Archive for April, 2014

The Horrible Future and the Horrible Past


Lazarus #8

The Lift is coming, in which the Waste — poor, unskilled, and considered worthless by the all-powerful and impossibly wealthy Families — are given the opportunity to show they can be useful enough to be declared Serfs, with greater security and benefits. The Barret family are traveling to Denver, hoping to be selected, but they’ve already lost their daughter to bandits. While they travel with the other pilgrims on their way to Colorado, Forever Carlyle is tracking down a band of terrorists called the Free. They’ve managed to build a bomb, and they plan to use it in Denver, unless Forever can somehow stop them in time.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Very nice slow build on the tension, combined with excellent characterization of Forever and the Barrets. We can be pretty sure that they’ll all come to clash somehow, and that it won’t be pretty for anyone, but I’m still looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.


The Witcher #2

Geralt the Witcher and Jakob the hunter are exploring a seemingly empty mansion in a haunted forest. Of course, it’s far from empty — there are some monsters and a whole room full of corpses. Jakob decides to try to find his late wife, who’s become a vampire, while Geralt encounters a friendly succubus named Vara. What’s her story? What’s wrong with the house? What’s buried in the basement?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Best thing about this, so far, is characterization and dialogue. Yeah, there’s some monster-fighting, but it’s the most fun listening to these people talk to each other.

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Broken Mirrors

Today’s reviews feature a couple comics starring people who have their own special versions of evil twins.


The Manhattan Projects #20

Albert Einstein is back in town and having a few maybe not-so-friendly drinks with his alternate-universe twin Albrecht Einstein. Albrecht trapped Albert in another dimension and took over his own life in the Manhattan Projects, and Albert had to fight his way across multiple horrible universes to make his way back home. Albert has always been more intelligent than Albrecht, and he’s now a heck of a barbarian warrior — is he going to be willing to forgive what his doppelganger did to him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see Albert back in the series, and it’ll be interesting to see the two Einsteins hanging out.


Daredevil #2

So there’s this blind lawyer who has super-sensory powers that let him be a superhero, and his name’s Matt Murdock. Oh, but wait, San Francisco actually has another blind lawyer who has super-sensory powers that let him be a superhero — Max Coleridge, otherwise known as the Shroud. Unsurprisingly, they don’t get along well — the Shroud is a great deal more hardcore and sociopathic than Matt is, and he’s been keeping a bunch of mid-level mobsters captive at his slum hideout so he can pump them for information. Can Matt convince the Shroud to let the men go? Only if he helps take out San Francisco’s biggest crimelord…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art and writing. It’s fun to have these two characters who are so bizarrely similar and so uniquely different at the same time. And the cliffhanger at the end is an excellent twist. Meanwhile, what the heck really happened to Foggy Nelson?!

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Friday Night Fights: Head Hunting!

You ever had a week so weird and lengthy and stressful that it basically infects everything around it, including the weekends? I’ve had a lot of those lately. Doesn’t mean I’m not still looking forward to the weekends — just means they’re not as relaxing or stress-free as they should be. Doesn’t mean we’re still not gonna kick things off with some Friday Night Fights, though. ‘Cause I definitely need me some weird, weird violence this week.

And we’re going with one of the weirdest comics ever today — Winter 1941’s Big 3 #2, one of the first stories of Stardust the Super-Wizard by Fletcher Hanks. Stardust — he of the impossible musculature and bizarre powers and possibly drug-infused brains — meets up with a villain called De Structo, who has attempted to menace the entire world, just for the sake of random, rotten evil.














