Friday, December 31, 2010

My Disappointments in Archie #616

I was very excited about the prospect of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin joining the Archie Comics stable of characters, but so many of my expectations were dashed in the debut, I must count the ways...

  1. Obama "endorsing" Betty instead of Archie, just to fuck with the rednecks.
  2. Palin "endorsing" Betty instead of Veronica, after Betty rebuffs Obama and turns out to be a closet case opposed to mixing with coloreds, illegal aliens and non-incestuous abortions.
  3. Veronica revealing to her father that she was secretly Obama Girl, and hopes to join the Liberal Media Elite after attending college at UC Berkeley.
  4. Dilton Doiley criticized as an intellectual elitist and drummed out unfairly from the Math Club on accusations that advanced calculus is witchcraft.
  5. Pop Tate breaks down after realizing Jughead Jones has put the Chocklit Shoppe so far into the black that he'll be taxed in the rich man's bracket.
  6. Willow Palin calling Kevin Keller a faggot on Facebook.
  7. Chuck Clayton revealed to be Obama's love child. Michelle throws Barack out of the White House. Hillary consoles.
  8. Reggie Mantle grilled by the media after applauding the peaceable negotiations skills of Riverdale's Spire Christian Purity League during the desegregation process.
  9. Bristol Palin puts lipstick on Ethel Muggs; enters her in Dancing With The Stars as a partner for Dustin Diamond.
  10. The Archies furious to learn Miss Grundy was denied necessary treatment by a Death Panel.
  11. Sarah Palin fills Moose Mason's face with buckshot.
  12. Midge Klump immediately impregnated by Levi Johnston.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Empowered Volume 4 (2008)

I’d like to issue a personal apology to Adam Warren. You see, months back I wrote a highly critical review of the third volume of Empowered, but then rolled right into volume 4, which was a massive improvement. Unfortunately, I’ve had that negative reaction sitting around the internet for about a half a year, and sat on the positive opinion I have for this edition. The character of Empowered gets nominated as “Suprahuman Most Deserving of Wider Recognition” in this story, and the book also warrants more positive word, so I feel like a jerk for laying down on the job.

The book opens by reprinting the color story from MySpace Dark Horse Comics Presents, a fairly average introductory piece for new readers. Speaking of color though, for some reason I always thought Sistah Spooky was an Asian girl that tried to act black, and it wasn’t until I saw her on the back cover here that I saw how unambiguously African-American she’s supposed to be. Call me obtuse.

The new material picks up with Ninjette recovering from the events of the previous volume. The hospital for “capes” where she’s staying offers a lot of opportunity for Morrison mad ideas, which Warren has a gift for communicating with much greater clarity and humor. The three principles (including Thugboy) then bond back at home in a more organic (and sexah) fashion than the karaoke contest last time.

Unbeknownst to the reader, those fifty-four pages of seemingly random episodes, exposition, and recovery have been lulling them into believing that the new tale hasn’t begun, when in fact Warren has been craftily threading in clues to a central mystery that will dominate the volume. Fun new characters are introduced, Empowered is subjected to her usual emotional battery, and sorting out the read herrings from the essentials may challenge the reader. Most of the cast is given an opportunity for action and character exploration. Once the shit starts hitting the fan at 17th Annual Caped Justice Awards ceremony, pay-offs come fast and furious, and our heroines truly show their worth.

I loved the first volume of Empowered because it was a collection of short stories/comic strips designed to satisfying at the end of each treat’s single-digit page count. Volume two worked because it was many of the characters’ first chances to entertain in extended tales. Three faltered because of the contempt of familiarity and meandering before the final fight, which had been teased too much and ran too long. Also, the balance of humor, tension, action and characterization was way off, feeling forced or slight depending on the individual segments.

Volume four works because Adam Warren manages to keep all of its balls in the air the entire time, an amazing accomplishment. Each chapter is fun, usually quite funny, and often enhances the characters. At the same time, the episodes are downright insidious is their stealth building of an overarching story which ties together and completes the volume. For the first time since the beginning of Empowered, Warren has delivered an edition that works in parts and as a whole, magnifying the pleasures of his work. He seems reenergized here, and the enthusiasm and focus grabs the reader by the boo-boo. Any reservations I had about continuing to follow the series were dispelled, and it is once again among my top recommendations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #91

Halcyon #1
Kull: The Hate Witch #1
R.E.B.E.L.S. #22 (2011)

Damaged/Hollow Point (Radical, 2010, $1.00)
Either I’m feeling generous this holiday season, or these Radical Comics previews are getting progressively better. I don’t know who the fuck “creators” Michael & John Schwartz are, but the motherfucker that actually writes this shit is David Lapham, and I keep enjoying the hash he slings. Damaged is basically the Punisher as an ex-cop with an ex-partner feeling guilty about the spree killings he hasn’t stopped. However, that tired premise entertained for twelve pages at least, partially aided by Dennis Calero’s art not being shat upon by some digital “painter” from an Eastern Bloc country like on most Radical books. On the flip side is Hollow Point, with decent art by Elia Bonetti that also wasn’t dicked with. The starfucker faggot I never heard of on this piece is named Ron L. Brinkerhoff, but the high concept of an assassin commanded by ghosts to avenge the people he wrongfully killed doesn’t get play within the preview’s twelve pages. However, actual working writer David Hine does a good job with the tale that sees print of the hitman preparing to kill a child molesting priest who isn’t actually one of those two things. As usual, neither story will sway me to buy the related mini-series/graphic novels, but I didn’t hate either, and you wouldn’t have to pay me to read further.

Halcyon #1 (Image, 2010, $2.99)
This one was okay, until it wasn’t. It’s The Authority, but at a diminished scope with no sense of humor. Did Dave Sharpe come up with that font for the Pakistanis that looks like Arabic characters, but is just stylized English? That’s so much cooler than brackets & captions, or untranslated text, so kudos for that. Anyway, Pseudo-Midnighter figures out that the world is becoming increasingly, artificially non-violent. Then he fucks Apollo With A Coochie, who’s a stuck-up bitch, and reveals his concerns to her. Finally, Apollo with Tits shares this information (not the fucking part) with the Justice League of Non-Sodomy, and Dr. Quasi-Doom surrenders to authorities (not Authorities, nor Not Authority,) continuing the peacenik trajectory. The art by Ryan Bodenheim is better than that seen in most Authority knock-offs, but not as good as actually The Authority artists, except maybe those guys who drew The Authority after everybody was over it already. Oh shit, they only just stopped publishing The Authority, right? How about that shit?

Kull: The Hate Witch #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
I was just talking about David Lapham’s rising stock since he started telling other artists what to draw. He doesn’t tell Gabriel Guzman to do shit as interesting as the dude from the Damaged preview, but Kull has always been Conan with more royal crown and too little Crown Royal, so you can’t make a banana split out of a pear and some yogurt. Court intrigue + supernatural threat – Red Sonja equals reading Fox or Swank because you’ve already used up this month’s Hustler, but as second rate barbarian porn goes, this is a satisfying first installment of a story I don’t care enough to read the next part of. It does what it’s supposed to do and is worth what they ask of you.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #22 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Red Sonja was a prototypical '70s badass chick, as defined by being a) a ball-buster who wielded a phallic weapon & b) a rape victim out for revenge. Man, writers of that period seemed to think sexual assault was the new radiation as a motivation for becoming vigilantes with uteruses. It quickly devolved into a tacky cliché that excused a bit of sadistic titillation to spice up the hoary and obligatory origin recitation. Political correctness eventually swept that nonsense aside, but this comic essentially pivots on its brief revival.

As a kid, I never liked Starfire, who I viewed as a hyperreactive bimbo. Sure she was sold into slavery and experimented on, but that happened to lots of heroes without their becoming tittybabies about it. Besides, Starfire was kind of a transparent Storm rip-off, only trading bondage for claustrophobia as the catastrophic fear to pivot some shorthand characterization upon. Still, with time I've come to realize that Starfire is one of the few DC heroines of note who is not a "legacy," and does not have a more famous male counterpart. Further, this comic insinuates Starfire was a victim of bestial child molestation, which I must admit is a really good excuse to want to blast holes in lizard people and shack up with the most inoffensive, sexually ambiguous teen sidekick to be found. It makes a sick kind of sense that Starfire was a late term holdover of the Red Sonja years, as it actually makes the character more sympathetic and, hell, palatable to me.

