Monday, August 26, 2013

REVIEW: The Adventures of Aero-Girl #1 (of 4)

Writer: Dewayne Feenstra
Artist: Axur Eneas
Review: Will Dubbeld

Opinions on crowd-sourcing to get comics published run the gamut, from luminary creators poo-pooing Kickstarter to other names in the business using it to launch their own creator owned projects. I can't speak for all of the feature writers here at The Hammond Comics Blog, but personally I think it's a great avenue for industry unknowns to get a book out there to the masses. 
Consequently when a book comes across my Kickstarter radar that seems to have a solid premise and creative team, I'll usually give it a go.

Thus my introduction to The Adventures of Aero-Girl.
Granted, the elements touted in the pitch were right up my alley. It had a Pulpy, almost Atomic Age feel. It had goggles and jetpacks and a gorilla.
There needs to be more of all these things in comics.
So I tossed in my dollars and received a neat new comic in trade.
The Adventures of Aero-Girl tells the tale of young Jacqueline MacKenzie, a superhero aspirant who is a sidekick-in-training under the super hero Battle Jack. 
Battle Jack is the protector of the fictional city of Foxbay, possessor of a power called the Battle Spirit, and Jacqueline's father.
Feenstra writes the father/daughter dynamic rather well, balancing elements of doting parenthood, good natured chastising, and lighthearted action without being sappy or preachy. 
Battle Jack and Aero-Girl fight their way through foes that are generously sprinkled with Golden Age sentiment, such as the Three Ring Gang (that includes amongst their number a bearded lady with prehensile beard hair) and Dr. Chimera, a madman with a penchant for genetic splicing.
Sadly, we are treated with a sparse appearance of Jak-Jak the superpowered gorilla, but the tease is worth it.
Axur Eneas' art is superb. Crisp and animated without looking too cartoonish, Eneas crafts a detailed vision of Foxbay and its inhabitants, both fair and foul. The stylized art has a look that would transfer well to traditionally animated media. As a bonus, the last few pages of the book had some concept art/character designs and fan art.
In a market bogged down with Flashpoints and Ultrons and enough angst and pathos to make 1995 envious, it's refreshing to read an all ages book that doesn't carry any continuity baggage or editorial micromanaging. The major publishers should take note of books like The Adventures of Aero-Girl, and follow suit. The only complaint I could even muster about this book is that it's too darn short. I wasn't ready for the last page, hoping instead the book would sprout another ten pages or so.
I settled instead for re-reading it another couple of times.
I'll be looking forward to the next three installments of this book, and with any luck it'll find it's way into a collected edition at some point.
Keep an eye on this one, folks. I've got a feeling it's going places.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

REVIEW: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #3

Writers: Gerard Way & Shaun Simon
Art:  Becky Cloonan
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

All three of these books were excruciatingly painful to read, but all of them were beautifully drawn. My initial plan was to wait until the series conclusion next month and then dissect the completed series, but I won't be reading issue four. The plotting, pacing, and writing all made reading these books the equivalent of taking the worst tasting medicine ever. After finishing issue three I came to some pretty definitive conclusions about The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and even the medium of comics themselves.

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, and with one book left I have absolutely no clue what is happening in the story. The immense scope of the book is staggering, and instead of developing a few characters while introducing and resolving a quantifiable conflict, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys meanders around in confusion while pummeling the reader with an endless cast of generic, dystopian cliches. The third issue focused around a new and completely different character that might be the fiftieth introduced in three issues.  "Porno bot" is a blue haired...porno bot (?) who attempts to escape a corporate controlled city that is trying to eradicate individualism.

From what I can tell the story is centered around a group of exiles that have escaped this metropolis called Battery City, and the writers are attempting to force feed them all as many rebellious American ideals as possible (think Occupy movement). The title "Rage Against the Machine" would have been more apropos for the following reasons. None of these themes are executed well, and the comic itself reads like emo music that made so much sense at the age of sixteen, but is now an embarrassingly painful bi-product of adolescence.

Most of the exposition came in a series of false advertisements that were placed at the end of the book. After twenty two pages I finally knew at the end of issue three that the blue haired robots were the best at sex, and the green haired robots gave good blowjobs, etc. Not much of a "big reveal" there. While these bits of back story gave me a small sense of what was happening, they would have been better served at the beginning of this book to give the reader a puncher's chance at understanding the plot.

