Saturday, July 28, 2012

REVIEW: Smurfs volume 12: Smurf vs. Smurf

Writers: Peyo, Yvan Delporte
Artist: Peyo
Review: Will Dubbeld

Like many amongst us, I was first introduced to The Smurfs via the immensely popular Saturday morning animated series that premiered in the 80s. I enjoyed the show, but nowhere near the degree I enjoyed The Real Ghostbusters or Dungeons & Dragons. Or Star Wars: Droids.
Droids was amazing.

So, with Smurfs not as action oriented as my usual Saturday morning fare, they were quickly abandoned in lieu of Transformers and finding out what Half The Battle was.

Years later, imagine my surprise as I learned that the Smurfs cartoon was adapted from a long-running Belgian comic that premiered in 1958. The Smurfs (or Les Schtroumpfs in their native Belgian) comics tell the adventurous, cartoonish tales of a village of tiny blue creatures that exist in a somewhat Socialist co-op society led by the dictator-for-life Papa Smurf. This much we all know from watching the television show. Being completely unfamiliar with the comic however, I decided to order a volume of it and find out what the smurf it was all about.

Smurf vs. Smurf is actually a quite clever story. It involves a dichotomy in Smurf Village between the inhabitants of the north section of the village and those of the south section. It seems that the two sections cannot reach an agreement on the finer nuances of the Smurf language, stemming from an argument over the correct terminology for "bottle opener". One faction insists that it's called a "Smurf opener", the other prefer the term "bottle smurfer". The language war soon escalates, igniting a bitter feud betwixt the blue folk that turns friend into foe, smurfer against smurfer. The climax of this conflict happens during a stage performance of Little Red Riding Smurf where a riot erupts prompted by a heckler proclaiming "a crock of Smurf!"

Picketing follows, complete with signs proclaiming "down with northerners" and finally culminating with a dotted line being painted through the middle of the village in order to separate the northerners from the southerners.

Having used every tool at his disposal to stop his fellow Smurfs from fighting, a distraught Papa Smurf must enlist the aid of the sworn enemy of tiny blue folk everywhere, the largely ineffectual evil wizard Gargamel.

This was an immensely entertaining book, written in such a way as to keep the interest of younger readers, but sliding in enough clever bits of humor for adults. The book also has a social commentary, as I learned Smurf vs. Smurf was lampooning the real-life language war between French speakers and Dutch speakers in Belgium. I will admit that it the propensity of the word 'smurf' or 'smurfing' to be inserted into every sentence became tiresome, but I was able to sidestep this annoyance by replacing 'smurf' or 'smurfing' with a curse word of my choice.
Much to my own amusement.

The art was also excellent, with a sharp lined style that the animated series emulated very well and the colors were crisp and vibrant. Although this probably won't prompt me to revisit the animated series, I would be sorely tempted to check out more volumes of the comic, especially since the reader is in no danger of being exposed to a Brand New Day, a New 52, or worrying about Who Killed Retro Girl? in the pages of Smurfs.

This volume also features three backup stories, one of which involves smurfish ingenuity as Painter Smurf hooks a paint pot to a set of bagpipes and creates a primitive airbrush and another where the Smurfs go to the beach on vacation and run afoul of Gargamel's confection-selling cousin, Barbapapa.

Clocking in at 56 pages for the modest price of $5.99 I certainly feel like you Smurf your money's worth out of this book.
Or get your smurf's worth out of it, depending on which part of the village you hail from.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

REVIEW: Creepy #9

Review: William R. Davis Jr.

Creepy is back with a new twist on an old horror classic. Pulp horror comics have been all of the rage since the 50's, and their magazine format has historically kept them from having to adhere to comics code facists. Those days of censorship are thankfully over, and while anything Garth Ennis makes the new Creepy title look like an old Goosebumps novel, nine issues in this is now one of my favorite books out there. A horror book that does not lean on sex and ultra-violence is a refreshing change, and while I love Crossed in all of it's depravity, shorts like The Red Knife prove that psychological, cerebral thrillers can be even better than their gory counterparts. Emily Carroll also has some quality web comics on her website, so after you read The Red Knife and it leaves you wanting more, I encourage you to check there.

The book is released quarterly, and the cover price of $4.99 may seem a little high at first glance, but keep in mind that you are getting a 48 page book, and a quality one as well. Creepy retains a lot of it's old charm with an Uncle Creepy letters page full of cheesy puns, and fans of those early Warren books will be happy to know that the Dark Horse website is full of Creepy merchandise including t-shirts, pins, and Creepy fan club swag, a fitting homage to the early books. Another strength is that this compilation of horror tales gives you four different artists an issue, along with four eclectic and completely different stories. Each one gives you a little taste of sci-fi, horror history, Lovecraft mythos, or taught psychological thriller. It's almost too good, because the reboot has inspired me to get online and purchase collections of the early 1990's series as well as some of the old Warren publications that are now in hardcover.

