Tag: Review

Holy F*ck Issue 3

Holyfuck3

Holy Fuck, I’m still doing this. 54 days in a row. And I have to say the response I’ve been getting, and frankly feeling, has been quite good. I made the right decision doing this. Politics has its place and all but at the end of the day, talking about comics and why I may or may not like them is just damn fun.

One thing I wanted to accomplish with this site was to vary my comic reading. By default I’ve been focusing more on Marvel Comics not because I think Marvel is the greatest comic book company in the world but because I have a subscription to Marvel Unlimited. I love Marvel Comics but at the end of the day too much of one thing can make you quite bored with what once entertained you. What has kept things varied has been great services like Comic Blitz. They’re in a lot of ways the Netflix of comics. They’ve brought together a couple well known companies along with a nice group of companies the average person may not heard of. Once such comic company is Action Lab Comics who also produces a mature label called Action Lab Danger Zone.

One comic I discovered was called Holy F*ck. Admittedly, if these types of a la carte services did not exist, if we were back in the 1990’s, this may not have been a comic I would have bought. And frankly that would have been my loss because each issue keeps getting better and better.

One analogy I used for the comics in my earlier reviews was comparing it to a fart joke. I kind of regret that in hindsight. While folks who know me get what I am saying, to the average person that analogy probably comes off as a bit condescending when it really wasn’t. I was referring to the fact that the first two issues were not subtle. At all. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Take Mel Brooks. He has made a lot of funny movies over the years. Even movies like The Producers (the original, not the abortion that was the musical), a movie I didn’t really care for, was funny as hell just for the audience reaction to Springtime for Hitler. Mel, when he made movies so in this case I will use the past tense when describing his work even though he is thankfully quite alive and well, has two ways to make you laugh. He can hit you over the head with his comedy…

…but he could also make you think.

To me, the greatest comedy ever made was Blazing Saddles. Never before, and probably never again, had we had a movie with a very real and serious message dealt with by glorifying the stupidity of the bad people you are supposed to look down on. Mel realized that when dealing with racists, people were going to respond more to laughing at them than they were going to with a movie that dealt with the issue seriously. Yeah, yeah, there have been many great dramas throughout the years that have dealt with racism and have done it beautifully. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of them. But to me, to really show the absurdity of something like racism, you have to show how utterly fucking dumb it is. Because come on, anyone stupid enough to treat someone like dirt just because of the way they look deserves to be laughed at.

For Holy F*ck, I thought this comic fell into the Spaceballs camp of funny. Jokes for the sake of jokes. Turns out I was gladly wrong with that assessment. After Jesus saves the nun, he escapes with her and Satan to the desert. There, Jesus and Satan give up. The nun verbally slaps them both into place by telling Jesus that she refuses to lie down and take the actions of Isis and Zeus because she will not worship a god out of fear. If she is going to worship a god, it will be out of love.

There was the deeper meaning I was looking for in the first couple issues! It’s a simple moment, going by quickly, but it takes a story that is silly but funny and makes it a story about why people of faith do the shit they do sometimes. Whether you believe in a deity or not is besides the point, people with faith have done amazing things because they felt that the love for their deity was worth everything they were going through. Take Ghandi. Take Martin Luther King Jr. Take the Dalai Lama. Those are three famous names but there are millions more over the centuries who have fought for the public good because of their faith and for the love of their deity. Faith and love can and are powerful mental broadswords that can get you through quite a lot in life.

One other aspect I really enjoyed this issue was Zeus and Isis on the Helen DeGenerate show. It reminded me of Idiocracy, the classic Mike Judge film about the dumbing down of society. The glazed look in the host’s eyes as Zeus and Isis calmly declare their intention to blow up the world and the audience happy they received designer gas masks says a lot about our society today without really having to say anything. We live in some strange times where people are more concerned with being on television than they are about making the world a better place for people to live in.

Oh...yeah.
Oh…yeah.

Bottom Line:

Each issue keeps getting better. What started off as a funny but silly story is quickly turning into something more. While it certainly won’t end with “This Comic has been brought to you by the Watchtower Society!” it is still a great story about the power of faith and love. Following someone, anyone, out of fear may work in the short term but long term you will be overthrown. Just ask Emperor Palpatine! Comics are a true American art form. This comic shows that what comes off as a bit silly can have quite a bit more substance. It doesn’t have to be slathered all over the story like a young kid emptying a syrup bottle on his one pancake he’s having for breakfast. It can be just that right amount of syrup that makes eating a pancake worth it. Cause pancakes alone, unless you cook them with a bag of fucking sugar can taste like crap. I hate pancakes. Bad example. But hopefully you get my point. I strongly encourage you to read this comic. Apart from Ms. Marvel, Holy F*ck is one of my favorite comics around today. Thanks to Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Massa for making the series, Action Lab Danger Zone for publishing it, and Comic Blitz for adding it to their collection for me to find. Marvel and DC are great companies. They would just never touch a story like this with a ten foot pole. In the end, it would be their loss because this is fucking amazing.

Ms. Marvel #14

msmarvel14

I’ve been waiting every week for new issues of Ms. Marvel. This is my new favorite comic from Marvel today. The story just keeps getting better and better each issue. This one is no different.

This picks up from last issue when Kamala discovers the boy she has a crush on is an Inhuman as well. Before they really have a chance to commiserate about everything Kamala’s brother catches up with them. At this point he is their chaperone. I really appreciated how Kamala’s brother was portrayed in this issue. In the hands of a less skilled writer he could have come across as heavy handed and stern for the sake of being stern. Yet in G. Willow Wilson’s hands he comes across as nothing more than a brother who loves his sister and is concerned about her well being.