The art itself was pretty polished; and the only reason that I made it through sixty six pages of this miniseries. Becky Cloonan on a different, well written book might make for a good comic. While the previous false ad that I described in the last paragraph was sophomoric at best in content, it was a well detailed effort artistically. The backgrounds were visually appealing, and the characters were well drawn.

This series is a fairly traditional, uninspired tale themed on the destructive aspects of capitalism and corporate greed. If it was trying to be deliberately disorienting or bizarre it might have been a better read. Instead, it is destined for the dollar bin at your LCS, or will be coming soon to a "50 Random Indie Comic Lot" on EBAY. Please listen to me when I tell you not to buy this book. There are so many wonderful things about comics, and this series embodies almost none of them. Honestly, I hate being this negative about someone's work, but The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is the most mind-numbingly terrible thing that I have read in years.     

Sunday, August 18, 2013

REVIEW: Lazarus #2

Writer: Greg Rucka 
Artist: Michael Lark 
Colorist: Santi Arcas 
Review: Arthur Black

There is a rising jewel from Image, which was started in June. Lazarus is a tale set in the world after government and society have broken down. Power falls to a few families holding wealth and food. These families take care of themselves and those that work for them. Other people are left to fend for themselves and are referred to as waste. Each family has one member that is given genetic enhancements and technology to be the family’s protector and enforcer. This individual is known as a Lazarus. 
The first book introduced us to Forever Carlyle (awesome name) and her family. The book was a bit dry, as first books can be, but it laid the ground work for a good story. The Carlyle family was attacked by waste and the Morray family. The waste attacked a guest house, where Forever happened to be. After a brutal assault on her, Forever took out the intruders. The Morray attack was on a seed storage facility, and this was thwarted by the family’s soldiers. The attack revealed there is a traitor in the family or personnel, and Forever was to exact justice and set an example.  

Forever is presented as a character in conflict. She is supposed to be more like a robot following orders blindly, but her engineer is trying to combat Forever’s emotions. After the encounter at the guest house, she shows remorse for slaying the men, whom were just after food.  These kinds of conflicts are the best. I love reading stories where the internal struggles are as tough as the external ones. This really allows us to attach ourselves to the character as they develop. This was the case for me a long time ago reading Spawn and The Darkness, when they first started. 

In the second book, we are shown into the interior of the Carlyle estate and meet the family. Let’s just say that the Carlyle family is a bit dysfunctional. We are shown a tight web of lies and secrets that are ready to blow up in their faces. The siblings do not trust each other and even start to assault each other. Out of this boiling brew of deceit and mistrust, Forever rises with loyalty to her father and family.  

At the end of #2, we are left with a nice “what the . . .” The way this one is ended is very clever. It really leaves you wondering which direction they are going to go next. These endings (I call them “crossroad endings”) are greater than just climatic endings, because it leaves you wondering how the spin will land. This can be great for the writer or a death sentence for the book, like landing on bankrupt on The Wheel of Fortune. 

The books have a nice flow to the action, and the story is taking off. In book one, the action is drawn in a step-by-step progression. Michael Lark has a unique style to his drawing, and it is very descriptive on its own. Action scenes are great with very precise and uncluttered images. The dialog throughout the books is simple, but it is direct and effective.  

Lazarus has been a nice surprise in a new comic, and I hope Greg Rucka does a great job with this story. In my opinion, it has all of the makings of a great comic line with endless possibilities. On August 28, 2013, the third installment of Lazarus will be on shelves, and I cannot wait until it is out to find out which direction the story is heading.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Welcome to the 2012-2013 Hammy Awards. No, there is no actual, physical award. But the opinions of three very discerning and opinionated individuals who read everything should make you feel either very elated or very terrible if you're a creator who is about to read this year's Hammies. To those faithful individuals protecting and defending one of the last great American art forms left, we at The Hammond Comics Blog salute you. There is now an industry wide Renaissance happening and it is because of your hard work and dedication. There is no consensus at the Hammies. Every staff writer will be giving out individual awards, as per tradition. Get your LOLZ right here faithful readers, because we're drinking to the best and the brightest, and bashing all of the mediocrity and mindless drivel with the butts of sniper rifles that threatens to harm our beloved...comics. WRDJ

William R. Davis Jr.