Dark Horse is starting to come back in a big way with Reset, Mind MGMT, Fatima, B.P.R.D, and even a brand new Eerie as well. So take some of the sub-par mainstream junk that you are throwing cash at month after month and make room on your pull list; replace it with some of the quality titles listed above. The world of comics is a much better place when fans put cash in the pockets of people producing quality books. To date, I have not come in contact with a single person that doesn't think Before Watchmen is a complete waste of both time and money. But the series is one of the top selling comics in 2012 even though Dan Didio and Jim Lee continue to ruin Watchmen, one of the greatest comics of all time. The dynamic duo of shitty comic books will consider this series a success due to the strong sales, so if you want to avoid an After Watchmen reboot in a couple years, take Before Watchmen off of your pull list and replace them with some Dark Horse originals today. Everybody wins.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

REVIEW: Battle Beasts #1

Writer: Bobby Curnow
Art: Valerio Schiti
Colors: Claudia Sgc
Lettering: Shawn Lee
Review: Cody “Madman” Miller

Way back in April, I was walking the isles of the exhibit hall at C2E2. Some guy was handing out free fluff and like most fan boys I gladly palmed the mass of cards, fliers, and such. As I began searching through my newly acquired treasure, it went something like this: trash, crap, trash, more crap, blah blah blah, trash…..holy shit! There at the bottom of all this rubbish was a mini comic of Battle Beasts. I have to say, my buds and I had a great time at C2E2 and scoring this little gem just may have been my highlight. Well, hell, it’s all downhill from here, we might as well go home……needless to say, I have been waiting rather impatiently for the release of this series and now it is here. It turns out that it will only be about a four issue run, but let me tell you four issues of Battle Beasts are way better than zero.

I’m sure most of you owned or played with the Battle Beasts action figures in your youth. If not, then you had horrible parents and no matter what they say, they really don’t love you. In case you have no idea what I am talking about the Battle Beasts action figures were two inch tall anthropomorphized animals complete with body armor and weapons unique to the animals they represented. They each had heat sensitive badges on their chests. You would rub them and either reveal fire, wood, or water. It was then kind of like paper-rock-scissors (i.e. fire beat wood, water beat fire etc.) There were however a few extremely rare beasts who sported the sunburst badge and they ruled all. Many a mighty battle was waged on the floor of the living room in my parents’ house. I can picture most of my highly prized beasts in my mind today. There was the lion with the eye patch named (drum roll) Pirate Lion, Horny Toad, Blitzkrieg Bat, and Cutthroat Cuttlefish just to name a few. My two favorite were the green snake guy and the grey and purple spider….they were the leaders of the badies…..always.

Okay, back to the comic. We are introduced to a trio of hero adventurers on a quest to find the fabled Dread Weapons. The Battle Beasts are forever locked in a timeless battle to the Death. Our trio of heroes seem to believe the Dread Weapons can actually bring an end to his war. It seems to be Merk (Falcon), Gruntos (Walrus) and their leader Vorin (Ram) vs. the world. Our trio is viewed by both sides of the war as traitors because of their refusal to fight for either side. I accept this. The Battle Beasts have located the Dread Weapons on planet Earth, Shortly after making land fall the “badies” start raising all kinds of Hell. Vorin and his friends are perhaps Earth’s only hope. It will undoubtedly be a action packed race to find the fabled Dread Weapons.

My biggest problem thus far has been choosing a side…I mean sure you want to root for the “good” guys but the beasts on the “bad” guys roster are so much cooler with hammerhead sharks, grizzles, spiders, and crocs…the flying squirrel could have stayed at home however.

This first issue is cover to cover non-stop action as it should be. I am so looking forward to the following three issues and you should be too. IDW hit a home run with this one. Between Curnow’s writing, Schiti’s (do you see this) art, Claudia Sgc’s great color work, and the Battle Beast’s themselves, you really can find no fault.

Just for fun:

Friday, July 20, 2012

REVIEW: Enormous

Writer: Tim Daniel
Artist: Mehdi Cheggour
Review: Will Dubbeld

After having read a solicit for the Enormous one-shot I immediately took it upon myself to order this book. The synopsis alluded to the last vestiges of mankind battling for survival against gigantic monsters in a post apocalyptic earth, and this seemed like a solid win. I preordered the book, promptly forgot about it, and was pleased as punch when it appeared in my box at the local comic shop. The cover shows a lone woman crouching amongst the ruins of a city as a herd of 20 story tall mutated ibex creatures thunder overhead, and I cracked into it, eager to see pages filled with gritty sci-fi survivalism.

