Archive for October, 2009

Monster Masks


House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1

It’s a good old-fashioned Halloween jam book! With the framing story focusing on the main characters in the “House of Mystery” comic from Vertigo, we get introduced to a particularly nasty Halloween mask (That’s it pictured on the cover above). In fact, all of the stories here feature the mask. Oh, what are the other stories? We join Merv Pumpkinhead, the jack-o-lantern-faced handyman from Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics, as he helps lubricate the Dreaming’s nightmare monsters with some generously shared booze. We see John Constantine show up just a little too late to chase off a Babylonian shapeshifter. We get a short preview of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s upcoming “I, Zombie!” comic. And we follow Madame Xanadu as she helps someone escape the seductive grasp of the mask.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I didn’t see a single story in here I disliked, and it’s a nice little introduction to all of these Vertigo series, if you haven’t tried them out yet. And the little boost of the Halloween spirit doesn’t hurt either. Go pick it up.

North 40 #4

The high school prom has been invaded by zombies! Luckily, after the bizarre magical plague that’s struck rural Conover County, the victims here are actually a lot better prepared to defend themselves. Meanwhile, the local criminal redneck clan is hoping to ambush Sheriff Morgan — if the junkyard owner’s new giant magic-powered robot doesn’t kill all of them first. So the initial crises are over — but there’s more trouble climbing out of the craters around town…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ve enjoyed this whole series, and though this is officially the last issue of the miniseries, I like how they’re setting us up for a new ongoing series. Ya hear, Wildstorm? This one needs a new ongoing series quick! Hop to it — we got too many dangling plotlines that I need to see wrapped up!


Beasts of Burden #2

The pets of Burden Hill has undergone some of their training to help defend the area from supernatural threats. They’ve managed to get rid of a few local monsters, but a lot of their time is taken up listening to the far-too-imaginative tales invented by other dogs. But they find something legitimate to investigate when a worried dog named Hazel asks them to find her two lost puppies. Their search turns up nothing until some garbage-scavenging raccoons suggest they check out a pond called the Devil’s Well out in the woods. They attempt a spirit summoning and are surprised when the ghosts of the puppies emerge from the pond, followed by the angry ghosts of dozens of other dogs and cats. The ghosts possess three of the dogs who had unwisely left the protection of the magic circle — and all three of them charge into a home and kill a human boy! Even without the murderous ghosts, all the Beasts of Burden are going to be in big trouble now…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Evan Dorkin’s writing is both funny and suspenseful, and Jill Thompson’s art is gorgeous and terrifying all at once. The whole story is extremely spooky, creepy, eerie, and even heartbreaking. The twist is unexpected and brutal. It’s a perfect Halloween ghost story, and you should go find it and read it — I think you’ll enjoy it.

And one final note — make sure you’re here bright and early tomorrow morning. Halloween’s coming, and I got a week’s worth of special treats to hand out.

Comments off

First Rule of Pet Club: Do Not Talk about Pet Club!


Tiny Titans #21

It’s an all Pet Club issue! Everyone is bringing their pets to the Tiny Titans Pet Club — but what about students who don’t have pets? Well, Cyborg has some cute robots, and Starfire and her sister Blackfire send a letter to their home planet asking for their pets. Let’s meet their pets, shall we?


Heh. Poopu.

Other pets include the Atom Family’s dog Spot, Terra’s pet rock, Blue Beetle’s bug collection, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, and the Bat-Cow! But with all these pets, the tree house is now too small for everyone? Can the Titans find a new Pet Club meeting place that they won’t wreck?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fun artwork and story — and very funny material, too, with Poopu and the return of the Bat-Cow being the real standouts. This is excellent reading for kids, or for grownups who enjoy good, funny comics.


Sugarshock #1

I absolutely love this story, but the problem is it’s already available online for free. And it’s also in the first volume of the MySpace Dark Horse Presents trade paperback collection. This comic has the exact same story, with a nice cover by Fabio Moon and a few sketch pages in the back.

Verdict: I can’t bring myself to give this a thumbs down, because this story is absolutely one of my favorites — Fabio Moon’s artwork is awesome, Joss Whedon’s story and script are hilarious. If you haven’t read the story, you really, really should, and you can definitely read it in this comic book. But dangit, I was hoping for a new Sugarshock story, and I’m a bit grinched that Dark Horse didn’t get one cooked up here.

