Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Power Girl (art by Wally Wood)

TV Guide, c. 1968 (art by Wally Wood)


* 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. Mazeworld TPB (Rebellion, 2011) ***¼
Writer: Alan Grant/Artist: Arthur Ranson
This is a grim fantasy, first published in 2000 AD in the mid-90s, about a just-executed murderer who gets catapulted into another world where mazes dominate the culture. It’s an interesting concept, if told perfunctorily by the writer. But I love Ranson’s art (after first seeing it in Rebellion’s Button Man collection). The ending is kinda flat, but the gorgeous artwork makes up for Grant’s lacklustre writing.
2. Western Adventure Library No. 1: The Man Who Would Not Die (Page Publications, 196?) **
This was a nice score for only two bux from Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Sydney. I grabbed it for the Keith Chatto cover, but this Aussie reprint of, I assume, a Euro-western was intriguing, even if much of the plot and action is pedestrian. It’s very pro-Indian, anti-white oppression and pro-peace, Maybe reflecting shades of anti-Vietnam War sentiment? There’s no writer listed but the competent-but-unflashy artist signs his name as “Juan Llorca”. Anyone know more about this guy?
3. Pantalones, TX: Zombi├▒ata (Archaia, 2013) ***
Writer/artist: Yehudi Mercado
4. Batman ’66 #2 (DC, 2013) ***½
Writer: Jeff Parker/Artists: Jeff Parker, Jonathan Case
5. Black Dynamite #1 (IDW, 2013) ***
Writer:Brian Ash/Artists: Ron Wimerly & Sal Buscema
6. Deadly Class #1 (Image, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Wes Craig
7.-9. Velvet #1-3 (Image, 2013) ****¼
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Steve Epting
Captain America colleagues reunite for a female spy series done right! This has a real 70s feel about it, mainly ’cos it’s set in the 1970s. Love this series so far.
10.-12. The Fox #1-3 (Red Circle, 2013-14) ***¾
Writers: Dean Haspiel & Mark Waid/Artist: Dean Haspiel (The Fox)
Writer: JM DeMatteis/Artists: Mike Cavallaro & Terry Austin (The Shield)
13. Blue Frame Enters The Gas Zone (A Gas Comic, 1992) **
Writer: unknown/Artist: Keith Chatto
Possibly the last comic illustrated by the legendary Australian artist. This educational comic extols the virtue of natural gas.
14. Seeker 3000 #3 (Marvel, 1998) ***
Writers: Dan Abnett & Ian Edginton/Artists: Andrew Currie & Andy Lanning & Hector Collazo
15.-18. Imagine Agents #1-4 (BOOM!, 2013) ***½
Writer: Brian Joines/Artist: Bachan
Joines is rapidly becoming my new most favourite writer.
19. Minimum Wage #1 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: Bob Fingerman
This inspired me to pick up a bunch of his old comics, including the original Minimum Wage.
20.-21. Secret #3-4 (Image, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Ryan Bodenheim
I thought this series had disappeared, so I was surprised to see new issues on my local comic shop’s shelves. I assumed Hickman was too busy shitting out his Marvel crap to bother with indie mags anymore. Clearly, I was wrong. He should stick with this cloak’n’dagger series, though, it shows real promise.
22. The Complete Torpedo Vol. 1 (IDW, 2012) ****
Writer: Sanchez Abuli/Artists: Jordi Bernet, Alex Toth
The initial Toth-drawn tales are suitably grim and ironic, but with Bernet’s arrival, Abuli turns the series into a 1930s gangster version of Deadpool or Punisher, with lots of wisecracks and casual killing for light relief. Not sure if rape should ever be played for laughs, but these Europeans can be crazy sometimes. Still, this blackly humorous crime series is gorgeously drawn and has some real moments of poetry amid the cracks to the jaw and bullet holes.
23.-28. New Crusaders: Rise Of The Heroes (Red Circle, 2013) ***
- originally published in New Crusaders #1-6 (Red Circle, 2013)
Writer: Ian Flynn/Artist: Ben Bates & Gary Martin (#1-3), Alitha Martinez & Gary Martin (#3-6)
I gave up on this series after a couple of issues, but as this graphic novel was on special at Kings, I picked it up and I’m glad I did. It reads far better in one hit and really picks up once you get past the whole “our superhero parents are dead and us kids gonna immediately pull on their cossies and assume their roles without the whole grieving process thingy” plot. In other words, the first three issues are kinda dodgy, but the next three are pretty damn good. And it has a surprisingly downbeat ending.
29.-31. Protectors Inc. #1-3 (Image, 2013-14) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Gordon Purcell
The idea of superheroes behaving like spoiled brats (or amoral gods) has been done before, but JMS walks through old territory with his usual aplomb. Not a bad series so far.
32. Black Widow #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Nathan Edmondson/Artist: Phil Noto
33.-34. Rover Red Charlie #1-2 (Avatar, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Michael DiPascale
35.-36. Ocean #1-2 (Wildstorm, 2004-05) ***½
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Chris Sprouse & Karl Story
37. Miracleman #1 (Marvel, 2014) *****
- originally published in various comics (1954, 1956, 1982, 1985)
Writer: Mick Anglo/Artist: don Lawrence, Mick Anglo (1954, 1956)
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Garry Leach (1982, 1985)
38. Detective Comics #27 (DC, 2014) ****¾
Writers/Artists: various
39. Liberty Annual 2013 (Image, 2013) ***¼
Writers/Artists: various
40. All Crime Comics #2 (The Art Of Fiction, 2013) ***½
Writers: The Art Of Fiction/Artists: Steven E. Gordon, Vince Musacchia, Tom Neely & Kristina Collantes

