Saturday, December 29, 2012

REVIEW: To Hell You Ride #1

Story: Lance Henrikson & Joseph Maddrey
Art: Tom Mandrake
Review: Will Dubbeld

Okay, I totally bought this because Bishop from Aliens wrote it. Or co-wrote it. I usually don't buy in to comics written by actors or musicians because, frankly, most of them are poor actors or musicians and I can only imagine what horror is wrought against the comic industry via Nic Cage's Confused Man or Supermegathrasher by That One Guy From System of A Down. If I want a crap comic I'm sure that Jeph Loeb or Rob Liefeld are more than willing to accommodate. No need for me to outsource into the entertainment industry and subject myself to the plotting of hack actors or guys from glorified garage bands.

Lance Henrikson got a free pass, though. It's based purely on hypocritical favoritism, but go screw.
This is Bishop from Aliens we're talkin' about here. Old Man Harley from Pumpkinhead. Frank from Millennium.
The sheriff from Piranha II...
This guy's been in comic books his entire acting career, for cryin' out loud.

Plus, I think Henrikson is awesome, so I bought his book.

To Hell... opens in 1800s Colorado as prospectors strike gold and a mining camp soon springs up around a Native American burial site, which as we all know never ends well for any of the involved parties. Due to the desecration wrought by the white man, local natives must make a sacrifice to 'appease the spirits and restore balance'. Four native braves fire arrows into the sky, run down into the mining camp, and take their own arrow to the chest as it plummets back to earth. The first two braves are successful, but the miners shoot down the last two and interrupt the ceremony and turn ritual into curse. The four warriors become spirits called Watchers and await the last two arrows to reach the ground, at which point the narrator informs us they will "come for us". So, right away the book falls into a bit of a cliche with ignorant white man despoiling the lands of proud aboriginal people and unleashing Powers He Does Not Understand.

Flash forward to present day, and our protagonist is revealed to be a down on his luck Native American named Seven George, affectionately known as "Two Dogs" to the white man who is, unsurprisingly, trying to keep him down. George lives in a ramshackle farmstead with a few animals and no real means to make a living.
Did I mention George was a down on his luck Indian? Who also drinks and drives a junked out pickup truck?

Checking off the mental stereotype checklist, I continued...
Luckily, my attention was caught by two exploding chickens. That's right. Exploding chickens and a footnote telling you the chemical reaction that caused the explosion (it's CaC2 + H2O = Exploding chicken, according to the text. Note that I in no way, shape, or form condone the practice of chicken combustion. It was pretty sweet to see in a comic book, though...)

Seven George then is off to cut firewood in his junky pickup (which has 'NDNZ' spraypainted on the side...), presumably after cleansing himself of chicken guts. The tree he's cutting explodes after being struck by one of the arrows from the prelude, finally falling back to earth. George retrieves the arrow and sees the Watcher spirit, causing him to hop in his Indian hoopty and flee.

We are then treated to a seemingly out of place interlude of a 1989 incident involving Seven George's grandfather, Five George, and the town sheriff recruiting him to find a dead white girl.
Because, y'know, he's a wizened old Indian, and those guys always have mystical spirit powers and are chock full of folksy old wisdom, and can speak to trees and mountain lions and chickadees.
Stereotypically speaking...

The interlude ends with Five George finding the dead white girl and we are led to believe that he takes the fall for the murder, thus explaining why Seven George may be such a pariah in the community.
The book ends with Seven George drunkenly running his pickup truck into a statue in town square and ending up in the hoosegow, rambling some cryptic dialogue about the black arrowhead protecting him from the curse as one of the Watcher spirits closes in on him in his cell...

