Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bleeding Cool: Reading About What We Like To Read

 

BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #1 (Avatar Press, November 2012)

The first issue is finally here and it delivers on everything that was promised in the Issue #0 trial run that came out earlier this summer. Offering 114 pages of quality content for $4.99 BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE brings more of the “daily news and opinions about comics, TV, and film” that the www.bleedingcool.com website offers with less time-sensitive material but still some advance previews, plus detailed interviews and in-depth articles/content that would seem too large and unwieldy on the web. And it’s all done in the same respectful-but-not-fawning and serious-but-not-clinical approach that the web site is known and praised for.

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It’s a nice comic-sized magazine that should fit right in beside the weekly books on the shelves of our favorite comic book stores. Is it a cross between the late WIZARD magazine and the current COMIC BUYER’S GUIDE? I’d agree with that. While COMICS BUYERS GUIDE is now in a magazine format, it still feels and reads more like a trade newspaper. CBG is certainly more serious than WIZARD was, and so is BLEEDING COOL magazine. However, BLEEDING COOL has that magazine look and feel (glossier pages and lots of photos and art) like WIZARD but without any of the fan boy and uber-geek nonsense that (in my opinion) helped bring an end to WIZARD’s publishing days.

Issue #1 has many articles spotlighting some of the current and upcoming works of note from the smaller publishers (Marvel and DC are mostly absent this issue, except for the power list): BOOM!, Valiant, Aspen, Dark Horse, Image, etc.

There are two highlights that make this issue more than worthwhile for me:

1) There is Part One of a lengthy interview with Alan Moore in which he goes into depth on both the concepts, background and ideas behind THE COURTYARD, NEONOMICON and the recent FASHION BEAST. Moore is returning to horror comics in a big way with a focus on “modernizing H.P. Lovecraft” and I am delighted to see him devote his incredible creative abilities to this genre.

2) “The Top 100 Power List Of Comic Books” as assembled by Rich Johnston is a must read for anyone interested in the business side of comics publishing and who the heavy hitters are. So there are less writers and artists on this list than you might imagine - - and a whole lot more financial people and chief executive officers, etc. Johnston ranks them all and supplies a little rationale for his decisions. This is sure to be controversial and should provoke a lot of debate. Number One? = Jim Lee! Where is Stan Lee? = Number 27. Many of my favorite creators made the list = Grant Morrison (#18), Neil Gaiman (#28), Alan Moore (#30), Mark Waid (45), Ross Ritchie (#47), Garth Ennis (#53), Warren Ellis (#67), Chris Staros (#81), and Bob Schreck (#98). You can see the list and view the critical comments at http://bcool.bz/2012-top100.

There is also a neat price guide in the back of the issue that focuses on vintage books that have recently gone up in price and demand as well as current books that are demanding some higher prices for back issues.

Want to pick up a copy of BLEEDING COOL magazine but don’t know where to get it? There is a directory in the back of the magazine that lists all comic book stores in the U.S., Canada and the UK that are stocking multiple copies. In our area, look no further than THE COMIC BOOK SHOP in Wilmington, Delaware.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PREVIEWS: What’s new for Wednesday, November 21, 2012?

It’s been a long time since I put one of these articles together the day before new comics are released. I wanted to re-visit this for fun and change it up a little. I’m not going to list every book that comes out tomorrow. I won’t even narrow it down to what I feel are the most popular books (or the most ordered). This will be purely subjective - - books that I am personally interested in. Also, without any other limitations = I’ll list all the books that I would pick up tomorrow as if I had no restrictions on time or budget. (So, my actual list is a bit shorter than this one.)

