Greetings! Welcome back to the big column. First, this week’s Best Shots extras . . .
Ultimate Origins #1 (Marvel Comics; review by Troy Brownfield
Trinity #1 (DC Comics; review by Troy Brownfield
Manhunter #31 (DC Comics; review by Troy Brownfield
Kick-Ass #3 (Icon; review by Richard Renteria)
Meanwhile, at ShotgunReviews.com: Have you seen the “Indiana Jones and the Final Crisis” episode of Shots in the Dark? If not, it’s here. There are also many new anime reviews from Charl den Dulk, a look at Jack Thompson’s possible disbarment from Vince, Your ‘80s Moment for the Day, and much more.
Let’s get to the regular reviews! Caleb takes on the latest Amazing arc, and Sarah Jaffe’s back!
Amazing Spider-Man #559-#561
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Marcos Martin
From: Marvel Comics
Review by J. Caleb Mozzocco
Marvel and Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker lined up some pretty incredible talents to work on their continuity re-booted, tri-weekly scheduled Amazing Spider-Man, including Dan Slott, one of the Marvel writers best-suited for Spidey-scripting, and a passel of great artists and other decent-to-pretty damn good writers.
This particular story arc, “Peter Parker: Paparazzi,” was the very first time that they’ve assembled a creative team consisting of a writer whom I’ll almost always at least try something by (Slott) with an artist I’ll buy anything he draws (Marcos Martin, the brilliant artist responsible for Batgirl: Year One and Dr. Strange: The Oath).
I therefore couldn’t resist this arc, despite the terrible taste for the Marvel Universe Spider-Man franchise that “One More Day” left in my mouth (And betweenMarvel Adventures Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s not like decent Spider-Man comics are hard to come by or anything).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Slott/Martin team-up results in some pretty damn good Spider-Man comics.
Slott introduces not one but two new female villains, parkour-running Screwball (or has she appeared previously in “Brand New Day”) and creepy, 2-D Paper Doll; his Spider-Man fight banter is as quality as it always is; he pushes forward all of the little soap opera sub-plots involving a large cast of supporting characters (all of which were presumably begun by the ASM “brain trust”), and the idea of photographer Peter Parker becoming a paparazzi is pretty inspired (in #560, there’s a neat sequence in which Parker trash-talks a celeb he’s stalking the same way Spidey would The Rhino or The Vulture or whoever).
Martin’s work is just incredible. He’s the kind of artist whose every line is worthwhile; it’s easy to get lost drinking them in, but only if you pull yourself away from the story they’re in service of, which they push forward effortlessly. But there are a few panels that ask you to come back and do just that with.
In #559 alone, there’s page four’s second panel, featuring the multiple Screwball images in sequence; page seven’s stroll down the side of a two-story building; page 15’s similar multi-image sequence of an acrobatic Parker versus some bouncers.
As someone trying out this “Brand New Day” for the first time, what I found especially striking about it was how the continuity reboot has nothing to do with what made this an interesting comic book. There’s no reason Marvel couldn’t have a three-times-a-month ASM featuring rotating creators telling more soap operatic stories with new villains and a wide array of supporting characters and several sub-plots without rebooting things.
There’s just a few sequences in this story line that couldn’t have been told with Parker and MJ still married (and none that couldn’t have been told if they were merely divorced instead of magically having been never married at all).
In fact, the break-up was probably the only real drawback to this arc, which prominently features Mary Jane in the last part. There are a few scenes where MJ seems to allude to having known Spider-Man in a past life, while he’s battling Paper Doll to save her new beau from the villain. If she really does remember her marriage, than it’s pretty creepy to see her making out with and sharing a bed with this actor; if she doesn’t remember her marriage at all but it still happened, then that’s even creepier that she’s sleeping with this dude who’s not her husband.
Because of these teases, and the dramatic entrance MJ makes at the end of the penultimate issue, the conclusion seemed a little insubstantial, despite Martin’s incredible work (particularly on Spidey’s paper-ized arm, and the sequence where he knocks Paper Doll into the pool) and Slott’s handling of the MJ/Spidey team-up and the old school defeat of the villain.
