Archive for September, 2010

Return of the Barbarian

Joe the Barbarian #7

It’s been a while since we saw this one — the previous issue came out in early July. But it’s great to see that the delay is over and we can get back into the hallucinatory fantasy.

Joe is a diabetic kid who might need a glass of soda to stop his hallucinations — or he may actually not be hallucinating and really is leading an army of action figures against the tyranny of King Death. While the army is attacked by Deathcoats and zombies, reinforcements come in from Smoot’s family of submarine pirates, giving everyone a chance to finally make it to the Fountain of Life — otherwise known as the bottle of soda in the refrigerator. But will Joe use the Aqua Vitae to save himself or to save loyal members of his army? And can Joe survive a face-to-face meeting with King Death?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great to see this series is still going. Lots of excitement and thrills here, amazing battles, and some really terrifying dangers. This has been a great series — and next issue will be the last one.

Morning Glories #2

Casey has discovered that her parents have been killed by the teachers at the diabolical Morning Glory Academy — and they’re not glad she found out, so they torture her for a while before throwing her back in with her new classmates, who’ve all gotten detention. Ike and Hunter went on an after-curfew exploration and discovered a bunch of secret cultists, while one of the R.A.s tried to stab Jade and Zoe, but they got blamed for all the chaos. Casey refuses to tell the other students that her parents have been killed, and the teachers seal up the detention room and start flooding it. Are the teachers really trying to kill all of them?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, with lots of intrigue and mystery. Not sure why Casey is working so hard to hide the fact that her parents are dead or that she’s been tortured — it’s not like the rest of the students don’t suspect something’s up anyway.

Kill Shakespeare #5

Iago successfully defect’s to the cause of the rebellion, to the consternation of the always-honorable Othello. Deciding that he needs to make his own way, Hamlet leaves the group of rebels to see if he can find the wizard Shakespeare by himself — only to fall prey to nightmarish visions of his dead father and Polonius. He also learns that Richard III’s men are torturing and slaughtering the peasants in the area, and he falls in with a group of travelers, Demetrius, Lysander, and Adriana — none suspecting that Richard’s soldiers are following them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nothing really spectacular going on in this one — aside from Hamlet’s ghostly visions — but the story is advancing nicely, and it’s still keeping my interest. Looking forward to more of it…

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Best Comic Series of the Year

Daytripper #10

It’s the final issue of this beautiful series. Brás de Oliva Domingos is 76 years old, and he’s just had three different brain tumors diagnosed by his doctor. And he decides he’s not going to fight it — he’s had a good life, and he doesn’t want to end his days strapped to a hospital bed. He breaks the news to his wife, gets to enjoy a meal with his son, who shares news about his grandchildren, and he gets a very, very old letter from his own father. And finally, he goes for a nighttime stroll on the beach outside his home.

Verdict: Do I have to say it? Thumbs up. Ten billion thumbs up. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá deserve to win every possible comics award out there for this series.

I’ve been trying to figure out what was my favorite moment from this final issue. It might be the all-in-darkness transition on pages two and three dividing Brás’ birth from his 76th year. It might be the way Brás throws the flowers into the ocean, or the way Brás’ son simultaneously resembles him and looks wildly different. It might be Brás’ train ride home from the hospital or the way he connects with a little girl on an elevator. It might be the letter from his father.

Okay, I’m not being serious. The best moment is when Brás breaks the news to his wife. It’s a sweet, sad, heartwarming moment, and it’ll make you want to go off by yourself and think for a while.

Here’s the only bad thing about it — DC won’t be releasing a collected edition of “Daytripper” for another five months. That’s even after Christmas! That’s just the maddest thing I’ve heard in a while — sometimes I wonder if DC even thinks these things through.

But if you can find Issue #10, go get it. If you can find the previous nine issues, go get them. If you have the patience to wait another five months for the collected edition, well, you’re stronger than I am.