Aside from wallowing is revenge fantasy/culture shock, Tony Bedard's plot is really basic, but works for the manipulative action script that it is. The reliably solid art of Claude St. Aubin only fills half the issue, but relief of Kevin Sharpe draws a damned striking Starfire, and makes up for that crap job he did on that recent Legion story.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fire: The Definitive Collection (2001)

Back in the early ‘90s, I bought my comics at a flea market stand where the proprietor was savvy enough to order first issues beyond the usual speculator crap with informed judgment. For instance, there was a debut from Caliber Press called Fire with a photo cover of a floppy haired college girl with a gun, ala Le Femme Nikita. I’ve had a weakness for fumetti since that Marvel Team-Up cover where Joe Jusko dressed as Captain America, and a weakness for floppy haired brainy girls nearly as long. Surely the shopkeeper knew at least one sucker would buy the book, and that sucker was me.

The comic was about a male (drat!) university student who had been recruited by an intelligence agency. The story opened with his having run afoul of his boss, Murphy Brown, and ending up battered and locked away. The rest of the issue was then told in flashback, revolving around how the student was lured into the spy business and partially trained by a cute floppy haired spy girl (yes!) It was a pretty alright story that ended on a cliffhanger. The dialogue had a nice pop to it, with unusually strong character repartee for a comic of the time. I liked the moody high contrast art, which made up for some of the obvious photo referencing (especially Ms. Candy Bergen) with personality. The lettering was rather amateurish, though, and the writer/artist was pretentious enough to use his full name and merge the a & e in “Brian Michael Bendis.”

Anyhow, the dealer must have lacked confidence in selling a second issue, and if I asked him to reorder that half, it never got to me. I did keep up with the progression of this Bendis guy, and even tried odd issues of his crime comic A.K.A. Goldfish, but I never found anything strong enough to hook me. Bendis eventually became one of the biggest names in the industry, and I still don’t fully understand why, because even his best stuff (Alias, Powers, Daredevil) has consistently left me wanting. The worst stuff has been outright wankery, and I don’t think the guy “gets” the high profile super-heroes he now gets to write, so I avoid his stuff whenever possible.

Still, a few years back Fire came out in an affordable single volume, reedited/altered/expanded like it was George Lucas’ project instead of Bendis’. I can’t recall if I bought it myself or got a loaner, but after about a fifteen year delay, I finally finished Fire in its ultimate form. I guess after my various exposures to the writing style, a lot of the perceived originality novelty had worn off. That, and I’ve seen a bunch of Mamet and Tarantino since then. In fact, a lot of the circular exchanges of dialogue were grating as fuck today, and I hated the unnecessary repetitions of pages/sequences. I still like the artwork, especially when Bendis borrowed from Patrick Nagel for his floppy haired girl. It strikes me as a good book to show off some technical prowess and get your foot in the publishing door, but unsatisfying and derivative as a volume of some sort of froo-froo Brian Michael Bendis collection. In fact, I read this thing in the spring of 2009, it went multiple trips where I intended to get writing done, and I’ve only just now gotten around to the bother of reviewing the damned thing. I seem to recall having a lot more invective to hurl at its construction and excesses, but time has dulled that harsh critique, and I just don’t want the mediocre book hanging over my head anymore. Besides, this collected edition doesn’t feature either of the old photo covers, and that floppy haired chick was the only reason I bought the fucking thing in the first place.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday Is In A Sorry State All I Care #90

Astonishing Thor #1
Batman Incorporated #1
Brightest Day #13
Brightest Day #14

Astonishing Thor #1 (Marvel, 2011, $3.99)
I've read some movie reviewers who claim to go out of their way not to hear any criticism of a flick before or after seeing it until their pure, uncontaminated views are committed to text. Personally, I like to read a bunch of other reviews before writing one, because I like to have perspective, and I hate to bother writing something if I'm just going to repeat the same observations as another guy. I'm much more likely to just shoot from the hip on comics though, because I feel I'm naturally more acerbic than most, and I frankly come from a pretty goddamned learned place on these matters. Still, for some reason I felt the need to seek out other opinions on Astonishing Thor, because I really thought more people would be wowed by the production values of this beast. The few people who felt like talking about it seem in consensus on it kinda sucking, and for once, I don't feel much need to wade against the tide.

The first problem with this book is that it's dull. The opening splash page is some blond pretty boy who by the title must be Thor looking mistily into a rainstorm. It's really not the face one would be pulling while leaping across a city skyline while lightning flashed from a mystical hammer, which is the scene in the two page spread that follows. I was so busy being unimpressed that I totally missed that there was supposed to be a tidal wave several miles high about to crush the city until I read the text. In the following splash page, Thor stops the wave by throwing a hammer at it. This is one of those brazenly stupid moments you need someone completely insane like Grant Morrison and an artist capable of channeling Kirbyesque magnificence (paging Ed McGuinness) to sell. Instead of Kirby, we've got Mike Choi, who renders with all the detail and stillness of the renaissance. Choi commits the cardinal sin of comic art, which is to produce artwork that makes you want to stop reading the comic and just look at it, which is pretty much all you can do with this many splashes and spreads, but he's still not the guy to punch waves into submission.

So anyway, some random shit happens from there, typically on pages with three panels or less. There's a brief sequence that teases a Conan outtake in a bar involving five (5!) panels per page (not to mention some clear photo referencing of upcoming Thor movie star Chris Hemsworth,) but that gets pushed aside quick to get back to more excuses for double page spreads. Choi draws sentient planets with giant faces on them like nobody else, and it really makes you want to stop and appreciate the grandeur of these single images without being bothered with any reading.

Oh dang, this motherfucker's got words n' shit. It's funny, because there are just these tiny little word balloons and captions floating in a sea of unobstructed art, and yet reading them still manages to be a chore. Stan Lee's pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue from back in the day was so much fun because of how ridiculously and obviously a put-on it was. There's no good reason for a millenia old Norse god to speak like a 16th century English playwright in 20th century New York, but Stan did it with a charm and humor that made you want to run around saying crap like "verily" and "forsooth." Nobody let Robert Rodi in on that, because the pages where he tries it are a joyless slog, and he isn't even trying to Shakespeare. Rodi is just writing stilted, boring ass dialogue that drones on.

In summary, the most astonishing thing about this book is that its something of the anti-comic, with art that has no business being employed for sequential storytelling, and a script that may as well have been produced by a frigid old English minor for a Sunday school class. Even the logo is a snooze.

Batman Incorporated #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
How about a comic with a dopey premise and overtures of a forthcoming plot that can be read in minutes for four bucks? Okay, what if we throw in an extra shimmery heavier stock cover? Shit, you aging readers are getting so demanding!

Batman Inc. is a polyurethane bag full of "are you fucking kidding?" It starts with a villain named Lord Death Man (borrowed from actual Batman manga) torturing the Japanese Zorro to death by melting him with acid. Turns out the hero's secret lair was under a comic book shop, which reminded me of the point in True Romance where the prostitute falls in love with the shop geek during a Sonny Chiba movie and I totally checked out of the proceedings on account of it being entirely too much of a masturbatory fantasy. Then Yanick Paquette starts referencing Adam Hughes, Kevin Nowlan and Dave Johnson to the point where a light box may have been involved. Grant Morrison's ADHD abruptly kicks in six pages into a side story that stops short (complete with freebie bracing grope) because it was interfering with Paquette performing a drafting seance to convene with the departed spirit of George Caragonne in hopes of resurrecting Penthouse Comix as part of the Batman Family. Besides Selina Kyle sliding her panties to one side to fuck Bruce Wayne on a workout bench (seriously,) there's actual reference of tentacle rape porn in a goddamned Batman comic book. We are in the end times of this industry, I assure you, as it eats itself cock first.

Brightest Day #13 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Now that the title has switched from an anthology to round robin solo series, readers can really get a strong sense for how fully the Hawkman arc sucks. I know Hawkman has always been heavily derivative of Flash Gordon, but his leading an attack on the floating Nth City just isn't the same without a a rockin' Queen soundtrack and a hearty declaration of "Squadron 40! Diiiiiiiiiiiive!" Y'know, we were promised anthropomorphic lions and lizards in violent conflict with bird people, and that gets tossed aside a few pages in for an issue's worth of exposition.

I'm really starting to think this is Peter J. Tomasi's fault, because Peter J. Tomasi is a derivative motherfucker, and you just can't trust people who insist on using their middle initial. Besides Hawkman going all Jack Baur on that Man-Hawk (or is that all Gavin Rossdale on that angel?) there's Hawkgirl bound upright like Hannibal Lecter discussing breast feeding with her antagonist captor (just like in Silence of the Lambs) who is her own remarkably well preserved queen mother out to kill her as part of a bid to create a portal to another world (like Kitana and Queen Sindel in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,) which also involves Hath-Set licking the helpless Shayera across the face (see Terminator 2: Judgment Day.) Then there are the already established Brightest Day-specific cliches, like the newly introduced villains who always seem to have direct ties to the hero's origin stories that somehow escaped mention for decades of published adventures. As with Batman Incorporated, the face of modern comics is being shaved off in deli thin slices and packed into a double meat subway sandwich for its own brown bag lunch.

