Friday, June 29, 2012

The Incredible Hulk #9

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Pasqual Ferry
Review: Will Dubbeld

"Damn surface Yankees!"
...we'll come back to that.
The first Jason Aaron book I remember reading was part of his run on Ghost Rider, and it was awesome. It had gun nuns, mayhem, and most important of all, gun nuns. He revisited the 70s roots of the character and reading that run was like watching a grindhouse movie. As a consequence, I've gravitated towards picking up Aaron's books when I find them. Scalped is especially good.
So, in finding that Jason Aaron was penning the latest adventures of The Hulk, I was in.
Partially because I was curious as to how they would salvage the character after the World War Hulks/Rulk/Hulked Out Heroes debacle.
Thanks again, Loeb.
Never one to shy away from the ludicrous, Aaron started this book with The Hulk finally separating himself from Bruce Banner in a very memorable fashion: Doctor Doom performing brain surgery on Hulk with an adamantium chainsaw.
Thus separated from Ol' Greenskin, Banner goes mad and attempts to recreate the Gamma experiment that created Hulk. It seems he suffered from some rather serious separation anxiety. At the climax of the first arc we see Banner killed by a nuclear bomb and The Hulk finally at some semblance of peace.
Soon it is revealed that Banner still lives, and in a swift maneuver of role reversal, Hulk reverts into Bruce Banner when he stops being angry. A Bruce Banner that is now criminally insane in an archetypically mad-scientisty fashion. The current arc has Banner hijacking The Hulk when he's in control of their shared body and gathering ingredients for some sinister purpose. Or soup.
Issue nine finds The Hulk awakening in the Free State of Southern Submeria, a remote Atlantean colony. It seems Banner arranged for a sliver of magic rock to be implanted in his chest, and in exchange he would help the Atlantean doctor who performed the surgery escape to the surface. The implanted rock is the source of the colony's magic seaweed crop, which they brew into a concoction called Black Mash.
Which is underwater moonshine. Underwater moonshine that turns the drinker super strong and violent. It also makes them, "...paranoid, mistrustful of outsiders, irreversibly narrow-minded, prone to inbreeding."
Jason Aaron created an Atlantean colony that is a caricature of the stereotypes perpetuated about the American Deep South.
The real joy of this book was the Atlantean colony. Page 1, panel 1 has a pair of Atlantean youths noodling for goblin sharks and eels (noodling, for the unawares, is a method of barehanded fishing where the fisherman jams his hand in a catfish hole in the hopes of the creature latching on. The fisherman can then haul the fish out by its gills), the leader of the colony is a redneck Atlantean named Old Sharky who tools around in a galleon mounted to the back of a gigantic hermit crab, and the cannons on this galleon, ladies and gentlemen...
The cannons shoot hammerhead sharks.
The underwater rednecks, or sea-honkeys, assault The Hulk while all hopped up on moonshine, enlisting the aid of giant squid, siren enchantresses, and shotguns filled with sharktooth buckshot, all whilst shouting "damn surface Yankees! Give us back our magic!"
Needless to say, gratuitous violence ensues and at some point The Hulk may chug Atlantean moonshine.
This comic is the reason people should read superhero comics. It's silly, brightly colored, and doesn't try to dress itself up as something it's not. No pretentious storytelling, angst driven monologuing, or existentialist imagining of Campbellian hero journeys. Just a lot of Hulk Smash. It's a comic that's actually FUN to read, a bit of an oddity in today's market. I was unsure about this book for a few issues, but this sealed the deal and I'll keep picking it up. least until I figure out how Hulk got into space, as the last page of this issue revealed.
Teasers for the next issue showed Hulk fighting a cybernetic bear-person.
Bring it on, Aaron...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview with War Zone Creator Jesse Grillo

This week I got the chance to interview “War Zone” creator and writer Jesse Grillo. One night I was bored and randomly typed in “comics” on the Facebook search engine. Out of the menagerie of results, one in particular drew my fancy; Bleeding Ink Productions. After checking out Bleeding Ink’s Facebook page and seeing the pages from Jesse’s comics, I instantly became a fan. I messaged the man himself about how I could purchase one or more of his books so that I could review them for the HCB. The next thing I know, I am staring at five of the most original and interesting comics, dare I say, that I have ever read…and trust me I have pawed more comics than you can shake a dead cat at. On top of the free comics, Jesse was kind enough to agree to an interview. Now I have never interviewed anyone for anything, so if it leaves you wanting, that’s on me not him.

Out of the five titles he sent me (Demigods, Sensory Distortion, Chapel, Patriot, and War Zone) War Zone I felt was tits above the rest, but each one had a special something. I plan on giving each one a proper review in the future, but for now, this is what you get.

