Archive for Alternative Comics

Samurai Smash!


Strange Tales #3

I had very high hopes for this one, especially with that outstanding cover by Stan Sakai, creator of “Usagi Yojimbo,” who also contributed the lead story, about an ancient Japanese warrior transformed into a raging green demon by a witch named Gama. But the rest of the stories here are, at best, unimpressive (Peter Bagge’s conclusion of “The Incorrigible Hulk,” Paul Hornschemeier’s talky “battle” between Nightcrawler and the Molecule Man, Jay Stephens’ entirely pedestrian set-up of the Beast vs. Morbius the Living Vampire) and at worst, outright stupid (Corey Lewis’ dayglo Longshot-as-a-club-dork story, Jonathan Jay Lee’s pointless and muddy Punisher story, and Chris Chua’s entirely incomprehensible… I really don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but it goes on for four pages).

Verdict: As bad as the rest of it was, I’m still giving this a thumbs up, solely because of that awesome Stan Sakai Hulk story, which is beautifully illustrated, cleverly thought-out, and extremely entertaining. This miniseries hasn’t been a bad experiment in letting alternate comics creators play around in the Marvel Universe, and it’s certainly an excellent way for readers to discover new creators that they wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.


Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #9

An arsonist is trying to burn up the city, but the more perplexing crisis seems to be Captain Marvel’s sudden personality change — he’s turned into a colossal jerk! He insults his friends and family, snubs kids in wheelchairs, ignores the arson crisis, and endangers normal people. What’s going on? And is there anyway to stop Cap before he goes too far?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A very interesting mystery, with cute illustrations and storytelling to go with it.


Wonder Woman #37

I missed an issue somewhere down the line, so some of this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Diana gets a visit in her dreams from Ares, God of War, who Wonder Woman killed a few issues back by splitting his skull with an axe. Back on Themyscira, Achilles is romancing one of Wonder Woman’s mortal enemies, the island is plagued by numerous mysterious virgin pregnancies, and Artemis has returned a lost tribe of Amazons home. When Wonder Woman decides to return to Themyscira, she’ll have to battle one of her best friends to make her homecoming.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Even considering that I missed an issue, this didn’t make much sense at all. I know all the Paradise Island stuff is supposed to be important to Wonder Woman, but I’m kinda getting tired of hearing about it all the time. Couldn’t Wonder Woman go bust up some criminals sometime?

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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.

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The Alternative Meets the Mainstream


Strange Tales #1

You may remember back in 2002, DC put together a project called “Bizarro Comics,” where they let a bunch of independent and small press cartoonists create stories about their superheroes. Well, Marvel finally decided to give that a try. This is the result — Paul Pope creates a story of the Inhumans as Lockjaw repeatedly tries to get someone to give him some dog food. Junko Mizuno puts Spider-Man and Mary Jane in a city of adorable spiders. Dash Shaw pits Dr. Strange against Nightmare. James Kochalka creates a bunch of different colors of Hulk. Johnny Ryan spotlights Marvel’s most embarrassing moments and introduces the Punisher as an academic counselor. Michael Kupperman notes that the Sub-Mariner is always disgusted with humanity. Nick Bertozzi chronicles MODOK’s tragic love life. And Peter Bagge’s near-legendary “Incorrigible Hulk” finally sees print.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is an outstanding and very funny comic. Dr. Strange struggles not to yawn, Namor craves pizza, the Watcher is a peeping tom, Spidey eats bugs, and Wolverine misinterprets a blue hair. The best stories are Pope’s wonderful story about Lockjaw and the Inhumans, and Bertozzi’s genuinely sad story about MODOK. Best line? “I have to get my evil unicorn.” Best thing about this comic? Marvel is going to release two more issues in the coming months.


Sweet Tooth #1

This is the first all-color comic by Canadian alt-cartoonist Jeff Lemire. It focuses on a kid named Gus who has antlers and other deer-like features. He lives with his dying father in the wilderness — some sort of apocalyptic accident has caused children to be born as human-animal hybrids, and that’s made them all targets, though we never learn if they’re subject to extermination, capture, or something else. Gus has never seen another human other than his father, and when he dies, Gus is left on his own. Can he survive a hostile world he knows nothing about?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Weird, quirky, and sometimes intensely cinematic. Gus and his dad are both wonderful characters, and his dad’s death hits Gus and the reader hard. The scene where Gus meets the deer is short but amazingly cool. And there are a couple of bonus reasons to pick this up. First, it’s just a dollar. Just one freakin’ buck! One measly simoleon! You can afford that! Second, Lemire has an offer for you — send him your copy of the comic with a self-addressed envelope, and he’ll sign the book and send you an original sketch. (Check here for address and other details.)

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