Sunday, June 9, 2013

COMICS READING FOR MAY: “Adults only – not recommended for people under the age of 18 years”


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

HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE ALAN MOORE SCALE
*****    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

I HAVE a surprising amount of porno comics in my collection, so I decided to read them all in May. As you can see, porn doesn’t just have to mean rooting. There was also some horror porn thrown in as well. Guess what, I barely got through half of what I slated to read. Man, I have a lotta porno comics. Anyways, here’s my list and some thoughts on the “highlights” – to be honest, it wasn’t a high-quality month.  Oh, I also read some non-porno comics, too.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!
1.-2. Sex #1-2 (Image, 2013) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey /Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Second printings?  Third printings? Wow – clearly the geeks are responding to the rather blatant (one might say “cynical”) name of this title by the bad boy of comics, Joe Casey. Superheroes having sex? Is it novel? It’s too early to tell – I’ve barely got into the story and the first two issues are already over. Will I buy No. 3? Maybe. Sex intrigues me...and so does this comic. But it better hit the money shot soon.
3.-5. Girls, Greed, Guns & Gore (Eros Comix, 1997) ½*
- originally published in B-Movie Comix #1-3 (Whizz-bin Comix, 1994)
Writer/artist: Eric Wald
Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, you are such hypocrites. You simultaneously published the elitist, highbrow The Comics Journal – that regularly slagged off mainstream comics – while putting out hard-core porn under your “Eros Comix” banner. Shame on you. Now, some Eros stuff was fine, but much of it was rubbish – like this graphic novel (which, thankfully, I didn’t have to pay for as it was given to me for free). Allegedly, the original three-issue series got destroyed by flood and only six copies remain. So the series was collected in one TPB and what readers got was hard-core filth, a confusing storyline and interchangeable, forgettable characters. I couldn’t follow what was going on and Wald’s cartoony art made the porn sections underwhelming. Unerotic erotica? Blegh.
6. Dirty Stories Vol. 2 (Eros Comics, 2000) ***½
Writers/artists: various
Sex-themed anthology with contributions from Tony Millionaire, Daniel Clowes, Bob Fingerman, Dean Haspiel and many more. Like all anthologies, the quality is patchy. And the subject matter ranges from poignant to hardcore XXX to disturbing. Thankfully, the bawdy humour on show in much of the strips saves this book from being just a wankfest.
7. Uzumaki Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (Viz Media, 1998-2012) *****
Adult comics doesn’t have to mean bare boobs and bums. Sometimes a mature title can be a perverse, dread-filled horror yarn like this classic manga. This is the concluding volume detailing a spiral curse that descends on a Japanese village, eventually destroying everyone caught in its evil web. Humans metamorphosing into snails (and worse), cannibalism, murder, insanity and worse are on display, making so-called modern horror yarns like all those Crossed sequels look piss-weak by comparison. Nothing is more disturbing, yet compelling, as Uzumaki.
8. Space Chicks And Businessmen (Eros Comix, 1997-2000) **¾
Writer: Link Yaco/Art: John Heebink
Lovely art, nicely illustrated (and hot) sex scenes and plenty of wacky humour should’ve made this graphic novel a winner. Yet I found the two main characters unlikable and there was a distinct lack of tension or excitement, even though they were being threatened with sex and/or death on every second page. By the end, I was just bored – which isn’t the reaction I want in a porno comic.
9. Doktormentor: Jail Babe Surgeon #4 (Shh!, 2011) ***
Writer/artist: n/a
What the fuck did I just read? This isn’t a comic so much as a soft-core horror/T&A fumetti. A deranged prison doctor does unspeakable experiments on sexy female inmates. Except...you don’t see much experimenting; just lots of cute Suicide Girls-type pin-up models spouting mostly lame dirty gags and general porno sleaze, some mild nudity (mainly topless) and an unpleasant edge of misogyny running through the dialogue. Inexplicably, one of the yarns is in 3D. This is one of the more unsettling oddities I’ve come across in recent years. Apparently, this wildly overpriced comic (US$9.95 for 36 full colour pages) is part of a line that also features Bettie Page fumetti yarns as well.
