Monday, December 9, 2013

COMICS READING FOR NOVEMBER: “Why the fuck did I buy these? (part 2)”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff 

1.-6. Strange Science Fantasy #1-6 (IDW, 2010) ***¾
Writer/artist: Scott Morse
I bought this ’cos it looked funky, then didn’t bother reading the miniseries till now. However, I read the first issue in about three minutes and thought, “Holy fuck! IDW has ripped me off for another US$3.99. But as I read these arthouse, surreal takes on trashy 50s sci-fi/monster flicks, I really got into Morse’s mindset and what he was building. By the time I reached issue six – which neatly wraps up what takes place in the previous five issues – I was sold on Strange Science Fantasy. Morse is a mad genius force to be reckoned with in this industry.
7.-8. The Mighty Thor #411-412 (Marvel, 1989) **
Writers: Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz/Artists: Frenz & Joe Sinnott
9.-14. The New Warriors #1-6 (Marvel, 1990) **
Writer: Fabian Nicieza/Artits: Mark Bagley & Al Williamson (inker, #1-2) & Larry Mahlstedt (inker, #3-6)
I bought this ’cos I read somewhere that The New Warriors (who debuted in Thor #411-412) was a forgotten gem in late 80s/early 90s mainstream comics. They lied. It’s very ordinary. And Night Thrasher may well be the worst-named, worst-conceived “dark” superhero ever vomited out of the Marvel machine.
15. The Raven And The Red Death (Dark Horse, 2013) ****
Writer/artist: Richard Corben
It’s fucking Corben!
16. NewUniversal: Conquerer (Marvel, 2008) ***¼
Writer: Simon Spurrier/Artist: Eric Nguyen
I bought this ’cos I’m a completist and I wanted every issue in the botched relaunch of Marvel’s New Universe. I didn’t mind this one though, set in 2689BC. Very Conan.
17. Star Brand #1 (Marvel/New Universe, 1986) **¾
Writer: Jim Shooter/Artists: John Romita Jr & Al Williamson
I had to get this to see what all the fuss was about (the only New Universe title I bought at the time was the very ordinary Merc). It’s OK, but I can see why the “more realistic” line of titles failed. Characters like Star Brand just doesn’t capture your imagination like Spider-Man or X-Men did.

18.-22. The Life And Times Of Savior 28 #1-5 (IDW, 2009) ***¾
Writer: JM DeMatteis/Artist: Mike Cavallaro
I bought this miniseries ’cos I’m a mark for any fresh take on the superhero mythos. In this grim tale, a gung-ho Superman-style hero with drinking and mental problems has a change of heart after 9/11 and becomes a pacifist. But being a smug, shallow prick he doesn’t really know how to do it and blunders his way into becoming Public Enemy No. 1. His erratic behaviour leads to the US Government sanctioning his assassination at the hands of his former sidekick. That’s all in the first issue. Subsequent issues go back in time to show how everything unfurled. DeMatteis is still one of the best writers in the biz. I enjoyed this quite a bit.
23. Messages In A Bottle by B. Krigstein (Fantagraphics, 2013) *****
24. Setting The Standard: Comics by Alex Toth: 1952-1954 (Fantagraphics, 2011) *****
It’s fucking Krigstein and it’s fucking Toth, OK? I discuss these tremendous books in detail on my latest podcast at

Kirby Your Enthusiasm, ep. 29: "Unsung Masters of Comic Book Art"

 IN WHICH I focus on two great comic artists of the past - Bernard Krigstein and Alex Toth - while reviewing the excellent Fantagraphics books, Messages In A Bottle: Comic Book Stories by B. Krigstein (2013) and Setting The Standard: Comics By Alex Toth 1952-1954 (2011).
Enjoy 17min & 25sec of hoarse comic book chat.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

COMICS READING FOR OCTOBER: “Why the fuck did I buy these?”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1. Sin Titulo (Dark Horse, 2013) ****¾  
Writer/artist: Cameron Stewart
The nice people at Dark Horse send me PDFs and links to where I can download their wonderful graphic novels and comics. In return, I shall plug them on my blog at
2. America’s Got Powers #7 (Image, 2013) *½
Writer: Jonathan Ross/Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary
Arguably the most disappointing miniseries I’ve read in years. So much promise, so much blah. Thank fuck it’s finished, so I can sell off the series on eBay and get some of my hard-earned coin back. Ross is a terrible writer. Hitch’s art is nice but passe - cinematic comics are dead, motherfucker.
4.-5. Giant-Size Sidekick #5-6 (Comic Heroes, 2013) ***¼
Writers/Artists: various
An always great sampling of new graphic novels and collections. The highlight comes in #6 with a complete reprint of Gorgo #1 (Charlton) from 1961, with art by Steve Ditko. Plus John Byrne’s Star Trek and more. I usually find something in each issue of this free mag worth buying after I’ve read the preview.

6.-8. Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper (IDW, 2010) **½
Writers: Joe & John Lansdale/Artist: Kevin Colden
I remember reading Bloch’s short story when I was a kid and it was both creepy and stupid at the same time. So I bought this adaptation, then didn’t read it for three years. The Lansdales’ story alters Bloch’s original version enough to stretch a one-shot to three overpriced issues. It’s passable But the bigger letdown is the scratchy, underground art by Colden. Where did they find this clown? He’s terrible.
9. Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 (DC, 2010) ***

Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: Phil Noto
The “First Wave” pulp noir universe, incorporating the likes of Doc Savage and Batman, should’ve been fun, which is why I really got into buying this series. But DC blew it by weirdly setting it in the present-day (although in this alternate universe, mankind still hasn’t flown to the moon, etc). It’s a 1940s world but with mobile phones and CDs. Weird. That aside, this one-shot/prologue team-up is kinda fun and Noto’s art is exquisite. But you could tell that this new line was doomed from the start. Making Doc Savage a substitute Superman, Batman a rookie and Jim Gordon crooked were bad moves.
10.-15. First Wave #1-6 (DC, 2010-11) **
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artists: Rags Morales & friends (interior), JG Jones (covers)
Azzarello clearly had major plans for this universe, but he failed to properly explain what it was all about. Clearly, it’s set in the modern-day, but people act and dress like it’s the late 1940s. Government and police corruption is rife, yet masked adventurers are allowed to operate with near impunity. It’s an alternate world crying out for an explanatory article at the back of the comic, but it never comes. Instead, we’re given an over-the-top, convoluted pulpish yarn that doesn’t make sense, featuring villains with bizarre, unfathomable motives. The characters are all underwritten or done “wrong” – The Spirit is reduced to an amoral clown who gets hit a lot, the Blackhawks are villains (or are they heroes?), and other characters bought by DC are given a short shrift. The Spirit’s assistant Ebony (now a female) is last seen digging her own grave at the hands of the Blackhawks for no discernible reason, Commissioner Dolan is corrupt and evil for no apparent reason, Batman doesn’t even make an appearance till issue two and he’s depicted as a fairly unimpressive fighter, Doc Savage’s father dies – or does he? There’s a lot here not to like. In the end, it’s all terribly pointless and boring.
16.-27. Doc Savage #1-12 (DC, 200-11) ½*
Writers/artists: various
If there was ever an example of everything that could go wrong with a licensed comic, then this is it. I bought the first 12 issues of this awful series (it limped on to #17 before being mercifully axed), but I’ve only finally got around to reading it. Clearly, my sixth sense was telling me something three years ago. This updating of the Doc Savage mythology fails on every level. The first four issues is poorly written by supposed modern pulp writer Paul Malmont, positioning Savage and his crew as victims fleeing the US after being framed by a sinister cabal for crimes they didn’t commit. Malmont is a terrible writer, but he’s not helped by Howard Porter, one of the most inept artists ever to be given a major title to work on. Porter’s so shit he can’t even draw hats properly. Seriously, a five-year-old could draw a hat better than this dipstick. Issue five is a standalone yarn set in Greece. Writer B. Clay Moore is better than Malmont, but that’s faint praise. Porter’s art actually gets WORSE in this issue. Doc Savage was floundering by this stage, which is why “First Wave” creator Brian Azzarello came aboard with #6. Co-writing with Ivan Brandon, they craft a promising yarn where Savage and his team (who remain woefully underwritten for the entire 12 issues) are given the opportunity by the US military to be pardoned for their crimes if they go into the Middle East to track down some WMDs and an old friend, long thought dead. As Azzarello has never explained the “First Wave” world to readers, we have to work out for ourselves that much of the Middle East is a fiery atomic wasteland after “the last war”. Anyway, Nic Klein’s art is a vast improvement on Porter’s retarded scribbles (he can draw hats on men’s heads for starters). But the story soon falls apart again and makes little sense by the end of the arc. Savage has also morphed under Azzarello’s writing from a guy who is stronger and smarter than the average person due to decades of rigorous training to a substitute Superman whose capabilities border on the ludicrous. In the end, Savage shows that even death is only a minor inconvenience. Klein’s art becomes more disjointed as the issues progress – action scenes are hard to follow and at other times it’s left to the reader to fill in the gaps on what really happened in a scene. I felt like my head was gonna explode by #12 and it was a blessed relief when I realised I didn’t have to read another fucking issue. This series is definitely not a keeper, even if JG Jones’ covers are beautiful. The first nine issues also have a back-up feature, Justice Inc. (writer: Jason Starr/artist: Scott Hampton). It’s kinda brutal in a Steve Ditko-kinda way, and far more entertaining than the main feature.
28. Area 10 (Vertigo, 2010) ***
Writer: Christos N. Gage/Artist: Chris Samnee
I bought this graphic novel ’cos I was going through a crime noir-buying phase and there were a lot about at this time. Also, I enjoyed Gage’s work on Avengers Academy and I rate Samnee’s art very highly. But this B&W effort falls just short of the mark for me purely ’cos basing a quasi-supernatural yarn on trepanation – the dangerous “science” of drilling of holes in one’s head to receive enlightenment – is stupid. And the ending is very silly.
29.-31. Punx #1-3 (Valiant, 1995-96) **
Writer: Keith Giffen/Artists: Keith Giffen & Claude St Aubin
I got this ’cos it got praised by someone – possibly Comic Heroes mag – as an unheralded work of genius from the mid-90s. Wrong! It’s Keith Giffen doing Ambush Bug for a non-DC company. It’s sarcastic, it spits in the eye of the comic book genre, it’s irreverent, it’s...oh, spare me. I think the only person who believes Giffen is witty is Giffen. As a writer, he’s shit. Punx makes no sense – apparently there was supposed to be a fourth-and-final issue, but the series got axed. But that didn’t stop...
32. Manga Punx (Valiant, 1996) *
Writer: Keith Giffen/Artist: Kevin Lau
You have to read the comic backwards – like real manga. GEDDIT? Oh, for fuck’s sake...
33.-36. Planet Of The Apes: Urchak’s Folly #1-4 (Adventure/Malibu, 1991) **
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Gary Chaloner, Greg Gates & Dillon Naylor
I got this ’cos it’s drawn by Chaloner, a favourite Australian artist of mine. Sadly, Gary’s no writer and this series is pretty bad. Plus the artwork suffers in the final issue when he heavily relies on Gates to finish the art. Gates is no Chaloner.
37.-48. The Mighty #1-12 (DC, 2009-10) ***¼
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Keith Champagne/Artists: Peter Snejbjerg (interior #1-4), Chris Samnee (interior #5-12), Dave Johnson (covers)
It sounded like a cool concept – a faux Superman, Alpha One, with serious delusions of grandeur and a desire to reshape Earth in his image, with himself as dictator – but something got lost along the way. The ending is a giant slugfest that makes no sense except to give Alpha One a weakness that leads to his final defeat. Lovely art by one of my fave artists, Samnee, but I’ll chalk this maxiseries up as a noble failure.
49.-55. Conan The Cimmerian #1-7 (Dark Horse, 2008-09) ****
Writer: Timothy Truman/Artists: Tomás Giorello (main story), Richard Corben (flashbacks), Frank Cho (covers), Joe Kubert (alternate cover #1)
I got this for Corben’s art, obviously. Came for the art, enjoyed the yarn anyway.
56.-58. It! The Terror From Beyond Space #1-3 (IDW, 2010) ***
Writer: Dara Narachi/Artists: Mark Dos Santos (interior), Steve Mannion (cover)
Mannion’s cover art sold me on this miniseries. And I was in a horror comic-buying frame of mind at the time.
59.-62. CBGB #1-4 (BOOM!, 2010) **½
Writers/artists: various
Helen and I only visited CBGB once – when we visited New York in 2005, a few months before it closed. To be honest, I never went in, I told Helen to check it out. When she did, she said there were some scary people sitting inside, so she turned around and went out again. That was our CBGB experience. Boring, huh?
Anyway, when I saw this comic, it sounded fun, so I bought the miniseries.
Reading it now, I find the comic disjointed and very patchy (as all anthologies are). The only story that I particularly liked was the abbreviated-but-passionate bio of CBGB covered in “A NYC Punk Carol” (writer: Kieron Gillen/artist: Marc Ellerby). It’s a shame none of the other short pieces in the four issues approached this first strip for its intensity and explicit love for CBGB and everything it stood for. Another noble failed effort.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