41.-45. Batman: Black And White (DC, 2013-14) ****½
Writers/artists: various
46.-49. Marvel Universe #4-7 (Marvel, 1998) ****
Writer: Roger Stern/Artists: Mike Manley (#4), Bret Blevins & Mike Manley (#5), Jason Armstrong & Mike Manley (#6-7)
50. Revolutionary War: Alpha (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writer: Andy Lanning & Alan Cowsill/Artist: Rich Elson
51. Revolutionary War: Dark Angel (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writer: Kieron Gillen/Artist: Dietrich Smith
52. Revolutionary War: Knights Of Pendragon (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Rob Williams/Artist: Will Sliney (interior), Mark Brooks (cover)
53. Skyward/Fracture (Action Lab, 2013) ***
Writer/Artist: Jeremy Dale (Skyward)
Writer: Shawn Gabborin/Artist: Chad Cicconi (Fracture)
54. Absolution: Happy Kitty (Avatar, 2013) ***¼
Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Paul Duffield
55. Deadpool: The Gauntlet (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan/Artist: Reilly Brown
56. Marvel: Now What?! (Marvel, 2013) ***
Writers/artists: various
57. Elseworlds: Superboy’s Legion #2 (DC, 2001) ***
Writer: Mark Farmer/Artists: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer
58.-61. Models Inc. #1-4 (Marvel, 2009-10) **¾
Writer: Paul Tobin/Artist: Vicenc Villagrasa & Terry Pallot (main story)
Writer: Marc Sumerak/Artist: Jorge Molina (back-up story, #1)
Writer: Paul Tobin/Artist: Colleen Coover (back-up story, #3)
62. Arrow Special Edition #1 (DC, 2012) DUD
Writers: too many/Artist: Omar Francia
63.-65. Black Science #1-3 (Image, 2013-14) ***¾
Writer:Rick Remender/Artist: Matteo Scalera, Dean White
Rollicking sci-fi adventure done right. This has a real 60s retro feel about it, but with a modern edge.  
66. WWE Superstars #2 (Super Genius, 2014) ***
Writer: Mick Foley & Shane Riches/Artist: Alitha E. Martinez
67. All-New Invaders #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writer: James Robinson/Artist: Steve Pugh
68. Justice League 3000 #2 (DC, 2014)
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artist: Howard Porter
69. Krampus! #2 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Brian Joines/Artist: Dean Kotz
70. Supergirl #12 (DC, 2007) ***¼
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Artists: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
71.-74. Terra #1-4 (DC, 2009) ***½
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray/Artists: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Amanda Conner draws great big-titted women.