BALTIMORE: THE PLAY (Dark Horse) one-shot by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

Baltimore

“A mad playwright puts on a Grand Guignol featuring actors that are real vampires. The evil financer of the play makes a bizarre discovery when he finds out that the playwright is a fraud and the true author is a disembodied head of a famous American author kept in a glass case.” By Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #18 (Dark Horse) In my opinion, the single best anthology comic of 2012 with the most value for the asking price. Highlights:

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“Captain Midnight strikes! The masked avenger flies into the twenty-first century courtesy of writer Joshua Williamson (Xenoholics, Voodoo) and artist Victor Ibáñez (Rat Catcher). The thrills begin again at the stroke of midnight! Also, the critically acclaimed Alabaster by Caitlín R. Kiernan and Steve Lieber continues in the pages of DHP! * A new creator-owned comic from Ulises Farinas! Post-apocalyptic Pokémon! * Resident Alien returns to the pages of DHP! * An all-star lineup! * EISNER AWARD WINNER!”

EDGAR ALLAN POE THE CONQUEROR WORM one shot (Dark Horse)

Poe worm

A horrifying adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic by comics legend, Richard Corben. A betrayed man hunts down his wife and her lover only to stumble upon a gruesome puppet show based on his life.

 

HARBINGER #6 (Valiant)

This issue begins a new story arc and introduces some new characters. The covers to upcoming Issues #7-10 feature interlocking images. (See below description) . . . .

“Led by omega-powered psionic Toyo Harada, the Harbinger Foundation is a secret organization that has controlled and subverted the course of recent history. With a secret army of psychic soldiers at his command, no one has dared defy Toyo Harada's plans for the human race – until now. Harada's most powerful student, Peter Stanchek, has discovered the true nature of the Harbinger Foundation and he will stop at nothing to prevent Harada's vision from coming to pass. With a classified list of Harada's next recruits in hand, it's down to Peter to draft the next generation of empowered youth and form the frontline in humanity's resistance to the Harbinger Foundation. Peter. Kris. Zephyr. Flamingo. Torque. Their fight for the future comes out the shadows and into the Valiant Universe when "Renegades" begins.”

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HAWKEN Trade Paperback (IDW)

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Collects the first set of the weird west tale by artist Tim Truman and witten with his son.

“Scalp-hunter, raider, killer-for- hire: Kit Hawken has been a bad man for most of his long life. Scalped, tortured, and left for dead by the mysterious order called The Ring, Hawken returns, seeking vengeance...

 

HELLRAISER #20 (Boom!)

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“FINAL ISSUE! IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS! While Harry D’Amour and the Female Cenobite try to rein in the escaped Hellions, a revelation about Elliott Spencer’s past gives Kirsty Cotton a chance to succeed where the world’s military might has failed. Clive Barkers’ newest chapter of the Hellraiser saga comes to its shocking conclusion.”

JUDGE DREDD #1 (IDW)

Dredd

“In the 22nd century, crime runs rampant in Mega-City One, home to over 400 million citizens, robots, criminals and lunatics. The only line of defense between anarchy and chaos are… the Judges. And Judge Dredd is the toughest of them all. In this, Judge Dredd’s 35th anniversary year, IDW is proud to re-introduce Judge Dredd to America in this all-new ongoing series.”

 

STEED AND MRS PEEL #3 (Boom!)

SteedandPeel_NEW_03_CVB

“John Steed & Emma Peel are not fooled by the con the new Hellfire Club has pulled over Parliament and the leaders of the UK -- but will they live long enough to do anything about it? Mark Waid (IRREEDEEMABLE, DAREDEVIL), Caleb Monroe (BATMAN 80 PAGE GIANT, ICE AGE) and Steve Bryant (ATHENA VOLTAIRE) bring us “A Very Civil Armageddon”! “

STITCHED GRAPHIC NOVEL VOLUME 1 (Avatar)

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Garth Ennis writes with fantastic art by Mike Wolfer. I’m collecting this is single issues. This first volume in trade paperback is a great starting point for others. American soliders survive a helicopter crash in Afganistan and struggle across the Taliban invested mountains, trying to hold off the murderous undead now powered by supernatural forces. Gritty, gory, and scary.