The beauty of this comic is the light it shines on an average American Islamic family. Guess what? They’re just like every other family out there. Kamala, like any teenager, goes through the same insecurities anyone else would go through. And like many folks, her faith helps guide her decisions. It also helps her realize that sometimes the decisions she makes may not be the best decisions but her heart forces her to go through it anyway. Like when Kamran, the boy she is interested in who is also an Inhuman, shows up at her window in the middle of the night and takes her out to talk.

Kamala has struggled through the series to balance both her duties as a superhero, as someone with power who owes it to the public to protect them from threats they may not be able to face on their own, as well as her duty to her family and her faith. So when she encounters a boy she is interested in she struggles like anyone would with the new feelings that rush over her like a tidal wave.

I remember being in love for the first time. The girl was nice enough and all and deep down I think I knew we had no future but I fell head over heels for her and got smacked in the head with reality quite quick. It was just…a relationship that should not have happened. I am glad it did in the grand scheme of things because this particular relationship I feel helped me wisen up and eventually find the right woman for me (Almost 13 years of marriage!). But again, I overlooked things that if they were happening to a friend I would have been screaming my voice hoarse that they were getting screwed over and making a horrible mistake.

Over the course of the issue we discover that Kamran is not all he is cracked up to be. By issues end he’s revealed himself to be in league with other Inhumans who, similar to Magneto in X-Men, feel that they deserve to be rulers of humanity, not its savior like Kamala is trying to be.

Kamala’s brother has another great scene when he tries his best to let Bruno, another boy who has a crush on Kamala down by telling him that he should not try and pursue a relationship with her. Whether you agree with what Aamir has to say or not is irrelevant. The issue is not trying to be a pamphlet for Islam. It’s just stating what immigrant families the world over would consider to be fact. I don’t see Aamir’s actions as being negative. I see him trying to do what Italian families or Irish families said to their kin back in the day. As immigrants, they want to be able to keep their culture alive despite being in a new country. I never got the sense that Aamir was trying to insult Bruno. Apart from religion, I think Kamala’s family would probably not have much of a problem with Bruno. But immigrant families can be quite protective. Being in a new country, they still find themselves wanting to keep their old ways and traditions. Hell, I’m originally from Michigan and am now living in Oregon and I find myself feeling similar feelings. While I am a citizen of Oregon, my home will always be Michigan. It pains me a bit for my kids to not like the same sports teams or call Pepsi Pop (when they call it soda I want to send them to the door. It’s not soda. It’s POP damn it!) You don’t want your vision of home to disappear. If you added in religion into that mix, I am quite sure that my feelings of sadness would probably border on despair. The future can be a harsh bitch. Not knowing how things turn out can be a motherfucker for control freaks like me.

The art was pretty solid. One feature I really liked was one little feature they dealt with in regards to Kamran. Throughout the story when he exhibits his powers the action lines on his powers show themselves to be white. Yet when he reveals himself to be not as nice as Kamala thought he was, he knocks her out with his powers. The action lines for his powers are drawn black. I know, a very small detail. But it’s little things like this that make this comic so good. As I stated in a review I wrote for the previous issue, I love how this comic really does come across as if Kamala is drawing it herself. It has that simplistic quality you expect from a beginning artist but it has such power in the small things like the action lines that you know there is real skill at work here. Well done.

Bottom Line:

If you are not reading Ms. Marvel you are missing out on one of the best comics going today. The characters are all well done and quite realistic. You can picture these people actually existing. In fact, I said it before that the superhero parts of the story end up being more of a distraction from the real story at hand which is a wonderful story about a young girl from an immigrant family trying to adjust to life in a new country while her family is trying their best to raise her in the old traditions. This is an important comic too because it portrays Muslims as people. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have the Afterschool Special type of lecturing some stories can give when they’re trying to create an “important” story. I think of 80’s sitcoms that had that very special episode. That one episode that dealt with a very serious topic but was dealt with in such a ham fisted way that the point they were trying to make was lost in the cheesiness of the garbage you were seeing. (Like Diff’rent Strokes and the bike molester episode.)

The reason I bring this up is this. America has a problem with Islam. Stoked like a campfire by pieces of shit politicians, the actions of a small group of Saudi Arabian men have now turned into a silly religious crusade that is simply being used by big corporations to make money off the lives off poor people around the world. I am not naive in thinking that there are not Muslims in the world who have done and plan to do very bad things. But the fact that I am more likely to die from a white guy who has one too many guns when he should be locked away being fed his medication through an IV instead of at the hands of a terrorist says a lot about our countries priorities. We want to demonize people just for the hell of it. The ONLY way that demonization will come to an end is when folks open their damn eyes and see the world for what it is. It’s filled with people who want to simply live their lives in peace. We may all have different philosophies on how to live life. In the end, most of us just want to be happy. This is a comic about just such a family. You have to read this series.

The art again is beautiful. Drawn as if Kamala herself drew it in a journal, the power in the details really brings out the emotions of the story. Like when Kamala holds Kamran’s hand for the first time. When she almost kisses him. This entire work is so alive. You are reading a series that will be studied for years to come. I love Ms. Marvel.

Punisher War Journal #1

war journal

I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve been reviewing comics. Coming into this as a writer I know my main focus has been on the written word of the works I have read, all but ignoring the fact that comics are a melding of art and words together. The words mean nothing without the art and vice versa. What I do not want to do with these reviews are ignore the art in the piece because there is a lot of great art that really helps bring the story along or even enhances it in some cases.

