Archive for July, 2012

Vampire State

American Vampire #29

Pearl Preston and Skinner Sweet are tracking vampires in ’50s Hollywood, hiding out in the mansions of directors and stars. Claiming to be investigators for the House Un-American Activities Committee, they pay a visit to producer Wells White, who shows off his pet lions before Pearl and Skinner catch sight of his vampire guest. While Pearl takes care of the vampire, White turns his lions loose on Skinner — not that a bunch of lions have much of a chance. But who’s behind the sniper who kills White? And what kind of hold do the Vassals of the Morning Star have over Skinner Sweet?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Just a good issue. I like the vamps’ cover of “Oh, hey, we’re with HUAC — you got any shady connections we need to know about?” Makes it a perfect fit for the paranoid ’50s.

Justice League Dark #11

Felix Faust is trying to get into the government’s vault that contains all of the most powerful magic items in the world, while the JLD struggle to contain him and his pet demons. Meanwhile, Madame Xanadu seeks out Timothy Hunter, a kid in London who may be the only magician in the world powerful enough to safely use the Books of Magic — but he insists there’s no way he can help them. Can John Constantine prevent the Books from falling into Felix’s hands?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ehh, it’s alright. Mostly a big punch-up. Still not sure I’ll ever get used to the idea of John Constantine and Timothy Hunter running around on the superhero side of the DCU.

The Amazing Spider-Man #690

While Spider-Man tries to corral Morbius the Living Vampire, Dr. Curt Connors is back at Horizon Labs trying to turn himself back into the Lizard — and using the rest of Horizon’s staff as guinea pigs. Can Spidey capture Morbius and make it back to the lab before all of his coworkers are turned into giant lizards?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Worth it more for Connors’ internal monologue than for just about anything else.

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My Pappy Said Son You Gonna Drive Me to Drinkin’ if You Don’t Stop Drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln

The Goon #40

Let us step back to those terrible days, long years ago, of Prohibition, when some drunkard with a goat fetish roused the ire of the temperance societies and got hooch banned in Lonely Town. While the Goon and Franky were just teenagers back then, they still knew how to earn a dishonest buck, and they set about brewing their own rotgut whiskey. Alas, their truck was too broken-down to outrun the cops and make their deliveries, so they upgraded their vehicle and were soon keeping Lonely Town awash in low-grade liquor. But they ran afoul of the other bootleggers in town, the Boyles — Rev. Papa Grits Boyle, the snake-handlin’, wizardin’ patriarch, Randal, the stitched-together hot-rodder, Moon Pie, the knife-wielding psycho, and Snakebite Verna, the rotten black-widow sister. There commences a moonshine war that culminates in Franky and Papa Grits accidentally summoning the Devil by dancing the Charleston. The Devil figures  they’re all awful sinners and demands a hot rod race to determine who will go to Hell.

But that’s not all! While Franky’s brewing up a particularly vile batch of firewater, a wild skunk-ape is attracted by the stench and drinks the whole vat dry! And then it mutates into a green-skinned, pop-eyed, snaggle-toothed monster hot rod! Can the Goon capture the hooch monkey? Or will it continue to terrorize the world?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very, very many thumbs ups. A comic that nearly perfectly replicates both the hot-rodding hoodlums genre and the Kustom Kulture artwork of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth? This is drop-dead glorious stuff. Why aren’t you reading “The Goon” already? Do you hate glory!?

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Exorcism #2

BPRD Agent Ashley Strode is visiting the spiritual plane with Father Ota Benga, a priest who has kept the demon Andras imprisoned within his soul for over a hundred years. They must engage in spiritual contact with the demon, drive it from the priest’s soul and into the waiting body of a goat. Does Ashley have a chance of vanquishing the demon and saving Ota’s life?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent story from Mike Mignola, excellent art from Cameron Stewart. A nice short two-issue series with plenty of pop, shocks, and horror. Go get it, you’ll like it.

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An Axe to Grind

Axe Cop: President of the World #1

Hot dog! I was not expecting a new Axe Cop series! Y’all remember Axe Cop, right? Art by 31-year-old Ethan Nicolle and written by eight-year-old Malachai Nicolle, these brothers turn out some of the craziest, funniest, most awesome comics around at the Axe Cop website. And sometimes, they put out some regular comics, too.

