Archive for Unwritten

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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Tinker’s Gold

The Unwritten #28

Tom Taylor, Lizzie Hexam, and Richie Savoy continue trying to figure out what connection Tom’s father had with the Tinker, an obscure Golden Age comic book character. They know that Wilson Taylor had been assigned to kill the comic’s creator — but when he learns that the creator is actually a beautiful woman named Miriam Walzer, he’s unable to follow through and soon starts a romance with her while he tries to figure out what makes her tick. But he knows he can’t keep the subterfuge up forever, and his relationship with Miriam is likely to get both of them killed. Meanwhile, back in the present, Tom and his friends try to keep a low profile, unaware that the Cabal is busy killing people worldwide who had any connection to Wilson Taylor.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Love the story and art, love the dialogue, and I’m still grooving on this focus on the birth of comics as a medium. And seriously, I just love that cover. Ain’t that a nice cover?

Morning Glories #11

The focus on the individual members of the Morning Glory Academy continues, as we get a look into the life of the entirely rotten and self-absorbed Ike. Turning traitor against his friends has paid off well for him, as he’s been rewarded with a private apartment, which he uses to entertain a veritable conga line of the academy’s prettiest students. But the Academy’s teachers have a new bargain for him — they’ll let him leave the Academy and go home if he does one little chore for them — there’s someone they want killed. So we get some flashbacks to Ike’s past — he was accused of his wealthy father’s murder, but had a perfect, ironclad alibi — despite the fact that everyone really believed he committed the crime. But can Ike be tempted to kill for the Academy? Probably. But is he prepared for who his target will be?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Ike is definitely the least likeable of the Glories, so it’s pretty cool that this story actually gets you to feel some sympathy for the smarmy little weasel. Beautiful art, as always, and plenty of weird mysteries that will hopefully be explained someday…

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Descent into Hell

Hellboy: The Fury #2

The war building is not just a matter Hellboy and the Noble Dead of England versus Nimue’s faerie army — this is the first act of the Apocalypse itself. The Four Horsemen are riding, two-thirds of the people on Earth are going to die, and it’s looking less and less likely that anyone is going to survive all this. Alice wants to see what’s happening and witnesses the last witches drowning themselves in remorse over helping to cause this. The Wild Hunt rides, lightning storms destroy humanity’s cities, and Arthur and his knights are destroyed. And Hellboy is battling a mighty dragon — no, wait, make that the Dragon. And Hellboy isn’t doing so great.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s apocalyptic, it’s grim, it’s terrifying — and it’s still intensely exciting and fun. The art is beautiful, the writing is beautiful, and you should be reading this.

The Unwritten #27

Tom Taylor’s investigations into his father’s journals have turned up something new — a comic book starring a superhero called the Tinker who pre-dates Superman by two years — and who almost no one has ever heard of before. Tom and Lizzie are able to magically eavesdrop on a conversation from the ’30s between Tom’s father, Wilson Taylor, and Pullman, the ruthless assassin who now runs the Cabal, in which they discuss whether the Cabal needs to be concerned about the development of the comic book medium. Later, Tom, Lizzie, and Savoy read Wilson’s journal as he recounts going in search of the comic’s creator.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was a bit surprised that this series was going to go meta and focus on comics so soon — I was expecting some more romps through classic literature, maybe something in “Frankenstein” or non-Western lit — but it’s a pretty happy surprise. The Tinker looks like an interesting character, and it’ll be nice to learn more about what Tom’s father used to do when he worked for the Cabal.

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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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A Cloud of Bats

Batman Inc. #6

The global underworld is plenty alarmed by the presence of Batman Incorporated — Bruce Wayne is recruiting new Batmen left and right. He puts Red Robin in charge of the newest version of the Outsiders, uses a bunch of sockpuppets to spread doubt about his true identity, and informs everyone that they’re going after a multinational crime ring called Leviathan. We catch glimpses of Batman Inc. associates like Nightrunner (nice to see DC didn’t get run off by the short-lived controversy over that character), Batgirl, Huntress, Oracle (her online avatar now has its own bat ears), Blackbat (Cassandra Cain, the much-missed former Batgirl), Australia’s Dark Ranger, North Africa’s Batwing, a new Wingman, Gaucho, and much more. But Leviathan has plenty of tricks up its sleeve…

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very many awesome things here, particularly the return of Cassandra Cain. I just love the way the story and all of these characters are coming together.