Power Girl #6

Power Girl is trying to corral a bunch of superpowered aliens — three fashionmongering partygirls and Carl, a guy who’s trying to bring them back to their home planet. Kara sticks the guy in the ferris wheel on Coney Island to keep him occupied, but loses the girls after they get picked up by a chubby guy in a limousine. And while she’s looking for the girls, Carl manages to escape, too. Without any other leads, she picks up her horrible, horrible cat from her office and takes him to her new apartment, meeting up with Terra and discovering that some stalker has been taking pictures of her and has discovered her secret identity! Not much time to worry about that — Carl tracks Kara down and reveals that the girls’ tracker chips have stopped in Atlantic City — and their chubby limousine pal is in big trouble with the mob. Can Power Girl rescue everyone in time and with a minimum of bloodshed?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A pretty lighthearted issue, so the deaths here and there seem a bit out of place, but it’s fun, nicely humorous, and packed full of excellent characterization. Kudos to Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. And as always, Amanda Conner’s artwork is an absolute dream. Is there anyone else out there who can do such outstanding facial expressions and body language? Just check out the scenes on the subway and in the emergency room — there is so much to see and enjoy in both of those settings.


The Brave and the Bold #28

Barry Allen agrees to help test some scientific equipment and ends up getting shot back in time to the Battle of the Bulge — and he’s got a broken leg, too, so he’s not going to be able to get up enough speed to get back home. Luckily, the Blackhawk air squadron is on hand to help — unfortunately, they’re down here without their planes, so their ability to help is a bit limited, too. The Blackhawks want Flash to help them fight, but he’s unwilling to take lives. Can Flash find a way to help win the war?

Verdict: Ehh, not that bad, but not that great either. The story wasn’t that bad, but why give us the Blackhawks without their planes? Sgt. Rock and Easy Company would’ve been much better fits here than the ‘Hawks. I’m also not buying the Blackhawks’ insistence that Barry has to kill the Germans, nor the ease with which he gives up his principles.

Comments off

The Casting Call of Cthulhu

‘Tis the season to review a Lovecraftian movie that’s a few years old…

The Call of Cthulhu

People have been telling me I should see this movie forever, and I finally broke down and gave it a watch.

If you’re any sort of fan of H.P. Lovecraft, you know “The Call of Cthulhu” as his best known story, written back in 1926 and consisting primarily of a series of notes and accounts of various strange phenomena, blasphemous cults worshiping a monstrous squid-headed deity called Cthulhu, and panicked speculation about what it could all mean. It reads better than it sounds, because Lovecraft was a master of taking bizarre ideas and making them sound, if not plausible, at least fun to imagine. It’s also one of the few Lovecraft stories that no one has ever made a serious attempt to film — because how do you turn a bunch of scribbled and typewritten notes into a film?

Back around the early- to mid-2000s, the folks who run the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, already very well experienced with creating realistic props for “Call of Cthulhu” RPG campaigns, decided to do what was thought to be impossible — make a film adaptation of Lovecraft’s most referenced story. And they went with a suprisingly low-tech, low-cost strategy — a silent movie.

What’s cool is the fact that, if anyone had made a movie of Lovecraft’s stories while he was still alive, this is what you would’ve gotten — a black-and-white silent movie. They actually use a combination of vintage filmmaking techniques and modern digital effects — they use digital compositing to turn a small number of actors into a horde of cultists, while they go with old-school stop-motion animation to create Cthulhu himself.

How’s it turn out? It turns out pretty darn awesome. You’ve got excellent editing, cinematography, lighting, and low-tech but very cool special effects. You’ve got sets, acting, and makeup that call to mind German Expressionism. You have an amazingly effective musical score. (True story: First time I watched this, I accidentally watched it without the sound, thinking, hey, silent movie, right? The second time, I realized my mistake and turned the speakers on — Wow, what a difference. Turned a cool movie into a seriously awesome one.)

I doubt it ever had a shot at any serious hoity-toity film awards, but it’s very, very popular with Lovecraft fans. Heck, even film connoisseurs may get a kick out of a recent-vintage old-school silent movie. And yes, it does look like they did the impossible — this is the most faithful adaptation of any of Lovecraft’s works, and it’s also pretty spooky and suspenseful, too. Lovecraft fans, this should be on your Must-See list, if you haven’t seen it already.