It was damn good Spider-Man comics, but that’s all it was. Considering Marvel’s ambitious attempt to reinvent the wheel with “Brand New Day,” it’s easy to be disappointed in seeing the same old wheel here, no matter how well it works.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #15
From: Dark Horse
Writer: Drew Goddard
Art: Georges Jeanty
Review by Troy Brownfield
“Wolves at the Gate” concludes in epic battle fashion. Buffy, her slayer army, and ally-of-convenience Dracula take on the Japanese vampire contingent in an issue marked by furious action, honest emotion, and a couple of righteously funny moments. In other words, it’s classic Drew Goddard; if you were fan of Buffy and Angel on TV, then you knew that “Ultimate Drew” on an episode mean the Big Action. He and Jeanty don’t disappoint.
One point of discussion is sure to be the fate of Renee. We didn’t know her very well, but her death (at the heels of her mortal injury last issue) is a sad moment. Part of this sadness is certainly refracted through the prism of Xander. The repetitive dire fates of Xander’s love interests points to one of the larger themes surrounding the Buffyverse: not only is it potentially disastrous to love Buffy, it’s potentially disastrous to love her friends. Willow, Giles, and Xander have all lost lovers as part of the price for their ongoing battle. The irony is that Buffy’s lovers either come back from exile (Angel), the dead (Spike), or actually live (Riley). Tara, Jenny Calendar, Anya, and Renee all died with some finality.
On the more upbeat side of things, giant Dawn fighting Mecha-Dawn has to be one of the most fun moments in comics this year. That’s compounded by Andrew hilariously shouting instructions based on the fact that he’s waited his whole life for a fight like this. Similarly, good humor comes from Willow and Buffy’s plunge as Buffy tries to wake her witchy friend in mid-air. Goddard and Jeanty make the chaos of combat work on any number of levels.
And though I’ve noted it before, it bears repeating: the Whedonverse Dracula worked really well in this arc. His tentative friendship with Xander is actually sort of touching, particularly when he reminds Buffy that Xander isn’t alone, or when he offers Xander the chance to close a particular circle of honor. For her part, Buffy demonstrates her love for Xander in the only way she can, being his shoulder and ordering a whole lotta killing on the weight of his heartbreak.
Like the best episodes of the TV show, the Buffy comic works best when all parts (action, humor, drama) work in synch. Everything was on display in this issue. The creative team put in a top-flight effort, and it results in a fine book.
Detective Comics #845
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
There are about a dozen reasons that I will insist that Detective Comics, when at its best, is one of DC's finest monthly books. But the number one reason that I will keep coming back to repeatedly is that writer Paul Dini, from Day One, has been fantastic at making the stories, whether they're "one & dones," multi-part, whatever, live up to the title of the book. Rarely have they strayed from that since Dini helmed this title. Detective Comics #845, without a doubt, exemplifies this concept at its top form. I love Batman, the Dark Knight. But I love him even more as the Darknight Detective. Here we see Bruce Wayne's alter ego sleuthing up a storm, and what's most fun is to see him sharing company with like-minded peers.
And with the very first page, you can tell that the talent involved in this issue's production is bringing their A-game to the show. Dustin Nguyen is a revelation right before our eyes as he delivers a lushly watercolored flashback to the crime that has brought Batman onto the scene, the third murder by a serial killer who has yet to display a pattern with the victims or a clear cut motive. Just last week this same artistic style for flashback scenes was found in Action Comics #865, and it's worth noting how special it is in Justice Society of America #16 when Alex Ross provides the art to sequences detailing the origin of Gog. Anything to bring the reader more into a story like this is always welcome in my book. And Nguyen also excels in the more noirish artistic aspects of these crime stories, chock full of menace and darkness. This is the Gotham City near and dear to me, an unforgiving burg where the innocent citizens are rarely as safe as one might expect under the protection of one of the DC Universe's greatest heroes.
Going back to the detective work, Dini scripts some incredibly engaging scenes with Batman, in the crimesolving sanctuary of his headquarters, chatting online with the investigative community who has interest in this latest murder spree hitting Gotham. Not surprising to see Barbara Gordon in the mix in this chatroom that Bruce frequents by way of internet anonymity, it's also a hoot to see him in professional confidence with Detective Chimp. A discrete conversation between the Dark Knight and the super-intelligent chimpanzee is enlightening as they determine that another chatroom participant is cashing in on others' more substantive efforts. This opportunist is none other than series regular Edward Nigma, known to all as the Riddler.
