All posts by Jerry Nelson

BEFORE WATCHMEN Rorschach #1 Drug Dealers in Porno Alley

STORY BY Brian Azzarello, Len Wein
ART BY Lee Bermejo, John Higgins
COLORS BY Barbara Ciardo, John Higgins
LETTERS BY Rob Leigh, Sal Cipriano
COVER BY Lee Bermejo, Jim Sterank, Jim Lee, [more…]
PUBLISHER DC Comics

HURM.  Now this is more like it! BEFORE WATCHMEN finally delivers a book with enough style and panache to stand on it’s own, outside the main universe, but be aligned with the themes of the original. The look and feel of this book a painterly fever vision of Times Square circa 1970’s. Like the movie Taxi Driver but with better lighting, more dripping pools of neon, and heaps of XXX theaters.

Azzarello throws us a grimy street cocktail that’s one part 8MM and two parts Dirty Harry, with a dash of The Punisher thrown in for good measure. The interesting thing is not the 1970’s porno stores, the junkie informant, or the underground street gang living in the sewers, it’s the small moments that Rorschach has his mask off. The intimate look of defeat in his eyes at the diner, and how he goes about his daily life when he’s not being a masked vigilante. I have to be honest though, the star of this comic is not the writer. I mean Azzarello doesn’t lob soft balls, so that’s not what I’m talking about here. The story is solid. But man Bermejo is just fucking stunning. Take what he did on Joker, the raw edges, grit and grime. The maniacal exaggeration. Then add to that the Alex Ross influenced coloring, fx and rays of volumetric light that Lee honed on Batman: Noel. Plus a double dose of dirty 70’s neon noir and Mad Magazine texture… that equals a goddamned masterpiece. In my eyes, this is easily the finest looking comic of 2012. Not only do the panels leaps off the page and are larger than life, but the actors deliver an academy award winning performance as well. Expressions, poses, subtle ticks… they are all there and executed in a masterful way.

If you had any curiosity of what a Rorschach comic could be a I suggest you pick this up, as it mire than delivers.
Story: 8
Art: 10
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 From Victim to Villian

Written by Len Wein
Art by Jae Lee and June Chung
Lettering by Richard Starkings and Jimmy B
Published by DC Comics

Ozymadias is the lynch-pin of the Watchmen book, without him Alan Moore’s super-hero revisionist opus is incomplete. So for me, I’m drawn to this book. I want to see how this twisted hero/villain got his world perspective and what motivates him. This probably the book that is most congruent with the original Watchmen series/ From the story to the art, to the paneling you can draw a direct line connecting the two works. Unlike its predecessors it doesn’t try to throw some wacky spin on an alternative American history, or distract you with continuity puzzle pieces and stands as the strongest Before Watchmen effort thus far.

We go back to Adrian Veidt as a kid being hyper-smart and learning faster than everybody, but warned by his father not to stand out or teachers will think he’s cheating. First lesson learned: life is not fair. So he does everything in his power not to stand out, but being a socially awkward kid, he does just the opposite and attracts the attention of bullies instead of the ire of teachers. Adrian takes up martial arts classes and eventually beats the crap out of the lead bully, busting out one his knee caps so he’ll never be able to walk right again. Second lesson: Might makes right. Adrian get’s in trouble of with the principal, who threatens to throw him out of school. Adrian’s upper-middle class dad steps in and offers to smooth things over by funding a new library for the school. Third Lesson: Everybody has a price. These formative themes are put thru rinse and repeat cycle as layers of Veidt are peeled back giving us a deeper and sympathetic understanding of his motivations. Like any well crafted tale it’s told in such an arresting and powerful manner you hardly even aware you being spoon fed plot threads and themes.

As Adrian begins to obsess about Alexander the Great away at school, his parents die in a terrible tragic accident. He gives away his money and decides follow in Alexander’s footsteps by traveling where he’s been. This is nothing new, as most of that has been revealed in the main Watchmen book, however we do get to see one of Adrian’s first love, Miranda, and the reason Adrian becomes a masked hero in the first place. Little Watchmen easter eggs pop-up a log the way. He meets Miranda at the Gunga Diner. Moloch makes a villainous cameo. There’s even a giant squid in “Thing From Outer Space” sci-fi poster in his room. All these details make for a great foundation for an epic origin story. It reminds a bit of Red Skull:Incarnate but further down the line in the tale. We get to see Adrian trying to become a hero before he succumbs to his misguided inner demons.

Jae Lee knocks it out of the park in a story book fashion. While Dave Gibbons relied on the highly structured and rigid 9 panel grid, Lee designs the page architecture in Art Nouveau manner with centered circles, arches, and domes. It fits the tone and accentuates the Egyptian themes inherent with Adrian’s Alexander the Great obsession. Lee renders in a wispy spiralled brush line, similar to Sam Keith, with a heavy use of chiaroscuro. His thin lines can be delicate and elegant, while his anatomy and composition is like sculptural like great Art Nouveau master François-Raoul Larche. June Chung colors in a bright Watchmen tertiary palette, but gives it a kind of 1930’s/40’s kind of spin. Like I said, it’s all very story book and has an undercurrent of Art Nouveau, Roman and Egyptian design elements.

I think that’s what is great about this book. It has it’s the look and feel of a bygone era, but one that could still exist within the Watchmen world as we know it. Not only does it make a strong contribution to the Watchmen Mythos, but this book could easily stand on its own two feet.

Story: 9
Art: 9
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Before Watchmen – Minutemen #1 Stay’s Classy

Written by: Darwyn Cooke
Art by: Darwyn Cooke
Colors by: Phil Noto
Lettering by: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by: Darwyn Cooke
Published by: DC

“Little did we know that poor boy would lead to the end of us all.”

There’s a lot of controversy that surrounds the Before Watchmen project. When it was first announced I was against the idea. Then I saw the creators involved and I thought maybe it wasn’t so bad. After witnessing the C2E2 Before Watchmen panel and sneaking a peek at some of the art involved I was a full-on convert. Now I’m not going to get into the debate of the ethics involved, as it’s already printed and out in the world. It’s a done deal as far as I’m concerned. I’m not going to change the mind of people who are hard-core against this, nor am I about to be a cheer-leader for D.C. Just like any other comic I’m going to take it at face value and judge it for the art and story.

The Minutemen by Darwyn Cooke is by far the book I was most excited about. I love Cooke’s Parker graphic novels and his work on D.C.’s The New Frontier. He has a way of tapping into late 50’s/early 60’s vibe that transcends the retro kitch, and makes you feel like you are reading a book from that era. Minutemen hits the mark in the way you would expect it. The subject matter here has a deeper level of grime and rawness and Cooke does not shy away from it in the least. In fact I would say he embraces it and uses the dark past of the Minutemen as a springboard for a Minutemen “Assemble” type of story.

Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl is the lead, we are introduced to him trying to finnish a draft of Under The Hood. There’s a nice little self-referential joke after we read the long philosophical and pretentious conclusion to his book, and Hollis says “This is terrible.” “I’m just going to have to be myself.” That’s what Cooke does. He’s not trying to ape Alan Moore in style or content, and he’s working with these characters his own way. Hollis goes about introducing the Minutemen through character-defining vignettes that hint at the motives and vices of these heroes. Hooded Justice is a bit of a homicidal maniac killing mobsters. The Silk Spectre is a poser, an actress, and a tourist with an agent. The Comedian is a sick profiteering teen villain in hero’s clothes. In Australia he’d be known as a Toe Cutter, attack criminals in order to steal from them.The Mothman is a ultra-smart inventor, that paid a high-price for making a flying suit and is now addicted to painkillers and alcohol. It goes on to re-introduce the remaining characters, Captain Metropolis, Dollar Bill, and Silhouette. The most interesting reveal is that Nite Owl is in love with Silhouette even though he knows she’s a lesbian. There is plenty of conflict and potential drama is set-up in this first issue. My only critique on the actual story is that perhaps it’s told too much in a re-cap style for a first issue. I’d like there to have been a little more of the in-the-moment type scenes where we can forget about the narrator and just get into the meat of it. Cooke is careful in treating his subject matter with respect and restraint, never giving us anything cliché or on-the-nose. The violence, the sadism, the greed, the drug-abuse, the sexuality, the insanity…all these thing that made the Watchmen an interesting take on superheroes, it’s here. It’s in the pages of the Minutemen, it’s just not exploited in a cheap manner. For me, I could have used a bit more sleaze. I wanted this thing to read like one of the those dirty magazines for the 30’s and 40’s. You know the kind with the “photo clubs”. Perhaps we will get more of that in issues to come.

Just like he did with The New Frontier and Parker, Cooke knocks the Minutemen out of the park. So many of his character designs have wound being used for animated series, that his comics now sort of have that feel. But don’t get the wrong idea, he doesn’t do simplification for the easy way out, nor is it cell-shaded anime. His work is a stylish 50’s/60’s golden-age noir rife with Watchmen symbolism and intricate backgrounds. Each panel is well thought-out and composed in the most iconic way possible. Body expressions are dynamically torqued and are either going through an interesting action or posed with anticipation to do so. Phil Noto’s colors Minutemen with a wide range of era-appropriate palette, symbolically added subtext to each story while staying consistent to the overall style of the book. There is select desaturation on certain panels to make the panel pop, like the red cape of Hooded Justice. For other sections such as the Silk Spectre and Dollar Bill’s segment, the color is punched-up bright and sunny. Nite Owl’s story got more brown tones, and golden orche’s. All it is masterfully rendered in cut flats, with subtle gradation and airbrushing. It’s sophistication would make John Higgins, the original Watchmen colorist, proud.

Dismissing all the controversy and hype, I’d say this was a successful first issue. The story is solid with enough of hints of twists and turns on the way to keep you hooked. Visually, you couldn’t ask for a more stunning look at the Minutemen. From the sleek character designs to the composition, rendering, posing, and coloring this thing is just gorgeous. If wanted to just give one of these Before Watchmen’s a shot, this is the one to pick up, no doubt.