Comic of the Year:

Saga You will never get a more fully-throated endorsement of a book than I will give you about Saga. It's almost perfect. A richly developed, beautiful read on every level (stands and claps).

Best Cover Art:
Yuko Shimizu The Unwritten Some of the golden age throwback covers of The Tinkerer are just plain magic. You could frame them and put them on your wall. They're that good; a huge bright spot in a once great comic that has come completely off the rails this year.

Best New Comic:

East of West Barrels full of interesting and the plot has barely yet to unfold. Great characters, art, what more can I say to you?

Most Overrated:
Scott Snyder/Brian Bendis Both are past their prime and are running point for the big two. These guys need to work on quality over quantity. I was super disappointed to see Snyder teamed up with Sean Murphy on The Wake. The man who wrote the awesomely awesome Punk Rock Jesus does not need a co-pilot. The Wake is a good read three issues in, but Snyder is not a finisher. It's his MO. Most Overrated does not do these guys justice. They both suck. Just sayin'.

Most Underrated:
God Hates Astronauts Ryan Browne is the most underrated creator in comics. Fact. Any GHA fan/worshiper knows this to be true. There is nothing like God Hates Astronauts on the shelves anywhere, and the art has a unique, fresh feel that never disappoints. "The Completely Complete" edition has just been picked up from Kickstarter and will be released by Image this fall. Buy this book.

Most Disappointing Comic
The Walking Dead Seriously, what happened? We now have a character that looks like George Clinton, who speaks olde English, and walks around with a tiger that obeys commands. Now go back and re-read that sentence. Yes, this is now a plausible thing that happens in The Walking Dead. It's taken a full thirteen issues to set up one major event, and we're not even there yet. These guys are just cashing checks and pumping out merch at this point. Arcs like "Fear the Hunters" are long gone. This one almost snagged the Rob Liefield.

Most Likely to Be Burned First for Heat in the Event of a Post Apocalyptic Earth "This is the End" Scenario AKA The Rob Liefield
Age of Ultron What a piece of shit. Multiple time traveling Wolverines. I may burn these comics in a garbage can dressed like a hobo because the idea of it sounds appealing to me for some reason.

Best Miniseries:
Mondo This is a book that reminds me of why I love print comics.I'm a rabid Ted McKeever fan. The feel of this book was just awesome, silver age sized and weird, but like a good weird, really really weird. Check out Miniature Jesus. It's shaping up to be even better. Both are a must read.

Worst Miniseries:
Age of Ultron ^

Writer of the Year:
Brian K. Vaughn Saga could be my favorite science fiction franchise ever. I know I've gone Saga heavy this year but it's that good.

Artist of the Year:
Chris Ware His art is hauntingly brilliant and detailed. Chris Ware is a master of his craft, and continues to be the most innovative artist in comics. Building Stories is another major cornerstone in Indie comics.

Cody "Madman" Miller

Comic of the year
Saga Gotta agree with Mr. Davis here. Hands down the best of the best.

Best cover art:
David Aja and Francesco Francavillia The popish covers these guys are throwing down on Hawkeye are fantastic . The cover on issue #1 is the sole reason I picked up the first issue.

Best new comic:
Superior Spider-Man Hey, what can I say, I have been reading Spidey books since I learned to read and this is the most exciting thing to happen to my beloved web head possibly ever.

Most overrated:
The Walking Dead This book was great, now it’s snowballing into mediocrity.

Most underrated:
Talon This is one of the only D.C. books that I could stomach longer than a few issues. Great writing and great art lost in the Bat verse.

Most disappointing:
Indestructible Hulk This one actually pisses me off. The Incredible Hulk was a fantastic run, then the reboot and Marvel feeds us this gamma powered bull shit. Horrible is an understatement.

Most Likely to Be Burned First for Heat in the Event of a Post Apocalyptic Earth "This is the End" Scenario AKA The Rob Liefield
Age of Ultron

Best miniseries:

Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy This run was edgy, brilliant, and relevant all at the same time.

Worst miniseries:

Age of Ultron I’d ask for my money back if I could.

Writer of the year:
Malachai Nicolle. At the ripe old age of eight, he brought us Axe Cop. Axe Cop: President of the World made me laugh to the point of pissing myself. I hope he continues in comics, especially with Axe Cop. I’m a lifetime member of this little guy’s fan club.