I was mildly disappointed with the results, however.Enormous is set in an indeterminate time in our future, 17 years after the inception of something called the Alchem System and 1 year after E-Day, the day the human race became largely extinct. A lone survivor makes her way through the ruins of Phoenix, Arizona on a hunt for other people who have escaped death. Early on I was treated to a splash page of a towering praying mantis crashing through the city and was quickly reminded of the film Cloverfield. Curiosity piqued, I continued.

Disappointingly, Enormous soon devolved into a formulaic and all too familiar plot involving 2 groups of survivors, one altruistic and good-hearted, and the other representative of the archetypical marauder villains one finds in a Mad Max film. Characters are poorly developed, if at all, and the gigantic monsters of the book serve mostly as window dressing. What was most frustrating to me was the seeming lack of direction and backstory for the event that caused the human races nigh-extinction or why giant mutated beasts roam the earth. It seemed like Daniel was attempting to write a story of human survival against the backdrop of an extinction level event, but just fell short. I was utterly uninterested in any character, their motivations, or their survival. Most of the time I was rooting for someone to get eaten by a giant lemur or trampled by a mutated elk. Eventually we are graced with the reason giant lemurs and mutated elk run rampant through the streets, but it's almost a footnote in the book that comes too near the abrupt ending for me to care at that point. I was hoping for a different take on the kaiju genre, but instead of Gamera Versus Barugon I got a halfhearted pastiche of Cloverfield and The Mist.

The real (and possibly only) saving grace of the book was the outstanding art by Mehdi Cheggour. The creature designs were excellent (if underused) and the characters and backgrounds were very well illustrated, invoking a style very reminiscent of Jay Anacleto.

All in all, it felt like this should have been a miniseries or a trade paperback with a larger page count. The writing was rather scattered and nonlinear, and the art could not salvage what I hesitate to call a train-wreck, but if the shoe fits...

Other than the art, my favorite part of Enormous was the oversized format of the book. Aptly named, the book measures probably 12"x18". I loved that marketing tool, as it immediately draws your attention and keeps it.

In the end, clever marketing and good art couldn't salvage what could have been an enjoyable read. With any luck Tim Daniel will continue honing his writing skills and produce something truly enormous. Until then, I hear IDW is putting out a fairly entertaining Godzilla comic...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Walking Dead 100

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Editor: Sina Grace
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Review: William R. Davis Jr.


Nine covers and months of buildup by the creators in Letter Hacks, and issue 100 of The Walking Dead has finally arrived. The series has seen many hills and valleys in it's storied run, but most of the hills have been just incredible. They redefined the genre, the zombie tale, and the world of comics. Arguably the best, and my personal favorite story arc, has been issues 62-66: Fear the Hunters. The sickness, the depravity, the cannibalism; the embodiment of everything great about the franchise, can be found in these five issues. At the end of 66, I wanted to stand up and cheer. But something has been missing since then. There have indeed been a few shocking twists and turns, but the story has been excruciatingly slow; the payoffs less gratifying. Slow to the point where The Walking Dead has been living off Fear the Hunters, The Governor, and other classics that cemented it's reputation as a horror staple in comics for longer than I care to remember.

One of the most entertaining parts about the book itself is the letters page. Many collectors will forgo the trades and actually hunt down every single copy (myself included) to have a record of all the hilarity found in Letter Hacks. It's the best letters page in the business even in the worst of times. But the fans are merciless, and their scathing feedback is countered and quipped upon and dismissed by Grace and Kirkman. Their most popular argument against criticism that the book is "slow" is that there needs to be down time in order to develop the story.

But too often recently, the payoff has been major characters getting maimed or killed. Albeit a page turner at points, the classic arcs of this tale were so much more than the death and disfigurement of Walking Dead staples. Fear the Hunters was so archetypical of great, classic storytelling in any medium. It was gory, but with the blood and guts came real human moments as well, disarming the reader, and then completely knocking them on their ass. That has been lacking recently. The setting of the most recent issues has the potential for classic Walking Dead, but the execution has been off target. Kirkman boasts that 100 is projected to be the highest selling comic of the year. But show me a storied comic book franchise, and I will show you multiple fanboys lining up to buy all 9 covers including the ten dollar version with the chrome inlay.

