Wednesday, March 30, 2005


I bought this five issue miniseries for one reason and one reason only--Sam Kieth's name was attached to the project. The anticipation of being able to see his art on a creater owned and created property once again had me drooling from the moment I read the solicitations many, many months ago. As each issue came in, I looked fondly at the cover and put it away in my to read box, waiting for the last issue to arrive so I could sit down and read it all in one sitting. When that moment finally came, I opened the book with expectations that, in retrospect, I probably set way too high.

You see, only some of the art is by Kieth. The majority of the art is done by Chris Wisnia, whose style really isn't even that similar to Kieth's. Wisnia's art resembles the style you'd usually see in a Top Shelf book--simple black and white character sketching. Comparing the Wisnia panels to the Kieth panels made the story feel uncomfortably two sided. I can see that Kieth might have been wanting the story to take on an artistic duality, but I don't think it worked simply because there didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which panels Kieth would do and which Wisnia would. If you asked me, it looked as if Wisnia went through drawing the entire story and gave it to Kieth who looked through it, finding panels he thought he could draw in his unique style, and replacing them with his own sketches.

The story also wasn't quite as weird as I thought it would be, considering it was written by Kieth. A little girl finds a weird little monster who she takes care of and whose mother she feeds. The mother resides in a pipe down a short distance from the little girl's house. A good portion of the story doesn't actually deal with the little monster ("Little Ojo") and its mother ("Ojo), but instead focuses on the little girl's family life. She lives with her sister and grandpa in a seemingly rundown house. The sister hates our main character and lives to make her life a living hell. The grandfather just lets it happen thinking it's a way for them to vent over the loss of their mother and the fact that their dad ran off and probably won't be coming back any time soon.

There's a few off-beat and trippy moments that scream out Kieth's style, but for the most part (other than the inclusion of the two monsters) this is a very traditional style story of family drama and a little girl's search for closure over her mother's death. Seeing dead animals singing to our little girl lead in what I'm hoping is her imagination was odd, which is good, but it also felt somewhat forced, like Kieth somehow realized his story was too normal so he needed to thrown in some random crazy crap.

The story is a good read, don't get me wrong, but if you were going to buy this series just for Kieth's art, then you'll be pretty disappointed. Once I got over the fact that Kieth's art would only be found sparsely throughout the story, I found I actually quite enjoyed it, dead singing animals and all!

Art: 3
Story: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Usually when I think of J.M. DeMatteis' writing style, I think of the camply Justice League and comedy. I wouldn't usually associate DeMatteis with Vertigo and a story exploring existentialism, but that's exactly what you get in Mercy, a Vertigo prestige one-shot from the early 90's. Once I finished it, I could understand why DeMatteis does a lot of comedic writing as opposed to serious stuff--he does it so much better.

Mercy is a somewhat interesting, if a little scattershot, story. A man is lying on his deathbed having been injured so severely that he is in a coma that he cannot recover from. Because of the state that he is in, his spirit is able to traverse the ethreal plains of the afterlife. As his soul wanders this way and that, watching a mysterious figure referred to as Mercy interact with other lost souls, he eventually comes to the realization that Mercy is helping ease him into the afterlife by letting him witness her work.

What makes this story engaging isn't really DeMatteis narrative, but Paul Johnson's beautiful artwork. Utilizing a scratchy, scrawling, painted style, Johnson creates a lot of really pretty pictures to look at. Most of the time I would just focus on the art without caring how it fit into the story, it's just that good. At times some of the scenes came off as derivative of other artist's work, such as Mercy's nemesis which looked like a blatant rip off of H.R. Geiger's designs, but for the most part Johnson's art is stunning.

In the end, the story of a man's meeting with Mercy isn't really as interesting as it felt it could be. In fact, the end of the story forces some cliched and schmaltzy themes down your throat in a very heavy handed manner. It felt too much like DeMatteis was using this story simply as a vehicle to parade out his personal beliefs and philosophy instead of putting together an engaging story. If you can deal with this then you might find a decent enough story to read. No matter what your thoughts on the story are, however, the art should be reason enough to pick it up.

Art: 4.25
Story: 2
Overall: 3.25

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Blood and Glory: Punisher & Captain America

Sometimes you have to wonder why some titles are released. I often find myself wondering why Marvel releases half of the crap they do every month, and after reading this "gem" I find that Marvel has been churing out useless crap for a long time now. Ok, so that's not really a revelation I just came to. I've known they've been putting out crap for a long time because I somehow end up finding a lot of it in my collection, but I always keep up my hope that someday they'll streamline what they release.