Dini has been successful at maintaining a seemingly reformed Riddler as a thorn in Batman's side. Not so much on the right side of the law -- he IS doing everything legal -- as he is his own growing bank account, Nigma has done an admirable job staying on the straight and narrow as a freelance detective who usually keeps a camera crew in tow to hog the spotlight. But it stands to reason that not everyone in Gotham is exactly thrilled to see him maintaining a higher profile in Gotham City than even Batman.
A more welcome visitor to the crime-infested city in issue #845 is another person with a romantic connection to Batman. I swear it felt like Bruce was especially lonely the last few years, but between Dini and Batman scribe Grant Morrison, all of the sudden he's juggling Jezebel Jet, Zatanna (not that it went anywhere), baby mama Talia al Ghul, and now the greatest love of his life (in my book, at least), Selina Kyle, Catwoman. Despite the teaser of a cover, Catwoman's appearance here is inconsequential, more than anything her attempt at letting Batman know that she's back in the scene. I don't personally follow the story in her own book, but the script here does an alright job familiarizing the readers as to what she's been up to, mainly in Salvation Run. It does appear that she will be heard from again soon in this book, and I for one am happy to see her around for a spell. Next month sees the book here tie into the companion series' "Batman R.I.P." epic. I have a better feeling that this series will not suffer as it did a few months ago when associated with "The Resurrection of Ra's al Ghul." While it may very well speak to the quality of the crossover story in progress, here I think it's more a testament to how good Detective Comics is when it's running on all cylinders. This issue is a shining example of that.
House of Mystery #2
Writer(s): Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham
Artist(s): Luca Rossi, Jill Thompson
Review By: Jeff Marsick
Houses can be mysterious and creepy in a Spook House or a Pigeons From Hell (the short story, not the recent unimpressive comic adaptation) kind of way. But this book is following in the footsteps of the Joe Hill-written Locke and Key by going out of its way to underperform its potential. Oh, I know: it’s not a book about a house silly rabbit, that’s just the MacGuffin. The title is actually about the people in said structure of purgatory and how they came to be there and what their purpose in the Grand Guignol is. The problem is, it’s not at all grand and after two issues there’s not even a scent of a mystery of any quantifiable import. It’s a mosh of characters who are supposed to be intriguing and kooky, but since they are each nailed to a personal cross of cliché, couldn’t possibly be less so.
That is a sad assessment to make, too, for a title that has a distinguished pedigree and readers with high hopes for the resurgence of a quality horror and supernatural title. For those long enough in the tooth to remember the original House of Mystery, you’ll recall the creepy covers and the content that was a walk on the tamer side of horror when compared to the nightmare inducing books put out by EC Comics. It was a puree of Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Tales From The Crypt; great spooky and ethereal fun best enjoyed under the covers and flashlight illumination. This re-incarnation, though, thumbs its nose at its origin and strives to be the spooky and ethereal cousin of Fables, strange simply for strange’s sake without regard to actually having a point.
The book’s recipe is simple to follow: an opening sequence where someone finds their way to the House’s bar, where they order a drink or a plate and are reminded that payment is rendered in the form of a tale to be told as entertainment for the regulars. The subsequent interlude of four or five pages allows Bill Willingham to deliver a rendering of the patron’s yarn, which for two issues now has been inane, unremarkably drawn, and ultimately pointless. The reigns are then handed back to Matthew Sturges to finish off the issue, returning the spotlight back to the plight of Fig as she tries to figure out the who-what-why of the spectres chasing her and why she’s at the House, let alone with a set of blueprints for said abode.
I suppose if you look at it, you’re getting two books for the price of one: a monthly comic with a monthly short story feature by Mr. Willingham that doesn’t fit in either of his other books. Unfortunately, the interlude serves more as filler to cover up for a weak story that can’t go the twenty-two page distance on its own. It is a true disappointment, and reads as if the goal is to push for an artsy, interpretive-dance type of horror storytelling. Perhaps reading some of the great work by Dark Horse or BOOM! Studios would help to inspire Vertigo into putting out a better product. As it is, this House sans a Mystery is woefully inadequate.
From: Marvel Comics
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art: Wellington Alves with Scott Hanna and Guru eFX
Review By: Lucas Siegel
This issue was titled “In the Final Hour,” but really should’ve been called “Nova gets his ass handed to him by the Silver Surfer.” Still, the book held up to it’s high standard, and remains one of the top super-hero stories on the stands.