10.-13. Weapon Brown: Blockhead’s War #3-6 (Death Ray Graphics, 2010-12) ****
Writer/artist: Jason Yungbluth
These are the daily cartoons as you never imagined them. In a hellish future where food is worth more than gold, cyborg Weapon Brown and his deranged mutt Snoop reluctantly join forces with an underground rebellion (led by Lil’ Orphan Annie and Popeye) against the forces of evil, led by the perfect soldier C.A.L. and his pet tiger Hobs (I hope you’re getting that particular reference), as they try to capture the vital food source known as Shmoo. Brutal and bloody, but brilliant. I can’t wait to read the cataclysmic conclusion in #7, which I’ve just ordered directly from Jason’s website at whatisdeepfried.com.

14. The Cave Drawings Of Budd Root: 2010 Convention Art Book (Amryl, 2010) ***
Nice art. And it’s signed. So...y’know, that’s cool. Was it worth $14? Mmmmmmaybe not.
15. Sex #3 (Image, 2013) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey /Artist: Piotr Kowalski
It’s still a slow-burning thing, but Casey’s story is slowly growing on me. Casey’s philosophy of doing a modern superhero yarn with a European graphic album sensibility may be paying off. I’m hooked.
16.-21. Deadpool MAX: Involuntary Armageddon (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published as Deadpool MAX #7-12 (Marvel, 2011)
Writer: David Lapham/Artists: Kyle Baker, Shawn Crystal
This mature version of Deadpool is pretty dark. Our favourite insane mercenary and his flawed handler Bob relive their terrible childhoods, then inadvertently create evil organisation Hydra and are kinda, sorta responsible for the horrible destruction of Cincinatti. Along the way, we attend Bob’s bucks night (even though he’s not getting married) and meet Deadpool’s baby (which doesn’t exist0. Guest stars include totally fucked-up versions of Cable and Taskmaster. A warped, entertaining ride.
22.-24. Hard Boiled TPB (Dark Horse, 1993) ***½
- originally published as Hard Boiled (Dark Horse, 1990-92)
Writer: Frank Miller/Artist: Geof Darrow
Stylised, overblown ultra-violence. It was probably an early sign that Miller is more style than substance when it comes to his writing, but damn! Darrow’s art is gorgeous, even when it’s nothing but grue and brain matter.
25.-31. Crossed Vol. 2: Family Values (Avatar, 2011) ***¾
- originally published in Crossed: Family Values #1-7 (Avatar, 2011)
Writer: David Lapham/Artist: Javier Barreno
Indy sensation Lapham ups the gore and depravity, but is it better than Ennis’s unforgettable first series? Not by a longshot. Ennis managed to appal and shock while only touching on the true degenerate nature of the infected “Crossed”.  
32. Ranx 1: Ranx In New York (Heavy Metal, 1996) ***¼
Writers/artists: Liberatore & Tamburini
This nihilistic piece of stylish sci-fi set in near-future Italy - about ultra-violent robot Ranx and his very young-looking girlfriend Lubna - first came to light in Heavy Metal magazine in the early 80s. It’s been collected a few times and this version of volume one comes from Heavy Metal. Lubna gets kidnapped by a deranged artist who orders Ranx to kill an arts critic. Later, the couple are reunited and travel to New York where Ranx becomes the star of a stage production about the life of Fred Astaire. Along the way, Ranx kills a lot of (mainly) innocent bystanders. It’s vicious, surreal and seething with homo-erotic perversity. I also like the fact that HM got quite squeamish about Liberatore & Tamburini’s depiction of Lubna and her friend Martine, who both look decidedly jailbait-ish. The translated text repeatedly has people stating how both chicks “are 18”. That’s hilarious.
33. Porn Star Fantasies #9 (Carnal Comics, 1996) ***
Writers : Lisa Ann & Jay Allen Sanford/Artist : Daerick Gross (Lisa Ann : Jackpot)
Writers: Julia Ann & Jay Allen Sanford/Artist: Fauve (Julia Ann: Sky Queen)
Cover artist: Jeff Pittarelli
I bought this comic because I’m a huge Lisa Ann fan. This comes from her pre-cougar/MILF fame, back when she was a regular knob-gobbler. Her yarn – about organising an island orgy with all her fans – is the best of the two as Gross’s art is wonderful in a cartoony way. I’m not sure how guys would’ve felt about the men-on-men action that’s on show, but it’s still a delightfully horny romp. Julia Ann’s story – about an innocent (but sexy) woman set loose in a barbaric world – is less satisfying. Very clichéd and Fauve’s art sucks. Again, I’m not sure male readers would’ve enjoyed the final scene where Julia Ann sodomises an evil pirate with his wooden peg leg. Probably put them off their stroke. The two short stories are supplemented by several nice B&W photos of the two pornstars. I quite enjoyed this book, although I have to admit my standards going in were low.