 

X-0 MANOWAR #7 (VALIANT)

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Ninjak is still stealing the show over in X-O Manowar #7 by Robert Venditti and Lee Garbett. This is an arc that keeps raising the stakes higher and higher with each passing issue and, trust me, this is where that momentum start paying off in a big, big way. Plus, for anyone out there who's seen Skyfall, pay close attention to this issue's second half... “

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BATMAN AND ROBIN: Zombies gotta eat, too !

 After spending so much time with the recent slew of AVENGERS VERSUS X-MEN books, I decided to keep my distance from the “Death Of The Family” saga currently unfolding in the Batman-related titles. However, the buzz about these Joker-infused books has me curious, especially after learning that the short print runs of BATWOMAN #13 and CATWOMAN #13 both sold out quickly. They are now scheduled for a second printing and copies (which cross-over into the Joker story) have been reported to be selling on E-Bay for $20 per copy. I’m still planning to wait for the trade paperbacks after everything wraps up. But I can’t resist just dipping my toe in the water a little. So, remembering what Pete Tomasi said about Issues #13-14 of BATMAN AND ROBIN being a soft tie-in to the Joker saga rather than a hard cross-over, I decided to pick them up. Glad I did. This is a great little two-part story.

batman-and-robin-new-52-13-cover                                   Batman_and_Robin_Vol_2-14_Cover-1_Teaser

BATMAN AND ROBIN #13 (December 2012) Peter J. Tomasi – writer. Patrick Gleason – penciller pages 1-15. Tomas Giorello – artist pages 16-20. Mick Gray – inker pages 1-15. John Kalisz – colorist. Carlos M. Mangual – letterer.

The covers to both of these issues will immediately catch your eye. My favorite of the two is the cover to this issue, with its great balance of red and black. Very appropriate for a zombie tale. Gleason’s art picks right up on the opening pages. I love his credits page showing Bruce standing in a doorway and looking in on a sleeping Damian, with the light in the hall behind Bruce casting an elongated Bat-shadow into the room. His facial expressions throughout the issue also help with the story-telling - - a lot of grim looks of determination as well as restraint and patience from both parties.

You can sense the continuing maturation of Robin/Damian as he observes and learns “perspective” from Batman/Bruce during a total solar eclipse. However, that doesn’t keep him from ignoring his father’s wishes, as when he sets off alone to investigate the empty graves and abductions occurring in Gotham. (In a neat little subplot, Damian handles the first of the soon to be many bounty hunters looking to collect the huge reward placed on his head by his mother). And, he does lose his cool just a little when confronted by an overwhelming mob of cannibalistic former townsfolk.

The artist change midway through the book isn’t too harsh by comparison and the transition is relatively smooth, but not seamless (because I could spot it). Giorelli’s got a similar style, with a little touch of Wrightson. There is more difference between his muted colors and lighter lines as compared to the work of the inks and colors behind Gleason’s work.

BATMAN AND ROBIN #14 (January 2013) Peter J. Tomasi – writer. Patrick Gleason and Thomas Giorello – pencillers. Mick Gray – inker. John Kalisz – colorist. Carlos M. Mangual – letterer.

Is the recent mindless mob mentality (“eat to live”) caused by The Joker, or is it due to some other cause? That’s what Robin attempts to find out as he allows himself to be captured in the hopes of getting to the source. What he learns may be more of the dark mind-control influence of a dark cult rather than a practical Joke. Or is it? (I certainly can’t reveal without spoiling this for you.) As far as a Batman worried about the safety of his son is concerned, “it’s a bad time to play the truculent little boy”. What starts out as another classic father-son confrontation at the conclusion of this story turns into a very tender moment that hints at the progress being made on both sides. Really, what ten-year old doesn’t think they know more than their father?

VALIANT RE-BOOT: The Suit Still Fits

 

X-O MANOWAR #1 – 4 (May-August 2012) Writer: Robert Venditti. Penciler: Cary Nord. Inker: Stefano Gaudiano. Colorist: Moose Baumann. Letterer: David Lanphear.

