Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saucer Country #1

Saucer Country #1
Story: Paul Cornell
Art: Ryan Kelly
Colors: Giulia Brusco
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Cover : Ryan Kelly
Publisher: Vertigo

The tagline for Saucer Country was X-Files meets The West Wing. That being said, this book went onto my pull list immediately. I've never been that huge of an X-Files fan, but The West Wing is my favorite television show in the history of the world. There is a lot about The West Wing to love, but what stands above the acting, sets, and production value is the writing by television and film journeyman Aaron Sorkin. He is arguably the best writer in both genres. Comparably, Paul Cornell did not even come close, but that was to be expected. Although the description by Vertigo is a mash-up of two fan favorites the idea turned out to be pretty innovative all things considered.

Ryan Kelly does a serviceable job on the art, and while the writing is not a masterpiece in issue one, it also manages to get the job done. There are not too many politically themed comics these days, and the idea is what makes this one stand out. A lot of issue ones tend to be merely set-up work, and are kind of a worm on a hook to get fanboys to include them in their weeklies. Saucer Country manages to transcend my admittedly cynical views and turns out to be a pretty entertaining read. I also grabbed Voodoo Child, the other Vertigo #1 that came out at the same time and in contrast to that book this one did a much better job. Issue two needs to do a slightly better job of getting the reader emotionally invested in the characters. The plot was very engaging, but it was the only standout. The idea of a book following the campaign of the first Latino woman American presidential candidate accompanied by an alien invasion is just too good to pass up. If Paul Cornell can take some ques from Sorkin this one might be alright in the end. And Saucer Country comes along at a great time because Vertigo needs a real kick in the ass at this point. Image seems to be dominating the adult themed independent book genre lately even though Vertigo was the company that pioneered the concept in the mainstream. Sweet Tooth and The Unwritten are the only two other books I have taken an interest in as of late.

Do not misconstrue my words here. Saucer Country could turn into a really good book, but at this point it's not going to put Vertigo up on it's shoulders and carry the DC subsidiary into the 21st century. As much as I love Willingham, the last thing this company needs is another Fables spin-off book. Creativity has been in short supply lately, but that is not surprising considering Image lets creators keep the rights to their stories and characters. The Stan Lee era of raping and pillage starving artists seems to be over in comics and that is a good thing. I would hate to see the doors close at Vertigo, and if Saucer Country can live up to it's potential Vertigo is a little closer at getting back that top spot. This one is kind of a wait and see, but unless something catastrophic happens it should and will turn out to be a good read. There is even the potential to confound expectations but right now it is just too early to tell. Issue one is well worth the cover price and this one went on my pull list. That in itself is a victory considering there aren't too many other titles from the Vertigo family that can currently cliam that distinction.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stan Lee’s Mighty 7

Concept: Stan Lee
Script: Tony Blake, Paul Jackson with Stan Lee
Pencils: Alex Saviuk
Inks: Bob Smith

The first time that I heard about this comic I knew I had to check it out. With the name Stan Lee attached I can’t see how anyone could resist the urge to at least take a look. Stan has accomplished more then most in comics. He has fathered some of the most iconic and beloved heroes of all time. Including my all time favorite Spider-Man. I find myself wondering just how empty the world of the super hero would be without the hand of Stan Lee. One would have to think the cupboards would be pretty bare. Not only would you lose most of the Marvel Universe, but also the characters that other dream weavers came up with by way of Stan’s influence and blue prints. I believe it’s safe to say that comicdom as we know it wouldn’t have made it this far. His birthday should be a national holiday and his mug should be on Mt. Rushmore.

The Mighty 7 is the newest in a long, long line of creations by Stan. He pulled in some veteran TV writers to work up the script with him (Blake and Jackson wrote for the TV series Lois and Clark). He also recruited one of my favorite Spidey artists, Alex Saviuk. What it must do to a man’s ego to get a call from Stan himself asking you to help him create his newest brain child.

The Mighty 7 starts out introducing Blastok (as his name suggests he shoots red lasers beams out of his hands). Blastok is on some “Punisher” like mission to “retire” a crooked judge. Just let me say there are a few things about Blastok that annoy the hell out of me.
The first is the name. The Second is that he shoots red laser beams while wearing read glasses…sound familiar? The third is his resemblance in both physical and psychological manifestations.