 

Story: 8
Art: 10
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Curicon – Collector’s Online Paradise

 Curicon is a growing databse of collectibles online. Kind of like Wikipedia for collectibles with a dash of yellow pages, and a pinch of Facebook. The best and most vaulable feature that I’ve found here is the listing of nearly every comic/ collectible shop in Australia, US, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand. They also have an incredible schedule of events and cons in these countries. I suspect this would be really useful to the traveling artist alley guys and the obsessive compulsive collectors. Check it out: Curicon Here’s their press release:

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Curicon has made its stand as the new home of the

collector, geek and pop-culture fanatic.

 

The new social network for collectors of geek and pop culture announced the

official launch of its website which boasts a growing library containing over

120,000 items. Around this core library, the site provides features which are

desperately needed by online collectors. Simple collection management and a

social community platform connect collectors by their interests all around the

world. The library contains a wide variety of collectibles; almost 400 brands

across 2,000 categories including comic books, action figures, dolls, vinyl

figures, trading cards, miniatures and games consoles.

 

“We’re not the first to create a collectors website but we’re almost certainly

the best” said CEO and co-founder of Curicon Matt Byrne (27), “Curicon

is designed by collectors for collectors. We have developed an intelligent

technology, which helps collectors manage and build their collections and

access expert advice with an ease not previously possible. We aim to

create a unique user experience by building the largest interactive database

of collectibles on the web. We’re extremely proud of the finished product

because it has been shaped by feedback from collectors in over 35 countries

so we know this is the platform collectors everywhere have been waiting for.”

Frankenstein – Alive, Alive! – Classic Horror Creep Out

Written by: Steven Niles
Art by: Bernie Wrightson
Published by: IDW

Bernie Wrightson revisits his masterpiece Frankenstein, in this sequential sequel penned my master horror writer Steven Niles. For those that don’t know, Wrightson’s original interpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is what all horror artwork is measured against. It is simple a crowning achievement in black and white pen illustrations that has yet to be matched. The compositions, the mood, the flow and painstaking rendered hatching, is haunting and reminiscent of the era in which Shelly wrote. It’s like Albrecht Durher with a modern sense engraved plates for the book. So this sequel has a lot to live up to. In fact, it’s really too much for any work to live up to. Wrightson was at the peak of his game and it took him seven years working on and off to complete his illustrations for Frankenstein. He has since broken his hand, and his work hasn’t been the same since. He can’t do pen work anymore. There’s no way Alive, Alive! can or should be compared to his original. Not if your going enjoy it anyways. So just get it out of your head, right now, it’s not going to look or read like the original classic. And to be honest it’s really good work and worth sinking your teeth in to. This first issue includes 19 pages of comic book story followed by an interview between Niles and Wrightson talking about Frankenstein and the first few pages of Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein novel.

Steven Niles take on extending the tale of Frankenstein is an interesting one. We get a glimpse of two stories, where Frankenstein is now, and what happened after the events of the original story. Currently his enjoying a somber and twisted existence a side-show freak. He’s a sorrowful creature and does this as living, motivated perhaps by the acceptance of his fellow freaks and partially for the penance of being tormented by spectators. The people who come to see Frankenstein never get what they are expected, in look or in stature, but he seems to be able to always give them a scare and it’s the only time he truly feels alive. Which is a frightening thought. His back story in not exactly a bowl full of cherries either. After wandering around after the grisly murders he committed in Frankenstein’s castle, the monster tries to end his own life. I’ll let you guys find out how he tries to do it. It’s perhaps the last dregs of his humanity that seeks the peace of oblivion, with the lovely Dr. Frankenstein as the last witness to his surrender. But Dr. seems there to torment him more than to say goodbye. It’s with this sentiment that Niles give us a truly dark take on Frank. Humanity is painful for Frankenstein to witness, it’s something that he can aspire to but never truly be. That being said Niles never really let’s the story get too emo or gothic. Yes there’s shame, torment, and semblance of remorse, however I still feel like I’m reading a horror story. The tone is dark, the tension is moderate, and the anticipation is high. It’s a good set-up story and I feel re-invested in the Frankenstein monster after just a brief recap.

Bernie Wrightson deliver’s another memorable Frankenstein. Ever the master at chiaroscuro, he reveals the monster lurching out of inky pools of shadow, his morbid half-decayed form lit from below by eerie side-show lights. This time around Bernie use a brush and ink and ink wash to render Frankenstein. It looks great, he captures the patch work of muscles and veins that have been cobbled together to form the monster with surprising detail for a brush. For the most part, the panels are spot-one, composed by a true master, especially the side-show scenes. I do take a few issues with some of his outdoor tundras and volcanos ridden wastelands. There’s a some weird shot scales going on, and those scenes in particular don’t have the epic vastness that I think was intended. The volcano shots look particularly awards. They just feel very cliché and not researched or designed very well. I’m sad to say that because the rest of the comic looks really tight and I know Bernie is capable of better. I do have one more criticism but this is more for the production team than the actually artwork. The scanning and contrast/curve setting on these pages were really weak. I shouldn’t be able to tell when the artist uses pro-white to paint on top a scene. It should just feel seamless like it was part of the design. I don’t know if this was just laziness on the production team or if it was creative choose to keep some of the gray tones. Look, even it was a creative decision, there’s still a way to pop that white and make it sit better with the ink work. It was just rushed through and a disservice to Bernie’s art. However even after all that minor griping, I still think this is handsome comic, and I’m proud to have it in my collection.

 

It’s hard to say what kind of horror story this is shaping up to be, as all we have is the set-up. Chances are that if you are a fan of Frankenstein and classic horror, this can’t be missed. My only warning is that this going to a slow-burn so you just are going to have to hang around for the ride. If that’s not the kind of book for you than so be it. I know that just like Severed I’ll be picking this up until it’s done. Alive, Alive! reminds me so much of classic horror short stories I used to read as kid. It’s got that swelling sense of dread and suspense like an old school Poe creep-out. Plus it’s tapped into my nostalgia and love for Wrightson’s art, and I’ll pretty much buy anything with that man’s name on it.

 

Story: 8
Art: 7.5

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Moon Knight #12 – That’s A Wrap, Khonshu

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Alex Maleev
Colors by: Matt Hollingsworth
Lettering by: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by: Alex Maleev

Moon-Knight_12Moon Knight comes to its logical conclusion this issue. While there might not be many surprises or big oh-shit moment’s in this final send-off, it end’s on a solid note. Snap Dragon is in police custody and is dangled as bait for Count Nerfaria. The trap is set and the Count goes for it hook, line and sinker. Nefaria pulls a Terminator and blasts the L.A. police precint well into next week. Also he rather brilliantly let’s the cat out of the bag that he’s been bribing the police commissioner. He’s gig to fuck him up for not taking care of Snap Dragon before she ratted him out. Moon Knight misses his cue a bit and swoops down on the scene rather late. Nefaria has already disintegrated a few people by the time Moony comes to the rescue. That’s what I love about Marc Spector, even in his last issue he’s remains a flawed crazy fuck-up.The final showdown is a gritty powers vs. weapons kind of brawl. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from these two sluggers, however I felt it could have been taken up a notch. How epic would it have been on a LA set piece rather than a percent office. Just my two cents, but it’s the last battle, the last issue of the series, why not give it a pretty setting. Anyways, Moon Knight has a shrewd Ultron-sized trump card up his sleeve, so you all should check it out and see how it plays out. It’s a slick and effective way tame the ruckus and put Nefaria in his place.

The whole point of the this series seems to be to plant the seed for the Ultron War. The last page confirms this as Bendis let’s you know that Moon Knight will return in “The Age Of Ultron.” Not as cool of a name as Ultron War, I know, but still I foresee that being a bad-ass series. When people as me about this series, the way I always describe it is it’s like a deep cut on your favorite record. Growing up I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath, and the first record that I owned, or rather stole from my old man’s collection was Volume 4. That whole record is practically deep cuts. On one hand you have powerhouse dirges like Supernaut, Snowblind, Wheels of Confusion, on the other you have small intimate tunes and experimentations like FX, Laguna Sunrise and Changes. These demonstrate a soft, orchestral approach and a departure from their trademark style. I think that there is some distinct parallels between the two. Now, I’m not going to call Moon Knight the Volume 4 of the comic book world. That would be insane and heresy. But perhaps it is  the Volume 4 of Brian Michael Bendis’s and Maleev’s Marvel tenure. There’s a lot of story meat that has Bendis signature style of ridiculous super-powered combat, smart-ass dialogue, insults, and snappy come-backs. However there are some softer moments as well. The short-lived fling with Echo. The tired and disappointing failures of Marc Spector. The small reflective conversations with his assistant Buck Lime from S.H.I.E.L.D. Then there’s some completely out of the box experimental shit, like the Avenger’s personality war inside his head. The death of some of the personalities and the also the acquisition of new one’s in some sort soul absorbing way that alludes to the possibility that this actually part of Moon Knight’s power set.\Maleev’s contribution to Moon Knight was is similar to his work on Daredevil. He added that grimy and almost xeroxed inking style. L.A. was rendered like it had been dragged through the Labrea tar pits. It added gravity, mood, and raw texture to the simplest of scenes. The photo references which Maleev heavily relied on for work on Spider Woman are minimized here. There’s a more naturally art-class approach. That’s not to say that some reference wasn’t used, as it obviously was, but it’s more interpreted and stylized rather than a straight replication. Hollingsworth colors added a lot to this series and really tried to make it sing L.A. Noir. Dirty broken neon signs, blood-stained dusk, smog drenched colors, with pockets of hot saturation; Hollingsworth lights the stage Maleev set like hardboiled detective movie being screened in the back of porno shop. It’s skeevvy, slutty and very much L.A. And that’s a good thing.

I like this journey of Marc Spector working on his “Legends of the Khonshu” TV show only to have it cancelled after waging a long and costly war with the kingpin of L.A. It was a fitting end. I feel like I finally have a grasp of his character after this series. This fractured hero tries to figure what’s going on is his head and redeems himself in his eyes and those of his peers as well. Yeah, he’s a fuck-up, but in a lovable way. More importantly he’s not an emo loser. He doesn’t give up and never says dies, although he can be really tempted to at times. Spector fly by the seat of his pants and rolls with the punches as best he can. He goes over the edge sometime, but always seems to pop back over to sanity. I’m sure in a lot of way’s it how people with real mental illness act. Besides that it’s one of the more engaging stories that Bendis has told. You can really just lose yourself in the story because of how decompressed and natural the flow is. The realism just makes engrossing and entertaining. It’s a shame this didn’t see more ground-swell support, because Bendis did to Moon Knight, what Brubaker did to Iron Fist… he took a C-string character and gave him A-string development. Nicely done. I look forward to the “Age of Ultron.”