The late, lamented Valiant Universe has returned in 2012 and appears to be making an impact in the comics world. I was a reader then and I plan to be again. I miss many of their titles. It appears that the new editorial board intends to remain true to the heart of these characters while still putting a modern spin on things. They’ve chosen to re-introduce us beginning with X-O MANOWAR, which I think is a great choice as a flagship title for the new Valiant.

XOManowar01_RibicCover-crop

Inspired by IRON MAN at Marvel Comics, X-O MANOWAR was originally created by artist Bob Layton (who penciled many Iron Man issues) with writer Jim Shooter, and was much more than just a carbon copy of that character. Recently, the SOLDIER ZERO series from Boom! Studios apparently drew its’ inspiration from the original X-O MANOWAR with a similar origin (alien suit adapting to human body).

That’s enough about the past. It’s the present that matters. With writer Robert Vendetti at the helm and brought to visual life by artist Cary Nord - - X-O MANOWAR is a true delight. The first printing of 26,000 issues of Issue #1 sold out quickly, followed by a second, third, and fourth printing. The first four-issue story arc has just been released as a trade paperback. The second story arc re-introduces another iconic Valiant character = Ninjak.

ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS: The story opens in Northern Italy, 402 A.D as the massive conquering Roman army surprises the nomadic Visigoths with a vicious attack during the Easter holiday. In great detail, Nord and the art team show us how hopeless the odds are in a beautifully rendered two-page spread that reveals the entire battlefield. Here we are introduced to Aric of Dacia, nephew to King Alaric of the Visigoths, and quickly learn of his head-strong, emotional tendencies. He defies the retreat order and after a heartfelt patriotic and inspirational speech leads a small band of warriors into battle. The battle is brutal and bloody (as befits the Teen + rating on the cover) and Aric loses his father. He later learns that both his mother and wife have been abducted by Romans.

Believing that the disrespectful Roman forces are massing for a night time raid on their encampment, Aric and a small band try to intercept what they believe to be a massive transport vehicle. Hoping to find their family members trapped inside, the aggressive Aric leads the charge yet again. Instead of Romans, the battle involves the alien Hive whose vastly superior weaponry makes short work of the Visigoths and Aric is captured.

There is an aside during this battle which shows some aliens infiltrating the camp and transforming a baby alien into a human baby duplicate using some highly advanced (and quick!) D.N.A. replication. Keep your eye on for more revealing asides like this. It’s a trademark of Vendetti’s style and much appreciated. He sneaks in little glimpses and tidbits of information throughout these issues that provide background information as well as help to flesh out the characters.

Now captive on a deep space colony ship, Aric and best friend Gafti escape temporarily and witness a ceremony involving a sacred relic - - the armor of Shanhara. Commander Pith of the six-eyed alien forces is rewarded for his battle prowess and permitted to wear the armor. The “moving metal” form-fits itself to Pith’s body and kills him in the process. This has been happening for centuries, as the high priest affirms that the sacred armor “will only bestow its gifts on the worthy one.”

Meanwhile back in confinement Aric plots to defeat the aliens by taking their weapons, escaping, and then finding a way back to Italy to punish the Romans. Resourceful. Optimistic. Confident. So much occurs in this issue. It’s a great opening to the series.

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ISSUE #2 HIGHLIGHTS: After a tender moment between Aric and Deidre provides further background, we learn more about the alien Hive and how their captives have been set to work in their indoor spaceship “garden” (strange and colorful, and beautifully visualized here). They must help in harvesting plant life, vines and fruit that their captors refer to as “offspring” that must not be disrespected. Aric learns that the hard way and loses his  left hand to the swinging blade of an aggressive Vine warrior. His blond locks from the first issue now show deeper shades, as if the absence of sunlight is making them darker. Captivity is long, and years later his face sports a full black beard and hair to match with only traces of lighter color. During a planned escape the captives make their way to the armory room, where Aric and the Armor of Shanhara find compatibility.

