Sunday, August 14, 2005

Terminating a Superman Singularity

Ok, I'm going to try this again. I'm pretty well eased into my new job, but as I've eased in I've also realized that I will have a lot less free time than I used to. I still read lots of comics and still want to let people know about some good back issue finds out there so I'm going to try to give some time back to this site. The format is going to change a little and I won't have as in depth of reviews and there will probably be reviews of multiple items per post, but that's really the only way I can think to do it right now. So, without further adieu, here's some recent reading:

Singularity 7

Ben Templesmith is an artist who is either reviled or loved. There appears to be very little middle ground and I can see why. His use of minimalistic linework in combination with digital painting techniques is a unique art style, but many might see it as simply crap thrown on a page. I am one of his biggest fans, so reading a mini written and drawn by Ben was something I was looking forward to for a while. I had put it off since I detest the high price tags IDW puts on their titles, but I finally found this series on the cheap and dove in.

In the future our world had been invaded by malicious microbes that took over the world on a microscopic level, changing it to suit the needs of an alien master race. Some people would have interesting reactions to the microbes and would turn into what you could think of as superheroes. The seven remaining superheroes have been charged with the task of destroying the mother hive with a virus that the few living human scientists have created.

All of this is nothing too spectacular and is basic post apocalyptic sci-fi, but Templesmith's art makes it a beauty to behold and the story never treads into cliche too deeply. The dark nature of the story is quite easily reflected in the artwork, which is a perfect match. If you can, give this mini a shot, especially if you're into sci-fi. Grade: A-

The Superman Monster

As I've said before, I like Elseworlds stories. Many don't, but I do. In this Elseworlds story Lex Luthor is cast as Frankenstein while Superman becomes Frankenstein's monster. One of the biggest draws of these Elseworlds stories are the ways that current continuity characters are portrayed in a new setting. In this prestige one shot I wasn't as impressed by the way the characters translated over. Some of the translations were neat (Olsen being one of Luthor's aides), but others didn't work (Supergirl as another zombie monster? Superman as a re-animated human corpse?). The story also felt a little underdeveloped, simplistic, and boring. I guess you have to have some bad stories to make the good ones good. Grade: C

Terminator: Endgame

I loved the concept of Terminators when I was in high school. The Terminator mythos and future was one of the first post apocalyptic visions I was treated to when I was getting into sci-fi. I had never delved into the comics until I found this tpb on the cheap. I'm kind of glad I never did get into the Terminator comics because if this is a prime example of the world Dark Horse created to go with the movies, I might have ended up scared away from the Terminator universe for good.

I didn't know it, but this tpb is the ending to a series of tpb's that chronicled many varied attempts by different Terminators to kill Sarah and John Connor and other people who would work with them. This tpb is so steeped in continuity that had come before that I was constantly lost and wondering what the characters were referencing. Another annoyance was that the terminator in this tbp was hardly a factor. The art didn't help either, being of the simplistic and underdeveloped nature, but what can you expect from the era this tpb came from? If you've never read any of the Dark Horse Terminator titles, then stay far far away. Grade: D+

Friday, June 10, 2005

Reviewing Hiatus

Lately reviews have been sparse. I realize this. There's a couple of reasons for this. First, I haven't had a lot of spare time to write reviews. Second, I haven't been reading as many comics as I wished I had time to. Third... well, there isn't much of a third really other than me being lazy, but that's just a given.

I've been extra busy since I took on a new position at my company about two months ago. The workload is much greater than my previous position. To make matters even busier, I'm in the process of moving so a lot of time has been (and will be) dedicated to packing and such. I'm bringing with a ton of comics to read at my new place, but the bulk of my collection will be staying at my parents' house. I will eventually get back to reviewing comics, both old and new, but for the time being I don't think I'll have a whole lot of time for it. I will keep writing, but at my other blog. So if you care to keep up with me, stop on over there.

Until my next review, here's to hoping I read some good stuff in my time off!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Robin III: Cry of the Huntress

Chuck Dixon's work has quite a following, although I've never been able to figure out why. Some of his stuff is decent, but for the most part everything I've read by him has been either painfully average or boring. With Robin III, Chuck manages to move away from both of these negative attributes but in the process manages to make a story heavy on the cliches.

Robin is on the outs with his dad because he spends too much time with Bruce Wayne. He's also on the outs with Batman since he was told to not go out as Robin for a few days, yet he did. School isn't going well for him as his counselor is questioning him about the bruises he's been getting. Obviously he can't tell her they're from crimefighting, so she attributes it to abuse by Mr. Wayne. While Robin is busy dealing with all of these personal problems, he also finds himself in the middle of a plot by a bunch of crazy Russians to counterfeit the newly declared Euro. What is a boy wonder to do?

Well, first, find someone to team up with. In this case the wise-cracking, ass-kicking, school-teaching Huntress. This gives Chuck the opportunity to write some decently witting dialogue between Robin and the Huntress, as well as utilize more than a few team-up cliches (one hero saves the other when they've been captured, one hero doesn't wait for the other and things go awry, one knows something the other doesn't, etc.). The dialogue was actually snappy and it flowed nicely, leading it to be probably the best part of the mini.

The rest of it was not as good. The main villain, the KGBeast, was a basic super-cyborg-killer bad guy stereotype. To make matters worse, he spoke some of the worst broken English you can imagine. I'm thinking Chuck wanted to make it seem like the KGBeast didn't know English well, but it go extremely old quite quick, especially when ALL of the Russian characters in the mini talked that way.

The last issue of the story ties everything up a little too neatly and quickly. Robin's reconcilliation with his father takes all of one page where they each say "Wow, we've been acting crappy. Let's not anymore and everything will be good again." The foiling of the counterfeiting was conveinently solved by the use of the conventional "I did something while the bad guys weren't looking that'll make it seem like they're winning, but they're not" plot contrivance.