COMICS READING FOR SEPTEMBER: “The horror...the horror...”

I read a lot of horror comics in September.
* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *
*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff
1.-5. The Sixth Gun Book 2: Crossroads (Oni Press, 2011) ****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #7-11 (Oni Press, 2011)
Writer: Cullen Bunn /Artist: Brian Hurtt
6.-11. The Sixth Gun Book 3: Bound (Oni Press, 2012) ****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #12-17 (Oni Press, 2012)
Writer: Cullen Bunn /Artist: Brian Hurtt, Tyler Crook (#14)
12.-17. The Sixth Gun Book 4: A Town Called Penance (Oni Press, 2012) ****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #18-23 (Oni Press, 2012)
Writer: Cullen Bunn /Artist: Brian Hurtt, Tyler Crook (#23)
18.-23. The Sixth Gun Book 5: Winter Wolves (Oni Press, 2013) ***¾
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #24-29 (Oni Press, 2013)
Writer: Cullen Bunn /Artist: Brian Hurtt
24. Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht: If You Want Blood (Bump And Grind Comics, 2013) ***½
Writers: The Emperor & Alex Ronald/Artist: Alex Ronald
Hyper-realistic art,WW2 vampire-and-occult-filled action, sexy babes and castration. What more can a man want? Check it out at!/pages/Vampire-Vixens-of-the-Wehrmacht/179230265443902.
25.-30. Locke & Key Vol. 2: Head Games (IDW, 2010) ****¾
- originally published in Locke & Key: Head Games #1-6 (IDW, 2009)
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez
31.-36. Locke & Key Vol. 3: Crown Of Shadows (IDW, 2011) ****¾
- originally published in Locke & Key: Crown Of Shadows #1-6 (IDW, 2009-10)
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez
37.-42. Locke & Key Vol. 4: Keys To The Kingdom (IDW, 2012) *****
- originally published in Locke & Key: Keys To The Kingdom #1-6 (IDW, 2010-11)
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez
43.-48. Locke & Key Vol. 4: Clockworks (IDW, 2013) *****
- originally published in Locke & Key: Clockworks #1-6 (IDW, 2013)
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez
49. Courtney Crumrin Tales: The League Of Ordinary Gentlemen (Oni Press, 2011) ***½
Writer/artist: Ted Naifeh
50.-79. The Exterminators #1-30 (Vertigo, 2006-08) ** (****½ for first 12 issues, *½ for final 18 issues)
Writer: Simon Oliver/Artists: Tony Moore + friends
I was going to do a podcast on why this was “the best comic you never read” – the story of an ex-crim finding redemption as a pest exterminator in the inner city while fighting intelligent cockroaches and evil South American bug cults intent on ruling the world. Extremely black, funny and with great art by Tony Moore. That was until I hit the second half of the series, which left a bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve read that Oliver’s story was meant to run for 50+ issues, but poor sales led to its premature demise. It’s pretty obvious – Moore drops in and out of the comic (issues with him doing the art are significantly better than non-Moore issues), subplots are dropped without warning, major characters are written out or quickly killed or simply forgotten about. There are plot holes and minor glitches in the artwork (and writing) that gives me the feeling that the last 10 issues were rushed and were originally meant to play out over a 30-issue spread. And the ending comes too soon. It’s extremely unsatisfying.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

REVIEW: Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart (Dark Horse)

EVERY week, the nice people at Dark Horse send me links to where I can download their wonderful graphic novels and comics. In return, I plug their products. But only if the product is good. Sin Titulo is really, really good.
Young Alex goes to collect his dead grandfather's possessions from a nursing home and finds among them a recent photo of Granddad grinning like a Cheshire cat in the company of a sexy young lady. Who is the mystery woman? Our hero's quest to find out her identity takes him on a strange, savage, at-times ultra-violent journey around the city and into a dreamlike other world that may or may not be real. And what is this other world's connection with a strange painting titled 'Sin Titulo'? And why does an orderly at the nursing home keep punching Alex in the face?
I found Sin Titulo a fast-paced read and more than a little disturbing, like going on a joyride with a mate who's had one too many bourbons. It's kinda fun at first, but you soon have that scared feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Cameron Stewart - best known for his mainstream artwork for DC Comics and so on - proves that he can tell a good yarn as well as he can illustrate one.
All in all, I give this book 9.5 out of 10 on the "Holy shit! That was a great comic!" meter.
Sin Titulo is available on Amazon and at all good bookstores and comic shops.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

COMICS READING FOR AUGUST: “Catching up (part 2)”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1. Sex #5 (Image, 2013) ***½

Writer: Joe Casey /Artist: Piotr Kowalski

The least something-happening issue so far. Where the fuck is Casey leading us in this superhero-that’s-not-a-superhero comic?

