Incognito: Bad Influences #1

Comic book, 2010

I really liked this comic when it was about a superhero character not in a superhero world, claustrophobic from being trapped in the world we all live in every day, but now that it’s just a superhero story I find it pretty boring. 3


Deadpool Team-Up #888

Comic book, 2010

I bought this comic because I’m a fan of Cullen Bunn’s from the first series of The Damned, and I’m a fan of Tom Fowler’s from Mysterious the Unfathesearethetypesofcomicspeopleshouldbemakingbutcantbecauseallcomicspeoplewanttoreadisfanservicesuperherocomics. The writing was a letdown. Fun idea, The Thing and Deadpool in a wrestling story, but the jokes are like stale internet humor from 2004. The art is great. Tom Fowler decides to put his distinctive stamp on the design of Deadpool, and comes up with something that really sticks in your head. He gets this thing and extra point that it doesn’t really deserve. 2.5


Strange Tales II #1

Comic book, 2010

Hey, new Strange Tales! This is where Marvel Comics gets cute little indie comics artists to make cute little stories using their superheroes and everyone is delighted. It sure would be cool if Marvel had interest in doing some longer form, more substantial stuff in this vein, but this is the world we live in and I’m happy, and more than a little surprised, to at least have this from them. The opening “Who Will Watcher the Watchermen?” by Nick Bertozzi is as funny as it was in the last volume, and it probably the outright funniest thing in any of these books. Let’s talk about the stories, starting with my favorite and ending with my least favorite: I’m a Frank Santoro fan and the Silver Surfer story he does here is his prettiest work ever, it almost looks like stills from a deleted scene of the old Heavy Metal movie. Kate Beaton’s Kraven strip is funny, even by her standards. Dash Shaw’s Spider-Man story gets big points for being super pretty, and I would’ve liked to have spent more time dissecting it before I say anything definitive about it, but I’m pretty sure that he’s engaging in some sort of meta commentary about Marvel and it’s movies and that’s not the type of thing I usually enjoy. The Rafael Grampa Wolverine story is more pretty than it is a good read, but what I really love is Grampa’s luchador-esque take on superhero costumes (and dig Wolverine’s pants-less look subtly snuck onto the cover). Kevin Huizenga seemed to be doing the same sort of thing as Shaw, but his pages aren’t as pretty. The Shannon Wheeler Red Skull story was almost kind of funny or interesting. I was very bored by the Jillian Tamaki Dazzler and Jeff Lemire Man-Thing stories. And I downright didn’t like the Gene Yang Frog-Man story. I similarly hated the Jhonen Vasquez Wolverine story, but when I thought of it as a continuation of the Grampa story, I liked it a lot better. Two really great ones, a few pretty good ones and a few more bad ones isn’t too bad a record. Consider me delighted. More please! 3


Batman & Robin #13 & 14


I picked these up because everyone on the internet has been totally freaking out about them, and I happened to pass by them in a store. I’ve picked up a couple other arcs in this series, the ones drawn by Frank Quitely and Cameron Stewart. Loved the Quitely issues, was ambivalent about the Stewart ones. These two issues fell between those arcs, quality wise, for me. I’m not really qualified to comment because I haven’t been following the series closely, but the writing here doesn’t give me a desire to. Batman’s fighting people, supervillians are scary, Comissioner Gordon’s captured, the Joker says something silly while throwing explosives at people, sure sure. The scenes of the Joker battling the new Robin are pretty gripping though. I think the highlight for most people here is the art. I’d never heard of Frazer Irving before these issues, but he sure is talented and has a unique style. While it might get dangerously close to photo tracing at times, his figures has a life, and he produces overwhelming moments of atmosphere on more than enough occasions here to make this a truly noteworthy book. But what’s with these Frank Quitely covers? The best standard superhero artist working hands in covers that are so stark and boring that the colorist feels obligated to punch them up by throwing a bunch of crap on them. 3.5


X-Men Curse of the Mutants: Storm & Gambit #1

Comic book, 2010

My God, look at that cover. This photo referencing craze is making for some ugly, ugly comic art, isn’t it? What the fuck is the deal with that guy in the bottom left hand corner? He’s definitely shoving his penis in something off panel. And loving it! Fortunately the art inside is much better, as done by Chris Bachalo, one of those guys who has a really distinct style but you see drawing lots of superhero comics anyway. Although, as is typical of him, the action is pretty unintelligible in places. There’s a fair amount of squinting at panels on the part of the reader, wondering what is going on. It may not be his fault, as this thing has “rushed to press” practically stamped on it’s cover: there was no creative team listed in the solicitation two months before release, there’s like five inkers credited and some of the pages aren’t even inked at all! The writing is okay. If you’re looking for a nostalgic jolt, and Jesus what are you doing with this thing if you’re not, then it’s not half bad. Gambit is Gambit again, the Indiana Jones of superheroes, not the lovelorn soap opera character he’s been for the last few years of X-Men comics. The story centers on Storm feeling sad about having to kill a bunch of innocent people so the X-Men can win a fight against a bunch of vampires. What? I don’t know. 2


Assorted comic book reviews

The commercial exploitation of Evil Dead has been discussed herebefore so I won’t even bother going into it now, but man these comics are terrible. And I keep on buying them. It’s that “one more” mentality, where every time I see a new issue on the racks I say “It’s just one more! I have all the other ones…” It might be pertinent now to note that I have bought and played entirely through the first two Evil Dead games, and am sure I will do the same with the new one.

