Thursday, December 1, 2016

COMICS READING FOR NOVEMBER: “A five-star kinda month”

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

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

IT WASN’T meant to turn out like this, but I read ONLY great comics and graphic novels in November, and nearly all of them were FIVE STARS. How good is that? Let’s see what passed by my eyeballs...

1. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #19 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
2. Hieronymus (Knockabout, 2015) *****
Writer/Artist: Marcel Ruijters
An “unauthorised” – yet thoroughly researched – biography on one of the great Dutch artists, Hieronymus Bosch, who captured Medieval hell on Earth in his frightening paintings. Mega-talented Ruijters captures Bosch’s everyday life, and it’s pretty horrible – but it provided plenty of inspiration for his horrific art.
3. Goldtiger (2000AD, 2016) *****
Writer: Guy Adams/Artist: Jimmy Broxton
This mock biography of an obscure, Modesty Blaise-style action strip from the 1960s is pure brilliance. Just read this article to get the full story about this fascinating project.

4. Get Jiro: Blood And Sushi (Vertigo, 2016) *****
Writer: Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose/Artists: Alé Garza (interior); Dave Johnson (cover)
A prequel to equally brilliant Get Jiro from 2012.
5.-10. Southern Bastards Vol. 3: Homecoming (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Southern Bastards #9-14 (Image, 2015-16)
Writers: Jason Aaron (#9-11, 13-14); Jason Latour (#12)/Artists: Jason Latour (#9-11, 13-14); Chris Brunner (#12)
I’d already read four of these issues (because they took so damn long to come out I thought I’d avoided that particular reprint and had hit all-new issues. Wrong! Still, it was great to reread this whole chapter again in one hit. Amazing story. Some real bastards down south, y’all. Hey, we know that even better after the US election, right?
11. Belushi: On A Mission From God (One Peace Books, 2014-16) ****¼
Writer: Alberto Schiavone/Artist: Matteo Manera
My first non-five-star comic for the month, but still pretty damn good. I won’t say this graphic biography necessarily gives you a better understanding of the fast life and premature death of comic genius John Belushi, but at least you’ll have a feel for what he went through. Maybe it lost something in the translation from the Italian original. Manera’s art is scratchy in a John Lennon-kinda way, but it grew on me.
12. Catwoman: Election Night #1 (DC, 2016) ****½
(Catwoman) Writer: Meredith Finch/Artists: Shane Davis, Igor Vitorino and Michelle Delecki
(Prez) Writer: Mark Russell/Artists: Ben Caldwell and Mark Morales
I bought this for the final story in the prematurely-cut-short Prez series. But the Catwoman yarn was great, too – what with its allusions to Hillary Clinton AND President-elect Donald Trump.
13.-18. Nailbiter Vol. 5: Bound By Blood (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Nailbiter #21-25 and Nailbiter/Hack/Slash one-shot (Image, 2016)
Writer: Joshua Williamson/Artist: Mike Henderson

19. Rules Of Summer by Shaun Tan (Lothian, 2013) *****
This is fabulous.
20.-22. The Sixth Gun Book 9: Boot Hill (Oni Press, 2016) *****
- originally published in The Sixth Gun #48-50 (Oni Press, 2016)
Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artist: Brian Hurtt
23.-27. The Saviours (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in The Saviours #1-5 (Image, 2016)
28. Attack On Titan Anthology (Kodansha Comics, 2016) *****
Writers/Artists: various
29. Murder by Remote Control (Dover, 2016) ****½
- originally published by Ballantine Books, 1986
Writer: JanWillem Van De Wetering/Artist: Paul Kirchner
30.-35. Huck Book 1: All-American (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Huck #1-6 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
36.-40. Invader Zim Vol. 2 (Oni Press, 2016) *****
- originally published in Invader Zim #6-10 (Oni Press, 2016)
Writers/Artists: various
41. The Rattler (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Jason McNamara/Artist: Greg Hinkle
I bought this graphic novel for Greg’s art, but Jason’s supernatural noir tale is gripping. I loved the tale, which reminded me a lot the original film version of The Vanishing.
42.-46. Power Man And Iron Fist Vol. 1: The boys Are Back In Town (Marvel, 2016) *****
- Power Man And Iron Fist #1-5 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: David Walker/Artist: Sanford Greene (#1-4); Flaviano (#5)