Negan has his moments in this one. While the depravity of the Governor in this new villain has not yet shown it's face, his personality is definitely engaging. Amidst his eenie-minie-mo sequence with a barb wired bat named Lucille, Kirkman takes a few well pointed and direct shots at popular fan criticism, and it made me laugh. Adlard adds arguably the most gruesome and jaw dropping page in the history of The Walking Dead...ever. Glenn muttering the first syllable of Maggie's name like a stroke victim with his skull smashed and his eyeball dangling from the socket is something that you cannot un-see. His final scream before his skull is completely flattened is forever seared into my brain, it was like a truncated last scene of Braveheart on PCP. This praise comes with a caveat however, because the death of Glenn was the most predictable major event in the history of this series. And it is a sad state of affairs when a book that prides itself on not being predictable is ruined by so much lazy foreshadowing. As soon as Glenn proclaimed he was leaving the group in 99 I knew Kirkman had signed his death warrant. Others fans I knew predicted it as well, very un-Walking Dead like.

As the TV money tsunami continues to make the television show the main focus of the franchise, and new fans are wooed by The Walking Dead stories of yesteryear, the old hat legions will pine for the glory days. Even if Kirkman and Co. continue to churn out mediocre issues month after month, there is no way that this book will ever leave my pull list. The highs were just too damn high. But hope is fading. For every nine cover release event, there are countless preceding months of apathetic, moot cover art contributions half covered in text (yeah, it's called Something to Fear, we fucking get it guys). The stories will drag, and the fans will happily lap it up, bitch about it at their local shop, and threaten to leave the book in Letter Hacks. There is a formulaic quality to latter day Walking Dead stories that has been beat to death: "No one is safe...blah blah blah." It is now up to the creators to confound those expectations, because most of us kool-aid sipping fanboys will be there for every yawn, every let down, every excuse, but will still go to the comic store every month hoping for something better. Here's to hoping that Robert Kirkman steps his game up. I'll drink to that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

REVIEW: Godzilla 1-2

Godzilla Issues #1 and #2
Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Simon Cane
Colorist: Ronda Pattison

Mexico City. This is supposed to be the happiest day of Urv’s life. Urv and Eduardo have just been united in holy matrimony, but alas, this man love is not to be, so sayith Kumonga. The giant sized tarantula comes smashing through the church’s wall wreaking havoc and spewing webbing. Urv, seeing his “bride” webbed and smushed, vows his revenge and seemingly pulls a gas can and propane torch out of nowhere. It goes boom and Kumonga slinks off.

Enter Rodan disrupting an Indy car race in Brazil and Battra terrorizing South Korea with his eye spewed red energy bolts.

We get our first glance of the star of the show on pages five and six in an amazing two page spread complete with flying doves and lightning strikes. Godzilla had chosen Washington D.C. to lay waste too. At this point, I was getting really excited; we’ve got Kaiju raising hell all over the place. Then I turn the page and there poaching eggs is a Jason Statham clone named (sigh) Boxer. Boxer is a professional soldier and an amateur cook? Boxer’s one page of egg poaching Zen is interrupted as we’re once again graced by Godzilla laying waste to D.C. The rest of this issue follows Boxer trying to escape the destruction that is the king of Kaiju. The last page is filled full of cheese as Boxer pulls out his smashed cell phone “oy Urv, whatcha doin’ this weekend?” Fade to black.

Issue #2

Godzilla’s made his way to Pittsburgh. Kumonga has crossed the U.S. Mexico border in Arizona. We are graced with our first glimpse of Anguirus laying waste to Edinburgh, Scotland. He actually topples the clock tower over Waverly station which both saddened and caused me to squeal in delight because I have actually been there.
Boxer shows up with his handpicked gaggle of “specialists.” Urv, Harrison who was driving in the race in Brazil that Rodan terrorized, and Boxer’s ex Claire.
The rest of the issue is all “monster slayers” vs. Anguirus. Resistance is futile. I have to say, I was hoping for a little bit more monster on monster action, not this whole “monster hunter” nonsense. So, I guess on that front, I was a little disappointed but all in all, not a bad read and the art is above average. I’m not sure how many issues of Godzilla I’ll be buying, but I know it will be as many as it takes for King Ghidorah to show up………or at the very least, Mothra and her two Shobijin. I hope someone eats Boxer and his band of mercs soon, then we can get down to some real Kaiju Fu.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

REVIEW: The Infernal Man-Thing #1

Writer: Steve Gerber
Artist: Kevin Nowlan
Review: Will Dubbeld

It all started with Swamp Thing.

