Thursday, April 25, 2013

REVIEW: Jupiter's Legacy #1

Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Frank Quitely
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

"The comic-book event of 2013 finally arrives as superstar creators MARK MILLAR and FRANK QUITELY give us the superhero epic that all future comics will be measured by. The world's greatest heroes have grown old and their legacy is a poisonous one to the children who will never live up to their remarkable parents. Unmissable."- Image Comics

Bold words from Image and the creative team responsible for Wanted, Kick Ass, and All-Star Superman had the hype machine on full throttle for Jupiter's Legacy before issue one even hit the stands. So how "unmissable" is this new series, and is it really "the comic book event of 2013"? I'm not going to piss all over anyone's strawberries in this review, but the word "hyperbole" does come to mind when rereading the above press release from Image.

Since Alan Moore wrote "Watchmen", the deconstruction of the superhero seems to be a pretty common theme in comics. Books like Astro City and The Boys have picked up the mantle where Moore left off and they are both solid, fun reads but not genre changing ones. Jupiter's Legacy doesn't deal with "absolute power corrupting absolutely" in issue one, but it does draws some interesting parallels between The Great Depression and the economic crisis of today. It also explores the dichotomy between the golden age superhero and the would be superhero of the modern world as well. These are both interesting topics, but really not new ideas. This book almost read like Kingdom Come with a bunch of B-team superheroes that no one knows about. Moore did it better, but at this point it is unfair to compare one issue to a book that has found its way onto many college syllabi, and for good reason. Unfortunately, the preview by Image made me draw that comparison almost immediately.

It starts off with an origin story, and a man who lost a family fortune pursuing a vision of a mysterious island. Honestly, I thought I was going to hate this book when the dialogue kept revisiting the idea that "the island will provide". John Locke flashbacks abounded through the first five pages. It then quickly cuts to the new generation of superheros who are more concerned with parties, publicists, and super powered blow than fighting super villains.

Image really did this book a disservice with their sales pitch. After the release of East of West and Miniature Jesus I awaited the this book with bated breath hoping that it would be better those titles. They talked it up way too much, and that left me feeling a little let down in the end even though it was a pretty solid book overall. In closing, I would like to give you a quote from the real book that "all future comics will be measured by". When you read Jupiter's Legacy you will notice the difference in quality right away.

"Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll whisper 'no.'"-Alan Moore

Thursday, April 18, 2013

REVIEW: Miniature Jesus #1

Art and Story: Ted McKeever
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

"As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers."

Walt Whitman

Ted McKeever is David Lynch crossed with Fellini. He is also the creator of some of the most thought provoking comics you will ever find in your lifetime. Miniature Jesus is a commentary on many oft debated sociological-themes like spirituality, the plight of the recovering addict, and how individual perception defines our reality. His work reminds us that while great art (especially great sequential art) can be highly entertaining, it can also at times challenge, and even construct through its pages a new tableau of the world as well. Any that possess a love of dark, contemplative surrealism will find themselves captivated by the art and story both. Almost every panel contains detailed, brooding landscapes. and at times McKeever will distort that world to reflect the thoughts and vision of the characters. This is something that only the great artists can do, and while it seems like most artists out there today are confined by their own limitations, McKeever's stylistic subtleties are evidence enough of his talent and originality.

The is also true of the writing. Miniature Jesus begins with the above quote from Whitman's: "As I Ponder'd in Silence". The plot itself is centered around a recovering alcoholic named Chomsky and his attempts to appeal to the better angels of his nature, albeit unsuccessfully in issue one. This has mostly to do with the proverbial angel on one shoulder being absent, and in its place a second devil instead. His self imposed exile has him conversing with dead cats and demons both within the first five pages. If you liked Meta 4, Plastic Forks, Metropol, and Mondo, you will love this book. And if you love this book and have not read those titles you should pick up the trades right away.

The controversy right now in comics revolves around sex. Both Saga #12 and the aptly titled Sex by Image have dominated recent conversation and raised some real censorship issues. This book may do the same, as in the last few pages an actual "Miniature Jesus" comes off of the cross and thwarts an attempt at being stepped on by the resident preacher, a preacher believing this idolatry personified to be a work of the devil. At this point the plot is delightfully confusing, and this refreshingly blasphemous tale has yet to unfold. Knowing McKeever and his work its entirely possible that a linear narrative could even cease to exist through this five issue series. Mondo is a good example, and if anything one should expect the unexpected when picking up a copy. Beautifully drawn, written, and formatted, Miniature Jesus is a book that will probably sell out of its first printing very soon. It only came out yesterday, so run to your local comic shop and pick up a copy of issue one as soon as possible. Call in sick if necessary.