In Blood and Glory, Captain America must team up with the Punisher to bring down a corrupt branch of the government that is in league with a drug-dealing Central American dictator. Are you yawning yet? It also follows the magical team-up formula of "two heroes get manipulated into fighting each other, but in the course of their fighting realize they have a common foe which they then proceed to team up and beat the living hell out of."

Really, I shouldn't need to say much more about this title because that should be enough to make you run away from this 3 issue, prestige format miniseries. I have a few questions nagging at me, though. First and foremost, who in their right minds would spend $18 on this mini? I could maybe understand someone picking up the first issue for $6 to see if it is any good. That's a big risk on it's own. After seeing how terrible the first issue is, any discerning reader should ignore the last two issues. For some reason, though, people did buy the second issue, and the third. I know this because I own one set of all three issues, even though I now wish I didn't.

The other big question I have is, how was it possible to fit so many comic book cliches into one mini? You have the aforementioned cliche team-up formula. You have Captain America supposedly dying, but not really dying. You have a corrupt branch of the government bent on its own agenda. You have an evil dictator bent on world domination. You have the heroes having a heart to hear talk, learning "deep, dark secrets" about each other. You have the unspoken bond formed between the heroes.

Ugghh... I can't believe I actually went through and read the entire thing. The art, which is also atrocious, didn't make it any easier. The linework is really sloppy and feels like it was a bunch of random scrawlings someone did on a napkin while eating breakfast at IHOP. Seriously, stay away from this miniseries. Even if someone pays you to read it, reconsider.

Art: 1.5
Story: 1
Overall: 1

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Beach Safari

In my attempts to expand my reading to publishers and formats outside of the periodical form of comics from the big four, I ordered a slew of books from Top Shelf when they had a big sale a couple of weeks ago. This book was one of the books in my order.

Beach Safari is definitely a different type of story. The first third of the graphic novel focuses on a rabbit, a self-aware and humanesque rabbit at that, who appears to be stranded on an island. You see how he deals with the birds who are always teasing him, how he finds food & shelter, and how he deals with isolation. It's all very interesting and cute... but then he meets a girl--a real, live, human girl.

The remainder of the story deals with the rabbit's interaction with this girl he meets and her two friends. First of all, I need to find girls like these three to hang around with because for the majority of the time they're on the beach, they just hang out topless with each other. I'm not sure if there was supposed to be some underlying meaning to explain this or if Mawil just didn't like drawing bikini tops, but the girls just hung out topless, which is every man's, and probably every rabbit's dream.

A lot of the interaction between the girls and the rabbits seemed... odd, I suppose. It's like the our topless main character was simultaneously harboring a crush on the rabbit while viewing it as a very evolved pet. There are a lot of scenes that I had a hard time getting any meaning for them, which detracted from this offbeat tale of making cross-species friends. For example, in one scene the rabbit is putting lotion on our topless lady character and then he bites her in the back.

On the other hand, there are tons of cutesy and comedic moments sprinkled throughout the story that make it fun to read. The rabbit's encounter with a lighter, how the girls bury the rabbit in the sand, and the rabbit's constant interactions with the birds on the beach are a few of my favorites.

The art is what you'd expect from a Top Shelf title--casually detailed, comic strip grade drawings in black and white. This type of art style works for stories such as this as it was a lot easier to focus on the story as opposed to the fact that there are topless girls in half of the scenes since there wasn't a lot of detail. Basically you would just see the outline of the girl with two dots on her chest. If this title would have been done by, say, a Top Cow artistic crew, then all you'd be able to focus on would be the huge amount of boobage. As it is though, this is a cute and comedic tale that is a nice way to waste 20 minutes reading. Give it a look if you can find it cheap.

Art: 2.5
Story: 3
Overall: 3

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Skin Graft: The Adventures of a Tatooed Man

It's impossible for a comic publisher or comic imprint to always put out quality material. Sooner or later it's bound to happen that something will slip through that just doesn't work or can't live up to the lofty standards set by other titled put out in their prescence. Skin Graft is one of Vertigo's few failures. From start to finish, it's at the same time a mess of a story and a case study in the use of cliche.

A man is sent to prison and while he is there another convict, who is apparently allowed to have a tattoo iron and ink in his cell, tatoos him all over, professing it is a work of art his is crafting. The man being tatooed is content to keep getting tatoos because he likes the tatooer's personality and his touch on his skin (there are definitely more than a few subtle homosexual innuendoes if you look for them).