34.-39. Hellblazer: Dangerous Habits (Vertigo, 1994) ***¾
- originally published in Hellblazer #41-46 (Vertigo, 1991)
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: various
40. Spying With Lana Declassified: Object Of Desire (self-published, 2011) ***½
Writer/artist: Sean Harrington
Funny, sexy comic – Sean sure knows how to draw naked chicks – but there’s an edge of misogyny when it comes to men-on-women violence. But Sean’s sense of humour helps soften some of the unpleasantness.
41. Crossed 3D (Avatar, 2011) ***
Writer: David LaphamArtist: Gianluca Pagliarani
A good yarn – nice and violent – but I found the 3D to be more annoying than anything else. Parts of the artwork were nearly impossible to make out – with or without the 3D glasses.
42.-45. Supergod #2-5 (Avatar, 2009-10) ***¾
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Garrie Gastonny
I finally got to read the rest of this ultra-dark tale on what would happen if various countries tried to create their own superheroes. (Hint: it turns out really, really bad).
46.-51. Choker #1-6 (Image, 2010-12) ***
Writer: Ben McCool/Artist: Ben Templesmith
This ambitious-but-flawed super-cop/private eye sci-fi tale is extremely gruesome, but fails to hold together in one sitting. I would probably rate it even lower if I’d been forced to read it one issue at a time over an excruciating 18-month period. But in one hit, Templesmith’s art is enjoyable (as always), but McCool’s story is disjointed and dissatisfying.
52. Cavewoman One-Shot Special (Basement Comics, 2000) ***
Writer/artist: Devon Massey
He sure can draw some excellent sloppy-titted cavewomen.
53.-54. One-Fisted Tales #3-4 (Slave Labor Graphics, 1991) **¾
Writers/artists: various
Short horny gag pieces of mixed quality. Larry Welz’s Cherry Poptart in space yarn is the highlight of #3, while Evan Dorkin’s piece stands out in #4.
55. The Small Press Swimsuit Spectacular #1 (Allied Comics, 1995) **¾
56. Elementals Swimsuit 1996 Spectacular #1 (Comico, 1996) *½ 
Swimsuit issues filled with scantily clad superheroes and fantasy characters can cause much confusion to punters. Sure, they’re filled with sexy images of their favourite four-colour or B&W gals (and, in some cases, guys), but there’s no way they’re hot enough so you can jerk off to them. And buying these type of comics can be embarrassing because the dude behind the counter assumes that’s EXACTLY what you’re going to do while “reading” it. They automatically assume you’re a wanker even if the only time you’re gonna stick your hand down your pants over this over-priced publication is to retrieve your wallet to pay for the bloody thing.
That said, I bought these two comics and they were as unimpressive (as expected) but still kinda interesting. I always liked Bill Willingham’s Elementals series, even when it went seriously off the rails in the 80s (and even headed into hard-core porn at times). This swimsuit issue is a last hurrah before Comico went bust and Elementals disappeared forever. The colour pin-ups are fine, but none stand out. The biggest “names” on board are Ben Dunn, Tony Akins and Norm Dwyer. Er...yeah.
The Small Press Swimsuit Spectacular is a more humorous B&W affair featuring a who’s who of indy creators from that era: Barry Blair, BC Boyer, Colleen Doran, Matt Feazell, Brad Foster, Fred Hembeck, Max Ink, Don Simpson and  more. My favourites were Milk & Cheese (by Evan Dorkin) and Strangers In Paradise (Terry Moore). This was actually a kinda cool take on what is usually a lame and redundant sub-genre.
57. The Convent Of Hell (NBM/Eurotica, 1997) ***
Writer: Ricardo Barreiro/Artist: Ignacio Noe
This blasphemous hard-core erotic horror comic is a beautifully drawn, rollicking yarn, written and drawn by an Argentinean duo for the European market. It details the corruption of a convent of nuns at the hands (and rather large penis) of Beelzebub. The (very) graphic novel was censored for the American version, most likely due to one extended scene where the evil head nun /succubus adopts an unusual method in killing an underaged-looking cherub. Clearly, NBM didn’t want to face possible prosecution by the Feds, so they just excised the three offending pages from the story. It really doesn’t detract from the overall yarn. I suspect other shit went down for Barreiro and Noe back in Argentina (or in Europe) as the series ends rather abruptly and in triumphant, violent fashion for the Catholic Church, whose stormtroopers swiftly slaughter the deviant nuns and drive Beelzebub back to hell. It’s all too easy – one suspects the duo were pressured by higher authorities to kill off The Convent Of Hell quick-smart.
I WON’T count them as comics, but I also perused a few saucy art books starting with Frank Cho: Women: Selected Drawings & Illustrations: Book Two (Monkey Boy Press, 2013), which just may be the longest name for a book ever!  Also The Art Of Jim Balent Vols. 1&2 (BroadSword Comics, 2008). Balent can’t write for shit, but there’s no doubt he’s an exquisite “good girl” artist. Finally, I paid through the nose for Hippie Chixx (Eros Comix, 2012) by Rebecca (of Housewives At Play infamy). At first, the bush-free pin-ups grated (as they seemed soooo unlike the 60s), but the playful, hot artwork eventually won me over. I even smiled at a few of them. Nice work.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2013
THIS year, I decided not to go crazy and get every single FCBD comic out there (I came pretty damn close to getting all 40-odd titles last year). Most of the ones I’ve read in recent years have been underwhelming, which rendered the exercise a bit pointless. This time, I focused on one comic shop (Phantom Zone in Parramatta) with Helen and the kids, and grabbed a dozen titles I really, really wanted to read. Here’s what I got. Really, only one title disappointed me.
58. FCBD: Mouse Guard (Archaia, 2013) ****
Writer/artist: David Petersen (Mouse Guard)
I bloody love this series about medieval mice. Beautifully drawn and delightfully whimsical, even poignant at times.
59. FCBD: The Tick (NEC, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Jeff McClelland/Artist: Duane Redhead, Pietro
Keen!
60. FCBD: Infinity (Marvel, 2013) ***½
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Jim Cheung
For a typical Big Two crossover event, this looks decidedly more well-written and entertaining than the usual “storm in a teacup” that gets served to punters. Will I buy it? Probably not, but I’ll follow it more closely on the internetz.
60. FCBD : Zombie Cities: Violence vs Compassion (Silver Fox Comics, 2013) ***
Writers : Sorab Del Rio & Don Ticchio/Artists : various
The zombie genre is beyond played out and this doesn’t really add anything more to it. But at least it’s Australian and the art is nice.
61. FCBD: Prince Valiant (Fantagraphics, 2013) *****
Writer/artist: Hal Foster
Just gorgeous, classic Sunday funnies artwork – and the stories weren’t half-bad either.
62. FCBD: Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H! (Marvel, 2013) **
This seenms to be an adapted storyboard for a new animated cartoon featuring Green Hulk, Red Hulk, Skaar, etc. It’s quite ordinary. But, then again, maybe an animated series doesn’t translate well back to a comic.
63. FCBD: Absolution (Avatar, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Daniel Gete
This book reprints Absolution #1 from a few years back, then gives a sneak preview for the upcoming new series (which I’m really looking forward to). Veteran super-cop John Dusk has become a serial killer who only murders people he perceives as the lowest scum: murderers, rapists and crime bosses. It’s an intriguing premise. His methods are terrible, but his heart’s in the right place. The perception of ultimate vigilante vs psycho nutbag is explored by Gage in this extremely gory, thought-provoking yarn.
64. FCBD: Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics, 2013) ***¼
Writer: Brian Clevinger/Artist: Scott Wegener
65. FCBD: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures (IDW, 2013) ***¼ 
Writer: Erik Burnham/Arist: Dario Brizuela
66. FCBD: Buck Rogers In The 25th Century (Hermes Press, 2013) *****
Writer: Phillip Nowlan/Artist: Richard Calkins
Some fantastic full-colour reprints, an overview on the Buck Rogers phenomenon of the 20s and 30s, plus some nice pics of Buck Rogers memorabilia. What more could you ask for in a free comic?