Congratulations, Stardust has just given us all some kind of horrible, hallucinatory brain fever. Let’s hope we can sleep through the weekend and it’ll all go away…

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President Evil


Evil Empire #2

So how did the future fascist America come about? We rewind 25 years to the present day, where presidential candidate Kenneth Laramy has just used his eulogy at his wife’s funeral to confess to her murder and to declare that it should be legal to kill anyone who you think really deserves it. While controversial and rebellious rapper Reese Greenwood starts a romance with Sam Duggins, the other presidential candidate, Laramy is quickly convicted and jailed, but he uses his trial to preach his psychotic gospel of absolute, unrestrained freedom and if-it-feels-good-do-it bloodshed — and as a result, a wave of violence sweeps the nation. And even worse, the police and prison guards are largely on Laramy’s side, and they allow him to leave prison so he can continue to encourage people to embrace violence and anarchy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was plenty doubtful last issue that the creators would be able to build a believable history that brought about a serious fascist dictatorship. But everything about Laramy’s pro-violence platform feels somewhat ripped from the headlines. We do actually have pro-sedition militia loons who want to kill lots of people, and they’re being egged on by big media pundits, partly for the ratings, partly because they know they’ll never get punished for inciting riots, murders and terrorist attacks. We got Florida, which basically legalized murder. We got Georgia, which wants people to carry guns in bars, schools, churches, and airports. We got legislators and billionaires waging illogical wars on homeless people, on the poor, on women and minorities, on solar energy, of all things, on the very concepts of human empathy and compassion.

We can turn on the TV and see sociopaths hosting news shows and appearing as honored guests, doing everything they can to encourage more sociopathy, more violence, more racism. About the only thing keeping the comic book from looking too much like real life is the spectacular lack of charisma or forethought going on among the political and media leaders on the rightward side of the aisle. In the real world, thank goodness, the percentage of psychotics in the population is much, much lower.


Ghosted #9

Jackson Winters is in huge trouble. He’s successfully rescued Nina Blood Crow from the Brotherhood of the Closed Book, but now they’re both trapped in a jungle haunted by hundreds of dead, angry animals. And the only people who can rescue them are, unfortunately, the Brotherhood of the Closed Book. And even worse, the Brotherhood is working with Nina’s mother, Wenona Blood Crow, an organized crime kingpin who helped get Nina possessed by the vengeful spirit of the Skadegamutc. Plus we also get a flashback of Jackson’s last big casino heist and why it went so disastrously, terrifyingly wrong.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a gloriously creepy, bloody story, and it was spectacular fun to read. If y’all love good horror comics, you should be reading this series.

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Alabaster and Onyx


Alabaster: Pale Horse by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Hopefully, you enjoyed Dark Horse’s “Alabaster: Wolves” miniseries that came out two years ago. I figured I’d never get a chance to read Caitlin R. Kiernan’s original short stories about Dancy Flammarion, the weird Southern monster-hunting possibly-crazy albino girl who starred in the series. But as it turned out, Dark Horse decided to collect Kiernan’s previous tales in this nice softcover.

So we get a series of six stories, most of them fairly well connected to each other, covering the weirdness and terror of Dancy’s life from her childhood to her monster-stalking young adulthood. She meets up with were-creatures, vampires, angels, demons, and things that are so much worse. And for the most part, she’s very, very lucky. Things are just not very easy for Dancy Flammarion. She’s an albino walking around in the hot Georgia sun, every monster in the state knows who she is and wants revenge on her because she keeps killing monsters — even though everything she meets tends to be a lot tougher than she is.

Dancy’s the star, but a very strong supporting character is the Deep South atmosphere. It’s blazingly hot everywhere, even in the shade. Almost every location is run-down and filthy and corrupted and falling apart, aside from the occasional vampire-infested mansion. Everyone’s a monster, especially the people. In fact, just about the only really decent people are animals who Dancy may be hallucinating.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I really was kinda overjoyed when I saw this in the local shop. I’d never dreamed there was a chance I’d get to see all the Dancy Flammarion stories all in one place, and I loved the comic series so much, this one was kinda a zero-hesitation buy.

Dancy’s an outstanding character — quite clearly insane, except for the fact that she keeps fighting monsters and talking to dogs and angels. Unless those are just normal people she’s killing. She comes across as low-grade white trash, broken inside, wandering aimlessly and miserably around the South, getting screamed at by the voices inside her head. But she’s got a weirdly hyper-moral core of her personality — she doesn’t seem to particularly hate monsters — in fact, she generally acts like she’d just as soon leave them alone, especially because they keep trying to kill her.