After his release, our former convict opens his own tatoo parlor. Over time his art is noticed by a high class Japanese tatoo clan. He goes there, after a hot Japanese girl steals his heart, and learns the art of tatooing as if it was some form of martial art or a religion of some sort. It hits the fan, however, when you find out that someone is killing and skinning all of our convict's customers. Eventually they come for our lead character as well, but he uses some metaphysical power embedded within the tatooing on his body to overcome his enemies, sucking them through some "door" all the while not letting them take over his body and such.

Honestly, the story seemed completely unbelievable, even after I completely suspended my disbelief. Throughout the story you're also treated to cryptic fortune cookie level bits of "deep" insights. The only upside to this four issue miniseries is the sometimes attractive and interesting art. For the most part, though, it isn't all that great either. You know, when I think about it, there really isn't all that much that was really good about the art either. This miniseries never really got off the ground, never figured out where it really wanted to go, and ended in a murky, somewhat unexplained way. This is one Vertigo title you might want to shy away from.

Art: 2.25
Story: 2
Overall: 2

Monday, March 14, 2005

Wolverine (vol. III) 20 - 25

There was so much hype surrounding this Wolverine arc that I almost decided not to read it simply because hyped up projects from Marvel are usually horribly contrived, really dumb, or a combination of the two. I've also never been a huge Millar or Romita, Jr. fan so that also was a turnoff for me, but since I had preordered the issues blindly (I kept forgetting to drop the title, but I finally remembered to with issue 26) I wasn't going to just let these issues sit. I didn't spend money on them for nothing.

Oddly enough, even though this is in Wolverine's solo title and he would naturally have the biggest role in the story, it really didn't turn out that way. Sure, Wolverine was the crux of the entire story, but most of the focus was on Millar finding ways to include all kinds of guest stars and integrate them into Wolverine's mad rampage throughout the Marvel universe. Frankly, I'm glad that the focus wasn't always on Wolverine because I'm really tired of the character in general.

So Wolverine is captured by Hydra, supposedly killed and brought back to life, and is then programmed to be Hydra's personal killing machine. After his programming, Wolverine starts his violent assault on the various superheroes that Hydra thinks they could use to help their causes. There's appearances by Elektra, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Baron Strucker, some guy named Gorgon, and small appearances by Iron Man, Captain America, and a few others.

As an action based arc, it succeeds, but what really got on my nerves was Wolverine's inner monologue where his consciousness was supposedly battling the Hydra programming. It always came off somewhat forced and felt very lame. The dialogue between characters was basic Millar--curt, snarky, and sharp. A big focus of the story was on Elektra and Nick Fury, which I really enjoyed because they are both characters that I wished had larger exposure in the Marvel Universe.

Now as for the big character death that Marvel kept hyping... it was really, really dumb and completely forced. So Northstar gets Wolvie's claws to the chest and bites the big one. Woop-dee-do. Did anyone really care about Northstar anyways? Yeah, he was somewhat high profile because he was a gay superhero, and I'm sure many homosexual supporters will see this as Millar's slamming of the homosexual community, but I really don't think it matters. Northstar's death has about as much impact as if it was Jubilee or Sleepwalker or the Jack of Hearts or any other grade C or below character dying. For all the hype, it was really dumb.

In the art department, Romita, Jr. was supposed to bring back the gritty and dark tone of Wolverine comics from the past, but I just find his work underdeveloped, blocky, and not all that good. It is not terrible, but it's far from being the second coming of Christ, which is seems to equate to in some people's minds. It works, I suppose, but I'd rather see a ton of other artists doing Wolverine before Romita, Jr. On second thought, though, I'm glad that Romita, Jr. is on Wolverine because that's one less title I like reading that he has a chance of being on.

In the end, this arc definitely didn't live up to all the hype, but as a purely action oriented romp through the Marvel universe, it's a decent read. It's not going to be a memorable story in any way, but it's a good way to waste a few minutes while you're sitting on the john taking a dookie.

Art: 3.25
Story: 3
Overall: 3

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Peter David never ceases to amaze me. Back in my younger years when I was a huge Trekkie (or Trekker or Trekkette or Trekzombie or whatever they go by now) I would love reading David's Star Trek novels, as well as his Star Trek comics for DC. When I gave up on Star Trek (about the time Deep Space Nine ended and Voyager was the only thing Trek out there) I also lost touch with David's work. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to read his definitive run on the hulk or his work on X-Factor. I eventually dove back into what he was writing when I picked up Fallen Angel, arguably one of the best comics of the last two years. He hooked with that series and with Madrox he's reeled me in completely.

