Archive for American Vampire

Curbstomping the Reboot

The Goon #39

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the comic that is likely to win some Eisners and Harveys for Eric Powell next year?

Well, Powell, creator of “The Goon,” has finally decided to sell out. He wants money, he wants collector speculation, and he wants some mass-media controversy. So the Goon reveals his new superhero costume and his new overblown superhero origin, and he takes Franky as his scantily-clad sidekick. Then they change costumes and origins a few pages later, and a few pages after that, and a few pages after that. Will Powell finally get the media coverage he craves, even with the giant splash pages, the Thong of Nobility, angst-ridden monologues, vector graphics software, gratuitous ass-shots, multicolored Goons, variant covers, inevitable betrayals, and constant reboots?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a pretty sure bet that Eric Powell is never going to work for DC Comics again, not after completely savaging the company this way. From the perfect Dark Horse With A Band-Aid logo on the cover to the DiDioesque/Johnsian plot twists and Jim Lee costume designs, this was a joy to read from beginning to end. Seriously, it’s a near-certain shoo-in for awards next year.

My only question is this: Are we seeing the beginning of the long-awaited backlash on DC’s Reboot? Or just a brief flare-up of dissent?

American Vampire #26

A new storyarc, this time focusing on Calvin Poole, a character we last saw all the way back in Issue #19. Calvin used to be a member of the Vassals of the Morning Star, a vampire-hunting organization, and he ended up getting turned into an American vampire when he was infected by a broken glass vial of Pearl Jones’ blood. Now he’s wandering the American South and occasionally killing and eating racist rednecks. He learns of an integrated doo-wop group and gets recognized by one of its members. He gets warned off by some teenagers who say he and the doo-wop group will die if they stay in town, and he gets some protection from a group of veterans. But the danger for Calvin is that he really has no idea who his friends and enemies really are…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was afraid Calvin Poole had been completely forgotten — glad we’ll get to see a story focusing on him — and with a setting in the Deep South of the 1950s, this story should be juicy in more ways than one.

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The Horror in the Hills

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – The Pickens County Horror #1

Here’s the beginning of a new two-issue miniseries. It’s set in a small rural county in South Carolina, during the ongoing slow destruction of the BPRD world. We start out with a small family of country vampires who discover something unexpected and terrifying out in the woods. Jump forward to a few days later, and two BPRD agents, Vaughn and Peters, arrive in Pickens County to investigate reports of a strange fog — they’re not really expecting to find anything at all, but a combination of green fog, mysterious mushrooms, figures in the dark, and a creepy academic obsessed with vampires puts both of them in serious danger.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’ll be honest — almost anything titled “The Pickens County Horror” would probably get a thumbs-up from me, because it’s such a perfect horror-story title. At any rate, I got a lot of joy from the story itself — mostly mood and creepiness for now, but I’m very interested in how Mike Mignola and Scott Allie are going to combine vampires, mutant mushrooms, and apocalyptic horror.

American Vampire #25

Travis Kidd is a ’50s vampire-hunting hoodlum, facing Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire — and Sweet’s powers aren’t being negated by the new moon anymore. Does Travis have any chance to survive? Can he prevail against the vastly more powerful Skinner? Why does he have such a mad-on for Skinner anyway? Does Agent Hobbes have any part to play in all of this? And what’s Pearl Preston been up to lately?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Yeah, I left all the spoilers out, ’cause this one’s darn good and has a bunch of really fun stuff buried in there. If you aren’t reading this comic… well, I really don’t know what’s the matter with you. It’s just about the best horror comic on the stands right now.

Morning Glories #17

The majority of this issue focuses on Jade and Ike, stuck sitting in a magical cavern under the academy, waiting to see if Casey and Ms. Hodge are ever going to vanish like they said they would. In fact, our spotlight character is definitely Jade, as we get plenty of flashbacks to her past. For the most part, Ike needles her, Jade reacts, sometimes furiously, sometimes sadly. It’s a very dialogue-heavy issue, as Jade and Ike discuss Casey’s trustworthiness, Jade’s suicidal tendencies, religion and atheism, and what the Morning Glory Academy may really be all about.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Like I said, an issue very heavy on dialogue — and luckily, it’s very strong, entertaining, snappy dialogue that’s fun to read, whether Ike and Jade are insulting each other or talking philosophy. The snapshots of Jade’s past are also very good. This storyarc is supposed to finish up next issue, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

