Saturday, October 1, 2016


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

I TIED up some loose ends last month and finished off some long-unfinished comic series (and arcs). Was it worth the wait? Let's check out what I perused, shall we?

1.-9. The Boys #55-63 (Dynamite, 2011-12) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: John McCrea, Darick Robertson, Russ Braun
10.-15. Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker #1-6 (Dynamite, 2011) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Darick Robertson
16.-24. The Boys #64-72 (Dynamite, 2011-12) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: Darick Robertson, Russ Braun
Man, does Garth Ennis hate superheroes or what?
Fantastic work by the great man and a satisfying conclusion to this brutal, at-times offensive, but always entertaining series. The relationship between Butcher and Wee Hughie was just wonderful. Tragic and wonderful. Manipulative and utter bastardry on Butcher's behalf...but wonderful.

25.-28. Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ***
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Adam Hughes
29.-32. Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ***½
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: Lee Bermejo
33.-38. Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ***¼
Writer: Len Wein/Artist: Jae Lee
39.-42. Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1-4 (DC, 2012) ***½
Writer: Darwyn Cooke/Artist: Amanda Conner
43.-46. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ****
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artists: Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz
47.-52. Before Watchmen: Comedian #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ***¾
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: JG Jones
53.-54. Before Watchmen: Moloch #1-2 (DC, 2013) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Eduardo Risso
55.-60. Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ****¼
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
61. Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 (DC, 2013) ***
Writer: Len Wein/Artist: Steve Rude
When DC announced the “Before Watchmen” concept, the time I was happy they came out because I loved anything Watchmen-related and, childishly, I got off on the idea that it pissed off Alan Moore and his cronies.
I bought them all and started reading them in sequence, but quit half-way through the series as they felt...uninspired.
My reading theme for September was a good excuse to go back and reread those issues, then plough through the rest. In the end, my opinion hasn’t changed that much: all are pretty much unnecessary and some are downright pointless, Dr Manhattan, Dollar Bill, Ozymandius and Moloch in particular.
Set during the New York blackout of 1977, Rorschach has beautiful art from Bermejo, but the story doesn’t quite work for me.
Silk Spectre is funny – and Conner’s art is gorgeous – and it gives us a legit reason why a 16-year-old might start dating a giant blue freak like Dr Manhattan.
Nite Owl is pure adventure, but it fleshes out the relationship he had with Rorschach. There’s a nice sequence where the duo burst into a massage parlour and, confronted by naked women, Rorschach goes crazy and tries to attack one of the “whores”, and has to be physically restrained by Nite Owl. It reveals the puritanical streak that drives the masked crusader to more extreme actions later in life.
Comedian suggests that it was probably his involvement in the Vietnam War that finally sent the amoral hero over the edge. A key plot device is Blake Edwards’ close friendship with JFK and Robert Kennedy. Unlike what was hinted in the movie, the Comedian DIDN’T assassinate JFK. This miniseries reveals he was sent on a wild goose chase that day to keep him away from Dallas. Shockingly, the miniseries’ conclusion sees Comedian murder Robert (after Sirhan Sirhan fails), because the presidential candidate was going to tell the world about Comedian’s involvement in a massacre in Vietnam. Overall, Comedian is one of the more interesting series on offer.
That leaves us with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen, which is far and away the pick of the bunch. The retro art is perfect and the fleshing out of all the Minutemen characters, especially The Silhouette and Mothman, is wonderful. Cooke’s writing is probably stronger than his artwork as he makes the whole Minutement concept work.
Much of what Moore touches on when discussing the Minutemen in the original Watchmen – Comedian’s attack on Sally Jupiter, the death of Dollar Bill, Hooded Justice’s disappearance – are barely touched on here by Cooke, who prefers to explore other aspects of the team’s career.
The suggestion early on that Hooded Justice may actually be a child killer turns out to be a furphy and the conclusion to the series – a midnight conversation between Comedian and retired crime-fighter Hollis Mason in his apartment – is chilling and a genuinely shocking conclusion to the miniseries.
As for the ongoing two-page serial, The Curse Of The Crimson Corsair (Writers: Len Wein & John Higgins/Artist: John Higgins), it’s pretty forgettable.
In conclusion, I would have been happier if DC had just run with the Minutemen miniseries and left the rest alone.
As for the proposed inclusion of Watchmen characters in the current DC universe? Well, as long as it pisses off Alan Moore, then I’ll be happy.

62.-69. Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker #1-8 (Image, 2011-12) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: Mike Huddleston
Casey is so overrated, but Butcher Baker is like a reimagining of what might have happened if the Comedian had lived to fight on in the 21st century.

70. Fantagor Presents Brood (FantaCo, 1983) ***
Writer/Artist: Richard Corben
For the past 34 years, I’ve waited to read the conclusion to Corben’s sexy sci-fi epic Jeremy Brood. I finally did so courtesy of FabSeb, who sent me a digital copy of the first half of this comic, which contains the truncated conclusion to the poor-selling graphic novel. And boy does it feel...TRUNCATED. Clearly, Corben was anxious to conclude this tale and move onto other things. It’s okay, but ultimately disappointing considering how huge the initial project was supposed to be. Corben’s art feels rushed, too.
Still, I've read it now, so the circle is complete.