Not sure this is going to be available at local retailers of any sort, but you can find it for sale online.

Go pick it up. It makes great Halloween viewing for Cthulhu worshipers of all sorts.

Comments off

Vampires and Demons and Zombies

B.P.R.D.: 1947 #4

Jacob Stegner thinks he’s the only member of the team from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense who’s left alive, after everyone else was killed by vampires, but he learns, from a mysterious old cat-controlling lady that’s not so — Simon Anders is still alive, but he’s in the clutches of Annaliese and Katharina Brezina, vampire sisters who officially died in 1701 after long years of debuchery and murder. Does Anders have any chance of survival against these monsters?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action and suspense, excellent dialogue, and fun artwork. And we get appearances by creepy Russian demon girl Varvara and much-less-creepy pancake-loving demon boy Hellboy. A nice little dose of pre-Halloween postwar scariness.


Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #7

Hellboy has been given the choice of two crowns to wear — he can become the actual-fer-realz True King of England, the last ancestor of King Arthur, or he can become the King of Demons, the Beast of the Apocalypse. His friend Alice has faith that he’s going to become the King of England and the savior of the world, but Hellboy has his doubts. In a dream, he battles his own demonic self and learns that taking either crown will eventually lead to him wearing both — and if he refuses, Nimue, the new Queen of the Witches, will be able to destroy the world on her own. Can Hellboy battle against fate and his own nature? Oh, and we also get a backup story about Sir Henry Hood, Witchfinder of the 1600s, and one of his battles against the Devil.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of apocalyptic awesomeness. Lots of eerie, creepy stuff. Mike Mignola is playing his cards close to the vest, so I really can’t tell what he’s planning for the future? Is Hellboy going to become the Beast of the Apocalypse? Is the Hellboy-verse coming to an end?

Crossed #7

You remember the Crossed, right? They’re normal humans who’ve contracted some sort of disease that turns them into gleefully sadistic, psychotic killers, and the only way to tell them apart from normal people is the bloody red cross-shaped rash that develops over their faces. Our small pack of survivors are on the run from the band of Crossed freaks from a couple issues back, who’ve managed to track them across a thousand miles of desert. They try to put as much distance between the Crossed as they can, but they get ambushed while forging a river — one of their number gets a minor gunshot wound, they all get a scare — and Patrick, Cindy’s young son, gets washed down the river. Luckily, they’re able to wipe out some of the Crossed pack and find Patrick — but this issue still has a downer ending.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Brutal. As I’ve said before, don’t read this if you’ve got kids who can get their hands on it, don’t read it if you’ve got anything against monstrously grim horror, and don’t read it if you hate stories that don’t have happy endings. But for everyone else, read it, read it, read it. This may be the best pure horror you’ll find in a comic book.

Comments off

Start your Costumes!


Hey, didja hear we’ve got just about three weeks left before the West Texas Comic Con? IT’S TRUE!

Remember, it’s happening November 7th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Science Spectrum. There will be guests galore (Matt Sturges, Josh Howard, Dirk Strangely, Will Terrell, and more) and the entry fee is dirt-cheap. It’s just $4 for adults, $2 for kids 12 and under, and free for toddlers and folks who come in costume.

Costumes? Oh, of course, there’s going to be the big costume contest starting around 1 p.m. And remember, the WTxCC is happening just a week after Halloween, so if you’ve got an unusually cool costume, it’s probably going to be worth your while to either pay for an extra week on the rental, or just make sure you keep your makeup and costume materials on hand to re-use for the convention.

In other clothing-related news, there’s also an official convention T-shirt! You can get it for just $10 if you order by October 22 — yes, I know that’s very short notice. But complaining will do you no good! Go print out the order form, fill it out, and run it by Star Comics at 2014 34th Street ASAP. But even if you miss the pre-ordering deadline, you can still get the shirts for just $15 at the convention itself.

In summary, get the T-shirt, get a costume, go to the West Texas Comic Con. In fact, that’s not just a summary, that’s your “To-Do” list, so hop to it!