A long time ago (circa 1987) in a galaxy far, far away (Gowrie, Iowa), young Will Dubbeld came into the possession of a Swamp Thing comic book. Saga of the Swamp Thing #14. I already owned a few Looney Tunes books, an odd issue of Spider Man and The Avengers, and that issue of Star Wars where Luke gets the snot kicked out of him by Lady Lumiya, but I'd never seen anything like this Swamp Thing book. It was dark and angst ridden, and probably above my pay grade, but I loved it. The main character couldn't talk in the issue (for some reason or another) so all of his speech was tormented inner monologue, every time he touched anyone they turned to glass (for some reason or another), and Phantom Stranger showed up to say some cryptic shit every few pages. Granted, my 8 year old brain certainly didn't catch all the nuances of the book, but I was a pretty sharp kid and followed right along.

Fast forward a few years to the early 90s, to the days when Spawn still had a necroplasm meter and Jim Lee's X-Men sold something like seventy quintillion copies. My parents, who are as big if not bigger nerds than I, would periodically take me to a local bookstore and turn me loose on the discount bin where I could take $5 and magically turn it into 15-20 comics. In these bins, I discovered that back issues of Marvel Comics Presents were cheap. Dirt cheap. And plentiful. For the uninformed, Marvel Comics Presents was an anthology series that was essentially another Wolverine book, but also shared it's pages with some outstanding stories featuring characters that didn't have a chance of being in a solo book at the time.
Admittedly I probably bought these issues of MCP because I thought Wolverine was so kewl, but the other stories grabbed me as well. Black Panther was introduced to me, as was Shanna the She-Devil, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung-Fu, and Man-Thing.
And therein my love for giant vegetable monsters truly began.

Like Swamp Thing, Man-Thing was an altruistic minded scientist who was working on a wonder-serum only to be blown up/set aflame by Bad Guys and wander into a swamp. Apparently when this occurs, one turns into a mossy, shambling monster because it's happened twice.
Three times if you count The Heap.
Which I do.

Man-Thing was different in the fact he was unintelligent, driven by impulse and instinct, and if you were scared of him HE COULD SET YOU ON FIRE. I was hooked. Hooked on Man-Thing, ladies and gentlemen.

In the following years, I did my best to collect every issue of Man-Thing that I could find. I even purchased the seminal Giant Sized Man-Thing #1. Mostly so I could ask people, "hey, you wanna see my Giant Sized Man-Thing?"
Clearly not one of Marvel's blockbuster characters, Man-Thing books were few and far between, so imagine my elation when I heard that a new miniseries starring one of my favorite C-listers was on the horizon. Furthermore, this series would be the posthumous swan song of the legendary Steve Gerber, one of Man-Thing's most illustrious writers.

Clearly linked to Gerber's esoteric and oft times downright weird Man-Thing tales from yesteryear, The Infernal Man-Thing is a sequel to a story he penned years ago called "Song-cry of the Living Dead Man". It opens with our titular character tooling around his boggy abode only to be assailed by a falling anvil and a cavalcade of cartoon archetypes. Cavemen, clowns, cherubs, the whole nine yards, all rendered in Sunday paper fashion in contrast to the murky, ethereal background.
The book then introduces us to our protagonist, a writer named Brian Lazarus who is on a cross country trip in a microbus with a talking anthropomorphic tree riding shotgun. Lazarus stops at a roadside diner and is reunited with a waitress, where the reader learns that Brian and Sibyl (the waitress) are the surviving characters from the Song-cry story. Brian is shown to be fairly unhinged, mentally, due to the events of Song-cry and is heading back to the swamp to finish a screenplay accompanied by his talking tree.

Now, it's really hard to sell anyone on this book. It's abstract and seems fairly disjointed, especially if you are unfamiliar with Gerber's work on Man-Thing, Howard the Duck, or Destroyer Duck. Your confusion is compounded if you haven't read the original Song-cry story, but this is where Marvel comes through and had the foresight to include the original story as a back up feature. All said and done, however, unless you are a fan of Gerber's work or of shambling vegetable monsters in general you probably won't find much of interest here. Kevin Nowlan's art is well suited to the book, having a dim watercolor look as opposed to sharp lined, four color superhero fare. My only complaint is Man-Thing kinda looks like a hunchbacked version of one of the gawky bird creatures that Marvin the Martian used to chase Bugs Bunny around with.

The backup story, however, has impeccable art by industry legends John Buscema, Klaus Janson, and Glynis Wein, and the cover features an amazing rendition of The Man-Thing by Art Adams.

Marvel may have had a better seller with this book as a collected trade paperback or hardcover as opposed to a three issue miniseries, but I think they probably releasing this to honor Steve Gerber and his fans as opposed to making this the next X-Force.

I guess people don't have as much love for giant vegetable monsters as they used to, but I'll take as much Man-Thing as Marvel is willing to give me.

