Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog Post of the Week

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I had hoped to have a review of the new “Justice League” DVD for you today, but maintenance has been in and out of my apartment all day trying to fix my heat (still broken at this writing) so I haven’t been able to watch it yet. Instead, I direct you to a blog post from “Pearls Before Swine” cartoonist Stephan Pastis about those grocery checkout dividers that made me laugh because they annoy me too.

Well-endowed Sci-Fi . . . . . . . . . .

SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED #1  (ZENOSCOPE ENTERTAINMENT, released February, 2010)  Mature Audiences Only.  Features one complete story, 48 pages from cover to cover.  $4.99 price.

          I am always on the look-out for quality horror and science-fiction comics.  When I find a new title worth exploring I’ll review it here.  Sometimes I’ll even focus on some titles that miss the mark for me, yet bear enough promise that I still want to point them out to others and let them choose for themselves.   For me, these comics provide a nice break from the super-hero and crime titles  that account for a huge chunk of my regular comics reading habits.  I like the variety.  I also recognize that if these books don’t get enough support they won’t become available on a regular basis or fade out before they can realize their potential.   Long-time comics readers need our choices.

          Zenoscope Entertainment built its reputation on mature re-telling of traditional fairy tales, adding a little spice as well as producing some of the best-looking books (art and color) on the marketplace (and not just for lovers of female anatomy, but they don’t disappoint in that respect).   As they grew, Zenoscope has added some original works to their stable of titles, and now venture into the science-fiction / fantasy arena hoping for similar success with this new anthology series.   Fans of their GRIMM FAIRY TALES will be very comfortable with SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED.

          The back cover issue description promises a blend of science-fiction, fantasy and horror and I give them credit for living up to that promise.  The first issue has elements of all those genres, although it leans heavily towards what I would label as “dark fantasy”.   This is not high-concept, technically stylistic science-fiction but rather a return to the early days of the form, with a speculative tale reminiscent of the classic pulp magazines.  Those early magazines always featured a buxom female in need of rescue on the cover and usually had nothing to do with the contents of the magazine.  SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED’s  cover is an homage to those pulp covers, but what you see here is what you get inside.   I also appreciate the clever border around the front and back cover, with frayed and missing edges, creases and tears as if to suggest you are looking at one of those classic pulp magazines.

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          Issue #1 features “The Perfect Mate” with story by Zenoscope president Joe Brusha and luscious art by Claudio Sepulveda.  If you are well-versed in the early works of science fiction, especially the short stories of Bradbury and others, then the theme of this will seem very familiar.  It’s been done before, but Brusha’s version of the newly-purchased robotic lover/companion is very entertaining and worthwhile.  I could see that ending coming, but I enjoyed reading and viewing “The Perfect Mate”  anyway.

            The pacing is just right.  Bruscha’s dialogue and script are complete and concise and allow the art to tell the story.  I also love the overlapping panels over a black background that highlight most pages.   Artist Sepulveda makes great use of body language to convey the main character’s mood.  The slumped shoulders and disheveled gait in the opening pages  indicate his  loneliness and solitary bachelorhood.  Later he dresses better, walks with an energetic bounce, and smiles a lot more (who wouldn’t?) .  And of course later we see boredom and then shock manifest in his features.  The art has a good deal of depth to it, almost as if it exists somewhere between 2-D and 3-D.   There are no inker or colorist credits given, but they enhance the line work of Sepulveda immensely.

    This story would have made an excellent teleplay reminiscent of the classic Twilight Zone and Night Gallery tales, and it has a more mature, modern appeal similar to the late lamented revival of The Outer Limits on premium cable television.   It will be interesting to see what type of stories are told in future issues of SCI-FI & FANTASY ILLUSTRATED.  I’m guessing this will be a quarterly title.  This one is worth checking out.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Comics I Read: Catching Up #19

Guardians of the Galaxy 19-23: I’m not sure how I wound up so far behind on this series, because it is actually one of my favorite Marvel titles. Abnett and Lanning are striking the perfect balance between humor and tragedy (the end of #19 is particularly brutal.) They’re so good at being surprising without seeming random that I’m reluctant to be too specific about the plot – I’d rather that you read it. My only criticism is that the book now seems to have two artists alternating issues and one of them has a more “cartoony” style than the other, which undercuts the serious moments a little bit.

