Monday, November 29, 2010

Young Justice (Cartoon Network)



The other major superhero cartoon of the season is "Young Justice", which premiered on Cartoon Network last week as a one-hour feature, with half-hour episodes to follow after the first of the year. As much as I've been enjoying "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes", this is a much better show. From the very first scene (shown above with about 6 minutes of other footage), you know you're watching something great. The writing -- led by "Spectacular Spider-Man" & "Gargoyles" veteran Greg Weisman -- is a nice mix of the familiar and the surprising, with some great voice acting making the characters distinct. Fittingly, the team starts with Robin, Kid Flash, and Aqualad with a couple of members added during this first hour and more to come. (Zatara is included as a JLA member, so maybe we'll see his young daughter at some point?) WB's animation is exceptional as usual, with some nice character designs similar to the ones in their recent animated DVDs. I think the animation in "Avengers" is better than people give it credit for, but what WB manages to pull off here on a television budget is amazing. CN doesn't seem to have a rerun of the pilot scheduled this week, but I think it's safe to assume it will air again before the regular episodes begin in January. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks Today

 

One of the many things I am thankful for is BC Refugees blog site, which provides an outlet for my writing on comics.

I liked this email greeting and wanted to share it with you today:

bela_turkey

 

Have a peaceful and relaxing Thanksgiving . . . . . .

 

pghhead

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

David Lapham – Profiling The Profiler: A Craving For Depravity

Beginning a series of articles on the works of David Lapham

After attending a recent gathering of The BC Refugees I learned of a mutual admiration for this worldly writer.  That inspired me to write about my explorations into the dark areas of modern society as presented by the one and only original chronicler of the crude, the profiler of the perverted  =  David Lapham. During that conversation which centered around his amazing work on the current run of G.I. JOE: ORIGINS (which I haven’t seen yet), I spoke of the various comics he scripted that I enjoyed.  They seemed to have one common element = after reading them I felt dirty, as if I needed a cleansing shower.  Lapham is a skilled realist  and can make you feel how ugly things can get in modern society. 

PUNISHER MAX TINY UGLY WORLD  (One-Shot)  #1   (Marvel Max Comics - EXPLICIT CONTENT)  David Lapham, writer;  Dalibor Talajic, artist; Matt Hollingsworth, colorist; VC’s Cory Petit, letterer

For anyone not familiar with Lapham, this book would be the perfect primer/introduction.  It’s got everything that Lapham details so well, and then some =  over-the-top violence and murder, gunplay, head explosions, bleeding all over the pages  - - and featuring the most criminal, depraved and demented characters you are likely to find in the ugly areas of cities.  Child abuse. Meth labs. Street gangs with guns. Mafioso and criminals. Pedophiles and perverts.   The perfect setting for a Frank Castle / Punisher story.  Since it all comes together under the mature MAX brand of Marvel, Lapham apparently had free license to write whatever he wanted without censorship.  Whew.

David Lapham

Reading the above paragraphs, you might come to the conclusion that Lapham is nothing more than an exploitation artist, writing shock for shock’s sake alone.  Or you might conclude that I am critical of his work. Far from it, I admire his work greatly.  And I’m not alone in my admiration - - he’s an Eisner award winner for his work on STRAY BULLETS (self-published from El Capitan).  Lots of writers can shock you.  Lapham differs in that first he makes you believe it, and then he gets you to understand it. That is keen insight and rare, and I’m not exactly sure how he came to possess or develop those skills. From what little I know of him, he’s a decent person and a family man.  His comics work may simply be the outlet he needs to get these thoughts and observations out of his head.  His catharsis is our enlightenment.

Let’s get to the book, PUNISHER MAX TINY UGLY WORLD, before I forget what I started out to write about.  I haven’t seen any work from artist Dalibor Talajic before but there are some gritty and realistic panels throughout this book.  I’m sure it helped that Lapham is also an artist, and his script notes must be full of helpful guidelines for the artist.  Talajic is an artist to watch, with some classic styles on display.

Punisher TUW detail

The opening pages are pure dynamite to read.  In three horizontal panels we see a group of seedy-looking characters enter the stairwell of an equally seedy apartment building and begin to climb the steps.  The second panel is just a further glimpse of the stairwell, broken glass and empty bottles and trash strewn about - - the characters apparently on their way to an upper floor. The third panel shows a stranger entering the stairwell, just visible from the neck down - - but from the black garb and skull design we know it is Frank Castle, The Punisher.  Turn to the next page, a single panel image of a grim and determined-looking Punisher as he makes it to the upper floor with a huge machine pistol at the ready.