Comments off

Love and Monsters


Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #4

Sir Edward, the Captain, and Miss Wolf have been cornered by the vampiric demon, but they still manage to drive it out of the defiled church. Grey gives chase, but runs into a bunch of mooks from the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ray, an Egypt-focused magical secret society, which plans to capture the monster with a bunch of guys armed with electrically-charged harpoons and knockout gas. That doesn’t really turn out that well for them, what with the blood and the murder and the screaming and the dismemberments. Later, Grey gets to spend some quiet time with Miss Wolf, recounting his own past and the less-than-honorable history of the last man to bear the “Witchfinder” title. And the investigation into the monster’s origins leads Sir Edward and the Captain to Bedlam Hospital, where they meet a man who should be familiar to readers of recent “B.P.R.D.” comics…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice creepy fun. Beautifully cinematic artwork by Ben Stenbeck, too. This story has giant, blood-soaked monsters, steampunk weaponry, zombie puritans, madhouses, and drinking beer with pretty girls — it’s a winner in every possible way.


The Unwritten #6

Tom Taylor has been accused of a horrific mass murder in Frankenstein’s castle — otherwise known as his boyhood home — and he’s now going to prison in a town called Roncevaux. That’s the setting of “The Song of Roland,” an epic poem written in the 12th century about the massacre of part of Charlemagne’s army by the Saracens because their commander, Roland, is too proud to summon the rest of the army for help. For a book focused on the uncomfortable connections between literature and the real world, that’s not too ominous, is it? Tom slowly becomes accustomed to prison life, Lizzie Hexam looks for her next orders in random books in a bookstore, and the prison warden, a dedicated fan of the “Tommy Taylor” novels, tries to deal with his feelings about locking up someone he can’t help seeing as the hero of his favorite books. And finally, Tommy meets a new, heavily scarred ally…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, this story keeps getting better and better. I wasn’t expecting a big mixture of prison drama and high French literature, but this comic actually pulls it off. And there’s a really cool moment with the hardnosed warden reading his children bedtime stories.

Comments off

Friday Night Fights: This Time, I'm Really Gonna Kick that Football!

Well, it’s finally the end of the workweek, and that means it’s time for us to get going with our traditional weekend kickoff — it’s time for FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s fight comes from 2007’s Doctor 13: Architecture and Mortality by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Instead of being the typical superhero bash, this is from one of that series’ odd little bookends — some kid who looks a lot like Charlie Brown is getting ready to kick a football held by a kid who looks a lot like Lucy van Pelt. Oh no, we all know how this turns out every time!


Hmm, so I’m not the only person who used to dream that Chuck would eventually get that fussbudget back…

Comments off

Identity Switch


The Incredible Hercules #136

Hercules, disguised as Thor, has been conned into helping the Dark Elves invade Earth. Luckily, there’s someone on hand to stop him — Thor, disguised as Hercules! Most of the rest of this issue is one of the best slugfests I’ve seen in ages, accompanied by Greg Pak’s impossibly awesome sound effects, like SUKKKAPUNCH and WHATAMANNNN and GODDATHUNDAAA and THORRRRULZ and GOTCHAGAAAIN and BACKATCHA and, for whatever bizarre reason, SHOKKAKAAAAAN! Maybe that means we can look forward to sound effects like ARRRREETHAFRANNKLINNN and JAAAAAMESBROOWWWWNNN!

Verdict: Thumbs waaaaaay up. This was just so absolutely fantastic — definitely the most fun and enjoyable comic I picked up this week. Go get it, people! Don’t wait!


Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #16

It’s a teamup with Spider-Woman, the Beast, and Giant-Girl (now experimenting with new shrinking powers that let her operate as the Wasp and Giant-Girl at almost the same time) as they try to unravel the mystery of what blasted Hercules all the way from the moon to the Earth. They know HYDRA is involved somehow, but their only lead in the case is a piece of paper Herc left behind with a bunch of cryptic and goofy clues. Tracing Hercules’ steps, they find that, well, Hercules really likes the ladies, really likes to eat, really likes to have his ego stoked. Can the heroes figure out what HYDRA is up to and what Hercules got himself into?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Giant-Girl’s new Wasp powers were handled very amusingly, and the slow, piecemeal discovery of Hercules’ misadventures was also fun. On the whole, it’s good all-ages superhero fun, and that’s good enough for me.