47.-53. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now (Marvel, 2016) *****
- originally published in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-6 and Howard The Duck #6 (Marvel, 2016)
Writers: Ryan North with Chip Zdarsky (HTD #6)/Artists: Erica Henderson (SG #1-6), Joe Quinones and friends (HTD #6)
54.-58. Howard The Duck Vol. 1: Duck Hunt (Marvel, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Howard The Duck #1-6 and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #6 (Marvel, 2016)
Writers: Chip Zdarsky with Ryan North (SG #6)/Artists :Joe Quinones and friends (HTD #1-6); Erica Henderson (SG #6)
Obviously, I read HTD #6 and SG #6 the first time round, so I didn’t read them again.
This is a more poignant, nuanced HTD. Silly, yes – but sad, too. And it gets sadder in the next volume.
59.-63. Howard The Duck Vol. 2: Good Night, And Good Duck (Marvel, 2016) *****
- originally published in Howard The Duck #7-11
Writer: Chip Zdarsky /Artists: Kevin Maguire (#7); Joe Quinones and friends (#8-11)
With special guest stars...Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones...well, interstellar versions of them anyway. Did you know Howard’s life is being run by intergalactic creators, who throw all sorts of weird shit at him like The Collector and mentally unstable Sentinels? Yep, this final arc gets very meta as Chip and Joe deal creatively with the idea of a HTD series being cancelled...again. Very enjoyable if sad. Still, with a bit of luck, he’ll be back one day. Howard always comes back.
64.-68. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4: I Kissed A Squirrel And I Liked It (Marvel, 2016) *****
- originally published in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7-11 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Ryan North /Artists: Erica Henderson and friends (#7-10), Jacob Chabot (#11)
Read this comic and learn more about counting with binary numbers and tree lobsters than you ever thought possible!
69. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe (Marvel, 2016) *****
Writers: Ryan North/Artists: Erica Henderson and friends
An original hardcover graphic novel because too much Squirrel Girl is never enough. This pisstake on The Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe sees Doreen get taken down by the only person powerful enough to do so: her evil clone. What happens when Bad SG (aka Allene) attempts to defeat every superhero and super-villain in the world? Well, she does so with ease. This novel is such a delight to read. Such a delight.

I honestly wondered whether kids would appreciate SG, despite seeing all those pix in the letters pages of young girls cosplaying as Doreen, because there was too much back story and SG history to take in. And then the other night I was looking for the graphic novel, turned around and found my nine-year-old daughter reading it. Jones quite liked it and is now reading Vol. 4 (yes, she’s reading the series backwards. So sue her). Anyway, despite not knowing anything about Doreen or her supporting cast, she thinks the series is “good”. So there you go.
WOW! I hit the minimum of 50 comics but didn't come close to 100. But who cares, quality trumps quantity every time. I read nothing less than four stars - that makes November the best month of comics reading I've ever had.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


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

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

HORROR comics don’t usually work for me, but goddamn I’ve collected my fair share over the years. Some have been genuinely terrifying (Revival, 30 Days Of Night,Nailbiter), others pretty damn entertaining (Criminal Macabre) while others have been...CRAP. To celebrate Halloween (and my 31 Days Of Horror film project), I decided to read at least ONE horror comic a day. Let’s see how I went, what I read and whether any of them were any good.