2013: My comics reading year in review (KYE, ep. 30)

JAN. 84
FEB. 118
MAR. 53
APR. 30
MAY 93
JUN. 66
JUL. 64
AUG. 92
SEP. 79
OCT. 62
NOV. 24
DEC. 42
Total comics and GNs read in 2013: 807

IN 2012, I read 885 comics, trades and graphic novels. Last year...not so many. Hey, what can I say? Life (and real books) got in the way. Anyway, you can listen to the podcast HERE.
I also discuss on why I've stopped enjoying Sex (the comic) and my thoughts on the sudden price rise for Kick-Ass 3.

BEST of 2013:
FIVE-STAR beauties were hard to find this year. But I found a few memorable titles to look back on. Here’s the list (with my original comments):

Transmetropolitan Vol. 1-10 (Vertigo, 2009-11) *****
- 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

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 http://jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/review-sin-titulo-by-cameron-stewart.html.

Locke & Key Vol. 2&3 (IDW, 2010-11) ****¾
Locke & Key Vol. 4&5 (IDW, 2012-13) *****
Writer: Joe Hill/Artist Gabriel Rodriguez

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.

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.

Museum Of Terror Vol. 3 by Junji Ito (Dark Horse, 2006) *****
Freaked the fuck out by Junji Ito. Find out why at jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/review-museum-of-terror-vol-3-by-junji.html

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.

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?

NOTE: I’ve learned in recent days that the guy who runs Hermes Press is a total scumbag who doesn’t pay his writers and threatens to sue people when they point this fact out. He even physically threatens folk. Total jerk.

FCBD: Prince Valiant (Fantagraphics, 2013) *****
Writer/artist: Hal Foster
Just gorgeous, classic Sunday funnies artwork – and the stories weren’t half-bad either.

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.

THERE were a few shockers in 2013, but the biggest shock came with Vertigo’s The Exterminators. This was a rare instance when I started out really liking a title but by the end I really hated it, mainly ’cos the climax was weak and rushed, and totally destroyed every good thing that had come before it. There was a massive drop in quality over the final 12 issues, which left a really sour taste in my mouth. Still, it didn’t quite make my shit list, but here are the few that did...

The Bionic Woman #2 (Charlton, 1978) -*
Writer/artist: unknown
A horrible TV tie-in series that makes me want to smash my head repeatedly on a teevee set. Perfunctory plotting, dull art and a nasty edge of misogyny winding its way through the entire odious issue. I can’t even bring myself to keep this comic for camp purposes.

Doc Savage #1-12 (DC, 2010-11) 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.

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.

Red Dragon #1 (Comico, 1996) DUD
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artists: Tony Akins (interior); Simon Bisley (cover)
Review can be found online at jackkingkirby.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/quick-review-red-dragon-1-comico-1996.html.

Groovy Gravy #11 (Edge Comix, 2009) DUD
Writers/artists: various
Even a cool cover plus various strips by good friend Mister J can rescue this Aussie comic. It’s the utter shits.

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!

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.