Here's that Swamp Thing issue, just for funsies.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

REVIEW: Ozymandias #1

Story: Len Wein
Art : Jae Lee
Colors : June Chung
Letters by: John Workman
Publisher: DC Comics
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

These Before Watchmen books are relentless. The Comedian, and to a lesser degree Nite Owl, left me with a huge Before Watchmen hangover. There are some serious flaws with this reboot because I could not bring myself to write anything of consequence about either title. The Crimson Corsair is essentially moot due to it's two page an issue format. I have neither the time nor the inclination to go back and reread previous issues in order to form a more cogent and enjoyable narrative in my feeble, alcohol addled brain. DC is asking way too much of the reader. Len Wein has done good things there too, but it works only as a marketing tool, nothing else. Ozymandias was also very well done. But you know what really grinds my gears? The last few pages were so rushed, it felt like Len Wein just ran out of room. It was a huge "fuck it" moment in an otherwise really great book that was probably my favorite to date.

Ozymandias is really the under appreciated centerpiece of Watchmen. His intellect transcends conventional morality, and he is both the savior and the greatest monster in the history of mankind. While Rorschach is more concerned about the means than the end, Ozymandias' delusions of grandeur are not delusions at all, but a bleak, cold, undeniable truth. Millions of dead New Yorkers and the decimation of Manhattan stop the impending apocalypse, not a symbolic doomsday clock; not a superhuman being that transcends time and space. It is an elaborate ruse and an advanced understanding of human psychology that saves humanity from it's own destruction in the end. An origin story of this magnitude has legs, and I was one hundred percent on board for about 20 pages until a cookie cutter love interest O.D. s at a club, Adrian Veidt pulls out an "elaborate halloween costume" (their words not mine), and then decides to rid the world of drugs.

The true strength is in the art. Jae Lee does an outstanding job with the multiple flashback scenes. They are truly some of the most effective panels I can remember reading in some time, a foggy, Rockwellian glimpse into the past of Adrian Veidt. Lee is able to draw a memory, an inner monologue that is both stunning and realistic. And it was so beautifully drawn that despite some weak storytelling, I wanted to reread this book multiple times. Jae Lee definitely made me late coming back from lunch at least twice.

I can't really tell people to go out and buy these books anymore. Before you start rattling off the Twitter hate mail let me explain. There is just not enough justification to merit a prequel in Before Watchmen because the work of Alan Moore is just too damn good. Comedian and Silk Spectre were pretty awful books. Nite Owl and Minutemen were decent. Ozymandias was my favorite because of the art. After a lot of thought and flip flopping on the creation of the Before Watchmen franchise, the deciding factor about the series, is that one day in comic stores all over America there are going to be countless volumes of Before Watchmen next to one volume of the original work by Alan Moore. It is entirely possible that some impressionable youth who has never read Watchmen starts with the collected Before Watchmen Silk Spectre. And that's just depressing to think about, too depressing for words.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tales From the Dollar Box

Review: Will Dubbeld

This past week my LCS found itself without power due to a massive storm that knocked out electrical service for some 80000 people, according to one report.
More importantly, I was unable to throw money at my comic shop in exchange for the contents of my hold box. Undeterred, yet mildly pouty, I vowed to find somewhere to buy comics. Luckily the mall down the road had power, and in the aforementioned mall is another comic shop. Ignoring the racks of new releases, I jumped headlong into the longboxes of back issues they offer, most of which can be purchased for one American dollar.
Oh, the treasures...
I found Garth Ennis' Punisher: The End (art by the always amazing Richard Corben), several issues of Grant Morrison's JLA run, some issues of Powers, some Atomic Robo, and the Holiest of Holies, the first issue of Alan Moore's dystopian Miracleman reboot from 1985.
I also picked up some other interesting tidbits...

Super Dinosaur #1

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist & colorist: Jason Howard