Anyway, Blastok is now a vigilantly hunted by the Sky Marshals, a group of heroes policing the super powered. After a brief battle they capture Cyclops (umm I meant Blastok) and throw him in a cell. The Marshals in all their infinite wisdom put him in a cell with four other captured “vigilantes.” Let’s see, there is Telepan whom is telekinetic, Faidout who shrinks, Mercuria who runs fast, and last but not least Ovalax (who happens to be my favorite so far). Ovalax is a fat guy whose super power is to (drum roll)….inflate even more into a perfect sphere and you guessed it roll over stuff. I know right. I’m sad to say Ovalax may just be my favorite part of this whole issue. What can I say fat guys steamrolling around entertain me.

The prisoners escape and in the ensuing battle with the two Marshals (Asoara, who has wings like Hawkman and Vallor Conan with a hint of Thor). The battle sends the spaceship out of control and they plummet to Earth.

Enter Doctor Zorbo. The Dr. has created a machine to eliminate earthquakes. In a demonstration to the government, his machine fails. Zorb gets pissed and vows to get even…setting up the villain perhaps. So with the two Sky Marshals and the five bodies that makes 7. I guess we have our super team.

That’s my biggest problem with this book. It is way too predictable. The characters all have lame recycled names, powers, and backgrounds. I just can’t take this as a serious series. If you don’t read it there will be no lasting consequences. Maybe that’s what Stan meant to do. He doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody anymore. I’ve come to believe the Mighty 7 is just Stan cutting loose, like he’s just taking one last trip around the block. It could be that he’s trying to appeal to the newest generations of comic book fans…or maybe he’s just saying hello to his long time reader base. Either way it’s only going to be a short run and I can say I wasn’t entertained. Why not? Just don’t take it too seriously true believers.

By: Cody "Madman" Miller

Monday, March 19, 2012

Saga #1

Saga #1

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples

One of my favorite writers has returned. That’s right people BVK is back. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man, Runaways, Pride of Baghdad, and Ex Machina are some of the best comics I’ve ever read. It’s safe to say that only after one issue the Saga series will no doubt find a home on my favorites list. Vaughn has also worked with Marvel and DC on titles such as Swamp Thing, Wolverine, Ultimate X-Men, JLA, Green Lantern, and Detective Comics but it is this work on his own created books that his mastery of all things comics shines through. If you haven’t read Y before then you might as well stop pretending you’re a fan of real comics. Think about that the next time you’re in your comic emporium picking up your new books. While you’re spending your hard earned money on your sub par books that you gobble up like crack. That you could be reading something that actually deserves to be read and snuggled with on those lonely nights. Seriously though, if you haven’t read any BVK titles before you are missing out in a big way.

The story cuts in with Alana delivering Marko’s baby. Alana is a winged one from the planet Landfall and Marko is a horn head moony from Wreath, Landfalls only satellite. The two races are locked in a bitter war. The moonys are more magic based and the Landfallers are the Tech heads.

The powers that be, from both sides, want the couple arrested and the baby destroyed. Marko and Alana flee with the baby with a mysterious treasure map in hand.

There is also a race of humanoids called Blue Bloods that have TVs for heads. I have to admit I’ve never seen anything like that before but I like it.

The way Vaughan’s writing and Staple’s Art blend science fiction and the fantastical makes a strange marriage seem natural. That says a lot because there have been many who have tried this but they always seem to crash and burn. The balance of Saga is perfect and well thought out. BKV and Fiona Staples have created something that’s sure to please factions of both the Sci-fi geeks and the Mr. Wizards for hopefully a long long time. Just remember buy your own copy because you can’t read mine.

One of my favorite details of the writing is how the baby born within the first few pages, narrates the book from sometime in the future. I also like the fact that Saga was a double sized forty page book with zero ads and it only cost three bucks. It seems that someone’s priorities are in the right order. Do yourself a favor and get this title on your pull list before it too late and you fall behind and become the laughing stock of the fan boy nation.

By: Cody Miller

Friday, March 16, 2012

Letter to the Editor

We would like to thank the people who are actually reading this. We would also like your help in making our site better. Our real purpose here at the Hammond Comics Blog is to not only be a site reviewing comics but to be a site reviewing comics that you want to read. Our true motivation is not only our shared love of comics but also a desire to see better books. Not that anyone important cares what we think but that’s what it’s all about. A fools dream perhaps.
To be perfectly honest my other great motivator is I now have the “but it’s for the blog” excuse when I’m getting the evil eye from my wife every Wednesday. I’ve also used the “ but it’s for research” excuse with a degree of success lately as most of the living room is most of the time filled with boxes or piles of comics. At some point she just accepted the fact that her husband is a hopeless comic addict and moved on. That’s another great thing about this site. I’ve been exploring titles and characters I never would have before I starting writing for the blog. You know every time I write something for this site I always wonder who is going to read it and will they care. That’s the thing we need most…your feed back. So please hit us up. Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, carrier pigeon it doesn’t matter.