Green Arrow/Black Canary 24-29: I also have been enjoying Andrew Kriesberg’s run on this book, but I think I let these issues sit around because his “Cupid” villain is a little too much “Harley Quinn” for my taste and because I felt the breakup (temporary or not) was forced. The good news is that it wasn’t actually a breakup, but the bad news is that it leads to five issues of Cupid, a fake Green Arrow and a previously unknown clandestine government organization (as if the DCU doesn’t have enough of those.) It’s not badly done, but it doesn’t go anywhere – which may have been the point since #30 is the “Black Lantern Green Arrow” issue and who knows what the state of things will be after that.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Books I Read: Podcast Edition

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When we got our second two feet of snow last week, I couldn’t get to work because my office parking lot hadn’t been plowed and I worked from home for the day. I’m able to do everything from home that I can do from my office, except take support calls from our Skype account, because I didn’t have a microphone at home. So I bought a Logitech USB Desktop Microphone for the next work-at-home occasion and since I have a radio background, I thought it might be fun to test my new hardware by doing some book reviews as a podcast. I have mixed feelings about podcasts – though there are several (Car Talk, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me, Radiolab, Word Balloon, Radio Free Burrito, Stack Overflow) that I follow regularly – because I am a very fast reader, but of course I can only listen as fast as everyone else. It is faster to record than to write, however, so I gave it a try. I didn’t do any editing, so you get to listen to all my “um”s and awkward pauses, but I think it came out OK. I don’t know if I want to keep doing it, but if people are enthusiastic we’ll see. There’s a download link for the (approx. 13 min) MP3 file below; I didn’t have time today to figure out how to embed a player in this page but I’ll try to look into it during the week.

Edited to add: To answer the question I posed in the podcast, Bill says he liked "Savior 28" but not as much as I did.

Download podcast #1 from Windows Live Skydrive.

Download podcast #1 from Google Sites.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Comics I Read: Catching Up #18

There are some spoilers below, because it’s impossible to talk about current Marvels without giving some surprises away, so beware if you’re not up to date.

Dark Avengers 12-14: This seems to be the beginning of Bendis’ endgame for The Sentry (and continuing in “Siege”, which I’ll talk about in a minute). He goes into some of the nature of Sentry’s powers and sets him on a path that may piss some people off, but I like the idea of the Sentry’s story having a beginning, middle and end so I’m interested so far. In #14, Bendis shows Victoria Hand to be a character of much greater wit (“Take her to her room, please. After she’s done spasming.”) and conviction than has been shown so far, so much so that I hope she’s still around after Osborn gets defeated.

Captain America Reborn 5-6, Who Will Wield the Shield?: The end of “Reborn” is a little anticlimactic, since there’s never any doubt who will win and the question of who will carry on as Cap is left for the special. Still, the art is amazing and I’m sure the story will read well collected. As far as the special goes, I like the idea that Bucky will continue as Cap because I’m invested in him and it gives Steve back the “man out of his time” role that he hasn’t had in a long time.

Siege 1-2: I like that this is faster paced than most events, given that it’s half the length. Also, the Steve Rogers scenes here are very satisfying, as we get to see him be upset by the state of the world and resolute about fixing it. To be fair, Bendis gets to just play with the toy instead of having to figure out how to put it back in the box so I’m not saying this is better than what Brubaker did. Continuing whatever he’s got planned for the Sentry, Bendis seems to take him past the point of no return in #2 in a, um, let’s call it lavishly illustrated scene by Olivier Coipel (although the final page of #2 is actually my favorite). It’s arguable whether the other character involved should have been killable, but the ramifications of it are cool enough that I don’t care.