71.-72. Doctor Strange #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Chris Bachalo
73.-74. Drax #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
Writers:  Cullen Bunn and CM Punk/Artist: Scott Hepburn
75.-76. Squadron Supreme #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Leonard Kirk (interiors); Alex Garner (covers)
77.-78. Dream Police #11-12 (Image, 2016) ***¾
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Sid Kotian
79.-80. The Fade Out #11-12 (Image, 2015-16) ***¾
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
81.-83. Absolution: Rubicon #3-5 (Avatar, 2013) ****
Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Daniel Gete 

84. Maralinga (The House Of Skullduggery, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Jen Breach/Artist: Douglas Holgate
Post-apocalyptic tale set in future Australia with gorgeous art by Holgate. But it took me about five minutes to read it and this is the only volume. Bummer.
85. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #18 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
86.-90. The Last Resort (IDW, 2010) ***¼
- originally published in The Last Resort #1-5 (IDW, 2009)
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray/Artist: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
The death of Elizabeth’s Books in Pitt Street earlir this month came suddenly. I hadn’t been past the store in a week and decided to check it out after I picked up my weekly comics haul from Kings Comics on the other side of the street.
As I got closer I saw that there was a 50% off sale going on. I asked the manager Amy if the store was closing down and she nodded, “We’re merging with the other store in Newtown.”
“That’s awful,” I said.
She looked at me and said she was so emotional all day that she couldn’t bring forth any more tears: “Don’t take my lack of emotion as meaning I’m not sad.”
This was Thursday. The store’s final day was the Friday.
Elizabeth’s – a Perth-based bookstore chain – first opened in Pitt Street in 2007. I think the Newtown branch came first, but I’m not certain. It sold new and used books – prices were frustrating, ranging from ridiculously cheap to stupidly overpriced. And I embarrassed myself more than once trying to sell them review copies of books I received at work. The staff somehow made you feel like a junkie scumbag and only gave you a cash coupon that you had to spend in the store. I stopped trying to sell them stuff on an intermittent basis after a few years.
Other than that, I BLOODY LOVED going there.
When I worked on Goulburn Street, I would walk past it twice a day to and from the train station. It became a nightly habit to check out what stock they had.
For the first few years, it was open to 9-10pm every night – it was cool going to the pub after work, staggering out at 9pm and still being able to scope out the bookshop on the way to Town Hall.
The first sign of the store struggling came when it cut back its opening hours several years ago. A new manager took over – Amy (not that I knew her name then) – and started concentrating on expanding its range of comics and books.
Elizabeth’s was a place where I could go in there day after day and not find anything worth buying for months. Then, suddenly, there’d be a stack of new comic books or a fantastically rare graphic novel and I would buy heaps.
Sometimes, I’d just buy a random stack of 10 or so comics – at $3 a comic that was a bargain.
Bought so many things there: Journey Vol. 1 by William Messner-Loebs, X-Men #106 (only $3 but it’s worth over $100), a ton of early 70s Fantastic Four mags and the complete Strangers In Paradise trades.
I scored bargains in the Newtown store, too, but Pitt Street was more handy.
Of course, I bought non-comics related stuff, too, including the last book-related gift for my father (four sci-fi novels that I don’t think he got around to reading).
And now it’s gone. When I went past the store the following Tuesday, it was empty and the shelves were being ripped down.
Sure, the Newtown store is still around – and it should fare better in that hipster suburb than it did in busy Pitt Street – and Amy’s gone to work there (I hope she’s allowed to bring her dog to the store, too. It was a fixture at the front counter of the old shop.)
Taking advantage of the 50% sale, I grabbed a copy of IDW’s The Last Resort trade for $9. And, true to form, Elizabeth’s gave me a bargain. As I flipped through the book the next day I found that in the extras section was the five original comic covers drawn by the late, great Darwyn Cooke. Every single pin-up had been personally signed by Darwyn.
I was overcome with a mixed feeling of elation and sadness.
So long, Elizabeth’s, and thanks for all the books.

