Archive for American Vampire

Dark and Dorky

Justice League Dark #1

The Enchantress has gone crazy again, and that’s causing hundreds of clones of her alter ego, June Moon, to start appearing and walking blindly into traffic. The Justice League shows up at the Enchantress’ hideout, but they’re powerless to stop her. Can anyone? Well, I guess we’ll see if Madame Xanadu, Shade the Changing Man, Zatanna, John Constantine, and Deadman can do it.

Verdict: Thumbs down. This is not a very good comic. I like the art, but the dialogue is just plain goofy. And the whole blasted thing bored me to tears. They worked hard to build up some hype for this one, and it just fails miserably.

American Vampire #19

We get treated to an unexpected flashback all the way to the 1860s to the friendship shared by two Missouri boys — future American vampire Skinner Sweet and his future nemesis Jim Book. Skinner was an orphan taken in by the Book family and though he played rougher and took more dangerous risks than Jim liked (including catching a rattlesnake with his bare hands), they still got along pretty well. Years later, when they were both in the Army fighting the Indian wars in the New Mexico territory, they’re under the command of the naive General Hawley. They capture a scout for an Apache chief named Hole in the Sky, and the scout refuses to tell how many braves Hole in the Sky has, but claims that they’re about to unleash something he calls Mimiteh. But what is Mimiteh, and what’s it doing in a book called “American Vampire”?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice to see a return to the Wild West for this series, and nice to see Jim Book again. The story is excellent, too — wonderfully tense with tons and tons of personality.

Avengers Academy #19

Okay, I’m sick to the gills of “Fear Itself.” Ya know why? The covers for it are awful, and the blasted things just won’t… go… away.

The god-empowered Absorbing Man and Titania are causing the hyper-miniaturized “Infinite Avengers Mansion” to grow — and when it grows to its actual full size, it’ll be big enough to destroy a city. Finesse figures out a way to destroy the mansion and the villains — but she and another Academy member will have to sacrifice themselves to make sure the plan is successful. Finesse has to monitor the computers, and one of the kids has to hold off the villains — it’s decided that Hazmat has the best chance of actually hurting the bad guys, and Mettle decides he’ll help her. Is there any way out, or are three of the students about to become heroes the hard way?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good personality work all around, and that’s what this series has had going for it from the very beginning. Nevertheless, looks like the students have some big changes ahead.

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Prince of Demons

Demon Knights #1

In a story that starts with the fall of Camelot, we get to see Merlin bond the demon Etrigan to a lowly knight named Jason. After that, we jump forward a few centuries to the Dark Ages, we meet the heroes of our story as they pass through a small town — Jason Blood, the foul-mouthed Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, the Shining Knight, new characters called Al Jabr and Exoristos, and of course, Jason’s worse half, Etrigan. And they’ve got to save the world from the evil wizard Mordru. Holy cow, the world is going to get destroyed by Mordru!

Verdict: Thumbs up. Not a lot of plot going on yet — we’re mostly just introducing characters. And it’s a great bunch of characters, too. I love the idea that Madame Xanadu is playing Jason and Etrigan against each other, and it’s also really great to see Sir Ystin again, after much too long since she appeared in Grant Morrison’s “Seven Soldiers” series. Looking forward to reading more of this one.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #4

Dr. Erik Pavel recounts that for the last few decades, he’s been on the trail of strange, gigantic figures that look like statues but are actually alive — ancient, powerful vampires in a state of hibernation. But normal vampires have been working very hard to destroy all these gigantic vampires over the years, and Pavel hopes that Felicia Book and Cash McCogan, members of the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star, can appreciate that they’re about to awaken, and that they’ll wipe out all the smaller, impure vampires in the world. And even worse, the Nazis and their Nazi vampires finally capture all three of them. Is there anything left that can save them from destruction at the fangs of the vampire hordes?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still exciting, still beautifully illustrated, and still worth shelling out the three bucks per issue for this series.