Monday, April 15, 2013

REVIEW: Deadpool Issues 1-6

Writers : Gerry Duggan
Art: Tony Moore
Colors: Val Staples
Review: Cody "Madman" Miller

Okay. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Deadpool…not much of any kind of fan really. I can remember buying a few issues of one of his books way back in the day; say early to mid 90’s, not that I remember much. Deadpool quickly dropped off my radar and fell off the other side of who really cares. To be honest, most all other characters not related to or cloned from Spider-Man met the same fate. Geez cut me some slack, I was thirteen and mowing my neighbor’s yard and couldn’t support a full fledged addiction to comics.

I figured I’d just pick one super hero to follow. Thus, allowing me comics on the weekly and a few bucks left over for raising my hell fund. The Web Head won out. Needless to say, when I signed this contract for my soul to comicdom, I had no idea that Spider-Man had no less than four current running titles. Amazing, Spectacular, Spider-Man, and Web of said wall crawler, so yeah, more comics, less raising hell. Okay, I guess that’s not entirely true…..I just had to get more resourceful and raise hell outside of the box.

Good God… I’ll eventually get to actually reviewing a few Deadpool books sooner or later, I promise. Free of charge even (donations will however be accepted and go straight to my raise some hell fund)…no it won’t I lie. I’d buy more comics. Damn it! There I go again……focus jackass.

Issues 1-6 of Marvel’s newest re-launch of Deadpool are for reasons soon to be explained a must have. Don’t be a lame ass, go buy the trade when it arrives on the shelves. It is a laugh out loud (at times) journey to ridiculousness and back. Enter Undead Presidents of the United States of ‘Merica. You see…this guy aptly named The Necromancer, who happens to look like Grizzly Adams minus the bear and plus a kilt, has used his mighty tome of Black Magics to resurrect all the former presidents. Of course the poor bastard’s plan goes horribly wrong and the Mr. Presidents dip into their own raise some hell fund. George Washington takes control of the undead chiefs of staff and out of respect & fear, they do his bidding.

S.H.E.I.L.D. sends agent Preston to recruit Deadpool for the cleanup. Our merc with a mouth takes the job and goes hunting. The arc running feud between Deadpool and George Washington was fantastic and well done all at once. Actually, the Deadpool vs. Nixon bout in Issue #3 takes the award for awesomeness in a fight scene.

There is plenty of violence and plenty of hilarious corny one liners that one would expect in a book with Deadpool on the cover. The writing is really well done though. It’s not too over the top or anything. The balance between the HaHa-ing and the darker more serious side of the character have been to date, masterfully balanced. The art isn’t bad but it isn’t standalone either. I feel like this run is dangling dangerously on the edge of dumb as hell, and at any minute the momentum coming off the “Dead Presidents” arch could come to a lackluster plunge into the deep dark bottomless void of mediocrity that we lovingly refer to as the MU. I’m watching you…with squinty eyes.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

REVIEW: Five Ghosts #1 (of 5)

Writer: Frank J. Barbiere
Artist: Chris Mooneyham
Review: Will Dubbeld

"After a tragic encounter with an artifact known as 'The Dreamstone', infamous treasure hunter Fabian Gray was possessed by five literary ghosts and has been granted access to their unique abilities"

Sold, ladies and gentlemen!

Any amongst my readers (I'm assuming something there, but bear with me...) should have a good idea by now that I am a sucker for the Pulp genre.

A two fisted, city that never sleeps, twin .44s blazing, Giant-sized man sucker.

With a shot of bourbon.

Pretty much anything, from The Shadow's mad cackling to the crack of Indiana Jones' bullwhip will pique my curiosity and almost guarantee a book sale, and Five Ghosts is no exception. A pulp era adventurer who channels ghost powers. Perfect.
He's even fighting Nazis by page two.
Call it stereotypical, but if it's good enough for Indy, Hellboy, and Atomic Robo it's good enough for me.