 

Story: 9
Art: 8
Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

C2E2 – Before Watchmen Highlights And Notes – “Sex, Violence and Penises Galore!”

 

Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, Amanda Conner, Adam Hughes, Len Wein, J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Kubert, Dan Didio, other DC crew including Bob Wayne, Mark Chiarello and Will Dennis sat down to have a chat about the Before Watchmen Prequels.

New Frontiersman teaser Headline: Punks destroy England, Are We Next?

Dan Dido was surprised there wasn’t more negative reaction for BeforeWatchmen. They were looking forward  to defending it.

J. Michael Straczynskiwas described Nite Owl as an origin story about how Dan became that character. Straczynski says, “The story will go from his early childhood through to his partnership with Rorschach and how that went badly.” The Alan Moore question was brought up immediately and J. Michael Straczynskiwas was quick to point out Moore’s hypocrisy. “He’s been using characters like the Invisible Man, Peter Pan, Jekyl and Hyde in what one fan basically called fan fiction — in ways their original creators probably wouldn’t have approved of.” He ended with, “Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Segal and Shuster, worse was a lot of people.”

Joe Kubert came in late and the place went wild. Asked about working with his son Joe said, “Working with Andy was both a blessing and a little bit of a curse.” Kubert got a laugh. “Any variation of any line and you see creases lining his face!” Joe ended his talk with a warm sentiment and said it was a pleasure to work with his son. “How lucky can you get?”

When asked fs drawing Dr. Manhattan was Adam Hughe’s dream job he said,”I really wanted to draw Nite Owl.” Everyone laughed. Dan Didio suggested a death cage match between Adam Hughes and Joe Kubert. Adam continued,”It wasn’t a dream come true, but it is becoming really interesting.” Asked if whether there will be nudity on Dr. Manhattan  Adam Hughes replied, “Shit yes… If you have a good face day, you draw faces. If you have a bad face day, you draw trees.” The room snickered. “I took the Hemmingway approach and drank a lot. I treated it like experimenting in college.” Hughes explained that Watchmen was so shocking back when it was released because it was under the guise of a superhero comic, but he understands that times have changed. In closing, Adam talked about respecting the original tone of Watchmen in terms of profanity, raw truth and adult situations. Then quipped “Sex, violence & penises galore. Straczynski added to the Dr. Manhattan discussion that the plot is rather dark and about the quantum aspect of freewill.

Dan Didio said, “The Comedian is the first pages that made them say, ‘legal needs to see these’.” Brian Azzarello went on about the book, “Ozymandias is the spine of the story. Eddie’s the balls.”

Len Wein talked briefly about his Ozymandias series. “Exploring what made him want to almost end the world in order to save it was a lot of fun to work with.” He talked about Jae Lee’s art on it as if it was fine art.

Lee Berjmo on Rorschach, “We’re going to do a grind house movie. Lots of 70’s Porn shops. What better porn than 70s porn?”As the panelist discussion degenerated into more porn talk and Lee joked,”I was conceived in a porn shop.”

Brian Azzerello was asked about favoring the Comedian over Rorschach and he clarified his position, “I like the Comedian more as a person than Rorschach. I don’t prefer writing one over the other.” Expounding on this Brian said, “Rorschach is a blast because it’s so ugly. You people like that character? Well, you’re going to get it exactly the way you like it.” The room erupted in laughter.

Silk Sceptre will have a lot of easter eggs. Amanda Conner will put some personal moments into the story. Apparently an ex-boyfriend pastiche will pop-up as well. Amanda says it will be a, “romance comic with beatings. We are trying to keep a little bit of that tone, not make it too dark and angst-ridden.” Conner explained , “When I was a teenager, my mother and I had a contentious relationship, so I’m bringing that to the table a little bit. I’m just trying to remember all that stuff from when I was a teenager.”

Crimson Corsair is a backup feature that will be running across all prequels and the reflect the themes or the narratives in the same way Tale of the Black Freighter did in the original Watchmen.

At the end of the panel there was a question about the Silk Spectre Tijuana Bible in the “Watchmen” universe. “You might see it.” says Conner.

There was some new B&W interior work that was revealed as well as new covers for #2 issues.

BeforeWatchmenMontage

Review: Secret #1 – Teeth, With Which To Eat – Terrorist Dentistry

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Ryan Bodenheim
Published by Image

Standing in the line we’re aberrations
Defects in a defect’s mirror
And we’ve been here all the time real fixations
Hidden deep in the furor-
What we do is secret-secret!

We’re influential guys for the D.C.C.
We can lie so perfect
And we’ve got a party line to every call
It’s a very short circuit-
What we do is secret-secret!

– The Germs “What We Do Is Secret”

secret01_coverHome invasion. Corporate Espionage. A shooting in London. Security firm blackmail. It’s not exactly a recipe for a whizz-bang sellout first issue for a comic book. Yet here we are. Secret is off to the presses for a second printing and comics are flying off the shelf. So how does it all stand up and work?

Actually Secret is rather sublime. There’s a grand sense of power, conspiracy, government and corporate mis-deeds reflecting the age that we live in. It’s engaging in the way that it throws you off in to the deep end, to see if you can swim in the sharks. It’s the world of Michael Clayton, but with a high-priced security firm instead of a fixer. Just as you figure it all out Hickman throws a bit of a curveball at the end. It’s a small reveal, a quick glimpse at the big picture. There’s something more than just a corporate bleed-out happening. There’s something evil about all of this. They pulled out a man’s tooth and kept it and planned to do something sinister. I immediately think of voodoo or genetic manipulation, but it could all very well be symbolic. Maybe they pulled out his fake cyanide-filled tooth so he can’t kill himself. That could point to some rather nasty business. Anyways, it’s always hard to figure out what to make of clues like this with a first issue, it’s a big speculation dart-board at this point.. Just have to wait and see if the diabolical dentistry amounts to anything substantially disturbing.

 Secret is not without its faults however. For one, I can’t remember anybody’s name in the comic. I mean yes, I’m bad with names, but still… you need to be able to identify a character in order to feel something about them and the story. And I guess that’s the other thing. I could care less about any of the characters. The little details that brings a character to life and give them personality just aren’t there. Not yet anyways, I just don’t know them enough to form any kind of connection. I supposed we’re meant to feel sympathetic with the victim of the home invasion. He didn’t really have a “Save-the-Cat” moment where he earned it though, and frankly seemed kind of whinny and pathetic. The Security Firms goons have more fire and spark than him. They are shitheads, but at least have some kind of grit and interest. Mr. White Suit probably has some problems with violence and self-control and that could prove to be interesting. However Hickman is going to have dig deep and to get me to invest in a story about corporate douche-bags. Either a next level crazy plot (of which he is definitely capable of pulling off) or some serious character development is needed to keep me around.

Bodenheim draws an elegant Secret. He uses a modern thin line and adds depth and shadow in the coloring, in somewhat cell-shaded style. A reduced palette with two or three colors per page enhance the graphic designed nature of this book and makes it pop in a unique way. It reminds me a little of Frank Miller’s select coloring choices in his Sin City series. In this case it seems less symbolic and used more for a moody and psychological lighting effect. If you take a look at a movie like Blood Simple and you’ll get what I’m talking about. The tone and the intention of a scene are revealed in the colors used and the way it was lit. I haven’t seen Bodenheim’s previous work on A Red Mass From Mars, but his characters expressions kick ass here. The are very believable and the suit that gets his house invaded, you can see the agony and fear in his eyes. It takes a special kind of artist to pull that off . Well done sir. If there’s any weakness to his work I’d say that maybe the characters are too similar in facial appearance. Perhaps that’s why I’m having a hard time telling them apart. Of maybe that’s part of the theme ala’ American Psycho. Who do you trust when everyone is cookie-cutter clone with flimsy ethics?

There’s a lot of intrigue and mystery going on in this first set-up issue. It’ll be interesting to see if it veers off into super-science or stays in the land of conspiracy and lawfirm action. If Hickman pulls this off we could see a whole new wave Grisham-like comics popping up. As far as I know it hasn’t really been done before so I’m on board check out the first few issues at least, as this one was definitely worth my time.

 

Story 7.5
Art. 7.5

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Advanced Review: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Helldiver Book One – Death Is Just The Beginning

Written by: Michael Mendheim, Mike Kennedy and Sean Jaffee
Art by: Simon Bisley
Colors by: Chad Fidler
Additional Art by: Hoel Boucquemont, Vince Proce
Cover by: Ivan Khivrenko
Published by: Heavy Metal

Four Horsemen CoverThe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a surprisingly smart story about religious factions battling over the seals to usher in the Apocalypse. This book is fast-paced and high concept like a big-budget Hollywood film. The Seventh Sign, Stigmata and the DaVinci Code all spring to mind. This comic starts off on the right foot with a mysterious and rather gruesome suicide in a church. That grabbed me right away. From there plot unravels in an engaging and fast paced manner.

Professor (or is it Rabbi?) Adam Cahill is warrior from a religious sect in charge of protecting the Seven Holy Seals. Break the seals , and it’s the end of the world as we know it. We are introduced to him through his daily life in teaching at B’nai Jeshrun Hebrew School in Chicago. The theme of redemption is brought up in class discussion and immediately I knew what this book was going to be about. “That’s where each soul is confronted with his or her sins, and how they respond to this reflection is the difference between salvation and damnation.” This of course makes perfect sense for a book called The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Then he goes home to his family and has dinner with his wife and child, showing that he might be a warrior and professor, but he’s also a family man too. Later on this is leveraged into some primal emotions when his family is under threat.