The story has Nova pleading for a stay of execution for a large inhabited planet. He merely wants them to have time to evacuate. It is a simple story, with plenty of action, and the real meat being how Silver Surfer acts in his renewed role as the Herald of Galactus. Pacing is perfect, the now expected give-and-take between Worldmind and Nova is perfect, and there is such a real, strong emotion to these characters that it makes beings of such immense power fighting in space seem that much more possible and realistic. DnA are able to do something few writers in this business have a keen grasp on; they tell a complete story in this issue, that reads well on its own, yet is still notably part of a larger arc. Anyone could easily pick this single issue up, find it entertaining, fulfilling, and completely comprehensible.
Alves’ art is likewise fantastic. He shows fear, anger, frustration, and indifference, four emotions that are difficult to differentiate on the printed page, with ease. The battles and conversations both have exactly the right level of detail to keep the story moving quickly. The inks by Scott Hanna and the colors by Guru eFX must be noted as well. Silver Surfer has this preternatural shine, even in the rain, that makes him look so much more majestic. The Nova Force and the Power Cosmic both surge from the characters bodies in a way that jumps the energy off the page.
In short, this is one of my favorite books month in and month out. This issue was no different. You do not need a high level of Marvel Cosmic knowledge to jump onto this book. You don’t even need to know who Nova is. I’m confident that once you meet him, you’ll want to follow his exciting adventures as much as I enjoy it already.
Writers: Alex Ross and Jim Krueger
Art: Steve Sadowski with inLight Studios
From: Marvel Comics and Dynamite Entertainment
Review By: Lucas Siegel
I’m just not sure how I feel about this book, even after several readings. Let’s start with what I do know.
Steve Sadowski’s art is capable. He’s drawing a lot of characters, and aside from a couple of very minor inconsistencies, he does an able job. His action sequences are well constructed, but he shines more in the slow, personal, conversational moments. There’s nothing exceptional about his art either way. It’s good, and effective for the story being told.
The story itself is where conflict in me as a reader arises. I’m just not sure what the writers are trying to say about these characters. Do they love the Invaders and want to celebrate these classic heroes, or do they think of them as relics better left in the past? Are the New Avengers showing stupidity or valor in their haste? As for the Mighty Avengers, well, they don’t seem so Mighty, as they get handily whooped by the Invaders before the Wasp of all people turns the tide. All in all, I’m just not getting a clear picture of who I should be rooting for in this conflict. Perhaps that’s the point, however, and I’m getting exactly what I should out of it. I do like that Tony Stark, when confronted with Captain America, goes from his usual confident and take-charge self to being full of doubt and hesitation. It humanizes the man of iron, and shows how conflicted he feels about the events of the last couple of years of stories.
As for the Invaders, I don’t have a ton of past with the characters, especially with their classic appearances. I suppose being propelled forward in time is going to make anyone hesitant to trust others, especially others displaying immense power. However, the whole “die, Nazi!” shtick gets old really fast. The cliché of teams meet, have misunderstanding, fight, then team up to take down the big bad seems to be present here, and honestly, I just expected more. The fight that seems to be brewing based on the last couple of panels is one that I have lost interest in. We’ve seen it a few times already, even a few separate times in just the last few months, and it just seems unnecessary.
This is a neat concept, at heart, but it needs to do two things in the next issue to command interest for the final nine. First, it needs to advance the story into the main conflict. Set-up is fine, but there’s been barely a hint of the larger story at this point, and after two issues, that doesn’t sit well. Second, it needs to get away from cliché and find some different way for these teams to interact. There’s also the larger question of where/when this fits into continuity, but in a story like this that’s always going to be a grey area, and one that doesn’t concern me much.
At this point, after two issues, this seems like a story tailor-made to be read in full, in collected editions. Unless there’s a major shift to the tone and content of the story next issue, I probably won’t be checking back in with this book until #12 hits. It’s decent, and it shows promise; the creators are ones that I’ve enjoyed in collaboration before. However, something just hasn’t clicked yet.
Writing Pictures and Drawing Words
By Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
To avoid any confusion on the part of curious readers, Writing Pictures and Drawing Words is billed as a textbook, and that’s exactly what it is. It isn’t Scott McCloud’s cute, cartoony idol displaying technical virtuosity while regaling you with theories about creativity and storytelling. It’s a down-and-dirty, nuts-and-bolts How To manual, touching on nearly every step in the physical creation of a comic story.
As a textbook, there are reasons to recommend it and reasons not to. Despite the authors’ best intentions, it is quite dry at times, designed to be read over the course of several weeks while allowing time to apply its lessons. Fun reading, this book is not.