The only real outstanding portion of the mini was the art. I really dug Tom Lyle's linework. It wasn't overly complicated yet it conveyed the action very well. His rendition of Robin's face as somewhat pudgy was slightly annoying, but that's just a small caveat with his work. The art, for an early 90's title, was quite good.

Art: 3.5
Story: 2
Overall: 2.5

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Batman: War Games Volume I

Can anyone say "padded"? I know you can. Let's all say it together... PADDED! My biggest pet peeve with modern comics is the feeling that stories are getting drawn out more and more for no other reason than it's the thing to do. Marvel has been the most guilty party as of late with their making every story arc 6 issues so it'll fit in a trade, but DC has also been responsible for their fair share of unnecessary decompression, with this first installment of the three volume War Games uber-story being one example.

There really isn't a lot that goes on in the 200+ pages of this trade. The heads of all the gangs in Gotham get together, it hits the fan, a gang war starts, Batman and his cadre of heroes must take on the gangs, there's lots of fighting, a tiny bit of character development, and tons of boring. That's about it.

Almost every fight and close to every conversation felt unneeded and added just to make sure that each Bat-title would be touched by the cross-over so as to boost sales. The entirety of this volume could probably have been well told in about half the length and felt much more action packed by doing so.

What's worse is that since this is a three act story, this chapter ends quite abruptly with not even so much as a small sense of accomplishment after the events that transpired. Instead it just ends. If I would have known they were going to do that, I would have waited until all three volumes had come out to start reading because now I have to wait a good chunk of time before volume II is released and volume III hasn't even been solicited yet.

There are a few good things about this volume, but not many. It is nice to see all of the characters in the Batman line of titles work together on a common problem, but often the chemistry doesn't feel quite right. The action sequences are often decently illustrated so if you like countless panels of superheroes kicking and punching bad guys, then by all means pick up this volume, but if you want something more for your fifteen bucks then put this thing back on the bookshelf.

Art: 2.5
Story: 2
Overall: 2

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Superman / Batman 14 - 18

A lot of people hate this title and a lot of people love it. I fall into the "love it" category, but I love it for what it is--a big, dumb, fun superhero book. If you're looking for intricate storytelling, plotting that constantly keeps you guessing, or deep character analyzations you're going to be firmly planted in the "hate this" camp.

In this arc you get the opportunity to see Batman and Superman in a couple of different alternate timelines battling fellow superheroes and villains alike. The reason for the alternate timelines is that three supervillains from the 31st century have come back in time in order to attempt to change history by setting up Superman and Batman as the only superheroes in existence and completley under their control. This works out for a time, but it slowly starts to unravel.

As things unravel, you'll get a chance to see Superman and Batman kill Green Arrow, take on Ra's al Ghul with a zombie version of the JLA, fight on a planet where humans are animals and Gorilla Grodd rules all, and travel to the future to make a deal with Darkseid and an extremely old Superman among other things. This is definitely an action oriented arc, and a very well done superhero action story.

The action is wonderfully illustrated by Carlos Pacheco, giving all of the action scenes a larger than life feel to them. What is lacking in deep plot is easliy made up for in widescreen superhero action. Pacheco's art fits perfectly with this style of story as it isn't too realistic yet it doesn't stray into the cartoony which gives everything a semi-realistic feel while still staying away from the hyper-realistic tone that some of the new school superhero stories try to take on.

There is one big drawback to this arc, however, and that is continuity. This arc is full of it. There's so many characters from the DC Universe sprinkled throughout that someone who isn't a DC fan might be confused. Heck, I read plenty of DC comics, but even I felt like asking "who the heck is this?" more than a few times.

This title is consistently read by a giant audience, comics-wise at least, and it's easy to see why. For the most part the title is easy to get in to, it's not too tough on the eyes or the brain, and it's simply a lot of fun. I hope it sticks to the formula it's been using for the first 18 issues because it's working out perfectly.

Art: 3.5
Story: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Spartan: Warrior Spirit

Man, Kurt Busiek used to really, really suck as a writer, didn't he? After reading the Spider-Man / X-Factor crossover miniseries by him and now this four issue mini, I'm starting to wonder if the 90's Busiek is the same person as the recent writing genius of this millennium that everyone has fallen in love with. It's really quite amazing how terrible some of his old stuff is that it's sad and amazing at the same time.

This story focuses on Spartan, the leader of the Wildcats, and his origin. One of the staple things to do with a team book in the 90's was to give each important character their own miniseries to explore the amazing circumstances that made them who they were. Apparently Spartan was a real person at one point (he is nothing more than a spirit embodied in a robot currently). He was tragically killed so some doctor decided to take his spirit and use it to power his latest creation. Spartan never knows this, however, since he was purchased by the owner of the Wildcats to lead his team.

The nifty thing about Spartan is that when the robot body he currently inhabitates gets destroyed, his spirit is re-downloaded into a new robt body. Well, in issue one Spartan gets destroyed but instead of returning to a body in the Wildcats headquarters he materializes in a body in some temple with no memories. The majority of the middle of the story consists of Spartan fighting some green cyber goblin people while he tries to come to terms with his lack of memories.

Turns out there was some plot to trap an evil power source to use it against the enemies of the people in the village where the temple is located. Eventually Spartan realizes this, then the Wildcats show up, then there's some more fighting. Lastly the evil power gets out and starts devouring people. Thankfully Spartan is there and talks the evil power away. In the course of a two page spread, Spartan's superior will convinces the evil demon thingy to just go away. Add a couple of pages for goodbyes and it's the end.

Seriously, this is not even close to being as good as anything that Busiek has recently written. It's not even close to being average. It's cliched ridden, mindless action, poorly drawn crap. It's mini's like this that made Image look like such a joke in the 90's. I feel dumber for having read this.