The Unwritten #29

Tom Taylor is still trying to discover what his father was doing in Brooklyn in the ’30s. He’d nurtured the talent of a beautiful comic book creator and fallen in love with her — but the Cabal wants her dead. The freewheeling stories in the unrestricted comics medium have too much power to break the Cabal’s control. Wilson Taylor does everything he can to persuade Miriam Walzer to give up the business and go into more mainstream art, but she’s dedicated to her craft. Can Wilson save her, or is it already too late for everyone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The near-ending of this storyarc is full of a few noble hearts and how they all get crushed, trampled, abused, and destroyed. Not the prettiest tale, but definitely an effective one. Wilson Taylor’s plans for taming the comics industry is the type of thing that I’m a bit surprised DC agreed to publish — but maybe they’re focused solely on the Reboot and are ignoring Vertigo? And there are a few excellent twists at the end, too.

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Blood and Fire

American Vampire #18

Not much I can tell you about this one without spoiling it — but it’s the final fight, the battle to the death, between Skinner Sweet and Pearl Jones. Who wins? That’d be too much of a spoiler, sorry. You’ll have to go read it for yourself.

Verdict: Thumbs up. All the usual things you expect from this comic — great writing from Scott Snyder, great art from Rafael Albuquerque, and more shocks and surprises than you’d expect. This is clearly going to be a turning point in the series, with one major character gone (at least for now), the status quo shaken up good, and another unexpected character in the wings ready to join the cast. If you’re not reading this, you’re missing out on the best horror series in comics.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #6

Former soldier Steven Woods is traveling with Allie, a little girl orphaned in an attack by Godzilla. They have to dodge attacks from survivors because Woods has figured out how to track the movements of the monsters. They also narrowly escape when a new monster makes its appearance — Kumonga, the giant spider. What of the rest of the monsters? Well, President Ogden and his advisers decide the best way to beat a monster is with another monster — in this case, a giant robot, built in Detroit, called Mechagodzilla! Oh man, let’s hope there’s not a design flaw that’ll corrupt its programming and send it on a rampage against humanity…

Verdict: Thumbs up. At this point, I think there’s absolutely no hope for getting rid of the monsters. I don’t know if the rest of the series is going to be about the monsters stomping out every last scrap of civilization… but if it is, I’ll probably keep reading it, ’cause there’s a really nice mix of tragedy, humor, and action going on here.

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The Amazing Spider-Man #667

The “Spider-Island” event finally gets officially kicked off, with Peter Parker discovering that his girlfriend Carlie has amazing spider-like powers. Why does that seem familiar somehow? He convinces her to keep her new powers a secret, at least for now, while they go see Aunt May off as she moves to Boston. Meanwhile, New York City’s mobsters are discovering that they have spider powers, too, and the Jackal gets them organized by giving them a bunch of knockoff Spider-Man costumes and sending them out to spread some mayhem. Spidey is finally able to get into costume to help out — but not only does half of New York now have his powers, but the Avengers and the rest of the city’s superheroes now can’t tell him apart from all of the copycats.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is in its early stages, so there’s not a whole lot to be said about it yet. I do, however, just plain love Humberto Ramos’ artwork.

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #3

Meet the Germans’ 77th Brigade — composed entirely of vampires. Not a fun place to be for Felicia Book and Cash McCogan, members of the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star gone undercover to try to find a cure for vampirism. What he’s discovered is a gun that fires concentrated sunlight, able to destroy almost any vampire. After some successful demonstrations, but Felicia and Cash suspect the vampires know who they are, so they prepare to make their escape, only for the doctor to offer them a far more unexpected method to strike at the vampires.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great art, great story — and incredibly suspenseful, too. This has been a hugely impressive story, even compared to the high standards Scott Snyder has already cooked up for the regular “American Vampire” series.