I first became aware of this book at a Free Comic Book Day event where the iconic image of a T-Rex in battle armor immediately grabbed me. Moreover it was the image of the T-rex's tiny and oft-ridiculed arms controlling the battle suits bigger arms via joysticks. The imagery was superb, but I ended up passing it over for a Mouse Guard book or some other freebie.
This past week I picked up the first two issues of the series. Super Dinosaur tells the adventures of a boy genius and his best friend, the titular Super Dinosaur (or SD, as he's called in the book when brevity is an issue). The boy genius is named Derek Dynamo, and his genius father discovered that the earth was hollow, and at it's core was a new mineral resource and a whole mess of dinosaurs. The father, aptly named Dr. Dynamo, has a parting of ways with his evil former partner and now they battle for supremacy over this new mineral.
At first, I didn't care for this book as much as I'd hoped. I figured dinosaurs + super science was a guaranteed win, but I didn't really care for the art (apparently Howard can draw some wicked dinosaurs and super science, but not so much people and backgrounds). The scripting and dialogue was fairly juvenile, rife with "awesomes!" and "s'ups?" and the like.
Then I realized I was completely over analyzing a comic book about a boy genius and his anthropomorphic T-Rex BFF. Kirkman is writing an all-ages book here, and as such it's not filled with subtle nuances and clever plot hooks. Again, boy genius and T-Rex fight other dinosaur-folk with names like Terrordactyl, Breakeosaurus, and Dreadasaurus. It's like an adaptation for a Saturday morning cartoon that doesn't exist, but should.
Oh, and the coloring was superb.
All in all, if I were still a young, starry eyed reader yet to be jaded by Civil Wars and Final Crises, I'm sure I'd faithfully buy Super Dinosaur. As it is, I don't think I'll be following the ongoing adventures of Derek Dynamo and SD.
But it was totally worth a dollar.

Scud: Tales From the Vending Machine #1

Writers: Jimm Showman & Trent Kaniuga
Artist: Trent Kaniuga

Where to start...
Scud: The Disposable Assassin is an indy book that one should pick up based on name alone. It takes place in a bizarre sci-fi future that could very well have been dreamed up by Terry Gilliam. In said future you can purchase assassin robots out of vending machines and upon completing their mission, aforementioned assassin robots will self destuct.
Thus we have the framework for Scud: TDA. Tales From the Vending Machine was a spin-off book that dealt with other stories and goings on not covered in Scud's main title, and this particular issue dealt with a midget named Mr. Bigs who was a developer of Scud assassin robots in the employ of (wait for it) Scud Co. Mr. Bigs gets fired by his insectoid boss and vows revenge by reprograming a Money Series Scud to eliminate all other Scuds and his former boss.
Mr. Bigs' boss finds out, and sends his own Sniper Scud to eliminate Big. Most of the book contains mindless, cartoonish violence begat by assassin robots on other assassin robots, and I loved it. It's very tongue and cheek (apparently in the Scud universe the form of currency is the Frank, which is a coin bearing the stately image of Frankenstein's Monster. Scud robots cost three Franks out of the vending machine, by the way), and the Money Series Scud talk enough shit throughout the book to make Deadpool envious.
And at one point he encounters a zombie tyrannosaurus Rex (Including the Super Dinosaur review and the Flesh review from 2000 AD, this marks the third time a T-Rex has been featured in my column. This is not planned).
The book's a great ride, and I learned that the entire Scud run (24 issues plus the odd one-shot) has recently been collected in an omnibus. It's probably worth picking up for sheer "wtf?" value, if nothing else.
I mean, the book ends with the Scud Co. headquarters blowing up and a caption that reads, "everytime a building explodes...a clown loses the squeak in his shoes".

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

REVIEW: The Hypernaturals #1

Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Brad Walker and Andres Guinaldo
Colors: Stephen Downer
Letters: Ed Dukeshire

I have pretty much reviewed most or all of the books on my pull list, so I was searching the shelves of my local “funny book” store. My epic search was anything but relaxed and methodical as I only had about ten minutes before they turned off the life support systems and gravity regulators and/or closed. Now, I am not sure about you, but I am not the kind of guy who can just jump into a title halfway through its run. I am a #1 to done kind of fella. Needless to say, the choices of new #1’s were slim. The fact that Dan Abnett’s name was attached to the Hypernaturals is the only reason I chose it over the others. Was it a good decision? Well, let’s just see about that.
I have to say, Abnett throws you right into the action. The Hypernaturals: Bewilder, Kobalt Blue, Thinkwell, Clone 45, and Shard are locked in battle with Sublime and his army of evil robots. I have to say, the Hypernaturals seem like the same old super team. You’ve got Bewilder who has the super-speed, Shard with her micro sharp blade form cutting edge, Clone 45 bringing the super-strength, Kobalt Blue with the energy shields, and then we have Thinkwell. Thinkwell gets my nod as the most original and interesting fellow. He has the super brains as well as this ink-like substance that pours out of his fingertips, with which he does his crazy equations with.
Fast forward a few years and this team has ended their tour of duty (5 year terms). The team’s centennial year Iteration team had just been chosen and sent on their first mission. It comes as a great shock (maybe not to the reader, but to the team’s handlers) when they disappear on their first mission. So guess who had been tapped to save the day? Yep, the old guys.
All in all, I am not sure about my feelings towards this title. It is too predictable, kind of confusing, and muddled. It feels like a template honestly. I realize it is only the first issue, but I don’t think it planted any deep rooted passion in me to bother spending my cash on the second issue. I did enjoy the random ads for Hypernatural endorsed products, and that’s about all. Well, that and Thinkwell. Meh, save your four bucks and go check out a wax museum or the antique fan museum in Indianapolis. Yeah, it’s real….and it blows…..Ha I made a funny.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: RESET 1-3