Siege: Embedded 1-2: I like this a lot better than I did the previous “Frontline” companion series. In the opening pages of both issues, writer Brian Reed does a great job at evoking the creepy real-world political parallels that have been such a big part of “Dark Reign” (Store clerk: “…the President of the United States – a man I did not vote for, mind you… – does not have the guts to stand up for his people!”) and all the characterizations are spot on. Volstagg just wants to do the right thing by his moral code, and Ben Urich and his partner think the Asgard invasion might be a way to fix Norman Osborn for good. (“We’re gonna kick Norman Osborn’s ass. With journalism.”) I’m also starting to love the art of Chris Samnee, who previously drew “The Mighty” for DC. (He has a sketch blog you might like – my favorite piece is here.)

Amazing Spider-Man 617-621: The “Gauntlet” reintroductions of the classic Spidey villains are going well. Joe Kelly’s Rhino vs. Rhino story in #617 has some light moments, but shows some real heart from both Peter and the original Rhino. Dan Slott and Marcos Martin reinvent Mysterio in #618-620 as a guy who fakes criminals’ deaths for a living, explaining his various reappearances over the years and guest-starring some characters you never thought you’d see in a Spidey comic again. (Some fake, some not.) Also, the Mr. Negative subplot (also the main plot in #621) well serves the same purpose for Aunt May as the Chameleon story from a while back did for Peter: it highlights her essential character by showing us how someone not as nice might react to the people in her life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

KERMIT THE KING

 

MUPPET KING ARTHUR #1 of 4  (Boom Kids, February 10, 2010)  Writers: Paul Benjamin and Patrick Storck;  Artist: Dave Alvarez

          There are numerous versions of King Arthur’s story available in many different formats.  That begs the question = why do we need yet another?   Answer:  because it’s very funny and clever and worth your time.  I don’t regret a minute I spent reading this book.  I wish I could read it to a young niece or nephew right now so I could enjoy it again and also observe their delight.   Just as the Muppet television show was a classic that appealed to all ages, MUPPET KING ARTHUR also has something for everyone.

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          The Muppets occupy a special place in the hearts and minds of anyone (of any age) who has ever been exposed to their unique and witty way of story-telling and entertaining.  This memory was reinforced during a recent and very short trip through the Hollywood Land section of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  I took some time to catch the Muppets In 3-D show (extremely well done) and laughed my butt off.   There is a certain style and wit to anything Muppets, and this book holds true to form.  I also suspect that all the current Boom Kids Muppet titles are just as respectfully faithful.

          Some months ago I devoted an article on this blog site to a list of recommended books for younger readers, as a way of encouraging and introducing new readers to comics.  It’ s very easy for me now to add MUPPET KING ARTHUR to my list.  It will appeal to all ages, including middle-school students as well as those in high school.  Any young person at the 3rd grade reading level will be able to easily comprehend this book and enjoy it.  And those beginning students and of pre-school age should delight in having this read to them.  I suspect all the Boom Muppet books are of equal merit and I’d add them all to the list except for my personal rule not to recommend anything that I haven’t read for myself and verified the quality (or recommended by other trusted BC members).

       The Muppet characters have proven their popularity in various media, and as depicted here are very friendly, appealing and non-threatening to the younger reader.  The art is not too complex for them to follow, focusing mainly on character actions and expressions with just the necessary basics in the background. Yet it’s very interesting and well-done, especially some of the body language.  There are silly jokes and scenes here to amuse those younger readers, as well as some funny asides, and implied humor that adults will appreciate.  In fact, every page has something that made me grin.

          The two old geezers who used to sit in the balcony at the Muppet TV show and heckle and ridicule the program are here, and writers Paul Benjamin and Patrick Storck add some very amusing notes from the editor throughout the book (unless those were actually inserted later by editor Aaron Sparrow - - and he has a sharp wit if indeed he is the author of them).  That starts right with the very first panel, all black / darkness with just a caption and in the right corner the Editor’s note: “Seriously, the Dark Ages weren’t this dark.  Give the artist something to draw or we’re all out of a job!”  And there is a great double entendre on page three during a conversation between the knight (Sam the Eagle) and his page (Kermit the Frog).  Sam wants a new sword and Kermit while disagreeing refers to a page’s union while exclaiming “I don’t know what your employee turnaround is like, but you can’t just turn a page like that.” After further debate Sam asks “How long has this union of yours been around?”  and Kermit replies “We’re the first chapter.”  Sam looks annoyed, as he retorts “And how many pages are in this first chapter?”  Kermit, with a cross eyed tongue-tied look answers” Twenty-two.  And we’ve pretty much just wasted one of them.”