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Blood and Honey

American Vampire #24

Vampire-hunting ’50s hoodlum Travis Kidd is facing his nemesis, Skinner Sweet. Wait, isn’t Skinner Sweet dead, stabbed to death with gold during World War II? Well, it doesn’t look like that’s the case at all, ’cause he sure seems to be functional now. Travis’ only advantage now is that there’s a new moon tonight, when American vampires are at their weakest — but even then, he’s fighting a vampire across the hoods of a couple different out-of-control muscle-cars, which doesn’t mean anything comes easy. Can Travis stop Skinner and save his girl before either their cars crash out or the sun comes up?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is glorious stuff. Absolutely amazing action, combined with flashbacks to Travis’ youth, escape from the mental hospital, and extremely brief alignment with the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star. Rafael Albuquerque’s art is heart-stoppingly beautiful, too. You guys are reading this comic, ain’tcha? You better be reading this comic.

Morning Glories #16

When last we saw Casey Blevins, she was escaping from the Morning Glory Academy by mystically traveling in time. Well, unfortunately, even though she ends up at the base her father used to be stationed at, he doesn’t recognize her, because at this time period, Casey was just three years old — so the military assumes she’s some sort of spy, holds her prisoner, and tries to force her to tell why she’s working with the Chinese. Her only hope of getting out is Ms. Hodge — and since she can make anyone do anything or believe anything she wants just by telling them to, it’s a stone guarantee that Casey’s getting out just fine.

Verdict: Thumbs up. For something featuring a nearly effortless escape from a military base, there was a heck of a lot more tension in this story than I was expecting. It’s all good stuff — fairly mind-bending, too, as tends to be the nature of “Morning Glories”…

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From Russia with Love

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – Russia #5

Last issue, Johann Kraus detonated a nuke on the zombies and monsters running amok underground in Russia. Did he survive? Well, yes, actually, he did, and he’s already gotten a new containment suit. Provided by the Moscow bureau director Iosif Nichayko, it’s actually based on his own, more advanced suit — and Johann would really prefer to keep it, no matter how much Kate Corrigan dislikes it. Meanwhile, Iosif tries to make nice with Kate, the Russians take out some of their own citizens, Abe Sapien goes through some changes, and we finally find out what happened to Varvara, the impossibly creepy, vodka-swilling little girl/demon who appeared in some earlier B.P.R.D. series.

Verdict: Thumbs up. An excellent end to this storyarc, with lots of changes for everyone, dire warnings of more trouble on the horizon, and a nice continuity nod for fans (like me) of Varvara.

American Vampire #23

Teen bad-boy Travis is chasing down the vampire who destroyed his family and has kidnapped Piper, his girlfriend — well, more like the girl he pretended was his girlfriend so he could kill the vampires who were making her run chores and errands for them. While this is all going on, we get some flashbacks of Travis’ past — held in a mental hospital and subjected to shock therapy as a child because he insisted on believing that vampires were real. Will Travis be able to save Piper? And who’s the vampire he’s been chasing all these years?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s one long car chase! Sure, there are the flashbacks, but this is pretty much the coolest car chase I’ve ever seen in a comic book. And the final page reveal of Travis’ opponent is pretty nice, too.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • I love this — a blog dedicated to the opposite of Women in Refrigerators: women being awesome in superhero comics.
  • Nice article about the hostility a lot of science fiction seems to have for the common folk.
  • Alright, I haven’t actually watched this, because I’ve decided life is too short to spend watching “Star Wars” again. But if you want to see how a lot of people remade the film, 15 seconds at a time, then you’ll want to watch “Star Wars Uncut.”

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Lost in the ’50s Tonight

First, a short announcement.

The blog is going on a hiatus. Hopefully a short one, but it may be longer. My grandmother has died, and I may not feel like writing about comic books for a while.

However, I still had these two reviews finished and ready to go, so let’s go ahead and get them out of the way.

I’ll see y’all when I see y’all…

American Vampire #22

A new storyarc and a new setting, as we move into the 1950s. Our new lead character is Travis Kidd, a 19-year-old with cool sunglasses, a leather jacket, greased-up hair, a fast car, and a bad attitude. He’s dating Piper Francis, a pretty blonde, and Piper’s parents really don’t like Travis at all. Bad news for Travis that Piper’s folks are actually vampires… and even worse news for the vampires that Travis is a skilled vampire hunter. After a run-in with Agent Hobbes from the Vassals of the Morning Star reveals the identity of the vampire who killed Travis’ family, is Travis going to get in over his head?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, great story, and all of it mixed in with all your favorite ’50s archetypes. This one is just grand fun, people.