What makes good art? Like a good story, good art to me is something that shouldn’t necessarily stand out. It should feel familiar and have passion but like a waiter if it is doing its job properly you don’t even realize that you are looking at a piece of art. Good comic art is meant to enhance the story, weave its way into the words like thread going into the eye of a needle. So I am going to make more of an effort to focus more on the art apart from saying it’s good. My opinion means nothing if there is not a reason for it.

What I am also going to change is the number ratings I’ve been giving the stories. They have been arbitrary. There is no scientific ranking system I am using to judge what makes a comic good so why should I use it here? I am giving my opinion of a piece so all you as the reader need to know is whether I liked it or not. So from now on that is what you will get.

Now on to the piece at hand. Punisher War Journal. I’ve grown up fascinated with The Punisher. The idea that someone could have the same motivations as the heroes we take for granted but just goes one step further and blows their heads away is an interesting study. What stops Batman from doing the same thing? Why does Spider-Man hold back and not throttle to death some of the criminals that come his way? I mean, they have the chance to end the tragedy these criminals make. Why not do it?

This story involves Frank preparing for something big but getting sidetracked. He finds a woman being attacked, saves her, and discovers that the guys that were attacking her were goons sent by her ex who happens to be a mob big shot. Frank finds the guy and in his oh so subtle way makes sure the guy leaves the woman alone. For life.

Admittedly this is the first part of a longer story. With that, we know from Frank saying many times that he has other things to do but thanks to flashbacks he has involving his family, he decides to help the woman. If this event is just Frank Castle being sidetracked than we are wasting our time here. Comics have the ability to sidetrack where a regular novel may need to be more linear in their storytelling but there should have been more effort to not only have Frank calm down over the big event he has planned but making sure that we know a little more of what is going on with said big event. You may argue that other Punisher issues from this time, 1988, would have more details but again, I feel the goal of any comic is to have a story, while it may be a part of a bigger story, feel like you’re getting a solid beginning, middle, and end with each issue. Take movies. The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t have a traditional ending. There are a LOT of loose threads. But thanks to emotional closure, we as the audience feel satisfied that the ending is complete when the credits roll. We felt the closure plus the desire to see how everything was resolved in the final movie.

Comics HAVE to do the same thing. These days comics cost damn near $4.00 if you buy them in a comic shop. Each issue has to mean something. It has to feel like a full story as well as enticing you to spend more of your money on the next issue (and hopefully the previous issues in order to know the history of the characters). This story failed to live up to this because we had the sense throughout that Frank was preparing for something big. The side mission was fine and all, don’t get me wrong. But when the first caption on page 1 states Chapter 1, you expect to have at least a glimmer of an idea of what is going on by the end of the chapter. I didn’t feel that when this issue ended.

In regards to the art, Marvel was a little weird in the 80’s (in retrospect). As a reader at the time I didn’t notice but now I see that the art is a little too abstract compared to the Silver Age Marvel titles as well as the titles we see now. There were a LOT more solid colors in the the background. Locations seemed more abstract and unrealistic which, reading the story 27 years later, takes me a bit out of it. Where it worked well were the flashback scenes of Frank reliving the murder of his family. While the characters were drawn realistic, everything has a single color assigned to it. It is a bit unnerving but thinking about it, I would think that mentally going over the death of your family again and again would be quite unnerving. Well done there.

Little details as well were great. Something simple like the action lines, those lines indicating movement you see in comics were great. Every time The Punisher attacks someone, his action lines are yellow. With yellow, you have the emotion of caution, fear, a negative feeling. While you as the reader care for Frank Castle I like, now that I paid attention a bit to the art, the fact that little bits of action that could have easily been just a scribble and off to the next big set piece had some thought put behind it.

Bottom Line:

I have some issues with the story. While I did enjoy the story, the fact that you know that this is not the main focus that Frank wants to be involved in took me out of it. It could have been remedied by cluing the reader in a little more as to what he was planning but alas, that was not the case. I recommend it but realize that you are reading an imperfect story here.

I liked how the art went out of its way to help convey the emotions Frank Castle was going through. If it weren’t for the book Understanding Comics, it would probably be something that I would have overlooked. While the art doesn’t stand the test of time, the effort put into conveying the emotion of the piece made the story much more enjoyable than I may have found it if it were just prose. I recommend checking it out.

Robyn Hood #1

Robyn Hood

50 days in a row. I can’t believe it. I really can’t. I thought that somewhere along the line I would falter, miss a day, than before I realized it I would have forgotten about the reviews. But here we are. 50 days and counting.

I had to think about what I wanted to read for this review. For the longest time I debated about finding a well known comic that had a famous issue at issue 50 but then I talked myself out of it. The joy I’ve had doing this has been discovering stories I may not have chosen if I were in a comic shop. So with that in mind, thanks to Comic Blitz, I decided to give Robyn Hood a try.

Apparently this should be considered volume two. Seems Robyn Hood had been taken to a mystical land called Myst and met a witch named Marion. After their adventures Robyn heads back to New York with Marion in order to start a new life as a private detective.

Reading this comic I was reminded of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. That’s not a bad thing. While this story is very much its own story the homage to other stories is certainly there and helps someone like me who is diving into this universe for the first time to actually enjoy everything that is going on.