There are no word balloons/dialogue on these pages, just a captioned narration that speak to humility and achievement and how great men possess both attributes.  The narration concludes with an confession of being both awed and humbled before discovering “my own personal Jesus, you might say.”  It’s then that we realize this isn’t the Punisher’s narration.  It’s the thoughts of Bobby Boorsteen, a very strange 40-year old bachelor who peers through a slightly-opened doorway to witness and hear some of the mayhem to come once the Punisher gets to his destination.  It’s a meth lab being visited by Anthony Marrano, a pedophilic lesser-member of a prominent crime family who has some information that Castle wants.  In the ensuing blood bath that’s the only thing that saves Marrano, although the Punisher does so much damage to his body that he may have just a few more minutes of life.  Boorsteen ends up getting Marrano into his apartment, where he puts his medical skills to work and saves Marrano’s life - - although he’s not in any shape to walk away from what happened to him.

Boorsteen has no intentions of letting him leave.  First he tortures him and then he dissects various parts of Marrano’s anatomy in his perverted quest for knowledge, as if he was picking at a fetal pig on the lab bench of a Biology 101 workshop.   This story isn’t so much about The Punisher as it is Bobby Boorsteen, one of the most sickest and twisted creations of modern fiction.  However, after Lapham shares his background with us we begin to understand how he came to be like this - - as we realize that people like this are out there in the world.  Lapham seems to indicate that it’s early childhood experiences that are most formative, or destructive to be precise. A  young  Boorsteen was victimized by an Oedipal mother, almost nightly.  Once she realized the implications of her sins, she took responsibility and sought atonement immediately, committing bloody suicide in front of impressionable Bobby.  But before she did that she crippled him for life, as if to make sure that he would be awkward and experience difficulty with women from that point on.

After his revelation the night of the meth lab massacre, Boorsteen realizes he can keep a handy supply of experimental subjects around by simply following the Punisher and picking up the scraps.  It all plays out to a final conclusion as Castle discovers him lurking about following another blood-bath.  Boorsteen first berates Castle for destroying his (Boorsteen’s) life and then makes the one confession he shouldn’t have.

I find that I’m beginning to enjoy squirming, just a little.  Thank you, Mister Lapham. Time for me to hit the showers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Horror Hunter 11/22/2010: A smattering of stuff

EDGE OF DOOM #1  (IDW PUBLISHING, October 2010)  Steve Niles, writer; Kelley Jones, art; Jay Fotos, colors; Robbie Robbins, letters

Wow!  Look at that art!  This is definitely going to make my list of nominations for “Cover Of The Year 2010” if and when there is a first annual BC Refugees Awards.

edge of doom

The combination of Steve Niles and Kelley Jones on a horror story is unbeatable.  EDGE OF DOOM is better at evoking the mood of CREEPY and EERIE with just a twisted touch of strange - -  it would have been a perfect tale for the revived CREEPY except for its full-issue length. The art is part Richard Corben, part Steve Ditko in its vivid and horrific imagery.  It made me remember and miss those weird back-issue tales (usually with art by Ditko) that used to end up in the concluding pages of the old Marvel monster comics from the early 1960’s.

Richard Stallman is depressed and drunk.  His wife left him, and he’s about to lose his job and possibly his home.  When he strikes a large stone in his backyard while mowing the lawn, it opens a gateway to a world of tiny little cannibalistic savages who engage Stallman in fierce battle.  I loved every panel of it.  Highly recommended.

WEIRD WAR TALES (One-Shot) #1  (DC Comics, November 2010) Anthology. Various writers and artists

Shoot!  I liked this so much I’m really sorry that it had to end . . . . . and, with this being a “one-shot”  there’s no Issue #2 to look forward to. Maybe it will sell enough copies to prompt DC to consider some more issues.  Of the three good stories included here, the opener is reason enough to pick this up. 

If these four books I’ve chosen to profile here have anything in common, it’s their covers that capture your attention and make you want to find out what the story inside is about.  Looks like this is nominee #2 - - whoa, slow down.  I don’t want to get carried away with this idea.  Still, this is one of the better covers for a horror book I’ve seen in any year.

Weird War Tales_400x600

“Armistice Night” by Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart is ghastly good fun. It’s the one night each year when skeletal soldiers from various periods of history gather together for fun, fighting, and contests of battle prowess.  Where else can you find General Robert E Lee sharing his Kentucky Bourbon with Hannibal, Churchill and Rommel at target practice, or Joan of Arc trying to shoot an apple off Ghenghis Kahn’s head with an arrow? 