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Vampire Wars

American Vampire #17

The military squad from the Vassals of the Morning Star are trying to escape the monstrous vampires of Taipan, but they’ve just discovered something even worse — the Japanese have filled bombs with the Taipan vampires’ blood, and since their blood acts as a high-speed vampire transformation agent, it’s clear that they hope to turn a vast section of the planet into vampires. Not much time to escape now — they’ve got to call in an airstrike to destroy the blood bombs as quickly as possible. Will any of them, including Henry Jones and Skinner Sweet, have a chance to survive the coming chaos?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great action, drama, artwork, and a great cliffhanger, too. You know this one won an Eisner Award, right? It deserved it, too.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #5

The war against the monsters continues to go horribly. Godzilla and Anguirus tear up Los Angeles, and the US decides to kills Anguirus with heavier-than-air poison gas. The gas kills many people, but Anguirus survives the attack by… standing up. D’oh! The Germans try to kill Rodan with lighter-than-air poison gas, but are foiled when the monster flaps its wings and blows the gas right back at them. D’oh! Battra begins to metamorphose into a new form. And people trying to escape California are trapped in a traffic jam with Godzilla on the way.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I gotta say, this is a pretty weird series, mixing politics, horror, and farce — but as the last pages show, it’s all wrapped around a core of complete tragedy. This may not be the end of the world, but it’s certainly looking like a mass extinction event for humanity.

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Blood Oaths

Hey, we got two great comics by Scott Snyder right here! Let’s jump into ’em!

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #2

Felicia Book and Cash McCogan are undercover for the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star. They’re posing as wealthy Americans who are sympathetic to the Nazi cause, so they can get into the secret castle where the Nazis may have discovered a cure for vampirism. After their plane gets shot down by over-enthusiastic Germans and they barely escape death, they bluff their way in and get an audience with the very nervous scientist behind the discovery — and he slips them a note indicating that he knows who they are and he wants them to help him flee tonight. Unfortunately, there’s a little snag in those plans — a full brigade of Nazi vampires…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of great stuff here, including one of Felicia’s nightmares about Skinner Sweet, an exciting plane crash, and the promise of future Nazi-stomping to come. Sean Murphy’s artwork is just astoundingly beautiful. There’s something great about a series where every issue, including spinoff miniseries, are just fantastically fun.

Detective Comics #879

A Batman comic where Batman doesn’t even appear? Where’s the fun in that? Well, we got the Joker engineering yet another escape from Arkham, utilizing secret knowledge about a doctor’s private life, along with a new delivery method for Joker venom. And we got Commissioner Gordon, still suspicious of his son, James Jr. The Commissioner goes to see his daughter, Barbara, former Batgirl, current Oracle — and he asks her to analyze a dose of James’ anti-psychotic meds to make sure it’s really doing the job. And not only are the meds NOT working, they may be the cause of an even greater disaster for Gotham City.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Immensely awesome and creepy comic — one of the creepiest I’ve seen this year, both for the Joker’s contributions — where you can’t even see his entire face, much less his insane grin — but for James and the ever-mounting evidence of his misdeeds. And again, this was a comic that didn’t even feature Batman, the supposed main character — and it’s still a perfect illustration of what this comic — DETECTIVE Comics — should be all about.

So that Scott Snyder — he’s something else, ain’t he? Might be the best unsung writer DC or Marvel have got…

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Wild West Batman

Batman Inc. #7

We pay a visit to the American Southwest, where Native American superhero Man-of-Bats and his sidekick Little Raven fight crime and try to bring hope to their reservation. But times are changing — the new hospital administrator gives Man-of-Bats trouble in his civilian identity as Dr. Sam Black Elk, gangs backed by Leviathan move onto the reservation, and Little Raven considers quitting the crimefighting life. Can an appearance by Bruce Wayne help turn things around? Or is it already too late for the people on the reservation?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I love Man-of-Bats — he’s a great character, and he has one of my favorite superhero theme costumes. He does what Batman does, just without all the money and equipment. I also like the story’s emphasis on the real-life poverty, despair, and general rotten conditions on many reservations.

