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"...