But she keeps going, partly because her angel keeps screaming at her, partly because she’s on a holy crusade. Dancy’s a doomed character — you just can’t imagine any way she could ever get out of this life or find happiness or even survive much past the next year or so. But it’s absolutely clear that she’d keep right on going, no matter what, because she can’t imagine life without her crusade.

And one more point to recommend this one — it ends with a fantastically creepy afterword from Kiernan recounting a moment of her life along a Georgia highway that helped inspire the horrors of the Dancy stories. Don’t skip the afterword. It’s very good and very spooky.

If you like wonderfully visceral, grim, dirty horror with a sweet Southern twang, starring an amazingly, awesomely weird female protagonist, you’ll definitely want to pick this up.

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Devil in Disguise


A Voice in the Dark #6

Zoey has decided that she really wants to kill someone again, and she’s settled on manipulative sorority queen Mandy Jenkins as the target, because she’d tried to expel her friend Ash and considered charging Zoey with assault. So Zoey has to start spying on Mandy, trying to discover a time when she’d be by herself for long enough to get the murder done. Unfortunately, Mandy is very rarely alone — and worse, Zoey doesn’t know the layout of her house, so she doesn’t know the best way in and out. She hits on the idea to disguise herself for Halloween and attend Mandy’s party to scope out the entrances and exits. She meets a mysterious friend in a hockey mask — and discovers a very good reason to add Mandy’s boyfriend to her hit list.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a bit of a tense story, with some great dialogue and some seriously no-fun situations. If you’ve got problems with depictions of an attempted rape, you may want to pass on this one.


American Vampire: Second Cycle #2

Calvin Poole offers Pearl a position in the Vassals of the Morning Star, warning her that serious crises are on the horizon. And he’s right — the Gray Trader, an impossibly powerful and evil vampire. It’s coming for Pearl’s neighbors, it’s coming for Calvin, and it’s coming for Pearl and her young charges, too.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The first serious look we get of the Gray Trader, after a fairly long period of buildup — and it definitely does not disappoint. It’s monstrous and creepy at the same time, which is a very nice trick.

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Friday Night Fights: Holding the Bridge!

Well, it’s been another long, horrible week of working at our horrible jobs instead of maxxin’ and relaxxin’ at home where we belong. But we get a much-too-short break now, thank goodness, so we’re going to kick the weekend off as violently as we can with… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

We’re going with a true classic tonight — December 1985’s The Mighty Thor #362 by Walt Simonson. Skurge stands alone at Gjallerbru.





It’s always a good thing to read as many of Simonson’s Thor comics as you can.

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Growing Pains


Ms. Marvel #3

Kamala Khan isn’t sure she’s enjoying her new superpowers at all. She’s already gotten grounded, and she’s just not sure what they really mean to her. She gets in trouble at Sheikh Abdullah’s weekly youth lecture, she’s fighting with her friends, and she gets in trouble when her shapeshifting powers go haywire and she wrecks up a locker room. And then she stumbles onto a convenience store robbery — which may not actually be a robbery at all — and she gets into the most trouble of all.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m really, really enjoying this comic. Kamala is a wonderful character. Love her look, love her attitude, love the way that getting superpowers is completely freaking her out. Love the art — and especially, I love all the funny background bits in the art — the signs on stores, the background characters, you name it.


Lumberjanes #1

Heard enough people talking about this last week, so I figured I should pick it up. Our stars are a bunch of teenaged girls at a Lumberjanes Scout Camp. They’ve gone sneaking out of their cabin late at night after seeing some weird stuff, and they soon find themselves attacked by a bunch of weird three-eyed foxes. And so there’s a tremendous fight sequence! Once the girls run the foxes off, unfortunately, their camp counselor catches them and drags them all off the get lectured by the camp director. But the director is completely cool with it — especially when she hears some of what our heroes experienced.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a cute, funny story, with art that’s both adorable and seriously spooky. Will I keep reading it? I dunno, really — I’ll probably pick up a few issues and give it a chance to grow on me.