American Vampire #16

Henry Preston and the squad of military vampire-hunters from the Vassals of the Morning Star are in deep trouble. They’re stuck on Taipan during World War II, and they’ve been captured by Japanese soldiers — and the Japanese plan to turn all of them into the savage, mindless, eyeless vampires who have overrun the island. But Henry knows they’ve got an ace in the hole — Skinner Sweet is a vampire, and though he’s injured, if Henry gives him some of his blood, Skinner will get them free and give them a fighting chance. But can Sweet be trusted? And even if he can, do they stand a chance against Taipan’s vampire hordes?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice creepy stuff. Rafael Albuquerque is developing into one of the best artists in horror comics, and writer Scott Snyder is continuing his reign as DC/Vertigo’s best-kept secret.

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Blood and War

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1

A new miniseries starring our new favorite non-sparkly vampires, still written by Scott Snyder, but with Sean Murphy, last seen illustrating Grant Morrison’s “Joe the Barbarian,” taking on the art chores.

Our lead character in this series is Felicia Book, half-vampire daughter of Wild West lawman Jim Book. It’s 1941, and Felicia works as a vampire slayer for the Vassals of the Morning Star. After proving to a newspaper publisher that his papers are infested with vampires, she returns to the Vassals’ headquarters in the American Museum of Natural History — where she has a reputation as the organization’s leading badass — and prepares to take a sabbatical. She learns that former Las Vegas police chief Cash McCogan is with the Vassals now, and he may have a lead on a cure for vampirism — hidden inside Nazi Germany.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The writing quality is just as high as the regular “American Vampire” series, and Sean Murphy’s art is just seriously awesome.

The Unwritten #26

Tom Taylor has been captured by his enemies, and he’s being put up for auction for a bunch of rich bastiches so they can dissect him and find out his secrets. One of the members of the Cabal is on hand, planning to wipe everyone out and take Taylor for himself, but Mrs. Rausch, the elderly puppeteer, puts a spell on him to keep him silent. Tom’s friends, Lizzie Hexam and Richard Savoy, are drugged in another room — but Savoy became a vampire not that long ago, and it’s not easy to drug the undead. Everyone makes their escape — but what secrets is Tom going to learn from his father’s diaries?

Verdict: Thumbs up. All in all, a good story. Very nice intrigue and action, and wonderful dialogue.

Morning Glories #10

This one is all over the place. Jade is the angstiest and most pitiable of the kids at Morning Glory Academy, and a lot of this story is set in her dreams. And the parts of it that aren’t set in her dreams may also be set in her dreams. And the ending is either set in her dreams or is set in her post-suicide hallucination.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Because I don’t like being this confused.

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Tatters of the King

The Tattered Man

Interesting little horror/superhero story here by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, with artwork by Norberto Fernandez. We start with a trio of junkies on a Halloween home invasion. They’ve picked out an old man’s house because they assume he’s got something valuable stashed somewhere, but he doesn’t — all he has is a box marked with a swastika and filled full of rags. He tells the junkies about the box — he was a Jewish boy during World War II imprisoned in a brutal death camp, and at the end of the war, the Nazis decided to kill all the prisoners. He was the only survivor, and all those deaths summoned a monstrous spirit, clothed in the rags of the prisoners, that killed all the Nazis. Of course, the junkies don’t believe him, shots are fired, and a rag-draped spirit of vengeance is released on the modern world.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good writing and excellent art. Palmiotti and Gray say they’d like to write more stories about the Tattered Man — hopefully, they’ll have the chance to make some more. Goodness knows, we need more worthwhile horror in comics.

How to improve this series: First, I’m not all that thrilled with the Tattered Man’s origin — the rags and Jewish background ended up reminding me of DC’s Ragman character a couple times, despite the very obvious differences. So yeah, the Nazi concentration camps were some of the most evil and death-shrouded locations in history, but there have been plenty of other places around the world where injustice and genocide were blots on history — why not use Rwanda, Bosnia, or Darfur? All would make for an interesting twist. In addition, I’m not real thrilled with the idea of the character as a vigilante superhero — it tames the concept too much, for something that should be wild and uncontrollable. Still, it was good fun, and I’m looking forward to more.

