Tuesday, August 14, 2012

REVIEW: The Creep #0

Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Jonathan Case
Review: Frank McGirk

Okay, really. In our heart of hearts we know that most comics are crap. We can defend it only by pointing out that most of all mass entertainment is crap.

But it does irk one when hugely hyped projects (and projects with great potential) fail: like the Before Watchmen series, which so far has had a bright spot (Nite Owl #1) and a few dim spots (Nite Owl #2, The Comedian #s 1 and 2 and the Ozymandias #1), but is mostly dreck.

In Ozy #2, which is still a beautiful book, I can no longer forgive the somewhat trite background story of issue one, now that I’m forced to read interior dialogue from the “Smartest Man in the World,” which reads like it was written by a precocious 6th grader:

“I pulled my sleek sports car to an easy stop outside the city’s most exclusive club.”

You think a man of his intellect would have read a freshman creative writing primer to learn that adjectives don’t make for compelling writing.

Oh, and he makes numerous quips referring to criminals as “garbage.”

But my purpose here is not to praise, nor bury, a man who dresses like Caesar.

Rather, I come to tell you of The Creep #0, the best book I’ve read in the past few months.

And really, it’s harder to praise this work than criticize others, as its quality seems effortless. Story and art work together to tell a story that lets me know what I need to know.

It’s a pretty straight forward noir piece about a detective, but I know how the protagonist feels, and I know how he came to be where and how he is. And I actually care what happens next. The incidentals of his malformity, and the plot of an ex-lover and her son who committed suicide are the excuse for this particular comic, but the idea is less important than the implementation, and it’s somewhat sad that something routine has become for me the greatest breath of fresh air on the comic racks.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

REVIEW: Punk Rock Jesus Issue #1

Story and Art: Sean Murphy
Letters: Todd Klein

“Wow”…..that’s what I said when I came across this little gem. The title alone made me snatch it off the shelf and the punk rocker screaming into his microphone, dog tags flying, his liberty spikes standing in defiance of not only gravity, but the world at large, made me want to snuggle with it and make it my own. Having limited funds at the time, I had to put the newest comedian book back, but I can always pick up one of the twenty or so copies that still fill the shelves…or not. I have to say, the BW had been more than a little disappointing to say it nicely. Comedian’s title being the best so far, in my humble opinion.

Now beyond the shock value, at first glimpse the title and cover of Sean Murphy’s new creator owned book, there was the fact that in my misguided and angst filled youth I once wore the spikes, studs, patches, and combat boots that are the standard uniform of punk rock. I have no regrets. We raised a lot of hell and had many epic journeys traveling around to various punk rock shows. So yeah, now we have a bad ass cover, catchy title, and smoke tendrils of nostalgia. But what about the steaming bowls of Punk Rock Jesus? What about the comic Jerk off? Just how Punk is the son of God?

The first page of the comic (not the Bible) opens with a man and his wife and son having prayer before they eat their vittles. The first page ends with the father unloading an assault rifle over the table out the window. When the shooting ends, the boy, Thomas, is the only one still alive. I’ll get back to Thomas in a few.
Twenty-five years later, a company named Ophis has come up with the J2 project. Ophis has made some kind of a deal with the Catholic Church to use the shroud of Turin to extract Christ’s DNA. With the help of Noble Prize winning scientists, they plan on cloning the first human in history and filming it for their new reality show. It just so happens that this first human clone will be Jesus Christ. Ophis held auditions across the country for a teenage virgin female to carry the egg full of controversy to term. Now we get back to Thomas. Thomas McKael, ex IRA terrorist, now head of Security for the J2 project. To be honest, Thomas really didn’t have much to do with this first issue, except that his family was murdered and he beat up a few Christian protesters. He didn’t really get much face time. Maybe he will in the next issue.

Well, the day comes and (live on TV) out comes the clone of Jesus. They name him Chris. After the cameras go off, we learn that Chris has a twin sister. She was hidden because the network wants a blue eyed man clone of Christ, not a daughter, after all, that would be bad for ratings……..on the last panel of the last page, we see the network goon dump the baby girl into the ocean.

So yeah, “Wow” is what I said when I first found this comic and “Wow” is what I said when I finished reading it. I love controversy and this title is packed fill of it. I want more and I want it now. This first issue is sans all things punky, but hopefully that comes later. Well done Sean Murphy, well done. Now if you need me I’ll be at church and in the meantime ask yourself WWPRJD.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

REVIEW: Wet Moon book 1: Feeble Wanderings

Written & Illustrated by Ross Campbell
Review: Will Dubbeld

Having collected comic books and graphic novels off and on for the better part of twenty years, I've accumulated quite a large and eclectic library. Granted, a good majority of these books are comprised of your Batmen, Spider-Men, and other four color heroes, but a respectable number of them are indie books. Strontium Dog, Usagi Yojimbo, Elfquest, and some really obscure bits like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters all have found a good home in the Dubbeld Library. As much as I love my mainstream books (sometimes to a fault), I always keep an eye out for indie titles that could prove an interesting read.

Thus was I introduced to Ross Campbell's Wet Moon.

Wet Moon was advertised as some sort of Southern gothic rife with sex, murder, romance, betrayal and a dash of the supernatural, I inferred. I Expected some sort of Swamp Thing/Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil/To Kill A Mockingbird tale with crumbling antebellum plantations and bayous full of voodoo and sinister swamp folk. I knew I was mistaken as soon as I saw the cover displaying a portly goth girl reminiscent of Family Guy's Meg Griffin. With a disappointed sigh, I dove in. And immediately regretted my decision.