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.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

REVIEW: "Monsters! & Other Stories" by Gustavo Duarte (Dark Horse, 2014)

BRAZILIAN cartoonist Gustavo Duarte may be a newcomer to western culture, but he's clearly a talented veteran when it comes to the rare skill of silent comic humour. He follows in a long line of talented cartoonists who use art, not words, to convey the laughs. The leader of this particular pack is MAD magazine's legendary contributor Sergio Aragones, so it's no surprise that he wrote the introduction to this stylish collection, published by Dark Horse in the USA.
Monsters! kicks off with two shorter yarns, C├│! (about a farmer's close encounter of the chicken kind) and Birds (where two business partners desperately try to avoid their inevitable date with the Grim Reaper).
Following these two entrees comes the main course. Monsters! is a Godzilla-style celebration of giant creatures rising up from the Earth's bowels to lay waste to civilisation, and the plucky barman (with a secret past) who battles them.
Duarte draws with a clean, confident line and his jokes are universal. Being silent makes his work accessible to everyone and Dark Horse is to be commended for bringing him to the attention of a wider international audience.
May he enjoy monstrous success on the back of this book's release.
You can buy Monsters! at Dark Horse or from Amazon.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

COMICS READING FOR DECEMBER: “Only two months late? I blame the Nevermen”

* 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. The New Adventures Of The Human Fly #1 (Human Fly International, 2013) ***
Writers/artists: various
See my blog review HERE.

2.-4. Button Man: Get Harry Ex (Rebellion, 2013) ****
- originally published in 2000 AD #780-791, 904-919, 2001 & 1223-1233 (Rebellion, 1992-2013)
Writer: John Wagner/Artist: Arthur Ranson
An interesting take on all those movies like The Running Man, The Most Dangerous Game Alive, Tender Flesh, Turkey Shoot, etc. – except that there isn’t a hunter and the hunted, rather two hunters. And Harry is the king of the hunters, an ex-merc capable only of killing. A Button Man used as a pawn in a high-risk, high-stakes game by his master, The Voice. But when Harry decides to quit the game, he must fight for his life because “you can’t quit...not in this game”. Ranson’s realistic, gritty art is perfect for Wagner’s nourish, dark scripts. I’m so glad I got to read the full series in one hit (and scoring the book at 20% off during Kings Comics’ Black Friday sale was a bonus. That said, Australian shops holding Black Friday sales is as absurd as Australia celebrating other US-centric occasions such as Halloween. End of rant.)

5.-7. Wolverine/Nick Fury: Scorpio (Marvel, 2012) ***½
- originally published in Wolverine/Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection (Marvel, 1989), Wolverine: Bloody Choices (Marvel, 1991), Wolverine & Nick Fury: Scorpio Rising (Marvel, 1994)
Writers: Archie Goodwin, Tom DeFalco & Howard Chaykin/Artists: Howard Chaykin John Buscema & Shawn McManus
I’m a sucker for yarns about Scorpio, the evil brother of Nick Fury. I’ve loved the character since I first read the tremendous “Who Remembers Scorpio?” arc in The Defenders #46-50. The Scorpio Connection was an original graphic novel that saw the character revived, this time as Jake’s twisted, brainwashed son, out for revenge against Uncle Nick. Of course, there’s a twist at the end to ensure the character wouldn’t disappear and remain of even greater relevance to Nick Fury. Goodwin’s script is tight and Chaykin is, well...Chaykin. Which is pretty damn good. The second yarn doesn’t feature Scorpio, just Fury vs Wolvie is classic Buscema...take that as you will. I always thought Big John was phoning in his work in the latter part of his career. But he’s still head and shoulders above “artist extraordinaire” McManus, who appears to have learned his art by reading Liefeld comics. Chaykin the writer is 180° away from Chaykin the artist. It’s a really ordinary “sequel” that completely deballs the new Scorpio character, reducing him to caricature. It’s a sad end to what was a promising character. Still, overall, I can’t fault a TPB that features Goodwin in his prime as a writer, and great art from Chaykin, plus good art from Buscema. I’ve bought less for more.