Hellboy: Being Human

Mike Mignola reunites with superstar horror artist Richard Corben for a new story from Hellboy’s past, this time co-starring the late Roger the Homunculus. The story is set in 2000, when Roger hasn’t been alive long and is still wracked by guilt because he accidentally (but only temporarily) killed Liz Sherman when he was brought to life. Hellboy brings him along on a minor haunting in South Carolina. Someone keeps digging up a long-dead family and moving them into the ruin of their old family home. When the witch who raised the family to torture them returns, she immobilizes Hellboy with a mystical Hand of Glory — but will Roger stand a chance of freeing his friend and stopping the witch?

Verdict: Thumbs up. As always, Mignola and Corben are a combo that can’t miss. Lots of awesome zombies, demons, and horrors, beautifully illustrated by Corben and beautifully humanized by Mignola.

The Unwritten #25

Tom Taylor finally returns to Earth after a few months of getting knocked around inside literature itself. Lizzie Hexam and the newly vampiric Richie Savoy are planning on breaking into an auction house to steal a lot of items originally owned by Tom’s father, Wilson Taylor — and Tom’s new mastery over the crystal doorknob will allow them to march right past the security. But will Tom be able to resist exploring his memories inside the auction house? And will they be able to deal with their enemies inside?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Nice start to a new storyarc, with Tom finally in more control of his magical abilities and the search for the truth getting taken to a higher and more dangerous level.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • A “useless machine” is basically an engineer’s joke. You switch it on, and a mechanical hand emerges to shut itself back off again. Most are pretty simple. This one is pretty epic.
  • This recipe for vegan pad thai is the most metal recipe for vegan pad thai ever.
  • There’s something about these “My Little Pony” mashups that I just can’t get enough of.

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Down the Rabbit Hole

The Unwritten #24

We get another break from the main storyline to return to the intensely freaky tale of Pauly Bruckner, reluctant and foul-mouthed storybook rabbit. After escaping from a children’s story set in idyllic Willowbank Wood, Pauly finds himself trapped on a surreal and deeply depressing endless staircase with a bunch of other storybook animals, all trying to climb to a possibly mythical Golden Door. Pauly eventually winds up taking over the group and leading it his own way, but is there really any way out for him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very, very weird. I wish Pauly Bruckner had his own series — he’s just so wonderfully bizarre.

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish

So who is Buster Oakley? He’s an awkward teenager dabbling with his friends in witchcraft and Satanism, hoping for amazing power. Hellboy is called out to his small area of Kansas after he and his friends disappear and after a bunch of cows disappear and later turn up mutilated. Hellboy is expecting to have to deal with Satanists… but he gets one heck of a surprise when he gets abducted by aliens. Of course, we can expect that Hellboy will come out of this okay, but can we say the same thing for Buster?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice, action-packed story with a giant dollop of humor on top. We don’t often — or ever, really — see Hellboy fighting bug-eyed aliens from outer space, so this is one heck of a change of pace. And Kevin Nowlan’s artwork is a ton of fun, too. If you haven’t gotten this yet, go do so as fast as you can.

Batman and Robin #22

The White Knight intends to kill off as many relatives of Arkham inmates as he can, because he believes they’re all tainted by their association with their crazy, criminal relatives. Batman and Robin save as many as possible, then follow the White Knight to Arkham Asylum itself, where he intends to drown all the inmates. We get the White Knight’s origin, including his connection to Dr. Phosphorus, and we get a furious punch-a-thon to close out the storyarc.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, very nice artwork, and a pretty good conclusion. My only quibble — we never learn exactly how Robin manages to save all the drowning inmates.

Secret Six #32

So the Secret Six have gone to Hell — this time, in a luxury elevator operated by Etrigan the Demon. And their primary foe is their former teammate Ragdoll, who has been made a Prince of Hell. And besides his army of demons backing him up, he’s also got his old deceased friend Parademon on hand. Ragdoll worries that he’s going sane, Catman goes looking for his father, Bane learns that he’s likely hellbound, despite his attempts to live an honorable life, and Ragdoll reveals a surprising ally.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, good characterization, and lots of twists and turns.

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Twilight of the Gods

Twilight Guardian #3

The Twilight Guardian has returned from her trip to the comic convention with an unexpected contact — a comic book publisher who wants to publish comics about her? He sends her several pitches for the new comic, which we get to see during the course of the story — they’re all relentlessly Image-in-the-’90s. Her patrols around her nine-block area in the suburbs continue, with the usual share of weird paranoia — including a bunch of kids playing with firecrackers after midnihgt, the Guardian taking an unexpected nap and waking to find mud on her shoes, and a close encounter with someone who might be her nemesis the Dusk Devil — but he mysteriously vanishes into thin air. But none of that compares with the person she eventually finds inside her house.