When last we saw Axe Cop, the dedicated crimefighter had wiped out all the bad guys and had been made president of the whole wide world, with a direct prayer line to his personal pal, God. Now he’s gotten his new executive mansion, the Gold House, built in Axeville, Washington, and people are asking when or if the bad guys will ever come back. After checking up with God, Axe Cop announces that the bad guys will be gone from Earth for one million years! But that means the bad guys will be back eventually, so Axe Cop sends all the other crimefighters and superheroes in a time machine to one million years in the future.

Meanwhile, Axe Cop adds two new members to his crimefighting team — Goo Cop, a blob of green ooze who is able to control minds with his goo and needs Axe Cop’s help to save his family, and Junior Cobbb (yes, with three B’s), a talking gorilla who grow to giant size, has robotic gun fists, and can shoot anything he wants out of his tail. He needs Axe Cop’s help to save Planet Weird Gorilla (where gorillas stand on their tippy-toes and get dumber and weirder as they grow older) from an invasion of Evil Robotic Penguins.

Can Axe Cop save everyone? Will the heroes be able to stop the bad guys when they return after a million years? And what’s going to happen if the bad guys… don’t show up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So much wonderful, mad fun. Beautiful artwork by Ethan, too — a lot of attention always goes to Malachai, ’cause hey, eight-year-old comics writer. But Ethan’s artwork is just plain awesome, every single panel. Be sure and pay close attention to all the wonderful details, too — lots of funny bits hidden away in the background…

Superman Family Adventures #3

Aliens are attacking Metropolis! Jimmy Olsen goes to call Superman on his signal watch — but why does he keep getting the Super-Pets instead of the Man of Steel? Fuzzy the Super-Mouse gets some training in his powers from Krypto. And Lois Lane gets a little suspicious about Clark Kent’s similarities to Superman, so he has Superboy send a Superman robot to help preserve his secret identity. But when more than one robot shows up, things are going to get a lot more confusing.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Cute, funny stories and artwork. I think it’s great that these are basically classic Silver Age stories, just tweaked to make them funnier than they were before.

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Beware the Jabberwock, My Son!

Snarked #10

While the kingdom slides into bankruptcy and tyranny, the Gryphon has taken over the Mad Hatter’s pirate ship, and Queen Scarlett, Prince Rusty, Wilburforce J. Walrus, Clyde McDunk, the king, and the crew are stranded on Snark Island. Scarlett and Rusty wander off in the night, the Walrus and the Carpenter follow them, and the Gryphon constructs his secret weapon — a mechanical Jabberwock! Can everyone manage to escape? Or will they all fall prey to… a Boojum?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love anything with a Jabberwock in it. And beyond that, it’s a fun story, good art, lots of humor, and even some fairly ominous mystery.

Daredevil #15

Dr. Doom’s underlings have exposed Daredevil to nanobots that have robbed him of all of his senses. But some of his senses seem to be coming back — including sight, which he lost when he was a child. When he finally manages to escape, he takes to the roofs to try to escape Doom’s underlings, but with his senses scrambled and confused, does he have a chance of escape?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, great story, good characterization and suspense. I’m always amazed by how very, very good this comic is.

Dark Horse Presents #14

A extra-long comic — heck, it’s actually a double comic! You read one half, then flip the comic over to read the other half! As always, some good stuff, some not so good stuff, but the work that impressed me the most included: Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell’s spooky “Riven,” Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner’s madcap “Buddy Cops,” Kim W. Andersson’s creepy “Love Hurts,” John Laymon and Sam Kieth’s “Aliens: Inhuman Condition,” Carla Speed McNeil’s always excellent “Finder: Third World,” Tony Puryear, Erika Alexander, and Robert Alexander’s “Concrete Park,” and short gag comics by Mike Russell, Patrick Alexander, and Jim Benton.

Verdict: Thumbs up. When it rocks, it rocks.

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Friday Night Fights: Patriotic Pain!

Okay, it’s way, way after Independence Day, but some stuff is just too good to pass up. You wouldn’t want me to save this a whole year for next July 4th? No way, we’re doing this right now. Buckle up, kids, it’s time for… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

From 1976’s Marvel Treasury Special: Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 by the King himself, Jack Kirby! For all the marbles: Captain America vs. Hitler!

Best way to start the weekend: beating the snot out of Nazis.