I didn't know what to expect from this mini, but upon finishing it, I do know that it was one hell of a read. Imagine a noir style story with mutants and a very sharp sense of humor, with a good amount of traditional and mutant based violence as well, and you'll start to get a feel for it.

Madrox the Multiple Man has been sending out his duplicates for the last few years to different areas of the world to learn all there is to know. Once a duplicate has learned a sufficient amount of knowledge, he returns to the original Madrox who reabsorbs him and gains all of that duplicates knowledge and memories. That alone could lead to some very interesting stories, but David focuses on a murder mystery angle. One of Madrox's duplicates was stabbed and died as Madrox was reabsorbing him. The rest of the story is the unfolding of Madrox's search for the killer, complete with noir-ish inner monologues, a stunning babe who turns out to be trouble, double crosses, and a couple of the old X-Factor cast (Wolfsbane and Strong Guy).

I don't really care what type of comics you usually read--superheroes, mystery, slice of life, supernatural, whatever--you're going to find this title engaging and a lot more interesting than you'd initially expect. It's really a shame that not all of the current X-titles could be written this well. On the positive side, however, David has laid hints that there might be more Madrox or X-Factor in the future and that is definitely something to hope for.

Art: 4
Story: 4.5
Overall: 4.25

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Identity Crisis

I know, I'm really, really late coming to the party, but I finally read Identity Crisis. With all of the controversy in the reviews and the screaming fanboys on message boards, I couldn't bring myself to read it until after it all settled down. It took a while, but I finally felt comfortable to sit down, invest some time, and read all the way through Identity Crisis. After getting done with it, the first thought that came to mind was, "Why is everyone freaking out over this?"

So there was the killing of a woman, her rape, and the attempted murder of another woman. Whoop-dee-do. It's like people who read comics think that rape, murder, and violence never happen. There was also the death of three, count them, THREE male characters, so all the whining and bitching about how women got a bad rap in this series is totally unfounded.

There were also many complaints about the writing. Message boards clamored that it wasn't nearly as good as the hype and that the ending was a huge cop-out and that it would have been better written by . Frankly, I found IC to be thoroughly enjoyable and engaging... well, up until the end at least. I will agree with most people that the ending was not the big, clever reveal that we all hoped it would be, but that's usually the problem with 90% of the mysteries that are written in any format--too much focus on the setup and red herrings that the ending can't be nearly as good as what led up to it.

Barring the conclusion of the story, which was still passable for me, I was drawn into the engaging plot that Meltzer had created. He crafted a story that involved so many different characters, some only in the story for small moments, doing so many different things for the plot, yet he never let readers feel lost. I also liked his characterizations of the heroes and villains. They didn't feel off or forced and they also didn't feel too similar to each other, which sometimes happens with a large cast.

Other than the ending, there is one other drawback to this series--Morales' art. For the most part it was good, but I really don't like how he draws faces. If it was his goal to make every panel that focused on a character's face look ugly, then he succeeded. His action scenes and some of the splashes he did were great, but much like Liefeld needs to work on feet, Morales needs to work on faces.

In the end, this is one of the better mini's I've read in a while from DC. Really, when you come down to it, reading this is better than reading many of the pointless, cliched mini's that come out every year from the big two. IC was not a letdown, like many people make it out to be, it just wasn't the masterpiece that everyone hoped it would be. It's a good miniseries and I'll leave it at that.

Art: 3
Story: 4
Overall: 3.75

Saturday, March 05, 2005


This four issue mini series is a complete and utter waste of time. There is nothing even remotely engaging, unique, or even interesting to be found throughout the entire course of the story, which is nothing but re-hashed superhero cliches.

So the government was paying to have a top secret weapon made, but then no longer wanted it so it fell into the hands of bad guys. In order to sell it to other bad guys the other bad guys needed a demonstration and since Star, the merc with a mouth... no, wait, I forgot this isn't a Deadpool comic, but it very well could be a crappy knockoff since Star is intent on tossing around terrible puns and standard fight lines, all eye-rolling good. Anyways, so Star is fighting a bunch of bad guys along with some mini-planes and whatnot. Eventually, however, he figures everything out, there's a guest appearance by Savage Dragon, there's a not-so-subtlely hinted at secret origin reveal, and we're done.

I was really amazed at the complete asstasticness of this series. All of the dialogue was hokey and didn't feel natural at all, and all of the obvious hints as to who Star really was made it seem like this was written for a fourth grade audience, which would have been fine except a lot of the time there's also tons of gratuitous violence that I personally don't think fourth graders should be exposed to on an everyday basis... although I wouldn't want anyone to be exposed to this type of writing on an everday basis.