Brightest Day #14 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I'm confident that despite shared credit, this story was written entirely by Geoff Johns, because it sucks somewhat less and with a different flavor than the Hawkman issue. Instead of stringy face shavings, this is more like a nice strip off the breast or thigh of artistic integrity. If you must dine in hell, you might as well use a grill.

Deadman is a nice enough notion of a character, but we all know what comics he managed to sell had a lot more to do with Neal Adams, José Luis García-López and Kelly Jones than Arnold Drake, Andy Helfer or Doug Moench. Ivan Reis holds his own in that company, but he draws a masked Deadman ugly, and we all buy Ivan Reis comics because he draws people model pretty. Further, it doesn't take long to realize that without being a possessing spirit or distracted by a ring quest, Deadman is just another asshole gymnast in a universe where they're literally a dime a dozen if you buy the right Batman title. Speaking of the Dark Knight, this comic marks the second recent example of Batman having an action figure produced based on a cheesy costume variation that lasts only a few pages of a Geoff Johns comic. What the fuck is wrong with you people buying this shit?

Moving right along, Johns proves why he's a better writer than Tomasi by what he chooses to steal from. Johns bases Darkest Night on a relatively obscure Alan Moore short story from a Green Lantern annual, while Tomasi steals something from widely known Alan Moore stories almost every time he boots up his computer. Johns borrows liberal from Stan Lee's beloved "ironic" twist origins for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, while Tomasi just outbid you on eBay for that Miracleman trade to replace the one he "referenced" until it deteriorated to a fine four color powder. If Moore is the Beatles and Alex Ross is the Eagles, I guess that makes Geoff Johns Journey to Tomasi's cover band. Now take off that fugly mask and kiss Dove like we knew you were gonna six months back, because Ivan draws handsomely and Johns delivers predictably, like the milk man used to.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday Is For Leftovers For All I Care #89

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1
The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2010
Skullkickers #1 (2010)
Star Wars: Knight Errant #1 (2010)

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
Eric Powell's side project with Kyle Hotz looks great and has some amusing dialogue, whether from the hideously adorable Elephant Man or the willfully belligerent Henry "Billy" McCarty. It strikes me as a good book to offer a reader suffering withdrawal between Mike Mignola or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen installments. Don't let that inflate you expectations, because this is a Kit-Kat subbing for gourmet chocolate, but ya takes what ya can gets. There's also a serialized Goon back-up that does nothing for me.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Presents Liberty Annual 2010 (Image, 2010, $4.99)
A good cause offering a good excuse to try an anthology, which are rarely any good. They're grab bags of unsatisfying shorts with the hope of plucking out at least one jewel, and that optimism is fueled in part by the caliber of creators the CBLDF can rally. Darick Robertson starts things off with the best looking Conan story I've seen in years, which serves an amusing story centered on political satire. Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba offer a very Eurocentric tale of dystopia that accomplishes what its four pages would allow. Garth Ennis and Rob Steen then shit the bed with The Boys, in a story whose joke I either didn't get, or was so obviously terrible I wasn't confident it was being told.

Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan emerge from '80s indie limbo with a two page Boilerplate tale about the fuckery of intellectual property law, which is better than it sounds. Rob Liefeld contributes an hilariously on the nose Freedom's Lady double page spread. The long missed Evan Dorkin returns for two pages of the best Milk and Cheese strip in ages, which just made me miss Dork! all the more. There's the obligatory Frank Miller Sin City spread, another nice (if random) one by Paul Pope, a Comic Book Guy splash by Jill Thompson, and Lady Liberty by Terry Moore.

I remember Image Comics foisting their own tepid Not Brand Ecch upon the speculating public twenty years ago, and I've always held it against Don Simpson. However, his mocking libertarianism through Megaton Man was alright. There's a one pager called "Charley Loves Robots" that's also okay. It isn't until Gail Simone and Amanda F. Gould's ambitiously awful "Monsters at the Door" that the second half slump really sets in. Scott Morse tries to save the flow with the bitter "Phaeton," but any gains he made were lost by the aggressively pointles "X-Rayz" by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. Strong pin-ups by Jeff Smith, Skottie Young, Amanda Conner and Colleen Doran salve the wound, though. There's also a page by Ben McCool and Billy Tucci, but it looks so much like a Crusade Comics house ad, I can't objectively judge it. A two page Beanworld strip by CBLDF Larry Marder closes things out with a pleasantly delivered School House Rock message (no song,) to remind folks why they bought the book in the first place. Skip the tired gender politik excesses of "Monsters" and the moronic Boys tale, and you should come out of this feeling good about yourself.

Skullkickers #1 (Image, 2010, $2.99)
Tolkienesque vaguely medieval Middle Earth bullshit turns me off like the prospect of being the meat in a Rosies Barr & O'Donnell sandwich. Skullkickers is a relief in that within the milieu it punctures any associated pretense at every opportunity in its story of two asshole mercenaries just trying to make mead money. I'm also not big on stereotypically manga-style art with Dreamwave cartoon cel coloring, but that grows on you here, as it works for the material. The script isn't as funny as it would like to be, and the plot isn't advanced as quickly as one would wish, but it's still much better than the usual cringe-inducing comic book action comedies (Deadpool, Lobo, etc.)

Star Wars: Knight Errant #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $2.99)
I can't even pretend I give a shit about Star Wars anymore, my enthusiasm has been so thoroughly extinguished. It's over a millennium before the movies, and it's still about the Republic on the brink of destruction as the Sith press their advantage. I know at the end of the day it's all about good vs. evil with copious swashbuckling, but when they can't even be bothered to change the names of the players, it signals creative bankruptcy. John Jackson Miller telegraphs the fuck out of this initial tale, so you know exactly where the far-famed unbeatable Jedi Master and his rebellious pupil will end up by the story's end. Throw in a parent-killing Darth Vader proxy or two and an idealistic love interest with a secret past, and you've got the predictability of geek porn. Maybe that's why so many Warsies are Jesus freaks: the comforting predictability of the same stories whitewashed and retold for generations.

The art by Federico Dallocchio looks well above par at first blush, but the creeping stiffness of obvious and extensive photo reference cramps his style. His storytelling also leaves something to be desired, with one action sequence so mangled the dialogue has to be reread to decipher what happened between panels. Regardless, the glorious coloring of Michael Atiyeh makes up for all shortcomings, making Knight Errant a lovely comic to look at and not read again and again.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Linkypeux of 11.14.2010

John Henry gave his life against the Inky Poo to prove a man could overcome a machine. Frank Lee Delano fights a losing weekly battle against the internet, so that his sacrificed time might save your own.


Art & Photograpy
Malgosia Bela by Tim Walker (Touch Puppet)
Devon Aoki by Ellen von Unwerth (Touch Puppet)
Charlotte di Calypso by Miles Aldridge (Touch Puppet)
Liu Wen by Sebastian Kim (Touch Puppet)


Barry Munday review by Dustin Rowles (Pajiba)
Let Me In review by Daniel Carlson (Pajiba)

Celebrity Gossip:
Frankie Muniz Is The Bane Of Shia LaBeouf's Existence (dlisted)

Comic Book Blogs:
Nobody’s Favorites: Neutro (Armagideon Time)
Nobody’s Favorites: Man-Monster (Armagideon Time)
Nobody’s Favorites: The Butcher (Armagideon Time)
Nobody’s Favorites: Terrorsmith (Armagideon Time)
Nobody’s Favorites: Scott Fischer (Armagideon Time)
The Champion Bad Guy: Iron Jaw (The Comics Journal)
"And Men Shall Call Him . . . Warlock!" from Marvel Premiere No. #1 (Kingdom Kane)
"The Hounds of Helios!" from Marvel Premiere No. 2, May 1972 (Kingdom Kane)
79: The X-Men #1 (Marvel Genesis)
80: Fantastic Four Annual #1 (Marvel Genesis)
81: Journey into Mystery #96 (Marvel Genesis)
82: The Avengers #1 (Marvel Genesis)
83: Tales to Astonish #48 (Marvel Genesis)
84: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #3 (Marvel Genesis)
85: Amazing Spider-Man #5 (Marvel Genesis)
86: Strange Tales #113 (Marvel Genesis)
What If... the Hulk Went Berserk? (Siskoid's Blog of Geekery)

NUDITY (Not Safe For Work):
Jessica Alba - GQ - Nov 2010 (3NE)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley - DT Magazine (Spain) - January 2010 (DeepAtSea)
Candice Swanepoel - Vman Magazine - Winter 2010 x3 (DeepAtSea)
Rosario Dawson - GQ Magazine (Germany) - November 2010 (Egotastic!)
Lily Cole All Freckly and Naked and Birthday Wishy All-Over (Egotastic!)
Eliana Franco Sexy Topless Photoshoot for La Revolucion (VIDEO) (Egotastic!)
Elizabeth Loaiza Pictures Are Sexing Back to Cali (Egotastic!)
Paz De La Huerta, Purple FW10-11 photographed by Hanna Liden (Finn's Place)
Unknown for American Apparel (Finn's Place)
Bare Back to the Future (The Scandy Factory)
Portraits by Eric Ray Davidson (Touch Puppet)
Lara Stone by Steven Klein (Touch Puppet)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Is About Dollar Dames For All I Care #88

Image Firsts: Dead@17 #1
Image Firsts: Hack/Slash #1
Lady Death Premiere
Mata Hari #0 (2010)
Warlord of Mars #1 (2010)

Image Firsts: Dead@17 #1 (Image, 2003/2010, $1.00)
Once again, I'm in a position to compare Josh Howard's Dead@17 unfavorably against Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash. Howard draws in a cartoonish style that completely neutralizes the horror element while still managing to sexualize the murder of a teenage girl. The characters are uninvolving stock caricatures, the genre tropes familiar, and I fail to see the appeal in Buffy meets lonelygirl15.