Art: 2
Story: 1.5
Overall: 1.75

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Superman, Inc.

I'll admit it, I love Elseworlds stories. Not quite enough to buy them at full price, but I scour the bargain bins for them! Any time I see an Elseworlds I haven't read somewhere on the cheap, I snatch it up as fast as humanly possible. The novelty of having an established superhero in a role outside of the one he/she usually takes on appeals to me, which is probably good for DC since that means I'll buy them as opposed to yet another rehashed Superman or Batman book.

In this prestige format one shot, Superman isn't found by the Kents, but is instead run over by a drunk who finds the baby miracuously unharmed when he gets out of the car to see what he ran over. Taking this as some sort of sign he drops the baby off in the closest town and vows to give up drinking. With this premise in place, Clark Kent now grows up as Dale Suderman. Tragically, his parents die when he is young. His mother dies after seeing Dale use his power of flight as she falls down the stairs running from him. Dale's subconscious then locks away his ability to use his superhuman powers all the while he lets himself become obsessed with nothing more than being the most successful person alive.

Becoming a success was easy for Dale as his innate physical prowess in comparison to the rest of the human race allows him to become one of the greatest sports stars ever. He uses the money he earns in professional sports to fund his own business ventures, all of which are quite successful, mostly because of the positive outlook that Dale exudes to the public. In private, however, he is a ruthless businessman that will do just about anything in his power to gain even more accolades than he already has.

Of course, Lex Luthor doesn't like that someone is more successful than him, so this is where the core conflict of the story comes. Lex assigns reporters to dig up anything they can on Dale Suderman and when things do start to come out, it all falls apart for Dale.

The premise and execution of the story were both interesting enough, but the characters were given little depth. Dale was simply a man obsessed with success who breaks down when he finds out he's not who he thought he was. Lex is a less interesting version of his DC self. The supporting cast aren't really that interesting, but they're essential for moving the story along.

In comparison to other Elseworlds stories, this one isn't a bad one, but it's not one of the good ones either. From the art department, there was one huge mistake--Dale's haircut. It looks like something from a late 80's rock video and I laughed every time I saw it. I don't think any self-respecting business man would ever sport such an ugly cut, but apparently Dale can get away with it.

Give this a look if you dig Superman and Elseworlds. If you like one or the other it's probably also a decent read. If you could care less about either... why'd you read this review?

Art: 2.5
Story: 2.75
Overall: 2.75

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Spectacular Spider-Man 23 - 27

Throughout most of Paul Jenkins run of this iteration of Spectacular Spider-Man I've found myself either let down by the story arcs or baffled by the illogic of many of the character interactions. With this arc, Jenkins steps away from writing (except for issue 27) in order to let some of the events from the Sins Past story arc in Amazing Spider-Man be addressed. I didn't read Sins Past so I felt like I was missing out on part of the overall story, but even if I did have the overall story, I still don't think that would have saved this arc from being pretty... boring.

So there's a couple of kids that the Green Goblin had with Gwen Stacey who are now teenaged (I'm guessing) because they aged mondo fast by having Goblin blood in their genes. It sounds pretty contrived and stupid to me... mostly because it is, but this is a superhero book so maybe it should get a free pass... or not, because it's contived and stupid.

One of the kids (the boy) turned into the Gray Goblin. Just what the Marvel Universe needed, another goblin. Hobgoblin, Green Goblin, Gray Goblin, Purple Hobgoblin version II, etc. His sister, however, managed to turn out normal for the most part. She tries to commit suicide so the authorities in Europe call Peter since Sarah had a crush on him and wanted to make babies with him.

Mary Jane gets all jealous that Peter runs off to Sarah's rescue so she decides to fly over there and check up on him. The entire time Peter has been over there, Sarah and him have been going on quasi-dates "getting to know each other better". Mary Jane, upon arrival, just happens to stumble in to the mansion Peter and Sarah are staying at as Sarah kisses Peter. Soap opera drama ensues.

During all of this horribly boring and cliched romantic hulaballo, there's some drug running and a kidnapping to deal with, but that all takes back seat to the more important "relationship drama" of Peter, Sarah, and MJ. It really bored the hell out of me and it really makes me glad I ignored the whole Sins Past story arc.

Oh, one side note, Peter uses his Spider-Man powers while not in costume, in the middle of a crowd, TWICE, while he's over in Europe. Did Peter suddenly develop the superpower of ultra-stupidity? He thinks that no one in Europe will remember him. Man, if I saw some guys swinging with webbing out of his hands, I'd whip out my camera phone or something and take pictures. Peter = idiot.

Now, issue 27 is the complete antithesis of the arc preceding it. Jenkins returns to write the last issue of the series and it's a darn good one. I have a feeling he had written it a long time ago since it's a winter/Christmas story, but it's still good. Peter goes to visit Uncle Ben's grave and the majority of the issue deals with Peter conversing and bonding with the ghost of his dead uncle. It was actually a very tender and touching issue that almost completely made up for the mess that was Sins Remembered. It's a wonderful stand alone story, so go give it a look. It's one of the better Spider-Man stories you'll read for a while.

Art: 3
Story: 2
Overall: 2.5

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Nightcrawler 1 - 6

When Marvel did their big "X-Men: Reloaded" thingermabob last year I knew that in the glut of crap that was going to be dumped on the shelves there would probably be a title or two that turned out to be good. Two of those, Astonishing X-Men and District X I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying. The only other new title from the Reloaded event that I took a chance on was Nightcrawler's solo series and I am quite glad that I did.

Instead of this being just your average, paint by number, superhero book about one of a myriad of X-Men, Nightcrawler's book took on a definitively supernatural tone, which was a welcome surprise. I honestly expected nothing more than Nightcrawler teleporting around fighting bad guys for a few issues until Marvel pulled the plug on it. Out of all the solo series launched during the reload, Nightcrawler's series was the first to be cancelled... err, put on hiatus (it is coming back this summer, suprisingly). This didn't bode well for the book so I put off reading it, which is a shame.