2. Absalom: Ghosts Of London (Rebellion, 2012) ***½

- originally published in 2000 AD #1732-39, 1765-71, 2012 (Rebellion, 2011-12)

Writer: Gordon Rennie/Artist: Tiernen Trevallion

What if John Constantine was a London cop? Or better yet, what if Det. Jack Regan dealt only with demons and other dread supernatural beings? Then you’d pretty much have Absalom, a collection of yarns from England’s 2000 AD magazine that reads very much like Hellblazer meets The Sweeney (the classic TV series, not the shitty recent movie). It’s kinda fun but evaporates like slightly old candy floss as you read it. Fun though.

3. Museum Of Terror Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (Dark Horse, 2006) *****

Freaked the fuck out by Junji Ito. Find out why at

4. Superboy’s Legion #1 (DC, 2001) ***½

Writer: Mark Farmer/Artists: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

An interesting Elseworlds yarn where Superboy wakes up n the year 3000 and starts his own Legion of Super-Heroes. The concept’s fun, the art is cool, but the dialogue kinda sucks. As a writer, Farmer makes a great inker. Still, I’ll have to track down part two now to see how it ends.

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey #1 (Marvel, 1976) **½

Writer: Jack Kirby/Artists: Jack Kirby & Mike Royer

Hey, it’s Kirby and the art is sensational. But what the hell is this yarn about? Only six years after Kubrick baffled viewers with the film, Kirby proves to be as confusing as the great director. A curiosity piece this comic.

6.-11. Sparta U.S.A. #1-6 (Wildstorm, 2010) **

Writer: David Lapham/Artist Johnny Timmons

Lapham is one of the most overrated writers in comics today. This wacky fantasy/horror yarn about a gridiron-obsessed small town that also believes in killing your neighbours to get ahead in life blows its wad early and rapidly goes downhill. The Yetis are bad enough, as are the WW2 Nazis who invade the town...but the arch-villain in the piece is...The Pied Piper of Hamlyn? Give me a fucking break. Oh...and Timmons’ art actually deteriorates the further into the series he gets. Maybe he was mentally throwing his hands up and thinking, “I can’t illustrate this tosh. It’s rubbish!”

12.-15. Batman Year 100 #1-4 (DC, 2006) ***½

Writer/artist: Paul Pope

Why is Batman still alive 100 years in the future? Who cares...Paul Pope is drawing Batman.

How has Batman become a forgotten, untraceable bogeyman in the space of 30-odd years? Who cares...Paul Pope is drawing Batman.

Why has a Communist dictatorship taken over Gotham City so utterly and completely? Who cares...Paul Pope is drawing Batman.

Why is Batman investigating one particular murder that brings him to the attention of the government after being in hiding for no discernible reason? Who cares...Paul Pope is drawing Batman.

Thankfully, Pope does a beautiful job, even if the story is full of holes.

16.-18. Nowhere Men #3-5 (Image, 2013) ***¾

Writer: Eric Stephenson/Artist: Nate Bellegarde

A world where science is sexy and scientists are feted like rock gods? I kinda dig that concept.

19.-24. The Hypernaturals #6-12 (BOOM!, 2012-13) ****

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Artists: Tom Derenick & Andrews Guinaldo

The Legion of Super-Heroes done right! And while I’m sad it was a finite maxiseries, I really hope these guys return for another series. Just a joy to read.

25.26. Star-Lord: The Hollow Crown (Marvel, 2013) **½

- originally published in Marvel Preview #4 (1976), Marvel Preview #11 (1977) & Star-Lord: The Special Edition (1982)

Writers/artists: various

Starlord might mean something now he’s the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but he really was a forgettable Marvel sci-fi character in the 70s. This reprint only emphasises the character’s lame origin and makes you wonder WHY he was picked for revival 30 years later.

 27.-31. Rocket Racoon: Guardian Of The Keystone Quadrant (Marvel, 2011)

- originally published in Marvel Preview #7 (1976), Incredible Hulk #271 (1982), Rocket Raccoon #1-4 (1985)

Writer: Bill Mantlo/Artists: various

Another old comic reprinted to cash in on RR’s forthcoming big-screen fame in the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The miniseries is okay, but Mantlo’s writing style was old-fashioned even in the mid-80s.

32.-37. Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1, 1-5 (Marvel, 2013) ***½

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Steve McNiven & John Dell, Sara Pichelli

A rollicking fun relaunch. Better than 95% of the other shit Marvel produces (much of which is also written by Bendis, oddly enough)

 38. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1 (Marvel, 2013) ***¼

 Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Michael Avon Oeming, Ming Doyle, Michael Del Mundo (interior); Ming Doyle (cover)

39.-44. Morning Glories Vol. 1 (Image, 2011) ****¼

- originally published in Morning Glories #1-6 (Image, 2010-11)

Writer: Nick Spencer/Artists: Joe Eisma (interior), Rodin Esquejo (cover)

A review to appear in a forthcoming podcast at

45.-49. Run! #2-6 (DC, 2009) **¾

Writer: Matthew Sturges/Artists: Freddie Williams II (interior), Kako (cover)

A really promising idea – a third-string supervillain on the run after his involvement in the murder of the Martian Manhunter – degenerates pretty quickly into just another big ol’ punch-up between him (after gaining more bad-ass powers from ex-Doom Patrol nemesis General Immortus) and the JLA. A flawed miniseries that could’ve been so much better after a really solid first issue.

50. Tom Strong And The Planet Of Peril #1 (Vertigo, 2013) ***½

Writer: Peter Hogan/Artists: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story

 51. Captain Midnight #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) **½

Writer: Joshua Williamson/Artist: Fernando Dagnino


 52. The Blackest Terror #1 (Moonstone, 2011) DUD

Writer: Eric M. Esquivel/Artist: Ander Sarabia

A reimagining of public domain superhero Black Terror sees him turned into an Afro-American urban vigilante. A promising idea, but Esquivel is too busy ranting and raving about black politics to make anyone – particularly your average comic book reader – care about the character. Weirdly, he focuses much of his contempt and hatred towards “Uncle Tom” weatherman Al Roker. Sarabia’s art shows cartoony promise, but this angry tale is way too preachy for my tastes. Take a chill pill, Eric.

53.-56. Sharky #1-4 (Image, 1998) **

Writer; Dave Elliott/Artist: Alex Horley & Alberto Ponticelli

Beautiful, Simon Bisley-like artwork from Horley, but this violent, incomprehensible yarn left me cold.

57. Revival #13 (Image, 2013) ****

Writer: Tim Seeley/Artist: Mike Norton

58. Optic Nerve #13 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) *****

Writer/artist: Adrian Tomine

Overpriced and published far too rarely, but this is easily the most beautiful, haunting comic I’ve read this year.

59.-62. The Cape #1-4 (IDW, 2011) *****

Writer: Jason Ciaramella/Artist: Zach Howard

Based on the short story by Joe Hill, this yarn about a slacker son turned psychotic killer supervillain by a childhood “blankie” is suitably disturbing, violent and creepy. A perfect horror tale.

63.-66. The Cape: 1969 #1-4 (IDW, 2012) **½

Writer: Jason Ciaramella/Artists: Nelson Daniel; Zach Howard

“Inspired” by Joe Hill’s short story, eh? Not sure how as Ciaramella fucks up big-time here. To be fair, if the writer was just doing a terrifying, Vietnam War-based miniseries I wouldn’t mind so much. But he’s grounded it in The Cape’s mythology and the biggest problem I have is the fact that the prequel is set in 1969. That means The Cape must be set roughly 20 years 1989. However, the original series is obviously set in 2013 (everyone has tiny fucking mobile phones). At a pinch, I’ll be lenient and say it COULD be set in the late 90s (even if the phones ARE too small, but there’s a Nine Inch Nails poster on somebody’s wall). However, it’s definitely not set in the 80s. Why Ciaramella set The Cape: 1969 in an era that undermines the original series is beyond me.

67. Trillium #1 (Vertigo, 2013) ***¼

Writer/artist: Jeff Lemire

68. Sidekick #1 (Image, 2013) ***¾

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Tom Mandrake

69.-70. Satellite Sam #1-2 (Image, 2013) ***¼

Writer: Matt Fraction/Artist: Howard Chaykin

71. Kick-Ass 3 #2 (Icon, 2013) ***½

Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: John Romita Jr

72.-77. Bedlam #3-8 (Image, 2013) ***½

Writer: Nick Spencer/Artist: Riley Rossmo (interior)/Fraser Irving (cover)

78. Ballistic #1 (Black Mask, 2013) ***½

Writer: Adam Egypt Mortimer/Artist: Darick Robertson

Videodrome for the 21st century? All hail the new flesh.

79. Absolution: Rubicon #2 (Avatar, 2013) ***¾

Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Daniel Gete

80.-84. Ignition City #1-5 (Avatar, 2009) ***¾

Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Gianluca Pagliarani

I ummed and erred over buying this miniseries for years, but I’m glad I did. Ellis deconstructs the 1930s aviator/space adventure pulp sub-genre and gives us something very grim and post-modern in this alternate future yarn. I wish he’d do a sequel.

85.-87. Fashion Beast #8-10 (Avatar, 2013) ****

Writers: Alan Moore & Malcolm McLaren & Antony Johnston/Artist: Facundo Percio

88.-92. Spontaneous #1-5 (Oni Press, 2011) ***

Writer: Joe Harris/Artist: Brett Weldele

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Kirby Your Enthusiasm, ep 28: "Saga, The Sixth Gun, Bucko and Basement Books..."

IT'S 45 minutes of trade paperback reviews (Saga, The Sixth Gun and Bucko), a rave about my favourite discount bookshop, Basement Books, in Sydney. Plus a potted review of KICK-ASS 2.
Enjoy! :D

Monday, September 2, 2013

REVIEW: Museum Of Terror Vol. 3 by Junji Ito

JAPANESE manga is not my cup of tea. Honest, I would rather shove a ferret down my trousers than read it. Even manga about pro wrestling is usually hard to take in large doses just 'cos I overdose on all those big, prepubescent eyes and badly translated Japlish. And soppy romantic shit. Aaaaaaargh!

But standing out from the pack is Junji Ito.

Junji Ito is different. Junji Ito does manga that jolts the senses. Junji Ito terrifies me.

I first got into Ito through his best-known work Umuzaki via the flawed but visually surreal film adaptation (also known as Spiral - go track it down). Years after seeing the film, I bought all three graphic novels, freshly translated into English and rereleased in the West by Dark Horse. Without understating things, I was floored by what I read - it blew away the movie with its perverse horror and nightmarish imagery.