“The Hell Above Us” by Ivan Brandon and Nic Klein takes place during World War II as the lone survivor of a sunken submarine decides to swim to the surface.  After all, he’s been living underwater without food or company for 30 years and hasn’t died yet - - so why shouldn’t he be able to hold his breath that long?

Jan Strnad and Gabriel Hardman in “Private Parker Sees The Thunder Lizards” tell an engaging and moving story of loyalty on the battlefield, friendship and payback, and the power of imagination to overcome lousy odds - - or at least enjoy yourself until the end.

On the one hand all three of these stories can be viewed as glorifying warfare, but that’s just on the surface.  Every single story in WEIRD WAR TALES has a little message or moral to share - - to make you think twice.    Good stuff here.

KODIAK (One-Shot)  (IDW Publishing, September 2010)  Joe Hill and Jason Ciaramella, writers; Nat Jones, art; Jay Fotos, colors; Robbie Robbins, letters

Wow, Part 2!  Check out this cover!  Ominous and a little symbolic, it scarily hints at the contents inside.  Yes,  I’ve found 2 nominees for my “Cover Of The Year” award in the same article.  (It could be a long winter).

kodiak

KODIAK is a medieval fable that recalls the short morality lessons of the Canterbury Tales.  Two young lads learn of a visitor to their town, a man with a scarred face and a reputation for killing a bear with his hands.  They yearn to catch a glimpse of him, are discovered, and learn that the story is but a legend - - but it does involve the man, a traveling carnival in which he worked as a fire-eater and juggler, and included a large bear used for fighting dogs and wagering.  There are some horrific and violent elements to the story but it all turns out well.  Joe Hill is gaining a reputation as a respected horror writer (HEART-SHAPED BOX ghost story) as well as the author of the LOCKE & KEY series, also from IDW.   The art by Jason Ciaramella has a painted look, and a whimsical quality (credit the colors by Jay Fotos for subtly enhancing this) that is perfect for this type of story.  Recommended.

ENTER THE ZOMBIE (One-Shot) #1  (Antarctic Press, August 2010)  Kenan Brack, story concept; Fred Perry, plot; Robby Bevard, story; Ben Dunn, art; Wes Hartman, toning

Here’s another fun cover, but not one to compete with the other two and earn a nomination from me. Still, anything that reminds me of a classic Bruce Lee movie poster will bring a smile of recognition . . . . and make me curious enough to want to read the story.  A young, aggressive and eager student of the Shaolin feels he is ready for the initiation test after just two weeks.  His  instructor encouragesenter the zombie patience and shows him the location of the special 36th chamber of Shaolin, which none of the other students are aware.  The student feels he can prove he’s ready by entering the chamber and learning the forbidden secret. 

 

He ends up freeing a host of demons who invade the innocent souls of the other students and turn them into ninja zombies.  There’s some puns and inside jokes that will make you either grin or groan, but this book is fun and it’s all over with in a hurry.  If you are a fan of Chinese kung fu movies and manga, or just admire the work of artist Ben Dunn you will certainly appreciate this. For others, it’s an acquired taste - - but here’s a single example of it if you want to explore.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Travels with Lee: Waid up!

THE TRAVELER #1  (Boom Studios – November 24, 2010)  Stan Lee, grand poobah; written by Mark Waid; art by Chad Hardin; colors by Blond;  letters by Ed Dukeshire  (covers by Scott Clark, Chad Hardin, and Joe Benitez)

Traveler01_rev_tiff_CVR_Page_1

The first issue of THE TRAVELER raises more questions than it answers in a furious, fast-paced debut.  That’s in contrast to the first issues of Stan Lee’s other creation, SOLDIER ZERO, which seems more character-driven.  However, with Mark Waid at the scripting helm I expect some fine character development once the setting and plot elements become established.  For now, it seems smart policy to concentrate on introducing some of the players and quickly putting them through their paces.

Since Issue #1 seems singularly focused on action, action, action - - the best way for me to tell you about this book is to summarize some of those details:

The art by Chad Hardin is outstanding, and perfectly suited for the incredible amount of action/battle that goes on in Issue One.  The colors and letting are very vivid and really make this book stand out.

Page One begins quietly enough with single mom Danielle completing her eye exam and driver’s license renewal at the DMV offices in Richmond, Virginia.  It’s ironic that the eye chart she reads aloud spells out T-I-M-E   B-R-O-K-E-N.  As she exits the office, a bolt of lightening and/or energy crashes  a street pole with a bank clock to the ground.   A  red-suited person appears with apparently magnetic powers and begins destroying things.  He seems fixated on Danielle, who bolts to a nearby construction site to hide and avoid danger. 