Image Firsts: Hack/Slash (Image, 2010, $1.00)
I maybe should have been pissed when I realized this book featured the same material as Hack/Slash: New Reader Halloween Treat #1, which itself reprinted segments from Euthenized and Gross Anatomy. However, I'm not sure where my copy is, and I enjoyed the material more the second time than the first (there were extraneous spoilery elements that irked me then, plus I'd paid $3.50.) I did finally buy a trade paperback collection, My First Maniac, that I hopefully won't read and wait a year to review, as is often the case...

Lady Death Premiere (Boundless, 2010, Free)
I'm not entirely sure why Avatar felt the need to create a separate publishing entity to release a Lady Death comic. There's still gore, cleavage 'o plenty, and at least one naked ass, which posits it on the welcoming end of immature mature readership. I guess when your company is known for incestuous rape and the devouring of entrails in grisly detail, there might be concern that might overshadow more mainstream product. 

Lady Death is still written by Brian Pulido as a better than average '80s fantasy title with surprisingly good art. Marcelo Mueller bridges the stylistic gap between two of the character's best known artists, Steven Hughes and Ivan Reis, so expect him to be stolen by a major publisher in the relatively near future. Somebody's going to have to draw that Aquaman ongoing series after Brightest Day wraps. The twelve page story establishes a new nemesis and status quo, and is trailed by three pin-ups intended for future covers by Juan Jose Ryp (already drawing a Wolverine book for Marvel,) Richard Ortiz, and Matt Martin (who draws a damned fine athletic backside.) I've never been a big Lady Death supporter, but it does my heart good that she and Vampirella are still headliners at small companies, instead of wasting away in a big company file drawer.

Mata Hari #0 (Radical, 2010, $1.00)
I talk a lot of shit about Radical Publishing, and I do think they ruin Roy Allan Martinez's art by having Drazenka Kimpel paint over it like an old Innovation adaptation, but Mata Hari still comes across well. Obviously, the infamous entertainer/spy presents a rich vein for fiction, and writer Rich Wilkes takes pleasure in weaving contestable fact with fiction. As usual, the book abruptly stops with narrative interuptus, and I'm not won over to such a degree as to pay twenty bucks for the hardcover graphic novel, but I got my buck's worth at the taste.

Lady Death Premiere (Boundless, 2010, Free)
I also talk a lot of shit about Dynamite Entertainment, but their take on Edgar Rice Buroughs' John Carter starts off strong. I've been impressed with what little I've read from Arvid Nelson, and his take on Carter by way of '70s Clint Eastwood sells the badass. Stephen Sadowski, who I always found off-putting on super-heroes, seems far more in his element on a western. After the first dozen pages, both creators stumble in the transition to Mars. Sad's Martian youths look like cloned Ambush Bugs, while Nelson doesn't have much to offer amidst the sparse dialogue and barbarism on display in the back ten. A two page prose piece tries to pick up the slack, but momentum had been lost. Again, this teaser is stronger than average, and I'd be willing to try another, but not at full price.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #87

Brightest Day #11-12
Chaos War #1
Knight & Squire #1
R.E.B.E.L.S. #21 (2010)

Brightest Day #11-12 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
Are we halfway through yet? No? Fuck.

Deathstorm had better be some sort of '90s metacommentary (like Superboy Prime spoke to entitled fanboys,) because he's cheesy and irritating even in small doses. Scott Clark's art on the Firestorm feature continues to be bad, still employing low rent computer effects, now juxtaposed with poor man's Jae Lee styling. Especially disappointing is a full page money shot of Firestorm trying to be a badass, shouting his own logo '80s logo. Alex Ross lives for that kind of shot, but the execution is utter saltpeter. What isn't in awkward silhouette is chicken-scratch buried under cornball digital fire effects. The best part is a two-page satirical homage to an iconic image from last year. There's also a nice bit in the latter issue where Jason tries to sell Ronnie (and readers) on Firestorm's past glory, even if comparing rogues galleries with Batman and the Flash raises snickers.

Meanwhile, Aquaman's feature continues to be so damned pretty, but it feels like the Sea King has been fighting Black Manta for three months straight. It doesn't help that when Manta's sissybitch dartpoon finally connects with human flesh, it's Aquaman's, managing to pierce body armor when bullets were bouncing off the hero's brow months back.

D'Kay D'Razz? Fucking hell, Martian Manhunter-- can't you ever catch a break? Commander Blanx was silly as it was, and you were really pushing it with Ma'alefa'ak, but D'Kay makes Bel Juz look like Peter O'Toole. As if that wasn't laying it on thick enough, she's got the Martian equivalent of Night of the Hunter tats ('tho bitch stole her's from Sideshow Bob, guaranteed) offers a plate of Oreos at a formal dinner, plus plays the "alienated hero," "widower" and "I had your origin before you" cards? Once again, we have the Villain Sue trying much too hard to win reader approval. Worse, this feels so much like a retread of Ostrander/Mandrake, from the otherwise good artist who doesn't quite work on the character (Pat Gleason) to the writer who is set on stuffing J'Onn J'Onzz into ill-fitting molds (Peter Tomasi.)

Well, at least Deadman & Dove only polluted one page this month.

Chaos War #1 (Marvel, 2010, $3.99)
You know how DC sometimes has those "other" crossovers. Like, they decide to have one generated out of storylines from Wonder Woman or the New Gods, and nobody cares? Twenty years later, you're like, oh yeah, Genesis happened. What was that about again? Someone may try to tell you, but you kind of get lost in thought on a tangent partway through. "An event comic drawn by Cynthia Martin that was supposed to be buoyed by pin-ups from a very green Chris Spouse? Didn't that go up again The Infinity Gauntlet? Ouch."

So, yeah, Chaos War. It starts with King Chaos (really) tearing out Nightmare's heart and lopping off his head. That should get those five thousand Dr. Strange fans' blood pumping. It isn't like you could ever bring back Nightmare, who is like a more omnipotent Freddy Krueger. That'll take.

Hey, Hercules is back. From the dead or something. Yeah, something else, but like that. He's a lot more powerful and crazy now, so he starts punching out pantheons like in Lobo's Back. By the way, when the fuck is Luke Cage going to put on a fucking costume and not just be the average looking black guy with a speaking part? You know, I'm still not wild about Bucky Barnes as Captain America, but Steve Rogers' spy suit isn't too bad. The guns bother me a lot, though.

Where was I? The crossover! Right. The dialogue is actually cute, but I don't see where people who didn't read Incredible Hercules would get much out of this. Khoi Pham's art is nice, recalling guys like Mike Kaluta and Charles Vess, which most definitely is high praise. There's also a back-up story about some stuff Hercules got up to between now and his series getting canceled. Excited yet?

Knight & Squire #1 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
That was a disappointment. I'm into international heroes, so a British Batman with a Harley Quinn lookalike sidekick held some appeal for me. I also dug glimpses of the pair in JLA Classified and elsewhere. However, like Phonogram, this issue totally alienated me by being so exclusively British that it seemed more like a book length in-joke/private party than an accessible story.

Limeys love their pubs, so the whole thing is set in a bar full of super-heroes and villains magically barred from throwing down. A P.O.V. character is introduced to allow Squire to give a Moore/Ellis-style truncated pseudo-history, except the new creations are all rather stupid. When you get down to evil Ruttles analogues and heroes based on Benny Hill skits, you've scrapped through the bottom of the barrel to the floor.

Remember the part about the "magical bar," and how half the book is about how all these truces were signed under its protection. Do you see the "twist" coming, by which I mean an Alanis Morissette more than a Shyamalan, because it's totally going to rain on your wedding day?

