Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Shotgun blast...a quick look at what’s newly on the rack...

Review: Frank McGirk

Top Pick: Multiple Warheads. A beautiful book, its 3.99 but takes awhile to mosey through. Brandon Graham takes his time too...thankfully the book is so beautiful you don’t mind the diversions and nigh incessant punning (often done in the margins of the pages). I’m really not sure why one of the main characters has a werewolf penis, or who the assassin who dominates the second half of the book is, but I’ll be happy to check out the next three issues.

The Biggest Disappointment: Ex Sanguine. Okay, I wasn’t expecting much, but this was pretty crappy. A vampire meets up with a serial killer. Yawn. And how the hell did she get off of her waitressing shift so damn fast? Crap. Not up to Dark Horse standards (though the Star Wars titles are fricking awful, so maybe I’ve been ranking them too highly.)

Biggest Surprises: Punisher War Zone and A vs. X: Consequences (1-3): I tried jumping in to the middle of the A vs. X stuff but it was too chaotic for me to follow and I sloughed it off, but I’m surprised that I enjoy following the aftermath, namely the imprisonment of Cyclops. Likewise, even though I had the first 12 issues of the original Punisher War Zone, it was at the end of the height of my comic buying and may have lead to it me quitting comics cold turkey back in the early 90s. Both series have a concerned Wolverine going out to council (Is that the appeal? I wasn’t overly impressed with seeing him say “fuck” in Wolverine Max).
Consequences is already a little off as Cyclops is at first trying to goad Wolverine into killing him and making him a martyr, and then fighting off the prisoners trying to kill him (perhaps he’s too vain to be offed by non-mutants?). Punisher doesn’t do a lot in the first issue of his series, but eludes Spider-man, who then gets the Avengers to decide to take him out. While neither is stellar, both have gripped me with little in the way of action, something Marvel hasn’t done to me in quite a while.

Surest Bet: I will read anything that ONI puts out. The new Stumptown series has impressed me and The Sixth Gun is as good as anything Mignolia does with Hellboy, and it’s a full half-step better than Dark Horse’s Billy the Kid title (which ain’t bad either.) As you’ve might have guessed, it’s kind of a reality blended with magic kind of Earth. I definitely want more. Bad Medicine was released as a Trade, but I’m not sure any more issues will be coming out, which is a real shame.

Wait and See: Talon and Ghost. I really liked the 0 issue of Talon, but number one has got some lame-ass dialogue and the revenge story won’t have legs on its own. Likewise Ghost had a strong 0 issue but shows signs of stumbling in the future. Really, it was just the last page of Ghost #1 that soured it for me...and I could very well be wrong.

REVIEW: Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness #1 (of 4)

Writers: Eric Powell & Tracy Marsh
Artist: Kyle Hotz

I didn't want to like Eric Powell. I really didn't. I'd read a review or a newsbyte, or one of Wikipedia's numerous misquoted or just plain wrong articles, and he came across as a real prick. Or was unnecessarily rude to a fan, or somesuch, I honesty don't even remember at this point. In any case I thought, "who the hell do you think you are, Eric Fancydan Powell? All high and mighty with your creator owned book and high falutin' pencils and script..."

It really galled me, too, because The Goon seemed right up my alley. All pulpy and supernatural, like Marv from Sin City had a smartass baby with Hellboy or something.
But no! Powell had...somehow...offended my tender sensibilities, so he wasn't getting a dime of my moderately hard-earned money.

Then the sneaky bastard wrote this Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities comic.


First a supernatural pulp book, and now a book about a cowboy outlaw and a band of circus freaks? This guy was really starting to get on my nerves, writing all these books about some of my favorite things in some of my favorite genres. Probably really good books, too...
But hell no, I wasn't going to buy them! Gimmie that mediocre Marvel book or some DC reboot crap or another!

A year or so later, Chris, one of my comic nerd alumni, says to me, "Hey, have you read this Goon book?"

Here we go, I thought...

After going a few rounds back and forth on the matter, he says, "Dude, it's so good. What if I GIVE you copies of it to read?"

Well, I do like free. And this way I'd only be supporting the villain Powell in an oblique sort of way. I relented, and after reading a few issues I'll be damned if this Powell fella was alright!

And just like that, my reaction shifted from Hostile to Friendly. I couldn't stop reading that damn Goon book. It jumped on to my pull list, and tpb's were ordered to get me up to speed.
Well played, Powell.

Since he already had his hooks in me, I figured I'd give his Billy the Kid comic a shot. I'd already missed out on the first couple miniseries, but as fortune would have it a brand spankin' new mini was out: Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Orm of Loch Ness.
Which I promptly pre-ordered.