Well, I can’t really thing of one good thing to say about this comic. The art is uninspired. When these comics first started coming out the art was pretty decent, very true to Sam Raimi’s “twisted Warner Brothers cartoon” vision of Evil Dead 2. But that guy kept falling behind on deadlines, so they got this hack to replace him. And let me tell you something, as poor as his renderings of Bruce Campbell are his Jeffery Combs are even worse. He makes West look like one of those old people with no teeth whose mouth closes too much. Also, someone should have told these guys about Beyond Re-Animator. They clearly haven’t seen it.

The story is boring and matter-of-fact, with one dimensional characters and lazy plot twists. Evil Dead and Re-Animator are two of the best horror franchises ever (I actually can’t think of any better off the top of my head right now) because of their creativity and excitement. This book has none of those things. And it’s a shame too, because I’ve heard the original artist talk about his own story ideas for an Evil Dead comic book and they were brilliant. I imagine that it’s very hard to convince the movie studios to let you do what you want, but do it right or don’t do it at all.

Avoid at all costs unless you have an addiction (god save me).

 

Writing: 3 Art: 4 Storytelling: 3 Number of quotes taken directly from an Evil Dead or Re-Animator movie: at least 5 (I’m not too good with Re-Animator) Overall: 3
SUPER F*CKERS #2 (Top Shelf)

This is the first James Kolchaka comic I have ever gotten, and man am I glad I did. I have read his daily comic strip American Elf for a while, and remember seeing his distinctive art style in magazines even before that. This guy is at the top of his game right now. He already had all the indie cred he needs from his previous comics, and now that he’s released this much more “acceptable to mainstream” comic I’m seeing his name everywhere.

Super F*ckers is about the daily lives of a superhero team. The superhero archetype has been brought down from Superman a bit. They aren’t so much realistic as they are the worst people you could possibly know. They are stupid, self absorbed, careless, and above all mean. The relationship dynamics that the heroes have between each other are silly and simple, but very resonant. There are two sort of “superhero interns” doing all the shit work for the Super F*ckers, who are constantly getting walked all over by the team. But when they’re not getting picked on by the heroes, the dominant one is taking his aggression out on the weaker one.

And the art is simple and childish, but perfect. The color and line and for and balance are all good enough to eat. Various photography and other special effects are also used to great subtle effect. With something this cutting edge though, you wonder if it’s good because it’s good, or if the fading shock value will take it’s toll over the years.

This comic book is mostly just a mean violent and crude comedy, but it’s made me think a little bit about how people treat each other. It’s too bad that such a brilliant artist had to turn to such mainstream (for comics) subject matter to finally get some respect. What can I say? I’m guilty too.

 

Writing: 9 Art: 9 Storytelling: 9 Nudity: 1 (the cover is a red herring) Overall: 9
TMNT: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #24 (Mirage Publishing)
Man, these comics make me happy. Sure, a big part of it has to do with nostalgia. But I’ve been reading this series since day one (four years ago), and I think I’m a little past that now. This series follows the same continuity as the very first comic that first introduced the Ninja Turtles, and is still done by the original creators.

In this issue Casey Jones and Raphael hunt down the vampires that caused Raph’s mutation (he’s a giant monster now), Mikey tries to break out of a top security alien prison (completely hopeless), Leonardo goes through Splinter’s (dead-for real) belongings and makes some surprising discoveries. If this sounds cool to you that’s because it is. If it doesn’t then kindly skip to the next review.

I love the art in this series. It’s done by Jim Lawson, who is a love him or hate him artist, and I love him. All the different shading and detail techniques that he puts into every panel show you that he truly loves illustration. And he draws the best hands on the planet. People say that his humans look to weird, but those people should probably go back to reading their nice safe X-Men comics.

The writing is a little flat, I’ll admit. The characterization is strong, but everyone’s pretty much just permutations on the same character (plus ten for AWESOME PUN). They all have strong personalities that are very similar. They are all very kind practical people who love riding motorcycles. Reading the editorials in the back (where the creator of the TMNT often talks politics or plugs his favorite restaurants) it is clear that this personality is that of the writer. But the stories are sprawling and epic and brave (Ellis Island is now a landing point for aliens, who have become a new minority on Earth), and I enjoy the controversial “soap opera” style of story telling. Which is to say that there are no clear storylines, just different stories continued in each issue. Look at one issue and it doesn’t look like much is happening. Look at a lot of issues and it becomes clear that there is.

This is a great read if you are either a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles (nostalgia hounds need not apply) or of pulp comic art. If you don’t fall into one of those very specific categories, I would say “buy with caution”.

 

Writing: 7 Art:8 Storytelling: 9 Casey Jones kicking ass: 10 Overall: 8

THE NEW COLOR NEXUS #3 (Capital Comics)

And now for kind of an old comic. This was another very pleasant surprise. I’ve seen Nexus around for a while (mostly referred to in Madman Comics), but never picked one up. I was also aware of Steve Rude’s picture-perfect retro styled art, and am a big fan of his current series The Moth. When I finally got an issue of Nexus, it was everything I hoped it would be.

This comic book is basically like a grown up version of Johnny Quest, or any other old Hanna Barbera cartoon. One thing that kind of surprised me about it was the religious undertones. It’s about big important people. Characters pure of heart who sin, and do things that make you think a lot about not only their moral fiber, but you own.

And the storylines seem big and intricate, like the bible. Characters go on trial, are saved from death… you know, I bet without all that baggage the bible is a pretty kick ass read. Because this sure is.

It’s obvious to me that this book was a big inspiration for Madman, and has made me see even more clearly the religious undertones in that book (not to mention that its creator is currently making a full length comic version of the Book of Mormon). I get dodgy when it comes to religious stuff, but I don’t seem to disagree with any of the morals they’re presenting, and they’re not trying to get me to convert or anything. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the art and story kick ass.

 

Writing: 8 Art: 9 Storytelling: 8 Overall: 8