We know someone’s reading this. So if you’re going to read our site. Support a few fanboys with some feed back. Are we missing great books? We don’t know because you’re not talking. You know you are going to be on Facebook or Twitter like a fiend anyways so please take five minutes and help us entertain you.

THE MANAGEMENT AKA Cody "Madman" Miller

Contact us Here




Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Naughty Bits

In addition to the weekly comics that I pick up regularly, I also schedule mandatory time to re-read books from my collection, most of which admittedly sit around gathering dust most of the time. Hardcore collectors and comics fans rarely sell their books. While they are low in monetary value, the sentimental value to most Fanboys is priceless. In the current market, most books are not even worth their cover price. I remember picking up two copies of all of the number ones from the Flashpoint series. My thinking was that I would keep one set for myself, and sell the other online. The acquisition of these number ones I considered a business investment, but my business acumen couldn't have been further off point regarding this purchase. They were listed on Ebay with a starting bid that was the cover price and also included free shipping. To my amazement, they did not get a single bid. Any fan could have picked them up minus tax and the gas that it takes to get to the store, but no one wanted any part, even though I would've taken a financial hit on the transaction. My point is that you can list comics up there with the rest of the "collectibles" that are only worth what someone is willing to pay despite what the pricing guide may tell you. However, their market value is of little concern to me when I am making these purchases. As infuriating as it is to pay four dollars for a sub-par comic, most of the ones that I do purchase are pretty damn good. They're my favorite form of entertainment. I write about them here although I have a limited amount of free time, and if any female were given the opportunity to read Cody and myself's daily Facebook chats about the books that we read, she would undoubtedly and immediately become drier than the most remote reaches of the Sahara. But despite the stigma attached to the medium, our love never wanes.

Many times picking up a book that I have not read in five to eight years turns out to be the most enjoyable and surprising part of my week. When I grabbed my four Bitchy Bitch trades from the shelf on Monday, they remained super glued to my hands until I devoured every word. Many independent creators are severely underappreciated, and after googling Roberta Gregory and finding barely anything online, I knew what I would be writing about this week. These are some of my favorite books out there, and they deserve to be noticed, remembered, and appreciated. I tend to have a rather cynical view of the world. There are few people in the world that get to see that side of me, but I will confess to this website and it's readers that if you meet me and find that I am overly nice and amiable you are not one of those chosen few. Bitchty Bitch is one of the few characters in comics with an even more cynical worldview than myself, and that aspect of this series couldn't be more refreshing/hilarious.

Although Bitchy Bitch may be autobiographical to some extent, there is no fictional character in comics that I can relate to more. Roberta Gregory does a great job of chronicling Midge's inner thoughts, in addition to the mask that she must wear in public that is necessary to function in society. Midge (Bitchy Bitch) is defined by traumatic experiences that end up defining her worldview. A disfunctional home, child molesting Uncle, and unlawful pre-Roe v. Wade abortion are the most notable. The latter is a scene in literature that will make me squirm in my seat everytime. This was an aspect of life in the early seventies that I had no clue even existed until picking up this comic. Every part of this particular storyline, from the near rape loss of her virginity, to the self doubt and isolation she experiences before realizing the unwanted pregnancy is now a reality are raw and unsettling. Maybe growing up in a Catholic household like the character Midge, and seeing the similarities between her family life and my own make this one almost too much to bear, but when reading I feel real anxiety. That is a feeling that only the best writers out there can create in their readers. The breakdown of the abortion process in an abandoned warehouse by a minimaly trained former paramedic literally makes me sick to my stomach. This should be required reading for any of the flag waving fundamentalist Christians out there that take such a hard line stance on this issue. The thought that thousands of women had to go through this alone, and that many did not even survive the procedure breaks my heart to think about.

While being an extremely serious book sometimes, it can also be extremely funny as well and that is also part of the appeal. Getting to see this character grow up from childhood to adulthood makes me especially fond of Bitchy Bitch. Her unapologetic honesty is refreshing and humorous even though her thoughts can be quite ugly at times. But these are the thoughts that define us at the end of the day. The sad fact is that most people want to deny that they exist. Roberta Gregory is not one of these people. This forty issue series is availiable in trades through Fantagraphics, so now you have no excuse for not reading one of Seatlle's most prolific underground comic creators. If the thought of Peter Bagge's Hate on steroids is an appealing concept to you, this is a must read that you need to add to your collection immediately. As entertaining as many of the hero books can be at times, the real stories are being told in the independent scene. Naughty Bits is at the top of my list. Go out and pick these books up today.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Army of Darkness