91.-99. Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial By Fire (DC, 2011) ****½
- originally published in Suicide Squad #1-8 (DC, 1987), Secret Origins #14 (DC, 1987)
Writer: John Ostrander/Artists: Luke McDonnell, Dave Hunt, Bob Lewis and Karl Kesel (interiors); Luke McDonnell and friends (Secret Origins, Suicide Squad #2-6), Howard Chaykin (Suicide Squad #1), Jerry Bingham (Suicide Squad #7-8) (covers)
100.-109. Suicide Squad Vol. 2: The Nightshade Odyssey (DC, 2015) ***½
- originally published in Suicide Squad #9-16, Secret Origins #28, Justice League International #13 (DC, 1988)
Writer: John Ostrander and friends/Artists: Luke McDonnell, Keith Giffen and friends
110.-115. Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits (DC, 2016) ***½
- originally published in Countdown #10, Batman Adventures #12, Batman #613, Gotham City Sirens #7, Suicide Squad #1, Batman #13, Harley Quinn #21, Harley Quinn And The Suicide Squad April Fools’ Special #1 (DC, 1993-2016)
Writers/Artists: various
I finally saw the movie – review HERE – and really enjoyed it. Which made me want to revisit the classic comic series penned by John Ostrander in the late 1980s. Many of the movie elements are based on his first few arcs, so it was appropriate to read them again after nearly 30 years.
I loved Suicide Squad from the moment I first picked it up. It was the first gritty, noir comic put out by DC not called Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns. The fact that it was available on Aussie newsstands was remarkable.
The idea of a team of super-villains – Task Force X (aka “Suicide Squad”) – put together by ball-breaking Amanda Waller to carry out covert missions without official government sanction was a great concept.
Many of the storylines were current – even ahead of their times – including neo-Nazi demagogues, Russian dissidents and the cocaine trade in Nicaragua.
In the first arc, the squad battled a team of super-terrorists in the Middle-East. One squad member – Mindboggler – is killed when the cowardly, treacherous Captain Boomerang allows her to be gunned down rather than help her. Mindboggler’s death was shocking but a cool reminder that ANY character was expendable in the Suicide Squad.
In a later arc, Slipknot tries to escape during a mission to destroy the Manhunters’ lair and has his arm blown off by a device attached on his wrist (a plot device more brutally reworked for the movie). On that same mission, team leader Col. Rick Flag’s ex-girifriend Karin Grace betrays the team and is eventually killed.
A mission to Nicaragua sees the whole squad – Mister 104, Psi, Thinker and Weasel – die with only Flag surviving.
Of course, the stories in the first two volumes aren’t perfect. Ostrander is a fine writer but he’s still cobbled by DC’s 80s writing style that was a bit too wordy at times. On a more personal level, Boomerang is a great character undermined by horrible dialogue as Ostrander COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTANDS the Australian accent and slang. His dialogue is actually embarrassing at times.
Art-wise, I’m more tolerant towards it now, but at the time I thought Luke McDonnell was a poor artist – he had a really loose sense of human anatomy that saw people’s arms and legs go in directions that aren’t physically possible. His style is...well, CLUMSY.
That said, Ostrander’s writing – particularly his characterisations – makes the series and the first two volumes are very strong.
Really, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad feels like a precursor to the equally entertaining Secret Six (another team of villains featuring Deadshot).
Of course, Harley Quinn wasn’t around back in the 1980s, but when the series was revamped for the New 52, she became front and centre of the new Suicide Squad.
A couple of these issues appear in Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits and stand up well to the original run. I may pick up a trade or two down the line, especially as I’ve become a big fan of Quinn thanks to the movie.

BELATED FILM REVIEW: Suicide Squad (USA, 2016, dir. David Ayer)


I IGNORE the mixed reviews and went to see Suicide Squad just before it dropped out of cinema release. I’d always been a fan of John Ostrander’s gritty 80s series [see breakout], so I was keen to see whether this flick captured some of that same flavour.
I’m no Will Smith fan either, but I was keen to see how Margot Robbie sank her teeth into the role of Harley Quinn.
Well, despite some massive plot holes and inconsistent characterisations, I really liked the movie.
Harley Quinn is far and away the star of the movie and steals every scene she’s in. Robbie gets across her care-free insanity and her tragic obsession with The Joker.
I know some people didn’t like Jared Leto’s interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime – and his more mutual relationship with Harley (unlike the very one-sided nature of their relationship in the comics) – but I thought Leto’s Joker was fantastic. Utterly crazy and willing to do anything to get his main squeeze back.
Will Smith’s Deadshot was a surprise – I thought he was pretty cool, although his jump from stone-cold assassin to noble hero in the space of one scene was a bit hard to swallow.
Amanda Waller (xxx) was picture-perfect. Cold, brutal – the scene where she shoots all her staff because “they knew too much” perfectly captured her character.
I was less impressed with Rick Flag (xxx) who looked disturbingly like CM Punk. In fact, that though kept bouncing around my head every time he popped up on the screen. His relationship with June “Enchantress” Moone was the weak point of the flick.
With the focus heavily on Harley Quinn and Deadshot, the other members of the Suicide Squad got short shrift, although Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc showed promise. Katana felt like an after-thought and xxx and xxxx were just there to get across the “suicide” aspect of the team.
My main beef with the film’s plot was the fact that the Squad was formed to take on meta-human threats. But their first mission is to take on one of their own squad members, Enchantress, gone rogue. So if the squad hadn’t been formed in the first place, there would have been no world-shattering crisis. Waller created the problem AND the solution.
Hmmmm…a more paranoid observer might think she did it deliberately. Sneaky bitch, huh.