Swamp Thing #5

Alec Holland and Abby Arkane are trying to catch up to Abby’s deranged brother William before he gives himself over too completely to the Rot, the spiritual manifestation of death and decay. Unfortunately, William gets the drop on them with a bunch of recently slaughtered livestock. But Alec is able to tap into his plant-controlling powers to tear their undead attackers apart and strand William in a tree. But the war between the Green and the Rot is fought on more than one front, and the good guys may have already lost.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, I actually enjoyed an issue of this comic. Sure, we still haven’t seen the Swamp Thing yet, but at least we’ve got Alec Holland using plant powers and doing something active, instead of just being dragged along and getting stuff explained to him. Maybe if we finally see Swamp Thing next issue, this comic will be something worth keeping up with.

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The Hero Sandwich List of Favorite Comics for 2011

Well, everyone else is doing end-of-year best-of lists, so I reckon I will, too. What’s Newsweek magazine got that I ain’t got, right? I mean, the way magazine readership has been falling, there’s a decent chance that I’ve got more readers now. ZING! Oh, Newsweek, you know I kid ’cause I love.

Anyway, this is not a list of the very best of all comics. I haven’t read all comics. I haven’t even gotten close. This is my list of the comics I read that I enjoyed the most.

Also, I don’t think I could manage to say which of these is the best — so I’d rather just arrange them in alphabetical order.

So here we go: The 16 comics I enjoyed reading the most in 2011.

American Vampire

This series by Scott Snyder is still carrying the torch for serious vampiric horror with great characterization, boundless imagination, and really awesome bloodsuckers.

Atomic Robo

One of the best comics out there — this one packs in action, humor, and mindblowing science into something that is always fun. Fun cameos by the famous and infamous, and an incredibly cool lead character.

Avengers Academy

Thank goodness someone still remembers how to do a good teen comic. You can do teen angst without it turning into a bloodbath. This series combines a great concept with outstanding characterization.

Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth

The most audaciously imaginative comic of the year, thanks to its seven-year-old writer. Loved the drama, loved the action, and laughed out loud at the humor.

Batgirl (pre-Reboot)

Stephanie Brown’s tenure as Batgirl was marked by great writing, excellent action, and a very strong sense of humor. Stephanie is still MIA in the new DC, unfortunately.

Batman comics by Scott Snyder

Whether it was on Detective Comics prior to the Reboot or on Batman afterwards, Snyder wrote some of the most engrossing tales of the Dark Knight.

Batman Inc.

Reading Grant Morrison’s Batman has been a treat for years, and it was fun to watch him create the new Batman megacorp.


J.H. Williams III’s writing has been fine, but his art is simply breathtaking. This was absolutely the most beautiful comic book on the stands in 2011.


Daredevil? I’ve never cared for Daredevil in my life. But this one is a blast. Writing and art are incredible. Humor, action, characterization — and again, fun. You can make a pretty good comic if you make it fun, ya know?

Dungeons & Dragons

Did anyone ever expect a D&D comic to be this good? Excellent dialogue, humor, action, drama, suspense — all while doing a pretty good job spotlighting the RPG it’s based on. Best fantasy comic of the year, right here.

Hellboy: The Fury

Mike Mignola has enjoyed another excellent year of comics, and I could’ve put almost any of his B.P.R.D. comics in here, but this one — Hellboy’s last hurrah — was really something special.

Knight and Squire

Paul Cornell’s miniseries focusing on London’s version of Batman and Robin was fun storytelling, along with a quick course in British pop culture. Excellent characters and adventures, and a wonderfully created setting.

Secret Six

Gail Simone’s awesomely epic series of supervillains occasionally doing the right thing had some of the funniest, saddest, most dramatic, most astounding moments in the comics world. Absolutely grand characters, too. Losing this series was one of DC’s biggest mistakes of the Reboot.

Supergirl (pre-Reboot)

After years of being the DC Universe’s version of the useless mallrat in a belly shirt, several creators finally realized they could make the character awesome by treating her more like a real person instead of an MTV stereotype. Yes, DC, character is everything!

Tiny Titans

The best all-ages comic on the market. Still can’t believe they’re going to let something this awesome go.


One of the weirdest comics to come out this year. There was usually at least one really mind-blowingly weird thing in every single issue. Beautiful art, too, along with great writing and dialogue. It was a joy to read.