I’ve got some other comics to review, but I’ll wait ’til another day for those. Anything would suffer in comparison to this.

“Daytripper” by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. It’s the best comic series of the year. Stone guarantee.

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Rivers of Blood

American Vampire #6

It’s 1936 in Las Vegas, and Police Chief Cashel McCogan is struggling with a vastly expanded population, thanks to the still-being-constructed Hoover Dam, and a shortage of prison space or police officers to deal with the resulting crime wave. He gets some small amount of assistance from two federal agents, Jack Straw and Felicia Book, but two feds aren’t gonna make much of a dent in the crime situation, especially with one very high-profile murder — local businessman Howard Beaulieu, found withered and drained in his hotel room bed. His only companion for the night was a working girl in the employ of the notorious Mr. Smoke. Hey, don’t Mr. Smoke look kinda familiar to y’all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. You might notice that Stephen King’s name isn’t at the top of this comic anymore. Well, he’s moved on with the end of the first storyarc, but Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque are still on board and lightin’ things up. We don’t see much of Pearl Jones or Skinner Sweet this time, but we don’t even miss ’em that much — it’s good fun getting introduced to McCogan and his supporting cast and getting a handle on our new Depression-era Vegas setting. Plenty of time to catch up on our American bloodsuckers soon enough…

Batgirl #14

More vampires! This all gets started when Supergirl shows up in Gotham City to hang out with Stephanie Brown (Not real sure why — I guess it’s just tradition for Batgirls and Supergirls to be friends, kinda like Flashes and Green Lanterns). And when you’re not rockin’ the spandex, Gotham can be as dull as anywhere, so they go to take in an old vampire movie. And due to a spectacularly unlikely accident with spectacularly unlikely hologram technology, there are suddenly 24 black-and-white Draculas running around the city. Unfortunately, they’re able to hurt Supergirl, but the local spectacularly unlikely scientists realize that the Draculas will disappear if they’re staked by high-tech control rods. So Batgirl and Supergirl run all over the city staking cheesy Draculas.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a spectacularly unlikely premise, but it’s all used to cook up some spectacularly awesome jokes. Anything that includes Draculas on Segways and in photobooths, and jokes about Stephanie’s “bat-bra” — well, I’m always in favor of hilarious stuff, right?

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #2

Two major plotlines working out here — first, Johann Kraus does not trust ancient Egyptian mummy Panya, who seems to be trying to get some keys so she can release her hybrid monsters. They both get on Kate Corrigan’s nerves and she gives ’em a well-deserved chewing-out. Meanwhile, Abe Sapien has run into Ben Daimio — long thought either dead or turned into a wendigo — in the Canadian wilderness. They’re both trying to discover where a small town’s population has vanished to. Abe and Ben follow the trail to a local lake, and Abe goes for a swim, finding what one might expect to find in a supposedly bottomless lake nicknamed the Hell’s Kettle…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great to see some actual character development for Panya, and even more wonderful to see Ben Daimio again. And the last page brings the creepy stuff that Guy Davis seems to do so very well.

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Over the Rainbow

Friend of Dorothy #1

If you’re into webcomics, you may be aware of Brian Anderson’s “So Super Duper,” a series of comics that are in the process of being serialized over at Newsarama. Brian is an out-of-the-closet gay comics creator, and most of his comics reflect that — they’re unapologetically pro-LGBTQ, but with a strong core of humor and an appreciation for the absurdity of modern gender/sexual politics.