Comments off

Barbecued Banes


Secret Six #14

A demon called Grendel is loose on Smyth’s prison/slave island, half of the team is working to help the imprisoned Amazons escape, and the other half is working to stop the rest of the team. Ragdoll goes after Smyth, while one of his henchmen reveals herself as a renegade Amazon who has absorbed the properties of the purple healing ray. In a pretty fantastically badass moment, Scandal Savage, in an attempt to take on Grendel solo, injects herself with Bane’s venom drug. And the Amazons are prepared to kill themselves rather than face any further imprisonment. All that plus Wonder Woman finally wakes up and kicks some butt. Whew!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Another very good issue. Awesome Aussie artist Nicola Scott’s beautiful artwork is combined with Gail Simone’s outstanding action-packed but still character-driven storytelling. Go get it, guys — a comic this good means DC’s gonna come gunning for it eventually, so don’t miss out.


Booster Gold #25

In a cool-down issue from the last Titans-Trigon time-traveling storyline, Booster wants some time off, but Rip Hunter insists that he return to the Batcave to recover his photos from the new Batman. Unfortunately, Booster didn’t expect to run into the new assassin-trained Robin. Meanwhile, Rip and Skeets head out to interrogate Dr. T.O. Morrow and run into the Black Beetle, now transformed into the even more powerful Red Beetle. And in our second feature, Jaime Reyes, the Blue Beetle, has his own run-in with the Black Beetle. Jaime’s armor has him stoked into a killing rage — can he resist murdering the time-traveling madman, discover his true identity, and save his friends and family at the same time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series has its ups and downs, but this issue was all good. Rip and Skeets uncover some mysteries, and Booster has some great character moments with Batman and Robin. The Blue Beetle backup feature is also fun — great emphasis on Jaime’s awesome supporting cast, and another nice little crop of mysteries. When they can keep the good stuff going, this is an awesome series — let’s hope they can keep the good stuff coming on a more consistent basis.

Comments off

Strange Days


Strange Tales #2

Marvel’s alternate comics bonanza continues with Tony Millionaire’s epic battle of Iron Man vs. Baloney Head, Liver-wurst Face, and a giant holographic image of Dwight D. Eisenhower; R. Kikuo Johnson’s tale of the Puppet Master’s attempts to use a hypnotized seeing-eye dog to get his daughter Alicia Masters a job; Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca’s look at Brother Voodoo as a blaxploitation hero; Jhonen Vasquez’s warning about the dangers of being a M.O.D.O.K. fanboy; Jacob Chabot’s freakin’ awesome tribute to Ben Grimm and facial hair; and the continuing saga of Peter Bagge’s “The Incorrigible Hulk.”

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really wonderfully madcap stuff. The standout stories are definitely the ones by Tony Millionaire, R. Kikuo Johnson (Alicia Masters’ inability to decorate a cake has never been funnier, nor have four background panels of a hypnotized dog’s fierce dedication to peeing on the Thing been more alarmingly awesome), Jhonen Vasquez, and Jacob Chabot, whose story about Ben Grimm’s chia-pet facial hair is the type of thing they build legends on. Go get this comic, and don’t delay.


Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Jeremiah Drumm, the former Brother Voodoo, is the new Sorcerer Supreme, so he’s now known as Doctor Voodoo. He ventures to Dormammu’s dark dimension to imprison the magic-wielding conqueror. After escaping, he talks about his strategy for taming the supernatural world with Dr. Strange, tries to attend to patients at his clinic in New Orleans, battles an evil loa, and gets completely spanked by Dr. Doom.

Verdict: Thumbs down. There’s so much to dislike here. Voodoo’s defeat of the monstrously powerful Dormammu is too quick and too easy. Strange is depicted a decrepit worrywort — and the bizarre handlebar mustache he’s saddled with may be this comic’s biggest crime. Drumm at least loses the ridiculous pidgin accent that Brian Bendis stuck him with, but we don’t end up learning much of interest about him in the first issue. The only person who comes off well here is Doom, whose masterful and nearly effortless takedown of Voodoo makes it look really, really likely that Drumm wasn’t the right guy for the job. This is not the way you introduce a first issue.

Comments off