So when I spotted Museum Of Terror (Dark Horse, 2006) in Elizabeths for only $12, I had to have it - and I'm so glad I did (while at the same time regretting what's been seared into my eyeballs). The first two volumes feature an ongoing character called "Tomie", but volume three is a collection of random yarns he created from 1987-90 for various Japanese horror manga.

Ito is a writer of the highest order and his creepy artwork perfectly complements it. Like the best European horror, Ito's work unsettles because everything is unexpected. Nothing is "as it should be", like we expect in a Hollywood movie. Gore comes suddenly from the least expected places (in "Bio-House", for example, a dinner held by an employer for his secretary soon degenerates into blood-letting and vampirism) and terror is located in the most mundane objects: a jilted lover's tresses in "The Long Hair In The Attic" or a videotape in "Love As Scripted".
Family and friends can't be trusted: a strict father murders his children one by one when they rebel against his authoritarian will in "Heart Of A Father", while three siblings torment a WW2 deserter and childhood friend by keeping him in a storehouse for years and pretending that the war hasn't ended. Of course, the joke's on them: he's been dead for ages and the person they've been teasing is actually his ghost.
And that's the kinda twists Ito throws in: some jolting, some if the story's half-finished. "The Village Of Sirens" ends with our young hero helpless as demons fly off to destroy the world, while "Unbearable Maze" sees three young girls trapped in an underground maze filled with the living corpses of mummified monks, and ends quietly as the wide-eyed monks stare at the girls, thinking they're terrible figments of their dying hallucinations.

Not all the stories work. Some get quite silly, even. But Ito never wavers from his unique vision of fear and terror. It's his determination to find horror in the most everyday situations that makes his work so compelling.

Of all the pieces in this book, the one that's stayed with me the most is "The Bully".
In it, Kuriko relates a tale to her beloved Yutaro of how, when she was a young girl, she was given the task to babysit a younger boy, Nao, at a local playground. Because she was expected to do it every day and the boy was so clingy, she soon grew to hate him, and began to bully him. At this point, Ito's depiction of Kuriko goes from sweet'n'innocent to demented.
The bullying escalated till the point where Nao got seriously hurt.
Despite her confession, Yutaro still loves Kuriko until she makes a further revelation: she recently met Nao as a young man. He's seemingly forgiven her and the pair have fallen in love. They get married and have a son, Hiroshi. But, one day, Nao disappears and never returns. An increasingly fragile and despairing Kuriko waits for him to come back for four years until...the day she looks at a whiny, clingy Hiroshi and notes that he looks a lot like his father at that age. A shadow crosses Kuriko's face and she calls him "Nao".
"You know, Mommy used to bully little Nao," she tells her confused son, "He was so cute when I bullied him. It was fun... Somehow, I feel like bullying him again."
After pulling on Hiroshi's ears till he cries, Kuriko goes into the bathroom to apply some make-up, puts on her old school uniform and drags her son off to the playground at night. Her descent into madness is complete...

The last panel leaves the rest of the unfolding horror to the reader's imagination. It's a fitting conclusion to the strongest tale in this collection. Ito, you mad bastard, where do you come up with these ideas?

And then, somewhat creepily, a cosplayer decided to
recreate the lead character from "The Bully"...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Catching up (part 1)”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1. Tarot #31 (BroadSword Comics, 2005) *
Writer/artist: Jim Balent
It was only $3 at Elizabeths, so I couldn’t resist picking up this copy of Balent’s unintentionally hilarious sword’n’sorcery series. Hey! It’s my guilty pleasure in comic book reading.
And, hell, he draws great big-breasted babes, so that’s always a bonus! This issue is real filler fluff with Tarot and her boyfriend John whittering on about spring (and various euphemisms for stiffies and sex). Then John stupidly steps inside a “Fairly Circle” (I assume that good spelling isn’t one of Balent’s strong points) and they’re transported to a fairy realm. John gets seduced by mermaids while Tarot battles a cheeky fairy and a dominatrix spider with baby spiders crawling out of her vagina (I can’t make this shit up). In the end the couple get out of trouble and fuck on the last page where Balent sternly warn readers to wear a condom or else. Utterly stupid fun, but as it was cheap, I had to buy it. These issues usually sell for ridiculous amounts after release. My two big questions are: how can such sexist claptrap be read (and admired) by so many women? And how does Balent’s dumpy small-boobed girlfriend/artist’s model Holly Golightly get transformed into the pneumatic Tarot? Talk about artistic licence!
A few more random thoughts: I find that for a full-on sex’n’violence-saturated comic, Balent draws some weirdly coy covers and random images inside the mag (but he’ll then run graphic spread-leg pin-ups there as well, plus run topless photos from readers. Strange.)
I find it hard to believe there are readers of the book (many of them females) who buy Tarot not to be ironically ironic or whack off to the big-boobed babes, but because they find the dumb, insulting, at-times misogynistic book “empowering to women”. Really? REALLY?!