1. Chicken Soup For Satan #1 (Asylum Press, 2003) **½
Writer: Robert Steven Rhine/Artists: various
2. Satan Gone Wild #1 (Asylum Press, 2004) ***
Writer: Robert Steven Rhine/Artists: various
Gross-out B&W horror comix – more ridiculous than genuinely scary. Hilary Barta is the pick of the artists in Satan Gone Wild.
3.  Cthulhu (Dark Oz, 2015) *
Writer: Darren Koziol/Artists: various
Decay is a flawed but hardy magazine-sized anthology that’s been around for six years and keeps on ticking. It’s spawned a few spin-off titles, like Retro Sci-Fi (which I like) and this offer from last year, the more US market-friendly, regular comic-sized Cthulhu, featuring tales taken from Decay #12. It’s a great idea and there’s only one letdown: it’s SHIT. Koziol is a mediocre writer but he’s not helped being coupled by some of the most inept artists in this country. How a veteran legend like Glenn Lumsden got roped in with the rest of these nuffies is beyond me. The only thing that horrified me about Cthulhu is that it got published once, let alone TWICE.
4. Blood Club #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1992) ****
Writer/Artist: Charles Burns
5.-6. The Thing From Another World #1-2 (Dark Horse, 1991-92) ***½
Writer: Chuck Pfarrer/Artist: John Higgins
Picking up where we left off from the John Carpenter version of The Thing, Pfarrer reveals what happend to MacReady and Childs after their camp blew up. Turns out that the alien shapeshifter is still alive and well. But are either or both men infected, too?
This is actually an effective lil’ micro-series and the artwork by Higgins is sensational.
7. McBlack (Black House Comics/Black Glass Press, 2011) **
Writer: Jason Franks/Artists: Jason Franks and Dave Gutierrez
8. McBlack Two Shot (Black Glass Press, 2012) **½
Writer: Jason Franks/Artists: Jason Franks, Dave Gutierrez, Bruce Mutard, Luke Pickett, Rhys James and John Stewart (interior); Rhys James (cover)
Poorly drawn ultra-violence with an indestructible lead character with no motivation and no characterisation, just bad one-liners. He’s Freddy Krueger if Krueger was a puppet made from a toilet roll.
9.-14. The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1-6 (Image, 2012) ****
Writer: David Hine/Artist: Shaky Kane
Utterly bizarre sequel to an equally bizarre first series. William S. Burroughs-style comic cut-ups, warped superheroes, zombie trading cards, dioramas, beatnik horror stories and a killer clown. Arguably the weirdest thing I’ve read this year.
15. Dia De Los Muertos  #1 (Image, 2013) **¾
Writers/Artists: various
16. Horror In The Dark #4 (Fantagor Press, 1995) ***
Writers/Artists: Richard Corben and friends
Not one of the better Corben comics he’s ever done.
17.-21. Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1-5 (Dark Horse, 2012) ***¾
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Tonci Zonjic (interiors); Dave Johnson (covers)
22. Lobster Johnson: The Prayer of Neferu (Dark Horse, 2012) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Wilfredo Torres (interiors); Tonci Zonjic (covers)
23. Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum (Dark Horse, 2012) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artist: Tonci Zonjic
24. Lobster Johnson: Satan Smells A Rat (Dark Horse, 2013) ***½
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artist: Kevin Nowlan
25.-26. Lobster Johnson: A Scent Of Lotus #1-2 (Dark Horse, 2013) ***¾
Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi/Artists: Sebastián Fiumara (interiors); Tonci Zonjic (covers)
27. Museum Of Terror Vol. 2: Tomie 2 (Dark Horse, 2006) ****¼
Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
Not as terrifying as the more random horror-oriented MOT Vol. 3, but this themed manga has its unsettling, scary moments. These tales, first printed from 1995-2000 in Monthly Halloween and Nemuki magazines, are about a beautiful and manipulative woman (or girl, depending on the story) called Tomie. She drives every man she encounters to madness and murder. Even if she’s killed she can regenerate. Selfish, narcissistic and manipulative, this force of nature exists to ruin and destroy the lives of the people she crosses paths with. Probably the pick of them is the tale of the guys who use Tomie’s ground-up flesh to create the world’s most intoxicating sake. Sick shit. The babysitter dealing with a demonic infant Tomie is also creepy as fuck.
28. Courtney Crumrin Tales: A Portrait Of The Warlock As A Young Man (Oni Press, 2005) ***¾
29.-38. Courtney Crumrin #1-10 (Oni Press, 2012-13) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh

39.-42. 30 Days Of Night #1-4 (IDW, 2011-12) ***½
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Sam Kieth
 43.-46. 30 Days Of Night: Night, Again #1-4 (IDW, 2011) ***½
Writer: Joe R. Lansdale/Artist: Sam Kieth
 47.-50. Epilogue (IDW, 2009) ***½
- originally published in Epilogue #1-4 (IDW, 2008)
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Kyle Hotz
 Steve mines that vampire vein for all he’s worth. A vampire superhero? Sure, why not?

51.-56. Revival Vol. 7: Forward (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Revival #36-41 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artist: Mike Norton
57.-60. Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities And The Ghastly Fiend Of London #1-4 (Dark Horse, 2010) ***¾
(Billy The Kid) Writer: Eric Powell/Artist: Kyle Hotz
(The Goon) Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
The longest title in comic-book history, surely? Still, I’ll give credit to Powell for weaving an historic horror yarn that features The Elephant Man, the world’s first serial killer HH Holmes, Mr Hyde AND Jack The Ripper – and treats them with utter disdain. It’s still a cool yarn – and very flippant in that Eric Powell style – but he has no reverence for the classics and true crime history. Is that a good thing? You tell me.
The Goon tale at the back of each issue is mindless, clubbering fun and allows Powell to take a few vicious shots at superhero comix.