Writer : Elliot R. Serrano
Pencils: Marat Mychaels
Inks : Chris Ivy
Colors : Gabriel Belluco
Cover : Tim Seeley

The Army of Darkness was the third movie of the Evil Dead Trilogy. I’m sure that everyone already knew that, I mean I assume most people living in the civilized world have seen or at least heard of the Evil Dead movies. If neither of those assumptions are true, I’m sure you’ve at least seen the provided movie poster before. In my humble opinion, one of the greatest movie posters of all time. Ash, portrayed by Bruce Campbell, standing triumphantly in tattered cloths. Iconic Chainsaw hand prominently displayed in all it’s glory. I’d have to guess that most fans of the Army of Darkness movie are fans because of that hand; I know I am. Seriously what’s not to love about a good guy with a chainsaw for a right hand? I mean that stuff is usually reserved for the bad guys, right? Army of Darkness is, in my opinion, hands down the best of the three movies. The first two had more violence and gore but Army of Darkness relied more on slapstick. It truly could be considered the greatest horror comedy of all time.

Oh yeah, the comic. When I saw this book on the shelves of my local comic emporium it was a no brainer. I didn’t even hesitate. Would it be the same old adventures of Ash from the movie or would it be something completely different? That is the first thing that jumped into my brain when I saw it.

It turns out Ash doesn’t even make an appearance in the book, not in the first issue anyways. That I found a little disappointing, but at the same time it was refreshing to see Serrano go in a totally different direction. The new leading ladies name is Fish. Sort of the same beings as Ash’s story as she is a slave in the past as well, this time in Egypt. The Darkness has taken her hand as well. Unlike Ash she didn’t cut off her hand, instead she uses it as a weapon. It seems the darkness can change from a bloody stump into almost any form of weapon Fish so chooses. So good for Serrano for not giving her a chainsaw and going into a new direction. Did I mention there are humanoid bug like aliens?

Overall, the writing was okay but nothing special. How much can I really tear into it after only the first issue? Not a lot I guess. The art is a total different story. Sorry to say, I found the art uninspiring and rather bland. Such a disappointment. The cover was more of the same. I don’t really get why they would put such a blah cover on the comic. And another thing, why put Ash on the cover if he’s not in the book? Just another cheap ploy by some Ivy League goon to get you to buy comics. I understand Dynamite doesn’t have the cash that Marvel and DC may have, but come on, get serious. You are, after all, representing one of the most iconic tales of the free world.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Penguin: Pride and Prejudice

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Artist: Szymon Kudranski

In this five book series we get our first glimpse of The Penguin in the new DC reboot. This is an important moment for DC, but it's even more important for the fans. Writing superhero books must be a stressful business. Give the fans the same Penguin from the past and they will complain, but change him or distort his essence in any large way and they will still complain. Superhero fans are some of the pickiest and most critical group of consumers that have ever existed since the creation of the free market. Not even New York sports fans can touch the fickle nature of the average Fanboy. Keeping the "big mo" going on the reboot has to be top priority at this point, and there is no way that DC is going to get it done without the Batman constituency on board.

This release was also a critical moment in another way for the Batman universe, with the focus being placed on new villains, Penguin: Pride and Prejudice is the first series introducing his gallery of rogues from the past. As far as superhero books are concerned, no one has better bad guys. Even a Batman hater could list at least four in a game of Scattegories. That is one of the main reasons why Batman books continue to be so engaging, and the Penguin is one of the heaviest hitters of them all. Getting this one right was important on many levels, and as a lifelong fan of the Bat, no one was more excited than myself to read a five book series starring one of Batman's consummate villains.

Disability in the world of comics is portrayed in one of two ways. Heroes like Daredevil, The Thing, and The Hulk manage to become superheroes because of their disabilities. To me, villains like The Penguin are portrayed in a much more realistic way. The Penguin is physically deformed, weak; an object of ridicule and hatred. I like that this was the focus of Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. In the nature vs. nurture argument, I think that you have to go with nurture most of the time. But that's just like, my opinion, man. The Penguin is the quintessential example of this in comics. From the earliest age, the only side of the world that he was able to see was one of immense cruelty. After exposure to so much negativity, how does anyone expect The Penguin to use his superior intellect for good in the end? Genetics have a lot to do with the way we view the world. Beautiful people are treated better. I don't think anyone is disputing that fact. Do Hugh Hefner's young, blond girlfriends possess any sort of discernible talents besides being young and blond? Nope. At the opposite end of this argument are the Eleanor Rigbys, the obese, the deformed; the hopelessly average to below average.