Overall this was an enjoyable read as long as the numerous cliches and stereotypes involving Native Americans and Devil White Man don't color your opinion. There wasn't anything particularly insulting, no 'smokum peace pipe' or any shit like that, just played-out tropes that have been around for as long as Natives have been portrayed in media and as long as Ignorant White Man has been desecrating burial grounds. The book has quite a bit of symbolism, mostly involving birds as heralds of ill-fortune and change, and is fairly vague about the curse and its Watchers. This didn't detract from the story, and I almost always prefer books that don't cram exposition down your throat. This'll keep you guessing and, from a marketing standpoint, will hopefully keep you buying the book.

The art was very good, invoking the black and white horror magazines of yesteryear in the style, albeit To Hell... is in color and Chris Peter and Mat Lopes do a phenomenal job in that department.

I don't know that we've got a blockbuster on our hands with Lance Henrikson's To Hell You Ride, but this modern day Weird West story piqued my curiosity enough to stick with it for now. There's still plenty of opportunity to jump the shark on this one, but if I could make it through Piranha II with Lance, I can make it through To Hell... with him.
The exploding chickens didn't hurt, either...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

REVIEW:Colder # 1;2

Writer: Paul Tobin
Art and Covers: Juan Ferreyra
Review: Cody Miller

I’d never heard a thing about it. I was making my way down the wall towards the “A” section at my local comic book store. I’m sure every fan boy has their own rituals when entering their local holiest of holies. For me, it’s starting at Avengers and ending with the X-Men. So there I was doing my thing….quick Before Watch Men, look away…..then BLAM. POW. There it was…there it was. Possibly the best cover ever to grace the face of any comic….ever. Not the most iconic or the most prized and certainly not the most valuable, but most definitely the creepiest, the most disturbing, and the most deliciously hideous cover art I have been privileged to lay my eyes on. Colder……what the hell is this? Who the hell are Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra? I have no idea. Will my wife get upset when I frame this bad puppy and hang it in the living room? But do

I care? No. No. I do not. I don’t care how hard she beats me.

Declan Thomas’ body temperature is dropping. He doesn’t get sick and can’t feel pain, which more often than not has to come in handy. Declan is an ex-inmate fresh out of the insane asylum. He has been “gifted” the ability to step inside a person’s madness and sometimes cure it. Declan hopes to one day cure his own, but time is running out because when his body temperature reaches zero…’s game over.

Our antagonist, Nimble Jack, is clearly not of this world. As he seems to delight in torturing the mad and eating what’s left of their sanity or perhaps the fear that one oozes when totally off their rocker. At one point our cavorting villain of sorts drags an agoraphobic woman into an internal nightmare full of “people” with giant eyeballs for foreheads……yeah, she commits suicide, but who wouldn’t?

Colder is off to a very solid start presenting a comic that stands out as something truly unique. Tobin had seemingly come up with a story unlike anything he, or many other people have written yet. If you’re into Locke and Key or Preacher, then you’re guaranteed to enjoy this one.
You can’t miss it. It’s the one with the cover of a guy shoving his fingers through his face. But if you’re expecting pure gross-out horror, look elsewhere. Colder is a wonderfully subtle, mysterious, and frequently horrifying journey into the nature of madness. Buy two of each issue…’s that tasty.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

REVIEW: Point of Impact #1;2

Writer: Jay Faerber
Artist: Koray Kuranel
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

I was pretty upset when I heard that Near Death was cancelled. It was consistently one of my favorite books on the rack. The writing was always right there for me. So I found myself very excited when I heard about the release of Point of Impact. The book has been pretty on point (pun intended) halfway through it's limited issue run. The cover on the first issue sold me on the art right away. Koray Kuranel can definitely draw landscapes well, as is evident throughout his limited body of work. In addition to a quality comic, Faerber brought back Under the Influence, essays that mostly consist of his musings about other works in the crime genre. If you are into crime fiction, there is probably something of interest for you there.

Point of Impact does not suffer from any pacing issues either, giving the reader a steady mix of action and plot development. This one doesn't get bogged down, but can be quite dialogue heavy. That is fine on my end, because I have always felt that Faerber's strength as a writer lies with the well developed characters more than the overall theme. My only criticism so far, is that this one is pretty much a straight up crime book. Let me explain.