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The World Needs More Heroines

Captain Marvel #1

The much-anticipated new series starring the former Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers. She has a shorter haircut and a new costume that’s more similar to Marvel’s classic Captain Marvel character. After she and Captain America stop a rampage by the Absorbing Man, Cap persuades her that it’s time for her to take up the name Captain Marvel as a tribute to the original. After that, she spars with Spider-Man, takes a short flight into orbit, visits her old friend Tracy Burke, who is now apparently fighting cancer, and reminisces about her hero, Helen Cobb, a pioneering pilot.

Verdict: Thumbs up. A fairly low-key beginning for the new series — nice to see that every new comic doesn’t have to start with a giant cosmic crossover. We get some action, some downtime, some great character moments. Kelly Sue DeConnick writes a great issue here. The big surprise is Dexter Soy’s art — if you expected traditional comic art like what’s on the cover, Soy’s work isn’t what you thought you’d see. He’s more of a painter, and on first glance, his work looks a bit muddy. But you get adjusted fast, and Soy really shines when it comes to faces. It really is pretty beautiful stuff. Hope you’re going to give this one a try.

Batwoman #11

Sune has shapeshifted into a completely different person, Maro, with plans to kill Batwoman and take over the Medusa organization. Maro manages to escape with a bunch of kidnapped children, leaving Batwoman and Cameron Chase to escape from Killer Croc and Maria, the Weeping Woman. Meanwhile, it’s looking like Bette Kane may never wake back up, and the doctors are making plans to take her off life support. Is there anything Jacob Kane can do to save her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Mainly, to be honest, for Jacob Kane and his niece Bette. The Batwoman stuff is fine, but it’s mostly slugfest stuff. Jacob and Bette have all the heart in this issue.

Wonder Woman #11

Hera has hired Apollo and Artemis, the gods of the sun and the moon, to abduct Zola, and only Wonder Woman, Hermes, and Lennox are available to stop them. And the good guys get absolutely stomped. With Lennox out of the picture and Zola in Hera’s fiendish clutches, can Diana and Hermes do anything to help?

Verdict: I think I’ll give it a thumbs up. It’s not a ton of fun to watch the heroes get effortlessly pulverized by the bad guys, but there’s some good character stuff in here, we get Hera scheming, we get our first looks at Artemis and Demeter, and we get more fun with Strife being a hilarious loon.

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Parker Shoots, Parker Scores

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score

Wow, I had no idea this was coming out ’til I got to the store last week — a brand new Parker graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke. Set me back more than I was expecting, but it was worth every penny.

What do we have here? If you’re new, there was a mystery writer named Donald Westlake, and while writing under his pen-name of Richard Stark, he came up with this guy named Parker, a cold-hearted conscience-free bastard who specializes in heists. He doesn’t like to kill but he’ll do it if he has to — and he sure won’t feel bad about it afterwards. Darwyn Cooke got Westlake’s blessing not long before he died to turn some of the Parker novels into graphic novels, and this is the third in the set.

It’s 1964, and Parker is brought in during the planning stages of a job he has some serious doubts about. It’s being organized by an amateur named Edgars, he thinks the job may need 30 people to pull off, and he wants to rob an entire town — the small mining town of Copper Canyon, North Dakota. Though several of his more trusted associates are interested in it, Parker is inclined to nix the entire job — until he’s convinced that with the right planning, it could actually be possible.

The rest of the book focuses on Parker and his 12-man team of crooks as they make preparations for the heist, then follows them as they effortlessly and perfectly pull the job off. Wait, did I say effortless and perfect? Nope, something big goes wrong, and Parker has to salvage his team and the money so they can all make their escape.

Verdict: Oh, you know it’s a thumbs up.

Let’s talk art. Well, it’s got Darwyn Cooke doing the art, so you know it’s gonna look awesome. An interesting change for this book — instead of the black and blue ink of the previous two novels, this one is done with black ink and orange ink. Does a lot to make the book look hotter and more distant from the city. It does a lot to this story — so much more over-the-top than the previous ones — to make it pop off the page. It’s great art, but we knew that going in, didn’t we?

Writing-wise, there’s lots of good stuff here — good characterization for almost everyone, with several of the bandits getting their own sections of the story all to themselves as we get to learn more about them, why they rob, what they love doing. We get a nice long bit with Grofield, the charismatic, wise-cracking actor, and it’s great fun. We even see some of Parker we never knew about before, particularly the fact that, when dealing with hostages, he drops his cold persona and uses simple psychology to keep people calm and cooperative.