Masterfully, they dealt with backstory in a great way. While they touched upon it, the backstory of Robyn and Marion was never crucial to the story at hand. The writer knew that not everyone even knew there was another comic this story came from and wrote it as if it were the first time anyone ever read it which I really liked. Too often writers want to assume that you’re in on everything that is happening and forget to clue in new readers as to what is going on. I applaud the writers of this comic for their skillful use of backstory.

One issue I had occurred near the end of the story. Once Robyn and Marion realized that the person they were looking for was called The Priest, their client Sam calls and tells them she is trapped in a building with stained glass. They’d already established by this point that Robyn and Marion were standing in front of a church so it was quite convenient that two bits of info magically appear that leads them to a building that is right behind them. That was way too convenient to take seriously. That didn’t even give us the courtesy of acknowledging how convenient is was through the dialogue. They just ran into the church and started investigating.

The artwork was pretty solid. While it will not be something that will be studied hundreds of years from now examining the history of comic books, it serves its purpose. The locations feel real which is one complaint I really hate in other comics. After reading a bit about the history of comics from a great book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, I discovered that I do relate most to the comic format that Jack Kirby helped establish. Characters have to be realistic enough and the action has to happen around every corner. While there are other forms of art out there that are quite enjoyable, such as the work from Nick Marino and the Holy F*ck miniseries, like in music it is best for people to stick with the basics before they decide to do something different. This story is a traditional superhero story. To be abstract with the art or story would do it a disservice.

Bottom Line:

This was a pretty good comic. While honestly I have to say that the back story is not something I would probably be interested in, this issue came across like a nice hybrid of fantasy and realism. Just like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. The great thing about those shows is that despite every fantastical thing that went on in the story, at its core it was about the relationship the characters had with each other. If that personal connection wasn’t there, you’d just have a bunch of talking heads yapping on for no reason and action pieces happening to people you don’t care about for reasons you don’t care about. Much like the Star Wars prequel movies. (Honestly, when it comes to the prequels I don’t hate them. But to dismiss the honest criticism that is out there would be foolish. They could have been so much better than they were. It just goes to show that movies cannot be a solo endeavor. You have to collaborate.)

This story interested me enough to want to know more. Much like Brian Bendis and his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, this issue tells a self contained story that on the last page gives you a hook to want to come back for more. This was well done and something I recommend. I give the story a 7.

The art was pretty decent but at the end of the day was just serviceable. Nothing about it really stuck out as being amazing. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the art here was bad. It was clean and told the story in the classic Kirby style which best suited this story. There was just nothing that really stuck out as being visually stunning. Maybe it was being so new to this universe that threw me off and will be something that will wear off with subsequent issues. One thing I did like was the depth in the settings. Once they were standing in front of the church you felt like you were really there. You felt that cold chill you get at night no matter what time of year it is. You could just smell the trees. For that alone I have to give the art an 8. When someone does something that well, even if it only on a couple pages, you reward them for their good work.

Holy F*ck Issue 2

Holy-Fuck-2-1 (1)

Imagine my surprise when I head to Twitter and see that I have a message from someone. I check it out and it was a message from one Nick Marino. It took me a moment to realize that this was the Nick Marino who made the comic Holy F*ck which I had just recently interviewed. He thanked me for reviewing it and hoped I would finish the series.

I have to tell you his tweet felt good. Knowing that someone who actually created a work that I reviewed and liked would take the time to thank me makes all this worth it. I loved the first issue. Sure I had some criticism but I think any piece of art can and should be critiqued. He doesn’t have to agree with anything I have to say mind you but as a writer myself, I can say that it is possible that as a writer you end up seeing your work through a bit of tunnel vision. You need new insight, a fresh set of eyes, to see things you’re not seeing.

Anyway, in honor of him tweeting me I figured I would finish each issue of the series and post my thoughts on the page. Independent comic artists need our support and if even one person were to buy a comic due to my thoughts than that would be another reason why this is all worth it.

Issue two picks up where we left off with Jesus and Satan making out. Once they break their tongue lock Satan gets down to business and explains that Isis and Zeus were behind a plot from long forgotten gods to bomb the Earth so they could save it which would have people worship them again.

From there we learn that Zeus and Isis have discovered that Jesus and Satan are together and they plan on doing something in order to stop them. They decide that kidnapping the nun that found Jesus would be a way to stop them. The nun is kidnapped when she heads to the store to pick up stuff for Jesus and Satan. Once they find out, they arm themselves to the teeth and go to find her.

As I mentioned in the previous issue, this is a simplistic story. While it deals with themes that could be explored more in depth, like a Charles Bronson movie from the 80’s, it’s quickly getting to the point where the shit hits the fan. I was a little hard on issue one in retrospect. Yeah, these themes could be dealt with in a little more depth but that’s not what this story is about. It’s there for the comedy. Yeah, it’s not something everyone will enjoy but that is the great thing about comedy. Anything can be funny, you just have to know who your audience is. George Carlin said it best so I will leave it for him to explain.

The artwork once again helps contribute to the silliness of the piece. If the art were drawn in the manner of religious tracts or something like that you would lost the impact of the comedy that is happening in the story. It is crudely drawn and quite simplistic but as I have mentioned, when attempting something out of the ordinary, you do it to serve the story you want to tell. If they drew it like a Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby piece, a lot of the humor would be gone. Having it drawn in the silly manner it is helps contribute to the piece.