War Zone introduces us to our man Johnny, a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. If that wasn’t enough, life it seems has kissed Johnny with the business end of a meth addiction. That’s where it all starts. Johnny and his buddy Ray are on the way to score from their dealer Ricky. When they get to Ricky’s all hell breaks loose. Enter bad cops, bounty hunters, biker gangs, and spirits of old friends. This comic had it all non-stop action, great writing, great pencils by David Brame, top notch coloring by Heather Breckel, and a overwhelming eerie bleak realism that I have seldom seen in a comic. Up until the last page, I found myself thinking that this could actually be a true story…..yeah, I know, like I said, Jesse’s got skills and he plays for keeps.


Madman: How many issues of War Zone do you have completed or plan on publishing? When can we expect issue #2 to be released?

Jesse: That really depends. I’ve paid the artists for most of the first issue but it all comes down to if I get my Kickstarter backed. I love making comics but I’ve been unemployed for five months so I really can’t afford to make them on my own anymore. People that have read my comics seem to really like them so I hope word spreads and enough people pre-order the comics through Kickstarter. If that goes well, then the second issue should be out in August.

Madman: Who would you say have been your major influences to you as a writer?

Jesse: Honestly, bad horror movies. I had an uncle that would let me watch whatever I wanted when I visited him. Most of the time we watched movies produced by Full Moon Entertainment. They made some amazing flicks. I would seriously watch three of them a night.
I think Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman have influenced my life more than anyone else. They have done what I want to do. Created a unique story that stands out from the norm and not compromising their vision while doing so.

Madman: Even though Johnny has his fair share of issues and seems like a real dirt-bag, I can’t help but want to read more about him. Will Johnny regain a sense of who he was or will he turn down a much darker road then he’s already traveling?

Jesse: Johnny has his demons, that’s for sure. He’s battling these monsters the best he can. Sometimes he wins and other times he falls into the darkness.

Madman: I can’t help but notice that almost every page of your books are filled with controversial subject matter (i.e. a murderous super in Patriot, a PTS vet with a meth addiction, sex bots and political rights in Chapel). What new edgy material can we expect from you and Bleeding Ink?

Jesse: I have over a dozen comic book scripts I would like to produce. I’ll get to each of then one day, but right now, I am just working on promoting what I have and building a fan base. I’m working with a great artist right now that might do the comic and get paid back end. I hate having to do it this way, but I have so many stories I want to produce.

Madman: What comic book titles do you personally follow?

Jesse: Right now, none. I’m unemployed. Any extra coin I have is spent on getting my own comics made.

Madman: I really enjoyed David Brame’s and Heather Breckel’s work on the first issue of War Zone. Will they be back in later issues or do you have different artists coming in?

Jesse: They will be back for the other two issues. Even if I have to sell blood to pay them. Their work is amazing and they deserve all the credit for making War Zone look great.

Madman: If you were given three wishes what would those wishes be?

Jesse: 1) I just want to keep doing what I am doing and to be able to make little coin doing it. I am not materialistic. I just want to keep funding other projects. Making comics is a sick addiction for me. 2) World peace. 3) That creative businesses were really based on creativity, not money and nepotism.

Madman: I’ve seen a bit about a non-comic related novel you’re working on. Can you talk a little about that? I was on the road for about eight years through most of my twenties, traveling with various carnivals; it was a very Kerouac type of experience. A journey very few people understand in this modern age. I would enjoy hearing about your book.

Jesse: Sure. Back in December, I went on a two month road trip and wrote the first draft of my novel. Gold-Lined Storms. The story is about Joshua Blackwood, a guy that finds out he has schizophrenia so he goes on a road trip to find himself before his condition starts to take away the person he is. As the book progresses the writing style changes as his condition becomes worse. I am a very method writer, so I stayed in character most of the time. The book turned out really well and I am just working on my second draft now.
By the way, did you know Kerouac was schizophrenic?
Still working on the web site but it’s looking really good.
I also have a Kickstarter going for War Zone if anyone wants to check it out and support my twisted stories.

So there you go people. It is now your civic duty to hand this cool cat hands full of cash so that he can continue to produce the finest of independent comics that comicdom has to offer. Next time you’re on Facebook, stop by the Bleeding Ink Comics page and tell Jesse that the HCB sent you and maybe he’ll keep the free comics headed our way and maybe just maybe when he hits the big time he’ll blast Scott Snyder in the nose for me. Yeah, I bet he would. Thanks again to Jesse Grillo for taking time to answer our questions and for the free comics


Saturday, June 16, 2012


Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1
Written by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner
Art by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts
Lettering by Carlos M. Mangual
Published by DC Comics
Review by William R. Davis Jr.

