for better or worse.

The past week I managed to get a few days off from my 9 to 5 and spent one of them reading throwback 80's Marvel titles. I know what you are thinking, but I did not always hate Marvel books. Their Flagship characters were never my favorites, but I always appreciated a well written, bloody Punisher romp, or a good Ghost Rider floppy. But mostly I find myself reading these books because they bring back so many memories. The pages are gritty to the touch, and nothing smells like an old comic. Nothing. They are also filled with some great old advertisements. My favorites were always the pages filled with hundreds of little boxes selling x-ray specs, blackhead removers, and the Atlas strength ads that promised you would be disposing of pesky bullies and impressing the ladies in no time flat. How does this tie in to Luther Strode? Well, the premise of this series is that Luther Strode responds to one of these ads promising him Herculean strength and the book he receives actually delivers some results. This object of scorn and ridicule now has the ability to tear almost anyone apart with his bare hands. And Luther Strode is also peppered with some funny jokes written in the vein that can only be found in an adult themed comic. This is not a serious book by any means, but it doesn't try to be either. And sometimes that's OK,even welcomed.

The violence is gratuitous. The jokes are lame, yet hilarious. The characters and title reek of cliche, but the book and the series are well above average unless an awful concluding sixth issues awaits. It is really the little things that make this one worth reading. The pin-ups are great. There is some good artwork in there that is really special. And the essays at the end of each issue are hilarious. Not only is The Strange Talent of Luther Strode a throwback to our youth, but it adds a lot of the little details that made books of that era so special. This is no masterpiece, but a lot of fun and worth the $3.50 x 6. I saw a lot of back issues at my local comic shop. Don't wait for the trades. Support local business. Go out and get you some today.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Avengers X Sanction #3: A Nut Love Story

Avengers X Sanction #3
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciler: Ed Mc Guinness
Inker: Dexter Vines

I listened to a conversation recently between a couple comic book intellectual type fan boys and they all agreed Jeph Loeb should not be writing on this series and for some obvious reasons. It doesn’t matter who you are except maybe the Beyonder and a few other “all powerful” super beings. You are not taking down Earth’s mightiest heroes like a bunch of washed up B-listers. It’s like watching Hulk Hogan “fighting” all those every other Saturday “I need a quick couple bucks” type of guys, that they brought in when Jake the Snake was too hopped up on crack. He literally took out the Falcon, Captain America, and Iron Man like a bunch of amateurs. Oh, and in this issue Cabel takes down the Rulk. The Red Hulk attacks you with a boat anchor and you walk away, you are now the baddest mother on the planet. That’s right Samuel L. Jackson, hand over wallet. It’s possible that the Rulk now has the T.O. virus which is most definitely interesting. Imagine a big metal Hulk tank bashing everyone.
So, I don’t know what to think about Loeb. Maybe this was too big a story for him to handle. I can’t say that I haven’t been entertained, because I have. It’s not really bad writing, it’s just that you can’t fool real fan boys into believing the Red Hulk wouldn’t just give Cable a quick dick punch and be done with it. He might have survived the anchor, but sure as shit isn’t walking away from a dick punch from the Rulk. Isn’t happening.
Now Wolverine, my boy Spidey, a one-eyed X-men, and Hope are on the scene for the fourth and final issue. Setting up Avengers vs. X-men: I think so. Good thing Loeb has nothing to do with that one. I’m foaming at the mouth to read this one. Can’t wait till April. Also, in March, the X-terminated comes out which I am really excited about. The art in the X-terminated short in Marvel point one was amazing, and it’s why I am going to buy it. And truthfully, I can’t say I’m not excited about the fourth and last X-Sanction because I am. Whether it’s within the realm of possibility in the eyes of the fan base, one thing you have to admit is that it’s fun to read and the art has been fantastic too. However, much of the die-hards disagree. They are still buying it anyway so that has to say something.

“Did you ever think that to the nuts inside, the peanut is like their whole universe? I mean they could fall in love and never be together because the shell separates them. So close, but their cruel prison, the shell, keeps them apart. It’s so sad how they must hate their cruel master, the shell, uncaring despoiler...of legume romance! And then one day, they are free! And it’s like, let’s dance, you hot salty nut!" - Deadpool

By: Cody Miller

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Walking Dead 1-93

"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." Revalation 6: 8

Creator, Writer: Robert Kirkman
Editor: Sina Grace
Letterer: Rus Wooten
Penciler, Inker, Cover: Charlie Adlard
Gray Tones, Cover Colors: Cliff Rathburn

It is hard for one body of work to stand out in a society inundated with apocalypse themed tales, unless you are the best. The Walking Dead is the best ongoing series in comics, and it dominates over every other book in any other genre. It is my favorite form of entertainment...period. Every Wednesday that a new issue is released, I find myself at the comic shop as fast as traffic will permit. And I start reading the moment I arrive home. Every single issue has me laughing out loud at the letters page. The banter between the creators and the fans never fails to entertain, and I must give them credit, because it appears that the surest way to get your letter into "letter hacks" is to write the most scathing feedback imaginable. This is a far cry from the letters pages of DC, where it seems that every kiss ass idiot willing to verbally felate a DC creator can get a nod.

The book itself is more about a tale for survival than your average zombie book. Fans of the TV show who do not read the comic are missing out the most. The show is a G rated version of the book, with a different storyline and some completely different characters. That is one thing that makes them both so interesting. The show is good, but there are issues of the book that are absolute genius. The TV show is not even close to that level. And while the book will at times leave you breathless with your mouth hanging open in shock, my only criticism is that some of the issues can be and are quite slow. This is the most common complaint shared by TWD fans. Kirkman responds by saying that the quiet parts are necessary to set up the fan favorites. In my opinion, this is absolute garbage. Exposition is necessary to tell a well rounded tale, but there are a few issues that are mind numbingly boring. Fans are emotionally invested in these characters; these issues can and must be better. And although they are few and far between, I have found myself extremely disappointed in a monthly on more than one occasion. It reeks of lazy, defeatist writing, but to create something of this sheer magnitude that so many people love so much, it may be Robert Kirkman following a formula and simply being smarter than the rest of us. I'm not all that sure about this though, that the boring issues are what make the good ones so appealing. Fans of the book care a lot about these characters, is it right to be this bored sometimes? There are a lot of holes in that theory.

The creators have promised us something special building up to issue 100. Our journey together so far has seen everything from the demise of some of our most beloved characters, to some of the most gruesome deaths that have ever graced the pages of comics. No character is safe, and I cannot wait to see who are the next casualties. The only thing that will compare to the next great TWD story arc, will be the letters from pissed off fans when their favorite character was torn to pieces and left for dead. This book is consistently reinventing the horror genre and comics for that matter, and I do not expect them to stop anytime soon. The trades are a must have if you did not get in on the ground floor, but you don't get the letters page so you definitely want to purchase the monthlies as well. If you claim to be a fan of comics, and have not read The Walking Dead, I highly doubt the veracity of your claim. Can one really be a fan of comics and have not read the absolute best book in the medium? I think not.

By: William R. Davis Jr.