Knight is in this a little bit, but he's as chatty as modern Batman with more of a Silver Age temperament, which is to say he's boring. The British Joker gets the best lines, which aren't worth repeating, and his personality runs its course within the one issue. The art's okay, and the package is inoffensive, but I can't see what possessed an editor to approve something so aggressively niche.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #21 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
This one was alright, offering an origin for an Okaaran rookie Green Lantern and casting Lobo in an unusually positive light. Vril Dox works his angles, Bedard's script does the same, and I continue to enjoy Claude St. Aubin's art. My only complaint is the two page spread featuring ten L.E.G.I.O.N. heroes, including four that were presented as co-stars early on, who have spent most of the series in bit parts or cameos. Outside of Dox, the title never seems content with its cast, constantly introducing new faces to be ignored within a few months.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Frank Review of "His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th" (2009)

The Short Version? Slasher flick icon gets discussed.
What Is It? Documentary.
Who Is In It? All the usual suspects, plus some completely random people, like that guy from Psych.
Should I See It? Probably.

Growing up in the 1980s, and I'm sure for decades prior, there were these TV specials featuring behind the scenes footage and interviews for upcoming movies. Even though they were essentially commercials, they were still heavily advertised 30-minute-to-half-hour events with their own hosts run on network television. At the same time, UHF channels and cable television were using similar material stripped to bare basics as bumpers between movies. The public generally became better educated about the mechanics of film production, so the "specials" seemed to fade away going into the '90s. They kind of got replaced by the geek documentary: fan/creators seeking to legitimize their dorky obsessions by getting deep into the sociopolitical relevance of Star Trek and such. Between the revelatory nature of the deeper meanings found in good docs and the amusement of someone pulling imagined weight out of their assholes in the bad ones, it was a really fun period for that type of material. Unfortunately, the rise of "reality television" economics has made the cheap ass pseudo-documentary exasperatingly common nowadays, so every pop culture dead end can be counted on to receive several feature length dedications to their dubious merits.

Take Jason Vorhees, for instance. The original Friday the 13th may have been a canny spin on Psycho that paid off the insinuated gore of Halloween, but by the third installment it was just a straight up Michael Myers knock-off in a rural locale. However, the character has turned up in twelve feature films and counting, so you'd think there must be something special to warrant that kind of longevity. Watching the direct-to-DVD His Name Was Jason, I suspect it's the same base, comforting, familiar formula that kept Married... With Children on the air for over a decade. It isn't that there's anything great about Jason Vorhees as a character, and his movies are fairly consistently lousy, but his potency as an iconic image is hard to deny.

Like your typical Friday flick, His Name Was Jason is crappy in the early going. Jumping quickly between film footage and an excess of interviewees, nobody is saying anything worthwhile. Tom Savini, who famously passed on Part 2 because he thought bringing back Jason was nonsense, comes off as as a bit of a low quote sellout as the host. He's also involved in interstitials depicting victims stalked/killed by Jason on a set. The cheesy devices used to cut everything together (CGI hatchets/blood spills/sound effects) are truly obnoxious, and there seems to be a real rush to cover each shitty, repetitive sequel as rapidly as possible. In fact, I switched the movie off after about twenty minutes and let it sit for a month before giving the flick another go.

The overly busy production eventually settled down, like an ADHD kid whose Ritalin starts kicking in. The interstitials start featuring actual kills and tits. Most of the stupid transitional effects get dropped. Individuals involved in the various productions start being given space to tell their stories. That last one especially makes the difference, because you start to realize part of the appeal is the shared experience of being in a Jason movie, and the usually positive impact that association has on their lives. There's a real feeling of community between fans and the decades of performs involved with the movies that seems to enrich their lives. The movies are still dumb formula, but the relationships are almost profound.

While the documentary itself may be too crassly commercial and mainstream, the special features more than make up for its faults.


  • The Men Behind The Mask Forty-six minutes of interviews with every actor to play Jason Vorhees. Without all the garbage and quick cuts, plus full of information, I enjoyed this more than the actual documentary.
  • Final Cuts Same as before, except an 1 1/4 hour with the directors. It's almost as if the documentarians knew their work was getting chopped to shit, so they indulged themselves by offering everything they could have possibly wanted in a real doc as extravagant special features. I had my favorite Jasons, and there are some directors with much more insight than others, but as a whole this is a robust pair of worthwhile features.
  • Dragged From The Lake Twenty minutes of stuff cut for being too long or extraneous. Not bad, but I don't want to hear about Alice's stalker or art ever again. Too creepy and sad, not necessarily as expected. Also, I never saw Part VII, but it seems to have been the Freddy's Revenge of the series, so I oughta.
  • Fan Films I had a knee jerk reaction at first glance, until I hit the sub-menu to check the marquee. Freddy vs. Jason in 30 Seconds With Bunnies and The Angry Video Game Nerd: Friday the 13th Episode have made the internet rounds for years, and are pretty good. Jason Hurts is a solid enough skit that runs a bit long. The only dud is Rupert Takes Manhattan, about Jason's unsuccessful brother who wears a catcher's mask. That gag is old as shit, and poorly executed besides.
  • Closing the Book on the Final Chapter About ten minutes spent at the Jarvis house from Part IV with the director and a pseudo-Jason. After everything else, this was a bit of a drag, but not so much through fault of its own.
  • Fox Comes Home I assumed this would be some lame Fox trailers, but it's actually the actress from the 3D one (which I also haven't seen) showing off the location from her film for four minutes. For the diehards only.
  • Friday the 13th in 4 Minutes Three accomplished fans separately give a loose summary of the entire original series and have it edited together into a narrative. Cute. Inessential.
  • Jason Takes Comic-Con Dread Central.Com interviews cast members from the reboot's marketing salvo at San Diego. Lame as it sounds.
  • The Camp Crystal Lake Survival Guide Everybody offers Scream-type advise for another four minutes, run though a cheesy "dated footage" filter.
  • Inside Halloween Horror Nights An tour of the Universal Studios Camp Blood attraction used extensively in the documentary.
  • Shelly Lives! Sketch comedy. No, it isn't.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday is for Dollar Dark Horse & I Don't Care #86

Groo: One For One
Image Firsts: G0dland #1
Magnus, Robot Fighter: One for One
Star Wars: Legacy: One for One

Groo: One For One #1 (Dark Horse, 1998/2010, $1.00)
I read some Groo back in the Epic Comics days, but never the first issue, and I found it weird. Although imbecilic Groo is present, there's an unexpected and unexplained twist that leads me to conclude the story continues in later editions. It was a cute story, but I never laughed and wasn't remotely intrigued enough to pursue an answer.

Image Firsts: Godland #1 (Image, 2005/2010, $1.00)
Jack Kirby was treated with utter contempt when he returned to Marvel in the mid-70s, and I'd always assumed it was because of sour grapes over his "betrayal" by going to DC. Thing is, his DC books didn't go over either, and looking at Tom Scioli rough-edged Kirby pastiche, I think I can see why. The King developed his most distinctive style in the '60s, and even with the extra detail and indy touches Scioli adds, the material positively screams for its era or origin. This art was hopelessly dated in the '70s, just as it was too ill-formed to suit the 1950s. Kirby was crowned the King in his set place in time, and influenced plenty who followed, but he simply peaked and failed to adapt further.

None of which is especially relevant to Joe Casey's Godland, which quite intentionally works modern slang and affectations like piercings into his scripts, so that when adapted through the anachronistic art, it offers a jolt of cognitive dissonance. It's funky and metatextual, which I dug, but it was still just '70s Kirby with a bit more bite (plus competent dialogue.) Your standing opinion on that material may determine your mileage from there.

Magnus, Robot Fighter: One for One #1 (Dark Horse, 1963/2010, $1.00)
Son of a bitch! I ordered this without realizing I'd already received and reviewed the exact same reprint free! I guess I'll added that both versions look to have been scanned directly from old comics and processed through digital filters. It makes the art look fuzzy, and the washed out coloring is shitty. It's still a neat story worth a buck though, if you missed it.

Star Wars: Legacy: One for One (Dark Horse, 2010, $1.00)
I was a Warsie before that retarded term existed. George Lucas didn't rape my childhood, but he did point out the flaws in the original trilogy by compounding them with his follow-up. I still followed Star Trek as a kid, but it seemed by and for old people. Now that I myself am an older person, I realize Trek is so nerdy it's cool, by reflecting real world politics and influence science and other high minded pursuits. Star Wars meanwhile is hopelessly mired in a romanticized past, and without the benefit of good swashbuckling, I don't see much appeal in a feudal system.