What was so refreshing about books like Saga, and even Dark Horse's Axe Cop, was the originality. I know you really can't lump those books together, but a lot of the stuff I see on the rack these days seems beat to death. Saga is undoubtedly a science fiction comic, but the story and the art elevate it to something completely different even though there have been thousands of science fiction comics on the shelves in the past. Bedlam got great reviews, and for good reason, but I felt that you could have thrown Joker into that book and it would have made one hell of a Batman comic. It's an edgy read, but ultimately does not get it done separating itself from the most mild Garth Ennis book you can find. Now that guy's got some edge. I get why people love the crime genre, but Point of Impact so far suffers from this same genre malaise.

You can't really tear this one to pieces at all. The art is great. The plot and characters work. The dialogue is sharp, but I have read a lot of other crime books that are quite similar. Even the art suffers this same fate. In some of the better crime stories, the city itself almost acts as another character, in this story it is well drawn but pretty generic. This book is well worth the three dollar cover price, but this one isn't breaking any new ground.

This is a much better read than most of the stuff that you're going to find out right now. With books like Point of Impact and Fatale, the crime genre in comics is back in a big way. You go comics. I hope that Image sees the potential in Faerber's writing and signs him on again, because he could be great, and right now he is well above pretty damn good. Koray Kuranel should be around for years to come. That guy can draw. Put your money on the counter with confidence and pick up Point of Impact today.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

REVIEW: Captain America #1

Writer: Rick Rememder
Art: John Romita, Jr.
Review: Will Dubbeld

What do we want?


When do we want it?


Hey, anybody remember when Marvel and DC weren't constantly trying to one-up one another and aping each others ideas?

Me neither, but I think it was in the 80s. Anyhow, in the wake of DCs New 52 we are gifted with Marvel Now! (exclamation theirs), a non-reboot reboot of Marvel's titles. Clean break, starting over, renumbering everything at #1 just like New 52 did, and tossing foolish sounding adjectives in the titles. Because somehow "Uncanny X-Men" I'm fine with, but "Savage Wolverine" just sounds silly. They might as well used "The Hellacious Hulk" or "The Splendiferous Spider-Man!"

Bitch and moan I may but I will still try more of these than not, much to my chagrin. Can't help it. I love comics. Every time (EVERY SINGLE TIME) I see Batman sling a Batarang at a thug or Wolverine snikt a Hand ninja I can't help but smile, just a hair, and think "fuck yeah, comic books".
So, I'm what marketing strategists presumably refer to as an easy target, and I'm inexplicably drawn into my Nerd-Soaps no matter how bad they end up. Shadowland, Before Watchmen, I'm lookin' at you...
At least Chaos War gave Alpha Flight back.

So, as Marvel Now! titles start their trickle to the newsstand, this Marvel Zombie dutifully tests the water. I've tried some Hulk and some time traveling X-Men and I shan't be back for seconds on either. Certainly my favorite piece of comic book propaganda since Chick Tracts had to have a great hook and pique my curiosity enough to lasso my interest. Certainly the Star Spangled Avenger wouldn't let me down. After all, I stuck with him through The Return of Bruce Wa...erm...Captain America: Reborn. Admittedly, I was not always a fan of Captain America. When I was younger I had him pegged as too hokey, too goody-goody. Then I smartened up and realized that it's a comic book, and it's supposed to by slightly hokey and goody-goody. We're talking about a WWII era superhero that has little wings on his head an socked Adolph Hitler on the jaw. Not everything has to be The Crow, I realized, and Cap and I were off to put the hurt on some Nazis!