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ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS: The armor makes it possible for Aric to comprehend the Hive language. It also rebuilds his left hand. (Is this Vendetti’s tribute to the original X-O title where Aric’s modern business associate, also one of the first openly gay characters in comics, loses his hand and re-gains an artificial one?) As Aric puts the armor through its paces during the escape we learn more of its capabilities (repulsor-like beams, mini-rocket bombs, flight, etc.). Aric is catapulted into space through a gaping hole in the ship. Just as the Hive trains all their rockets on him in an attempt to destroy the Shanhara armor, Aric blinks out of sight. Just moments before he was thinking of his wife and returning to Rome. The suit seems to comply with his wishes. But he crashes/returns to present-day Italy, right in the middle of the Roman Coliseum ruins (again, beautifully visualized for our enjoyment in big panel wonder).

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ISSUE #4 HIGHLIGHTS: The alien Hive commanders back on the ship bicker over what to do about the stolen suit of armor - - reclaim it and try to understand its mysteries, or destroy it? Back on earth, Aric thinks he’s still fighting  Roman legionnaires and learns more about what his suit can do, including taking down some military jets. Once he learns that sixteen centuries have elapsed he rockets away in despair, frustration, and confusion. It appears the Hive have now become well-infiltrated among the human populace (who remain unaware of them) in human form (with apparently enhanced sexual appetites). They are able to hold telepathic conferences with each other, where it is decided that one of them will attempt to track down and reclaim the suit. An invasion fleet waits in the wings in case of failure.  This is one of the better debuts I’ve read this year  (in a year of the re-boot) and I look forward to where this title goes next.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

January Preview: The Ugliest Kid On Earth

from the official press release  - - - this looks interesting, so I’m sharing

Ugliest Kid Ever Comes To Comic Book Stores
Todd: The Ugliest Kid On Earth Launches January 2013

November 15, 2012 – LOS ANGELES:   Eisner-nominated artist M.K. Perker and award-winning writer Ken Kristensen announced today that their comic book  Todd, The Ugliest Kid On Earthcvr launches January 16, 2013 via Image Comics. Todd,a collision of comedy, sex, and violence, follows the misadventures of America's most dysfunctional family as they go head-to-severed head with an Oprah-loving ax murderer, a cult-crazy soap opera star, and a neo-Nazi prison gang. The full-color four-issue mini series will hit comic stores January 16th in both digital and print formats.

An ensemble comedy, Todd follows the misadventures of a dysfunctional small-town family caught in extraordinary circumstances.

The heart of the story is son Todd – a good-hearted kid who wears a paper bag on his head because he’s so ugly. Or is he? He’s never actually seen without the bag. Relentlessly bullied, Todd’s efforts to make friends get him imprisoned for a murder he didn’t commit. As prison gangs close in on Todd, his fate hinges on inept cops, a tough jailhouse ally, his mother’s promiscuity, and a celebrity Scientologist who makes Todd’s father a very creepy offer he may not be able to refuse.

“In my career, I’ve had the pleasure of creating crazy characters, but with Todd we’ve tapped into the most insane parts of our imaginations,” says Perker. “Political correctness has no place in this book. Our goal is to create a wholly original world that will make you laugh and break your heart, by any means necessary. We make a solemn promise to our reader: no good deed will go unpunished.”

“Though the world and characters in Todd are a hyper-real version of small town America, like all satire it deals with important real-world themes,” says Kristensen. Todd explores the idea that we all live in a prison of some kind – whether it’s schoolyard bullying, a bad marriage, shitty job, oppressive religious doctrines, gang membership, or actual prison walls.”

This creative team previously collaborated on Dark Horse's Escapist anthology and have several project in the works including a feature film Playground,with writer-producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah (Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies, Freaks and Geeks TV series).

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About Image Comics :

Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has five partners: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline, Skybound and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit www.imagecomics.com.