In the first four issues, Nightcrawler is asked to investigate the murder of 13 dead children in a state establishment. One child who was present when the others were killed still lived, but he refused to talk. It is later revealed that the child is naturally gifted with the knowledge of magic. Upon finding this out, Nightcrawler pays a visit to Magik, who resides in limbo with two giant, homosexual snakes. While they work to figure out the mystery, Nightcrawler will encounter demons, a spontaneously combusting man, and more. As campy or cliched as this may sound, it is actually a very well written superhero/horror mix.

The last two issues of this arc has Nightcrawler examining the appearance of ghosts in the New York subway system. From the outset of this story you can pretty much guess where it is going, the ghosts' motivations, and how it will be resolved. Even so, it is still a decent read and for readers who haven't read comics for years and years, this will be a refreshing supernatural tale featuring the world's favorite teleporting half-demon.

I really hope that when Nightcrawler returns to store shelves with issue 7, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will keep the focus on the supernatural as I feel it is a good fit for the book. Darick Robertson's pencils are not overly stupendous, but they are a treat for the eyes. His rendition of some of the demons in the first few issues were spectacular, however. Give Robertson a horror book and I'll buy it in a second as I think he is well suited for that type of book. All in all, this turned out to be one of the better series to come out of Marvel's X-Men: Reloaded event and I'm glad I gave it a chance.

Art: 3.5
Story: 4
Overall: 3.75

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Territory

Do you like pulpy storytelling? Do you like 50's and 60's sci-fi serials? Do you like noir-ish narration? Do you like horribly average art that is from the late 90's but looks like it's from the late 80's? You do? Then you'll love this 4 issue mini series from Dark Horse comics.

The Territory is the story of a man who is constantly in search of his ever elusive and ever changing love, Scarlett... or Rose... or whatever name she gets in each issue. You see, the gimmick of this story is that everything is constantly changing but there's a few common elements in each scene change. You always have your protagonist, who never changes, and then there is the beautiful woman he lusts after, the big & bag evil antagonist, and lots of sci-fi monsters.

I felt as if the writers wanted to explore many of the different cliched sci-fi environments that were all the rage in 50's and 60's sci-fi serials and sci-fi literature. In the first issue, a lone man is found by a pirate ship that takes him to a high tech island where captured people are used as fodder in futuristic gladiator arenas fighting aliens or monsters that look like aliens or monster aliens or whatever. He is in the process of fighting for his love when he and lady fall over the side of the flying ship they are on...

Then as our protagonist awakens he finds himself in a jungle where everything around him is mutated. While traversing the mutated wasteland he encounters a group of men controlling robots that harvest the lost people of the "mesh" (the name for the jungle area). Before he has a chance to be captured a group of rebels runs the robots off...

And then the scene switches to a new sci-fi template. The scenes keep shifting all the way up to the end in which, as I guessed after the first scene shift, the big reveal attempts to explain the reality morphing that has been going on. In case you do read this mini, I don't want to ruin it, but let's just say that this ending has been used to justify hundreds of stories that deal with crazy reality hopping.

You know, if this were to have come out in 1950, it would have been revolutionary, but when it came out in 1999, it was no doubt meant to be an homage to the stories of many moons ago. Unfortunatly, there really aren't any comic readers that can really relate to the older stories. I only caught many of the references and stylistic nuances because I watched so many episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I fear that this story will fail to satisfy most comic readers, even though I'm sure it was created with the best intentions of paying homage to the pulp sci-fi that led to the creation of modern sci-fi.

Art: 2.5
Story: 2
Overall: 2

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Agent X 1 - 7

The only experience I've had with Deadpool has been the one mini-series, The Circle Chase, that I read a while back along with the currently running Cable and Deadpool series. As far as I know, Agent X was to be the successor to Deadpool's long running ongoing series, but it wasn't to star Deadpool but instead was focused on a character that was very, very similar to the much loved merc-with-a-mouth, Wade Wilson. Considering I really didn't like the mini I read, but that I heartily enjoy the ongoing Cable and Deadpool series, I was unsure of what I would think of the first half of the 15 issue run of Agent X.

Fortunately, Gail Simone writes this series wonderfully. The wacky, funny, over-the-top attitude of this title won me over by the end of the first issue and it only got better from there on out. At the start of this series, a man with no memory and a bunch of X shaped scars on his body runs into the Taskmaster's girlfriend and asks for help. She gives it, which irks Taskmaster to no end, which makes Alex Hayden (the man with no memory) very happy.

Because his girlfriend aks him, Taskmaster trains Alex since Alex would like to be a mercenary. The interplay between these two is spot-on funny. You can feel the animosity, yet it's always expressed in one-liners or physical gags. One Alex is trained well enough, he is sent on his first mission, which happens to be rounding up a bunch of stray animals, including some poop flinging monkeys. For payment his employer gives him the deed to a run down amusement park, which actually thrills Alex.

It doesn't thrill the local ninja crime boss, however. He sets out to kill Alex and his compatriots since Alex won't sell the amusement park to him. There's lots of fun, slap-stick bad guys vs. good guys action and an interesting little twist to end the situation.

Issue #7 was a stand alone issue that involved Alex helping out a man obsessed with underpants get back his most treasured pair from his arch-nemesis, a woman obsessed with bombs. I loved this entire issue because it was basically Simone poking fun at comic book collectors. At one point, obsessive underwear man freaks out because his prize pair of undies has been removed from it's protective mylar bag. This issue was gag and laugh filled!

It's been a really long time since I've read quality comedic superhero stories so Agent X is a riot. If you missed it when it hit the stands a couple of years back, make sure to check your back issue bins to see if you can find copies. You'll laugh and laugh and laugh each issue!