However, for any creative person interested in making comics – whether writing, penciling, inking, cartooning, or what-have-you – Writing Pictures and Drawing Words should absolutely be on your bookshelf. Creation, to go from pure idea to physical presentation, requires a process, and Abel and Madden have spelled out all of the major components of that progression. Tackling thumbnailing and plot structure, in addition to the nitty-gritty of the Ames Lettering Guide and caring for nibs and brushes, each chapter offers insights into the creative steps required of all comics – regardless of topic or intended format.
Homework assignments throughout the book are intended primarily for groups, but many of the assignments have online assistance for “solo” students. Each assignment is focused on the task at hand, so a would-be creator, if paying attention to the tutorials, shouldn’t have his or her powerful pencil art undone by rushed inking or haphazard lettering.
Carefully chosen examples provide support for each lesson, and fans of every type of comic should have no trouble seeing how each lesson relates to the comic book stylings of their preference. Artwork from Charles Burn, Jack Kirby, E.C. Segar, Mike Mignola and Osamu Tezuka gives a taste of the divergent styles Abel and Madden use to exemplify their lessons.
It’s not pleasure reading. It’s not particularly engaging reading, but for anybody interested in using comics to its full potential, Writing Pictures and Drawing Words is essential reading. The simple structure and clarity of the lessons accomplish exactly what they set out to: a fundamental primer for comic book creation. If you make comics or plan to make them, I’d advise owning a copy of Writing Pictures and Drawing Words.
Story by Garan Madeiros and Charlie Shell
Art by Dave Ross, Sal Velluto, Kevin Sharpe, Ariel Padilla, and Mark McKenna
Published by First Salvo
When I first even heard about this book, it was on my comic shop's list of titles for the upcoming week. I feel it's important, nay, almost an OBLIGATION to at least check out some independent titles on occasion. You don't want to be that sucker that's missing out on a great read just because it doesn't have the press machine that Marvel or DC has.
To quote the Diamond's May Previews: "In a capitalist world's dark future, Mercenary is no longer just a soldier for hire. It's a way of life. Law is enforced by cyber-powered Mercs and life or death is decided by the lowest bidder. There is no right or wrong beyond the price in hard currency. Jessie Garrett, however, is everything most Mercs are not: honest, selfless and determined to bring order to greed-hardened worlds, driven mad by money. But when a corporate kidnapping goes wrong, Jessie, and fellow Mercs, Panzer and Tsumi, get in over their heads."
Now, just reading that I had a flashback to 9th grade games of Rifts after school. Also, the main character, Jessie, looks like an amalgamation between Marshall Bravestarr and Judge J.B. McBride, but I think that's just me. The story is pretty solid. Madeiros and Shell don't just have a script, they have a world. It's not as bizarre as the Marvel 2099 future, but outlandish and entertaining enough to have kept me interested to where I wonder what will happen next. It's seriously a fun read, sort of what "Battle Chasers" was, only in a cyber-western environment. One complaint though, similar to what Robert Jordan did with his epic Wheel of Time series, I would include a glossary in the front or back to explain some of the terminology. Just like how I wish Peter David had included one on his "Dark Tower" series.
A plethora of artists worked together, though the one that stood out for me was Kevin Sharpe. His style is almost J. Scott Campbell meets Adam Hughes. I would love to see this guy become just as popular as the forementioned artists. Any fan of such shows like "Firefly" or the mutually short-lived "Bionic Woman" would love to get a hold of these issues when they hit shelves. Though that itself can be problematic. A lot of big chain stores don't order independent books like this unless it has huge press behind it. Or possibly is about to made into a movie...or some ordeal like that. So more than likely you are going to have to ask for this (I had to at my girlfriend's shop) so it CAN fill the shelves. Okay, so maybe not fill the shelves...that would mean nobody is buying it. You get the gist though. Now, the company knows you are taking a risk on an unknown, independent comic so Contract #0 will only cost you a mere $0.25! So, if you've got the time, and the spare quarter, check this title out. What do you have to lose?