          Also hidden behind the regular youthful humor are digs at politicians,  Star Trek, TV infomercials, second-hand smoke and Monty Python.  A one-page interlude at Eagle Rock, home of Sir Sam of Eagle is an exercise in cramming every classic rock music reference into the dialogue while still making it sound not just normal, but actually moving the plot forward.  Name-dropped are The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kinks, Zombies, Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Smiths, the Who, the Clash, and Pink Floyd. Whew!

          I am enchanted by this book.

Friday, February 12, 2010

ANNIHILATION 1: The Space Mopes

    There’s a lot to like here - -  but what I think I’m enjoying most is that there appears to be an actual finality to events that occur in this series  - - not imaginary but for keeps, for real.  After reading a few series that ended up without much really changing I can appreciate a storyline where death is much more final.  As it appears to be here. . . . . . . . . . . . .

NOTE: There are going to be spoilers here, which I’m not going to try too hard to avoid since this is very far from being considered a new book.  If you still haven’t read this series and plan to, then don’t bother reading this if you want to have a chance to be surprised . . . . .

NOVA  Annihilation mini-series #1 – 4  (Marvel 2006)  by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writers with Kev Walker penciler  (covers by Gabriele Dell ’Otto)

ISSUE #1:  I took a liking to Kev Walker’s art immediately.  I think his style suits this book and is fun to follow.  I really like the way he draws snow (or maybe that’s fall out). 

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          Richard Rider, apparently the lone survivor of the Annihilation Wave’s destruction of the Nova Corps and their home planet Xandar, upon recovering from a shock-produced state of disorientation has an amusing conversation with a voice in his head - - the Xandarian Worldmind.  Once matters get sorted out, Richard has to agree to merge with the Worldmind and allow it to download into his brain in order to preserve the knowledge that created the Nova Corps.   Richard immediately has a problem handling that much power.  It’s going to be fun to watch him respond to situations, wanting to take immediate and impulsive action and having to balance that with the greater good / preservation.

              The back up feature here (as well as the other issues) are some encyclopedic pages from the Nova Corps data base which help to enlighten and add to the information on all these characters and worlds.  Issue #1 is a great beginning point for this saga.

ISSUE #2:  This is by far my favorite cover of the Dell ’Otto Nova quartet, an action shot of Nova pounding Drax into the ground with his fists, despite having a huge knife sticking out of his leg (and about to get a second one plunged into the other leg).  That battle actually doesn’t occur in the story, but it’s sure some great art.

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          Nova gets introduced to Drax (but don’t call him The Destroyer, he’s not that one or so he says) and his Earth sidekick Cammi.  They decide to stick together to find a way off planet.   Cammi provides the comic relief, as a sort of wise-cracking high school humorist and cynic.   They find a working ship and escape via a star gate which Nova uses his power to open.   Enter Quasar who prevents their ship from burning up and crashing onto the planet Aristedes.

ISSUE #3: Cammi doesn’t like Quasar’s outfit either: “I’m trying to figure it out . . . would it be worse having to wear a cape in public, or a bucket on your head?’   Kev Walker does a lot with very small panels here and expressive shadowy faces to move the story along through several pages of discussion and explanation.  I like the way he remembers to include the wrinkles and stress lines on the faces.   His space scenes with full-page ships maneuvering around asteroids are masterful.

          Abnett and Lanning do a nice job with the story, especially the way they have the characters interact during a crisis , retaining their sense of humor but not over-working it.  They have a way of making the characters sound stupid as they actually answer questions with plain facts several times.  A great example of that is when Drax tells Quasar about the Xandarian Worldmind downloading the Nova Force into Richard.  Quasar asks how he knows this, and Drax replies truthfully “I had a conversation with his hat” as Quasar looks doubtfully at Nova.