So this is his new comic, written by Brian, with art by Neftali Centeno and colors/letters by Falecia Woods. The lead character is a teenaged kid named Scott-John who’s just swallowed a bunch of sleeping pills that he probably shouldn’t have swallowed. He’s drifting off and dying in his sepia-toned bedroom when there’s a sudden explosion of Technicolor, and there’s a big, buffed-up guy wearing a lot of pink who revives him, introduces himself as Gorlindo the Good Witch of Oz, and tells him that he’s being appointed the Friend of Dorothy, the new protector of Oz. He gets a costume, some ruby combat boots, and gloriously, a gigantic axe, which gets an immediate and extremely enthusiastic workout when a bunch of demonic scarecrows crawl in the window and attack him. His new companion, a talking black dog named Dodo, tries to explain some stuff and gives him his first broom (leading to a funny moment where we learn why guys should be careful riding through the air on a flying broom). Next up, Scott-John has to go fight a munchkin. Hopefully, that won’t be too difficult, but I’ve got my doubts…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very fun and funny story, with a nicely realized hero. Ya know, the story concept is pretty clever — writing about gay self-acceptance using the story elements of a movie beloved within the global gay community — but I’m really most impressed with the characterization work here. Gorlindo is pretty overwhelmingly camp, but Scott-John is, in comparison, almost sedate.

It’s a big difference from Psyche, Anderson’s hero in “So Super Duper,” who isn’t just out, isn’t just camp, but is flamingly camp, even more so than Gorlindo. But Psyche and Gorlindo are extremely self-confident and comfortable with who they are — Scott-John, on the other hand, just tried to commit suicide. His self-confidence is probably a heck of a lot lower, his own acceptance of his sexual preference may be less than 100%, and there’s a decent chance that he worries a lot more about fitting in with other kids at school than in standing out from the crowd.

Which isn’t to say that Scott-John is entirely closeted either — his bedroom walls are decorated with posters of modern gay icons like Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga, and he owns a picture of himself with his boyfriend. We don’t get a lot of info about his background, but he doesn’t strike me as a guy who’s fully in denial about who he is — probably just confused, unhappy, and wishing people at school didn’t hate him for no reason — like, you know, 98% of modern teenagers.

And really, that’s why I enjoyed this comic so much — Scott-John feels like a real teenager with his own unique worries and difficulties. He’s not High Camp, and he’s not Midnighter/Apollo grim-and-sullen, which seems to be the current comic industry model for gay male superheroes nowadays. He’s a great character, and that alone should make the series fun to read.

There aren’t that many print editions of “Friend of Dorothy” around, but you can buy a copy over at IndyPlanet.

Batman and Robin #14

Robin is trying to beat the Joker to death with a crowbar, but even handcuffed, shackled, and bludgeoned, you can’t count the Joker out too easily — Robin ends up with a small dose of Joker Venom in his bloodstream, and Joker uses the bombs in Damian’s utility belt to escape police custody. Batman and Commissioner Gordon fight off a bunch of Dollotrons, but Gordon ends up getting captured by Dr. Hurt and Professor Pyg. Gordon’s been dosed with a viral narcotic designed to be perfectly addicting, so that anyone affected will be a slave of Hurt’s, willing to do anything to get another hit. While Dick tries to retrieve Gordon, some of the criminals in Hurt’s crowd have started to be overcome by lethal doses of Joker Venom in their popcorn. When Batman gets knocked in the head by Gordon, that leaves no one free to stop Dr. Hurt — no one but the Joker.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really ratcheting up the tension, and it’s kinda cool how… almost-but-not-quite heroic the Joker is in this. And I gotta say, I’m loving Frazer Irving’s painted artwork — really gives the story a great look and feel.

Green Lantern #57

While Hal Jordan and Larfleeze try to get the Orange Lantern entity, Ophidian, out of Hector Hammond, Carol Ferris is in Las Vegas trying to track down the Predator, the Star Sapphire power entity. The Star Sapphire central battery is still not producing enough power, and the other Star Sapphires hope to enslave the Predator to power their battery. The Predator, however, has his own plans to return to power, manipulating an obsessed stalker into allowing him to possess his body. Will Carol and Hal be able to capture the Predator and round up Larfleeze, who thinks Vegas is the most awesome city in the universe?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice punch-em-up combined with great Doug Mahnke artwork. And as always, the presence of the infinitely greedy Larfleeze helps make even good comics much, much better.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • If you love the incredibly awesome “Venture Brothers” cartoon series, you’ll love the stuffing out of this article.
  • Here’s some fun artwork that combines Maurice Sendak and H.P. Lovecraft, with a touch of Edward Gorey.
  • RIP Kevin McCarthy, one of sci-fi cinema’s greats.