Just as two massive steel beams controlled by “red-suit” seem about to smash into her, a levitating figure emerges to “freeze time”, enabling her to move aside quickly and avoid death.  Black-caped, hooded, and wearing a blue Ranger-like suit and military boots,  The Traveler looks menacing and powerful (reminding me of both The Phantom and The Phantom Stranger with a dash of Captain Marvel/Doctor Strange - - yeah, that’s an odd combination but it’s exactly what popped into my head).

Traveler01_rev_tiff_CVR_Page_2

The Traveler controls the “flow of time within a localized field” that allows he and Danielle to fall in slow-motion, and enhances his punches in “speed time” with enough power to render Angstrom unconscious. During the rescue, we learn that “red-suit” is Angstrom, one of the three “Split-Second Men”, all with powers  (including The Traveler) derived from universal forces.  Angstrom has control over the electro-magnetic field.  The Split-Second Men move through time, unlike The Traveler  who can’t =  “but I can play some wonderful tricks with it.”    Danielle refers to The Traveler as “Kronus” based on an incomplete and damaged logo embroidered on his suit - - he acts surprised by the name as well but adopts it.

The Traveler continues to save more individuals (seemingly selected at random) from the Split Second Men and draws the attention of the media as well as a team of FBI investigators.  They confront him just as he’s rescuing another victim from Splinter, who has matter-decaying abilities.  “Kronus” seems to know a lot about FBI agent Julia Martin, including family and personal details, and tells her that “you have a hell of a future ahead of you - - I promise.”  However, Splinter seems to be breaking that promise in fatal manner, as Issue One ends.

Everything happens really quick.  As I pause to catch my breath, I await Issue #2.  So far, I’m recommending both of the new Stan Lee books.  Number 3 debuts next month.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Soldier Zero review



SOLDIER ZERO #1 (Boom Studios)- - October 20, 2010 release
SOLIDER ZERO #2 (Boom Studios) - - November 17, 2010 release
created by Stan Lee (listed here as "grand poobah")
written by Paul Cornell
art by Javier Pina


I admit to being a little apprehensive after receiving the news that Stan Lee was going to be involved in some new super-hero comics with Boom Studios. I recall the last experiment, the series of "Just Imagine Stan Lee" one-shots for DC where he re-invented several DC characters including Batman, Flash, etc. They were interesting in concept but the stories were a chore to get through, mostly boring. As much as I love Stan Lee, his "Just Imagine . .." stories and dialogue were from 2-3 decades or more ago and needed a serious update. However, after hearing Mark Waid explain at Baltimore Comic-Con in August 2010 that these were collaborations between Stan Lee and various writers I felt a little warmer towards the new books. And, when Waid detailed how much energy, enthusiasm and creative ideas that Stan brought to his team-up with him (The Traveler) I knew I wanted to investigate the early issues of all the titles.

Soldier Zero is the first of them; and I'm not disappointed at all. I like this book. The origin story is going to seem a little familiar with long-term comics readers (especially of Green Lantern, Iron Man, and the intial version of Nova, plus a little dash of X-O Manowar for seasoning) but Lee and Cornell put a different spin on things. The main character is Stewart Trautmann, a returning war hero who in the final days of his time in Afghanistan was crippled by an explosion that left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Trautmann is an immediately sympathetic and likeable character. He's bitter after his experience and his attitude toward the military and war has changed as a result. Yet, he's got a certain nobility and a gentlemanly manner that compliments him well and also disguises his disllusionment.
Cornell is a good writer and reveals a lot about his characters in concise, short scenes. The supporting cast include's Stuart's younger brother who encourages him to overcome his limitations, and Lily a beautiful student he is attracted to. Their first unofficial "date" together is very well done, as both he and Lily awkwardly try to learn more about each other without mentioning the obvious things. It inmpressed and left me with the same warm feeling as the first encounter between a young Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson did in the first Ultimate Spider-Man written by Bendis.
Stuart has a job as an astronomy lecturer at Calder University. While he and Lily watch a meteor shower from a rooftop, an explosion rocks the building as a UFO crashes into it. While trapped underneath the rubble, the dying alien transfers some energy into Stuart, who suddenly finds himself inside the humanoid's body armor.
He's got some new powers he doesn't quite understand, and doesn't know how to control. He also finds himself under the control of another presence inside the suit and is often powerless to prevent the actions it causes him to perform.
After several struggles to establish control, Stuart and the presence declare a truce, and he learns about the galactic war between two races the alien soldier was involved in, a war now brought to the surface of Earth. The Soldier Zero suit was formerly occupied by two energy sources - - a host and a parasite. It's the parasite that Stuart has been talking to, and he has now become the new host. Now that Stuart has regained the ability to walk and can assume his normal human state (when the parasite allows it) he's reluctant to be free of the alien presence and becomes a willing partner in the upcoming efforts to expose the other protaganists in the new war.
Artist Pina has a appealing and basic style, very fluid and fun to follow from panel to panel.
Solider Zero is a good book, and worthy of your investigation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NYT Graphic Novel Gift Guide