ISSUE #4:  Nova and Quasar fight off an Annihilation Wave armada at the end of the last issue. Annihilus takes notice and shows up. Nova and Quasar manage to fight their way to the command ship and confront him.  He vaporizes Quasar, just in case we forget as we watched entire planets get decimated in prior issues that this guy is playing for keeps.  Nova double-tricks the Annihilus Wave into fighting itself. Before Annihilus can destroy Nova as well and absorb the Worldmind he realizes the trick and orders his forces to retreat, sparing Richard from the same fate as Quasar.

   It’s a good beginning to this long series.  Good story. Good art. Engaging dialogue. Interesting characters.  This books are still available in nice trade paperback editions so if you like what you read here, just jump on in.

MOPE:  to be gloomy and apathetic - - - fret, pine away, grieve, sorrow, sink, lose heart, brood, pine, yearn, despair, grumble, chafe, lament, regret, look glum, sulk, pull a long face.  (WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY AND THESAURUS Second Edition 2002)

Comics I Read: Catching Up #17

I don’t seem to be getting caught up, do I? I actually did get a lot of stuff read since my last entry, so let’s try to get caught up with the writing…

The Question 37: Forget what I said about my favorite of the “resurrected” books before – if you only buy one of them, it should be this one. Greg Rucka and Denny O’Neill deliver a moving goodbye to the Vic Sage version of the character that fits perfectly at the end of his original series. (In fact, those are being reprinted in trades now, so I hope they include this issue in the last volume like they’re including some recent issues in the fifth Starman hardcover.) The characterizations of Montoya, Tot and Lady Shiva are spot on, and Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkeiwicz convey the emotions perfectly (even with most of the pages taking place in a rainstorm!) Really, a must have for fans of the original series or “52” and I think even folks unfamiliar with the characters will enjoy it.

Suicide Squad 67: And this book is a close second. My only quibble, really, is that this is Part 1 of a story you need “Secret Six” #17-18 to complete. But you should be buying “Six” anyway, and John Ostrander’s co-writing is spread out over all three issues. The story starts with Deadshot’s replacement in the Squad and how she can’t live up to his skill level. After her first mission, Amanda Waller decides the Squad needs Deadshot back, and hilarity ensues. Lots of cameos of dead characters from the original series, including my favorite “forgotten” Atom, Adam Cray.

Secret Six 17-18: The Squad vs. the Six, including Bronze Tiger vs. Catman and Deadshot vs. Rick Flag. It’s great fun to see Waller and all her cronies again, and her battle with the Six leads to some interesting revelations about her tactics and the discovery (for the reader) of the answer to the great mystery of this series – Who is Mockingbird?

JSA All-Stars 2-3, JSA Annual 2: I actually like the “All-Stars” book, even though Magog’s personality is way different than the kid who originally joined the JSA. (This is actually acknowledged in the annual.) His conflicts with Power Girl are interesting, although it would be easier to sympathize with his point of view if he weren’t so bloodthirsty. But then in the Annual, Magog goes far enough off the rails (arguably justified) that he gets kicked off the team! So, now what’s the reason for there to be two teams? It was the conflict over Magog’s tactics that caused the split in the first place – Power Girl even says that she misses the original team. I’m assuming they’re not going to get back together after only three issues, so it just underscores to me how artificial the division was in the first place.

Teen Titans 76-79: I read four issues this month, and I barely remember any of it, which is not a good sign. I do remember liking that Wonder Girl is finally coming out of her funk and leading again (though it would have been nice if she had been able to do it before Conner came back), and I love the Milestone characters so seeing Static in Dakota in #79 was a lot of fun for me.

Blackest Night Wonder Woman 3: A mixed bag, though way better than last issue. Greg Rucka has Diana’s characterization down perfectly, and Nicola Scott’s art is gorgeous as usual. My problem is with the double-page spread where, via the combination of the red & violet rings and the magic lasso, Diana and Mera see each others deepest secrets. It’s a beautiful splash, but Diana’s secret is that she loved Bruce Wayne, which I don’t buy at all – It worked in the animated series because they built it up slowly over four years, but there’s no foundation for it in the comics – and I didn’t understand what Mera’s secret is supposed to be. Diana’s dialogue suggests that it’s not supposed to be a mystery to the reader, but I didn’t get it. That makes the issue, and by numbers the series, a failure in my book.