The man has to find ways to survive despite the fact that his physical appearance resembles a bird more than a human to most. He has to navigate a path through the world even though his father and brothers hate him along with everyone else that he meets as a child. It was no surprise to me that he killed almost all of them except for his mother who was his only human connection. The world manages to turn Oswald Cobblepot into quite the sociopath. Even after the death of his entire family, and multiple, brutal massacres, the reader still has some sympathy for The Penguin. Gregg Hurwitz draws a nice parallel here through the brutality on one hand, and the loyalty and kindness he can also show on the other. Oswald turns out to be quite the "momma's boy". And there are a few extremely touching scenes that manage to show his softer, more human side.

His biggest weakness after weighing both sides seems to be his inability to take even the most minor criticism. But this made for a very entertaining read. The Penguin is the Kaiser Soze of Gotham. He kills their family members, their family's friends, their girlfriends, etc. (We've all heard that Kevin Spacey speech hundreds of timesby now, no need to elaborate further), all over minor insults. Issues one and two are both top shelf all the way. The wheels tend to come off the wagon a little towards the end, and the last book is definitely rushed. I had to stare at some of the major panels for literally minutes in order to decipher what was happening with the plot. This was a problem with pacing in the art, but in the end all of the mysteries were solved. Mainstream comics should not be a brainteaser, and this one had more than it's fair share of "riddle me this" moments. Despite all of the problems with the last couple books I have a pretty positive opinion of Penguin: Pride and Prejudice. All of the back story and psychological analysis was spot on. The plot and the action sequences suffered in the end, but the most interesting parts of the character shined through due to some great writing. Fanboys are going to be pissed about this book because of where it fails and the price point. This is regrettable because there was so much to love about the series. Fifteen dollars and five books later Penguin: Pain and Prejudice concludes as ultimately flawed, but it is still an extremely entertaining and engaging origin tale of one of the great Batman villains.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Habibi is rooted in the genre of magical realism, and takes place an almost dream-like setting intertwining the arab world of the past with a dark, modern industrial future. The story draws many similarities between the Muslim and Christian religions through it's use of biblical tales from the Quran, developing correlations for the reader through morality lessons that both cultures share. These stories help to root an entirely fictional place in a realistic and relatable way. And they are a pleasant departure from a book that deals heavily in unpleasant subject matter. Both characters are profoundly affected by life defining sexual abuse. Habibi is a story of survival, the main characters Dodola and Zam must sustain themselves physically while coping with the torment of their own personal demons.

Artistically Habibi is a visual masterpiece. Thompson's use of caligraphy and exquisite detail in his illustrations is unparalleled in modern comics. Stylistically this one is all Thompson, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with his work, and he is at his best. This 600 page plus tome is a testament to what comics can achieve when they are executed correctly. Every aspect is visually perfect, from the weight to the inlayed cover, this is a must own book for collectors. Words do not do the pictures justice in this one, and that is not a condemnation because Habibi's economic use of dialogue manages to tell a surreal and interesting tale extremely well.

Dodola is a young child, sold into marriage by her father who was not a man of means. She is subjected to a forced sexual encounter with her new husband, and deprived of a normal healthy childhood. Her new husband is a scholar who teaches her to read and write, and also tells her many stories learned from his work as a scribe. These stories help her to cope with a very bleak existence in the best way possible. She learns to harness her sexuality to her advantage, and her new skill becomes very useful when she is captured and sold into a harem at any early age. She manages to escape with a young orphan boy Zam and raises them in an abandoned ship found in an isolated desert. He learns and develops through her stories, and becomes sexually fixated with her as he reaches adolescence. This fixation turns to his own personal trauma when Zam learns how Dodola is able to provide for them in one of his first encounters in the outside world. They are separated by forces beyond their control and both reach adulthood by taking very different paths.

Despite how the last paragraph reads, Habibi is a very heartwarming and rich work in every aspect, at least in spirit. Critically, I'm not sure if it will ever match Blankets in the eyes of most readers, but creatively it is a vastly superior offering. Habibi takes many risks that were well worth the taking, and in my opinion this is Thompson's best work to date. Six years after it's initial conception, there is no doubt that Habibi is not only a labor of love, but the product of thorough and painstaking research. Learning to write Arabic must have been no easy task, and whether or not Thompson speaks the language, his calligraphy made me look at Arabic text in a completely different light. Great artists are able to do this through their art, and through Habibi Craig Thompson has permanently cemented his place among the comic literati. Any fan of entertainment would love this book, and I have no doubt that Habibi will do as much to bring new comic fans into the fray today, as Blankets has done in the past.

By: William R. Davis Jr.