By: Peter Bagge
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

Dark Horse has something with their new line of creator owned fare aptly titled: Dark Horse Originals. And if you are a fan of Peter Bagge and his misanthropic anti-heroes, Reset is going to be something that you will want to own. At one point I had every issue of Hate (first edition) in my collection, but when my house was burgled back in April, they were stolen and are now probably in some southside Chicago pawn shop going for a dime a pop. What is the renter's insurance value placed on a lifetime's worth of collecting? About $7400. The myriad of lessons I have learned from this experience abound. One: Insurance companies do not collect comics. Two: I was NOT in good hands with Allstate. Three: Saving a few bucks by living in a dangerous, depressed, lower class neighborhood/ethnic ghetto is not a wise move. Four: Not all comics are created equal.

I discovered that many of the titles that were lost to me forever, I never would have read again despite my best intentions. My extensive Superman and Batman collection is gone, and thinking about all of the time wasted scrounging through long, white cardboard boxes for missing back issues is indeed a most painful memory. But now that they are not with me anymore, a cloud was lifted from my brain. I was never a fan of Snyder or Hurwitz, and their work on Batman left me less than impressed even before the robbery. But bottom line is that these are simply not stories I really care much about anymore. After three more months of floppies, Superman, Batman, and Detective Comics are off of my pull list for good. The only supe titles I still carry are Justice League, Action Comics, and Animal Man. All of them are quality, entertaining reads that I would miss, especially Animal Man. Buy Animal Man. This has also freed up extra funds to try some new stuff every week as well. My Peter Bagge collection however, chock full of acerbic antecdotes and mysogonistic tales, is a huge loss and will be hard to replace.

That right there is my justification for the previous rant. Feature writer and supe enthusiant Will Dubbeld and I were engaged in a heated internet discussion about the quality of recent Image books. I'm pro, he's con. I remember him saying something to the effect of (paraphrase): "I won't take a lot of chances on Independent stuff, but I'll purchase almost any comic with Batman or the X-Men on the Cover." After a lot of soul searching I realized that I am the exact opposite. As much as I love the sliver age greats, a select few superhero trades (Red Son, Dark Knight Returns), my tastes now tend to gravitate more towards independent books. But as vapid and hollow as the majority of modern superhero tales can be, independent books are not always
artistic,under-appreciated masterpieces, that's a fact. At a huge comic shop liquidation event last Saturday, there were endless rows of boxes that littered the hot sidewalks outside of a local haunt. I ended up purchasing about 50 books, not being very choosey about the content considering they were literally the price of a gumball. Any independent book I came across found my way into the stack. I drank from the goblet of glory as I made my way home with my newly purchased, field dressed stack of indies. The first book I opened was called Dripped. It was a 26 page book of muddled, confusing art with no dialogue that was pretty worthless besides a decent cover. On the back I noticed the price: $6.99. And another gem just below: "Paid for by a Grant from the National Endowment of Arts". I just had to laugh while picturing a Republican house member waiving this book over his head as concrete proof of our liberal "tax and spend government". Reset is no where near this category of awful; an example of indy books made good. If any comic creator should be subsidized by the federal goverment, it should be Peter Bagge. There are a ton of great indy books out there, but there are admittedly some bad ones as well.

While Hate leans more toward a dark, overtly cynical version of Seinfeld (a comic about nothing). Reset is all of the Peter Bagge, with a sci-fi plot. That speaks to me. Guy Krause , washed up movie star with enough artistic integrity to not cash in on the reality television fad, is approached to be the subject of a psychological experiment. He is able to virtually relive moments from his past and change the outcome. This is not a very innovate theme, but the atypical plot twists through the first three issues have been hilarious and entertaining to say the least. There is no predicting how this one will end. The series seems a little rushed in spots,and Reset could have gone 6 or 9 issues easily. But Bagge's commentary on pop culture and sharp, edgy dialogue separate this one from every other creator out there right now. The art is as distinct as any found in comics, and I can recognize the work of Bagge as easily as I can the work of Crumb or Kirby. So if you are tired of Owl Man and The Phoenix Five check out Reset. Creators like Peter Bagge embody everything I love about independent comics. Keep these originals coming Dark Horse!

Check out this sweet variant cover of issue one by Matt Kindt: