SHORT TAKES: Real fears and close calls . . . . .

CRIMINAL MACABRE: NO PEACE FOR DEAD MEN (Dark Horse)  Story: Steve Niles. Art: Christopher Mitten. Colors: Michelle Madsen. Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot

cm no peace

As in prior Cal MacDonald tales, the vampires and werewolves do not get along and the banter between them makes for some funny exchanges.  However, they have to work together to bring down Cal, the greatest threat they face as pointed out by a new presence - - Salem, the daughter of the oldest vampire ever (but not named) who wants revenge for Cal’s murdering of her master and pissing on his corpse.  Their new plan is to leave MacDonald alone but kill everyone who comes in contact with him, thereby driving him mad with frustration and pushing him over the edge.  Even his ghoul friend, Mo’Lock, begins to sense that Cal is depressed and trying to isolate himself from the rest of the world.

There are plenty of battles and situations in this one-shot issue, including an amusing scenario where Cal resurrects the spirit that inhabits his murderous Chevy Nova.  You’ll feel right at home with the art style of Mitten if you’re a regular partaker of HELLBOY or B.R.P.D.  If you are a fan and have been following the saga of CRIMINAL MACABRE (as I have) then you’ll want this issue.  It concludes with a major change and turning point, a prelude of things to come.  And follow Cal’s next adventure in DARK HORSE PRESENTS #4.

 IRON MAN 2.0  #9  (Marvel)  Nick Spencer & Joshua Hale Fialkov, writers.  Ariel Olivetti, artist. Ariel Olivetti & Jose Villarrubia, color art.  VC’s Joe Caramagna, letterer.

Iman 2.0 9

I sincerely hope this book stays available for some time, and Marvel doesn’t give it the early yank.  They’ve certainly not done much to promote it.  The covers have been rather generic, usually just a drawing of Rhodey in the armor in different poses, or a scene not related to the story.   The momentum built by the original storyline (which has still to conclude) was rudely interrupted by a 3-issue Fear Itself cross-over.  Even though that story was really good, readers following the main story may have lost interest after a 3-month pause and not come back.

Those who have kept their patience and stayed with it have been rewarded.  The Death Of Palmer Addley storyline thrusts into high gear with this issue, and it’s a shocker.  In brief, Palmer Addley was a genius disgruntled government employee assigned to work on new weapons of mass destruction, etc.  He committed suicide rather than continue on.  Yet, since Issue #1 Rhodey has been globe-trotting to various catastrophic outbreaks  - -  all linked by the Kilroy-was-here type of message left behind at each site - - “Palmer Addley Is Dead”.   Rhodey and his intelligence team have  been scratching their heads trying to figure out how this is occurring so they have a chance to head it off.  The method and motives are beginning to be revealed with this issue - - - it’s very creepy and the absolute scariest thing I have read this month = scary, because it’s plausible – if not now, sometime in our future.  PICK UP THIS BOOK!   Nick Spencer is a creative deviant, and there’s no better example of that than right here. If you require additional incentive,  - - the color wash technique from Olivetti & Villarrubia is very cool to look at - - like painted art with a glaze over it.

WULF  #3  (Atlas/Ardden)  Writer: Steve Niles.  Pencils and Inks: Nat Jones.  Colors: Mai.  Letters & Design: Richard  Emms

wulf 3

If you are sensing a theme to this column – it would be my attempt to do some quick reviews of books with dark or horrific themes as we approach Halloween.  What distinguishes WULF  from just another barbaric homage to Conan is its dark and horrific themes – plus it takes place in a modern setting.  Wulf has been displaced from his planet/realm of existence due to the machinations of a wicked sorcerer who, having decimated Wulf’s planet now seeks other worlds of conquest.

In following the trail of the evil Sanjon, Wolf was transported to modern-day Earth and formed a reluctant partnership with police investigator Sam Lomax (another resurrected Atlas character). Together, they follow Sanjon through space/time and end up back on Earth - - or is it?  Sanjon gets stronger as he siphons off power and energy from living beings.  He finds some competition from other alien parasites in this issue as they suck some of Sanjon’s energy away.

Steve Niles is scripting this book, and knows his way around darkness and also macabre humor.  I like the light touch in the relationship between Lomax and Wulf as Lomax tries to explain a very confusing modern world to the barbarian.   There are lots of double-page and full page panels to showcase the art of Nat Jones, which deserves the attention.  He’s got a fluid and uncluttered style that would fit right into the pages of SPAWN.  It’s the combination of art and otherworldly themes in WULF that are reminding me of that book.

There’s a neat confrontation with Sanjo which ends the book (and maybe one of the characters) and heralds the re-introduction of another favorite Atlas character on the last page:  IRON JAW.  WULF is a fun and entertaining diversion from the normal fare of super-heroes and barbarians.

THE STRANGE TALENT OF LUTHER STODE  #1 of 6 (Image)  Writer: Justin Jordan.  Artist: Tradd Moore.  Coloring: Felipe Sobreiro.  Lettering: Steven Finch.


The source that inspired writer Justin Jordan came right out of classic comic books from the 1960’s.  What if those ads in those comics for body-building courses (that claim to turn puny nerds into powerful chick magnets in a few months) actually worked?  There is more than enough gratuitous violence, blood and guts in LUTHER STRODE to satisfy gore hounds.  The redeeming factor is the story line and the characters, both a little funny and empathetic lending a lighter tone to the proceedings.  You can see the transformation of Luther from an insecure introvert to a confident confrontational personality.  I’m not sure which of the two I prefer yet.    The art work and colors remind me of the same effect the art team had on the CHEW books - - they put a lighter spin on the circumstances, making it seem a little less grisly than it really is.