We get down to the nitty gritty when Adam is sent away to help defend some of the Seals at the Church of Trinity in Kiev from fanatical cultists. He’s too late. They find one of their priest crucified to blood drawn pentagram with his guts hanging out and they jacked one of the Seven Holy Seals (they have 4 now). The cultists are still there and Cahill freaks the fuck out on them. Cue bezerker rage. Cue bloodbath. Cue important exposition. From here I let the publishers blurb summarize: “… ageless forces have conspired toward a prophetic event foretold by numerous cultures and multiple religions, and when that cryptic date arrives, they strike against the order without mercy! Adam’s world is shattered, his family murdered, and he is sent spiraling into Hell itself. There, he must find three corrupt souls, chosen by Divinity, to join him in battle against the legendary Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These broken individuals must band together to not only save their own souls but decide the fate of Humanity.”

So yeah, Cahill becomes a Helldiver, which from what I can tell is like the Punisher, Hellblazer and Ghost Rider rolled into one. I can’t help but have a chuckle and think about “Holy Diver” by Dio whenever I see the word Helldiver. The reveal of divine intervention was a bit silly to me as well. That’s just something that I personally struggle with in almost any religious story involving the voice of God. As an agnostic leaning liberal I tend to find all such reference to the the direct hand and voice of God incredulous. My baggage is my baggage I know. It’s just one of those things. I do like that Cahill response is very human and complex. He reluctant at first, and it’s completely understandable. Becoming a Helldiver means giving up your soul and you place in heaven, but fighting for a higher cause. It’s just the sort of lofty plot point and character developement needed to sell the idea of the Apocalypse. There’s also some other religious viewpoints about the end of the world that are explored as well, so it doesn’t feel single-minded. Judaism, Christianity and Satanism all have a role thus far.

There’s some kind of code that’s happening in the dialogue and narration. Every few pages or so a number or letter is highlighted in red. I’m no cryptographer, so I couldn’t tell you what the hidden message is, but I’m guess it has something to with the theme of redemption, or hidden law from the Torah. It’s just evidence of another complex layer of intrigue that’s subtly infused into this endgames tale. I find it refreshing because while I drawn this title with the promise of Bisley vision of the Apocalypse, I thought it was going to be a fairly trivial story, and it’s anything but that.

Four_Horsemen_page11Look we all know Simon Bisley’s art stands tall. It’s herculean Frazzetta on steroids with the showmanship of a WWE cage match. Hulking bodybuilders with rope-y veins and psychotic eyes locked in mortal combat and drenched in a thick spray inky blood and brightly oil-painted ice cream colors. He made Slaine, Lobo, Doom Patrol, Fakk2 and Judge Dread pop with violence and glory. Simon’s gone on to work on album covers, magazines and movie posters.

He’s been on and off the comic scene these last few years, but has returned with a vengeance in The Four Horsemen. Here he shows some restraint, poise and temperament. Unfortunately there’s also a down-side to this as well. There are some panels that feel cramped and hampered by shot-scale choices and composition. But that’s most the more “normal” talking heads set-up scenes. Which, let’s face it, has never been Bisley’s strong suit. He’s best suited for epic battles and bone-crushing splash pages. Also, for some reason he draws eye’s too big on long and mid-shots and makes it almost manga-esque at times. That contrasts starkly with his penchant for detailed renderings. Cahill as a Helldriver is not the most original design from Bisely. He’s basically Lobo with straight hair and a trench coat with two swords strapped to his back. It’s look badass, but he looks like Lobo. There’s also an orgy scene that I would had liked to have scene with a bigger panel. I mean what’s the point of including a satanic orgy ritual if you draw it on one small panel. I remember the B&W book Faust from the late 80’s and 90’s by David Quinn and Tim Vigil. Issue #5 has a crazy violent blood orgy scene that was a double page spread that left a lasting impact on me to this day. I feel if you are going to go all-out, do it big. I mean this book is published by Heavy Metal, I don’t think anyone will bat an eyelash.

There is also some panels that are not Bisley in this book. Joel Boucquemont, Vince Proce, Ivan Khivrenko contributes some rather death-metal looking hellscapes, which kind of throw me out of the Bisley world for a bit. Some of the coloring is over saturated and photoshopped textured. But then again it seems the whole book has a bit of photoshop grunge textures on the borders and bleeds. A quick flip through the book and it looks like you have some very dirty and violent stained glass. It fits the subject matter, so I don’t actually mind it much, but I think it could be pulled back just a touch to a subtler and less distracting effect. Ultimately the story telling is good and easy to follow, so it’s easy to forgive anything that isn’t super polished.

The true pay-off is towards the end of the book where the art picks up considerably. Bisley is channeling Ivan Albright, Hieronymus Bosch, and WarHammer Games in his vision of hell. There’s some stark industrial wastelands, twenty-eyed demons trapped in dungeons, skinless victims hammered into architecture, and a big-titted succubus to rule them all. Breast implants in hell? Makes sense to me. And finally one of the Horsemen is revealed. That fucker is a doozy. He’s like Lock-Jaw from He-man crossed with Oderus-urungus from Gwar. And he’s sporting a BFG gattling gun on armored horseback. So now you have to pick up the second and third book. How can you not! I need to see the rest of the horsemen designs by Bisely and I most definitely need to see the raze the planet in an Armageddon holy war. Hopefully we’ll see some more consistency with the art in following issues.

The Four Horsemen is a solid story “golden fleece” type story about redemption, duty and faith, mixed with a rite of passage journey, and probably some other shit that is over my head. The set-up is solid and the beginning of the second act sold me on the rest of books. The art was a little all-over place but it ended strong. I have no doubt that the following volumes will surge with that burly signature Heavy Metal style we all know and love. If you are into sprawling good vs. evil epic stories of biblical proportions, then this book is for you.

Story: 7.5
Art: It ranged 6 to 9

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Review: The Walking Dead # 95 In A Larger World Part Three – Jesus Vouches for Rick, Knife Fight Ensues.

Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard
Coloring by: Cliff Rathburn
Cover By: Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image

Alright! Here we go, time to roll up your blood stained sleeves and dig in! The pussyfooting stops right here! The Walking Dead  #95 finally delivers on the promise of exciting new stories with outsiders. Jesus vouches for Rick and his crew and they granted access to a massive walled-in community. There’s two hundred plus people in this well-established community and a bad-ass hotel that acts as kind of headquarters.  We introduced to the boss of the town that looks like a combination between a casino-owner and sleazy used-car salesman. He thinks he’s the shit, and let’s Rick know it.

Right in the middle of giving Rick the five-cent tour there is suddenly some action. One of their other scouts is back from a peace-keeping pow-wow and shit didn’t go over too well. Rick can’t seem to keep the fuck out of trouble if his life depended on it. Which in this case it might. After big-boss man get’s into with his scout, Rick finds himself in the middle of a knife fight. I can’t give away too much more than that, but some serious shit goes down. Fucking Rick… Jesus vouched for you, and you get into a fight like 5 minutes later. Is that how you repay him? Christ almighty!! In all seriousness though, it looks like this trading expedition is going to end badly for Rick’s camp. Everything seemed to be on the level, but this turn coat scout flipped the fuck out and ruined everything. The story is pretty wide-open from here and it sets up an interesting conflict that can be explored in various different tangents. It ends in a Kirkman signature cliffhanger that leave you guessing and wanting more. My guess is that in part 4 all hell breaks loose and we are going to see some serious human on human violence. It should prove interesting.

The art team on this continues to knock it out of the park. Adlard & Rathuburn constantly delivers what the story ask for. In this case it’s scope, scale, and little bit of opulence and a ton of grit. The walled-in community looks huge, and that hotel was lavishly rendered. The knife fight was exciting and absolutely grimy. Blood, mud, ruckus; it felt like a scene cut straight from Deadwood. My only critique is on conceptual aspects of the cover. The way it’s composed it feels more like a panel than a cover. There’s just a bit too much negative space on the top and all the action is crammed on the bottom. It’s fucking nitpicky, I know, but when you are executing on such a high-level that’s the sort of thing that stands out. A solve would be to pull back a little on the scene an reveal more of the fight, or even use an overhead shot and get it all in. But really, when all is said and done, it’s one of the most consistently good-looking black & white books out there.

 In A Larger World is shaping up to be quite the arc. What started as a slow-burn has ignited into an explosive and fresh story for The Walking Dead. War, siege, feuds, raids are all on the table now. The stage is set for conflict and I for one am ready for an epic warlord saga in the world of a zombie apocalypse. Like Game of Thrones but with zombies. Check out this issue and see what all the fuss is about.

Story: 9
Art: 9

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Advanced Review: Clay County Graphic Novel – Rednecks vs. Aliens with a dash of Strange Brew

Written by: Bruce Brown & Chip Christell
Art by: Adam Mrozowski
Letters by: E.T. Dollman
Published by: Arcana

CLAY COUNTYClay County is like Tucker and Dale Vs. Aliens (circa 1950). Haven’t seen Tucker & Dale vs Evil? Then think Squidbillies with a dash of King Of The Hill. Basically its tongue in cheek rednecks drinking their way into and out of trouble. In this case it’s while an alien invasion of Earth is happening. The aliens are cruising around in flying saucers and kind of look Kang and Kodos from the Simpsons. They’ve invaded and took over the planet nearly three years ago and are just not getting around to conquering the backwoods podunk Clay County.

The plot synopsis on the back of the book does it more justice than I ever could:

“Now three years after their invasion the merciless aliens have crushed the resistance and annihilated all freedom fighters but one: Sgt. Coleman. Coleman is the Earths last hope, if he can find the mysterious power source known only as SF-92…

Together with the unlikely allies of Clay County citizens Bake, Vern, Hot Dog and Root; Coleman set out to find the SF-92 before the Earths otherworldly overlords do, save mankind, and drink a few cold ones along the way.”

Ok so this is something I probably wouldn’t pick up on my own. Since I scored a review copy I’m glad I gave it a go. It’s a light-hearted romp chock full of redneck colloquialisms, alcohol slapstick and fart jokes. Some of it is actually pretty funny too. “Gawd Dammer!” “Summabitch!” Granted there is a few times I feel it was trying a bit too hard, but some of humor wore me down and actually got me to laugh out loud at it. There’s a running gag where the rednecks never call Sgt. Coleman by his proper name. They call him “Coalmine”, “Kauffman”, “Coldsore”, “Codpiece”, “Cornfield” and so on. It’s starts out as funny, then it gets old, and then they run the gag into ground so much that you can’t help but laugh at it in the end. Frankly I like that kind of commitment. While this is a far-cry from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and Larry The Cable Guy (that’s a good thing IMO) it definitely has the comedic charm of the Three Stooges and Strange Brew with a redneck slant. Dumb luck and buffoonery with a touch of restraint rule the day here. Oh yeah and one last thing. They battle the aliens with a killer pumpkin chucker, straight from the Mythbusters spin-off series on the Discovery channel. That my friends, is worth the price of admission right there.