The announcement of Before Watchmen guaranteed only one thing to DC readership: Controversy. While Minutemen featured minor characters in the Watchmen universe, Silk Spectre #1 would begin the transition into books featuring characters extensively developed by Alan Moore. While Silk Spectre is my least favorite character, the choice of Amanda Conner and Darwyn Cooke piqued my interest immediately. Amanda Conner's stylistically unique contributions to the world of comics include Power Girl, Vampirella, and Gatecrasher. Her artistic talents are a distinct contrast from original artist Dave Gibbons, and before the first issue of this series was released I knew that aesthetically Silk Spectre would not be traditional Watchmen fare. The recurring emotional asides depicted as an animated and cartoony expression of teenage angst are indeed a drastic departure from the original work that would undeniably bring Alan Moore to tears, but this is not a negative assessment of the art. In fact, Silk Spectre #1 does a slightly better job than Minutemen of taking Before Watchmen beyond homage. Silk Spectre took chances, but the finished product is a deeply flawed one, albeit visually pleasing.

The script reeks of cliche. You could replace Laurie Jupiter with Joey Potter, take the superhero out, place them squarely in Dawson's Creek, and this story would work. Sally Jupiter's miserable failure at parenting is the most compelling aspect of the writing, but the main focus of issue one is not the original Silk Spectre, although her presence does play an integral part in the plot development. The entire book centers around the emotional damage caused by her self fixated quest to live vicariously through her younger daughter. Any strength in the dialogue and storyline solely resides here. Beauty fades, and the attention starved twilight years of a post porn/media star go to dark places where one would expect to find the plot of a Watchmen series. I know that after reading Minutemen, an entire four issues devoted to Sally Jupiter staging photo ops and banging it out in Tijuana would make a horrible comic, but something more imaginative; less sterilized and pre-packaged, is needed to justify a prequel here. Again the art is flawless, but after only one issue the story is on life support. Laurie Jupiter is a confused, frustrated, teen girl with a crush on the school jock. The popular girls are mean, and it just so happens that the before mentioned star quarterback sees something deeper in the social outcast and instantly falls in love. I'm serious, that's the plot. Even the lone fight scene with Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows soundtrack seemed more of a homage to Zach Snyder than Alan Moore, and anyone who has seen the film would know, this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The saddest part about Silk Spectre #1 is that more than likely, Sally Jupiter will not be a part of issue two.

There is no telling where the story will eventually go, but wherever the series takes us better be a drastic departure from the staus quo. To give you one final and very telling example of the merciless cliches found throughout, (SPOILER ALERT) after only three quarters of a date the school jock professes his undying love to Laurie, and the two misunderstood youths decide to runaway together for destinations unknown. In the final panel they hitch a ride in a day glo VW bus bound for San Francisco ala the merry pranksters. I fully expected these final panels to be cluttered with the lyrics to If You're Going to San Fransisco, but apparently the creative team decided that concept was worn out with Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows and decided to end their borderline plagiarism there. I cannot dismiss the overall negativity of this critique, but the addition of even one more cliche would have took this review from negative to scathing. If the current formula endures I might be able to save everyone some money. Laurie and Jocko go to San Francisco, become superheroes, and then the big cliffhanger...wait for it...her one true love is killed. Shut up crime. Suffice it to say, I am not terribly excited for issue two. The art was masterful, and that redeeming factor kept this book from being a complete waste of money. And while Minutemen succeeded to a much greater degree, chances were taken here and I ultimately respect the bravado. Amanda Conner's pencils alone salvaged a disappointing, borderline absurd followup to Minutemen. I will be buying the rest of the series only out of a morbid curiosity, nothing else.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: EARTH 2 #2

Script: James Robinson
Art: Nicola Scott
Review: Will Dubbeld

Welp, here it is, the hitherto long awaited by nobody, eyebrow raising, yawn awakening, desperate attempt at generating interest issue of DC's Earth 2 wherein it's revealed that Alan Scott is *le gasp!!!!* gay.

As much as I love the Golden Age of comic books and the heroes they wrought, I'm gonna have to file this one in my 55-gallon drum of don't give a shit.

I'd heard that DC's newest cash- in was a big reveal that outed an established character as being gay. Okay, that's fine. Nothing against gay people, much less gay comic book characters. Hell, I love Northstar, even before Marvel outed him. After catching wind of this bit of maneuvering (manurevering?) and reading through some forums, I thought, "holy crap, if they make Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen gay, that would be a masterstroke! Genius, even!"

As touted by Dan Didio, he would be an established character, firmly entrenched in the DC lore and universe, and would present a multitude of storytelling opportunities!

Nope. Instead we get Alan Scott. Granted, we were not lied to. DC did out a famous, elder statesman of the continuity. They did pick a character that was part of the DCU for decades, yet still managed to suck out by choosing someone that is obscure enough to modern readers as to not alienate anyone.
Wow. Way to pave the road, DC.

I felt like they had more impact utilizing Scandal Savage (from the dear, departed Secret Six) as a gay figure than this shameless attempt to be hip and topical.

Not only is this a retcon wrought by the mostly dreaded New 52, the story takes place on an alternate earth as opposed to the primary earth in DC's current continuity. Or Earth 1...or Earth Prime...or whatever the hell DC quantifies as their primary world for storytelling purposes these days.