Adventure Comics 7: “Featuring Black Lantern Superboy.” The plot is similar to “BN Wonder Woman” #2, where she escapes from the Black Lantern ring, but this is much better because Conner resists the ring from the inside out instead of by outside influence. He does get help from Wonder Girl and Krypto, but it’s all driven by Conner’s inner strength (and the precautions they took after Conner was taken over by Luthor), so it works for me. A good job from writer Tony Bedard. The art looks a lot like Jerry Ordway to me, but it’s credited to Travis Moore.

Catwoman 83: I forgot to write about this when I got the first batch of “resurrected” books, but it is pretty good. Selina fights the Black Lantern Black Mask (the one she killed), and it sets up a new adversary for Catwoman, so “Gotham City Sirens” fans will probably be interested.

Brave and the Bold 30-31: #30 is the best of the JMS issues so far, with a nice exploration of mortality with Hal Jordan and the original Kent Nelson Dr. Fate. (He figured out a way to do it in the present day, which is part of the charm.) I’m less thrilled with the Atom and Joker issue, because the science of Atom being able to “see” Joker’s memories from inside his brain is pretty wonky and because the less the Joker’s past is explored the better as far as I’m concerned. However, I do like JMS’ take on what makes the Joker tick (“I’m an artist…an artist says, no, I will not be sensible. I will not change to fit the world, I will change the world to fit me.”) and I loved that Atom can’t travel via cell phone like he used to by land line.

Out of time for today – more over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ZOMBIES DU JOUR

 

          Apparently, zombies remain a vital part of our current popular culture and continue to draw readers as well as the obligatory flies.  IDW, one of the current comics publishers to feature a healthy assortment of horror and dark fantasy works, serves up two more rotting titles in February.  let’s have a sniff peek at them . . . . . . . . . .

WE WILL BURY YOU #1 ( IDW, cover date February 2010) written by Brea and Zane Austin Grant with art by Kyle Strahm (cover by Ben Templesmith)

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          If you’re only going to check out one of these titles, then I recommend you pick this one - - - it just seems more promising to me.  WE WILL BURY YOU is scheduled for a four issue run.

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          Brea and Zane Grant are associated with the Heroes” television series, although that shouldn’t matter to you.  She is an actress on the series.  He is her less famous brother.  Together they’ve cooked up an interesting story here and peppered it with a lot of flavor.  The art by Kyle Strahm reminds me of a cross between Ben Templesmith and Darick Robertson and is worth further investigation.

         WE WILL BURY YOU takes place in 1927 America right after the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, and the opening events occur just as a zombie virus is set to over-run the world population (no explanation of cause yet).  There is a great panel on page one where an overhead shot of an ant-sized milling crowd looks like a demonic face.

          This appears to be a character-driven storyline and the personalities are quirky and interesting.  We are introduced to three of them in Issue #1:

  •            Mirah, a thin and attractive lower-class resident of the New York tenements, shapely enough to be a Ziegfeld girl but doomed to making a living as a dance-hall girl, getting nickels in exchange for a quick dance with men who only want to grope her.

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  •           Henry, her unemployed and jealous husband who spends his days sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee in his undershirt and boxers, unshaven and unkempt while he spouts his world-view, criticizing and comparing Mirah to everything that he finds wrong in modern life.  He considers himself the only moral person left on the planet as he berates his wife on how right-thinking he is:  “Your body is a shell for a thousand immoral personalities.  You change them as often as you change clothes and with all the sincerity of a companion animal.”

 

  • Fanya, a lesbian Ukrainian immigrant inclined to steal men’s clothing from the monastery locker room so she can impersonate a WeWillBuryYou1_sampleAmale, pay her nickel and get up close with her lover Mirah in an effort to persuade her to change her life.  “And these men control you for the small amount of time you give them.  They own you.”   To which Mirah responds, “Nobody owns me.  Not the boss. Not Henry, and certainly not these chumps.  I just rent myself out occasionally, that’s all.”