When the book arrived I was double pleased to learn that it was illustrated by Kyle Hotz, who's work I loved in Marvel's The Zombie and Annihilation: Conquest- Wraith. (ironically, The Zombie's second series was co-plotted by Powell and I loved it even though I was still on my Eric Powell Hate-Train).

After reading the issue, I was admittedly behind the curve as it alludes to prior event and doesn't recap events or reintroduce characters. I actually appreciated this, as far to often a book will fill space with "last time in Camelot 3000..." or other flashbacks that waste page space.

The story starts off with a mysterious crab-clawed man visiting a gypsy caravan outside of Louisville, Kentucky, who seeks information on Billy's troupe of freaks from an archetypical gypsy soothsayer.

It seems that one of Billy's Old Timey Oddities has been kidnapped and the rest of the lot is off to rescue him. Evidently this transpired in the previous series which took place in the British Isles, putting us in a convenient position to address this Orm of Loch Ness business. One of the scholarly Oddities relates to the reader the tale of Saint Columba and his encounter with the Loch Ness Monster, which was fairly close to the "real" legend of St. Columba (as if I wasn't off-kilter enough, I fancy myself a bit of an amateur cryptozoologist. Which is a bit like proclaiming yourself a professional gum chewer, I suppose)

The root of the tale involves heathen Scotsmen (the best kind, in my opinion) cowering in fear due to a Hellish beast that haunts their lake. Saint Columba appears and censures The Beast with the power of The Lord. All the heathen Scots rejoice and accept Jesus as their lord and savior and the beast slinks into the darkness of the loch only to appear every few decades for the viewing pleasure of a tourist or addled fisherman. Powell tells the same story for the most part, albeit his version involves more fire and ass-kickin' Irish monks.

Billy and his Oddities extrapolate that there is a connection between the lake monster and their missing companion who resembles some sort of lizardy, swamp monstery kind of fellow.
A bit of a bold leap in logic, I know, but what the hell.

Billy and Co. track their erstwhile companion and his captor to a picturesque Scottish hamlet and are promptly captured by the pitchfork and torch wielding locals who curse them as 'abominations from the loch'. Our heroes are promptly judged corrupt by the light shed from a relic lantern crafted from the skull of St. Columba, and the town's wrinkly old hateful priest condemns the lot of them to death by beheading...

The issue ends with Callahan (our kidnapped Oddity) being forced by his captor to swim down to the bottom of the loch into an underwater cave full of coffins and we are treated to a full page reveal of our villain who may also be the Loch Ness Monster.
I'll give you a hint: his name rhymes with Mackula.

For all the Powell-hating I've done, I sure aim to make up for it. Billy the Kid et al has all the irreverent humor and snappy dialogue of The Goon, albeit dialed down significantly, and although not much time is spent on exposition or character development it doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the book and helped the pacing.

Hotz's art is, per usual, excellent. He has a certain grotesque/Art Nouveau/Aubrey Beardsley quality that really makes it stand out uniquely amongst a sea of artists looking to ape one another's style.

This first issue was an extraordinary start to a promising miniseries. Of course, I'm a bit biased due to my aforementioned fondness for cowboy outlaws and circus freaks, but if Powell insists on writing comics with the sole intent of my purchasing them, so be it.

Now if he'd get cracking on that science fiction Lovecraftian chop-socky book we'd be in business...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

REVIEW: Non Humans #1

Writer: Glen Brunswick
Fancy Drawings: Whilce Portacio
Letters: Rus Wooten
Colors: Brian Valeza
Review: Cody Miller

Sometimes you see a cover so good or mind-numbingly interesting that you have to take a chance on a new title. This is one of those books. Portacio’s art throughout this first issue alone, being top notch, as his work usually is, is the major selling point that will keep me pulling Non Humans off the rack. My only real concern is the duration of Whilce Portario’s presence with this title. Whilce has developed the reputation for being pulled from projects because of his inability to keep ahead of his scheduled release dates. So hopefully he will keep his mind fixed on the task at hand and finish the series. Non Humans is slated to be a short four issue mini so I have a hard time believing he won’t be around for the duration. You have probably seen his work in the Punisher, X-Factor, or most notably, the uncanny X-Men. He has also done work on Image’s Spawn and DC’s Batman Confidential. His list of credits goes on and on. After all, Whilce is a jack of all trades of sorts, as he does it all: ink, pencils, colors, and just about anything else comic book related. He is even credited with the creation of Marvel’s character Bishop, not to mention he is one of the seven original founders of Image Comics.