Artist of the year:
Fiona Staples The only thing better than reading Saga is looking at Fiona’s fancy drawings.

Will Dubbeld:

Comic of the Year:
Rachel Rising This book is phenomenal. Terry Moore's pencils are tight as ever and the plot is full of mystery, horror, and Moore's trademark human drama. Top notch work.

Best Cover Art:
Skottie Young I don't care, those baby Avengers/X-Men variant covers are great. It's like Muppet Babies, but with X-Men.

Best New Comic:

Hawkeye Matt Fraction nails it on this series, bringing back the dynamic that worked so well in his Iron Fist series, albeit without Ed Brubaker's assistance. Action, humor, and character wrapped in David Aja's superb pencils. Buy this book, bro.

Most Overrated:

Bendis/Snyder Good lord, these two...
For being lauded as they are, Brian Bendis and Scott Snyder really need to step up their collective game, especially with the free reign given them by their respective companies. Snyder seems to have solid stories, but manages to shit the bed in the last act. Every time.
And Bendis is probably spread too thin, as it seems he's writing half the Marvel catalogue right now. Even Powers, his creator owned series, has taken a turn for the worst, serving to showcase how many times a writer can shoehorn "fuck", "shit", or "cunt" into a comic.
Shame on both of you.

Most Underrated:
Fatale Cthulhu Noir? Absolutely. Elements of H. Rider Haggard's She? I can see it. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' tale of an ageless femme fatale on the run blends pulp, horror, and crime genres into one helluva comic.
And nobody I know actually reads it, besides myself.

Most Disappointing Comic:
Age of Ultron This was drek. Plain and simple. I love a good Avengers/Ultron throwdown, but Pym's robot appeared on the cover more than he did in the actual series. The writing was fractured, plotting horrid, and the few bright moments in the book were overshadowed by the garbage that composed the remainder. A prime example of how far Bendis' writing has slipped.

Most Likely to Be Burned First for heat in the Event of Post Apocalyptic Earth "This is the End" Scenario:

Before Watchmen Dear god, though it pains me to say, I'd rather suffer through Final Crisis, Liefeld's entire Youngblood series, and Secret Wars II than read this trash again. Having this enter the Watchmen canon disgraces the original work as opposed to adding meaningful elements to the mythos.

Best Miniseries:
Fashion Beast Although adapted from an unproduced Alan Moore movie script from the 1989s, Fashion Beast made a damn fine comic. It harkens back to a time when Moore produced top-notch books rife with dystopia and simmering anger at Thatcherism. It did the ol' heart good to see some classic Moore.

Worst Miniseries:
Age of Ultron/Before Watchmen I don't think I can express how horrid I find these books. When the Big Two hit on a good idea, they strike gold, but when they miss, they miss HARD.

Writer of the Year:

Brian K. Vaughn Okay, I didn't take the Saga kool-aid out of the gate like everyone else. I read the first issue and gave it a solid 'meh'. Only after every nerd on the planet touted the merits of BKVs Saga did I give it another shot.
And I was not disappointed. Is it the best comic ever written? Hell no, we all know that's Man-Thing, but Saga is pretty damn good and Vaughn's writing is top notch.
Kudos, three cheers, and huzzah to Mr. Vaughn.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

REVIEW: Absolution Rubicon #2

Writer: Christos N. Gage
Artist: Daniel Gete
Review: William R. Davis Jr.

People tend to sift through their lives for definitive answers to unanswerable questions. Heroes like Superman resonate with readers so well because they are the embodiment of everything that humanity does right. As much as we would like to believe that we are not driven by greed, the allure of greatness; lustful thoughts and actions... the simple truth is that within us each of these inherent flaws exist. Read the news and nothing could be made more plain. The human condition is beyond comprehension after thousands of years of study. Psychologists, spiritualists, and philosophers have devoted their lives searching for the "solution". People tend to paint the troubled in our societal ranks with broad strokes, using words like "mental illness" or "Satan", condemning those that commit terrible acts, as if putting a label on them erases the darkness within ourselves, separating "us" from "them". But the biggest collective fear we have is knowing that there is no pill, no bullet, and no form of entertainment that can completely wash away the suppressed part of humanity that we do everything in our power to ignore. As much as I love books like Absolution Rubicon, it is a pretty formulaic "cop gone rogue" book that fails to address the complexities listed above. Rorschach had cigarettes put out on him by his prostitute mother. The Punisher had his family killed and was driven over the edge. And John Trask, this book's anti-hero, is a cop fed up with a flawed justice system whose ideological purity has been corrupted by the failings of humanity.