The character of Star is atrociously dumb. He's a guy that can fight and shoots ninja stars from little ninja star shooters on his wrists. Wow. How awesome. He also is capable of pulling off the much overused "Oh no, there's no way out of this situation. I'll surely die... unless I just TRY HARDER!" It's like every superhero isn't really trying unless they're surely going to die.

The art is also extremely bad. I've seen some rush jobs and every issue here was either a rush job or the artist was extemely untalented. My guess is a little of both. The art is very underdeveloped, undetailed, and sketchy. The inking and coloring couldn't hide the fact that it was primitive.

This is simply one of the worst mini's I've read in a while now. It's been refreshing to be reading at least mildly interesting comics for a while now, and reading crap like this makes you appreciate well written and illustrated comics.

Art: 1.25
Story: 1
Overall: 1

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Manhunter (vol. III) 1 - 5

DC's recent focus on many B-level characters and the gritty, grungy areas of the DCU is a welcome thing if you ask me. As much fun as it is to read about the JLA and Batman and Green Lantern and all the top tier characters, I am also very attracted to reading about the "lesser" superheroes. This, DC's third volume of Manhunter, is one of the better DC titles out there, in my opinion.

Unlike your standard superhero story where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, Manhunter has a sense of moral ambiguity surrounding it. The villains are bad, but the hero... well, she isn't much better. True, she may be doing what she does for the greater good, but her means are much more extreme and dark than anything you'd see Superman doing.

In this initial five issue arc, Kate Spencer, a top level lawyer, is prosecuting Copperhead, a cold blooded metahuman killer. The jury, believing Copperhead is a victim of genetics finds him not guilty and he is sent to a rehabilitation center. In transit, he escapes killing even more innocents. Kate, not content with what is happening, raids the evidence lockers and steals the Manhunter suit. As a superhero she kills Copperhead and proclaims that a new hero is in town to clean up the trash.

From the way I describe it, you'd probably think that this series is simply a mixing of The Punisher, Daredevil, and a superpowered suit, but it's not. When not acting as the Manhunter, Kate is dealing with a divorced husband, remembering to spend time with her child on her weekends, and focusing on her work.

You can almost feel the stress and hurt that Kate is going through every day of her life. When her son discovers her Manhunter suit, he almost kills himself with it. When fighting The Shadow Thief, she is almost killed because of her overconfidence. Everything in her life is tipsy-turvy and I keep waiting for Kate to simply snap. It's this tension and down-to-earth take on a superhero that keeps me coming back for more.

The art, by Jesus Saiz, is also very fitting. It's realistic, gritty, and nicely detailed. The covers by Jae Lee are also a wonder to behold, but that might be because I enjoy everything Lee does. The art complements the story perfectly and the combination of the writing and the art make this one of the better currently running DC titles out there at the moment. It's just too bad that more people aren't reading it.

Art: 3.5
Story: 4
Overall: 4

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


I pre-ordered this back when it was first solicited since the solicitation made it sound pretty interesting. I remember that when I got it in my monthly shipment that I intended to sit down and read it, but somehow it got stuck into a stack of back issues that got moved into my comics storage room. I recently found it as I was going through putting some comics away and sat down to give it a read.

Michael Oeming crafts an interesting tale of a man who is either going insane, is already horribly demented, or is a part of some alien conspiracy that is watching over us humans. The story is written in such a way that you never really know if the lead character is simply insane or really a part of some clandestine alien plot against the human race.

The reader is given little tidbits of information that maybe this whole story is nothing more than a madman's raving delusions, but towards the end everything is thrown into a blender and you might not be so sure that this is simply a man's insane dream. I can't say much more than this that will really describe the plot without giving too much away. Let's just say it's a nice, little mindtrip that'll make you think.

The art is passable. It's straight up black and white, heavy on the blacks, and low detail, but for this story the art isn't essential. It takes a supporting role to Oeming's crazy tale. Even though the art isn't super detailed or anything special, I really don't think that it matters. Hyper-detailed art or even colored art wouldn't have made much of a difference, in my opinion, since the main focus here is story. The pin-up gallery found after the end of the story has some great art, if you really feel like you need at least a few pretty pictures to go with your stories.

If you can still find this one-shot from Image anywhere, grab it. It's a really good read and any sci-fi fan will get a good deal of enjoyment out of it.

Art: 2.25
Story: 4
Overall: 4