CLAY COUNTY PAGEArt wise, this is a loose syndicated news paper-style in the vein of Calvin & Hobbes, Rose Rose, Bloom County and Mike Luckovich political comics but with a Johnny Bravo design sense. Eyes always seem to truly define the syndicated style, and the ones in Clay County are either bug-eyed, beady or squinty. Everything seems to have a bit of 1950’s atomic age swing to it, but very loosely. For the most part its colored in a duo-tone digital water-color/airbrush, with the foreground being either olive or blue and the background being the reverse of that (blue or olive). Honestly I think a straight flat duo-tone could have helped enhanced that 50’s style a bit. The digital airbrushing/watercolors were really sloppy in some areas that it was distracting and pulled me out of the story. That’s never a good thing. You know the saying, K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, Stupid. I also didn’t like a photoshopped cover or the crappy graphics between chapters that look like they crawled out of MS Paint. I guess that’s my main beef of the art. That aside, the interior work services they story in a whimsical way, and adds to hilarity of it all. Mrozowski nailed the expressions of Bake, Hot Dogg and Root and really made them stand out as characters.

This is one of those books that you have to the appreciate dumb humor that’s going on to get in to it. That isn’t to say the book is dumb, or that you have to be dumb to enjoy it. It’s just either you get it or you don’t. I liked it. I thought it was funny. I had a rough couple of days and it brought a smile to my face. At the end of the day that’s what it’s really all about isn’t it? That you enjoyed something you read. You had fun with it and felt good after reading it. Clay County just might be that PG-13 redneck comedy relief that you need. It’s currently available to pre-order in comic shops thought Previews or on pre-order on Amazon.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Review: Prophet #22 “You Throw like No Necks and Outsanders.”

Written by: Brandon Graham & Simon Roy
Artist: Simon Roy
Colorist: Richard Ballermann
Letterer: Ed Bisson
Cover: Simon Roy
Publisher: Image

Prophet_22CoverExcuse me while I ramble for a bit, but where the hell did this comic come from? Yes I know it’s a revived Liefeld comic from the 90’s but has it always been about weird sci-fi shit? I thought it was known for having an excessive amount of bullets and detail? People hyped the hell out of #21 and I dismissed like a fool because I’m not a fan of Liefeld properties in general and had too much on my plate. A buddy of mine forced this comic on me and I’m glad he did. It’s my favorite kinds of story: something new and totally unpredictable.

I have no idea what the fuck is going on but here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far: After a long hibernation John Prophet is released from his underground life-pod to find himself on a distant future Earth. He is on a mission and makes his way across  this wasteland of techno-dessert and tribal insect aliens. He’s fought off mutant wolves, multi-mouth sheep-like creatures and even had sex with some weird alien thing. He uses this blue, glorpy gel thing as a disguise thing or something. Actually I’m not sure what he uses it for but it looks like blue jellyfish cape. Oh yeah, and the planet is thick with insectoid creatures. If the aliens from District 9 had a baby with Dark Crystal creatures they would look something like this. I think the main alien things are called Xiux-Guin. They have 4 eyes, 4 arms, and a mouth at the bottom of their long sinewy necks. Their hands have 3 fingers, and stand on their 4 legs like an awkward cockroach centaur.

In this issue John plods through a graveyard of dead robot giants and burned-out pods and comes across a Taxa caravan, a temporary oasis from the violent world. He finds employment shoveling Cikade which is basically giant alien shit that people use as building material in order to keep swarms of flying insects out. John makes a few enemies with some Xiux-Guin showing them up and throwing knives, even though he throws like “No Necks and Outsanders.” Later, Prophet commits a giant tribal faux-paux and that leads to all sorts of mayhem forcing him to flee from a horde of pissed-off cockroach centaurs. This leads him to discover a long lost human artifact that he can possibly use to escape. All sorts of hell breaks loose.

The story is a survivalist sci-fi mystery mixed with adventure and espionage and is told in a straight forward writing style that’s not overly descriptive but feels dream-like. Everything is alien and foreign to me. If Charles Burns, H.G. Wells and the guys that wrote Aeon-Flux sat down and collaborated on a story you might get something like this. It’s future primitive tale with only one human (so far) struggling against a planet hostile and strange creatures.

prophet-22-9I really love this kind of deep sci-fi, but can sometimes looks terrible (I’m looking at you Land of The Lost). Thankfully that is not the case here. Simon Roy illustrate this brutal future Earth beautifully. He uses a style that blends the best part of Geoff Darrow’s line work with Joe Kubert-like contour shading. My only slight knock against the art is the appendages of the aliens can look a bit clumsy at times.  The proportions seem a bit off and are longer than needed. Perhaps the creatures was designed appear more like tubes than limbs, it just wasn’t the best creative decision. I would have liked to see some tapering towards joints, or bulking up closer to the torso. Basically anything to give it some variation and not look so chunky. However it does appear consistent with the world as the dinosaur-sized  spider-elephants have a similar look. And I wouldn’t change a thing about those beasts! The coloring is close to what Chris Sotomayor did for Planet Hulk, but less on the Photoshop airbrush side of things. He has more of a watercolor approach akin to a printmaker coloring intaglio etchings. I also have to mention the lettering really quick. Ed Brisson uses a unique technique of putting the translation bubbles, straight over the xenomorph hieroglyphic text. It’s visually appealing and I immediately understood what was going on. Point for storytelling, point for originality and point for design.

Prophet really is a strange new world. This book has really grabbed me and I can’t wait to see more. There’s no comic on the shelf like this right now. Everything is unexpected and fresh, with bizarre twists and shocks lurking around every corner. Forget everything about the Liefeld series of the ’90’s. You don’t need any of the backstory to enjoy what is happening here. It’s the perfect place to jump on. Don’t sleep on this book!

Story: 9/10
Art: 8/10

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

 

Review: Howard Lovecraft and The Undersea Kingdom – C’thulhu for Kids

Written by: Bruce Brown & Dwight L MacPherson
Art by: Thomas Boatwright
Letters: E.T. Dollman
Cover: Erik Fokkens
Publisher: Arcana

HowardLovecraftUnderseaWhat if Inspector Gadget was written by H.P. Lovecraft? What if Calvin and Hobbes was Howard and C’thulhu? Well you’d get something akin to this book. It’s really kind of pastiche of both. This is a follow-up to 2009’s Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom a 71 page Graphic Novelette containing an all-ages H.P. Lovecraft type story. I’m assuming you all know what kind of story Lovecraft spun back in his day. Tales of elder gods, the horror of space and time, ancient cults, men turning into fish creatures, and mountains of madness. You know, kid stuff. When all is said and done I’m actually surprised how well this reinvention of Lovecraft lore works. It’s the kind of story you can let a pre-teen read and have fun with and not drive him to brink of sanity. More importantly you can read it and enjoy it yourself as it’s not dumbed down with fart jokes or demon slapstick.

“Howard Lovecraft’s family has been imprisoned on a far-flung alien planet, Spot hopelessly captured, and he is slowly becoming a mindless Fishman. Accompanied by his insane father, a pistol-packing constable, and his hungry cat, they must face the all-powerful ruler of the Outer Gods, a revengeful old enemy, an army of deadly monsters, and a lethal world called Yuggoth, to save the day. All Howard has to do is surrender his father’s Book. But that would mean certain doom for all of mankind!” – synopsis via Comixology.
Story-wise this plot is a bit slippery. Brown and MacPherson kind of throw you off in the deep end and see if you can make heads or tails of the mystery un-folding. I didn’t read the first book in the series, so perhaps that would have helped me with the set-up. I have to admit I floundered for a bit and didn’t really grasp what was happening until the end of Chapter 2 where Howard flat-out spells it out: “King Abdul took our family and House to his Undersea Kingdom and won’t let them go until I give him the book.” The cutting between different worlds threw me for a bit at first as well. I didn’t understand if C’thulhu’s (aka Spot) world was imaginary or a world inside the book Howard was reading or what. The power and importance of the book is never really explained. I’m assuming it’s the Necromonicon and it’s very powerful, but as a new reader to the series it was left open-ended. The stakes would be higher if it was explained how the world would shatter if the ruler of the Outer Gods got ahold of this thing.
That aside I really did enjoy the characters and their interactions while all this plot was unraveling. Once the story draws you in its easy to lose yourself in this world. Spot is an awesome sidekick for Howard, and is able to send an astral projection to Howard’s world when he sleeps like from the Lovecraft line “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”He fends off all kinds of Shoggoth’s and horrors along the way. The constable is a lovable ol’ cook as well. Kind of like Tackleberry from Police Academy but with a sense of humor and a cat. He kills all kinds of nasty demons along the way and really flexes the whole gung-ho protector trope. Which is probably a good thing since Howard himself is a bit of a scaredy cat and needs all the help he can get. I usually get annoyed with leads like this, but the writers were sensible enough to make him a balanced character. Yes, he is quick to panic and freak out, but deep down the kid has some guts and chutzpah and pulls it together when it really counts. And I didn’t find myself wishing for his death, so that’s a good thing. He’s enough of a spitfire that you want to see him succeed. The dad is a dangerous nutter and you can see why he was put in a sanitarium. He makes the journey edgy and you can never really trust him. I like that it really flips the typical family dynamic on its head. You definitely cannot trust the parents in this and that is something younger kids will easily relate to. I know I did.
Calvin and Hobbes, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Bloom County, and Fractured Fairytales; this is the kind of cartooning vein that Howard Lovecraft and the Undersea Kingdom draws from. It’s a loose but confident brush style that looks like it could be in syndication at national newspaper. The watercolor background are kind mushy and vague. Sponges and brush sprays help work up the texture, giving the panels a bit of depth. When it works best, there’s lots of trees and mist conjuring a dark vibe suitable for elder gods. Sometimes it all gets a bit too soft and muddy for my tastes, but overall it’s not distracting and fits the tone of the narrative. It’s an odd color palette with lot’s subtle purples used for flesh shadows, bright neon-green glowing eyes and cyan knock-outs for the spectral astral projections of Spot. I especially love how the Shoggoths are rendered as black amorphous columns of tentacles with bright red membranes cracking through. Royal blue speckles pepper the appendages and represent the leathery texture of skin and the odd suction cup. These bold stylizations are a nice touch and look really fresh and modern. It’s a welcome counter balance to Boatwright’s whimsical drawing style. Overall the lighthearted art feels right for this book and does the Lovecraft Mythos justice.