Bottom Line:

I owe Nick Marino nothing. I don’t know him apart from the one tweet he sent me. And while I was a little critical of the first issue, I still love the piece overall. Issue two helps flesh things out a little more. You end up getting your feet in the world that is being presented to you which makes some of the shock from the first issue wear off. I stand by my comparison in the first review that this comic is like a fart joke. Again, fart jokes, when done right, can be quite funny. They’re not subtle. There’s no depth to it. But it makes you laugh. That’s what this comic does. Being that you get more acclimated to what is going on, this issue gets a better review than issue 1. I give the story a 7.

The art goes a long way toward making the story enjoyable. To play jazz, you have to know how to play standard pieces before you have the skills to improvise. The art in both issues so far is jazzy in that sense. It’s sloppy and it comes off like a kid drew it but with how it contributes to the overall enjoyment of the piece you know there was a lot of care in how the art was put together. I give the art a 9. The reason for the better review than the last issue is the sheer brilliance in how simple it is. If it were realistic or drawn to be like pictures in religious texts it would take you out of the story. This is good stuff.

Iron Man #276

iron man

Iron Man. Tony Stark. While I very much knew of him growing up and watched his exploits on various cartoons, I have to say that I never really read any of his comics. I can’t really pinpoint what it was about the character that didn’t interest me growing up. I just did not have the interest and never really read anything involving Iron Man. But where I grew up there really weren’t any comic book shops near me anyway and being poor, comics were not something I really got into until I grew up.

So like everyone else, in 2008 I fell in love with Iron Man thanks to the movie. Robert Downey Jr., basically playing an exaggerated version of himself, embodied Tony Stark. His performance was so good that it helped take what was a third rate character in terms of popularity and turned him into a first tier character that rivaled Spider-Man for popularity. Being the first Marvel Studios movie, they made sure that the performance helped encapsulate everything that makes the character so enjoyable. Too often in comic book movies you’d have the filmmakers take a couple traits of the character that they liked and promptly disregard the rest. Even the best of comic book movies like Batman Begins aren’t really faithful to the origin story. It’s a great film mind you, a classic in the genre, but it does not really reflect the comics.

Iron Man was different. Sure there were changes. There has to be. You cannot take a comic book, hand it to a movie maker, and say film this. There are budgets alone to think of as well as the fact that not everything in a comic is easily translatable to film. Inner monologues alone would kill any action that’s happening on the screen. But Marvel, being that they were the company that made the damn comic in the first place, were able to take a lot of elements from the comic and successfully put them on the screen.

For my review today I came across Iron Man #276 which featured Black Widow. It makes me feel old because the issue came out when I was in 8th Grade, when comics were still only a dollar. The issue revolves around Black Widow showing up at Tony’s home and telling him she needs his help to stop an enemy infiltrator from starting World War 3. It’s quickly established that Tony is sick at this time but due to the severity of the situation he helps her out.

I really liked the back and forth between the two characters. A majority of the issue is banter between Black Widow and Tony Stark. The writer did a good job of establishing their connection. You could feel that they had a long time friendship without the writer having to rely upon three pages of backstory in order to explain the fact that they know each other.

I had a couple problems with the story and it happens a lot in Marvel Comics from this era. Apparently they never got the memo that stories could be told in ways other than how Stan Lee wrote them back in the 60’s. For example, Tony and Natasha have to break into NORAD to stop an enemy agent. They’re told by soldiers on the base that since there are drills going on there were safeguards in place to keep them from entering. Those safeguards were about as exciting and effective to a modern story like tying someone to railroad tracks and hoping the afternoon train would show up on time. In fact, Tony even mentions during their escape from one of the traps that it felt like a trap from an old movie. If a character can realize that than the reader can as well. Maybe, just maybe, audiences in 1991 still found that exciting but I found it quite unrealistic and hokey.

I could also see the surprise twist coming from a mile away. The twist is that the person they were looking for that was supposedly going to start World War 3 was Natasha Romanov herself. She tricked Tony Stark to get her into NORAD. Now I may end up forgiving the writer the next issue but I do wish there was more effort to give smoke screens to the audience. Because three pages in I was dreading that I knew what the twist would be and I was right.

The artwork was all right. Nothing classic but it was effective, especially for Tony and Natasha. Once again I felt the location drawings were quite underwhelming. I want to feel the action is taking place in a real location and I just didn’t feel that in this story.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting trip down memory lane. It’s not a classic story in any sense of the word but the issue does a good job at the start of exploring a bit the relationship between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanov. You got the sense of their history without having to have a Master’s Degree in Marvel Comics history to know what was going on. While the traps for the characters were antiquated, even for 1991, and the twist was something you will get right away, it’s not a bad start. I have to give the story a 5.

The art is a different matter. It’s not bad or sloppy but there’s no passion in it. It’s formulaic, especially with locations in the story. If felt like a set on a television show or bad movie and it took me out of the story a bit. For that I have to give the art a 4.

 

The Boys #1

The-Boys_Volume_One

Garth Ennis is back with a comic called The Boys. The premise is the CIA has put together a team to essentially keep the superheroes of the world in check. In the story superheroes are more oblivious to the damage they cause, are vain, and love the spotlight. The purpose of the team is to be a check just in case the superheroes decide one day that they don’t want to protect people anymore, they want to rule the world.

The premise is fine. You would think any government worth their salt would have something in place. I mean, in the DC Universe, wouldn’t they want to have something in place just in case Superman decided to say fuck it, the world needs to bow down to lil’ ol’ Kal El? The problem I have with this first issue has more to do with the characters that are set up as the main cast we’re meant to care for.