Astonishing X-Men Sketchbook
Writer: Warren Ellis (although I’m not sure what he wrote)
Artist: Simone Bianchi and Salvador Larroca
Reviewed by: Brian Andersen
So I totally got duped into buying this annoying X-book that features zero story for a whopping $2.99? $2.99 for stinking sketches? And most of them aren’t even in color! Hello, shouldn’t it have been priced at a more affordable $0.99, or hell, even $0.50? Or better yet, couldn’t they have just stuck all these MoFo images online for free as a marketing tool to build some buzz? Either Marvel is a jerk for charging so much or I am a jerk for buying it. Probably a bit of both. One way or another I am sure all these stinking sketches will show up in the enviable trade paperback anyway, which will then basically make them free anyway since they will be included in the general cost of the collected story. Blah!
So why did I pick up this book if I am being such a complaining whinester about it? I blame Dazzler - leave it to a strawberry blond beauty to lead me astray! As I half-distractedly flipped through the sketches, with minimal interested, I stopped frozen with delight upon seeing Dazzler as one of the redesigned characters. Whoa what? Dazzler? No freaking way! Aw hells yeah, Dazzler’s in the sketchbook and she’s looking ferosh for sure! It’s ‘bout time my favorite 70’s song bird made a triumphant return to the X-Team (not including her appearances with the bland New Excalibur series that recently ended). I loves me some Dazz and its way passed time the gal got some major x-play amongst the other big league x-characters again – Dazzler is probably one of the most underused Marvel characters whenever Chris Claremont isn’t around. Of course my excitement quickly faded when I saw the tag line at the end of this sketchbook; “…a serial killer begins an unholy crusade against mutants.” Oh S**T! I just know D-Listed Dazzler will most likely be brought back to the X-fold just to get off-ed. Oh, I will be SO mad if Marvel murders my disco-diva! If Spider-Woman and Ms. Marvel (and She-Hulk) can return to hip Marvel status then surely so can Dazzler (the lady’s solo comic series lasted longer than any of the Marvel heroines back in the day). So don’t kill her Warren Ellis!
Since I am already being all judgey over this sketchbook I thought I might as well go full-out and be all “Nina Garcia design-eye snob” on the new costumes. After all, being judgmental is fun! First up is swim-suited Cyclops, which is actually a pretty groovy look and remains more or less unchanged from the John Cassaday design, although he doesn’t have a lot of accessories to hide his goodies. Doesn’t the guy need, like, a belt or sumpthin’ to cover up is junk? Or maybe an oxygen tank to go with the wetsuit?
Slut-bomb-fan (and personal) fave Emma Frost is much the same as her previous incarnation as well; long cape, blue lips, icey blond hair, but what’s with the ginormous X symbol hanging in her cleavage? Is her ample bosom being used as a pillowy shelf to showcase the X symbol (much like the Renaissance Fair wenches do when they heave around pears, daggers and turkey legs) or is it a boob guard - something similar to Batman’s yellow bat-symbol, a target for the bad guys to aim at instead of his face? The problem with this idea, when it comes to dear Emma, is that people already stare at her amble chest; does she really need more of a reason for all the pervs to check out her rack? Also, could we please put the woman back in high heels? A cold hard beyotch like Emma needs stiletto shoes to match her man-eater persona. Finally, the promo-piece towards the end (the one with the team shot, which features a gal with a pony tail – is that you Kitty – and X-23) show’s Emma with some sort of energy encircling her hand. Uh, since when does Emma have hand-based-energy powers? Either the energy should be coming from her telepathic brain or she should be in her beauteous diamond form and that’s it. Get it right Simone Bianchi.
The high flying Angel and the berserker-range-prone Wolverine look pleasantly classic (why mess with something that totally works people?), but I gotta say I am feelin’ the ultra-furified Beast. Although I have never been a big lover of the more recent catty-version of the Beast (Bendis please make him a Skrull and bring back the original ape-y Beast?) I can get behind this slightly altered look from what Cassaday had already established.
The award for worst re-design goes to Storm. Ugh! Do we really need a jungle-ready Storm outfit? The lady has been in American longer than she was ever in Africa! Sheesh! We get it, Storm’s proud of her heritage, but at this rate the only thing Storm hasn’t sported of yet is a giant lip-stretched-face-plate and 15.5 multicolored rings to stretch out her neck! Storm seems to be made to look more and more tribal as time goes on but I have to wonder, shouldn’t the lady be integrated by now? (Ya, ya, she’s married to the Black Panther, but so what. She can still be leather sprouting Storm, right?) Not that I am saying a character shouldn’t be able to support some cultural background into their outfits but wouldn’t it make more sense for that character to be all heritage-y when they first appear on the scene and not some 30-40 years later? How come we don’t see Nightcrawler in some lederhosen and Colossus with a big Russian top hat?