Honestly, I'm only paying cursory attention to the Post-Flashpoint DCU anyway, because they're bound to have another Crisis here in a year or two and reboot the entire line anyway.Hopefully Grant Morrison will write the next one, and it'll be as slapdash and incomprehensible as Final Crisis.

Aaaaaanyway, as far as the ACTUAL book in question goes, it wasn't that bad (ain't I a stinker?). I'd picked up the first issue of this book, pre knowledge of an issue 2 gay reveal, and enjoyed it. As much as I hate on DC, I'd always loved their alternate earths, Elseworlds, and other parallel worlds (Gotham by Gaslight?, Superman: Red Son?,JLA: Earth 2? Superman: Speeding Bullets? Bitches, please...), so when hearing they were throwing another title involving an alternate Earth at us I figured I'd give it a shot. I figured as bad as it might be, it'd be better than the inevitable Batman/Grifter team up that will make me stab myself in the cerebral cortex with a tightly rolled back issue of Wildc.a.t.s.
Or however the hell one spelled that dreck.

This issue of Earth 2 deals with Mister Terrific arriving on Earth 2, which is apparently related to something that happened in his solo book.
His cancelled solo book...
I had no basis for comparison here, because I didn't buy Mr. Terrific. Mostly because the characters name is Mr. Terrific.
Upon further examination, I discovered that we have not one but two Mr. Terrifics (Misters Terrific?), and they get into a bit of a tussle.

Next we find a young Jay Garrick who is investigating a shooting star that landed in a field. In the stars crater he discovers the god Mercury, last of the gods, who is dying. You guys see where this is going?
So, Mercury warns young Jay Garrick about an incoming evil more dangerous than Apokolips (Earth 2 had recently fought off an Apokoliptan invasion, as revealed in issue 1), and then dies.

But not before imbuing young Jay with the speed of a god!
70 year old spoiler alert: Jay Garrick is the original Flash.
Finally, we are treated the big Alan Scott chapter where we find Scott arriving in Hong Kong on business. He meets up with his special man-friend and they share a smooch, then talk about staying at a hotel. No big controversial move, no gasps from the audience, just two people in love. The only thing that irked me about this was the fact that Alan Scott is a great, square jawed bear of a man, and his boyfriend is a lithe, wiry, sort of femme-like gay stereotype. Check out the first panel he's in. You'll know.

We jump back to The Flash after this, where we find him running fast and rescuing a young couple from a swarm of rat creatures left over from the Apokolips invasion.
Rats. From Apokolips. Called...wait for it...

Okay, now this book was starting to wear on me a bit.
Flash then runs across the ocean in an effort to test his newfound powers, only to end up in Poland and confronted by a figure that seems to be Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman.

The book closes with Alan Scott on a train, proposing to his boyfriend. The train suddenly explodes, and a slight green light can be seen from one of the trains windows.
70 year old spoiler alert: Alan Scott is the original Green Lantern.

This certainly wasn't the worst book I'd purchased last week. That dubious honor undoubtedly lies with some Marvel comic (sorry, House of Ideas, but you've been lacking lately), but it was nowhere near the best purchase of the week either.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review: DIAL H

Collect Call from China

Dial H issues 1& 2
Writer: China Mieville
Artist: Mateus Santolouco

Dial H is about a mysterious phone dial that enables your average Joe Schmoe to become a super hero for a short period of time. Just dial the letters H-E-R-O in order and KA-POW….top of the food chain.
What makes this idea interesting is that each time it is used, the dial causes the possessor to become a super being with a different name, costume, and powers. Some versions of said dial are loaded with different letters, such as, V-I-L-L-A-I-N or H-O-R-R-O-R, gifting other kinds of incarnations.

The original series debuted in the House of Mystery, way back in the days of Luna 9 and paisley shirts (also known as 1966). The art was done by Jim Mooney with scripts by Dave Wood.

The second Dial H for hero series hit the shelves the same time as Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love” ruled the air waves, and Klinger was dolling himself up in drag ergo 1981. H ran first in Legion of Super-Heroes, then ran in Adventure Comics and continued for a short run in New Adventures of Super Boy. An interesting fact about this series was that the readers could submit new hero and villain characters, which DC then used in the comic. The poor suckers were given credit for their creations and a t-shirt with the Dial H logo, but the characters became DC comic’s property. This little tid-bit of information makes me wonder how many super types DC was able to horn swaggle from its readers. The original writers and picture maker were Marv Wolfman and Carmine Infantino.

Fast forward to 2012 and the time of the Mayan doomsday and gay super heroes and we find DC re-birthing this old gem. The story is set in the town of Littleville as it has been since its original run. This time around our man with the dial is a fat slob named Nelson.