After nearly thirty years of mostly spinning wheels with the same set of characters (oh no, Chewie!) someone finally decided to take the daring chance of aping what Star Trek: The Next Generation did nearly a quarter-century ago by jumping ahead a hundred years. Establishing text from the inside cover talks up how "new" this is, and promised "the Star Wars franchise still had plenty of life left in it," which is something you say to cheer up a grandparent on a birthday. After all, the first page offers mildly redesigned tie-fighters belonging to a resurrected Empire. I think we can all relate, as we're still struggling with czars, confederate forces, the Third Reich, the fascists and the soviets, right? Isn't that why the new Tea Party formed, to combat that secret cabal of resurgent Redcoats?

So yeah, "new" in Star Wars means the villains' outfits are pointier, since they all have tired tribal tattoos like Darth Maul, who was supposed to be decades dead before the first movie in '77. This is a grim and gritty future (like every Wars knock-off, including Star Trek's, which ran nearly a decade a decade back) where almost all of the Jedi have been slain (again) by the Sith (again.) A young Jedi named Skywalker risks succumbing to the dark side of the force because of his emotional ties to a parent who died right in front of him (again.) There are even still Moffs around for the latest Darth Vader wannabe to dick with while making plays and struggling with his own alignment. Basically, it's the exact same thing as always and ever, ladling common genre cliche on top of Wars-specific ones. You know what I like to imagine? That this is a bunch of LARPers or the equivalent of Civil War reenactors just pretending like fuck all has changed from Lucas' brain dead Asimov lift of decades past.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Frank Review of "Return of the Living Dead 3" (1993)

The Short Version? Romeo meets Zombiette
What Is It? Horror
Who Is In It? Lady Heather, Officer Jim Reed, Ursa
Should I See It? Probably not.

Brian Yuzna directed the overrated Society, and not much else you’d want on your IMDb page. He specializes in horror movies that look like ambitious but underfunded stage plays with bad lighting, including those straight to video jobs that trailer movies you suddenly realize from their presence you shouldn’t have rented. It takes a special kind of ineptitude to release a two million dollar sequel to a classic horror-comedy as a melodrama that only recoups a quarter of its budget. Still, if only because of late night showings in my formative years, I have a very small amount of affection for Return of the Living Dead III. It isn’t in any way objectively good, but it is surprisingly watchable, and has memorable moments.

The movie opens on the set of a Wilson Phillips video-- no wait, that’s just the overpowering presence of the early nineties at work. Acid washed jeans, floppy boy hair, those stupid hats-- if such a movie were produced today, I would howl over how insanely on the nose of 1992 everything was. Anyway, this is the story of an army brat boy having fallen for a bad girl to the dismay of his widowed daddy. Pops is involved in a very loose continuation of the previous movies, his idea to have the military use zombies as weapons against enemy nations soon falling out of favor and replaced by zombies acting as meat batteries for exoskeletons controlled through medieval means. Half of what I just wrote made no sense, but there’s enough idiocy in the script that focusing on any one inanity requires an impressive amount of tunnel vision on the viewers’ part. The script is wretched, the characters are all ridiculously deserving of dire fates, and Pitfall Harry couldn’t get over this many plot holes.

The boy sneaks onto a military installation that must be run by Gomer Pyle to show his girlfriend the reanimated dead, until whoops, she joins their ranks. Forgetting all that stuff from the first movie about zombies needing to eat brains to relieve themselves temporarily of the agony of being undead, the bad girl instead uses pain to distract herself from wanting to eat whatever human body part is readily available, specifically her boyfriend's. On the run through South Central Los Angeles, the star-crossed couple run into all sorts of offensive racial caricatures, including a magical negro derelict who shelters them in his sewer home while growling every moronic line. He’s still better than the boy, an actor so bad I’m not sure I buy his respiration, much less his delivery. The girl actually went on to better things, and deservedly so, but she’s still finding her way here.

Prior to the hour mark, things start to drag, but the film seems to reach its anti-climax within a quarter past. Disconcertingly, the movie then continues for another quarter hour, which feels inorganic, but is actually where most of the money and fucked up imagery ends up. What makes it weird is that it's 9/10ths of a vampire movie, then suddenly becomes a true zombie flick about the time you're ready to check out.

In summary, the movie is a mess. Everything looks cheap, the script sucks, the acting eats dick, fans of the earlier movies will miss the yucks, and zombie fans will miss the yuck. Still, our heroine zombie serves as an early alternative culture/piercing/cutting icon, there are some clever bits, a surprising presence (if not quantity) of tits, and it's generally better than the sum of its parts.


  • Director's Commentary Film geeks always appreciate tracks that go into this level of detail... unless it's for a Brian Yuzna production. So wait, you just kept repainting the same boxes and shining different colored lights through them to give the appearance of new set locations? Who'da thunk it? Besides everyone?
  • Cast CommentaryHoly shit! Two tracks for this turd? Someone's getting fired over this waste of company resources! Also, I don't know if you can technically call it the cast when one member and a technician shows up. Admittedly, it was star Melinda Clarke and Thomas C. Rainone (2nd unit/effects supervisor,) but still. It's fun to listen to the awkward silences whenever Tom hits on her or steers the conversation toward right wing politics. This would have been adequate on its own, but after a second viewing with the director, enough was enough.
  • Trailers Remember what I said earlier? All Yuzna features, including Progeny, Faust: Love of the Damned and The Dentist 1 & 2

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wednesday is Veteran's Day For All I Care #85

Captain America: Patriot #1
DC Universe: Legacies #5
Freedom Fighters #1 (2010)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #20 (2010)

Captain America: Patriot #1 (Marvel, 2010, $3.99)
Wow-- someone with a perfectly logical and contextually reasonable excuse to wear a silly costume and punch people? All done with WWII moxie? Hells yeah, I can read me some of that! Bugle reporter Jeff Mace was doing the "get paid to write your own adventures" shtick long before Spider-Man, and he does it in a joyous newsreel hyperbole. There's heroic period action and some affecting melodrama, plus light cast on an area of continuity I think has been discussed more in Marvel handbooks than in four color works. Karl Kesel is clearly enjoying himself, and Mitch Breitweiser is in his element (especially in this Ed Brubaker day and age.) Good stuff!

DCU: Legacies #5 (DC, 2010, $3.99)
In the '90s, Image Comics was the artists' company, Marvel the X-Editors company, Valiant the Bronze Age fans company, Dark Horse the licensing company, and so on. DC indulged in its own editorially-mandated cash grabs, but it also quietly developed a reputation as a reader's company. DC was a good place for super-hero geeks to get their fix of traditional long underwear action with a side of mature readers fare, mostly driven by the imaginations of their writers. I fell hard for this universe in that decade, and have boxes full of Who's Who/Secret Files/RPG reference to prove it.

Under Didio, DC has become Marvel in the '90s, always chasing after attention and steamrolling over creative. They've so thoroughly alienated writers, they can't even keep former editors(-in-chief even!) turned freelancers from a bunch of the previously named companies working for them. They're now at the point where they're letting their second-rate artists write their own books, or in this case, calling in old timers that couldn't get work for much of the '90s.

Legacies is the kind of continuity porn I'd have spit in my palm over a decade or so back, but I just do not give a fuck today. In the old days, you could knock this kind of timeline-as-plot crap out in a couple of books ala History of the DC Universe, but in the decompressed Final Age it takes a dozen issues of fatty fatty boom Balatty to get this off. Worse, Marvels made the bystander narrator the go-to device for these stories, and suffice to say, for every Phil Sheldon or Norman McCay there's a dozen Guy Incognitos or Jack Shits to make a muddle of the tired technique. I won't trouble you with the name of the ex-cop employed here, except to point out that he must somehow manage to live through seventy-five years of DC continuity and half of it involves Batman, so forget "realism."

Ex-cop whines about how awful it is that the Joker and everybody else stopped robbing banks and started killing people. Never mind that the Joker got his start killing people, and he only turned pussy because of protectionist scapegoating in the 1950s because people were to stupid to realize access to transportation and excesses of free time had more to do with juvenile delinquency than EC horror stories. Writer Len Wein is sucking off the same teat as most coddled baby-boomers who get misty for the good 'ol days, not realizing they were born a few years removed from sweatshops, child labor, and a pre-union "disposable" workforce. I guess it was kind of swell to beat/rape your wife with impunity if she got out of line, just like in those old Superman comics.