The leader of the group is Billy Butcher and he is just not someone I like. Maybe that’s the point but I think it’s a bit counterproductive for the story when as the reader I think the leader of the group the story about is an asshole. He looks like a smug prick who’s intent on being manipulative than with any sort of passion to protect the public. Maybe he wants the fame and glory the superheroes have? Maybe he has a vendetta against superheroes for something they did to him?

The only character we come across with any sort of sympathy, someone who has any real motivation to keep superheroes in check, is a Scottish man named Wee Hughie. We see that during a day where he shares his first kiss with the woman he loves, a superhero battle kills his girlfriend, so suddenly of course that Wee is left holding his now dead lover’s arms. That is motivation. That is a reason why someone would want to protect people from the group of folks who want to protect the world. Billy though, I just don’t trust his intentions. Maybe that ends up being the point and the further I read into the story I will understand my initial distrust. For now, you don’t get why he’s doing what he’s doing. You just think he has some ulterior motive.

One other bit in the comic that kind of threw me off was when Billy Butcher and his contact Ms. Rayner end up having sex in her office. I am no prude (just check my browsing history). The suddenness of the seen, it’s blunt and in your face but lasts for one panel and is not mentioned again, just doesn’t really fit this issue. Maybe if they alluded to some sort of relationship before they commenced to attack each other’s genitals like pitbulls in a dogfight you would understand what the hell was going on. As it stands, Billy enters the office, they look at each other, they fuck for one panel of the comic, then they’re back to being fully clothed. No mention of animosity between the two that dissolves enough for them to enjoy each other carnally, nothing. Maybe future issues will explain it, I just wish there was more explanation about the relationship between the two.

The artwork is pretty solid but I don’t know, it just comes across as too silly for me to get into the story. It’s like the animation team that made Beavis and Butt-Head were making a superhero movie. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, not all art has to resemble Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko to be good. There was just something about the art in this issue that created a further disconnect for me that kept me from enjoying the story further.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting start. I don’t think it’s a smooth start by any means, the fact that I don’t really care for the people we’re introduced to and are expected to care about is a big issue so far. Sure, that may be addressed in further issues but I think there should have been more effort to explain the relationships of everyone before they got to the point of getting together as a team.

And believe me, I like the idea of exploring the dynamics of a team put in place to monitor the actions of superheros. It goes without saying that especially in today’s world climate, if a superhero or a group of them were to emerge the government would not be as accepting as they are perceived in the comics. No matter the good that someone like Superman would do in the world, the United States government would still view him as a threat and put a team into place to keep him in check or even take him down. Governments are paranoid beasts. They want to be the ultimate power. If someone or something comes around that has the slightest chance of eroding that power, the government will do whatever they can do in their power to put that something down before it has a chance of affecting the status quo. When after the first issue we as the reader are not only having doubts as to the integrity of the superheroes in the story but the intentions of the people who keep them in check, who are we supposed to be behind? Why should we care about any of them? I’m not getting any real sense so far of where Garth Ennis wants to bring the story. Maybe future issues will smooth out some of the concerns I have. As a first issue though, I have to say it’s pretty weak. I have to give it a 5.

The artwork is just not good. Granted, there is far worse out there. I just don’t think the art as drawn really helped the story at all. It seemed too goofy more than anything. Garth Ennis stories do walk a tightrope between gritty and silly. For as much as he gets right for the grittiness of his stories, he does have the tendency to make the silly parts too silly which can take you out of the game. (I know he didn’t draw the piece but obviously he has say in how things are drawn. Darick Robertson is the artist of the piece and co-creator as well.) I think of the Jennifer Blood comics. Fun stuff mind you but once it gets too ridiculous in a story it goes from having a suspension of disbelief to laughing at how silly everything is.

I think of the Machete movies. The first movie was silly as hell but Robert Rodriguez was able to walk the tightrope of grittiness and silliness without falling off. You were able to suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy the story at hand. Machete Kills however is a different beast altogether. Like the Grayson family in Batman fame, Robert Rodriguez fell to his death with the first step he took. That doesn’t mean the end result was a bad film. I rather enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it for its silliness more than anything. It was a 21st Century version of a Charles Bronson Cannon film from the 80’s. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch Death Wish 3. Not only do you see Marina Sirtis, Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation gratuitously show her boobs during an unneeded sex scene, you get one of the most silly, stupid, and entertaining films you will ever see. It’s a crime they made it but the end result is still entertaining.)

This comic at least out of the gate took the proverbial fall off the tightrope. They have a chance to land on the net and try again but there is just too much going on that takes you out of the story for you to really get into the work. The art is a big detractor in this. Plus, the artist must think all Scottish men look like Simon Pegg. Come on. Do better than that. I give the art a 4.

Cryptozoic Man #1

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Like many I was first introduced to Kevin Smith with Clerks. I’ve been a fan of his ever since, even if his film work lately has been a bit uneven. What I love and respect from him is the fact that he supports his friends. Viewers of the AMC show Comic Book Men will see that long time friends of his, Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan, are two such friends. He’s included them in his movies as the characters Walt and Steve-Dave. He also has them run his comic book shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash.

During Season 3 of Comic Book Men, they decided that they wanted to put together their own comic which ended up being Cryptozoic Man. I’ve read the issue. I wish I hadn’t.

Issue one story wise is a mess. You get the basic premise that something happened to the main character’s daughter and due to intervention from aliens he changes into said Cryptozoic Man to hunt after creatures. As to the WHY he would do that, you don’t know. As to why he is fighting a pig man who shoots lights from it’s eyes, you don’t know. You’re just expected to go along with the ride.