In the first issue, Nelson dials H-E-R-O twice. The first time Nelson transforms into Boy Chimney, a Tim Burton (William and his “Tim Burton For Life” tattoo just got excited) like skeletal gentleman with super human reflexes, poison gas that spews from his rather large top hat, smoke manipulation, brick hard skin, clairvoyance, and the ability to walk on smoke.
The second time he dials up, Captain Lachrymose. Now all of you highly educated individuals know lachrymose means to induce tears or given to weeping (I had to look it up). Captain Crybaby is a hipster who draws strength from people’s most traumatic memories and emotional breakdowns.

In the second issue, we get dialed three more times. The first up is Skeet. Picture The Great Gazoo from the Flintstones but Red, and with a skeet-like hula hoop around his waist. He spins around a lot. Lame. Next up is Ctrl-Alt-Delete. IF you’ve read Saga (if you haven’t you should be very ashamed of yourself) he looks like a rougher more static Prince Robot IV.
Then comes the Iron Snail. A military commando equipped with a massive armored shell on tank tracks, big ass guns, which launch noxious slime and ferrochochlean sense (look this one up for yourself).
We are also graced with brief glimpses of the Human Virus, Shamanticore, and Pelican Army (I love this one…if he doesn’t get more exposure then I’ll…), Double Bluff, Hole Punch, and the Rancid Ninja.
I don’t know what else I can say except China Mieville is a damn genius. So many strange and intriguing characters in a grim and bleak setting. I’m on the bus until the very last stop with this title. Just when I swore off DC almost entirely, they pull this rabbit out of their moth ravaged hat.
All you gamers out there might find it interesting that China co-authored Pathfinder’s Guide to River Kingdoms.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: MINUTEMEN #1

Writer: Darwyn Cooke
Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Cover Artist(s): Jim Lee w Scott Williams/Alex Sinclair/Darwyn Cooke
Colorist: Phil Noto
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Mark Chiarello

Minutemen #1 by Darwyn Cooke kicks off the most controversial release in the history of the DC Universe: Before Watchmen. The debate has been raging on Twitter and internet message boards for months. There can be no doubt in the mind of any comic fan that the conception of this series was mostly a corporate money grab, and that the mere existence of Before Watchmen without the consent of Alan Moore is an affront to the legacy of his seminal work; a work that is also one of the most successful books in the history of comics. The ownership of Watchmen will contractually transfer to Gibbons and Moore after the series has been out of print for one year, but today we know that DC will never relinquish the rights to the series. Neither of them knew that Watchmen would bring the term "graphic novel" into the mainstream, and that their "graphic novel" would elevate the legitimacy of the medium, eventually even earning a place on university English course syllabi. The reality is that Watchmen will never go out of print; therefore the rights will never be transferred back to the creators as was originally intended when the contracts were signed over two decades ago.

To those who believe that purchasing this book condones a gross violation of the spirit of their initial contract, Minutemen is not going to change any minds. I find myself conflicted about the existence of this series. While I agree that Moore is indeed being exploited by DC, it seems that these days he loves nothing more than throwing rocks at the throne, and because of this resentment his work has suffered. The golden age of Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and Top Ten ended years ago, and it seems that where genius once reigned, that same genius has now been prematurely replaced with spite. Moore is justifiably angry; he did sign a bad contract, but Simon and Shuster signed an even worse one. Alan Moore had no moral qualms about his contribution to the Superman universe: What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. There is slightly more than a twinge of hypocrisy here that cannot be dismissed, but this hypocrisy is surely not a vindication of DC in any regard, even considering the milquetoast endorsement of the series by artist David Gibbons. It leaves in it's wake an extremely complicated dichotomy worthy of further discussion.

Minutemen is arguably the least offensive offering to Before Watchmen. The original Minutemen were a necessary subplot in the original work, but the characters of that reality's yesteryear were not largely developed by Moore with exception of the Comedian. Darwyn Cooke does a near perfect job with the art, reminiscent of his earlier work on New Frontier and The Spirit, and issue one stands alone as an engaging prologue to the burgeoning series. A homage to the golden age of square jawed heroes and pin-up knockout female heroines, Minutemen is a necessary addition to the collection of any serious noir fan regardless of their Watchmen political leanings. The Len Wein/ John Higgins two page Crimson Corsair epilogue is a visually stunning contribution, but not much about that series can be determined in two pages. To make a judgement of the work in toto, every single issue of Before Watchmen has to be purchased, or you're going to have to wait for the inevitable collected edition. Dan Didio knows how to market comics, no one can dispute that fact.