Speaking of Colossus, why must Bianchi cover him up? His whole awesomeness is derived from how cool his metallic body looks. When it comes to C-Dogg less is for sure more (and so, so, so much sexier). I get that Nightcrawler is generally characterized as the acrobat-y playful goof - the loveable character everyone wants to be friends with (except for during his horribly boring Priesthood days, barf!) - but does he have to be regressed so much that he is more like a magical-looking-elf than a blue-hued mutant? And since when does Nightcrawler rock a perm? And what’s more, can anyone really rock a perm?
Finally (whew, I know this is long) do we really need some snore-able blueprints to fill in the rest of the pages? Who cares about the design of the new headquarters if we can’t see a shot of the actual full color headquarters with lots of mutants flying around doing mutanty things? Waste of paper and a waste of my $2.99! (Please don’t kill Dazzler!!!)
Fables: The Good Prince TPB
Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Aaron Alexovich and Andrew Pepoy
Published by DC/Vertigo
Review by Sarah Jaffe
I’ve been gone for a while, so I’m catching up on trades to try to get back in the swing of things around here, and lucky for me a new Fables trade hit the racks this week. And so, since I know everyone missed me, here we go.
I love Fables, you all know that. So few ongoing series truly feel as if they’re moving toward a conclusion without that conclusion feeling utterly obvious. Fables has consistent story direction, and yet manages to continually create new story arcs featuring new characters, while not losing track of the original ones that drew us in in the first place.
Part of that stems, of course, from the almost neverending supply of characters from folklore upon which Willingham can draw. And part of the brilliance of the story, as I’m sure has been said a million times before, is his ability to combine cynicism and modern worldview with a real love for and understanding of myth to create new characters out of old, that perhaps we wouldn’t have thought of, but now we can’t think of any other way. Will anyone who’s read Fables ever not think of Prince Charming as a womanizing, arrogant politico when they hear the name mentioned?
The Good Prince centers on a different prince, however, one all of us regular readers are familiar with. (If you aren’t a regular reader, stop reading this review and go back and catch up on one of the best series out there. Really. I mean it. Here Might Be Spoilers.) Flycatcher, the goodhearted janitor in the Woodland Building in Fabletown, is transformed from a simpleminded background character, often a straight man to Boy Blue or Pinocchio, into a real hero.
Fly was always sort of a holy fool character, the innocent one whose simplicity was itself a source of humor. We learned as we read on, though, that it stemmed from a deep tragedy in his past, and when he finally remembers that tragedy, he is unable to go back to his simple life. He was that rare character in the series: seemingly dimwitted and lovable but not quite there, and the only one without skeletons in the closet, in a world where even Little Boy Blue has been re-imagined as a battle-scarred warrior.
Because Fly retains his innocence even when he regains his memory, you can continue to love him even when he undergoes a drastic change in character. That holy fool element is still there, but now we see the true wisdom that fools have, the wisdom of his innocence. The fool is the only one who can really save you, and throughout this trade, each decision that Fly makes that looks to be the stupid, boneheaded one turns out to be the right one and the only one that could have saved everyone who depends on him.
Fly becomes the redeemer, and those around him can have their sins absolved by serving him and trusting him, even when it seems crazy. Faith, after all, is funny like that.
Fables is in large parts a morality tale, with one good side and one evil side, but it’s at its best when it blurs the lines between the two—having Bigby Wolf and Frau Totenkinder as the ‘good guys,’ and Gepetto, the kindly father figure, as the ultimate adversary. Totenkinder was redeemed partially by Snow White and Rose Red’s goodness, but she still retains her dark side and her secrets, and Bigby may be tamed in part by Snow, but he still teaches his cubs to kill and leaves no doubt that the killer in him is just below the surface.
And the most chilling parts of Gepetto’s character are precisely those moments when he seems human and caring even as he casually discusses killing thousands of innocents.
“It’s the simple calculus of benevolent governance. A great leader is one who won’t shirk from doing the often terrible things that are required to protect the majority,” he says, and we shiver.
But who doesn’t have a shiver of an entirely different kind when Lance knights Flycatcher?
Willingham has taken our myths and made them more human, and managed to sustain a story where we actually care about the characters. He’s especially good at drawing out the innocent parts of romances, when both people refuse to admit the attraction that is clearly there, that sweetly delicious moment before any real life intervenes to mess it up and you’re just enjoying the tension.