Then again, if I was a high-ranking government official and saw one of Waller’s crew nearly destroy a city, I might just recommend they withdraw the Squad’s funding and have her fat arse fired. Just saying…

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

COMICS READING FOR AUGUST: “The things we do for family”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-25. Showcase Presents Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (DC, 2012) ***
- originally published in Legion Of Super-Heroes #298, Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld #1-12, Amethyst Annual #1, DC Comics Presents #63, Amethyst #1-11 (DC, 1983-85)
Writers: Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn/Artists: Ernie Colon, Rik Estrada and friends
26.-39. Marvel Ultimate Super Hero Collection (Marvel/Scholastic, 2016) ***¼
- collecting Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury, Ant-Man, Avengers, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Wasp, Ultimate Spider-Man: Team Heroes, Falcon, Hulk
Writers/Artists: various
This 14-part series (with a free slipcase) came as a two-week promotional deal from the trashy Murdoch tabloids – in Sydney’s case it was The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. So I sold my soul for 14 days and bought the comics for $2.60 apiece each day, so the kids could enjoy them. And they did.
After going to all that effort I decided to read them, too. Turns out they were all Marvel Adventures strips, some dating back more than six years. I remember reading a few of them the first time round in the cheap digests that collected them at the time. The tales ranged from mediocre to fun and were definitely geared towards kids, with a cute little moral at the end of tale. Sadly, because the comics came from a range of series over a long period of time, there was little cohesion. Characters changed personalities from issue to issue. Some of the Avengers-related strips had a story arc where Loki was trying to destroy the team after stealing powerful artefacts belonging to Odin. However, this storyline was dropped without a conclusion with the Falcon comic. It wasn’t even mentioned  in the Hulk book. All in all, a mish-mash, but at least the kids got a real kick out of them.
40. Small Things by Mel Tregonning and Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2016) ****¼
A beautiful, wordless hardcover book about a boy who feels alone with his worries. But he eventually learns there are people around him who can help him. He also learns that everyone has worries – his classmates, his big sister, everyone. It’s a beautifully drawn and told tale – made more poignant by the knowledge that Tregonning took her own life before this book could come to fruition. Kudos to Tan for finishing the job. It’s a wonderful book.
41.-43. Timely Comics: Squadron Supreme #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Squadron Supreme #1-3 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Leonard Kirk, Paul Neary and Scott Hanna (interior); Alex Ross (cover)
44. The Soldier Legacy (Black House Comics, 2011) **
Writer/Artist: Paul Mason
45. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #17 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
46.-50. Starve Vol. 2 (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Starve #1-5 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Danijel Zezelj
51.-56. Super Zero Vol. 1: The Beginning (Aftershock, 2016) ****
- originally published in Super Zero #1-6 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti/Artists: Marcelo Maiolo (interiors); Amanda Conner (covers)
57.-62. Citizen Jack Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Citizen Jack #1-6 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Sam Humphries/Artist: Tommy Patterson
Donald Trump has made this political, satanic-tinged parody into a thinly-veiled factual account of The Donald’s rise to within a pussy hair of the US Presidency.
63. Superman/Batman: “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice Day” Special Edition #1 (DC, 2016) ***½
- originally published as Superman/Batman #1 (DC, 2003)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Ed McGuinness
This was good enough to convince me to buy the first trade collection.

64. The Banana Splits (Western Publishing, 1971) *
Writer/Artist: unknown
This is a curious lil’ B&W Aussie reprint. It’s unnumbered but the photo cover is from The Banana Splits #5 (Gold Key, 1971), while the contents come from issue #6. Sadly, the comics are uninspired, unfunny dross, with the second yarn bordering on offensive racism even by 1971 standards when it comes to its depiction of modern Native Americans. Still, I loved this TV show as a kid, so I’m glad to have a copy in my collection.

I swore I’d never do it, but a few weeks back I went back to Comic Kingdom to pick the bones in its 50% off closing down sale. There wasn’t much left, but here’s what I found for a handful of change.
65. Dave Stevens Selected Sketches & Studies Vol. 2 (Bulldog Studios, 2003) *****
Limited edition sketchbook. Sadly, unnumbered and unsigned.
66. Avengers Rough Cut #1 (Marvel, 1998) ****½
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artist: George Perez
Perez’s unlinked pencils are exquisite.
67. Starlord, June 10, 1978 (IPC Magazines, 1978) ***
Writers/Artists: various
I loved Starlord far more than its more successful, more established counterpart 2000A.D., probably because it was produced on better quality paper (2000A.D. was printed on toilet paper around this time). Most of the stories were frankly lame, especially the execrable Mind Wars, while Planet Of The Damned was designed to be offensive and little more. Timequake – with its time-travelling cops trying to stop disruptions in the timeline – was better, but the strips that showed the most staying power were Ro-Busters and Strontium Dog. They benefited from better artwork – Ian Kennedy and Carlos Ezquerra, respectively – and successfully survived the merger that inevitably came when 2000A.D. absorbed the poorer-selling Starlord.
68. Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #5 (Deluxe Comics, 1986) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
It’s a pity this series never got off the ground – a problem constantly faced by Wood’s creations no matter who publishes them – as the stories were intriguing and they had an impressive list of creators involved, including Keith Giffen and Jerry Ordway.