Kids are going to love this book because it’s about one of them, and there’s all sort of cool monsters and trouble going on. The adult reading this to them will get a kick out of all the eldritch Lovecraftian references (like when one Howard starts growing gills and fins ala’ one of the “Deep Ones” from The Shadow Over Innsmouth). When my nephew gets a bit older you can be sure I’m going to read this to him. The best part is I won’t have to feel guilty about him being too scared to sleep, because while it’s chock full of Lovecraftian trimmings, ultimately it’s light on the horror and heavy on adventure. That’s exactly what this sort of thing should be. I predict this doing really well. In fact, I can totally see this being pitched to Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network for a series. Howard Lovecraft and The Undersea Kingdom is currently available on Comixology, and will hit the comic shops, Amazon and bookstores on March 21st 2012.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10

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Review: Conan The Barbarian #1 Crush Your Enemies, See them Driven Before You, and Hey Check out that Half-Naked Goth Chick!

Writer by:  Brian Wood
Art by:  Becky Cloonan
Colors by :  Dave Stewart
Letterer by :  Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover by :  Massimo Carnevale
Publisher:  Dark Horse

Conan is awesome. I have very fond memories of seeing the movies when I was a kid. I remember first seeing a trailer for Conan the Barbarian  while I was laid up in the hospital getting over an intestinal flu. I couldn’t wait to get better and go check it out in the theaters.,The first was an epic sword and sandal classic like no other before. It had demons, giant snakes, cults, orgies, magic, and a brilliant score. I even liked Conan the Destroyer, which was vastly inferior as a movie, but equally brutal in terms of monsters, battle, and blood. It was more a quest kind of adventure that felt like a dungeons and dragon module. There was bizarre cults, wizard battles and human sacrifice. One of the first comics I ever bought was a Conan one from the early 80’s. It what first got interested in drawing. I even read a few of Robert E. Howard Conan novels with Frazetta covers which were a bit tough for a junior high-school kid like me to get through. They were dry, light on monsters and really kind of drawn out with lot’s of talk of wenches and ale. That was the first time I kind of got let down by the character. So I gave the books a pass, eventually got into other things and kind of forgot about Conan. When this new 2011 Conan movie came out I was disappointed again. I took me 3 times just to get through the thing, I kept on falling asleep. Whatever magic pull Conan had on me when I was younger had all but vanished. I know that Dark Horse had been keeping the Conan comics alive and kicking since the early 2000’s. The covers have always been great but I’ve never been compelled by writer or interior art to get it a proper shot. When I heard that DMZ and Northlanders writer Brian Wood was on scripting and Beck Cloonan was on art duties I thought I’d give it a crack. I was a big fan of early DMZ and I’ve read a handful of Northlanders books that really kicked ass. I figured if anyone could get the tone right it would be Brian. Becky Cloonan I’m not so familiar with. I’ve seen some of her art for her mini-comic Wolves that looked really stark and cool, so why not.

I wasn’t expecting this. Not in a million years. Wood and Cloonan have reinvented Conan into a likable self-aware rogue. He’s like your drunk friend that’s always at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting into fights, and causing a shit-ton of trouble, escaping with a few bruises and good story to tell. Not a frat boy, mind-you, more like the punk kid from the wrong-side of the tracks kind of friend. The dude that always had your back in high school, but broke anything that you lent him and never paid you back. Conan is impulsive and selfish (he’s a barbarian)but has a pretty big heart and ego to match. He just escaped from a clusterfuck on to a boat, and basically hi-jacks the thing in order to escape the wrath of a corrupt city guard. There’s a brief showdown with the captain which leads to nice exchange:

“Have you silver to pay for passage, barbarian?”

“I pay with Steel.”

This attitude feels right at home with the Conan I know and love from the movies. Yet it’s different. He’s got a bit more a playful almost light-hearted spirit. He’s not a burdened by tragedy and fueled by revenge like in the movies. Nor is he as dim-witted. This is more than I bargained for. I genuinely like this version miles above the original movie Conan. There’s a lot more depth and swagger to him. He’s not just a brute that can kick-ass, but someone who can con his way out of situation if he need’s to. He does that here. Conan regaled the captain and crew with a tale about how he was drunk at a tavern while the captain of the guard was killed over the mistreating of  a maiden. He was passed-out and picked up because all other suspects left. Sobering up in the court he realized how fucked he was about to be and grab his sword and battled his way out of there, only to be chased to the boat. He wins over the crew with his story.

Nathan_Explosion_vs_conanCloonan’s Conan (say that five times fast) looks like a healthy Nathan Explosion from Dethklok. He’s in his early 20’s and doesn’t have the muscle-bound body builder physique that is commonly associated without the character. He kind of just looks like a viking dude with long straight black hair that can kick some ass. At first I wasn’t so sure Cloonan’s style was right for this book. There’s any early double-page spread of Conan looking over his should during a chase that looked rather simplistic and crude, and did not evoke feeling of the epic age of Hyboria. There is a few spots where this happens and the set-piece backdrop fails to impress.  Her simplified cartoony-style just doesn’t work with a straight forward composition. Let’s face it, a lack detail does not take the breath away. However when she brings it in to the close-quarters and talking heads, you can get the real personality of the people she draws. Their expressions come through and tell the story in an economical way. I immediately know who Conan is as young barbarian. I get that the striking Queen of The Black Coast is an insane and sexy succubus and the captain is solid guy just trying to make his way in the world. Dave Stewart’s coloring compliments Cloonan’s emotive combination of dry-brush inking and fluid lines with a desaturated color palette. It completes the whole package and tone of the book and firmly places it on the fresh side of “indy”. You can tell straight-away this is not your typical sword and sandal Conan and runs a bit off the beaten path.

Even thought this a different direction for Conan it’s a good set-up issue. My main critique of this right now is that we are missing battle, grandiose backgrounds, and a bit of fantasy. Off-beat or not, those three ingredients are crucial to a successful Conan. I think we’ll get them soon enough, but I  could have used a bit more of a taste in the first issue. In the meantime there’s a lot that’s working right now. Conan’s personality is different from what I remember but it works. It makes him a bit unpredictable and therefore more interesting. I suspect some traditional Conan fans might have an issue with it though. Conversational dialogue style blended with romanticized narrative caption makes for easy and enjoyable read. The sexuality of the Queen of the Black Coast leaps off the page and in to your lap. She is simply stunning. That gothic beauty will keep all the fanboys coming back for more. Becky Cloonan rendered her in the most compelling way imaginable and really heats up the pages of book with her presence. All in all the Conan reboot is a solid first issue and has me hooked for more.

Story: 7/10
Art: 6.5/10

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Review: Severed #7 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Writer by:  Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft
Art by:  Attila Futaki
Colors by :  Greg Guilhaumond
Letterer by :  Fonografiks
Cover by :  Attila Futaki
Publisher:  Image

He loved to hear the little kids scream
His instruments of hell did gleam
A box with a cleaver, a saw and a knife
He used them to cut up their innocent lives

Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?
Mr. Albert Fish, was Children your favorite dish?

– Macabre “Mr. Albert Fish (Was Children Your Favorite Dish)” from the Grim Reality EP

(FYI – You might want to check out my previous review of Severed if you aren’t caught up on the full story.)

SEVERED 7 COVERSevered concludes in dramatic fashion this week with a final showdown. Young wayward fiddle player, Jack Garron, is trapped in a house with tattooed cannibal, Allan Fisher, in a battle for his life. The early 20th century has never felt so scary and dangerous. What Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft accomplish this issue is nothing short of amazing. They somehow manage to keep the suspense and the mystery going until the very last page. Even though we know Jack Garron survives (he’s been telling this story from the present) and he loses his arm, everything else is still up for grabs.

I’ve mentioned in my earlier review how I thought that Snyder and Tuft based Allan Fisher on real life cannibal, childer killer and rapist, Albert Fish. He was also known as the Gray Man, and the Bogeyman (there were several others too but these are the relevant ones). Of course we’ve all heard of the Bogeyman, as in “If you don’t go to bed, the Bogeyman will get you.” It has become sort of a mulit-regional legend used by adults to frighten kids into behaving. According to wikipedia: “Bogeymen may target a specific mischief — for instance, a bogeyman that punishes children who suck their thumbs — or general misbehavior, depending on what purpose needs serving.In some cases, the bogeyman is a nickname for the devil.” In the case of this story it may be relevant to punishing runaways. Jack Garron ran away from home in search of his estranged father because of a post card he got sent to him. It was his dream to be re-united with his dad and play the fiddle on the road with him. Now that he’s trapped in the house with this old pervy cannibal with shark teeth. Fisher tells him that he’s not here just to eat him, but also going to consume his dreams. His father is long dead and now he plans to take his arm so he can never play the fiddle again. Allan Fisher is the Bogeyman of this tale, a dream-devouring, child-eating immortal demon with truly evil motivations. Snyder and Tuft allude to supernatural elements and perhaps try to interpret the gap between the outlandish and crazy lies of Albert Fish and his Bogeyman reputation, and factual accounts of the crimes he committed. They consolidate legend and reality into Severed and spit out a timeless primal nightmare.

I’m usually pretty good a guess where a horror story is going to go. I’ve read a ton of books and have seen a enough movies to have a really firm grasp on the genre. So I was taken aback by how much I got wrong and didn’t see coming with this series. Whenever I thought there was going to be a scare, it was a red herring. When I was least expecting it I would get thrown a curveball and the plot would thicken or something terrible would happen. A foreshadowing kill in the first issue sets out a bait for the rest of the series.  Like-able characters and interesting historical backdrop drew me further into the story. Each issue builds upon the dread and tension established and left me anticipating a terrifying and bloody finale. Just when i thought I had it all figured-out stakes are raised when an unexpected guest from Jack’s past drops in. Suddenly nothing is safe. Is this set-up for some sick and demented dinner scene ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Hannibal? Will there be a demon’s feast or will it all fall apart? How does Jack get out alive? This is what I love about writing in Severed, it’s just unpredictable and inventive.