I'm still working on entries about the first six issues of the books in the "Avengers" line and assessments of "Brightest Day" and "Generation Lost" now that they're both halfway done, but I just didn't have time to finish them last week. Thanks to Mike for keeping up the pace in the meantime. Also, I wanted to point out the New York Times' Holiday Gift Guide to Graphic Novels. It's a good list, and it's got a couple of my favorite books of the year on it: "Return of the Dapper Men" (available this week at a fine store near you!) and "The Outfit".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

INDIE COMICS: Huffin’ & puffin’ B.B. Wolf’s got the blues

BB WOLF AND THE THREE LPs  (Top Shelf, May 2010 hardcover, black & white, 86 pages,   $12.95)  As told by JD Arnold with illustrations by Richard Koslowski

bb_wolf_cover_lg

What got my attention immediately was the pairing up of a classic fairy tale with musical motifs.  That’s a combination that pushes two of my “hot buttons” - -  so I made it a must-read.  I was not disappointed.  This is a very entertaining and cleverly designed work that rivals Bill Willingham’s  creativity on the long-running FABLES series from Vertigo.

As if taking the classic tale of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs and turning it upside down wasn’t enough to interest, BB WOLF AND THE THREE LPS  serves as an allegory for the oppression of  the black population in the deep South (Mississippi) in the 1920’s.  While they may be free (wolves),  the governing bodies (pigs) have the power to deny them their land, homes and possessions and even own the businesses and clubs they patronize as well as the shops they depend on. - - keeping their thumbs pressed down on these poverty-level citizens at all times.

The story is narrated by Barnabus Benjamin Wolf, who owns a modest farm and works it by day and plays the blues at night in order to provide for his wife and family of little cubs.  After a late night of “boozin’ and bluesin’”  and hung-over he wakes up late morning to the sound of the (porcine) police pounding on his door, accompanied by three little businessmen (the 3 lps) who have discovered a “little loophole” in the legal papers to the property and now claim it as theirs.  An outraged BB Wolf frightens them off, but this only sets off a later chain of events that sees him losing both his property and family (trapped in the home and burned to death), and then departing even deeper into booze and blues and thoughts of murder/ revenge.

Make no mistake. BB WOLF AND THE THREE LPS is  based on a children’s favorite story;  but it’s clearly a children’s book meant for adults.   What happens and what BB Wolf does to obtain his revenge (decapitation, gutting his victims, etc.) is both grisly and bloody.  The art by Richard Koslowski is very stylish and appropriate for the contents.  The pages featuring multiple panels brought back memories of reading WALT DISNEY”S COMICS AND STORIES from Dell Comics back in my youth, but this a very dark version of same.

bbwolf_04

The book is divided into three sections - - each corresponding to the famous homes/structures of the 3 Little Pigs  = one of straw, one of wood, and one of bricks.  If you recall your fairy tales you know that the Big Bad Wolf was thwarted when he finally got to the house of bricks.  (Sorry, I don’t want to  tell you whether this ending stays true to the classic ending or not).   Each section begins with a small drawing of each home, accompanied by an appropriate musical quote. (At least I recognize 2 out of 3 references).  1) The straw home = “Don’t leave home, there’s nothing but starving wolves outside.” – In memory, Our House Of Straw.  2) The wood home = “Oh baby, the river’s red.  Oh baby, in my head” – Led Zeppelin,  Four Sticks. 3) The brick home = “Sure enough to knock a man to his knees.” – The Commodores, Brick House.

There are additional musical references scattered through-out, just waiting for aficionados (especially of the blues) to uncover them.  Just as blues originated in the Mississippi delta, received further attention in St. Louis and developed into a more popular form once it found its way into the Chicago blues clubs - - the mission of BB Wolf to take down the pigs leads him in the same exact direction/progression.   The last scenes (page 82) where BB Wolf makes his final statement is a howl.  

The afterword by JD Arnold is like sugar icing on the blues cake, giving some back story of BB Wolf and even his song lyrics (perfectly written like authentic Delta blues) .  The reference to other classic musicians he influenced is very natural, mixing a blend of made-up names with actual classic blues artists = “Big Dog Williams, Garfield Barkers, Willie Browncoat, Snoopy Pryor, Hound Dog Taylor, and Howlin’ Wolf.”  AWWW-WOOO!