Off the eBayz
I bought a bunch of comics off eBay as I hadn’t done so in years. Let’s see what I picked up for relative peanuts.
69. 22 Brides #3 (Event Comics, 1996) *
Writers: Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti and Fabian Nicieza/Artists: Scott Lee and Jimmy Palmiotti
Shit sub-early 90s Image wannabe, guns’n’babe, makes-no-sense crap. Considering who’s involved in this project, this is a major disappointment. That said, this is the gorgeous Mitch O’Connell variant cover, signed by Quesada and Palmiotti. Which is the only reason why it earns one star.
70. One Life (Topps, 1996) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: P. Craig Russell
I still stumble across oddball Neil Gaiman pieces that I didn’t know existed. This is appears to be an adaptation of a Neil short story, which is the lead-in to a new Elric series published by Topps. Whimsical, thoughtful, disturbing tales of an adolescent coming of age in a private boys’ school and all the horrors that entails. His one beacon of hope in a strange world? Michael Moorcock’s body of work, particularly the albino prince Elric. Really lovely work by Gaiman and Russell.
71. Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’96 (Marvel, 1996) ***¾
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artists: Mike Allred and Joltin’ Joe Sinnott; lots of friends
If only all superhero comics could be this fun and pure.
72. Spawn #11 (Image, 1993) *
Writer: Frank Miller/Artist: Todd McFarlane
Everything that sucks about early 90s Image and Frank Miller, all rrolled up into one neat package. Still, a cool centrefold from Geoff Darrow, so I’ll bump it up to one star. 
73.-75. Murder Can Be Fun #2, #8, #11 (SLG, 1997-98) ***¾
Writers/Artists: various
Good, clean, murderous fun.
76. Worlds Collide #1 (DC/Milestone, 1994) DUD
Writers/Artists: various and shit
I only bought this crap for the free stickers. Godawful crossover – no wonder Milestone folded. It should stay folded.
77.-113. Legionnaires #0-5, 8-12, 15-22, 33-34, 38, 42-43, 47-48, 51-53, 55-56, 58, 67-71, 78, Annual #1 (DC, 1993-99) **
Writers/Artists: various
Every Legion of Super-Heroes title since Crisis On Infinite Earths has been problematic. No writer – not even the great Grant Morrison – has known how to resolve the many contradictions, anomalies and general mess that the Legion has accumulated in the past 30 years. This early 90s series is a classic example. Cloned younger versions of the LoSH (or are they the REAL version) have various misadventures and give of vibes as the creepiest, most annoying super-powered teens of all time, especially misogynistic Live Wire (aka Lightning Lad), Inferno (Sun Boy) and Matter-Eater Lad, whose creepy filming of female team members in the shower is treated as lighthearted humour and not the sexual assaults they actually are. I want to blame Tom and Mary Bierbaum, but other more accomplished writers like Mark Waid also stumble with the incredibly clunky plot and dozens of one-dimensional cast members.
And then......
In issue 16, Zero Hour rears its misguided head and fucks EVERYTHING. Suddenly, old LoSH members ar emerged with the newer team members, then their entire history is retconned. Add the fact that DC had TWO Legion-related titles at this time, running alternate fortnights and they were interconntected means it was impossible for me to follow any of the storylines because I was literally missing out on half of them.Characters who were integral to the early issues – like Catspaw – vanished, only to be mentioned in passing as minor characters 50 issues later. Dead characters were suddently alive again – and vice versa.
The most radical change was Chameleon. In the pre-Zero Hour issues, he had been revealed to be LoSH benefactor RJ Brande. Post-Zero Hour, they were two separate characters again.
As for the artwork – except for some nice early work by Chris Sprouse – it was done by a series of increasingly incompetent hacks who infested DC and Marvel during the first half of the 1990s. Just godawful, although Roger Stern and Abnett/Lanning seemed to be getting a grip on the characters in the later issues. Still, this was a hard slog for me and I’m a LoSH fan.