The main villain, The Librarian, is introduced (though he has yet to meet Luther Strode) and he is even more bloodthirsty and ruthless than Luther was as seen in the opening pages bloodbath.   This book may be worth watching.

GHOSTBUSTERS #1  (IDW)  Written by Erik Burnham.  Art by Dan Schoening. Colors by Luis Antonio Delgado.  Letters by Shawn Lee.

NOTE: GHOSTBUSTERS #1 sold out at the distributor level.  IDW has now scheduled a second printing of Issue #1, expected to hit comics stores on November 23, 2011.


I thought the story would grab me before the art but the reverse is true. While the art is appropriately cartoonish in nature, there is far more detail and depth that you might expect to see in a “funny book” aimed at all ages.   All the familiar characters are back, including the Ghostbusters team who are quickly introduced in the opening pages as guests on a daytime talk show:  Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddemore and Dr. Raymond Stanz.   We also see gal Friday Ja’nine, the Ray Puft marshmallow giant,  and the Green Slime ghost monster - - this issue’s threat as he slimes an entire low-rent apartment building.

There’s a three-page sub-story with more serious art by Tristan Jones that deals with a newly-appointed PCOC (Paranormal Contracts Oversight Commission) to investigate whether the contracts between the City and Ghostbusters for their services are valid and legitimate.   Good fun.  Nice to see these guys again.

NEAR DEATH #1  (Image) Story: Jay Faerber.  Art; Simone Guglielmini.  Color: Ron Riley. Letters: Charles Pritchett.  Cover: Tomm Coker & Daniel Freedman.near death 

If you love a monthly dose of crime comics and can’t wait for each issue of Ed Brubaker’s CRIMINAL to arrive - - you’ll find plenty to satisfy your urges through Image Comics.  No other company (in my current recollection) is doing as much to showcase this genre as Image is. 

Hit-man Markham gets shot up badly trying to complete his assignment and just manages to come crawling to the doorstep of a sympathetic veterinarian.  (Ever notice how much emergency medical work that vets get in movies, television and comics?  Maybe there’s an underground economy here that I’m not aware of.)  During the operation, Markham almost dies and has a near-death experience that convinces him to change his ways.   He starts out by returning to the contract work he failed at and rescues the target, someone who was under the care of Federal Marshalls as a protected witness. He sneaks her away and sends her packing with enough money and supplies to start over again on her own.

This gets him into trouble with both his former criminal bosses/clients as well as federal prosecutors and law enforcement and makes him a marked man.  NEAR DEATH sets things up at a quick pace in very readable fashion and gets to the end sooner than you’d like.  Have to come back for me.

The art and shading/colors are very appropriate for this type of tale.  If you forget what book you’ll reading, you’d almost think you were looking at some pages from CRIMINAL.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SEASON 9 #1  (Dark Horse)  “Freefall, Part One”  Script: Joss Whedon. Pencils: Georges Jeanty. Inks: Dexter Vines. Colors: Michelle Madsen.  Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt.  Cover: Steve Morris.

Buffy 9

I’m not even a casual reader/viewer of Buffy fare, but I picked this up on a lark - - - just in case I was missing something excellent and didn’t know about it.  For a book that I presume is aimed at a teenage/young adult readership – this is pretty good stuff.  Who knows Buffy better than Joss Whedon, anyway?  I’m amazed that he continues to write several comics series while helming the production of the upcoming blockbuster AVENGERS movie at the same time!  (Can’t wait to see that one, btw.)

I doubt that anyone who reads comics or follows the fantasy/horror genre through movies and television is totally unfamiliar with the world of BUFFY, but SEASON 9 is a book that anyone could pick up and start fresh with.  The short summary on the contents page brings everybody up to date and says it all:

“With the destruction of the seed, the fight against Twilight was brought to an end, and magic’s connection to our earth was severed.  No more Slayers will be chosen.  No more Slayer army.  No more gang:  Buffy’s a waitress in San Francisco; Dawn and Xander are attempting normal domesticity; Willow is struggling with the loss of her powers.  It’s a new (ish) world, but there are still demons and vampires to slay - - - even as their popularity with the masses continues to grow - - and  Buffy is on point to do what she has always done . . . . . She is the Slayer.”

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: SEASON 9 begins as a transition point, a stage of relaxation after what has just been accomplished and before what is to come.  As a consequence, Buffy is a little off her guard and decides to “party”.  And Issue #1 is like a “party” issue - - it’s a bit of fun, it reminds me of a good Archie book with the dark stuff added and a little more sexual awareness than you see in Riverside.

It starts with Buffy waking up in a strange bed and without most of her clothes on. She doesn’t remember a thing as she meets up again with old friends and associates.  She gets confused about her work shift.   There are some interludes with darker moments interspersed in between the fun that hint at threatening things to come, and an ending page that brings a chuckle as a demon emerges to remind Buffy that “it’s time to pay!! - - - - - your student loan! . . .”  I’m thinking this isn’t about college tuition but more likely for services rendered in training her to become a Slayer.


  1. Unfortunately, Iron Man 2.0 is cancelled with #12, though I also recommend the issues that have been published.


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