Pulps is pulps, people.

Fabian Gray is fighting Nazis because he, of course, infiltrated their Austrian mountaintop castle in search of an arcane knickknack, trounces them, and is sleeping with his beautiful client by page 6.
I. Love. This. Book.

In an unrevealed incident involving Fabian and the aforementioned Dreamstone it seems he was possessed by the literary ghosts of an archer, a detective, a vampire, a samurai, and a wizard and can invoke the particular skill-sets and powers of these ghosts to aid him in his endeavors. It is touched on that the same event that granted Fabian his powers rendered his sister comatose, fueling his motivation as an archetypical pulp hero to cure her affliction.

Oh, and it seems his possession is killing him.

Coupled with the fact that Fabian is pursued by what appears to be an undead fellow in a trenchcoat and fedora, as well as a demon or elder god worshipping cultist named Iago, fills out a few more pulp tropes and promises plenty of opposition for our hero.
Five Ghosts closes with Fabian and his bookish sidekick flying into Darkest Africa on a biplane in search of a "strange stone" and "spider gods and the like".

Issue one leaves us with the pair captured by a tribe of savages sporting multiple, spiderlike eyes.

Ticking off boxes on my mental pulp checklist, this comic is a giant robot and a tentacled horror away from being the best thing ever.

Gray is part Indiana Jones, part Simon Templar, and all pulp, and I couldn't be happier. The writing is solid, bringing to mind the linear, fast-paced nature of the genre.
Just like the dotted line on the map in Raiders.
Mooneyham's art is also spectacular and carries with it the slightly muddy, sketchy style of a Neal Adams, a Walt Simonson, or any other luminaries of the genre.
Mike Ploog comes to mind.

This book could use a bog-monster, speaking of Ploog...

Hopefully the next four issues of Five Ghosts pack the same punch as the first, and I'm certainly looking forward to finding out.

Monday, April 1, 2013

REVIEW: East of West #1

Story by: Jonathan Hickman
Art By: Nick Dragotta
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

2013 has been very kind to the world of comics, and after only one issue, East Meets West may have the most potential out of any new series in an already fruitful year for funny books. Hickman and Dragotta (FF) have the entire comic world abuzz. The book is completely sold out, so until the second printing hits comic store shelves next month, slug it out with the other collectors on Ebay, or get yourself a digital copy.

Across the board this is the best reviewed comic I can remember, and to no one's surprise, it's coming out of Image. The "creator owned" comics company is creating an industry Renaissance, and giving readers exactly what they want, the uncensored vision of top creators, making Marvel and DC seem less relevant by the day.

However, the redundant, prevailing themes in comics are still alive and well unfortunately. East Meets West is a dystopian, apocalyptic epic taking place in an alternate universe. Initially I was less than impressed with another potential Hunger Games/Walking Dead type offering due to their rampant commonality and their tendency to almost always read like an inferior knockoff, but Hickman and Dragotta pull off a rare feat, a visually stunning issue one that does a great job of world building and creating a unique mythos while not getting bogged down in exposition.

Hickman's vision of an alternate America, consisting of seven nations that were created after a comet hits Missouri during the height of the Civil War, is definitely the most interesting aspect of the story. The setting itself, complete with a detailed map on the final page is worth buying the first issue alone.

In the reality of East Meets West, the four horseman of the apocalypse have come to herald the end of the world, fulfilling a prophecy shared by the major religions of two different cultures. The main characters themselves create more questions than answers, but admittedly, the questions are intriguing ones. However, these four horsemen lack a bit of originality in both substance and dialogue, and I felt that they weren't really breaking any ground in either of those areas. Regardless of whether this story is completely reinventing the wheel or not, it is the most interesting book to come out in months. Sometimes the critics get it right.

Just as a a visceral experience alone, it's 40 pages of ultra violent, bloody, highly entertaining sequential art goodness, a comic lover's wet dream. And as a setup issue, it sets the mark for an almost perfect effort. With time, the characters in East Meets West may get even richer and more interesting nullifying my only criticism of this new series. There is talk everywhere that Hickman and Dragotta may be currently writing one of the classics, and while it's still too early to tell, both should be lauded for their work on issue one. East Meets West is another must read book from Image. It makes events like Marvel's Age of Ultron seem almost laughable in comparison.