Don’t give me the excuse that we’ll get further explanation in the next issues. The fact is the first issue of a comic has to wow me. It has to entice me to want to read further and this comic did not do that. When someone, you’re never quite sure who, is not busy monologuing, you’re getting a fight scene that makes no sense. Action scenes are great and all but you have to know who to root for if you’re going to be emotionally invested in what is going on. It’s like professional wrestling. If it were just two people in the ring with no names fighting and once the match was done they walked out and said nothing, you would have no interest in what is going on. What makes pro wrestling great (when it’s done right) is when you have someone to root for and someone to boo. When that someone to boo makes you so upset you want to pay to see them get their ass beat, they’re doing their job. The same with comics. If we don’t have a clear idea of who is good or bad, you’re just left a confused muddled mess.

Also, Bryan did a horrible job of explaining what the hell is going on with the main character. You get that his daughter is missing but how did she disappear? You later see a flashback where the guy is getting his ass kicked and the guy beating him up insinuates that he did something to his daughter. I think the fact that people think he did something to his daughter would kind of be a big deal and something you would want to let people in on. As it stands you don’t know whether his daughter was really kidnapped or if he actually did something like kill her.

Also, if you’re going to have your main character fight someone, when you suddenly have them decide to stop fighting and go someplace together, apparently another dimension or something in this case, please give us a reason why. The pig man insinuated that the people who made the main character Cryptozoic Man were actually the people involved in the taking of his daughter. Great. But we as the readers have to have a bit of a clue as to how the daughter disappeared first as well as getting to know the creatures who made the guy Cryptozoic Man before we can start to suspect they are bad. As it stands, I’m just confused and bored.

The artwork is the redeeming part of this comic. It’s intense to say the least but creepy enough to keep your interest. I just wish the story brought more to the table because in this instance some perfectly demented art is wasted on a story that makes no fucking sentence.

Bottom Line:

Sadly, I have to say it will be in your best interest to avoid this comic. It’s just too much of a clusterfuck for you as the reader to get an idea as to what the hell is going on. You have to grab the reader by issue 1. Not that you want to give everything away but you can tell a story that feels complete, makes sense, as well as impelling you to read the next issue. I give the story a 1.

The redeeming factor here is the art. The art from Walt Flanagan is well done and quite creepy. This comic is not for kids and the art really reflects that. The gore alone would make Freddy Kruger wince. Much like watching Blues Brothers 2000 so you can see the musical numbers, if you do read this comic you will enjoy the art. I give the art a 7.

Chaos: Bad Kitty One Shot

bad kitty

I’m a sucker for women with guns. For too long women have been made to be the damsel in distress. While sometimes it can be used to good effect, it really pigeon holes women as always needing to be saved which I can tell you after twelve years of marriage is not the case. Women can be just as strong as men if not more so.

Female characters in action movies are slowly becoming more dominant. In the past you had someone like Sigorney Weaver who in the Alien movies was probably one of the first mainstream actresses to tackle a role that men would normally have. My complain about those films though is that I could just as easily see a man doing everything she does. Sigorney Weaver is an amazing actress do not get me wrong and her contribution to that series is immeasurable. Her gender had nothing to bring to the role she played as Ripley.

On the flip side you have some filmmakers and comic book creators go the opposite direction. They will have a female lead who kicks ass but is also either overly sexualized in how they make her appear or they make her flightly and talk in stereotypical female talk that has no basis in reality like Marvel does with The Wasp. So when you come across a character who is able to kick ass, is very much what you expect from a living, breathing female, as well as not being forced to be a stereotype of some sort, you have to appreciate the results.

Bad Kitty is about a cop who has a split personality. She’s been able to keep her issue a secret until a bad guy she is tailing throws a grenade at a car she is sitting in and she ends up in the hospital.

I really likes how the writer went out of his way to present Katherine, the main characters real name, as a normal woman. She wasn’t oversexualized. She didn’t wear skimpy outfits she bought from an S&M shop that caters to size 0 women. She’s just a woman. I love that. Too often, even with Black Widow, women are drawn in unrealistic poses just to show off their curves and boobs. I think of this funny image I saw where someone redrew The Avengers movie poster and made the guys pose the way they had Black Widow pose.

superheroes_posed

To see a woman as presented as just that, a woman, someone you could potentially meet during your daily life (hopefully without a grenade) is refreshing to see. Even when her split personality issue comes back and she’s Kitty the characters is not over done. She wears a little skimpier outfit than she initially wore but it is still something you would see a woman wear.

I also liked how the writer was able to differentiate between the two characters. Katherine was smart, intelligent, and could outwit someone like a chess master knowing they will put you in checkmate in twelve moves. Kitty on the other hand is as subtle as a brick to the head. She knows what she wants and if you get in her way, she’ll put your ass in the hospital. A nice twist on the Jekyll and Hyde story.

The art was a little sloppy but I liked how the artist went to the effort to show the split in Katherine’s mind. Near the end of her story her partner has her at gun point while she is Kitty. Kitty is aiming her gun at him. They are standing in front of a mirror and you can see the image of Katherine aiming a gun at Kitty as well. Visually we could see the split in her mind and that her dominant side, Katherine, was trying to fight its way back out. The art beautifully shows that the old adage show, don’t tell will make your story so much better.

Bottom Line:

This is a good start. Apparently this character was obtained via a bankruptcy hearing from Dynamite Comics from another company. This one shot is a chance for the company to make people aware of her while whetting their appetite for more potential stories.