Well I guess I should at some point actually get around to talking about this issue, besides the magical eye candy found throughout. Glen Brunswick’s writing and character developments were also above par in my humble opinion. Most writers, try as they might, can’t accomplish this feat in one issue. You either end up with watered down or page after page of inner dialogue that never really seems to help the hapless reader identify with the character or characters ( that they are trying to get the world at large to invest in) at least on a personal level. Which, I’d have to say, is kind of the damn point, is it not? That being said, Brunswick has the rare talent for writing an entertaining ditty, not about Jack and Diane, but about inanimate toys, dolls, mannequins, and everything else “human like” given the spark of life and born into being.

Imagine a future Los Angeles snuggled into the world of Blade Runner where the androids are swapped out with toys. A “disease” has caused these “things” to be born of a person’s DNA and pieces of their personality, found mostly in adolescent kids. Because of this, the entire teenage population is forced by law to take drugs to keep the Non Humans from taking over the planet.
And that’s the low down dirty on Non Humans. It’s sure to be full of morality issues, racial issues, conflict on top of conflict, and of course fancy drawings. It’s going to be a great title and one I hope that helps me find respite in the soon to launch Marvel Now and one I can use as a crutch to limp through the wasteland of Before Watchmen, which undeniably is a cesspool of horse shit and cancer.


Monday, October 8, 2012

REVIEW: Minmum Carnage Alpha #1

Story: Cullen Bunn, Christopher Yost
Art: Lan Medina, Karl Kesel, Cam Smith, Walden Wong
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Cover: Clayton Crain
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

Remember the days of foil covers, blood orgy supe books, Spider-Man clones, and Maximum Carnage. Ahhh the 90's, the decade that almost killed comics for everyone.

I recently picked up Scarlet Spider #1 from my local shop for a dollar. Those that know me can attest to the fact that I harbor more than a little spider bias. At the end of Scarlet Spider (Hated it!), there was a quick synopsis of the whole Spider-Man clone storyline that literally almost had me in tears. That must have been a memory that I blocked out to retain my sanity...some of the most absurd shit I have ever read in all honesty.

At the time I was at a local pub, and I gave it to an AM DJ that also runs trivia night at Flat Rock. He was thankful, but when I ran into him again later the man seemed visibly butt hurt. Stu told me he couldn't give that book away. So I'm not alone in my opinion on that one.

Continue rant. Maximum Carnage completely sucked. Mostly I wanted to write a review of Minimum Carnage to bash it and rile up Cody "Madman" Miller. This would almost assuredly instigate a huge argument on our ongoing Facebook thread. But fans of this humble blog, let me tell you, nothing equals the writers of the HCB going back and forth about a topic passionately. That's why we fucking write this thing week after week. It's all about the buzz.

So here we arrive at Minimum Carnage Alpha. The art was really good, but they had three different inkers on this book. Three. So there was a noticeable difference in the art towards the end. Not a huge deal though. This one had style for sure.

The story was actually really solid as well. There was the problem of the completely moronic dialogue for Carnage. I actually said to myself twice: "Are these people fucking serious?" But the story itself was compelling.

Carnage escapes from maximum security prison and Venom is sent to track him down. They find a connection to Houston, Texas and bring in the Scarlet Spider. While I can't say that I love team up books, especially one with two emo Spider-Man wannabes giving each other reach arounds between panels, the heroes played off each other well. I was a tad disappointed that they decided to call this book a "one shot", when it was basically just a setup issue for an ongoing series. The last great one shot I read, believe it or not, was Grodd of War in the Flashpoint series. If you haven't read the review where I ripped DC to shreds on Flashpoint check out the archives. The fact that I would give a book from Flashpoint a DAP is seriously astonishing, even to myself.

I hate to admit it, but this one tickled my nuts a little. It was just mysterious enough to keep me hooked. The story and the art both were well above average. So guess who has two thumbs and is going to continue to follow this series: This guy. You win Madman.

REVIEW: The Art of Failing Buddhism

Writer and Artist: Ryan Dow
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

The web comic has officially arrived, and has ushered in a welcome addition to monthly floppies and graphic novels. It is an undeniable truth that the internet completely changed the business forever. If you have internet access, you can easily become a comic creator in less than a week, for better or worse. Where there were once only comic con booths and word of mouth, there is now Kickstarter, ComiXpress, and Twitter. And thank God for that, because burgeoning comic creators like Ryan Dow really benefit from the internet and get much more exposure these days. The Art of Failing Buddhism is not as much about religion as it is being human, and flawed, and searching for answers, any answers, in a world full of so many painful questions.

The introspective bio-comic is hardly a new concept, ever since Spiegelman and Pekar there have been many incantations, some brilliant, and some that exist merely to wallow in their own self pity. What makes The Art of Failing Buddhism stand out, is that while the book is full of human moments, both highs and despair alike, it rings with authenticity, and deals with everything from developing romantic relationships to dealing with mental illness. And this authenticity, and these real human moments are what will really sell this web comic for readers. For we all share similar problems in life, and the face that we show to the world is a much different one that we show ourselves on a Tuesday night in our apartment alone. There are whole industries dedicated to helping us facilitate the denial of the humanity in ourselves. The reason why drugs and alcohol sell the way they do is that life is painful and we want to forget, even if for one night; even if it is all there waiting for us in the morning.