Verdict: Thumbs up. So very, very weird. I still can’t decide if the Guardian is merely delusional and paranoid, or if something very strange is happening to her. Hopefully, we’ll find out in the upcoming final issue of the miniseries.

Avengers Academy #11

It’s the Return of Korvac! Who’s Korvac? Honestly, no one cares. He was one of those random interchangeable all-powerful cosmic villains who littered the streets during Marvel’s Silver/Bronze Age. But he’s returned, and we’re supposed to be very excited about that, mostly because Marvel says we should. He’s come looking for his ex-wife, Carina, who Veil just pulled out of an interdimensional limbo because she thought she was the Wasp. Carina wants nothing to do with Korvac, but that doesn’t stop him from showing up and shooting energy blasts around. The Avengers show up to try to beat Korvac down, but he’s much too powerful for them. Jocasta takes Carina and the kids from Avengers Academy and hides them in a room that randomly jumps around to other dimensions to keep it hidden. And Carina reveals that she has extremely powerful powers over time and space, and he believes that the Avengers Academy kids are the only people who can stop Korvac.

Verdict: Thumbs up, despite the “OMG KORVAC” fakery. It’s got a nicely epic feel, which is something this series hasn’t had a lot of yet, and it’s got a nice cliffhanger at the end, too.

The Unwritten #23

Tom Taylor has been swallowed by a whale, along with his winged cat Mingus, Baron Munchhausen, Sinbad the Sailor, Pinocchio, and Jonah. They can’t get out, no matter what tricks they try. When Tom finally locates the whale’s heart, Munchhausen hatches a plot to kill the whale with a cannon and explosives, but he loses the will to destroy the beast. And Tom begins to question whether the whale is actually a real animal at all — more like a symbol for all the world’s readers. But will this allow him to return to the real world again, or to learn the principles of magic?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Just another great issue of this series. Loved how they used all the public domain characters — they were personable, funny, and they all made good sense for the plot. I actually hope we’ll get to see some of them again.

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Jester Knight

Knight and Squire #5

Jarvis Poker, the British Joker, isn’t much of a villain — he’s a bit mischievous, but his villainy is pretty light-hearted and harmless. He even hangs out with the Knight and Squire from time to time. But he’s just found out that he’s dying and has only weeks to live. And he reacts to the news by trying to start up a crime wave of his own. But he’s badly out of practice, and his gimmicks are, again, pretty harmless. So he’s doing more to embarrass himself than to make his name live in infamy. But the Squire deduces that Jarvis is dying, and the Knight decides to let him go out with a final grand hurrah — he warns everyone that the British Joker is about to attempt the Crime of the Century. Invigorated, he sets out to perform the kind of grand novelty crime that’d let him go to his grave with a smile on his face… until he gets a deeply unwelcome visitor from the other side of the pond.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Holy cow, this was fun. Jarvis Poker is such a fun character, and the guest star’s appearance — even if you predicted who he is — makes a really great moment. Next issue is the last one for this series? No fair!

Batgirl #18

It’s a special Valentine’s issue guest-starring that most eligible bachelor… Klarion the Witch Boy?! He’s left underground Limbo Town for our Blue Rafters because his cat familiar Teekl, foiled in his attempts to mate, is now running loose and tearing out people’s hearts. Stephanie gets roped into helping Klarion clean up this mess, and though they’re able to recapture Teekl, he’ll remain out of control unless they can find him another were-cat to mate with. And the only place to find those is back in Limbo Town, where Steph has to dress up as a pilgrim and beat up a magic-using schoolgirl. Ahh, a traditional Valentine’s outing!

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a funny story, with some hilarious dialogue and situations. Stellar artwork from Dustin Nguyen. And it’s got Klarion the Witch Boy! We don’t see enough of him, dangit.

The Unwritten #22

Tom Taylor has apparently broken “Moby-Dick.” He’s frozen the novel in time and doesn’t know how to escape, but Frankenstein’s monster clues him in on how to use his magic crystal doorknob — inside a book, he can only travel from one element to another. There’s only one Pequod in literature, but the ocean is in plenty of different novels. So Tom is able to leap from “Moby-Dick” to one of the Sindbad stories, and from there, he meets up with the famed Baron Munchausen. Meanwhile, the puppeteer has decided Lizzie and Savoy are no use to her, so she shows them a perverse little puppet show and sends them on their way. But is it a glimpse into the future?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Listen, any comic that includes appearances by Frankenstein’s monster, Sindbad the sailor, Baron Munchausen, and even more literary heroes is something that you should just accept is an awesome comic.