I am conflicted though. While I loved this issue, I don’t know how far they can really draw out the story without Kitty and Katherine finally running afoul of the law. Katherine would eventually lose her job when it is discovered she is Kitty. Does she become a vigilante? Does she just say fuck it and become a criminal? Does she learn to tone down the violence? All interesting questions that could be explored but for the life of me I don’t see how this could be a regular on going series and continue to keep the split personality dynamic. Something would have to come to a head causing her to choose one or the other then the main thrust of the story so far would be gone. It would be a Katherine or Kitty story from that point on. Maybe they could keep any potential new series as just a limited run. Then you could explore the split more without having to find ways to keep it going. I give the story a 7 with the caveat that I don’t think it could make a successful continuing series.

The art again is pretty sloppy but don’t let that fool you. The artist does a great job of visually exploring the split in the character’s mind. It does more to bring out the craziness of what is going on than a two page long monologue would. I give the art an 8 as well. It’s a good story that could be dragged out for a few more issues but if they tried to make it a regular series, what makes this story special would quickly fade away.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones #1

Jessica Jones

Steven Spielberg recently talked about superhero movies and said that they will go the way of the western eventually. If you read his comment in full, and respect his status in Hollywood, you’d know that he is absolutely right. Something new will eventually come along that will entrance the public and superhero movies will take a much needed break. Everything has a saturation point. Too much of it and you will get tired of it. Like when I had my free trial to Apple Music and used Siri to make a playlist based on the top twenty hits from the year I was born. I had to explain to my kids what disco when they were taking a breath from laughing. Disco music in and of itself is not bad. There are some real gems that are still great to listen to, plus it helped influence The Rolling Stones with one of their biggest hits off their Some Girls album, Miss You. But much like Disco had its day where people finally had enough (and then the songwriters of disco went to work with country pop singers like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton but that’s another story.), superhero movies will slow to a crawl in terms of being made.

Until then, we’re still in a golden age of story telling if you like comic book stories. Once technology caught up with the imagination of comic book creators, it really opened the flood gate as to what could be done with movies. DC had massive hits in the 70’s and 80’s with Superman and Batman. Those two stories though could reasonably be told without too much in the way of special effects. Marvel for the longest time couldn’t catch a break. Apart from The Incredible Hulk and their cartoon line ups, they couldn’t get Hollywood to really use their stories in the right way. If you ever caught the 70’s Spider-Man television show you’d see how right I was. Or the Captain America movie starring JD Salinger’s son.

That movie alone was probably the death knell of a company that had no business making comic book movies. 21st Century Film Corporation made the film, that company being run by the former owner of Cannon Films, the makers of cinematic classics like Masters of the Universe, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (You know a movie is bad when on the director’s commentary for the movie, the first thing the writer of the film does is apologize to the audience for making a bad movie.) I remember watching a movie at the local theater when I was a kid and saw this teaser.

By today’s standards, yeah it’s cheesy. But in late 1989 this was a pretty bad ass way to get a young kid excited for a movie. Then…the movie never came to theaters in my town. I should thank them for that.

It wasn’t until Blade and X-Men that Marvel stories were finally translated to the screen in all their glory. Some movies may not stand the test of time (I’m looking at you all iterations of Fantastic Four) but they’re better than Captain America from 1990 or other earlier attempts at making cinematic Marvel movies.

Once Marvel got their act together they decided it would be wise to be the controlling destiny behind the movies based on their intellectual properties. And why not. For every Spider-Man that was made, there was an Ang Lee Hulk movie that didn’t quite get it right. So they made their own production company and movie history was born. They have been able to seamlessly blend their characters into one shared universe. While you don’t have to watch every single movie to get what is going on, you can get more from your experience if you do so. Now they’ve branched into television. That started with Agents of SHIELD. Then they made the bold move to make Netflix shows.

Daredevil is the first of a planned group of shows that will culminated in an Avengers like television show called The Defenders. We’re going to get Daredevil (and The Punisher which I am squealing like a little girl about!), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. There’s already talk of more shows on the way as well. Maybe a Fantastic Four television show anyone?

Jessica Jones in the second show from them which will debut in November. The trailers have been great, especially this one.

Everything you need to know about the character is in that teaser. And you don’t even see her face.

This comic is a brief teaser for the new show. It’s really just a scene, a study of her character. She meets up with Turk, who was a minor bad guy in Season 1 of Daredevil who is recuperating from a beating he took at the hands of Daredevil. Jessica sneaks her way past the police and confronts him about back child support and tells him he should be more of an influence in his children’s lives. Yeah, she’s not delusional and doesn’t think for a minute he will listen. Which is why she steals the money he had left in his wallet and takes off. Simple scene really. But it goes a long way to show what motivates her.

I am really excited for the show and can’t wait for November to get here. Marvel has done some amazing work in getting lesser known characters into the public eye. While big names will always rule the roost, for Marvel to continue to be successful they have to make their entire catalog palatable for the public. Before Guardians of the Galaxy came out internet message boards were claiming that would be the first Marvel failure because who would want to see a movie involving characters you know nothing about? Marvel’s secret? Make a damn good story with characters people can relate. Easier said than done to be sure but Marvel has done a fantastic job in using their lesser known characters than DC which still wants to rely upon the big two, Batman and Superman, to get people into the movie theater.

This issue is a must read. It’s another great tease on what I am sure will be a great show. And hey, we’ll finally have an American made show that will allow folks to see David Tennant show his acting chops on that people will actually watch.