Friday, March 1, 2013

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “Warren Ellis a swift kick to the nuts!”

* 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. Marvel NOW! #3 (Marvel, 2013) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
Well, I swore after I decided to cut back on my comics purchases that I would not pick up any new titles, especially from the Big Two. But after reading this preview anthology, I may have to change my least for one issue. Guardians Of The Galaxy, Nova, the new Wolverine and the new Secret Avengers all have great creative teams and the teaser pages have me intrigued. Damn! Don’t tell my wife, but I’ll have to check them out......

2. No More Heroes #4 (self-published, 2012) ***½
Writer: Gordon McLean/Artist: Caio Oliveira
This self-published four-part series from England was excellent value (only $1.60 per PDF download) and I really enjoyed the first three chapters, especially Caio’s Gary Chaloner/Kevin Maguire-style art. Basically, a random guy called Sid receives a mobile phone message asking if the caller should kill himself. Thinking it a joke – and urged on by his drunken mates – Sid texts back, “Yes.” When he later finds out the call came from superhero Dark Justice , who’s just been found dead, he’s filled with remorse. Especially when Dark Justice’s sidekick Black Fury turns up seeking answers. Meanwhile, deranged mass murderer Jack Slaughter is killing a bunch of people. This is the case that sent Dark Justice into deep depression in the first place. At the end of part three, Black Fury had finally captured Jack Slaughter and we were waiting for the big reveal of his secret identity. Well, the last chapter was, frankly, a bit of a letdown. I know Gordon wanted to have a swerve in that Jack Slaughter turns out to be some nobody not connected with any of the main characters. The gender swerve is good, but the fact that she’s just some random really deflates the storyline. While there are some good tense moments during the issue – including a flashback to Dark Justice’s final moments – I felt a little empty at the end of it. Still, I suspect this isn’t the last we see of Black Fury and Jim, who’s now wearing the hood of Dark Justice. Will there be another series of No More Heroes? I hope so. I think Gordon and Caio show a lot of promise – despite my misgivings about the conclusion, I really did enjoy the miniseries. I urge superhero fans to seek it out at or “No More Heroes Comic” on Facebook.

AFTER reading Warren Ellis’s highly entertaining new novel, Gun Machine – published by Mulholland Books, check it out – I got a hankering to check out as the unread Ellis comics in my collection. See how the guy’s evolved over the years. So let’s get started.

3.-6. Wolverine #119-122 (Marvel, 1997-98) ***¼
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
This short tale takes place during the period Wolverine was stripped of his adamantium and had bone claws. A silly time, but we’ll ignore that for now. Featuring some of Yu’s earliest art, it’s an okay yarn that suffers from a bit too much overwrought writing and Image-style flashy art. Perhaps Warren felt inhibited by being in a mainstream superhero comic, perhaps a little hamstrung. Either way, it has a few nasty moments, but not enough to make this run a roaring success. Jumping back and forth in time, the four-parter reveals the relationship between Logan and drunken Scottish assassin Roddy McLeish in Hong Kong some years in the past. Even though McLeish is an evil killer, Wolvie has no problems drinking with him. Logan is also dating a hot Hong Kong chick, whose movie producer father is later murdered by McLeish, under orders from the Triad. Wolverine kills McLeish (or so he thinks). Years later, McLeish returns (or does he) to exact his revenge. He murders Logan’s now-ex-girlfriend and a bunch of villagers, to lure Wolverine to a small town to kill him. Naturally, he fails. This tale is entertaining in a stand-alone fashion, but aspects of McLeish’s personality (and Wolvie’s character) don’t ring true. I’m not sure why Logan – an essentially good man, if a little psycho – is happy to pal around with a clearly evil man in McLeish. It makes no sense. All the usual tired Wolverine philosophising – I’m-a-man-not-a-wild-animal crap – that has dogged his character for decades is in full flow here. I hope this sorta stuff will be eliminated in the upcoming Wolverine series, written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Alan Davis. I’m kinda over that boring shit now. All in all, this isn’t one of Ellis’s better efforts, but he was younger and hampered by writing in the old Marvel house style. Better things were to come...and in the very near future.