Art: 3.5
Story: 4.25
Overall: 4

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Steve Niles has, in recent years, made quite a name for himself with all of the horror comics he's been writing for IDW. With Fused we have the opportunity to see some of Niles' work pre-IDW fame, and in doing so we can see that it wasn't all that great. Actually, I can't blame the lackluster nature of this mini solely on Niles since there were more than a few other factors that led to the breakdown of this story, but at the center is definitely Niles.

As much praise as Niles has received for his horror work, most noteably his 30 Days of Night titles, I haven't been too impressed. Admittedly, I have only read the first 30 Days mini, but from that I found his style to be average and the title being a big crowd pleaser more for Templesmith's art than Niles' story. In Fused we have a story of a scientist who becomes "fused" into a robot body. After he becomes fused, some government agency takes up pursuit after him. You're never really informed as to what this governmental attack team has against our protagonist, but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to assume that the doctor he was working under was involved in some type of shadow ops program where he wasn't supposed to leave... yet he did.

The majority of the four issues is spent watching Mark, our fused main character, run from the military. This wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing if there were more clear cut reasonings and explanations given for what was happening, but the only real reasons the reader is allowed to pick up on is the bad blood between Mark's boss and the military. This doesn't exactly work for me, unfortunately.

To complicate matters, this miniseries was originally solicited as an ongoing, but I'm assuming the sales must have been pretty low since it was retroactively turned into a miniseries that would complete in four issues. Niles may have been attempting to craft a much longer story that had to be truncated to fit into the allotted four issues so much of the underlying plot could have been scheduled for examination in issues #5 and beyond.

Another obstacle that this series faced was the artist rotations. Each issue had a different art team, but it wasn't supposed to be that way. Each team ended up quitting after one issue, except for Templesmith who ended up doing the last issue of the series. It's hard to keep a consistent tone when the art team is constantly in flux and there were some drastic changes between different art teams, namely between the first three issues and the fourth issue done by Templesmith.

Even though this series didn't work out, there is one very good thing that did come out of this, at least in the minds of many comic fans--the pairing up of Templesmith and Niles who would later work together on a myriad of titles. I'm just glad that Templesmith has received the recognition he has since I'm a huge fan of his art style. Fused ended up being a sizeable letdown for me, but at least the fourth issue was pretty, right?

Art: 3
Story: 2.25
Overall: 2.5

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Damage Control

So what does happen to all of the wreckage and damage that is caused by superhero battles. I can't count the number of times that Magneto has destroyed New York, the X-mansion has been blown up, or that some giant villain has decimated building upon building throughout a city. You always get to see the battles, but never the aftermath... until now, or I suppose more acurately, until 1989.

As opposed to most of the older titles that I've picked up over the years, this one wasn't simply a random buy. I read a blurb on some comic message board where the poster made reference to how something should have been cleaned up by Damage Control. Not knowing what the poster was talking about, I looked up Damage Control over on CPG. When I saw the covers, I thought that the series had to be at least interesting, if not great! Since there's been three incarnations of the series, I searched out the first volume on ebay and actually managed to grab it for a little more than $3.00 (including shipping).

Opening up the book I was first greeted by the smell of the newsprint it was printed on. It's been a while since I've read a non-glossy comic or perfect bound graphic novel so this was a refreshing smell and texture. It brought back a lot of childhood memories, especially in the story telling manner. This was a funny book through and through, written in that late 80's, appeal to the younger audience style of comedy.

The combination of campy superhero action, over-the-top dialogue, and the concept of a company that thrives off of cleaning up superheroes' messes was exactly what I expected, which is a very good thing. I have to give the writer credit for creating a company that is at the same time completely campy and completely feasible.

The guest spots by Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men also gives the writer a chance to play fast and loose with these characters in a way probably couldn't be done in their respective titles. It's always fun to see Wolverine being attacked by killer Danger Room clown robots or to see Dr. Doom paying bills instead of trying to conquer the world.

I'm actually very interested to see if I can find the two volumes of Damage Control because it is a novel concept and if the writing is the same in the other two volumes, they surely can't be bad!

Art: 2.5
Story: 3.75
Overall: 3.5

Thursday, April 21, 2005

V for Vendetta

It's so hard to find anything unique or insightful to say about titles that are already regarded as classics. Honestly, if people don't already know about this series by now then they can't really call themselves comic fans. Alan Moore, for what it's worth, is easily one of the greatest comic book creators in my mind. Nearly everything that I've read which was written by him was nothing less than amazing. The League of Extrordinary Gentlemen is probably the only exception to this. I admired it for the ways in which Moore tied everything together, but on a storytelling level it didn't work that well for me, but that's not really important for this review.

V for Vendetta was a series that I had been wanting to read for a long time, but never actually got around to it. Much like Watchmen, this is a seminal classic that every comic reader should read sometime at least once. While reading through this series, the biggest surprise didn't come from the story itself. What blew my mind was that this series was originally started way back in 1983, only 2 years after I was born. The finished version of it was put out in 1988, which still would put me at the tender age of 7. Even though I read a lot of comics that aren't current, I usually don't stray back into the pre-90's, usually because I don't like the storytelling contrivances of many older titles.

V didn't feel like it was written in the 80's at all. If you would have told me that it was written in this millennium, I'd probably believe you. The maturity of tone and content is something I didn't think existed in the comics medium during the 80's, maybe because I only read the popular superhero fluff from that decade.

Moore again mixes his uniquely bleak storytelling style with many lyrical situational descriptions to create a living, breathing, and believable alternate England. This version of England is a totalitarian union where anything deemed wrong by the state has been eliminated. Gays, blacks, Jews, and any other person that didn't live up to the English ideal was killed or removed from the state. V, a victim of England's genetic experimentation takes it upon his shoulders to liberate England.