My one complaint was that, for all the planning that got done before the heist, no one ever stopped to consider who Edgars was and why he wanted the town robbed. He admitted at the beginning that it was personal, but once everyone started thinking about that quarter-million-dollar payoff, everyone forgot about that loose end. Of course, if they hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been much of a story, but I may have said too much now, right?

It’s a good book. No, it’s a fantastic book, one that you’re going to absolutely love reading. Go pick it up.

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The Hypno-Hustler

Saucer Country #5

New Mexico Governor and presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado pays a visit to shady hypnotherapist Dr. Glass with a specific plan — to let him hypnotize her so she can learn more about what happened when she was abducted by aliens, and at the same time, to lie to Glass — yes, even under hypnosis — to make sure that the revelations he got from her ex-husband’s hypnotherapy session are discredited. Glass is, of course, furious, but his conspiracy-theory co-conspirators seem to be happy with what little they’ve learned. Meanwhile, Gov. Alvarado and her staff begin making plans for how they can use the campaign as cover to investigate the aliens and find more evidence.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good story, interesting dialogue, nice characterization. Lots of interesting stuff happening here — just five issues in, and we’re already seeing the main characters taking control of their destinies, whereas in many other comics, they’ll spend at least six issues reacting to everything…

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #2

Agent Hobbes of the Vassals of the Morning Star reveals to former Agent Felicia Book that the secret that had previously been kept under the organization’s London headquarters was… Dracula. Well, maybe not the fictional character, but the first and most powerful of the Carpathian vampires, able to control the mind of almost any Carpathian, able to survive being staked through the heart and even able to control minds while dormant. The Russians are about to get their hands on him — they don’t want to revive him, they just don’t want the Brits to have him — but Tommy Glass, the bespectacled American Renfield, has a plan to help revive his master — and if he’s successful, the whole world is in danger…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A lot of exposition here, but it’s all really interesting exposition, and it’s balanced with plenty of plot movement, too. Wow, this Dracula vampire sounds like serious bad business, don’t he?

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The Rising Tide

The Massive #2

Callum Israel and the crew of the Kapital continue to search for their missing shipmates and for their sister ship, the Massive, which vanished during the world’s environmental and economic breakdown — all while trying to avoid attack by pirates off the coast of Kamchatka. Amongst all this, we also get flashbacks to the crew’s visit to a partially submerged Hong Kong, as well as some quick looks at all the different ways the ecological collapse messed the world up.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Still a fascinating look at how the world goes on after the world ends. Great tension in Kamchatka and action in Hong Kong, and the brief looks at how the Crash affected everything from ships at sea, satellites in the skies, and fuel supplies in North America.

Atomic Robo Presents Real Science Adventures #4

More short stories in this Atomic Robo anthology. The Sparrow runs into serious trouble behind German lines. Robo learns that Bruce Lee has some more tricks up his sleeves, and he tries to pick up his comic book habits from his youth during the grim-and-gritty ’90s. Plus a visit to a Japanese Atomic Robo, and a look at Jenkins’ past.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good stuff all around. Not quite as amazing as the previous issue of this book, but still a lot of fun.

Batman #11

Batman faces off with Owlman, who claims to be his brother, Thomas Wayne, Jr. For the most part, Owlman repeatedly cleans Batman’s clock, while Bats gets a number of pretty lucky breaks. Then Bruce and Dick Grayson sit around and try to figure out whether Owlman was really who he said he was.

Verdict: Ehh, sorry, but thumbs down. It was a slugfest, followed by a talkfest, and neither one was particularly entertaining.

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Friday Night Fights: Faking It!

Wow, what a week. Just nothing but chaos and responsibilities and not anywhere near enough rest or fun. I hope like heck that this weekend is going to help relieve that a little. But we gotta get things rolling, and the best way to start off a new weekend is with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from October 2009’s Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #39 by Paul Tobin, Horacio Domingues, and Craig S. Yeung. The Rhino has decided he’s tired of having to hang out with crazy psychotic supervillains, but he doesn’t want to just turn himself in to the cops — he wants to go out with style — and that means he’s gotta get stomped by a superhero. But when Tigra is the hero who shows up, can they team up to make this fight look properly punishing?

That’ll do it for me — see you guys on Monday!

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