And one more little category? How ’bout Publisher of the Year? DC and Marvel are out — they’ve spent the past 12 months pandering to the worst in comics, cancelling great series, and randomly insulting their readers. IDW, Dark Horse, Red 5, Image, all the other independents came close, because they’re doing more of what good comics publishers should be doing — gunning for new readers, pushing the artistic and storytelling envelopes, making excellent comics.

But I think the Publisher of the Year is Archie Comics. What? But I don’t read any Archies! But Archie is doing even more than the other independents to push the creative and social envelope. They’ve gotten lots of publicity with their Archie marries Betty/Veronica comics, but they also had a great crossover with the Tiny Titans. And who would have ever imagined that staid, conservative Archie Comics would end up being the most progressive comics publisher — whitebread Archie Andrews has recently dated Valerie Brown, the African-American bass player from Josie and the Pussycats, and Kevin Keller, Archie’s first openly gay character, has become more popular and more prominent in the comics. Archie Comics is outpacing all the other independent publishers and rocketing past the Big Two in terms of how much they’re moving the comics industry forward.

So there we go — 16 grand, fun comics series. And I think I’d still have to declare 2011 one of the worst years for comics we’ve seen in a long time. Almost half my list is made up of comics that were cancelled, will be cancelled in the next few months, or are in continual danger of being cancelled. DC enjoyed a nice sales surge in the first few months of the Reboot, but the numbers on many of their series are already dropping back to more normal levels. And they spent months alienating and angering long-time fans in one public relations disaster after another. Not that Marvel has fared much better — they’ve been cancelling comics hand over fist. The independents have a better track record for producing good comics — but of course, they’ve also had more trouble getting those comics sold.

2011 has been an awful, terrifying, depressing year for comics fans. I’d like to tell you that I think 2012 is going to be better. But I don’t think I’d get my hopes up very high. No one’s learned any lessons from this year’s catastrophes, and I’m not even sure the Big Two are even capable of doing anything other than shooting themselves in the foot.

Let’s just hope the non-comics portions of 2012 will be better for all of us. Y’all stay safe, buckle up, call a cab if you need to.

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Claw Marks

Avengers Academy #23

There are a trio of events going on in this issue. First and most obviously, X-23, Wolverine’s gender-swapped teenaged clone, joins Avengers Academy. After initially freaking everyone out with what an utter badass she is, the rest of the students warm to her almost immediately afterwards. Second, the future version of Reptil is mentally possessing his younger self’s body and plotting against the team from within. And finally, Striker comes out as gay to Lightspeed, who is herself bisexual. And this is all in addition to another big super-battle that leads to an old X-Men villain worming his way into the Academy…

Verdict: Thumbs up. But I gotta say, the segment where Striker comes out? I really wasn’t fond of that. I got nothing against Striker being gay, but I don’t think he’d come out to Lightspeed, who he just barely knows. I don’t buy him being comfortable and accepting of his sexuality, especially the way he aggressively hits on every other female in the series. And I didn’t see the point of the big “Oh no, I was molested, I will cry on Julie Powers’ shoulder because OMG DRAMA” moment. But other than those five pages, the issue was just fine.

American Vampire #21

Again, we’ve flashed back to the days before Skinner Sweet was a vampire, and when he and Jim Book were best friends. They’re both members of the U.S. Cavalry, and their commanding officer would like them both dead for questioning his military decisions. The problem is that the Apaches they’re all hunting are out in vastly superior numbers — and even worse, Hole in the Sky, a renegade Apache leader, has gotten himself a powerful new vampiric form. Unfortunately for Hole in the Sky, the Indian maiden who he stole those powers from isn’t happy about getting attacked by him. So how are the soldiers going to deal with a hundred Apaches and two angry monster-vampires?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice conclusion to the storyarc. Not much else to say about it — I enjoyed it. Loved the art, loved the writing…

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #10

Steven Woods and Allie have gotten control of Mechagodzilla, just in time to stumble across Godzilla himself. The president wants them to get the giant robot somewhere safe so it can be refurbished and repaired, but Woods wants to try to take the Big G down. But can all his fighting skills and all the robot’s secret weapons allow him to defeat the King of Monsters — especially with King Ghidorah joining the battle — and Rodan and Battra, controlled by the evil French telepaths, on the horizon?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Exceptional action and very strong characterization. Gotta hand it to writer Jason Ciaramella and artist Victor Santos — this is very good work.