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Puzzle Quest

Booster Gold #36

The Darkstars are all set to arrest Booster, Big Barda, and Mister Miracle because they think they stole the Planet Pounder super-weapon, but the New Gods get all of them back to Earth with a Boom Tube. Unfortunately, they leave Blue Beetle behind — who’s just bedded the alien sorceress who rules the planet below, and who’s just discovered what a lying dork Ted really is. By the time Booster and Skeets are able to use Rip Hunter’s time technology to get back to Ted, he discovers that the sorceress has turned Ted into a chipmunk. And she says the spell is permanent. And then the Darkstars show up and arrest Booster and Ted, shipping them off to a high-tech space prison. They meet up with Vril Dox, who has a long-range plan to escape, but Booster wants to get out much faster than that.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Even with a chipmunk Blue Beetle, it just isn’t a lot of fun.

The New Avengers #4

There’s an invasion of interdimensional demons, and the Avengers aren’t making any progress against them. While Dr. Strange, Dr. Voodoo, and Daimon Hellstrom try to figure out what magician has the power to start a war like this, the other heroes are just entirely overwhelmed. Suddenly, the otherworldly portal vanishes, and Iron Fist, wearing a shiny new costume, is returned to Earth with the Eye of Agamotto. He’s not happy to see Dr. Strange, claiming that the Ancient One told him that Strange stole the Eye from someone.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Okay, here’s the thing. Last issue, the big cliffhanger was that the Big Bad here was the Ancient One, Dr. Strange’s old mentor, who has been dead and supposedly at-one with the universe for years. And after that big cliffhanger, we get nearly zero followup on that. That’s not the way you do this stuff. You don’t drop something that big at the end of one issue, then spend most of the next issue with a bunch of pointless slugfests. Amateur-league mistakes like this are why I really can’t believe so many people think writer Brian Michael Bendis is such a supa-genius.

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Friday Night Fights: Nuts to You!

I don’t know about you, but I think I need this weekend. It’s been a weird, wild week, and a little lying-around-the-house-and-not-getting-roused-up-by-anything sure sounds good. And the best way to start off a weekend is with a little FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Today’s fight comes from December 2009’s The Incredible Hercules by Greg Pak, Fred van Lente, Reilly Brown, and Nelson DeCastro. And lemme tell you, I could’ve posted about a dozen pages of this, ’cause it’s jam-packed with awesome butt-whoopage. But I picked this one, ’cause it makes me laugh like a hyena. Here’s Hercules pretending to be Thor vs. Thor pretending to be Hercules:

Owww. Ow. Owwww. Oww. Owwww.


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Wild Western Freaks

Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1

The prize for the longest title of the week goes to this one right here. Spinning out of the backup stories in Eric Powell’s recent “Buzzard” miniseries, this is written by Powell, with Kyle Hotz taking care of the art. Billy the Kid accompanies his cohorts in the traveling freak show — owner Fineas Sproule, who has hands in place of his feet, creatively tattooed Isadora, the extraordinarily small Jeffrey Tinsle, and the lizard-faced Aldwin Callahan — as they journey to London. They start out by meeting one of the most famous freaks — Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, looking a great deal more pachydermian than he ever did in real life.