2. Absolution: Rubicon #1 (Avatar, 2013) ****
Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Daniel Gete
3. America’s Got Powers #6 (Image, 2013) **
Writer: Jonathan Ross/Artist: Bryan Hitch
Fuck! I am soooo sick of this underperforming series. And now Ross has stretched it out to a seventh issue. Fuck! Gonna sell off this American Idol-meets-Heroes mishmash as soon as I’ve read that final ish. Fuck!
4. Jupiter’s Legacy #2 (Image, 2013) ****
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Frank Quitely
5.-6. The Bounce #1-2 (Image, 2013) **¾
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: David Messina
Average superhero stuff. Underwhelming.
7. Batman ’66 #1 (DC, 2013) ***½ 
Writer: Jeff Parker/Artist: Jonathan Case
8. Kick-Ass 3 #1 (Icon, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: John Romita Jr
A promising start to this final arc.
9. Idolized #5 (Aspen, 2013) ***½
Writer: David Schwartz/Artist: Pasquale Qualano
So, apparently, this was all a set-up for an ongoing series. A bit disappointed there. It had a conclusion, I guess, so I’ll probably walk away at this point. An okay series in the end, but Wildguard covered the same territory more effectively years ago.
10. A1 (Titan, 2013) **
Writers/artists: various
Surprisingly meh. I won’t be back.
11. Catalyst Comics #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) *½
Writer: Joe Casey/Artists: various
Another anthology – when will American companies learn that American readers don’t like anthologies? Meanwhile, Casey proves for a second time this month that he isn’t half as clever or “out there” as he thinks he is. Boring 1990s superheroes unnecessarily revived.....shit, hasn’t this already been done with Valiant this year? 
12. All Crime Comics (Art Of Fiction, 2012) ***
Writers/artists: various
Hardboiled crime noir that never quite scales the heights. Sub-Brubaker writing and sub-Sean Phillips artwork for the bulk of this indy book. OK in parts, I guess. The Bruce Timm cover is beautiful.
13. Mystery Society Special 2013 (IDW, 2013) ****½
Writer: Steve Niles/Art: Andrew Ritchie
And then – among the dross – this little gem turns up in my stack. I loved the Mystery Society miniseries from a few years back, so I was very happy to see it make a return. An added bonus is the clever guest appearances of such horror archetypes as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Golem. Never has Drac seemed so gentlemanly yet horrific at the same time. A quietly brilliant one-shot from Niles.
14. Uber #0 (Avatar, 2013) ****
Writer: Kieron Gillen/Artist: Caanan White
The Nazis invent superheroes and win WW2. An interesting premise, but taken from the angle of the poor people struggling to survive war-torn Berlin in 1945. This is more of a horror series than a superhero or war yarn. And, being Avatar, it’s chockers with gore. Unpleasant, yet highly readable.
15. Time Warp (Vertigo, 2013) *****
Writers/artists: various
I don’t usually get so enthused about anthology specials (even though I buy them all the time), but this comic is a gem from start to finish. Sure, not every yarn is a goal, but every tale is thought-provoking and several are pure gems. A star-studded cast of creators including Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Simon Spurrier and Dan Abnett easily make this my favourite comic so far for the year.
16. Joe Hill’s Terrifyingly Tragic Treasury Edition (IDW, 2013) ****½
Writer: Joe Hill/Artists: various
I loved treasury editions when I was a kid and I’m a big fan of Joe Hill’s Locke & Key series, so this title was a must-have. It collects some rare Hill tales with the art blown up to nearly twice the usual size. My favourite yarn is the last one, Open The Moon, which is a hauntingly beautiful tribute to Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo In Slumberland. I nearly had a tear in my eye over this one. Just a lovely, lovely story and a fantastic collection put out in an eye-catching format. Well done to IDW on this one.
17. Red Dragon #1 (Comico, 1996) DUD
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artists: Tony Akins (interior); Simon Bisley (cover)
Review can be found online at

18. Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! #1 (DC, 2009) ***¾
Writer: Matthew Sturges/Artist: Freddie Williams II (interior); Kako (cover)
Didn’t know what to expect from this comic, but I enjoyed it so much I’ve tracked down the rest of the series. In Final Crisis, low-rent supervillain The Human Flame killed the Martian Manhunter. By the end of the “event”, he was in a hospital bed and being hunted by every good guy and baddie on the planet. This six-issue miniseries shows what happens next for the ultra-violent, but ultra-stupid crook as he tries to escape his fate. Good stuff.
19. Sex #4 (Image, 2013) ***½
Writer: Joe Casey /Artist: Piotr Kowalski
20.-21. Scarlet #6-7 (Icon, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Alex Maleev
22. Weapon Brown: Blockhead’s War #7 (Death Ray Graphics, 2013) ***½
Writer/artist: Jason Yungbluth
A suitably gory, disgusting conclusion to Jason’s post-apocalyptic vision world populated by cartoon strip characters. Chuck and Snoopy kick the snot out of Calvin and Hobbes in a brutal slugfest.
23. Blast Furnace: Recreational Thief Vol. 1 (self-published, 2012) ***¼
Writer/artist: Ryan Browne
24.-26. God Hates Astronauts #1-3 (self-published, 2011-12) ***½ 
Writer/artist: Ryan Browne
Too weird to explain. I think my head exploded while reading it. Ultimately, both are love stories – with ghost cows, ninja owls, giant-headed superhero crybabies and evil John L. Sullivan! Just buy both titles at
27.-28. The Ride: Southern Gothic #1-2 (12-Gauge, 2012) **¾
Writers/artists: various
Oversized, overpriced and overrated. This uneven, ultimately underwhelming sequel isn’t a patch on the original The Ride series.
29. Image Firsts: Morning Glories #1 (Image, 2013) ****
Writer: Nick Spencer/Artist: Joe Eisma
30. Image Firsts: Peter Panzerfaust #1 (Image, 2013) ***
Writer: Kurtis Wiebe/Artist: Tyler Jenkins
The “Image Firsts” series is a great idea. Reprint a bunch of first issues at $1 price tag to get new readers hooked onto old, successful titles. I tried these two on a whim. Peter Panzerfaust is a rollicking WW2 yarn that reads like a serial from an old British weekly like Battle, Valiant or Lion. It’s quite old-fashioned. I enjoyed what I read, but it didn’t entice me to return for more. However, the first ish of Morning Glories grabbed me by the short’n’curlies and wouldn’t let go. A group of different but uniquely similar teens are accepted into a prestigious-but-mysterious college. We know from the first few pages that the faculty are evil but we don’t know why nor the reason why they want these kids. But the shocking final page has me suckered. I need to get my hands on the first trade now. Well done, Image. You have a new fan of this series.
31.-34. Red Mass For Mars (Image, 2010) ***
- originally published in Red Mass For Mars #1-4 (Image, 2010)
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Ryan Bodenheim
I like Ryan’s artwork, but Hickman’s yarn left me cold and I found none of the characters particularly appealing.
35. Marvel Share Your Universe Sampler #1 (Marvel, 2013) ***
Writers/artists: various
I really enjoyed the Marvel Adventure line – no-nonsense, fun tales featuring my favourite heroes, particularly The Avengers. Then Marvel killed off the line a few years ago. Now, I see that Marvel has brought back a kid-friendly line of comics again, this time tied into all the animated TV series they have up and running. This sampler gives us a taste of what they have in the line – Spider-Man, The Avengers, Spider-Man, etc – and it’s pretty funky. Having talented writers like Christos Gage and Fred Van Lente on board helps. All in all, I’d be happy to steer my kids towards these comics.
36. Revolver by Matt Kindt (Vertigo, 2010) ****
Sam wakes up one morning to find his world has gone to shit: avian flu epidemic, a dirty bomb going off in Seattle, social and economic chaos across America. That night he goes to sleep and the next morning he finds...the world has returned to normal. No-one has experienced what he just did – girlfriend, family and work colleagues all remain blissfully unaware. Is Sam dreaming? No! The process continues that night and the following night and so on... Sam wakes up to find himself in one of two worlds: the first is filled with unimaginable hardship and carnage, the other banal and boring...but safe. But which world would Sam rather live in: the one where he feels truly alive (even though he risks death at every moment) or a world where he’s loved and secure...yet unfulfilled and dreadfully unhappy? And what happens when Sam meets the one other man in the world who is also sharing these two worlds? Kindt has again produced a thought-provoking masterpiece that’s every bit as disturbing and compelling as Mind MGMT.
37. Varoomshka by John Kent (Eyre Methuen, 1972) ½*
Political satire only works if people remember what the fuck was being satirised. English politics 40 years down the track means fuck-all to me. Certain political figures featured in this hardback collection of strips are familiar to me – PMs Edward Heath and  Harold Wilson, Tory MPs such as Sir Alec Douglas-Home and the future Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, US Prez Richard Nixon and Vice-Prez Spiro Agnew and Rhodesian PM Ian Smith. Actually, that’s not too shabby – but I’m sure most other people picking up this book would struggle with half the faces, most of the names and ALL the issues of the day. Which makes it a real chore to read this strip that appeared regularly in the otherwise conservative The Guardian newspaper. Varoomshka herself is a gorgeous-but-naive observer of the political machinations going on around her, usually while half-dressed. It’s well-drawn but time has not been kind to this collection.
38.-43. The Sixth Gun Vol. 1: Cold Dead Fingers (Oni Press, 2011) ****½
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #1-6 (Oni Press, 2010)
Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artist: Brian Hurtt
 It’s nice when you discover a hidden gem like this title and you get to enjoy a slab of the trades that have come out in the past two years. Gothic western horror about six unholy guns and the evil that men will do to get their hands on them and the immense power they possess. Love it!
44. Housewives At Play: “Lez” Be Friends by Rebecca (Eros Comix, 2007) **
It still amazes me sexually perverse stuff like this is published by the same elitist group that constantly pooh-poohs mainstream Marvel and DC for printing “crap”. Pot calling the kettle black, me’thinks. As for “Rebecca” (and I truly doubt she’s a real female), she knows how to draw naked ladies, that’s for sure.
45.-46. The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 (Oni Press, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Chris Roberson/Artist: Scott Kowalchuk
47. Smoke And Mirrors #1 (IDW, 2012) **¼
Writers: Mike Costa and Jon Armstrong/Artist: Ryan Browne
I liked Browne’s art  on God Hates Astronauts, but it’s all a bit too straight in this tale of an alternate Earth where magic is a part of everyday life. The storyline just didn’t grab me.
48. CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2012 (Image, 2012) ***
Writers/artists: various
49. Rombies #0 (Gestalt, 2010) **¾
Writer: Tom Taylor/Artist: Skye Ogden
Zombies in ancient Rome? Meh.
50. Ghosts #1 (Vertigo, 2012) ***½
Writers/artists: various
51.-52. The Fall Of The House Of Usher (Dark Horse, 2013) ****
Writer/artist: Richard Corben
53.-56. The Twelve #9-12 (Marvel, 2012) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artists: Chris Weston (interior), Paolo Rivera (covers)
Finally! JMS finally got this maxiseries finished. Was it worth it in the end? Sorta. I thought the ending was kinda low-key and a bit of a cop-out, really, but overall I enjoyed the series. And, unlike some other series I’ve got into in the past, at least it received a proper ending! 
57.-63. Revival #6-12 (Image, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artist: Mike Norton
I want to give this “rural noir” series – about the dead returning to life in a non-zombie-but-still-creepily-sinister-fashion in Hicksville, Wisconsin – four stars, but a letter in #6 summed up my feelings perfectly. He wrote he had trouble keeping track of the many characters from issue to issue. I just read seven issues straight and *I* don’t understand who all these characters are. Seeley has a lotta subplots on the boil, but to his credit I think everything is building nicely each month and the gory shocks – though coming thick and fast – don’t stop the overall storyline from moving forward slowly but surely. I like this series a lot – there are images in each issue that stick in your head long after you put the book down. Not too many comics have that effect on me in 2013.
64. Bucko by Jeff Parker & Erika Moen (Dark Horse, 2012) ****½
A podcast is coming soon to discuss this brilliant graphic novel plus The Sixth Gun Vol. 1 & Saga Vol. 2. Stay tuned!