Genuine innocence is rarely found even in the most naïve comics, and Willingham’s taken it here and made it believable and even beautiful, in the midst of a messy world full of violence and hate and war. Yet another reason to keep reading Fables, or to start now.
Red Colored Elegy (Drawn & Quarterly; by Mike): Seiichi Hayashi’s moody tale of miscommunication and misunderstanding, sometimes willfully so, is essentially about the dissolution of Ichiro and Sachiko’s relationship. Showing the couple’s small lies and indifferent body language, Hayashi captures the subtle nuances of a strained and unloving co-existence. Scenes are clipped and the linework stylized and flat, so Red Colored Elegy reads jumpily and is hard to follow at times, but stick with it. It’s challenging work, but worth the time you put into it.
Invincible Iron Man #2 (Marvel; review By: Jeff Marsick I gushed about the first issue. Now what if I tell you this second one is even better? ‘Tis true. Salvador Larroca’s pencils are tighter (although his cover pales in comparison to the most excellent Brandon Peterson variant) and Matt Fraction’s writing is some of the best I’ve ever seen from him. Still trying to wrap his head around who’s behind a series of terrorist attacks using Stark tech, Tony tussles with some AGM (Advanced Genocide Mechanics) lackeys and their fearless leader, MODOG (Mental Organism Designed Only for Genocide) only to Sherlock that the Tanzania incident in issue one had to have come from a higher power. A Philippino super-team debuts (but don’t blink or you’ll miss ‘em), and Ezekial Stane demonstrates why he’s probably the best villain Iron Man’s had to face in probably a decade. I especially liked the taut scene between Thor and Iron Man, which ends with the former giving a passive-aggressive reminder to Tony as to who is still the more powerful. If there is one Marvel book you absolutely must have on your pull list (next to Immortal Iron Fist), this is it.
Supergirl #30 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Andersen): Finally we get an artist, one single artist, to cover the entire story! Huzzah! Tis’ a miracle! Too bad the art is kind poopy. As is the story. Do we really need another “Little Girl Lost” issue? Again? We get it, she’s lost, she’s alone (minus having Superman as her cousin) and she doesn’t fit in. Great, can move along a little and give the Girl of Steel something else to do besides being all confused, mopey and, uh, lost? Who is Kara really, does anyone know? Does anyone care? From the way this issue plays out, not so much. Poor Supergirl, she really does deserve so much better! Someone please save Supergirl!
Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #40 (Marvel Comics; Reviewed by Andersen): Two words people: Spider Thor! Yup, Spider-Man gets the powers of Thor in this amazingly inventive story! Why has no one thought of this before people? Plus, we get the sexy Enchantress doing what she does best; being all enchanting and stuff and making the teenage Spider-Man fight the gods of Asgard against his will (‘cause she, like, smooched him)! Such fun! Plus the issue has a super cool backup by the always fun and adorable Chris Giarrusso! What’s now to love? Great reading for all ages indeedy!
Manhunter #31 (DC Comics; Reviewed by Andersen): Hail, hail the return of the great Manhunter, quite possible the best heroine created in the last decade! It’s been toooooo long since we last had an issue devoted solely to Kate Spencer and her sassy and crassy ways! Writer supreme Marc Andreyko is the master at snappy banter and his stories are always engrossingly clever and exciting. Now accompanied by the tremendous art talents of penciler Michael Gaydos this issue is a perfect jumping on point for those who have not picked up the previous series! The issue ends with a surprise guest-star as Manhunter ventures into Mexico to solve some long-running crimes against women! Leave it to this book to be both morally thought-provoking and smirk-filled entertaining! Pick up this book or be a total loser!
Secret Invasion #3 (Marvel; by Troy): After a second issue that felt more like the moving of pieces that the action of an epic, issue three kicked it back up with a panoramic style that focused on moments large (the battle in New York) and intimate (the Queen’s psychological gamesmanship with Tony). I also thought that the art of Yu (with Morales) was much smoother this time, and his action choreographer is certainly picking up over some his stiff battle scenes from New Avengers. The ending of the issue wasn’t a surprise, given the solicitation copy, but it’s an interesting place to be at nearly the half-way mark. I would expect bigger revelations and casualties next time to set up the back-half of the series. As it stands, Secret Invasion continues to be entertaining in big-summer-movie fashion.
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