The path that V takes is mesmerizing and you get the sense of this being more than just a simple vendetta against the country that had thought him a subhuman waste of flesh. No, he knows that England has given up its freedom and someone needed to give it back to her. The intelligence, tenderness, harshness, and artistry of V makes him admirable all while knowing that he was only doing what he had to do.

You know, I could break down the plot points, the rest of V's character traits, the methods he uses in training his successor, and elaborate on other aspects of this story, but the only way to really experience it is to read it yourself. Go buy the trade or pick up the back issues and dedicate a couple of days to sit down and digest another one of Moore's masterpieces.

Art: 3
Story: 5
Overall: 4.5

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Doctor Spectrum

Supreme Power is one of my favorite current running series and is, in my opinion, one of the best comics being published at the moment. There are a lot of other people that feel the same way, but then there's also the other extreme that hates it with a vehemence that is hard to rival. I've rarely seen an opinion in the middle ground. Either you think it's a fascinating reimagination of the JLA being told in a realistic manner or else complain that it's nothing more than a overly decompressed T&A book. It doesn't really matter what camp you fall into because it sold well enough to warrant a mini-series off-shoot, Doctor Spectrum.

If you thought that Supreme Power was overly decompressed, then I would stay miles away from this mini. You'll be lucky to get more than a couple dialogue balloons on most pages, but just because there's a lack of dialogue doesn't mean it's decompressed, I know. The problem is that nothing really happens throughout the course of this mini. For the entire run, up until the end of the last issue, Doctor Spectrum is in a coma battling it out with the crystal attached to his hand in his subconscious.

While he's reliving parts of his life he'd rather have forgotten, the doctors that have been attending to Spectrum are trying to figure out how to remove the crystal. They make a couple of attempts, each ending horribly, so then they try to activate it by bringing in Hyperion (the Superman of the Supreme Power universe) to see if it'll activate the crystal. No go. They eventually take him next to the spaceship that brought the crystal to earth, which does set him off, but it feels very anti-climactic.

There's only so many times I can read the same basic thing over and over again. Doctors are trying to revive Spectrum or remove the crystal. They keep failing. Spectrum is caught in his subconscious arguing with the crystal about who he actually is. In the end the big reveal, which isn't even much of a reveal, just restates what you've known about Spectrum all along.

I was rather bored most of the way through this mini, which is really a shame because it reflects bad on the Supreme Power universe. I felt this mini was simply put out there to exploit the Supreme Power fans into throwing more money to Marvel to read something that really doesn't add anything to the Supreme Power universe.

The art is also light years behind Frank's meticulous pencils in Supreme Power. The art wasn't bad as much as it just wasn't anything unique. It was very basic, rudimentary, and realistic. There was nothing to separate it from the 50 or so other artists that use the same style.

If you are a Supreme Power fan, you might enjoy this mini a little bit. If you're not a fan, you'll hate this mini even more than Supreme Power. Really this is something that could have either been squeezed down into a prestige format one-shot or even explored in the actual series. There was really no reason for it to exist as a six issue mini-series.

Art: 2.5
Story: 2.5
Overall: 2.5

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Daily Bugle

A black and white mini series... from Marvel? It blew my mind just as much as it must be blowing yours right now. In all of my experience reading Marvel comics, this is the first mini series that I've seen from them in black and white. There may be others out there somewhere, but I've never ran across them. Marvel went out on a limb in more ways than just the black and white art. This is also a story that's focusing on the reporters of the Daily Bugle, not exactly characters that would come off as a strong sell in my book. Thankfully whatever risks Marvel took on this book paid off.

I've never read Alias, but I'm sure this could be seen as the precursor to that series since it's focus was on reporting (at least that's the vibe I got from what I've read about it). The story here gets off on rocky footing since it doesn't know exactly what it wants to do. Part of the story is one of the editors at the Bugle giving you, the reader, a tour of the place while the other part of the story focuses on a reporter and photographer who are out putting together a story on some small time gangsters looking to cut into the Kingpin's grip on the city's crime network.

Thankfully the editor walking you through the Bugle ends up getting phased out in favor of the actual meat of the story--a conspiracy involving some small time gansters, a chain of restaurants, and a drive-by shooting that kills the head chef of the restaurant chain. While all of the pieces are being put together you will see it happening through the eyes of various reporters, photographers, editors, and even Peter Parker himself.

The story, once it gets going, will keep you flipping through the pages to see if your theories about the mystery are correct, which they probably are since the relationships that lead to the revelations in the last issue are pretty clearly telegraphed throughout, but it's still fun to read a decent mystery every now and again, especially if it's set in the Marvel Universe. I can get superheroes beating the snot out of supervillains any day, but seeing the down-to-earth section of the Marvel Universe, well, that's special.

The art, the art, I almost forgot! It's actually very good, taking on a realistic tone that isn't too ultra realistic, but how ultra realistic can you get using two colors? Well, probably pretty close, but that's beside the point. I seriously wish Marvel would experiment more with black and white art, or even grayscale on ocassion because this series shows it is doable and can be done very well.

You can probably get this little mini on the cheap at your local comic shop or from an online retailor and I would seriously recommend giving it a shot. If anything, read it just to see something different in a Marvel title.

Art: 3.5
Story: 4
Overall: 3.75

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

NYC Mech

When I first read the solicits for this series, I was very intrigued. New York City is populated by robots and this series would tell the story of some of its residents. I wanted to preorder the series, but I just didn't have the extra money to spare at the time. Fortunately, I came across all six issues on ebay recently for $1.00 plus shipping for a grand total of a little more than $3.50. It was seriously a well spent three and a half dollars.

Even though what intially drew me to this title, robots, would seem to give the story a sci-fi feel, it really doesn't have that at all. This version of New York could easily be our everyday version of New York. The idea of the population being robots is simply a gimmick as the focus of this series is on character interaction and the positions that people put themselves in to make it in this life.