BB WOLF AND THE THREE LPS is a “keeper”.  It’s  a quick and enjoyable read I know I’ll return to again (perhaps frequently).

Friday, November 12, 2010

HORROR HUNTER: Bela is back !

BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE #1 (October 2010, Monsterverse Entertainment) Various artists and writers.  Variant cover by John Cassaday

This  is a well-done labor of love produced by several admirers of the classic horror comics of the past.  If you are enjoying the recent revival of CREEPY from Dark Horse Comics then you’ll want to investigate this title as well.  In my earlier review of the first issue of CREEPY I was a little critical of the title, and in later reviews warmed up to it as the next issues made great strides in quality of story and art.  I see the same kind of potential here.  I don’t love everything about Issue #1, but I’m just excited to see this book.  I think some great things are in store.  (It did very well in pre-orders, so I’ve heard).

ShopWorries

Kerry Gammill (of Spider-Man renown) is publisher/editor-in-chief of Monsterverse and seems to be the guiding light (or blazing torch) of this title - - - his name is all over the contents  with writing, art and coloring credits.  It’s a very full first issue, with seven stories, an art gallery, and a biographical text piece on “Lugosi & Dracula”.   Bela acts as narrator, introducing each tale and commenting before and after in a fashion reminiscent of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, uncle CREEPY, cousin EERIE, etc.  Occasional  co-host Nosferina is very eye-appealing and might give Vampirella some competition.

Many of the tales have the obligatory twist or surprise ending, as might be expected from a horror comics anthology.   I enjoy these and don’t mind even when I can guess at the eventual outcome.

Kerry Gammill starts the mayhem with story and art on “Unpleasant Side Effects”  with a script from Sam F. Park and color assist by Mar Omega.  It’s a tale of a brilliant scientist absorbed in his work and leaving his neglected fiancĂ© in the care of his able assistant.  Jealousy enters the picture just as he’s on the verge of a break-through in reviving dead animals,  with a side effect of hideous mutations.  He needs a bigger subject in order to finalize his discovery of immortality - -and that back-stabbing assistant will do nicely.

lugosicard4x6_Frontsm2

“A Strangely Isolated Place” features a story by James Farr of a bitter old man who summons three creatures of the night  to exact vengeance on the woman who broke his heart and ruined him.  Thing don’t work out quite as planned in this interesting depiction by artist Chris Moreno of overlapping panels with captions that move the story along.

One of the most interesting stories in this issue is “Mark Of The Zombie” by artist/storyteller Rob E. Brown.  The background on each page resembles aged parchment, and along with the various shades and hues of brown and black it makes a perfect canvas for this story, set in the 19th century.  An archaeologist for the British Museum returns from an expedition to the voodoo lands of Haiti with a mummified human heart wrapped in poison-coated barbed wire. It’s the fabled Heart Of Duballah, which possesses the power to summon zombies - - and of course they come calling.  The art style of Brown is very detailed and perfect for this grim story, also full of fine lettering and crammed with text and information (a little dictionary of voodoo terms as a bonus).

“Eyes Of The Prairie” by Derek McCaw with at by Rafael Navarro is set in the old west. An obnoxious and mean-spirited cowboy rides into a dusty town haunted by an old legend, makes bad jokes and puns about it, and then becomes the butt of the joke. It plays out very quickly and abruptly ends after four pages.

cassaday_cover_preview

The best four-page short story in the book is “The Good Doctor” with story and art by the popular John Cassaday (who also drew the variant cover).  It’s a different art style for Cassaday, here - - done in black and white and very cartoonish  in a delightful way.  It will remind you of a popular episode of The Twilight Zone with a classic horror spin that also acknowledge  the tale of the Frankenstein monster’s origin.

There’s a gallery of Lugosi portraits by several artists, with the most stunning and impressive being those done by Jeff Preston and Kim Loh.  The two-page “Further Adventures of Dr. Vornoff & Lobo” with story, figures and photography by Joe Freire takes an amusing Robot Chicken approach to dark humor.

Nosferina presents the last story here as part of the Lost Lugosi Film Theater, a neat little touch that pretends to depict old undiscovered films starring Lugosi from  the 30’s and 40’s vaults.  In “Midnight Museum” by Martin Powell and Terry Beatty an attractive actress is admired by the charming Lorenzo The Great (Bela Lugosi) who invites her to a private tour of his “studio” featuring some unusual taxidermy.  It will remind you of the classic “House Of Wax” film that featured Vincent Price.