A familiarity with Watchmen is not necessary in order to enjoy Minutemen. The structure, art, and story are executed brilliantly. The only Minutemen who are not delved into in great detail at the end of issue one are Captain Metropolis and Dollar Bill, but the story manages to use all 22 pages as effectively as possible despite these omissions, and there are still five more issues left to further develop the characters. Not much can be said about Before Watchmen as a whole after the release of only one issue, but it is safe to say that at least the Minutemen portion will be an enjoyable read; and a welcome addition to the Watchmen universe for many fans, including myself. But Watchmen purists will never be swayed, and the logic of their argument cannot be denied even though Before Watchmen will undoubtedly be the best selling series of 2012. Moore's legacy will live on through Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello, Amanda Conner, the Kuberts, Len Wein, Lee Bermejo, J. Michael Straczynski, J.G. Jones; and Alan Moore will spit sanctimonious venom all over every issue. It is also safe to say DC will continue to happily count every dollar with blood on their hands, and a completely clear conscience.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Follow: @HammondComicsBl

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Invincible Gene Colan

Edited by: Clifford Meth

It is with some trepidation I write this review, as it seems like more of a eulogy than a critique. Gene Colan was an artistic visionary whose work for Marvel Comics from 1948 to the 1970s is chronicled in this visual biography, starting with his first story for a crime comic called Lawbreakers Always Lose. We follow along, chapter by chapter with a brief bit of exposition followed by examples of Colan's sublime art, be it interiors, covers, unfinished pencils, or sketches. The sketches in particular are superb, and honestly, if you compare Mike Deodato's work to Colan's sketches they look strikingly similar.
His work for Marvel consisted of super hero books, crime and horror, satire and romance, and each book he illustrated had its own unique feel, its own life and personality.

His 40s and 50s work showed more of his ability as a cartoonist, but as soon as we're exposed to his art from the 1960s and 70s we realize what a dynamo he was in the field. Some of it seems very derivative of Jack Kirby's art, but I can safely say that nearly everyone in comics was attempting to ape Kirby's style in those days. The section on his work for Sub-Mariner is exemplary of this, but as soon as the book takes us into Colan's work on Daredevil we see how much he evolved. His use of light and shadow, off-center angles, and cinematic character poses launches him to a level of artistry that is still enviable by even today's jaded standards of hyper-realism and computer aided art. I'd respected Colan's work for years, but this book gathers highlights and jams them together in such a way that my brain was almost overwhelmed at a couple of points.
As ludicrous as it sounds, the first instance of this was brought about by an unused cover for Daredevil where the Man Without Fear is squaring off against Stiltman.

I'll say it again: Stiltman.
One of the most laughed at, jobbed out morts in Marvel's catalogue.
This cover, however, blew my mind.
Daredevil fighting Stiltman, incredibly high above Hell's Kitchen, buildings laid out below in multiple point perspective, and I suddenly realized that I would not escape this book until it was finished.
The next chapter details his work on Doctor Strange, where nearly every page was a single or double page spread of the Sorcerer Supreme hurtling through a starscape or astral plane with swirling eddies of mist and arcane geometries populated by demonic foes and cosmic superbeings. Following that is his work on Iron Man which highlighted his ability to draw the character clad in armor that looked less like a suit of clunky plating and more like a second skin. Most impressive was Colan's ability to express emotion through Iron Man's featureless faceplate.

The final two chapters highlight what could be considered the crowning achievements of Gene Colan's career: The Tomb of Dracula and Howard the Duck. Colan illustrated the entire Dracula run, some 70 issues, and was able to keep a consistent eerie quality to the gothic horror comic. His ability to draw expression and emotion is strongest in Dracula and Howard the Duck. You wouldn't think that an anthropomorphic duck could be drawn in such an emotive manner, but Gene Colan will prove you wrong.

The book closes with a 1995 interview that editor Clifford Meth conducted and touches on many points in Colan's career, including his introduction into the comic world, advice he received from Jack Kirby, and his first meeting with Stan Lee. The interview is punctuated with a whimsical self portrait sketch of Colan showing him in his later years, a bespectacled, bearded, smiling figure that emotes feelings of a friendly, almost grandfatherly man that made me smile along with him.
Gene Colan died in June, 2011, another in an ever growing list of revolutionary artists that have recently passed away, amongst them Joe Simon, Jerry Robinson, Dave Cockrum, and Moebius Giraud. He will be missed, but he left an indelible mark on the modern comic book that is unlikely to be surpassed or overshadowed. The Invincible Gene Colan is an apt title for this book.

By: Will Dubbeld

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eye Candy

Review: Grim Leaper #1

Words: Kurtis Wiebe
Picture, Colors, and Letters: Aluisio C. Santos

Lou Collins is a man with serious issues; issues yet unknown. Lou keeps getting killed, but the kicker is that instead of staying dead, Lou comes back. He sheds his mortal coil, and finds himself in the proverbial hallway with the white light at the end. Lou’s hallway happens to be filled with pictures of random people. As Lou walks past them, one of the portraits always comes to life and swallows him whole. The person in the photo that eats him, and he comes back as them.