Unfortunately art took a step down from last issue. I know I was bitching and complaining about the soft coloring, but I still held the ink work and structure of the pencils in high regard. A heavy-handed air-brushed color approach by Greg Guilhaumond knocks out most of the line work and muddies the pages even further. I think if Attila had to time to color these pages, it would be on par of what we’ve seen before. I mean you can tell by the covers, that given the time to focus on one image, he can really nail it. That cover really pops. It has dynamic range, intricate detail and a dramatic palette. I think he just has a full plate and needed help on this one. That means we get mud, sweat and grime on every page, and get faded line-work. The last few pages that take place in modern times were especially hard for me to look at. The present day palette had little depth and look like high-school water colors. It’s a shame that a such mysterious and ominous conclusion got the bargain-bin treatment with cheap-o colors. However for most of the series it was a pretty solid effort.

Overall I was really happy with how Severed turned-out. I never thought I read such a page-turning comic that would leave me so anxious and nervous about what was going to happen next. The whole entire creative team deserve a big kudos for championing the medium and showing that true horror comic can be made even with the limitations of a comic book format. Although they veered slightly into the supernatural context of horror conventions, they didn’t rely on an abundance of monsters, blood and guts to scare the audience. It was with the use of foreshadowing and suspense that they crafted a frightening tale. That’s a rare thing these days, and they should be proud of their accomplishments. Don’t worry if you haven’t picked up Severed yet, you can grab the hardcover edition that is due out in April. Don’t miss out on one of the best comic book horror stories in the past ten-years.

Story: 10/10
Art. 6.5/10

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Review: Invincible #88 Who has the scourge?

Written by:  Robert Kirkman
Art by: Ryan Ottley
Colors by: John Rauch
Cover by: Ryan Ottley
Publisher: Image 

Invincible_88Here’s a quick one: First 10 pages, too long, didn’t read. Then, bam! Scourge virus! FUUUUUU!!!! (Troll Face).

Jokes, aside, Kirkman absolutely pummels you with exposition and babber-y in the first 10 pages or so. The arguments are dense and infuriating. It’s almost comical the amount of waffling that is crammed into the dialogue. Its used be a unique twist when a responsible and mature Mark would talk things out with an opponent and reach a compromise. Now it’s a over-used joke and just drags the comic down. Consequently the build-up of an intergalactic battle royale is slowed to a fucking crawl. Allen the Alien, with Oliver Grayson at his side, has come to Earth to unleash a single canister of the scourge virus that will wipe-out the Vultrumite threat, but kill all the human’s on the planet as well. Invincible and General Thragg face-off against Allen and Omni-Boy  in a contest of logic and reason. The conversation is lengthy and without much wit or humor. It’s only when the crew from Guarding the Globe show up to attack Mark and fuck everything up that things get interesting. When it goes off, it goes off in a big way!!! There’s an absolutely staggering plot-twist that I can’t talk too much about. It has the potential to shake-up the core of what this comic is really about, so I’m excited to see how it develops. But also it leaves me annoyed. The first half of this comic bored and pissed me off, and the second half was so exciting and tense that it left me wanting more only to be stuck with yet another cliffhanger. While that’s great for a reader, as reviewer I’m left with fuck-all to say, because any further hints will really spoil the surprise. I’m forced to keep this short.

Ryan Ottley’s art has certainly come along way, hasn’t it? His stuff is sick. He started on the loose and funkier side of the spectrum and has really worked to tighten up his lines. He’s perfectly captured the blend of wholesome animation style with the gross exaggerations of classic comic books musculature. This simplified look relies on colorist John Rauch for depth, lighting and shadow; while leaving the lines crisp, clean and bold.  The combined cell-shaded look with Dreamsicle colors fits the perceived innocence of this super-hero world. It’s austere and slightly romanticized just like moralistic blue-skies and apple pies vibes that book had when it first started out. So when action scenes cross the line, brutal violence and gore have a much greater impact. It’s like seeing Mickey Mouse ripping out someone’s entrails, it shocks your senses. The sick and sweet 1-2-punch is an affront to your values and safety. That’s why it works. A contrast of style and subject is used to great effect and delivers a thematic message just as much as a narrative point. A prime example is Ottley’s treatment of the climax which is powerful and speaks to a stubborn worldview and a failure to compromise while delivering a fucking painful story beat. And what a  beat that is. GAH!!! Can’t. Say. Any. More. Than. That.

(first half of) Story: 3/10
(last half of) Story: 9/10
Art: 8.5/10

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Review: Fatale #2 Not Even God Can See You When You Sin.

Written by:  Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips
Cover by: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image 

Fatale #2Still white-hot from the hype-machine of the interweb, Fatale has once again sold out at the distribution level. Luckily I was able to snag a copy at my local shop this time around. From what I understand this comic is still flying off the stands. Check out my review of issue #1 if you missed out on all the action last time around. Layers of Lovecraftian-esque lore are woven around this mystery as we dive deeper in to the quest for some ancient heirloom. The McGuffin plot device set’s this one up for another round immersive cult drama.

Brubaker doesn’t beat around the bush and ditches some speculation baggage straight away for the sake of clarity. In the “Story Thus Far” opening section in Fatale #2 we are given some new information about the characters and a reveal about the back story. Josephine from present day is also the mystery girl from the 50’s in the lost manuscript (and from the what I gathered from the sub-text it is a true story). Apparently Josephine is some kind of succubus ala Hellraiser, because she hasn’t aged a day since the ’50’s (it was visually hinted, but now I definitely know). Also Nicolas’s god-father, Dominic Reign (also known as Hank Reign), is the main reporter character in this apparently autobiographical manuscript. Things that were clues are just straight up spelled out for you. Now I can just concentrate on the 1950’s back story at hand. Thank god, because it’s a tangled one.

 Josephine is searching for an heirloom that Detective Walter Brookes has hidden in his home somewhere. That triangular cult marking from the first issue is scratched on the floorboard, but it turns out o be a dead-end revealing military medals and old war photos. Meanwhile Brookes is investigating an occult murder/suicide that was discovered last issue. They’ve stumbled cult members who’ve sliced off their own eyelids so they can stare at the sun. A chase and a beat down later, the cult member tell’s Brooke’s cryptically that the “Bishop will meet with you”. The next thing you know Hank Reigns is being chewed out by someone in a bar about an article he wrote to stir-some shit up about police corruption. Then he’s deep in his affair with Josephine. She used to be Brookes’ lover and talks about what a bastard he is and how she has to make his life hell. There’s a juicy bit about the cult symbol and it’s meaning is revealed “no one, not even god, can see you when you sin”. It gets a bit convoluted after that. A slit throat, adultery discovered, and a guy with razor-sharp teeth.
With all this cross-cutting the web of this story seems like it is getting out of hand. Ed started us off with some clean-up in the summary, but muddied the rest of the chapter. Plots and subplots are not defined enough for me to really understand what is going on. I get the general character motivations but not much beyond that. Which is a shame because I really love the subject matter. Brubaker’s narrative writing style flows great and Sean Phillips gritty noir art is in top-form. Just explain some shit, because I’m stuck in quagmire of loose-ends and don’t know which way is up. I need a character to hang my hat on. Who’s the lead, Nicolas Lash or Dominic “Hank” Reign? Or are they supposed to be the same character and just not know it? Also Josephine or the cult need some details revealed to get this one back on track. Sadly I find myself not really caring about any or the characters because everything is so shrouded in mystery. It’s only issue 2 though, so I’m going to give Brubaker the benefit of the doubt. He’s rarely steers off-course for long.

The second installment of Fatale is a slow intricate burn of what the fuck. The plot is dense; much in the same way The Girl WIth a Dragon Tattoo is complicated: A shit-ton of characters, WWII back story, Nazi deviants and morally ambiguous behavior.There’s a lot going on, however there’s such a genuine draw to the writing style and subject that you can help but being sucked in. It’s obvious that more pieces of the puzzle need to be put in place order to appreciate the full picture here. I would say that this is exactly the kind of comic that you wait for the trade to come out, but then you wouldn’t get the awesome bonus features that Brubaker and Phillips give you at the end. Jess Nevin writes an essay on Edgar Allen Poe and Phillips illustrates a gorgeous 2-page portrait to accompany it. Never the less, I worry that the difficult and inaccessible nature of this tale will eventually scare off readers. That would suck, because despite my criticisms I really want this to do well

Story: 6.5/10
Art: 8/10

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Avengers Teaser – Is this our first look at Skrulls on Rocket Bikes?

Here’s a teaser for the full Avenger’s trailer that will be featured during the Super Bowl this Sunday. Is this our first look at Skrulls on rocket bikes? How will mainstream audiences react to super-powered alien doppelgangers?

Joss Whedon said today during the Avengers twitter chat:

“It’s a combo platter: classic, Ultimate, plus a little “Richie Rich and Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”

And this:

“There is no Spider-Man cameo. But the Avengers do turn off the dark.”

This thing looks awesome, I’m truly excited for the movie after seeing this tease!

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Review: Walking Dead # 93 Rick is Spinning Wheels in a Larger World Because He doesn’t Trust Jesus

Written by: Robert Kirkman
Art by: Charlie Adlard
Coloring by: Cliff Rathburn
Cover By: Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
Publisher: Image

 

Walking Dead #93 I always read the Walking Dead first. It’s probably one of my favorite comics, and it’s one that I’m the most excited for. Being a rabid fan of the Walking Dead I get frustrated when there is filler issues, or the calm before the storm. Having a slow-burn in comic form doesn’t always work for me, and I just want to get to the juicy plot and get on with it. Unfortunately the beginning to the Larger World arc starts off spinning wheels in the mud and going over ground covered before. It’s just a stack of exposition and waffles this issue.