About co-creator M.K. Perker:

Eisner-nominated comic book artist and writer whose work includes Cairo (Vertigo/DC), Air (Vertigo/DC), Insomnia Café (Dark Horse), as well as runs on Fables (Vertigo/DC), and most recently The Unwritten (Vertigo/DC). He is a member of the Society of Illustrators.

About co-creator Ken Kristensen:

Award-winning writer and comic book junkie. One of the greatest moments of his writing career was working with his hero Pulitzer-prize winner Michael Chabon on The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist (Dark Horse). He is a member of The Writers Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

VALIANT COMICS: Back From The Shadows

 

SHADOWMAN #1 (Valiant Comics, November 7, 2102 release date) Written by Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher. Art by Patrick Zircher. Color Art by Brian Reber. Letters by Rob Steen & Dave Lanphear.

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Timing may be everything, even when it’s coincidental. Just as one comics publisher announces the ending of a long-running supernatural/horror-themed title (John Constantine, HELLBLAZER) - - - in steps Valiant Comics with a new reluctant defender against demons in SHADOWMAN (the latest offering in their revival of many popular 1990’s titles from the original Valiant.) At least those of us who favor the dark and disturbing in our illustrated tales will have something to satisfy our cravings. Based on the debut issue, the new SHADOWMAN appears to be a nice mix of the popular original title and the darker, voodoo-themed 1997 re-boot from Acclaim Comics.

We first learnSM_001_VARIANT_JOHNSON of the main protagonist, Jack Boniface, before his birth as his father leaves his pregnant mother behind and departs for a dark reckoning. Turn the page on an unearthly confrontation between resurrected giant humanoids and members of the mystical Desire Projects. In steps Jack’s father, in Shadowman form, just in time to stop Master Darque by dragging him back into the portal from another dimension/realm.

 

Flash forward to present day New Orleans, where some of Jack’s background is revealed. He’s presently working in a local museum of culture and hiring detectives to research his parents’ background. (His mother died when he was just 10 years old). Jack learns that he’d been lied to during his childhood and both mother and father had criminal records. Racked with disappointment and despair, he discards the protective amulet his mother placed around his neck. This alerts the demonic forces of his presence and location, and it’s not long before they find him. Totally by surprise, Jack’s body morphs into the Shadowman as the issue ends.

 

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It’s a great opening to the series, and writers Jordan and Zircher move things along at an engaging pace revealing just enough background detail to whet the appetite for more. The art by Zircher has a sense of realism to it which makes the supernatural elements that more frightening as they seamlessly blend into the natural surroundings. Zircher is equally adept at depicting the more gruesome elements. A scene of carnage discovered by two police officers is definitely not for the squeamish. Mister Twist, the demon agent of Master Darque who confronts the police is a brilliant bloody creation, a disturbing blend of Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (the demon from the floorboards).

As an extra incentive, there are some fantastic variant covers available through local comics stores including a jet-black cover that reveals the outline of Shadowman when viewed from an angle. There is plenty to appreciate in SHADOWMAN and good reason to come back for more. Now is a good time to jump onboard for a grisly good ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Series with a Supernatural Bounty Hunter

THE TOWER CHRONICLES: GEISTHAWK Volume 1 (Legendary Comics, September 2012 $7.99)  Written by Matt Wagner. Pencils by Simon Bisley. Inks by Rodney Ramos. Color by Ryan Brown. Letters by Sean Konot.

Let this serve as a “heads up!” message between friends. THE TOWER CHRONICLES: GEISTHAWK Volume 2 is scheduled to arrive in comics shops this month. Get it, and grab yourself a copy of Volume 1 before the prices go up. This series should not be overlooked. It’s a strong contender to make my BEST NEW SERIES OF 2012 list.

Fans of horror comics with continuing protagonists like HELLBLAZER, SOLOMON KANE, BLADE, HELLBOY, B.P.R.D. and GHOST RIDER will find familiar ground here, but with a little different spin. John Tower seeks to eliminate dangerous creatures, but he does it for profit. Hard-core aficionados may feel like they’ve seen this before but it’s the presentation that makes the difference.