7.-12. Planetary Vol. 1: All Over The World And Other Stories (Wildstorm, 2001) ****½
- originally published in Planetary #1-6 & Planetary Preview (Wildstorm, 1998-99)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Art: John Cassaday
I done given this first volume a grave injustice. Two years ago, when I first read it, I gave this TPB a rating of ***¾ . Having reread it, I’ve given it a hefty raise in the ratings. It’s a brilliant start to a series that re-examines and reinvents all the classic movie/pulp novel/comic/TV tropes of the past 100 years and weaves them into a fascinating secret history of the 20th Century, as explored by self-styled “mystery archaeologists” Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer. The JLA, Doc Savage, Tsui Hark cop flicks, Godzilla, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and more are reinterpreted by Ellis at his finest, with glorious cinematic art by Cassaday. A gorgeous kicking off point to this series. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into volume two.

13.-18. Planetary Vol. 2: The Fourth Man (Wildstorm, 2001) ****½
- originally published in Planetary #7-12 (Wildstorm, 2000-01)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Art: John Cassaday
19.-24. Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving The 20th Century (Wildstorm, 2004) ****½
- originally published in Planetary #13-18 (Wildstorm, 2001-04)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Art: John Cassaday
25.-27. Planetary: Crossing Worlds (Wildstorm, 2004) ****½
- originally published in Planetary/The Authority: Ruling The World, Planetary/JLA: Terra Occulta & Planetary/Batman: Night On Earth (Wildstorm, 2000-03)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Art: various
28.-36. Planetary Vol. 4: Spacetime Archaelogy (Wildstorm, 2010) ****½
- originally published in Planetary #19-27 (Wildstorm, 2004-09)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Art: John Cassaday

37.-42. Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back On The Street (Vertigo, 2009) *****
43.-48. Transmetropolitan Vol. 2: Lust For Life (Vertigo, 2009) *****
49.-54. Transmetropolitan Vol. 3: Year Of The Bastard (Vertigo, 2009) *****
55.-60. Transmetropolitan Vol. 4: The New Scum (Vertigo, 2009) *****
61.-66. Transmetropolitan Vol. 5: Lonely City (Vertigo, 2009) *****
67.-72. Transmetropolitan Vol. 6: Gouge Away (Vertigo, 2010) *****
73.-78. Transmetropolitan Vol. 7: Spider’s Thrash (Vertigo, 2010) *****
79.-84. Transmetropolitan Vol. 8: Dirge (Vertigo, 2010) *****
85.-90. Transmetropolitan Vol. 9: The Cure (Vertigo, 2011) *****
91.-98. Transmetropolitan Vol. 10: One More Time (Vertigo, 2011) *****
- originally published in Transmetropolitan #1-60, Transmetropolitan: I Hate It Here, Transmetropolitan: Filth Of The City & various short stories (Vertigo, 1997-2002)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Darick Robertson & friends

99. Aetheric Mechanics: A Graphic Novella (Apparat/Avatar, 2008) ***
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Gianluca Pagliarani & Chris Dreier
Overpriced tale of an imaginary steampunk England dreamed up by a time traveller, featuring weird alternate universe versions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. OK, I guess, but not one of Ellis’s better efforts. Glad I got this cheap, too.
100. Lazarus Churchyard: The Final Cut (Image, 2001) ***
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: D’Israeli
101.-106. John Constantine, Hellblazer: Haunted (Vertigo, 2003) ***¾
- originally published in Hellblazer #134-139 (Vertigo, 1999)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: John Higgins
107.-110. John Constantine, Hellblazer: Setting Sun (Vertigo, 2004) ***½
- originally published in Hellblazer #140-143 (Vertigo, 1999)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: various
111.-118. The Authority, Book 1: Relentless (WildStorm/DC, 2000) ****
- originally published in The Authority #1-8 (WildStorm, 1999)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary

I will discuss all these titles in a future podcast.....probably. 

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