Merrick tells them that Jack the Ripper is on the loose, and the terrified populace, desperate to find a scapegoat for the murders, has latched onto London’s apparently sizable collection of genetic freaks as the likely culprits, lynching one of them from time to time. Fineas agrees to investigate, dragging Billy along. While Billy gets friendly with one of the local prostitutes, Fineas meets up with a fellow American named H.H. Holmes. And then Billy gets drugged, the prostitute gets her head lopped off, and Billy gets accused of being the Ripper. This is likely to be a lot of trouble now…

All that, plus there’s a backup story starring the Goon and Frankie! They’re both on vacation, wearing Hawaiian shirts and shorts and sandals out on the docks. Hey, one of the local freaks just stole all of their weiners! Can the Goon stop them, even while wearing kicky summer sandals?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of utterly bizarre fun. Billy is entirely hilarious in his complete clueless crudity, especially in comparison to Joseph Merrick’s gentle nature and super-literate behavior. The story looks to be developing pretty well, too, and Kyle Hotz sure does draw some entertaining freaks. The Goon story is fun, too — I never imagined I’d be so entertained by the Goon wearing flip-flops.

Weird War Tales #1

When I first heard that DC was going to be publishing these one-shots of their classic war comics, this was the one that really got me interested — partly because “Weird War Tales” was always one of those great high-concept comics — military comics + horror/sci-fi! Wheee! — and partly because it was going to have a cover and story by Darwyn Cooke.

Well, Cooke’s story leads us off, as many of history’s great warriors and military leaders get together once every year as undead revenants to, well, drink, shoot each other in the head, and dismember each other. We get Hannibal on an undead elephant, Winston Churchill shooting himself in the head, Genghis Khan losing his skull  to one of Joan of Arc’s arrows and then stepping on his head — and then it ends with Hitler beating everyone?! Like heck! We also get a story of a seemingly immortal dead man in a sunken submarine, and of a couple of war buddies keeping themselves entertained in their final moments with stories of dinosaurs attacking German tanks.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Okay, I really enjoyed the “Private Parker Sees Thunder Lizards” story that closed out the comic, but the Darwyn Cooke story was a bit of a stinker. And blast it, no proper American comic book ever ends with Hitler as the winner, even if it is Hitler’s zombie!

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Bully has a great tribute to the 80th anniversary of the “Blondie” comic strip.
  • Kate Beaton draws Nancy Drew.
  • I’ve never been particularly good with horror video games unless I can switch on god mode — and even then, I’d just as soon hide in a safe location and not venture out to meet the monsters — but this “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” game sounds simultaneously awesomely terrifying and unpleasantly terrifying. From the videos I’ve seen, I’m not sure I’d ever make it past the log-in screen…

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Hell Raisers

Hellboy: The Storm #3

Britain’s Noble Dead have risen from their graves, ready to march to war with Hellboy as their leader. But Big Red is getting cold feet — the utter bizarreness of the whole situation has gotten to be too much. He can’t bring himself to trust anything he’s been told by the people who supposedly know what they’re talking about, and his friend Alice can’t argue him back down. He leaves Excalibur with Alice and walks out past his army. He runs into a bum who tells him that even his army of zombie knights have no hope of surviving against Queen Mab‘s monstrous fae army. But maybe if he goes ahead and calls on the armies of Hell. All that, plus Baba Yaga returns to make a bargain, and Queen Mab learns that she’s ultimately serving a force much more powerful.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots and lots of stuff happening, all building up to a great climax. So many cool moments — Hellboy is a playa, Baba Yaga gets a great scene, and the seemingly unstoppable Mab learns who’s really calling the shots for her. Great writing as always from Mike Mignola, and great art from Duncan Fegredo.

iZombie #5

A bit of a wind-down issue here — Amon makes Gwen realize that she can’t remember how she died; Spot tells Gwen that he actually outed himself as a were-terrier to one of his friends; Gwen spends some downtime with one of the monster-hunters; and the vampires want revenge for Claire’s death.

Verdict: I think I’m actually going to thumbs-down this one. It’s 20+ pages of not-very-much-happening, and it’s too early in this one’s run for that kind of stuff.