61.-65. Black Eyed Kids Vol. 1: The Children (Aftershock, 2016) ***½
- originally published in BEK #1-5 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writer: Joe Pruett/Artist Szymon Kudranski
I love the BEK phenomenon but this yarn hasn’t quite grabbed me yet, possibly because Pruett’s dialogue is a bit too bombastic and preposterous in parts. The artwork and feeling of dread throughout this book is pretty great, though. But until we find out exactly how these seemingly indestructible monsters can be killed, then it’s all a bit bleak to me. Also, I know it’s relatively new, but I’m not super-keen on the BEK mythology being fucked with already. Adult BEKs? I don’t think so. I may give Vol. 2 a shot, but it’ll have to improve a lot in the writing department for that to happen.
66.-69. Criminal Macabre: Final Night (Dark Horse/IDW, 2013) ***¾
- originally published in Criminal Macabre: Final Night #1-4 (Dark Horse/IDW, 2012-13) 
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Christopher Mitten
A Criminal Macabre and 30 Days Of Night crossover and a suitably gruesome conclusion to the 30 Days Of Night saga.
70,-75. Chronicles Of Wormwood: The Last Battle (Avatar, 2011) ****½
- originally published in Chronicles Of Wormwood: The Last Battle (Avatar, 2009-10)
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Oscar Jimenez
I loved this trade. It’s a helluva idea, the Antichrist and Jesus Christ being best mates and hanging out in New York City. Gory in parts, funny in others, full-on blasphemous in others. And Garth Ennis features arguably the most horrific Australian caricature since Bazza McKenzie, Pope Jacko.
76.-79. Criminal Macabre: The Eyes Of Frankenstein #1-4 (Dark Horse, 2013) ***½
Writer: Steve Niles/Artist: Christopher Mitten
80. Sink #1 (Comix Tribe, 2016) *****
Writer: John Lees/Artist: Alex Cormack
About as violent and disturbing a comic as I’ve read this year. Horrifying in parts – you’ll never see Glasgow in the same light again.
81.-84. Satan’s Six #1-4 (Topps, 1993) **
Writer: Tony Isabella/Artists: John Cleary and Armando Gil, Jack Kirby and friends
Several pages of classic Kirby art and a couple of trading cards don’t make a great comic. This concept is half-baked at best, but it’s even worse in the hands of a hack like Isabella and a godawful early 90s-style artist like Cleary. Guest appearances by Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and Jason Vorhees can’t save things. The in-jokes and meta-references are more annoying than anything else.
85.-87. Buzzard #1-3 (Dark Horse, 2010) ***½
(Buzzard) Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
(Billy The Kid’s Old Timey Oddities) Writer: Eric Powell/Artist: Kyle Hotz
88.-97. Mr Monster #1-10 (Eclipse, 1985-87) ****
Writer: Michael T. Gilbert and friends/Artists: Michael T. Gilbert, William F. Loebs and friends
Very funny, very violent 80s sci-fi/horror mash-ups by Gilbert, Loebs and other big names from the 80s including Alan Moore and Keith Giffen. In addition, a couple of issues ran some tremendous pre-Comics Code horror reprints by industry legends Basil Wolverton and Steve Ditko...till the readers rejected the reprints concept. Pity. A great lil’ fun read. It’s a shame the B&W comics boom (and bust) of the late 80s hurt Mr Monster’s sales and eventually killed this title. Actually, the long wait between issues probably didn’t help either.
98.-100. Fang #1-3 (Sirius Entertainment, 1995) **½
Writer/Artist: Kevin J. Taylor
Taylor loves drawing women’s arses, even in a sci-fi-tinged vampire strip. No wonder he went into porn comix. I've always loved his fetishistic artwork, but his writing isn't his strong point. The story is confusing and pretentious.

Saturday, October 1, 2016


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

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

I TIED up some loose ends last month and finished off some long-unfinished comic series (and arcs). Was it worth the wait? Let's check out what I perused, shall we?

1.-9. The Boys #55-63 (Dynamite, 2011-12) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: John McCrea, Darick Robertson, Russ Braun
10.-15. Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker #1-6 (Dynamite, 2011) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Darick Robertson
16.-24. The Boys #64-72 (Dynamite, 2011-12) *****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artists: Darick Robertson, Russ Braun
Man, does Garth Ennis hate superheroes or what?
Fantastic work by the great man and a satisfying conclusion to this brutal, at-times offensive, but always entertaining series. The relationship between Butcher and Wee Hughie was just wonderful. Tragic and wonderful. Manipulative and utter bastardry on Butcher's behalf...but wonderful.