MV_Shop_P2

From the mixed bag of Issue #1 I found four good pieces to recommend, well worth the price of admittance = “Unpleasant Side Effects”, “Mark Of The Zombie”, “The Good Doctor” and “Midnight Museum.”  That’s not a bad start at all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Randomiser

From The Department Of Redundancy Department:  random raves and rants on various books seemingly chosen at random . . . . . . ..

TIME LINCOLN: FISTS OF FUHRER #1  (June 2010 cover date, Antarctic Press)  Story & Art by Fred Perry; Coloring by Robby Bevard & Wes Hartman

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I’m glad to see that TIME LINCOLN is returning in a series of one-shot books  = because the first issue was  tons of fun;  and this new addition continues the merriment.  In his final hour, in the minutes between lapsing into a coma after Booth’s fatal shot and eventually passing away, Abraham Lincoln surfed the “void” through time.  FISTS OF FURHRER continues the unknown history of Time Lincoln, who lived a lifetime in one hour and prevented numerous unknown catastrophes that never made it to the history books because they never occurred.  (Whew – that’s almost as hard to clarify in one sentence as it is to comprehend.)

Without taking away from any of the fun (like the exchange between a flustered John Adams and a pre-occupied Benjamin Franklin) Fred Perry does his best to further explain and clarify the inner workings of the Void,  a “formless dimension” that lurks around us and allows those who know how to contact it to use it to travel through time.   The “Time Tyrant”, Void Stalin, gets some new competition this time in the person of  Mephitler = a 1940’s dictator experimenting with the Void who discovered a way to use it to access “dark alternatives” and set himself up with an army of demonazis (goose-stepping fang-toothed soldiers).

With the aid of Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, Lincoln dispatches Mephitler just in time to prevent his using Einstein’s stolen works to create an atomic time bomb.  Lincoln utilizes a mechanical glove devised by Einstein, the “mass less ultra relativistic particle scrambler” , to pummel Mephitler back into the deeper reaches of the Void with a Street-Fighter like “Rising Void Punch” uppercut.

I’ve been interested in Fred Perry’s manga-influenced comics for awhile but have never been hooked enough by the random issues of his GOLD DIGGERS that I’ve read to continue on a regular basis.  TIME LINCOLN is a title that I’ll be coming back to.  In fact, the next edition (taking place in Cuba), is featured in the latest PREVIEWS catalog for January 2011 release.

WARRIORS THREE  #1 of 4  (January 2011, Marvel)  Bill Willingham, Writer;  Neil Edwards, penciler; Scott Hanna, inker; Frank Martin, colorist

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I remember a few years back (pre-JMS) when Thor was nowhere to be found in the Marvel-verse.  Now it seems like every month brings a new Thor title.   The latest is this limited series, focusing on his best buddies, the Warriors Three.  I’ve always liked this trio so I’m happy to see them get some attention, especially when the scripting duties are handed over to Bill Willingham.  He understands god and myths so well.

It’s a nice break for Willingham, and a chance to break away from his FABLES creation (now into its centennial moments) and play with some Norse mythology for a change of pace.   As you might expect,  Willingham walks  into this very nicely and doesn’t miss a step, as if he’s been involved in this section of the Marvel-verse for a long time.   He  portrays completely those character traits that define Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun in brief glimpses during their off-duty moments, and then sets about to beginning a very engaging tale.

Willingham brings a previously neglected creature of Norse lore into the forefront (the vicious and intelligent Fenris Wolf), updates it for the 21st century, and puts his creative stamp upon it. The Fenris Wolf as depicted here is of gigantic proportions and is as crafty as it is ruthless.  Feared by Asgardians for its massive destructive capabilities  and realizing how difficult it is to bring down, they hid it away in chained captivity on a secluded isle in a forgotten corner of the nine worlds.  

Now a group of AIM scientists find a way to travel through the nine worlds to make a pact with the Fenris Wolf and release it so it may exact its’ revenge on Asgard.  The call goes out to begin the wolf hunt, and the Warriors Three set about on their own quest, utilizing a short cut that puts them in peril at the end of Issue #1.   If you enjoy THOR and / or FABLES, you’ll want to check this out.

WARLORD OF MARS #1  ($1 introductory price - November 2010 release date, Dynamite Entertainment)  Written by Arvid Nelson; Illustrated by Stephen Sadowski; Colored by Adriano Lucas; Lettered by Troy Peteri

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   Give credit to Dynamite Entertainment for doing a great job with their adaptations of classic works (The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, etc) . They seem to find the perfect blend of writers and artists to make older, familiar material seem new and fresh.  It’s sure to bring back those who remember the classic characters as well as grab new readers experiencing the material for the first time.