8. 7 Against Chaos (DC, 2013) ***½
Writer: Harlan Ellison/Artists: Paul Chadwick & Ken Steacy
Old-school sci-fi – I got a kick out of this...even if it DOES feel like it was written in the 1970s.
9. X-Men #106 (Marvel, 1977) ***
Writers: Chris Claremont & Bill Mantlo/Artists: Dave Cockrum, Bob Brown & Tom Sutton
The dreaded fill-in issue, made slightly more poignant by the fact that artist Brown died just before this went to print. I never liked Brown’s art on The Avengers, but he does a passable Cockrum in this tale of new X-men fighting old X-Men (they’re Danger Room fakes, it’s eventually revealed). I picked this mag in near-mint condition for three bucks from Elizabeth’s – it retails for US$180 in the same condition at Lone Star. So I can’t complain.

10. WCW #2 (Marvel, 1992) *
Writer: Mike Lackey/Artists: Ron Wilson & Don Hudson

11. Undertaker Halloween Special (Chaos!, 1999) *½
Writers: Jim & Dan Monti/Artists: Leonardo Jimenez & Don Hillsman

12. WWE Superstars #1 (Super Genius, 2013) ***
Writer: Mick Foley & Shane Riches/Artist: Alitha Martinez

The problem with just about every wrestling comic is that they SUCK on every level!
WCW was godawful and showed that the writer didn’t understand the first thing about wrestling or the personalities. For example, to have a heel champion, Lex Luger, face three faces (including lead hero Sting) in a handicap match...and WIN...only weakened the faces. Especially as Luger left the series with this issue (he’d jumped to WWF), so the writer didn’t even get the champ to do the traditional job on the way out of the territory. Who did Lackey think he was? Vince Russo? Wilson’s art showed that without photo references, he was hopeless in depicting action in the squared circle.
The Chaos! line was terrible, and Undertaker was probably the worse. The whole demons-war-for-souls-while-disguised-as-wrestlers shtick got tired quickly. The Monti brothers (who? And whatever became of these schlubs?) wrote in that turgid, sub-Thor style that stank. The hack artists (whatever became of these schlubs?) just did a gore-and-flame-filled sub-Liefeld style that was the absolute shits. So it was pretty much like every other Chaos! title at the time.
So now we have a new wrestling-themed series, co-written by Mick Foley no less, and featuring art from veteran Martinez. The idea of wrestlers living and working in a fictional metropolis called Titan City is a bit silly. The fact that there seems to be no other citizens other than WWE employees seems odd as well. Luckily, Foley rises above the lame plot to deliver tight dialogue and some touches of humour that makes this series a cut above practically any other series that’s been published. I’ll give it another issue or two to see if maintains its current reasonable standard.

13. Justice League 3000 #1 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writer: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artist: Howard Porter
After 2½ years, I’ve pretty much given up on DC’s “The New 52”. I tend to only pick up stuff that’s non-continuity, like Batman B&W, Batman ’66 and this wacky new title. In the year 3000, clones of the JLA are born to fight evil corporations, but this isn’t the team that we remember. Superman’s an arrogant jerk, Wonder Woman is a psychotic killer, Flash is a coward who vomits regularly, Green Lantern doesn’t have real GL powers and Batman is...well, Batman’s still Batman. But they all hate each other. It’s an interesting premise that I look forward to seeing develop. Just as long as they keep these guys the hell away from the rest of “The New 52” universe.

14.-18. The Sixth Gun: Sons Of The Gun (Oni Press, 2013) ****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun: Sons Of The Gun #1-5 (Oni Press, 2013)
Writers: Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt/Artist: Brian Churilla
A nice collection of the miniseries that explores the background of the General’s horsemen who originally wielded four of the Six Guns. Both poignant and creepy.