There are two main story arcs. The first deals with a group of criminals who are planning on robbing an arcade so they can buy more drugs. The interaction between the members of the group feels very genuine and you can feel the careless abandon they have when it comes to living their lives. They are invicible and aren't afraid to do anything to get their next fix. The only thing that seems to get to them is their annoying cleaning robot, which appears to be lacking sentience.

While robbing the arcade, things go horribly wrong and each member's true colors of self preservation shine through as they all scrap to survive, even though it is implied that only one actually makes it out alive. The reason why things go wrong, well, that's an interesting twist that I don't want to give away. I'll tell you that I thought it was very clever and very cute at the same time.

The larger arc that spans the last 4 issues of the series deals with a brother and sister combo who are living together and living out two very different lives. One is a modeling superstar while the other is simply a bum that makes it through each day by pretending to be a cop and taking what he needs or convincing people to bribe him off. The relationship is quite two-sided in that the brother is simply trying to get by in his life while the sister, excelling at modeling, is so jealous of her brother who she thinks is doing a great service to society. The lies that they both live in come to a head when a tragic situation forces the brother to confront the lies he lives.

As you can tell, this story isn't about robots at all, but instead is about characters and every day life. The robot aspect is simply to spice it up a little. I seriously enjoyed this series a ton and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little bit of 'slice of life' styled writing with a unique environment. If it holds your interest, you'll be happy to know that the next iteration of the series, NYC Mech: Beta Love, will be coming out soon. I'm not going to make the same mistake I did last time, so you can bet Beta Love is already on my preorder list!

Art: 3.5
Story: 4
Overall: 4

Sunday, April 10, 2005


This 3 issue mini series was simply atrocious. Really, it doesn't deserve a full review because I would hope to God above that no one would actually go out of their way to buy and/or read this... ever. Just to give you a notion as to how bad it is, let's look at all of the negative attributes associated with this mini.
  • It was created by Rob Liefeld.
  • It was pencilled by one of Liefeld's underlings who aped his style as much as he could.
  • It was published by Liefeld's Maximum Press.
  • The first issue had a chromium cover.
  • There are variant covers for each issue.
  • The lead character is based on a model that Liefeld knew.
  • The story is about a fallen angel fighting a demon who wants to rule hell.
  • The dialogue is stiffer than a freshly cut 2x4.
  • One of the key plot points revolves around a parish keeping medieval armor and weapons in their basement.
  • The goal of the antagonist is to form a gigantic pentagram to open up an irreversible portal to hell.
  • The main character, a well endowed woman, doesn't wear much more than glorified underwear most of the story.
The list could go on, but this should be enough to keep you away. If not, email me. I have a ton of similar comics I've been trying to get rid of that you might enjoy.

Art: 1.5
Story: 1
Overall: 1

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Magic Boy and the Robot Elf

So who hasn't wanted to create a robot version of him/herself? Maybe it's just me, but I've always wanted to be a robot or at least have my brain put into a robot so I can live longer than this frail, human body of mine will let me. I'm sure you've all wanted to time travel as well, right? Besides being a robot, traveling back in time is another thing I'd love to do since there are many, many things I'd do differently. So what would happen if you created a robot version of yourself and then sent it back in time? That's precisely what this graphic novel tries to answer.

Unfortunately, any answers that are given are muddled and hard to grasp since this story suffers from a severe case of "existential-itis". Yes, it's one of those stories where things happen and you're not really supposed to know why, but in some deeper sense they're supposed to make sense. In my opinion, this only works for a select few writers--Morrison, Moore, and Gaiman for the most part. Unfortunately this story was not written by any of them.

So when the robot goes back in time, it kills the younger version of Magic Boy (the creator of the robot) so that it can live his life instead of Magic Boy actually getting to. Everyone is content in the fact that Magic Boy is dead and has been replaced by a robot of similar likeness. Ok, I can try to suspend my disbelief to try to let the story get its point across. The robot starts to date Magic Boy's future wife and there's even some robot-on-human sex illustrated for your viewing pleasure if you dig that type of thing. All the while that the robot is living out Magic Boy's life, Magic Boy is watching it happen on a special tv that he has which allows him to see into the past.

As the story reaches its conclusion, you will be treated to Magic Boy being greeted by some alien, which he kills and steals the spaceship of, before he is swallowed up into the bowels of existence from which he came. Since the robot has stolen his life, he is removed from reality, or some other weird concept. Seriously, this story just doesn't work that well because I don't think you can really get anything out of it except that it's a bad idea to send a robot version of yourself back in time.

Sadly, it seems that the more Top Shelf books I read, the more often they strike out with me. There really hasn't been anything unbelievably impressive from then that I've read, but maybe that's because I keep reading the wrong titles. Any way you look at it, though, this book can be added to the list of interesting, but completely flawed, attempts at some type of existentialist comic storytelling.

Art: 2
Story: 2
Overall: 2

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dead @ 17: Blood of Saints

The first Dead @ 17 miniseries was an interesting read simply because of the unique art style. It was a simplistic, brightly colored, manga influenced style that was easy on the eyes. Even though the story was somewhat muddled, it was fun enough to read for the art and combination of high school drama, coming back from the dead, and zombie fights. Blood of Saints continues the story of Nara and her friends, but it isn't quite as readable as the first mini.

Blood of Saints suffers from "middle story" disease. It's the mid-point of a trilogy so there can't be any huge, life changing events in it since that will be saved for the final chapter of the trilogy, but you also need to find a way to keep the readers interested so what's a writer to do? In Josh Howard's case, he creates the antithesis of Nara, who will serve as the channel for the return of our big, bag, evil nemesis from the first mini.