The story thus far: Rick, Michonne, and Abraham ran into a hostile survivor on one of their scout patrols. After a brief scuffle it’s revealed he’s come to offer a trade route to a network of communities. His name is Jesus. So here it is, a promised land of society trying to get back on its feet in the face of a the zombie apocalypse. “A Larger World” opens on the cliffhanger from last issue as Jesus describes the trade routes and how it works. So Rick is like, “oh, okay great, no problem, when can we get started,” and Jesus is surprised that this is going so easy. Then Rick beats the piss out of the poor guy and captures him for interrogation. I can see where this is going. Rick doesn’t trust Jesus and is paranoid that he’s from a crew ready to attack their town and raid supplies. I can understand. He hasn’t exactly had any luck with outsiders, like the Governors cannibalistic society of neo-Romans, where he lost his arm about 50 issues ago. Rick decides to prepare his town for war, while he takes a patrol out to see if he can spot Jesus’s war party. Andrea makes an interesting point and asks “what if he is telling the truth and they are blowing a chance to trade with these other communities?” Exactly, thank you Andrea.

Longtime reader’s of The Walking Dead can spot a painful exposition dump coming a mile away, and unfortunately we get a couple of doozies this issue. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I love Kirkman’s plotting. I think he always takes us on an unexpected and somewhat realistic journey with his stories.The twists, turns cliffhangers, and shocking conclusions are why I keep coming back for more. However kills me with the drawn-out explanations and waffling. Literally he can talk a situation to death (or until a zombie attacks). He sorely needs to use the “Pope in the Pool” method of burying exposition by drawing the audience’s eye to something visually startling (like a pope swimming in a pool) to distract them from the information overload. The preparation for war monologue is particularly involved and not much fun to look at. After Kirkman lays it all out for us we are graced with one decent character moment from Eugene who brings up a good idea about recycling ammo casings and trying to re-make bullets. Later there’s a brief brush of desperate tension with him and the girl lives with who used fuck Abraham. Hopefully this will seed into some kind of interesting conflict down-the-line.

Out on war patrol Rick, Michonne, and Abraham stumble upon a pack of zombies and dispatch them rather quickly and quietly. In fact they are so ruthless and efficient that its sparks a debate about why they are worried about some attack from unknown survivors, when they aren’t even phased by the living dead anymore. A “Pope in the Pool” opportunity is missed here and instead of waffling and postulating while killing zombies (not realistic, but interesting and exciting) Kirkman instead saves it for a nice boring walk in the woods. Man sometimes this really does feel like the Talking Dead. I get it. To move this story further they have to trust Jesus (never thought I’d say that about this comic) and go through these trade routes to meet the other communities involved. We all knew this was going to happen. It had to. I wish it could have just been half the issue dedicated to Rick being in character and not trusting anything new, than waste the whole book going nowhere. Maybe it bought the creators some time, but c’mon bring on the “larger world” already. I’m amped for what’s coming around the bend, it’s just not happening fast enough.

While the plot may be on pause this issue, at least it looks freaking’ fantastic. Ever since issue 7 when Charlie Adlard took over the art for The Walking Dead, it’s truly found its true voice. Not taking anything away from the spectacular characters designs from original artist, Tony Moore, but Adlard gave the Dead a consistently stark and realistic tone that draws you into the world. I favor Moore for his fine detail, but Adlard wins with atmosphere. This issue he teams up with Cliff Rathburn to assist with “coloring” (it’s black & white so maybe “toning” would be more accurate). Striking thick brush strokes and sublime ink washes depict the dystopian mood of The Walking Dead. Zombies are husks of meat, ravaged by rigor mortis and time. They are desperately primal and echo the human condition. Devoid of all emotion except rage, they drip with terror and move with murderous intent. Adlard’s action scenes are as violent and intense as they are fluid, showing real athleticism and energy. The survivors have been through the ringer and it shows. I can see their stink, their weariness and strength. The weight on their shoulders is carried with gritty artistic flair. It feels very much like the world of Romero’s classic Night of The Living Dead. Adlard displays cinematic style through dynamic camera angles, shot scale, and a strong use of shadow and light. The spotted-black patterns of leaves, blood and rot paint the transgressive theme of this series with fervor and zeal. In short, the zombie apocalypse has never looked so good.

Like any good TV show, some episodes are needed to set the stage for things to come. It’s a necessary evil. This issue was needed to add realism to the characters shifting attitude, and to stay true to the series’ history. I really wanted to jump ahead and skip all that. I’m an impatient asshole, what can I say. I blame the internet. New beginnings are promised to be on the horizon however. As long and Kirkman and crew can deliver on that promise than we are all good. I trust that he will. There’s a lot narrative and thematic possibilities that a “larger world” could open up. However if they fail and slip back in to the big threat while zombies attack formula, rinse and repeat… it could prove fatale for the series. I don’t think that will happen though. Kirkman saw that a change was needed to shake things up and has done a lot of groundwork setting up a smooth transition. We can only wait and see if the pay-off will be worth it.

Story: 5
Art: 8

Jerry Nelson

Follow me on twitter and tell me what you think @the_hellhounds

Justice League #5 Review “We got this!”

Written by: Geoff Johns
Pencils by: Jim Lee
Inks by: Scott Williams, Hope, Irwin and Weems
Colors by: Alex Sinclair with Gabe Eltaeb & Tony Avina
Lettering by: Patrick Brosseau
Cover by: Jim Lee & Scott Williams with Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC

 

Justice League #5Darkseid kicks ass. Half the Justice League got knocked-the-fuck out last issue, leaving Flash and Superman to deal with Darkseid. He sends them running for their lives as he fires target-seeking Omega beams from his friggin’ eyes to incinerate them. Flash fares well, but the same can’t be said for Superman. He get’s blasted, drops from the sky and get’s carried away by space demons. And that’s how this issue opens.

I’ve always been more a  Marvel zombie kind of guy, and until DC’s new 52, I never really gave Justice League a chance. So I’m not really familiar with its original history. But I can tell you from what I read of this opening arc it’s the new 52 JL origin story is awesome. I’ve read a lot of early criticisms that the story is too drawn out, not epic and short-changed some of the characters. I disagree. Look I didn’t care about JL at all when this started, I needed the clean slate to start with. Justice League always seemed unapproachable as a book for me, so being eased in to the origin was not so bad. The story may seem drawn-out to some but I like that it gave me a chance to like the characters and see how they interacted. And how is full-scale alien invasion led by Darkseid not epic? Yes some of the characters do get the background treatment, but mostly each one has gotten their moments as the arc has progressed. That being said, there is a couple of spots in this issue where I was left scratching my head.

The first one comes after the next round of attacks. Green Lanterns takes on Darkseid, thrashing him with a mega-construct of 40 medieval flails.  Darkseid brushes them off like it was freaking dandruff, then cracks Green Lantern in half. Well, not quite, but he does some serious damage and Hal is pretty jacked up. Then Darkseid takes off to do some more evil shit. Green Lantern wants to go after him but Batman stops him. He’s like “dude, you’re an idiot, you are all fucked up, you’ll get yourself killed.” Hal doesn’t care, he just want’s a piece of Darkseid and won’t listen to reason.  Batman has to slow him up and he takes off his mask and reveals his identity to Hal. “What? You are doing this now?” is Hal Jordan’s reaction. It mirrors my own. While I can sort of see Batman’s reasoning (trust and goodwill), it seems really out character for him to do something like that. Especially because he thinks Hal Jordan is a dick. He’s spent most of the arc telling him to cool his jets and pay attention. Insulting him at every chance he gets. I just don’t buy it. It threw me for a loop. However he manages to drive home his point. He and Green Lantern are the only two normal people on this team that don’t have inherent super powers. They have are alike in many ways and have to trust each other. Ultimately in this situation it’s not about them. They need to rally the troops and work as team instead of showboating as individuals. Or “Stop playing baseball and start playing football” as he put’s it. Since GL is jacked up he splits off to lead the rest of the team while Batman decides to get captured so he can get Superman back.

The next WTF comes when Green Lantern tries to be a leader. He gives an awkward kind of speech, but somehow everyone listens to him anyways and decided to band together. Then Hal lets loose the most embarrassing Saturday-morning-cartoon battle cry I’ve ever read in a comic, “We Got This!” Oh boy. You sure do. It was funny when Aquaman got called “Aquafresh” by Green Lantern but this battle cry was the worst. Flash immediately rips on him for it. Awkward banter ensues. Those kind of jokes just really fall flat for me. Maybe some younger kids will think it’s funny, but for the sake of future generations I hope not. This is the first time I’ve had some doubts about this series, so hopefully it’s a one-off and the playful exchanges can even out a bit.

This issue is not a total loss however. We do get a breathtaking glimpse of Apokolips in full hell-raising glory. Jim Lee and Scott Williams’ art is mostly rock-solid. Some of the panels in which Batman reveals his identity were a bit rushed, but other than that it was pretty much aces. I know there was some other inkers helping Scott out on this one, maybe that’s where they filled in. Alex Sinclair is the lead colorist and renders everything in a hyper modern style. There’s some really beautiful Kirby-dots on a the panel were Superman get’s blasted that have a rich depth you don’t normally see. Glow effects on GL’s constructs are done really well, you can see them pulse and radiate light. I’ve heard some people say it’s the coloring is a bit garish and the art feels like video game, and sometimes I cans see their point. There is a lot going on and I could maybe use a bit more separation in layers to push and pull some of the details. It does get busy and loud, but overall I wasn’t really distracted by it. The storytelling and panel work was clear, I didn’t get lost in the narrative and it looked good. Jim Lee and Scott Williams are a team that has been around the block a few times and they know how to get shit done. Sometimes that means getting some help with fill-in inkers and additional colorists.

Justice League #5 is  battle-heavy issue that is a much about learning to work together and being a team than it is kicking ass (or in this case taking a beating). It’s a fresh and exciting story with a few missteps. The tone of this book could really use a strong identity right about now to manage readers expectations. Is this a light-heart team book for teens and kids? Is it a PG-13 movie? Or is it going to be an aggressive team book with bickering and more adult interactions like Uncanny X-men or JSA used to be? It’s great that the story is unpredictable, but eventually, a lack of identity will bring this ship down. My vote is more drama less jokes. What do you guys think?

Story: 6.5
Art: 8

Jerry Nelson

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