The heroes that become global icons are pillars of morality that represent truth, justice, and the American way (at least in America)... flawed but not too flawed. Books like Absolution Rubicon are appealing to me because they're not Superman. Absolution Rubicon is an expletive laced, ultra violent blood bath put on a comic book page. This book has a protagonist who draws a clear line between good and evil while simultaneously blurring that line, wrestling with the question of whether or not the ends justify the means. If you enjoyed The Boys, this book should fill the gap quite nicely.

John Trask is an "enhancile" fed up with the ineptness of the criminal justice system. Enhanciles (humans with superpowers) are rare, so he tends to be granted leniency at first when he becomes judge, jury, and executioner, taking justice into his own hands. This grace period ends though, and the hunter now instead becomes the hunted in this new series. Absolution Rubicon is a sequel to the six issue miniseries Absolution. Trades are available. Reading Absolution would be a good starting point, but it is not a necessary one. Any fan of Kick Ass, Crossed, or the above mentioned The Boys is going to love is book. What started long ago with The Punisher, is continuing with Absolution and Absolution Rubicon. Nothing much separates this title from anything that has been done in the past. Books like these can be comfort food to people who enjoy these themes, and Absolution Rubicon sated my palate in this way.

The art by Daniel Gete is great during the plethora of action packed scenes. Just as a visceral experience for any fan of gore, his style gets the job done here. While this is by no means a thought provoking book, I found it highly entertaining. My love for comics grew exponentially after being force fed classic literature by high handed, elitist professors who openly bashed the medium of sequential art because of books like Absolution Rubicon. Personally I like to be entertained and would rather discuss a thinly themed, highly entertaining book over a beer, than a canonical tome written by a dead white male over a glass of chardonnay, but that's just me. Absolution Rubicon is just good, entertaining comics. It's not WWE or monster trucks, but it's no Moby Dick either.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

REVIEW: Superior Carnage #1

Writer: Kevin Shinick
Artist: Stephen Segouia
Colorist: Jay David Ramos
Review: Cody Miller

I am so far behind reading my funny books that it is absolutely anything but funny. Granted, there are a few that do not get placed on the altar of procrastination. Those few go straight to my brain. Dead Pool, Superior Spider-Man, Hawkeye and Thief of Thieves are among the few. Other than that, I don’t really give a damn.

Spider Island……


Before Watchmen……

The Age of Ultron……

That’s the Sonovabitch that broke Batman’s back right there. I mean seriously Marvel get real! I’m out! (Except for the few afore mentioned titles, but don’t tell them that) and shame on you D.C. what in the hell are you two doing?
Seriously, what are these guys doing to the comics that I know and love? It’s like dying a slow death I could imagine. It’s exhausting wandering through the desert of Big 2 these days.

AoU ruined me. I just totally stopped caring about comics…….

Then came Superior Carnage to save the day (enter happy music). I knew I was going to love this book before I even made it past the cover. Which happens to be crafted by none other than Clayton Crain. Mr. Crain did the eye candy for last year's Carnage U.S.A. , which was a phenomenal miniseries. In both the art and writing departments. The dude can immortalize my man Cletus like no other. Sadly, Crain’s art stops at the cover on this one. Segouis doesn’t do a terrible job, but he just didn’t get me into the dark and psychotic place that all Carnage books should take you.

I mean come on, I am an American...our level of desensitization determines our social status.
Pretty much just like every Carnage run...ever, it starts off with the stereotypical escape from the super high tech inescapable fortified mega super-villain clink. Yawn! Actually, not really. It does get better and I’m not judging Kevin Shinick at all, however, I don’t think I could think of a better idea now that I think about it. Okay, Shinick, free pass on this one. There is no doubt that that this title just found a place in the read pile.

I don’t want to spoil this one for anyone who has not had a chance to take a look yet, because the last three pages are epic. Just let me drop this here…WizardvsCarnagevsKlaw. That’s right Wizard. Yes, that’s right Carnage. Hell to the yah I said Klaw!
I’m going to guess the fourth member of the dark side will be someone with some sort of fire super powers. Carnage has two real weaknesses.

1. sonics
2. high heat.
Just saying.