And...finally....something really enjoyable to end the month
114.-119. Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money Vol. 0: Merc Madness (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money #1-5 and Deadpool: Masacre (Marvel, 2016)
Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money: Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artists: Salva Espin (interior); Declan Shalvey (main covers)
Deadpool: Masacre: Writers: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn/Artists: Scott Koblish (interior); Francisco Herrera (cover)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Wrestling with greatness..?”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

NOTE: For all your online comix purchases, I suggest you head to Comixology ( For hard-copy purchases of back issues at a very cheap price, it has to be Lone Star Comics (

1.-4. Black Jack Ketchum (Image, 2016) *
- originally published in Black Jack Ketchum #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Schirmer/Artist: Claudia Balboni
“If David Lynch did a Western...” wrote one critic. Well, if it was one of David Lynch’s crappy movies, then yes...Black Jack Ketchum is very Lynchian. A huge disappointment. Being confusing, lacking logic and having a non-ending doesn’t make you clever, it makes you SHIT. Or maybe it’s just me.
5.-10. Saga: Vol. 6 (Image, 2016)
- originally published in Saga #31-36 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Fiona Staples
The best comic series out there continues to bring me great joy. After a few missteps in volumes four and five, this one is a fine return to great form. Just perfect. Sci-fi, romance, war stories, erotica and, now, Orange Is The New Black makes this the genre mash-up to beat all mash-ups.
11. Howard The Duck #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Howard: Writer: Chip Zdarsky/Artists: Joe Quinones and Joe Rivera
Gwenpool: Writer: Christopher Hastings/Artist: Danilo Beyruth
Joe Quinones (cover)
12.-17. The Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in The Vision (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Tom King/Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta (interior); Mike Del Mundo (#1-4 covers); Marco D’Alfonso (#5-6 covers)
This was recommended to me by a lord and I’m glad I took his sage advice. This was pretty damn good.
18.-23. Jupiter’s Circle Book Two (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #1-6 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Mark Millar/Artists: Wilfredo Torres and Chris Sprouse
24.-28. Paper Girls Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Paper Girls #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Cliff Chiang
29.-33. Stringers (Image, 2016) ***½
originally published in Stringers #1-5 (Image, 2015)
34.-36. Scarlet #8-10 (Icon, 2016) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Alex Maleev
It’s been a long wait, but Bendis is finally back to complete the second arc of his gruelling tale of police corruption and one broken woman’s attempt to fix the problem. A lot of cop-killing, public unrest and general terrorism ensues. This is probably the most interesting book Bendis is working on right now.
37.-40. Uncanny X-Force Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published by Uncanny X-Force #1-4 (Marvel, 2010-11)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artists: Leonardo Manco (Wolverine: Road To Hell); Jerome OpeƱa (Uncanny X-Force #1-4)
Somewhat overrated.
41.-46. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline (Marvel, 2016) ****¼
- originally published by Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Kate Leth. Artists: Brittney L. Williams (#1-5 interiors); Natasha Allegri (#6 interior); Brittney L. Williams (covers)
47. Spider-Man Magazine (ACP Magazines, 2012) **
Writers: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (plot), Todd Dezago/Artists: Logan Lubera & Craig Young (interior); Todd Nauck (cover)
48. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #16 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
49. Briggs Land Ashcan (Dark Horse, 2016) ***
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Mack Chater (interior); Tula Lotay (cover)
Domestic terrorism and white supremacy. So this is a funny book, I assume.
50. Ginger Meggs Sunbeams Book (Shakespeare Head Press, c.19??) ****
Writer/Artist: Jimmy Bancks
A coverless comic I picked up in Paringa for $2. The Sunbeams Book was an annual reprint of full-colour Sunday newspaper strips. With the cover missing, I can’t tell what year it’s from, but they were published every year from 1924-59. I suspect it’s from the 1950s. The art is glorious while the scripts are kinda dated but still interesting from an historical perspective.
51. Bluey And Curley Annual (The News, 1946) *
Writer/Artist: Les Dixon
An annual collection of newspaper strips that I bought in the same Paringa junk shop for $1. Pretty much in mint condition. Sadly, the strip has dated badly. These are “dad jokes” of the very lowest, unfunniest variety. In fact, some gags are bafflingly stupid.
52. Australian MAD #496 (Next Media, 2016) **½
Writers/Artists: the usual gang of idiots
My friend AW gave me his copy and it was a light read. A few gags made me smile, but most of the content left me cold. I was surprised how heavily reliant the magazine’s become on American material. There’s very little Aussie content now (due to lack of money, I assume).
Still, there’s ots of talent on display in this issue including Box Brown, Peter Kuper and the seemingly immortal Al Jaffee, but the “Superheroes Unite” toons by Sergio Aragones and a TED Talk pisstake by Samuel Ferri were the highlights. The lowlight was a dreadfully unfunny feature titled “The 50 Worst Things About Superheroes And Villains”. Just terrible.
An act of cost-saving desperation can be seen with the mag reprinting an old strip from the 1950s: Kurtzman and Elder’s off-key misfire “Woman Wonder”. This strip’s ending made me uncomfortable as a child in the 70s, but it’s just so much more horrible reading it in 2016: man-on-woman violence and hideous misogyny played for laffs. It wasn’t cool in the 1950s when it was produced and it isn’t cool now. I’m surprised the magazine showed such poor taste in reprinting this trash, as there’s so much better stuff in the vaults.
All in all, MAD continues to be a mixed bag artistically, but at $6.95 (or FREE when friends give me their copy), it’s still pretty good value for money.
53. The Wild Party (Pantheon Books, 1994) *****
- originally published in 1928
Writer: Joseph Moncure March/Artist: Art Spiegelman
Incredible re-release of a classic poem about a debauched party. Art has done so many illustrations for this version that it’s practically a graphic novel. So I’m including it here.
54. The Phantom #1755 (Frew, 2016) ****
Writer: Norman Worker/Artists: Carlos Cruz (interior); Gary Chaloner (cover)
I bought this comic for the exquisite Chaloner cover, but the story (a Euro-reprint) is entertaining – and pretty accurate when it comes to its depiction of Australia both now and in the 19th century.
55. MillarWorld Annual 2016 (Image, 2016) ****
Writers/Artists: various
56. Image Firsts: I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2016) ***½
- originally published in I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2015)
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
57. Deadly Hands Of Criminal (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips

* My thoughts on all these wrestling comics can be found in a new podcast HERE.

58.-61. Cage Hero (Dynamite, 2016) ½*
- originally published in Cage Hero #1-4 (Dynamite, 2015-16)
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Ian Parker and Rik Hoskin/Artist: Renato Rei
Beyond horrible. A confused mish-mash of superhero-infused MMA action with a confusing plot, sketchy heroes with minimal character development and ill-defined powers. Badly written (and there were THREE people involved in the process!), weird “let’s be inspirational” dialogue (“The hero comes from within!” every fucking character cries throughout the book). Hoskin has no idea how Australians talk or that we don’t have fucking “middle school” in this country, making the Aussie character in this graphic novel utterly horrible. Cage Hero is as bad (if not worse) than any of the WWE/Chaos! dreck shat out in the late 1990s.
62.-66. Ringside Vol. 1: Kayfabe (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Ringside #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Joe Keatinge/Artist: Nick Barber
And then I read this book and my faith in wrestling comix is restored. This is really fucking good. The mix of in-ring action (not that we see much of that) and backstage politics, combined with a brutal crime noir sub-plot makes for a compelling book. Even non-wrestling fans would like Ringside, but wrestling fans will get a real kick out of it.
67. Super Pro K.O.! Vol. 3: Gold For Glory (Oni Comix, 2016) ****¾
Writer/Artist: Jarrett Williams
IT’S been a long wait but it was worth the several-year delay to finally peruse Jarrett Williams’ third volume in what is arguably the best wrestling-based comic out there. Well, not really comic – this is a friggin’ graphic novel in the form of a classic Japanese manga. It’s frenetic, funny, action-packed, poignant and gripping as hell. It was literally a page-turner while reading Super Pro K.O.!: Gold For Glory.
Mid-way through the book I was invested in the two main storylines. First up, I was rooting like crazy for Joe Samiano to pin that arrogant newcomer Romeo Colossus. And I was hoping his dad would stop being a jerk and watch his son’s big match on TV.
And even though he’s a dick, I did not want to see Ric Flair’ish champ King Crown Jr get pinned by psycho challenger Bad Bad Butch O’Rowdy.
The flashback to Crown Jr’s troubled relationship with his legendary wrestler father helped add depth to a guy who could otherwise be dismissed as an arrogant heel.
Yeah, a faux wrestling manga could do that to me because it’s created with passion and that passion was passed onto me, the reader.
The occasional imperfection (speech balloons not pointing to the person saying them was a bugbear at times) brought this graphic novel down a fraction. That said, Super Pro K.O.! continues to be as near as perfect a wrestling comic currently being published. It captures everything I love about the best that pro wrestling has to offer.

68. Headlocked: The Last Territory Vol. 1 (Visionary Comics, 2014) ****½
Writer: Michael Kingston & friends/Artist: Michel Mulipola & friends

69. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 2 (Viz, 2004) ****
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (English translation)
70. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 26 (Shueisha, 2004) ***½
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (Japanese oriiginal)

71. Ayre Force (BDG Entertainment Inc., 2008) **¾
Writers: Adam Slutsky and Joseph Phillip Illidge/Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
BODOG was an online gambling company run by Calvin Ayre, which sponsored a bunch of MMA fighters, poker players and musicians. He also ran his own MMA company, BODOG Fight, in the late 2000s. He lost a ton of money, but before he quit the MMA biz, he produced THIS: a bizarre graphic novel featuring BODOG stars working for Ayre as some kinda SHIELD-like team battling an evil company torturing bears (seriously!). Great art by Martinbrough, but the story is pretty bad. Of curiosity value only.
72.-74. Blackmask #1-3 (Eastern Comics, 1988) *
Writers: Franz Henkel and Jong-Jin Lee/Artist: Jong-Jin Lee
75. True Sport Picture Stories Vol. 4 #6 (Street & Smith, 1948) ½*
Writer: Al Klein/Artist: Bob Powell
I bought this extremely dry, lifeless comic for the strip on women’s wrestler Mildred Burke. It’s basically a bunch of illos drawn straight of photos. The whole comic is like this.
76. The Fifth Force featuring Hawk & Animal #2 (Antarctic Press, 1999) -*
Writer/Artist: uncredited
Easily the worst wrestling comic ever produced. Overpriced, stupid, pointless.
77. American Flagg! #32 (First, 1986) *½
Writers: Howard Chaykin and Steven Grant/Artists; Mark Badger and Randy Emberlin (main story); Joe Staton and Hilary Barta (back-up)
A wrestling plotline can’t salvage this comic.
78.-79. El Gorgo! #1-2 (Gorgo A-Go-Go, 2008-09) ***
Writer: Mike McGee/Artist: Tamas Jakab
80. WWE Kids #88 (WWE/DC Thomson, 2014) ***
- features a few kid-orient strips. Mostly harmless.
81. House Of Raging Women (Penguin Books, 1992) ****
- originally published in various issues of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics, 1984-89)
Writer/Artist: Jaime Hernandez