 

          On the night when the zombie infestation erupts onto the streets of New York, Mirah and Fanya bond together as they flee, while Henry gets a new lease on life and remains behind.  While the zombie action unfolds in the foreground, there is a conflict of lifestyles and choices and morals occurring in the background that really makes this tale interesting and drives it forward.  Also lurking in the background are flies and more flies, perhaps the catalyst for spreading the plague.  This is not for the faint-hearted, and certainly not for young people.  Check it out.

ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS ADVENTURE #1  ( IDW, cover date February 2010):

          What got my attention right away was the cover painting by Ashley wood, an apparent homage to Frazetta’s cover to BLAZING COMBAT #1 although no credit is given. bla1-224x300 BLAZING COMBAT was a short-lived (1965-1966) black and white comic magazine from Warren Publications, which attempted to achieve for the war comic the same success of CREEPY and EERIE’S horror tales. 

          The initial run of ZOMBIES VS ROBOT ADVENTURE is planned for four issues, and will serialize three separate stories, all scripted by Chris Ryall with different artists.  Unfortunately, the creative and always interesting Ashley Wood is not one of them, although he is listed in the credits as a co-developer/creator with Ryall.  Wood played a much bigger role in the two previous zombie-robot mini-series from IDW  (2006 & 2007).

          Two of the three artists are worthy of attention, and the other is kept interezvr_av1-198x300sting through the use of muted shadings of the same color in all of the panels.  All three stories seem to take place after the same catastrophic event, although there is no attempt to link them together other than this implied shared universe.  Only the first story, “Kampf”, includes a short and incomplete explanation of what has happened.

          An unidentified science explorer returns from a trans-dimensional gateway bringing along some infected spoor, which triggers a zombie plague.  Mankind could not fight them off alone, and warrior robots were created to help them in battle.

          “Kampf” with incredible illustrations by Menton Matthews III, details the beginning war preparations as Sergeant Davis Wade leaves home to meet his team of robots.  It’s notable mostly for the departure scene between Wade and his unhappy wife, who lectures him on putting his country before his family in what looks to be a hopeless cause.  The art looks like a combination of painting with oil colors and photo-realism and is worth a second look.  It’s difficult to tell from this short nine-page intro whether it will be something I want to follow, but the artwork may bring me back to “Kampf”.

          “Masques”, with art by Paul McCaffrey occurs before the war at an underground munitions storage complex in New Mexico.  A janitor discovers the alleged suicidal remains of a scientist and a vast array of servile robots that all resemble C3PO and pledge allegiance to him.  He also deduces that some “other” killer robots are on the loose and discovers some schematics that look uncannily like Tony Stark’s plans for the first, cumbersome gray Iron Man suit.  I like the art far more than the story here, but I don’t like it all that much.

          “Zuvembies Vs Robots, Part 1” with art by Gabriel Hernandez takes place around a campfire in Haiti as the locals discuss the zombie plague that is spreading across the world.  They conclude that no help is coming and a dark-arts-practicing member decides to use a little old-fashioned voodoo to resurrect their own zombie army to defend them.

          They have trouble picking up a radio signal on their boom box, and a robot shows up to use his current to power-up the signal.  That seems like an excuse to stay faithful to the title of this book and get a robot into the story somehow.

          I’m not quite ready to dismiss the art on this story, since everything takes place at night and it’s very dark outside of the confines of the campfire.  With that in mind, it becomes a very effective use of shading and various hues of brown to convey the image of darkness and fear.

          ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS ADVENTURE #1 scores a 1.5 out of 3 rating with me.  I don’t dislike it.  I’m  just not that inspired to seek out more.  If I do return, it will be because of the art more than the story.  To be fair, these three very short stories don’t have a lot of pages for proper development and may get better as we move along in issues to come.  If you are a zombie fan, then you should check this out - - - as it may turn out to be an interesting spin on standard zombie fare.