American Vampire #15

The squad of military vampire hunters sent to Taipan have gotten ambushed by hordes of the native vampires — blind creatures far more savage and less human than any they’ve ever encountered. The squad member who has fallen has already been fully converted to vampirism — a process that normally takes hours. And even Skinner Sweet is in over his head. They’re barely able to escape into the hidden basements under the village. Their only chance is to make it to a Japanese base on the island where the vampires seem to be coming from. Meanwhile, Pearl, concerned over her husband Henry, has convinced the Vassals of the Morning Star to send her to Taipan to try to help out.

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, Scott Snyder’s writing and Rafael Albuquerque’s art are killer. The Taipan vampires are pretty creepy — nice to see that there’s still something out there that can put the hurt on a super-badass like Skinner Sweet.

How to improve this series: Can’t think of much — this is still one of my favorite comics out there. Maybe more vampy goodness with Skinner and Pearl, but that’s really just nitpicking at near-perfection.

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #3

While Anguirus tears stuff up in Texas, Godzilla makes his way into the Korean DMZ, and a Lady Gaga clone called Girly Yaya advocates for Monster Rights, most of the action takes place in France, where a couple of creepy telepathic twins nurture a giant monster egg of their own, eventually helping it hatch into Battra, one of Mothra’s siblings. Does humanity have secret allies in the Mothra priestesses?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m entirely in favor of giant monsters, and the heavy doses of political and pop culture humor that Eric Powell is plugging into this series is keeping the atmosphere fun to read. Love the creepy twins — hope they stick around for a while instead of just getting crushed under some monster’s oversized foot…

How to improve this series: There are still some weird writing quirks going on here. The way the UN representative just picked all the monsters’ names out of the air kinda yanked me out of the story. And I’m having trouble believing that so many completely normal people would think they have a shot at taking down a giant monster all by themselves.

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Destroy All Monsters!

Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #2

More giant monsters begin making their appearances on the scene, with Rodan emerging in Moscow and Anguirus in Mexico. A distraught father arms himself in an attempt to get revenge on Godzilla, the president tries to figure out how to do anything to the monsters when nuclear weapons have proven to make them stronger, and the Texas governor builds a border wall to keep out the giant illegal immigrants.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Several things I was pretty fond of — the father’s misguided quest for revenge was pretty well-done, as was the Russian psycho kid’s comeuppance when it came to Rodan. But I do wish they’d gone with something other than the standard blowhard Texas cowboy stereotype for the Texas governor — considering that the president pictured in the comic is very clearly Obama, couldn’t they have used Texas’ own blowdried nincompoop? They wouldn’t even have had to change his dialogue…

American Vampire #14

Henry Preston has joined up with a crack military squad from the vampire-hunting Vassals of the Morning Star to clear out a nest of vampires on Taipan ahead of the American invasion forces. They don’t realize that Skinner Sweet is tagging along incognito — mostly to make sure he’ll get to kill them himself. Pearl confronts Agent Hobbes about what’s going on. And the squad finds out that what’s taken over Taipan isn’t something they were prepared to deal with.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s amazing how consistently awesome this series is. Lots of good character work, and Rafael Albuquerque’s art is, as always, amazingly fun.

Batman Inc. #5

This one was a bit all over the place for me. Everyone ends up on the Falklands, Batwoman kicks Scorpiana’s butt, there’s a guy who may or may not be a Nazi super-spy, there’s a guy called the Hood who’s another British version of Batman (and he may be working against the good guys), Batman and the Gaucho make nice, and at the end, there’s a from-outta-nowhere Batman from Central Africa.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I couldn’t keep track of everything going on, and it’s pretty rare that a Grant Morrison comic does that to me.

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