I’ve been a long-time fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ JOHN CARTER OF MARS books.  I read some of them during my early youth, and devoured the entire series following my college years.   I have a full set of the very fine but short lived Marvel adaptations (by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane, among others).  Based on what I find in this first issue, I have high hopes for WARLORD OF MARS.

Writer Arvid Nelson does a fine job of laying out the background behind the post-Civil War storyline (the real one, not the Marvel version) by introducing two of the main players and relating  some character-defining moments that occurred just before they meet for the first time on Mars.  Back on Earth, John Carter finds himself embroiled in a saloon conflict with some trash-talking ex-Union soldiers.  They bait him as we learn that Carter’s strongly held principles and pride can often lead him into deadly trouble.   On Mars, the four-armed green giant Tars Tarkas displays both his battle skills as well as his dignity and “humanity”  while rescuing the captives of the cannibalistic great white apes.

The art by Sadowski is a joy to view.  His action scenes are dynamic, but it’s his skill at conveying the proper emotions through facial expressions that impresses even more.  The two-page text piece at the back of the book, allegedly written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is a nice touch and a great way to end the first issue.  I’m looking forward to more. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

new super-title: SUPERBOY # 1

It had to happen eventually - - - I read a Superman title that holds my interest and makes me want to return for more !  And here it is:

SUPERBOY #1  (DC, January 2011 cover date)  Jeff Lemire, writer.  Pier Gallo, artist.  Jamie Grant, colorist.  John J. Hill, letterer.

I’ve admired the story telling abilities (also the simplistic subtle  yet effective artwork) of Jeff Lemire for some time.  THE ESSEX COUNTY TRILOGY is a great example of how powerfully effective a  comics/graphic novel can be at communicating emotions and moods.  His story and art on SWEET TOOTH for DC has brought a lot of deserved attention to his work.

I’ve often wondered what Lemire might do with a true super-hero title, and  I received my answer with SUPERBOY #1.  In three quick opening pages,  Lemire puts his personal stamp on the title - - - and now he owns it.  I remain impressed. 

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Page One begins with art panels  of a young boy in home-made mask and red cape wandering through the wheat fields of Smallville, Kansas  - - and I’m immediately reminded of the first book in the ESSEX COUNTY TRILOGY.  The unidentified narrator in the captions wonders “what kind of kid would I have been?”  if  “I’d had a normal childhood.”   On Page Two we learn that this version of Superboy is Conner Kent, the clone made from Superman/Lex Luthor DNA.   In a calming scene of wind blowing through a wheat field, a single grain becomes dislodged and floats on the breeze over to Connor’s hand.  He reflects on his former anxiety over his birth and recalls his resolve to be happy by “focusing on the small things.”  Page Three cuts away to show a full-page panel of a young man and his faithful super-dog Krypto resting on a water tower surrounded by fields.   It’s great imagery and just a small amount of narrative captions locks in the mood - - - and I don’t want to spoil your surprise by copying those panels here.  You need to pick up the book, if only to glance at these opening pages and see for yourself.

In the next three pages, the reader learns everything needed to know about the direction Lemire will be taking this book in.  What a fine job he does of setting the table so we know exactly what to expect in the coming issues of SUPERBOY.  I’m fascinated, and I’m in!

Pier Gallo is definitely an artist to watch.  I sense that Lemire may have indicated in the script how he wanted to see certain scenes depicted, as  I see many instances of what I believe to be his influence. And Gallo seems to understand what is required.  He’s better at detail than Lemire is, but you can see a nice mesh of the two styles here with  many panels that remind me of the very-appealing work of Mobius.   Page Six is one of my favorites, with Superboy flying across the wheat field (and past the young pretend super-hero) to rescue a falling Ma Kent as Krypto retrieves her work hat.   The Parasite strolls through the country-side with determination, leaving a path of destruction in his wake in four caption less panels of artistic perfection.   A beautiful Page 10 full panel shows Connor Kent being smashed by The Parasite through a window, complete with shattering shards of glass rendered in near 3-D clarity.

I  probably don’t need to reveal anymore to encourage you to check this book out.  Connor’s closest friend reveals that he knows about his Superboy identity.  Lori Luthor is interested in Connor, and knowing their shared ancestry he gets a little freaked out by the attention. Smallville is celebrating an anniversary, and its history holds valuable secrets.  Superboy learns that Smallville will be the epicenter of some dire future calamity to come, and he may be in part responsible. 

I know many readers of this blog have moved on to trade paperback collections rather than single issues.  You will at least want to get Issue #1 to determine if you want to order the eventual trades.  For me, I can’t wait that long.