It takes courage to write a book like Failing the Art of Buddhism. When we can not just confront that pain, but make a connection with others using that inner sorrow, to me, that is the mark of a true artist. It is not a perfect book by any means. It leans heavily on dialogue, and even though the art is very basic, somehow this one just works. The site is usually updated on Wednesdays, but is sometimes delayed due to Ryan Dow having to grind it out on a 9 to 5 while working on a comic at the same time. I think most of us can sympathize with that particular predicament. I can't even remember the last week that all three HCB writers got their reviews and interviews in on time, so we have to cut the man some slack there.

The Art of Failing Buddhism can be found online, and collections of the web comic can also be purchased through the same website. Check it out here:

You can read everything here for free, but I encourage you to buy the collected works and support independent comic creators that produce quality work like Ryan Dow.

Until next week, or maybe nine days (I dunno).



Friday, October 5, 2012

REVIEW: Happy! #1 (of 4)

Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Review: Will Dubbeld

Well, everyone's (and no-ones) favorite Glaswegian writer is at it again, this time for Image comics. Say what you will about ol' Wacky Grant, the man certainly knows how to make an impression on his readers and consequently most people love or hate Grant Morrison's work. You'll find very few people who are on the fence in their opinion of his efforts. Having read quite a bit of Grant in my day I find myself one of the odd fence-riding few. Before I knew who Grant Morrison was (and, frankly, before he was anyone to speak of) I read his 'Gothic' story arc in Batman: Legends of the Dark Night and remember attempting to wrap my brain around the subtleties and implications of the work. As the years passed I realized that is what Morrison does: tries to wrap my brain around things.

His work runs the gamut as far as I'm concerned, from brilliant (his Dan Dare comic, We3, Marvel Boy) to so-so (New X-Men, Vampirella) to utterly self indulgent or nigh-incomprehensible garbage (Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne, Doom Patrol, The Invisibles). Consequently I find myself almost inexplicably drawn to his comics out of almost morbid curiosity. Part of me yearns and hopes that the next story will prove as provoking and entertaining as All-Star Superman, and part of me dreads what could be the next Final Crisis.

Discovering Grant's latest endeavor was a miniseries for Image gave me some confidence, as I could read it without fear of Xorneto's or any number of other horribly conceived and executed assaults on my beloved superhero books. Learning that Darick Robertson (The Boys, Fury) was pencilling sealed the deal.
It was time to get Happy!

Happy! opens with a pair of mob guns-for-hire on the way to snuff out a man named Nick Sax, only to discover they are being hunted by their prey. The first twelve or so pages are a dynamic melange of bloody violence, graphic language, farcical sex and dark tone that seem to be lifted straight out of Garth Ennis' playbook.

After a shootout and a fairly inventive use of a newspaper and a prostitute we find Nick Sax wounded and in an ambulance on the way to a mob hospital. At this point Morrison pulls his David Lynch twist and Nick is visited by a cartoony blue, fuzzy, flying horse creature.

And we're off to the races...

We learn via some cliche exposition that Nick Sax used to be the 'best detective in the whole department. Medals. Citations. A beautiful wife and a golden career' and something clearly happened that turned him from the path of righteousness down that dark road of bullets and alcohol.
Well getting a bit dry, Mr. Morrison?

After the aforementioned spoon feeding of Sax's backstory, we learn that the magical winged horsey is the imaginary friend of someone named Hailey (who is in some need of rescuing) and Nick Sax and said horsey are meant to team up and save her.
The real kicker is the imaginary equine's name is Happy the Horse. It's kind of amazing.

Issue 1 ends with Nick and Happy the Horse attempting to break out of the mob hospital before a squad of men arrive to torture information out of our hero.
For a four issue miniseries, Grant spends an awful lot of space on set up, and hopefully this doesn't press the story for space in the remaining 3 parts. The script seems well thought out and doesn't seem to betray any of the pretentiousness that seems to plague Morrison's weaker works, however. Robertson's art is excellent, as always, although I don't see the same dynamic synergy between Morrison's script and Robertson's art as I do with Morrison and Frank Quietly.

After reading through Happy! a couple of times I found the book to be engaging enough to keep buying, especially since it's not bogged down with continuity or any other baggage. It keeps you wondering (will Hailey be saved? Will the whole series just chronicle Nick's escape attempt? Is Happy a figment of his imagination?)
And Happy the Horse alone is almost worth the price of admission. He's pretty durn cute.