Our most recent showing of Captain America gives us a glimpse of Steve Rogers as a lad in 1920s Brooklyn watching his mother suffer the abuses of his drunken father.
Because Marvel hasn't given us enough daddy issues with Bruce Banner's father,

Howard Stark, Wolverine/Daken, or Hulk and his brat pack from Sakaar.
So my optimism soon gave way to narrow-eyed fanboy scrutiny within the first couple of pages. After that I was treated to a classic Captain America clinging to a crashing plane and battling hippie terrorists led by the Green Skull, the evil hippie mastermind.
I'm hoping for a Red/Green Skull book soon. Hopefully in time for Christmas.

This was more like it, Cap beating up goons and ricocheting his shield off of things. That's kind of his deal. After a few pages of reprieve I was treated to an awkward scene between Cap and his belle, Sharon Carter. I'm all in favor of character development and drama and romantic interludes, but reading sexual innuendo between the two was a little sacrilegious, and not in that good Garth Ennis sort of way. I'm pretty sure Sharon makes an oblique comment low The Captain's...Victory Legumes hang. Even in jest, that seems wrong.

With that painful exchange, Sharon and Cap investigate a mysterious subway car that has appeared and is dropping off mystery passengers. Cap hops the subway car and is whisked away, car and all,with a flash of light.
Presumably to Hogwarts.

Lots of filler pages follow as Captain America awakens in an evil laboratory with some evil mutated fellows and is subjected to some evil experiments.
Our villain revel is none other than Arnim Zola, everyone's favorite Nazi with television set body, which I was fine with. He does a bit of monologuing and then Cap escapes from his torture chair like so much Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. He then proceeds to trash the lab and escapes into what might be some dystopian civilization or Days of Future Whatsis or alternate earth or somesuch. They don't explain it, and by this time I'm not sure I care.

Our adventure closes with Cap revealing he made off with one of Zola's clone babies/eugenics projects/future Boy From Brazil and is off to Brave New Worlds.
Because not only does Marvel have difficulty with positive male role-models, it feels the need to pair a dude and a baby up to fight bad guys. Refer to Cable/Hope and Nomad/Bucky if necessary. Next issue blurb showed us a long haired, grizzled Cap with a laser gun and holding the hand of what appears to be a young girl. On the same page is a brief editorial by Rick Rememder about the new book and the journey fans are about to embark on, and his inspirations.

Then it clicked. All the pieces fell into place. This book wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't great, but it felt like it could have been. After reading Remender's afterward it was revealed that his favorite bits of Captain America were the 1970s Jack Kirby issues with "a strange mixture of espionage, science fiction, and pure psychedelic imagination".


Having read some of those books, I can see what Remender was going for. All of the elements were there, whacked out hippie villain, weird disappearing subway car, weird Nazi scientist-robot fella, but it was like Remender was trying to make a cake, bought all the ingredients, and then didn't measure them before mixing. He was on the right track and just fell shy of the mark.

As far as JRJRs art goes, you'll like it if you like his usual fare. There are very few people in favor of his art that I talk to and I'm pretty sure at least one of those people dropped a beloved title due to Romita's art. I'm a firm believer that with an excellent inker and colorist, JRJR can do some pretty good pencils. Man Without Fear, Enemy of the State, The Eternals, and many other books he's drawn were very well done, but sometimes it just doesn't pan out for him. Darker books with a feeling of grit and visceral action suit him, whereas team books with brightly presented heroes do not. He has that muddied penciling technique and seems like he rushes his work. It also sometimes feels like he learned his craft via that "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way" book.
Anyone else have that book?

The cover was very well done, but the interiors were another story. Granted, I'll talk Romita's rushed, muddied work over Liefeld's Sistine Chapel and day, but who wouldn't?

Upon finishing this book I found myself in an awkward spot, torn between my love for Captain America and the general feeling of "meh" the script and art gave me. I'll probably stick with it for a few issues or so, but thusfar I have not gotten $3.99 worth of wow from this book. It didn't matter how often he threw his shield, it just felt like the book was coming up short and I hope it'll get on track after Remender gets a few more issues of it under his belt. If it ends up disappointing, I'm sure I can get my Cap fix in any number of Marvel Now! titles that have the word "Avenger" on the cover.