Legendary Pictures mastermind/founder Thomas Tull is responsible for the Legendary Comics division and is determined to bring the same magic to producing a new and original line of titles. First effort was the publication of Frank Miller’s HOLY TERROR, which met with favorable but mixed reviews. With THE TOWER CHRONICLES they may strike gold.

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Tull’s ideas for Tower have been embellished, modified and enhanced by writer Matt Wagner. It’s so good to see his stamp on some current work again. The addition of Simon Bisley on art is an extra blessing. I forgot how amazing his pencils are. The rest of the art team completes the total picture: THE TOWER CHRONICLES is very pleasing to the eyes.

In the 66-page debut we are given a glimpse into the life and character of John Tower as he completes three missions: taking down a Strigoi; insuring that a deceiving and deceased Russian mob associate doesn’t  continue to survive in poltergeist form; and helping track down a vicious vampiric serial killer with no discernable patterns of behavior.

With a long bloody scar running vertically across his left eye, tall and rugged John Tower looks every bit the mercenary. He does his work in a fully-equipped outfit that will remind some of the main character in the ASSASSIN’S CREED video game.  As depicted by Bisley, Tower leaves a vivid impression of a determined tracker. The art is bold and graphic when it needs to be. The action scenes are extremely dynamic and worth dwelling over. There is a sense of realism to events as accurately visualized by Bisley that makes it seem almost authentic. Show us more, please!

On the surface it seems as if Tower makes a good enough living (from tracking down demons and monsters for the benefit of his wealthy clientele) to support his extravagant lifestyle. He’s found a unique occupation and does very well with his niche business model. Yet there is much more that Wagner only lets out in little hints and clues throughout the story. As Tower wins against the monstrous bird in the opening pages, the captions reveal his thoughts: “Once it’s over - - the beast bagged --- and the client alerted - - as always - - I think of you.” Throughout the book, the captioned narration by Tower seems to indicate he is speaking directly to a confidante, friend, family member or lover.

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Even though he employs a highbrow Louisiana attorney to act as filter for the many requests he receives (including a Geisthawk website) Tower is still willing to accommodate some pleas for help from less wealthy sources. That includes the resourceful female FBI Agent Hardwicke who helps him track down “the Piranha killer”, a most unusual ravenous vampire-child that reminds of a Maurice Sendak wild and wonderful creature on amphetamines. In the explosive and bloody finale it seems as if a relationship is brewing.

As if all that wasn’t enough to entice you back for more, the book ends in Singapore with a coerced suicide-by-gun as a mysterious white-gloved figure speaks of his plans to call John Tower back into “the brotherhood” for some no doubt nefarious ends.

THE TOWER CHRONICLES will unravel across 3 story arcs, each with four volumes. With the talented Matt Wagner at the controls, I would expect this to get more complex and deep as it progresses. I’m onboard.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Not feeling so MARVEL-ous NOW

 

These may be the last MARVEL titles that I review for awhile.  At one point, I was feeling like I neglected the MARVEL books by focusing so much on DC NEW 52.  That prompted my decision to follow closely the events of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN and report on them here.  Now that things are wrapping up,  I’m feeling a little overweight and need a change to my diet.  I’m not saying that I will no longer review any MARVEL books here.  I’m just taking a break.  After reading the descriptions of the new MARVEL NOW titles in PREVIEWS   - - I haven’t ordered a single book.  While some of the writer/art teams seem interesting there is nothing here  than I consider a must-read.  I’m going to see what books the critics and fans are favoring in the coming months.  Then, maybe in six months time I’ll pick up one of the trade paperback collections.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, maybe a different BC Refugee will pick up the mantle and keep you informed of all things Marvel?

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #8  (December 2012)  Brian Michael Bendis, writer.  Mark Bagley, penciler.  Danny Miki, inker.  Paul Mounts, colors.  VC’s Clayton Cowles, letterer. 