Soon after being decapitated by a semi tire, Lou gets gobbled up by a photo and he comes back as Paul Daniels, contestant #2 on the reality dating game show “Take a Leap". Lou does his best to wreck the show and ends up getting booted. He then finds his way to the Brass Monkey, his favorite bar, where he meets a woman afflicted by the same dying impairment. On the last page, Lou falls in love and then he watches as his newly found flame falls down an open man hole to her death.
I have to say, I really get Kurtis Wiebe’s writing. I’m not talking about the plot or storyline. I’m talking more about the way Kurtis views the world, and the contempt he holds for the garbage we know as reality dating shows (Rock of Love, Bachelor, etc.). I also can relate to how he writes in Lou’s inability to find his way out of his hometown. Lou, however, will never escape.Every time he dies, he comes back there. So yeah, on a personal level I can relate to Lou’s tribulations (except the body snatching of course).

I’ve already found enough cliffhangers that I need answers to convince me to pick up the second issue. What happens to the people who Lou body snatches? Why is this even happening?

Even though I am already a fan of Kurtis Wiebe’s Green Wake ( horror mystery), and the Intrepids (a James Bond type action series) books, it is the art that will secure Grim Leaper firmly upon my pull list. It’s not even the drawing, which I can find no fault in, but Santos’ color work that sets Grim Leaper apart from the pack. I can’t even throw down a comparison or any adjectives that will do it justice...except ultimate eye candy. Aluisio C. Santos just earned a spot on my favorite artists list, and it’s about time too because I know he’s been losing sleep over it. Tonight he’ll sleep like a corpse and perhaps have some kind of kinky wet dream. I know I will.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review: Mondo 1-2

Digital comics will never replace print comics because of books like Mondo. This golden age sized book is a 40 page black and white masterpiece that simply wouldn't translate well into a digital format. It just feels right. Mondo is all Ted McKeever. Within four pages the man was quoting Frank Zappa, and if the aesthetics of the book were not enough, that right there managed to get the job done.

I have always been a huge McKeever fan. From his humble beginnings on the self published Transit, to the more recent Meta 4, and even his run on the DC book Doom Patrol, McKeever is all about making his work as weird as possible. These are the kind of books I love, they transcend the traditional "magicial elements in a normal reality" theme that permeate most mainstream books. I will attempt to do my best at a quick plot synopsis, and I have a feeling that it's also going to give you a perfect example of what this man is all about.

Catfish Mandu is an anti-social grunt at a chicken factory where he is responsible for blasting chickens with nuclear radiation in order to make them freakishly huge before they are sent to the supermarket. He is mute, sans the occasional gutteral chicken noise, and is frequently visited by the apparition of a large chicken that gives him the gift of one egg. After a nuclear accident he is transformed into Mondo, and upon ingesting the previously mentioned gift egg he is now also accompanied by a six foot chicken sidekick. His new job is to get revenge on all the people who blew him shit when he was the meek and voiceless Catfish Mandu. As Frank Zappa says in the book: "The meek shall inherit nothing."

Most comic fans love a good revenge tale, and I can be placed squarely in that group. Let me give you a little insight about the shit I had to put up with in High School. Once upon a time, I was a talented young trombone player. The only serious detriment to my hobby was that anyone in band was referred to as "band fag" by the countless scores of future gas station attendants that graced the halls of Lake Central High School. Thankfully, I caught a little less shit than most "band fags". I got laid, and was accepted enough by the general population to get invited to parties, but the band stigma still remained despite the few concessions I was granted. This brings us to Dave Layman. I can honestly say before this incident I had never spoken to this kid once. He played on the football team, drank disgusting Red Dog 30 packs, and even though we were not acquainted I can assure you that the man did not have an intelligent thought or original idea in his fetal alcohol, freakishly large head. One day before a football game I was walking through the foyer where the entire football team happened to be gathered. My thoughts were occupied with either Watchmen or the white album, either way, I was minding my own business when I hear:

Dave Layman: "Hey faggot."

So at this point I'm thinking that there is no way this guy is talking to me. I don't even know this dude. Now I'm not thinking about anything comic or music related. All of my survival instincts are starting to kick in all at once, but I'm still thinking that there is no way in hell Dave Layman is talking to me, until inevitably my thoughts are interrupted by:

Dave Layman: "Hey faggot."

All right, now I know this dude is talking to me. While I am smart enough at the age of sixteen to realize that I cannot fight the entire football team, the best way to get your ass kicked in this situation is to keep your head down and not respond. I take a deep breath and turn around. The best that I can come up with is:

William: "Are you talking to me?"

Dave Layman: "Yeah, I'm talking to you, you fucking faggot."

This is the part where the entire football teams erupts in laughter and I turn around and walk away. Would I love my own revenge comic starring me kicking the shit out of this guy, absolutely. Hell, I probably even drew a few crude panels of it in my fourth period geometry notebook. But as I get older I realize that Dave Laymen probably never amounted to shit, the Dave Laymens of the world never amount to shit, but my life is awesome. In addition to having a great job in the worst economy since the Great Depression, at the age of 31 I have traveled most of the world and even managed to have a short lived relationship with a smoking hot 18 year old last year. Truthfully I wasn't really that into her at all, but I thought it would be a great story to tell the grand kids. And even today it's already one of the classics. Wherever you are Dave Layman, (probably masturbating in some shitty suburban studio apartment, perspiring Keystone Light can leaving rings on your GED) thank you for inspiring me not to be a total fucking asshole. Wait a minute, what the hell am I writing about? OK, back to Mondo.