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Friday Night Fights: Sturm und Fang!

Sometimes, I just cannot handle the holidays. Every week closer to Christmas just gets crazier and crazier and crazier, and more and more difficult to handle. Even the weekends aren’t always enough, but we gotta make the best of them while we can. So let’s get this one started right with a little gratuitous violence and… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

Tonight’s battle comes to us from July 2010’s American Vampire #3 by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque, as new vampire Pearl Jones takes on a few undead rivals.

And that is how vampires have a face-off. Get it? Get it, you guys? Get it?

Everyone have a great weekend.

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Walkin’ Away Blues

The Amazing Spider-Man #673

Spider-Island is over, the Queen has been destroyed, and everyone in New York City has been de-spiderfied. That means a lot of people hanging around NYC without any clothes on, which brings us plenty of very funny episodes. Most of this issue is dedicated to wrapping up the previous storyarc — Aunt May finally gets to leave the city for Massachusetts, Kaine leaves town, Carlie has figured out that Peter is Spider-Man and breaks up with him, and Peter finds out from Dr. Strange that the spell that kept anyone from learning his secret identity is no longer in effect.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I think after that lengthy storyarc, it’s nice to get a little breather issue in. Love that cover, too, by the way…

American Vampire #20

We get a flashback within our flashback as the Indian woman in the cave tells Hole in the Sky, the renegade Apache leader, her story. She was formerly the wife — or maybe the slave — of a frontier trapper. She agreed to travel with a party exploring the country as a native guide. She enjoyed the journey, but became suspicious of the party’s captains, and soon discovered that they were vampires. When they caught her, she was turned into a new kind of American vampire — and her bloodlust was almost entirely uncontrollable. Desperate to find a way to keep herself from killing more and more people, she blocked herself inside a cave — until Hole in the Sky set her free. Even then, she doesn’t want to cause any more harm, and Hole in the Sky, disgusted with what he sees as her cowardice, kills her. But is that the end of the nightmare, or just the beginning?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice story, nice characterization, nice art, and a fun twist on vampires from a Native American perspective.

Swamp Thing #3

Much of our story focuses on a kid named William, who has to spend his life inside a plastic bubble because he has an extreme allergy to chlorophyll, and he’ll die if he ever leaves a sterile environment. His doctors want him to socialize as much as possible with other kids, but some of the other kids, even terminal cancer patients, are a bit psycho and are looking forward to ways to pierce his sterile bubble and expose him to the air that would kill him. Meanwhile, we get to know Alec Holland’s new benefactor — Abigail Arcane, who used to be the Swamp Thing’s lover, but who Alec can just barely remember. It turns out that, like Alec and his intrinsic connection to the Green that makes him a natural candidate to become a Swamp Thing, Abigail and all of the Arcane family have an intrinsic connection to the Black, the underworld of dead matter. Oh, and you know William, the kid in the plastic bubble? His last name is Arcane, too.

Verdict: Man, I do not know. The horror here is very good. The art is top-notch. And I think it was clever to name the doctor in this issue for Dick Durock, the actor who played Swamp Thing in the movies and TV series. But I think I’m starting to get really tired of Alec Holland not being Swamp Thing. I’m not going to be able to stomach more than one or two more issues where Holland isn’t mossy, noseless, and slow-speaking…

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Frankenstein Unbound

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #2

The team members discover that the town has been dumping residents in a nearby lake as sacrifices to demonic powers. Unfortunately, the invasion they had hoped to stave off is happening anyway — the monsters on the other side of the dimensional portal were just gleefully eating everyone they dumped, with no intention of honoring any bargains. Of course, once the team discovers the portal, they’re all going to have to go through it, right? On top of all that, we also get some background on the life of fishwoman Nina Mazursky and how she decided to give up her humanity to become a monster.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, good humor. Some really good dialogue here and there. The art style is way wonky, but that may be something that’ll grow on me eventually.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #5

In the conclusion of this miniseries, Felicia Book and Cash McCogan, members of the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star, are trapped facing hordes of Nazi vampires — until some titanic and powerful ancient vampires emerge from the castle, give the Americans their apparent permission to leave, and begin attacking the Nazis. Unfortunately, some of the Nazis evade the ancients and give chase in a tank. Can Felicia and Cash make it to their pickup point, or are the bad guys going to win?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been a grand series, both for Scott Snyder’s writing and dialogue, but for Sean Murphy’s outstanding artwork.

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