82. Aski – Rumble in the Lost Temple #1 (Lucha Comics, 2014) DUD
Writer: Roberto Mercado/Artist: Kundo Krunch
I don’t ask much from a wrestling comic except be well-written and well-drawn. Aski fails in both categories. But even bad artwork can be forgiven if a story makes sense and is fun to read. But this comic is just shit on every level. Poorly structured action scenes that succeed in both being mundane and predictable. A plot that hinges on our hero’s friends being two of the dumbest arseholes on the planet is also a turn-off.  When a luchador says, “Don’t go into the jungle – it’s full of criminals and dangerous animals”, don’t then deliberately ignore him, get attacked by a deadly animal and kidnapped by criminals. That doesn’t make you plucky and gutsy adventurers, it makes you FUCKWITS. Anyway, this comic is terrible.
83. Headlocks and Headaches #1 (Dean Stahl, 2014) *
Writer/Artist: Dean Stahl
Confusing webcomic that’s been published as a “real comic”. It starts with a none-too-thrilling tale about kids at a birthday party preparing to watch an IWF PPV, then jumps without warning into backstage politics at the IWF, then a long-winded and confusing flashback, which ends abruptly with a final-page revelation about some evil guy preparing to crash the IWF PPV. Frankly, I found it hard to follow.
84. Misfit Wrestling Federation #1 (Bombshell Comics, 2015) *½
Writer/Artist: Michael Jasorka
I bought this digital comic off because Jasorka’s artwork was reminiscent of Tom Motley’s classic Steel Pulse wrestling comic. But once I read it, I knew this was no Steel Pulse. A confusing introduction to supposed territorial wrestling in Florida in 1973. There was a weird Christian undertone that I didn’t like either.
85. AWF: Amazon Wrestling Federation #1 (Xigency Studios Inc., 2013) -*
Writer/Artist: Joe D. McFee
This weird, slightly fetishy comic shows the very worst of what’s on offer at Comixology. Poorly drawn, badly written tale about an Amazonian college basketballer in love with a nerdy tutor who wins a wrestling promotion in a poker game (I’m not kidding here). At the same time, the basketballer decides to become a pro wrestler. The sheer amateurishness of this comic is positively painful. Somehow, this comic reached four issues!

86. Calavera De La Justicia #1 (On Target Network, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Carlos Serrano/Artist: Tom Rogers
And then there’s something like this. A really fun, well-drawn adventure featuring in-ring action, a heroic luchador looking for his kidnapped family and a chupacabra! Think the very best monster-themed eps of The X-Files crossed with Warren Ellis’s Fell and you have the feel of this series. Sadly, this was the only issue released. Stupid Comixology readers. Support the right damn comics, why don’tcha?

87. Hardcore Luchador #1 (Hardcore Luchador Entertainment, 2013) ***½
Writer/Artist: Angelo Gines Jr
Mindless wrestling/monster/superhero madness featuring the Hardcore Luchadores, El Fuego and El Muerto, Tag Team Champions of the world! I enjoyed it, but guess what? This was the only issue. Aaaaarghhhh! Crap survives and fun stuff dies a quiet lonely death. Not fair!

88.-91. Palooka #1-4 (Person of Merit Comics, 2014-15) ***½
Writer: Casey Van Heel/Artist: Ger Curti

92. The Unmentionables (Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, 2015) ***½
Writer/Artist: Jack Teagle
93. Robots Fight Dirty: Poems of an Insensitive Fighting Machine (Zeph Zero, 2014) ***½
Writer/Artist: Zeph Zero
Robot wrestlers, racist Nazi tag teams, time travel, sex, killer toasters and haikus. A curious combination.
94. The Crippler's Son (Fantagraphics, 2013) ****½
Writer/Artist: Max Riffner
Adrian Tomine meets pro wrestling. Very good indeed.

95. Street Fighting Woman Vol. 1 (Kloob Comics, 2015) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Steve Thompson
Weird. Bear-headed monsters, 1920s women’s wrestling, self-mutilating villains. Confusing but intriguing.