I expected issue two to touch on the main theme and some of the engaging sub plots that were set up in issue one, but I got Ted McKeevered. Issue two introduces almost a completely new set of characters and manages to complicate the plot to the point of confusion. In a three issue series this is an extremely ballsy move, but this series has been so artfully done, and has been so much fun to read, that issue three will be mine regardless of the $4.99 cover price. Mondo is hilarious despite the lack of plot continuity, and a great way to take a mental vacation from the morning coffee/evening beer 9 to 5 grind. If you like Cronenburg films, revenge fantasies, great art, and overall hilarity, this is the book for you. A quick caveat, this is one that I had to pre-order, so make sure you give your local comic shop a call today you fucking faggot.

By: William R. Davis Jr.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ursa Minor #1

Writer: Tom Hutchison
Artist: Ian Snyder

Last week I managed to make it up to my local comic shop (Books, Comics, and Things in Fort Wayne, IN plugplug) for the first time in a couple of weeks. I dread events like this. After missing a fortnights worth of comics, seeing the stack that the hapless employee has to pull from my drop box really tugs at my heartstrings. That is soon followed by the whimpering noise that I can safely say comes from my wallet.

Diving into the pile like so much Scrooge McDuck, I found my usual melange of Marvel and DC fare peppered with the indy books I buy (new Shadow! Ragemoor! Sam Keith drawing for Dark Horse Presents!), a benefit book for the Hero Initiative, the Gene Colan tribute book, and this copy of a book called Ursa Minor, which I didn't remember ordering. I'm not saying I didn't order it, as keeping up with my list is a somewhat Herculean task. Previews and I may have a bit of an impulse control issue from time to time. Regardless, either I ordered it and promptly forgot about it, or it was mistakenly placed in my box and some fanboy is somewhere lamenting that he did not receive his copy of Ursa Minor.

I'm inclined to think the latter, because I don't know if this one was exactly flyin' off the shelves. It was put out by Big Dog Ink, which immediately conjured forth images of a printing press churning out comics from the back of a tattoo shop in Long Beach. I've never heard of the company, and after perusing their website I didn't find out too much about it. It's sparse with any information about the company, and the latest update in the news section invited me to come see them at C2E2. Which was in April. So, after a grim bit of research I plunged into Ursa Minor.

Set in 2013, the book tells us mankind avoided destruction from any whackadoo Mayan doomsday prophecies and bravely strode forth until disaster of another form struck. At the president's inauguration, werewolves leap from the crowd onto the stage and eviscerate him.

Well, alright Ursa Minor! Start this party with a bang! The United States, now aware that werewolves exist, go on a rabid nationwide manhunt to exterminate the werefolk. The potentates of a few other nations are assassinated by werewolves and soon a worldwide coalition is formed to hunt down and destroy their common enemy.
Then vampires out themselves to mankind, before they could be accidentally discovered, and offer their services to, "eradicate the werewolves, wererats, weredeer and any other shape-shifting creature..."
Weredeer? Screw it, I thought. I'm pot-committed at this point.
So, vampires go about eradicating werewolves as God intended, and it's revealed that a myriad of other supernatural critters, elves, bigfoots, faeries, nessies and whatnots exist.

Eventually humanity suffers from White Guilt and declares werewolves an endangered species and allowed them to live their lives.
No word on if they were all relocated to reservations.The last half of the book takes place in a supernatural strip joint where all manner of pixie, elf, seraphim and Teenage Catgirl shake it for the drooling crowd. An archetypical hawt bitchy vampire girl walks in with her archetypical vampire goons and it's revealed they're following rumors of a werebear stripper working at the club. This counts as one of the more ludicrous sentences I've typed in a while. A half hearted fracas ensues between a vampire goon, the werebear, and the bartender of the club and we are FINALLY, 2 pages from the end, introduced to who I can assume to be our main character.

This was a very, very mediocre book. The premise was promising, but rapidly devolved into a 'vampires and werewolves and faeries, oh my!' kind of storytelling I would expect to see in a Zenoscope book. As a matter of fact, the whole book seemed like a Zenoscope book. The pacing, the slightly cartoonish art, overly vibrant colors, all seem like they were lifted from the Zenoscope playbook. Virtually no characters were introduced, much less developed and the few lines of dialogue that were spoken evoked the exposition laced 1990s. I know that there was a lot of backstory to fill the reader in on, but half the book was told in narrative over pictures, and then abruptly changed for the second half to standard comic storytelling format.
I will say that the layout was very good, and the cover art from Natali Sanders was excellent. Aside from those two high points and the initial premise being engaging, this book was pretty poor.
Bad Dog.

By: Will Dubbeld