19. Giant-Size Sidekick #7 (from Comic Book Heroes #20, 2013) **
Writers/artists: various
20. Harley Quinn #0 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writers/artists: various
I got it for the single page of Darwyn Cooke art.
21. Krampus! #1 (Image, 2013) ***
Writer: Brian Joines/Artist: Dean Kotz
A society of Santa Clauses? That’s gold.
22.-26. Rip In Time #1-5 (Fantagor Press, 1986) ***½
Writer: Bruce Jones/Artist: Richard Corben

27.-31. The Nevermen (Dark Horse, 2001) ***
- originally published in Dark Horse Presents #148-150, The Nevermen #1-4 (Dark Horse, 1999, 2001)
32.-34. The Nevermen: Streets Of Blood #1-3 (Dark Horse, 2003) **¾
Writer: Phil Amara/Artist: Guy Davis
These two series seemed to show promise, but ultimately the idea of a retro future city filled with quirky, mysterious heroes and monstrous villains fell down due to haphazard, at-times confusing scripts. Davis’s art is exquisite, though.

35. Stan Lee’s Mighty 7 #1 (Stan Lee Comics, 2012) **½
Writers: Stan Lee, Tony Blake & Paul Jackson/Artists: Alex Saviuk & Bob Smith
The usual hackery from the Great One – and would we expect any less from a 90-year-old who’s 50 years past his prime? That said, I’m stunned this series only went three issues before legitimately being optioned for a movie, which apparently is why they stopped making it. A Mighty 7 movie? I await it with baited breath. Saviuk’s art is nice (and he’s a nice guy to boot, having met him in Supanova earlier this year).

36. The James Gang #1 (London Night Studios, 1993) *
Writer: Bob Smith/Artists: Budd Root (interiors), Mike Hoffman (cover)
This is some of Root’s earliest published work. The future Cavewoman artist knew his strengths (busty topless chicks) even back then. Hoffman’s cover is more Kirby than Wood, but he was at the start of his career, too. He’d develop that art style in coming years. The alternative America story is pure strident bullshit with a weird anti-white/militant ethnic bent that seems really out of place in the early 90s. The historic nature of the artwork is the only reason why this title is still in my collection.

37. Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt (First Second, 2013) ****
38. Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke (IDW, 2013) ****
Both of these graphic novels are great...but missing an element to make them classics. This is easily the weakest Parker adaptation to date (I blame the source material). As for Kindt, he’s taking his “king of weirdness” title too seriously and this oddball crime mystery gets too weird and convoluted for its own good.

39.-42. Deathmatch Vol. 2: A Thousand Cuts (BOOM!, 2013) ****
- first published in Deathmatch #5-8 (BOOM!, 2013)
Writer: Paul Jenkins/Artist: Carlos Magno

REVIEW: The New Adventures Of The Human Fly #1

WHILE this American anthology is a little rough in patches, old fans of the Human Fly comic from the late 70s will get a blast from its revival, courtesy of my old chum Michael Aushenker.
The Human Fly started out as a masked Canadian stuntman, but got international recognition in a short (19 issues) series put out by Marvel. It was written by Bill Mantlo and illustrated by Frank Robbins and Lee Elias (pencils) and Frank Springer (inks).
Now, there are plans afoot to revive The Human Fly in a new movie. Coinciding with this is this annual 60-page publication.
The highlights of the book (which actually came out last July so shame on me for being so goddamn late with this review) are pin-ups by Marvel veterans Bob Layton, Al Milgrom, Don Perlin and Steve Leialoha.
Aushenker handles the bulk of the writing (plus art in the lead story) and the book features artwork by such indy talents as Rafael Navarro, John Heebink  and Aussie Paul Mason.
It's a labour of love and a delight to read. If I only have one bugbear it's the fact that the tone of the book wavers from wacky sci-fi adventure to grim murder mystery to the idea of the Human Fly being born from a very human tragedy. The different storytelling styles jar a little, but that's my only complaint.
I heartily recommend this delightful book, and I look forward to reading this year's edtion.

Find out about the original Human Fly, the proposed movie project and his comic book past HERE.

You can order The New Adventures Of The Human Fly #1 HERE.
Paul Mason's art on a new strip

Steve Leialoha's pin-up in the new mag