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A Whale of a Tale

Unwritten #21

Tom Taylor is trapped inside “Moby-Dick,” Herman Melville’s novel, and he has no idea how to get out. And Captain Ahab is a dead ringer for his father, Wilson Taylor. When Tom calls “Ahab” his father, he’s assumed to be temporarily deranged and thrown belowdecks. Tom tries to escape using his magic crystal doorknob, but he’s told by the suddenly appearing Frankenstein’s Monster that he can only break out of the novel at its points of equilibrium — either the very beginning or the very end. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Lizzie and Savoy have been kidnapped by the magical puppeteer, who intends to make them tell her all they know about Wilson’s plans.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loved everything set in the novel, and it was nice to see the puppeteer’s true abilities — though not particularly nice from Lizzie and Savoy’s point of view…

Batman and Robin #19

Dick and Damian blunder into another trap set by Una Nemo, Bruce Wayne’s ex-girlfriend turned hole-headed supervillain. She quickly sets them up in a deathtrap with a couple of power drills aimed at their foreheads. Can they get out of the brain-scrambling trap in time? No way…

Verdict: Thumbs down. Sorry, but it bored me. Too much deathtrap and not a smidgen of suspense.

Secret Six #29

Bah! It’s the second half of a crossover with Action Comics, so half the story is already missing. Lex Luthor hired the Six to help him get rid of immortal caveman Vandal Savage — father of Six member Scandal Savage. They’re all inside one of Luthor’s skyscrapers, and there are bombs involved and a lot of shooting and general nonsense.

Verdict: Thumbs down. The Six were reduced to guest-stars in their own comic — nearly all the focus was on Luthor and Vandal Savage. Not even Ragdoll acting deranged could save this one.

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Big Time

Avengers Academy #7

Our focus for this issue is on Hank Pym, former Ant-Man, former Giant-Man, former Yellowjacket, currently calling himself the Wasp in tribute to his late wife Janet. He’s just learned that Tigra’s child, conceived by a Skrull doppelganger, is genetically his child, due to the Skrulls’ abilities to duplicate someone down to their DNA. And he’s decided to take on his old Giant-Man name and costume, because he plans on bringing Janet, her body trapped in an “Underspace Dimension,” back to life and back into the real world, despite the danger that her mind may not have survived at all. Meanwhile, a prison transport taking the Absorbing Man to prison suffers a mishap, and the supervillain is released into New York, with only the inexperienced Academy members and Pym available to stop him.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The Academy members are almost entirely forgotten here — Pym carries the whole show. And it’s a pretty good show — I love the way he takes out Crusher Creel, I love the scale of their battle, I love seeing a science guy like Pym do crazy comic-book science.

Batman and Robin #18

Bruce Wayne’s former girlfriend Una Nemo isn’t actually dead — she’s just got a gigantic hole all the way through her skull. Apparently, she had a condition called Dandy-Walker Syndrome — an actual genetic defect where a large portion of the brain is missing, but intellect may be unaffected — and she didn’t even know it until some robbers shot her in the head and dumped her in the ocean! She attends her own funeral as a lark, but is upset that no one seems sad she’s gone — and Bruce Wayne didn’t even attend! Exposing her brain to more oxygen made her smarter but a heck of a lot crazier — she started calling herself “the Absence,” gathered up a bunch of imbalanced disciples, and went about luring Batman and Robin to her. When the Dynamic Duo make their escape, they tell Bruce what happened — he was on his “lost in time” period when Nemo “died” and didn’t even know about it ’til just now. But that won’t stop her from going on a killing spree of Bruce’s old girlfriends.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, Una Nemo is spectacularly weird looking. Not a whole lot of detecting going on here, as most of the issue is devoted to Una monologuing for the heroes. Still, it works well, and comes across as spectacularly creepy.

The Unwritten #20

Tom Taylor and Lizzie Hexam have gotten together, if you know what I mean and I think you do. While she’s in the shower and he’s afterglowing, he sees… a glowing white whale? Convinced it’s Moby-Dick, he takes off in pursuit, only to find that it’s actually a prop for Pittsfield’s annual Mobyfest. He takes part in a dramatized reading for the festival and suddenly finds himself sucked into the novel, mistaken for a crewman on the Pequod, and standing in front of a Captain Ahab who looks startlingly familiar. Meanwhile, Savoy is turning into a vampire, and the Cabal is sending more assassins after them.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I never liked reading “Moby-Dick,” but this is an unexpectedly fun story. I’m even enjoying the bits from the novel, with all the weird Melville crap that always bugged me. Plus there’s the usual great dialogue, bizarre complications, and funky plot twists to enjoy.

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