After page one, I knew that there would be no curly-tressed heroines in hoop skirts, for Ross Campbell's gothic vision is one of Hot Topic and those overly pretentious goth kids who hang out at coffee shops with bored looks plastered on pasty faces.

Wet Moon, named for the town that is the book's setting, tells the story of Cleo Lovedrop, our covergirl and main character. Cleo and her clique of mildly vapid goth girls are attending art school in the fictitious city of Wet Moon, where they proceed to do absolutely nothing interesting for precisely 156 pages. It seemed as though Campbell does his best to ape the dramatic storytelling and interpersonal relationship style of Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, and just falls flat on his face. None of the books' cast is engaging in the least, and are all archetypical goth caricatures complete with chelsea haircuts and way too many piercings. I realized about halfway through that if every character were to die in a fiery automobile accident on the way to an Emilie Autumn concert, I would not have cared. Poor Cleo and the gang have to deal with tribulations like her sister's anger at borrowing shoes without permission, a roommate stealing your vegetarian soup, butterflies in your stomach from seeing a guy that looks like Marilyn Manson circa 1994, and some villain posting 'Cleo eats it' all over campus.

Oh, the humanity...

The only character that was remotely interesting was a bald, willowy goth girl named Fern who was missing a hand and dressed like some fetish girl out of a Euro horror/porn comic like Spider Garden. I'm sure had she been allowed more time in the book she would have been just as uninteresting as the rest, though.

The art was okay, but even it seemed like Ross Campbell was trying to emulate Terry Moore's sharp lined black & white art, but has nowhere near the level of mastery at capturing the nuances of expression and facial features that Moore possesses.

The best thing about the book was it is a mercifully quick read.
I understand that there are six or so volumes in this series, and perhaps it develops into a masterpiece of modern graphic storytelling, but I doubt it. If Wet Moon couldn't capture my attention at some point during the first 156 pages, I question its ability to do so in volumes 2 through 6.

There are some really excellent indie books out there, but indie books like this one make me want to buy polybagged chromium glow-in-the-dark variant mainstream books by the score.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

REVIEW: Graveyard of Empires

Story by: Mark Sable
Art by: Paul Azaceta
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

Friday hits, and the Wednesday books are all gone. That thirty to forty dollars a week sure goes quick, but to the hardcore comic junkies out there, comics equal crack rocks. Friday lunch hour was upon me, and one of the benefits of supervising yourself is that eating a sandwich at my desk does not count against my break, and if I come back a few minutes late no one will ever be the wiser. There is a large comic shop right across the expressway that comes in handy at times like these, and with all my pull books for the week spent, I often find myself sifting through the racks for runs of low key limited series IDW or Image books. And finally, this is how I arrived at Graveyard of Empires.

The title itself is intriguing. Three empires have broken their backs upon the mud huts and mountains of Afghanistan. And I am a sucker for a good war comic. There sat issues one and two of the four part series, ripe and ready for harvest. Not having a chance to catch any of the solicitations before purchasing and cracking open issue one was hugely beneficial for me with this series. I knew Paul Azaceta from his work on the much maligned Superman arc Grounded (Correction: wrong Grounded.Paul Azaceta did not work on the Superman Grounded Arc. He did work on another Image series of the same name). That was all the info I had going into this one.

Graveyard of Empires starts as a pretty typical war book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I have always been into comics, but it took a degree in English literature to fully appreciate the art form. The majority of my Professors were pretentious and loved nothing more than pissing elitist snobbery of the highest form into the ears of the "Philistine" student body that unfortunately couldn't miss more than three lectures without failing. I really developed a deep seeded prejudice of everything academic from my University experience. I took solace in comics, mostly because the majority of them did not take themselves too seriously, and that made the good ones even better in the end. GOE was an entertaining read right off the bat. Not every single book out there needs to reinvent the wheel. Some of them are the equivalent of good comfort food. This one was action all of the way. One of the strengths was that you could tell there was a good amount of research done, and the cultural tidbits thrown in made it even more entertaining than your average war book.

And then out of no where came the zombies. If I would have caught the solicitation for this series I never would have bought it that day. You heard it here first, zombies and vampires are officially played out. It is time to get yourselves some fresh ideas. But surprisingly enough, the zombie Taliban and American soldiers were a good twist here. Two issues in and I was completely hooked. The only problem now was that the release dates were extremely far apart, to the point where I would have to grab the other two and sit down with the third in order to enjoy a single issue. Limited series' like Rasl, Hawken, Mondo, and Graveyard of Empires really suffer when there aren't regularly scheduled release dates.

The fourth issue was a little rushed and disjointed. There were some nice flash back panels of British Empire and Alexander the Great occupied Afghanistan, but I found it a pretty disappointing ending to a series that had a potentially high ceiling. The art was great, and the story even better. Image definitely bungles the release dates on some quality work here, but they still put out the most interesting books out month after month, and everyone makes mistakes. You're going to probably have a hard time finding all four issues in your local shop, so your only options here are EBAY or wait for the trade unfortunately. I don't know if GOE was "well worth" the wait, but with all four issues in your hand this one will hit the sweet spot if you like a good war comic.

Note: Check out the correction above. And one last thing I should mention, Mark Sable was kind enough to read our review, point out my mistake, and did a mea culpa regarding the erratic release dates; falling on the grenade for Image (pun intended). WRDJ