Where was I? Oh yeah-- a page is devoted to how horrible the Spectre became in those demented Adventure Comics stories that Harlan Ellison got sued over, while making sure to faithfully depict the twisted vengeance meted out. Then the newly Van Dyked Oliver Queen was shown on the news right after the freshly hirsute Green Arrow, reminding us that maybe people really were stupider back then. Ex-Cop and his overly opinionated daughter bitched about how dark and icky the remarkably naive but progressive Green Arrow had become, even ranking on his bad ass Neal Adams costume in favor of that baggy shit he'd worn since the Roosevelt Administration. For serious? But wait, then the Ex-Cop (er-- just cop in these flashbacks, but already crotchety) shows up at a parole hearing for his freckled Irish brother-in-law looking to turn over another leaf. That cliche is so dated, it's almost fresh again from decades of disuse. It's vintage store hackery.

Next, the Cop offers his thinly-veiled take on illegal immigration by pointing out that the "good ones" were far outweighed by the filthy wetgreenbacks who were always getting into spaceship collisions without insurance, and like fifty lizards haul ass from the scene before the cops arrive. I don't know Len Wein's politics, but his characters got on my pinko nerves damned quick.

As a proper geek, I got even more upset when the chronology, the whole point of insular circle jerk projects like this, proved fucktop. The Charlton heroes (est. 1958) arrived on the scene en masse after Firestorm (introduced twenty years later.) Then Batman quit the Justice League (his photo on a newspaper headline, so fuck you urban legend angle, unless you mean this thing called "printed media" the kids won't recognize in ten years) before the all-new Doom Patrol arrived (1983 vs. 1977.) There's also painfully unfunny stuff like the umpteenth iteration of "It's a bird--plane--Superman," which makes me want to punch a baby seal in its moist nose.

Things got less annoying from there, and settled into boring. George Perez drew the Crisis on Infinite Earths, again, from a worse camera angle. Nothing about the even was actually explained beyond red skies, wind, and super-heroes catching debris. This segued perfectly into a back-up strip with ugly tossed off art by Walt Simonson. It was just like Crisis in its throwing together random characters to perform the Micky Mouse Club roll call and speak exposition to one another. Adam Strange is the star of a collection of Silver Age sci-fi characters, and for some reason he's an asshole to everyone. Maybe he was as pissed to be involved with this as I was?

Freedom Fighters #1 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
During the Bush years, Palmiotti & Gray's new super group were gratingly partisan and obnoxiously obvious about their strawman arguments. When the issue opened at a Native American reservation casino being attacked by Axis America, I was pretty confident this would be more of the same tone deaf preaching in the O'Neil/Winick tradition. I was right, but after six pages the action blessedly shifted away from the two most awful Freedom Fighters (Black Condor III & Firebrand... um... IV? V?)

I wonder if artist Travis Moore agreed with me, because his work on those pages was rather lackluster, then suddenly become dandy when the Human Bomb begins a space adventure. A few pages later, and a Phantom Lady/Ray team-up looks better still. Just as importantly, the writing shifts to Grant Morrison JLA, allowing the massive scale of threats handled by portions of the titular team dictate how impressive the individual members must be. Avoiding a common pitfall, they don't tell the readers their characters are formidable, but instead show the heroes being kinda spectacular. The new Phantom Lady certainly seems esteemed, and the Human Bomb doesn't look like a dork, which is quite a feat. I miss the Ray's band jacket though, as his current black unitard is boring, and his collar is Disco Elvis hideous.

Someone explain to me why in the DC Universe, instead of Obama/Biden, the President of the United States is some fat mustached white guy with a lady VP. Replacing Bush with Lex Luthor was at worst a lateral move, and made sense, but these people just confused me. Unfortunately, the book kept jumping the shark at this point, from Nic Cage showing up with the real constitution to the Freedom Fighters being pitted against rejected Alpha Flight villains. I can't see continuing the book after these cock-ups, but the creative team have succeeded in making me think twice before spitting on a third or so of the team's membership. That's almost a kudo.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #20 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
There's a certain inevitability to my buying this book now. It isn't great, but it's good enough. The writing is solid, and I'm glad Claude St. Aubin has settled into regular art chores. The book is full of characters I have an interest in, although that's a problem in itself, as it necessitates the spotlight to act more like a disco ball. This issue brings in Lobo with a Dave Finch cover, which is probably a good idea. L.E.G.I.O.N. wouldn't have lasted seven years as just a contemporary Legion of Super-Heroes spin-off, and Lobo gave back to the book that relaunched him as his popularity soared in the early '90s. R.E.B.E.L.S. 2.0 is a lot more relevant to the DC Universe than the previous model, and maybe they could extend that good will to a Lobo who's mostly gotten by on the odd guest spot in recent years.

On the other hand, Lyrl Dox is a fraction of his former patricidal infant self, and I'm over all this Brainiac bullshit. I'm concerned Lobo might take over the book, and I'm still waiting for it to develop its wealth of simmering subplots. I wish the book was as wicked clever as the '90s model, but it feels like one of the B-teams you follow because you're a Justice League fan. I guess what I'm saying is that this book is okay, but frustrating and not as involving as it could be

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wednesday is Greenest Day For All I Care #84

Adventure Comics #518
Brightest Day #9
Brightest Day #10
Green Arrow #4 (2010)

Adventure Comics #518 (DC, 2010, $3.99)
Fuck! Good! About time! I was a serious Legion of Super-Hero collector for about six years, and I like the Atom well enough to have a blog devoted to him, so I figured giving this series a shot couldn't be all bad. Turned out that was three issues worth of the worst stories I've read from either franchise, and I highly doubt I'll ever give another $4 book that kind of benefit of the doubt again. This was my last pre-ordered issue, and I don't know what the fuck Paul Levitz was thinking on his lead story.

You've got a nice hook on the cover with Superboy learning about his impending death against Doomsday through a museum exhibition piece. That story should write itself, but instead it gets two pages of Superboy saying, "brr, I don't want to know about that. Good thing Saturn Girl is totally going to mindwipe me on my way back to 1953." Instead, we get this totally generic Legion story about the pursuit of some random asshole, and a subplot involving a ghost haunting Legion headquarters (Mon-El?) 

There's a silent one page pin-up moment that sums up the tale perfectly. It's a handful of Legionnaires tearing at the skin of a starcraft. And? Kevin Sharpe doesn't have the chops to sell it as art porn, and who gives a shit about the actual content? It's like the old saying about how your story sucks if you could swap out any hero as your lead without altering it much. In this instance, any super-team could be breaking any bad guy's shit, and it would have the same or potentially greater impact. Robotman lacking fringed boots and Elasti-Girl not wearing a pink costume could only be an improvement.

The Atom back-up sucked way less than the previous special and chapters. This time, the weak link is artist Mahmud Asrar, who used to do good work when he handled one book, but looks crap now that he never says no to any assignment. Some panels look like Bachalo wipes, and others Bagley, so forget stylistic consistency. One page started with a panel of digitally cloned atomic symbols, and continued into three panels of one illustration manipulated through different filters and aspect ratios. This one page, Ray looks about 65 in the first panel, and in the last has an asymmetrical head that seems to have taken a shovel to one side.

The writing on the Atom remains below par, but not in the double digits this game. Ray's still second-guessing himself like a titty-baby, but at least he schools some amateurs and pulls a nice all-ages donkey punch from some dude's behind. Also, a couple of guys explode into pools of gore, which is good thinking. Sword of the Atom taught us that shrinking alone doesn't sell nearly as well as doing so while stabbing fuckers in the mouth and similarly hardcore maneuvers. Unfortunately, a mischaracterized Oracle is still doing all of the heavy lifting, and why the Atom wouldn't pass along the coordinates to an enemy base detected by the DC Universe's high mistress of communication to his JLA buddies is beyond a reasonable lapse of discretion. Never mind that he wanders around their HQ at full size like a mo-ron. Goodbye, Jeff Lemire. I look forward to avoiding your future super-hero work.

Brightest Day #9 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
The Vision is way cooler than Red Tornado, but they're both always going to be losers. You see, they're robots, which means writers can break them at will, and they will. It's the same reason magic comics don't sell: when you can do anything, and you do, nothing means anything. You have to have firm rules, so that when you break or even just bend them, it turns people on. That's why guys dig Catholic school girl uniforms more than standard slut gear, and in fact you fear for your peener when it comes to the latter. My point being, the Martian Manhunter will never rise above the b-list, because when he shoots his own hands off with heat vision, you know he'll just grow another pair. Worse, everyone already knew this, so besides the lack of impact, there's the head shaking over J'Onn J'Onzz not being able to handle his shit better than that. Somehow, Superman could manage to regrow his hands, but he doesn't have to worry about that, because Men of Steel don't literally shoot themselves in the foot.