67. FCBD: Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) ****
An excerpt from Gilbert’s new graphic novel. Very intriguing.
68. FCBD: 2000AD (Rebellion, 2013) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
Another fun sampler of new and classic material featuring Judge Dredd, Zombo and more.
OTHER STUFF
69.-70. Roscoe! The Dawg, Ace Detective #1-2 (Renegade Press, 1987) **¾
Writer/artist: Martin Trengrove
I remember Roscoe! as a rude, irreverent take on the private dick genre in the old Australian anthology Fox Comics from the early 80s. This watered-down, not-very-funny reboot for the small-time American company fails to fire on any cylinders. I’m not even sure why it earned its own title, but still...good on Melbourne-based Marty for scoring this brief gig. It’s just a pity it wasn’t very good, although his MAD-inspired art was pleasing to the eye.
71. Delta Tenn #2 (Entertainment Publishing, 1987) DUD
Writer/artist: Mark Marderosian
I bought this cheap due to the cheesecake cover. D’oh. Really pedestrian “sexy cop” yarn, mired in mawkish soap opera shenanigans of the worst kind. Pretty amateurish on every level. Damn you, brief B&W comic book boom, you gave us so much shit back then!
72.-77. Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon (Marvel, 2013) ***
- originally published in Hawkeye #1-5 (Marvel, 2012-13) & Young Avengers Presents #6 (Marvel, 2008)
Writer: Matt Fraction/Artists: David Aja, Javier Pulido, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
Overrated. Nice artwork throughout, but Fraction’s reinvention of the boring bowman failed to engage. Considering I’ve bought a lot of Fraction-penned comics (many still to be read), I’ve yet to be entirely convinced that the guy can write a decent comic. I assume I’m in for more heartbreak in the future.
78. Jupiter’s Legacy #1 (Image, 2013) ***
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Frank Quitely
“...the greatest superhero epic of this generation...”
Get your hand off it, Image. This pedestrian, fairly unoriginal tale of decadent young superheroes unable to live up to the heroic ideals of their parents is part-Kingdome Come, part-Brats Bizarre. Been there, done that, Mr Millar. At least Quitely’s art is exquisite to behold.
79. Halloween Eve (Image, 2012) **½
Writer: Brandon Montclare/Artist: Amy Reeder
Beautiful art by Reeder, but this story is so wafer-thin and vacuous, I can’t believe Image gave it the green light. Luckily I only paid $3 for it second-hand. Still, nice illos.
80. Stan Ridgway: Camouflage (self-published, 2011) ***½
Writers: Stan Ridgway & Martin Conaghan/Artist: Keith Chan
This short, simply-drawn B&W story illustrates Stan’s classic 1986 hit song Camouflage. Helen picked it up at one of his Sydney gigs last month. It was even autographed by the great man. Sweet.
81. Adventures Of Superman #1 (DC, 2013) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
Pleasant. The Jeff Lemire yarn was a highlight.
82. Malus by Christopher Webster (Mmmnnnrrrg, 2004) ***
Originally published in comic book form in England from 1995-97 (I think), this bizarre take on superheroes was republished in Spain (or Portugal) by a company called Mmmnnnrrrg (I think). I found the storyline was confusing of working-class schlubs experimented on by an evil corporation, being turned into bizarre supermen, then warring with each other. But the art (part-Giffen-in-his-South-American-phase/part-Jack Kirby) is always interesting.
83-84. Wormwood #1, #3 (self-published, 1999) **¾
Writer/artist: Christopher Webster
I have no idea what’s going on, but it involves retarded porn woodsmen, bees and rooting in outer space.
85.-92. Action Comics: Superman And The Men Of Steel (DC, 2012) ****
- originally published in Action Comics #1-8 (DC, 2011-12)
Writer: Grant Morrision/Artists: Rags Morales, Andy Kubert & others
93. Occupy Comics #1 (Black Mask, 2013) ***½
Writers/artists: various
Cartoonists continue to fight the good fight, even though the Occupy movement has been kinda dead’n’buried for more than a year. Alan Moore’s working class/revolutionary overview on the history of comics is equal parts informative and strident.

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