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The Empire Diaries


Evil Empire #1

Okay, the premise of this sci-fi comic is a look back at a world in which America has become a hardline fascist dictatorship to discover how it changed from a normal 21st-century media-driven democracy into a society where brownshirts murder you for helping homeless people.

After a brief look at the fascist future, we drop back a quarter-century to meet Reese Greenwood, a rebellious, status quo-hating pop star who raps about tearing down the system and how much she hates both political parties. After a concert in Washington, D.C., she meets one of the presidential candidates, Sam Duggins, a young, single liberal running against Kenneth Laramy, a married family-values conservative. After Duggins tells Reese he’s a fan of her music, both of them learn that Laramy’s wife has been savagely murdered, stabbed in the neck by an unknown assailant. Reese ends up getting serious criticism — one of her best-known songs refers to stabbing a politician in the neck — and Sam Duggins takes some heat off her when he interrupts her MTV interview. Reese and Duggins end up attending the funeral together, where everyone discovers something absolutely shocking…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m probably hooked on this series for a while. The characters are interesting and the art is pretty nice. The cliffhanger is a pretty big shocker. I’m still dubious on how this is all going to lead to a fascist dictatorship in 25 years, but I wouldn’t expect them to tell the whole story in the first issue…


Coffin Hill #7

A done-in-one issue starring Eleanor Coffin, who, if I remember correctly, is Eve’s mother. The year is 1958, and Ellie is roaming the Coffin Hill woods trying to find the infamous Coffin Witch to beg for her help. She’s being stalked by her father — but her father was murdered by her mother just days ago. As he chases her through the forest, she finds brief respite with a girl named Evelyn, but she can’t escape from her undead father — but does he actually want what’s best for her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely spooky short story full of ghosts and evil and temptation. Not sure the story is quite as good as you might expect from that title — but on the other hand, it’d be hard for anything to live up to an awesome title like “The Sole Unquiet Thing,” which should probably have been attached to a few of my more epic nightmares…

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Oh, Come on! It’s Blade! Everyone Knows It’s Blade!


Mighty Avengers #9

There’s a short bit at the beginning and the very end where we learn who Ronin really is — but there’s absolutely no suspense or surprise about this because Marvel leaked that he was Blade months and months ago.

But the bulk of our story focuses on the Blue Marvel, whose son Max Brashear has become a supervillain called Dr. Positron, hoping to open the Neutral Zone to rescue his long-lost brother. But exposure to the energies of the Neutral Zone has turned Kevin Brashear into a gargantuan extra-dimensional monstrosity whose emergence into our reality could end up blowing up the entire solar system. And he’s composed of energy that could kill the Blue Marvel if he’s exposed to it. Can She-Hulk and Monica Rambeau manage to team up to resolve the situation?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yes, even with Greg Land back doing his tracework. The whole story is pretty good, but maybe the most fun is seeing what adventures the Marvel and his son Kevin were up to over the years. (Although it’s plenty weird that according to this comic, the Fantastic Four fought Galactus for the first time sometime after 1999. Maybe that little tidbit should’ve been kept vague or just omitted, don’tcha think, Marvel?)


Astro City #11

Raitha McCann has a very nice job as the personal assistant for a busy executive — namely, the Silver Adept, Astro City’s version of the Sorcerer Supreme. The Silver Adept is maybe a bit of a flake, but she’s very good at her job. But there’s so much work to do when it comes to stopping magical disasters across multiple planes of reality, and she really needs Raitha’s help getting everything coordinated. But when the Adept is unavoidably off-planet when a trio of mystical bigwigs called the Nightflying Lord, the Queen of Dust and Decay, and Tumorr show up on the doorstep. Can Raitha keep them happy before they decide to wage war on our corner of reality?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is alright, but not particularly outstanding. It’s really a couple excellent character studies — overworked but hyper-competent Raitha, trying to keep up with the impossible tasks she has to deal with, and the wonderfully non-serious Silver Adept, who I’d love to see in as many other stories as possible.


Captain Marvel #2

Carol meets up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Hijinks ensue.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I know, it’s not much of a plot, but the hijinks are great, the art is great, and it’s great to have an all-fun issue, especially with future movie stars.

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