Today’s Cool Links:

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The Lion’s Share

Pride of Baghdad

This one’s a few years old, but hey, it’s new to me, so I’ll shamelessly review it.

This is a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Niko Henrichon. It’s based on an incident from the early days of the most recent Iraq war where a number of animals escaped from the bombed-out Baghdad Zoo, with several starving lions being killed by U.S. troops after several days of freedom.

So that’s the core of the story. We follow a small pride of lions from the Baghdad Zoo — Zill, the somewhat spineless male; Safa, an older, half-blind female who wants to stay safe in the zoo’s wreckage; Noor, a younger lioness desperate for freedom; and Ali, Noor’s cub who has never known a life outside of the zoo.

Once the American jets blow a hole in the lions’ enclosure and free many of the other zoo animals, the lions make their escape into the bombed-out remains of Baghdad. They encounter various animals, including a short-lived giraffe, a long-lived turtle, a herd of horses, a bunch of militaristic monkeys, and a very, very bad bear. They also have a run-in with some armored tanks, which are completely perplexing and terrifying to them.

And they all argue a lot. Safa’s need for security and safety clashes with Noor’s rebellious desire for freedom, and both of the lionesses are a little disappointed in Zill’s weak will. And they’re all set on edge by the difficulty in finding food in the city.

And any familiarity with the story of the real lions on the loose in Baghdad will probably clue you in that this story isn’t going to end well for our main characters.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a great story — a fable, I guess — about the prices of freedom, security, and most importantly, war. The lions have to go through a number of trials that the Iraqi people went through during the war — would-be warlords (the monkeys try to kidnap Ali and turn him into a member of their army, random horrible violence (hello and goodbye, giraffe), savage cruelty (the bear is certainly the most terrifying character in the book), and opulence, terror, and starvation all side by side. The environmental horrors of the previous Iraq war also get a mention, thanks to the turtle’s heartbreaking monologue.

Vaughan’s writing is just outstanding in this book — characterization and dialogue are great, and the plotline feels even stronger by weaving in and out of the fable itself. Yeah, it’s a heartbreaker of a story — don’t go into it expecting funny animals, or you’ll be deeply disappointed.

The big standout here is the art — just brilliant, beautiful artwork. Everything Henrichon draws is breathtakingly gorgeous, from landscapes to action scenes to individual animals — the stuff he puts down on paper here is heartstoppingly beautiful. Here’s one of my favorite pages, from just after the pride leaves the zoo.

That’s a fantastically great piece of art — and just about every page has something almost that good.

“Pride of Baghdad.” Go pick it up.

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Dogs of War

Our Army at War #1

DC is going to be running a series of one-shots based on their classic war comics, and this is the first one. It’s got a great cover by Joe Kubert, though it’s Mike Marts and Victor Ibanez who put this story together. We get two different stories that parallel each other — first, set in World War II with a kid from the Midwest meeting up with Sgt. Rock and those combat-happy joes of Easy Company, and the second, set in Iraq, where a kid from Manhattan meets up with a modern-day mercenary squad with Easy Company’s level of fame.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m trying not to give away any spoilers, but the story gets all its oomph when we find out why our modern-day master sergeant signed up to fight. Besides that, we get some really strong, inspiring artwork. The story comes across as a bit manipulative at times, but there’s no way to deny that it packs a punch.

Jonah Hex #59

Jonah heads into a tiny, lawless village looking to collect a bounty, but he gets caught in the middle of a dispute between two brothers. And there’s also a masked pro-Confederacy vigilante called the Gray Ghost who’s on Hex’s trail because he thinks he’s a traitor to the Southern cause. With all those factions gunning for and around him, how is Jonah Hex going to come out on top?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Just didn’t get the right joy outta this one. The Gray Ghost had the look of an interesting recurring villain, but he doesn’t last very long here, and he even gets offed like a chump. Anyway, this story needed something more to it, and it just didn’t have the right stuff.

Today’s Cool Links:

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