I want J'Onn J'Onzz to do well, but he's already traveling down failure road before he even lands his next doomed solo project. He's got a brutally murderous opposite who gets up to all kinds of gruesome shit, but without any motivation besides it looking kewl to kill a grocery store full of people and stock bits of them on freezer shelves. Further, he's retaining water, and when it looks like a job for the Green Arrow, you're approaching Red Tornado levels of suck. It doesn't help when your artist is obviously overworked, cutting every corner short of Snowbird vs. Wendigo in a blizzard. There's a two page spread in which there isn't a single character image that isn't cheated by using a silhouette, an aerial view or an extreme close-up to avoid drawing anything but shapes. I could knock this out myself. The writing is no better, with one sentence in one word balloon using the words "me" three times and "I" once. Oh, and that thing where J'Onn tries to do something good and ends up generating an unintentional body count, leading to a total reversion back to the status quo of unpopularity? I read that story a few times already.

Brightest Day #10 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
I officially like Blaqualad. The tat's cool, the powers rock, and his section gets drawn by Ivan Reis. Having Black Manta as a daddy has got to suck, but there's humor to be found in those fishing line barbs he keeps firing. Save that for the badazz Fisherman revamp, guys. Besides that, the Aquaman & Mera feature looks gorgeous, totally suits the characters, has scope, and is totally relevant to the cannon.

Firestorm? Less so. Scott Clark steps up his game to compete with the third rate work of Pat Gleason, so he's now only the second weakest link on the art front. The feature is still damned ugly and raw, but I guess the sheer amount of pages present and the amateurishness of Gleason's work last issue have beaten me into submission. I also can't get excited about Firestorm's new extinction event level power. I mean, Damage literally ignited the Big Bang to restart the DC universe after Zero Hour, and that didn't save him from being physically deformed and murdered by relatively minor villains (both times at Geoff Johns' command.) If the threat was that the unchecked power of Firestorm could kill more random DC women and minorities (R.I.P. Gehenna,) then that would be something to take seriously. Run, Doctor Light, run!

Green Arrow #4 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
You know what I love? Buying a comic book I don't normally follow because of a guest appearance/tie-in, only to spend the ten relevant pages reading a near panel-for-panel reframing of the exact same sequence of events with similar dialogue as another book. There was a time I bought new DC monthly comics by the dozen, but years of this kind of stupidity means I am currently subscribed to one title. That's strategery!

The rest of the book involved continuing subplots for stock characters introduced within the last three issues. There's the investigative reporter secretly helping Oliver Queen in his campaign against Isabel Rochev, the evil Russian entrepreneur whose nickname of "The Queen" surely means something. There's also the activist love interest, which is funny, because I could have sworn Green Arrow was still married to Black Canary. There's also the crazy Galahad guy who takes the labored Sherwood Forest parallel even more seriously than the book's writer. I guess this is better than what Winnick was doing, but sixty years is a long time in to still be casting about for a motif beyond "Batman with arrows." That's all the character is on Smallville, and it's worked out pretty well for him there.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wednesday's Cryptozoology Is A Buck For All I Care #83

Aliens vs. Predator: One for One #1
Dungeons & Dragons #0
The Smurfs Vol. 2 #1 (2010)
Usagi Yojimbo: One for One #1

I had this really long and involved multiple paragraph review for AvP that encompassed twenty years of my personal reading habits, involved the histories of several comic companies, and even touched on the films. Not paying attention, I erased everything I just wrote over 3/4 hours time under the assumption it was part of the old template while starting the second review. Either bless or curse the fates, depending on whether those tangents sounded more interesting than the more linear and brief second pass below...

Cover to 1990 Edition

Aliens vs. Predator: One for One #1 (Dark Horse, 1990/2010, $1.00)
In the mid-80s, there was a boom in black & white small press comics exemplified by the boffo success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dark Horse Comics came out of that era with its own stable of never-ready-for-primetime creators and forgotten properties (Black Cross? Roachmill? The Mark?) plus Paul Chadwick's Concrete. The boom busted, and Dark Horse's solution to the problem of becoming a sub-Caliber Press historical footnote was licensed properties.

Dell was the titan of the comics industry in the '50s & '60s on the back of media tie-ins, but the shrinking newsstand market meant by the '80s most licensed comics came out of the back end of the Big Two. Those books were basically retirement packages for washed-up freelancers looking to supplement their social security. Still, licensing cost beau coup bucks, as all the companies that have tried the Dark Horse model in recent years have learned through bankruptcy. The Dark Horse difference was that they must have known what a gamble it was, so they went all in, doing the very best work possible to show they had a place in this industry. The gambit paid off massively, with Dark Horse now a multi-media empire that shits out crap tie-ins just as well as the big boys used to, when they bothered.

What makes Aliens vs. Predator part uno such a blast from the past for me was the reminder that this used to be novel. That kind of cross-franchise pollination had never been done before up to that point,and this book inspired all of it, including the crappy AvP movies. However, what made this work was that it was actually quite good. Sure, the art is very much in that American indie Metal Hurlant vein Dark Horse was still heavily mining, but it gets the job dome. Randy Stradley's script is very cinematic, recalling the deliberate introductions of the miners and soldiers from the Aliens movies, so that they had a story of their own to tell before the massacre began. This time they're ranchers on an isolated planet, so it even gets points for the rare Outland style space western mash-up. After the first twenty-eight pages, you're involved in these characters and their mundane lives, which means introducing warring creatures into the mix will only raise the stakes, rather than being a sole draw. Hell, without even having read the rest of this series, I can pretty much guarantee that if a director had just shot this comic, those movies would have been better. Man, this makes me long for the days when dudes like Kelly Jones drew Aliens comics. That was boss!

Dungeons & Dragons #0 (IDW, 2010, $1.00)
Back when Dark Horse was showing the majors how licensing was done, DC started publishing a mini-line of books based on the roleplaying fad of the early '80s. This wasn't long after DC wasted years chasing after Marvel's success with G.I. Joe and Transformers through stillborn crap like Spiral Zone, Inhumanoids and Power Lords. While comic fans sighed at DC's unhipness, those D&D books turned out to be stealth gateway drugs, initiating a surprising number of D12 rolling dorks into the greater comics multiverse, not to mention developing creative talents like Rags Morales that would go on to great fame.

Regardless, when I think of role-playing, I get flashbacks to days wasted generated characters, or suffering through agonizing campaigns (or worse-- inflicting same on others.) Further, all that shit with the swords and armor hot points and leveling up? No. Never again. Final Fantasy VII made me vow to never waste another minute of my life leveling up through random fights with forest creatures. Worse, Tolkien can blow me, because I think all that elven hobbit buggery is queer in the most pejorative, John Waters wouldn't let you eat his dog's shit sense. One of the reasons I closed my comic shop was that people discussing role-playing and/or Lord of the Rings brought me close to the verge of battery charges. I am so not this book's target audience.

Here's the score: ten pages of pseudo-hip/comic dialogue by John Rogers involving the stereotypical band of paladin, thief, viking dwarf, elf archer and that creepy guy who always wears a flannel around his waist and reeks of cigarettes and weekly bathing. It's drawn by Andrea Di Vito, mostly known for his work on Thor and CrossGen, a line of books that read like a Dungeonmaster's Guide. It looks and reads better than it deserves, but it deserves to lick my boots clean. There's also a second six page preview that looks and reads like a teenage Conan pastiche. That's all I've got to say about that.

The Smurfs Vol. 2 #1 (Papercutz, 2010, $1.00)
I always liked the idea of the Smurfs, and my girlfriend loves them so much she sleeps with a stuffed doll I gave her. Still, actually sitting down and reading their comic adventure makes me totally root for Gargamel. Every fourth word out of cyanetic little pieholes is a variation on the term "Smurf," as noun, adjective, verb-- whatever. Their personalities are annoying and hinge on one defining trait. Most are indistinguishable from one another, and this story makes them seem like Jerry multiplied a few dozen times to confound Tom. I hated those cartoons, too. Further, the book's production is itself crude. The text font is funky and basic, while the coloring looks like someone just did fills on black & white scans in MS Paint (and I speak from experience.) I guess it's fine for a dollar, but I'd be afraid to give it to a dumb kid that would be hanging around me, for fear thay'd pick up that Smurf-talk thing. Finally, I totally read this thing months ago, and it was so forgettable I never got around to reviewing it then. Pass.

Usagi Yojimbo: One for One #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $1.00)
I'm supposed to like/respect this book. It's been running for decades, and is supposed to be a fairly faithful anthropomorphized take on Japanese history, myth, and samurai cinema. Yeah, fine, I guess. For me, it was the first act of a lame episode of Kung Fu. There's this ronin rabbit, and his acquaintance the sneak thief keeps outsmarting the local corrupt sheriff. The thief's good-natured simpleton aid takes a fall for her crimes, and... to be continued. No really, that's it. Maybe Matlock the Turtle shows up for the defense. Take away Stan Sakai's cutesy animal art, and this shit is straight stock. I've got some other vintage comics floating around my house to give the title another chance down the line, but ennui will see to that being a ways away.


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