AVG ASS 8

This is the wrap-up to the first story arc and the final issues scripted/drawn by the Bendis/Bagley team.  I will miss that.  I truly believe that some of Bagley’s finest work is on display right here.  It was a fun first run with the story.  Who knew that a comic created to capitalize on the market potential of the now-familiar super-heroes who were featured in THE AVENGERS movie could be so entertaining.?  Bendis didn’t waste the opportunity to tell one more Avengers story free of the continuity demands holding down the other Avengers books he was working on. (And, now freed from - - and probably just in time.  I think he was due for an Avengers burnout otherwise.)  The inclusion of The Guardians Of The Galaxy (another future movie property) into the mix was a little disturbing at first, but still handled well.  My only quibble is that not enough time was devoted to the new Zodiac team, who seem to have been inserted at the beginning simply as s lead-in to the bigger and badder Thanos.

In a surprising turn of events in Issue #8, we learn that the Cosmic Cube that Thanos is struggling to control is just a cheap knock-off developed by the Armed Forces.  Once Tony Stark is able to analyze the details closely it’s a quick trick for he and Reed Richards to reverse-engineer things, neutralize Thanos, and kick him into the waiting hands of The Elders.   In the epilogue, The Brotherhood Of The Badoon are miffed that their big battleship was trashed and declare war against Planet Earth. The last page lets us know that this is  . . . . to be continued in . . . . GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY . . . . debuting as a Marvel Now! title in February 2013 courtesy of Bendis and McNiven.  Sigh. 

A VS X: CONSEQUENCES #1  (December 2012)  Kieron Gillen, script.  Tom Raney, art.  Jim Charalampiois, colors.  VC’s Clayton Cowles, letters.

I like the premise behind this five-issue weekly series = show the consequences of a major war that just occurred in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN and detail some of the changes ahead while dealing with the devastation and despair, etc.  The contents page sums it up very well- - - - “Human and Mutant kind have been saved, but not without great consequences.  Cyclops has been imprisoned, many remain fugitives, and entire nations lie in ruin . . . . “  Damn straight.

So, I read Issue #1 expecting something of great consequence to occur but not so much does.

Wakanda has declared war on Atlantis after Namor almost single-handedly trashed the kingdom.  Any mutants of any type are no longer welcome in Wakanda.  Cyclops is now confined to an undisclosed U.S. prison where a new restraining collar for mutants is tested on him.   Hope wants to be normal and walk away from both the Avengers and X-Men.  No one can locate Magneto.   Cap thinks that only Cyclops can persuade the fugitive mutants to come in, and tries to enlist Wolverine to help convince Cyclops to help. The reason to read this issue is the exchange between the two - - well played, it seemed real, and true to the heart of both characters.  The other reason to read this book is to check out the interesting art from Tom Raney. 

AvsX-Consequences-1-196x300                 AvsX-Consequences-2-195x300

A VS X: CONSEQUENCES #2  (December 2012)  Kieron Gillen, script.  Steve Kurth, pencils.  Allen Martinez, inks.  Jim Charalampiois, colors. VC’s Clayton Cowles, letters.

A different artist takes over with Issue #2, but still worth a look.  Kurth’s style is similar, but different from Raney.  Both feature clean and crisp styles, with panels that have enough going on but seem more free of clutter than other books. 

The first half of the book contains the prison meeting between Wolverine and Scott Summers/Cyclops and while it drags out a bit (for dramatic effect) it’s nicely done.  Best line from Logan to Scott:  “Only you can take all the fun out of wanting to murder someone you hate.”   The other prisoners hate Cyclops and make moves to exterminate him.  His fellow mutant prisoner just discovered his powers.  And I’m thinking those powers will help Cyclops break out before he can be martyred inside the walls. 

I missed my chance to pick up Issue #3 (thanks to Hurricane Sandy) and have since decided that I really don’t need to read this series.  I just have to pick up the latest issue of PREVIEWS to read what happens two months from now when the consequences have been realized.  Okay.