I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that Howard re-uses a chunk of plotting from the first mini in this one. Instead of Nara dying and then coming back to life, it's another girl--Violet. The only difference between her and Nara is that Violet gives in to the dark calling she was created to fulfill. This does set up the climactic battle between the two that takes place at the end of the mini, but everything that happens between the beginning of the story and the final battle is pretty boring and lacking in action.

This mini has a lot more talking and a lot less zombie killing, which may turn away some fans. There's also a good amount of gratuitous semi-naked girl shots. There's never a nipple or nether region shown, but the girls in this series spend a lot of time naked or only wearing a small rag around their body parts. Since I'm not 16 any more, this kind of turned me off and made the whole story feel like a chance to draw some exploitive art.

I can't recommend this mini as much as the first, but hopefully when I read the final chapter of the trilogy it will all come together and feel like a nice, cohesive whole. I'll keep my hopes up, but as time goes on the novelty of Howard's art is slowly wearing off so let's hope the third installment of Dead @ 17 has a beefier story to keep me interested.

Art: 3
Story: 2
Overall: 2.5

Friday, April 01, 2005

Magneto: Dark Seduction

I gave up on comics almost completely during the 90's and didn't return until after the turn of the millennium. Once I picked up X-Men again, so much had changed that I didn't know about. For a while Wolverine didn't have his adamantium skeleton. There was some big "Magneto War". Genosha was now a mutant safe-haven lorded over by Magneto. Really, I had missed out on a lot, but then again I also didn't have to sift through issue upon issue of crap either. As I've slowly been catching up on some of the events that went down in the 90's, I've come to realize that even the big events were written very, very craptastically.

Magneto: Dark Seduction tells the story of how Genosha came to be completely under Magneto's control. The UN had already ceded the island to him, but the insurgencies throughout the island had been making the process of unifying the country a tough matter. Magneto, in his weakened state, with the help of his cabinet and Polaris managed, against all odds, to secure the entire island under his rule... except for Carrion Cove, the last bastion of rebel activity, which also happened to be housing a great machine of spectacular power.

The setup sounds like it could have a good story come out of it, but in thinking that you couldn't be more wrong. There is simply too much that doesn't work in this mini to make it anything less than a mess. First, the art is utterly piss-poor. The linework is unbelievably simplistic. Roger Cruz utterly fails in his attempt at art. The ugly coloring scheme doesn't help out anything either.

Moving beyond the art, the story also suffers from being confusing trash. Fabian Nicieza is so hit and miss with me, usually more miss than hit, that I should have expected subpar work. The biggest problem is the unwieldingly large cast of characters. Magneto's cabinet is made up of people the reader should supposedly know, but I only knew a couple of them and that's just because the names sounded familiar. The air of conspiracy that Nicieza was trying to create came off as simply confusing most of the time as you had no idea who was actually double-crossing who and why they would even want to. Towards the end of the story, the plot degraded to nothing more than the Avengers taking on Magneto and Polaris, which wouldn't be that bad, except for the fact that I had already lost interest in whatever was happening.

If you really want to know how Magneto finally solidified his grip over Genosha, I'll save you the trouble of having to read this to find out. Magneto, along with Polaris's help beats up the Avengers so that he can get to an ancient machine that will restore his power. Upon the restoration of his power, the Avengers leave and Magneto starts his rule over the island. While this was going on there were a bunch of 3rd tier characters double-crossing each other and accomplishing nothing. Magneto is now back to his status quo and is the leader of an island that will be a home to mutants. The end.

Art: 1.25
Story: 1.5
Overall: 1.25

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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Superman: Day of Doom

The death of Superman created quite the buzz when it happened. I know I was sucked into the gigantic, title spanning story arc. Knowing that the Man of Steel would perish created so much anticipation in my mind, not because I hated Superman or anything, but because I was so curious as to how something like that could happen. How would it happen? Would it be someone in his already vast rogues gallery or a new villain? Would it be a kryptonite inflicted death? Would Superman get tricked somehow? I was so stoked to find out what would happen to the seemingly indestructable Superman.

When I finally read the collected story (I only had managed to get a part of the story since I didn't buy all the titles involved initially), and the collected stories of the world without Superman and his return, I was extremely satisfied. The story was great and I couldn't have asked for anything more grand or interesting. With Day of Doom, Dan Jurgens revisits the events of Superman's death and return to life.

I was hoping to like this four issue mini as much as the original story. Instead, though, I found it a painful read. The story was quite heavy handed and the art was hard on the eyes for a good majority of the time. The story focuses on a reporter who is assigned to writing a retrospective on Superman's death for the anniversary of the event. The reporter hates Superman and is bound & determined to focus on the stories of those killed by the event rather than Superman himself.

It's this heavy handed look at the events of Superman's death that got real annoying real quick. Yeah, there were a ton of people affected by the battle between Superman and Doomsday, and many more people were affected by the return of the supposed Supermen. I know that. I'm sure Superman knows that as well, but this focus on how Superman was responsible for so many bad things was just dumb. He doesn't realize that if not for Superman Doomsday would have easily killed many more people and the evil Superman that emerged would have killed more people. Everything would have been worse if Superman wasn't there, so stop your bitching about how crappy you have it because Superman saved your ass!

The story got on my nerves real quick because it was so narrow-minded, but that's only part of what doesn't work for this mini. The art by Jurgens is a real eyesore. He does a few nice full page splashes of Superman, but when it comes to illustrating normal characters and doing small panel pieces, he couldn't do it. The scrawling, scratchy art of Jurgens is something that I just can't enjoy. Everything looks like he scribbled it out really fast without taking the time to put any real effort into it. Maybe some people enjoy it, but I found it hard to look at page in and page out.

As much as I wanted to like this retrospective on Superman's death, it failed to work on so many levels that even my feelings of nostalgia couldn't bring me to like this title. Unless you are a Superman completist or want to read a very mediocre look back on Superman's death, I can't recommend this.

Art: 2
Story: 2.25
Overall: 2