25.-28. Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ***
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Adam Hughes
29.-32. Before Watchmen: Rorschach #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ***½
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: Lee Bermejo
33.-38. Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ***¼
Writer: Len Wein/Artist: Jae Lee
39.-42. Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1-4 (DC, 2012) ***½
Writer: Darwyn Cooke/Artist: Amanda Conner
43.-46. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1-4 (DC, 2012-13) ****
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artists: Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz
47.-52. Before Watchmen: Comedian #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ***¾
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: JG Jones
53.-54. Before Watchmen: Moloch #1-2 (DC, 2013) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Eduardo Risso
55.-60. Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1-6 (DC, 2012-13) ****¼
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
61. Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill #1 (DC, 2013) ***
Writer: Len Wein/Artist: Steve Rude
When DC announced the “Before Watchmen” concept, the time I was happy they came out because I loved anything Watchmen-related and, childishly, I got off on the idea that it pissed off Alan Moore and his cronies.
I bought them all and started reading them in sequence, but quit half-way through the series as they felt...uninspired.
My reading theme for September was a good excuse to go back and reread those issues, then plough through the rest. In the end, my opinion hasn’t changed that much: all are pretty much unnecessary and some are downright pointless, Dr Manhattan, Dollar Bill, Ozymandius and Moloch in particular.
Set during the New York blackout of 1977, Rorschach has beautiful art from Bermejo, but the story doesn’t quite work for me.
Silk Spectre is funny – and Conner’s art is gorgeous – and it gives us a legit reason why a 16-year-old might start dating a giant blue freak like Dr Manhattan.
Nite Owl is pure adventure, but it fleshes out the relationship he had with Rorschach. There’s a nice sequence where the duo burst into a massage parlour and, confronted by naked women, Rorschach goes crazy and tries to attack one of the “whores”, and has to be physically restrained by Nite Owl. It reveals the puritanical streak that drives the masked crusader to more extreme actions later in life.
Comedian suggests that it was probably his involvement in the Vietnam War that finally sent the amoral hero over the edge. A key plot device is Blake Edwards’ close friendship with JFK and Robert Kennedy. Unlike what was hinted in the movie, the Comedian DIDN’T assassinate JFK. This miniseries reveals he was sent on a wild goose chase that day to keep him away from Dallas. Shockingly, the miniseries’ conclusion sees Comedian murder Robert (after Sirhan Sirhan fails), because the presidential candidate was going to tell the world about Comedian’s involvement in a massacre in Vietnam. Overall, Comedian is one of the more interesting series on offer.
That leaves us with Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen, which is far and away the pick of the bunch. The retro art is perfect and the fleshing out of all the Minutemen characters, especially The Silhouette and Mothman, is wonderful. Cooke’s writing is probably stronger than his artwork as he makes the whole Minutement concept work.
Much of what Moore touches on when discussing the Minutemen in the original Watchmen – Comedian’s attack on Sally Jupiter, the death of Dollar Bill, Hooded Justice’s disappearance – are barely touched on here by Cooke, who prefers to explore other aspects of the team’s career.
The suggestion early on that Hooded Justice may actually be a child killer turns out to be a furphy and the conclusion to the series – a midnight conversation between Comedian and retired crime-fighter Hollis Mason in his apartment – is chilling and a genuinely shocking conclusion to the miniseries.
As for the ongoing two-page serial, The Curse Of The Crimson Corsair (Writers: Len Wein & John Higgins/Artist: John Higgins), it’s pretty forgettable.
In conclusion, I would have been happier if DC had just run with the Minutemen miniseries and left the rest alone.
As for the proposed inclusion of Watchmen characters in the current DC universe? Well, as long as it pisses off Alan Moore, then I’ll be happy.

62.-69. Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker #1-8 (Image, 2011-12) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: Mike Huddleston
Casey is so overrated, but Butcher Baker is like a reimagining of what might have happened if the Comedian had lived to fight on in the 21st century.

70. Fantagor Presents Brood (FantaCo, 1983) ***
Writer/Artist: Richard Corben
For the past 34 years, I’ve waited to read the conclusion to Corben’s sexy sci-fi epic Jeremy Brood. I finally did so courtesy of FabSeb, who sent me a digital copy of the first half of this comic, which contains the truncated conclusion to the poor-selling graphic novel. And boy does it feel...TRUNCATED. Clearly, Corben was anxious to conclude this tale and move onto other things. It’s okay, but ultimately disappointing considering how huge the initial project was supposed to be. Corben’s art feels rushed, too.
Still, I've read it now, so the circle is complete.

71.-72. Doctor Strange #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Chris Bachalo
73.-74. Drax #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
Writers:  Cullen Bunn and CM Punk/Artist: Scott Hepburn
75.-76. Squadron Supreme #4-5 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Leonard Kirk (interiors); Alex Garner (covers)
77.-78. Dream Police #11-12 (Image, 2016) ***¾
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Sid Kotian
79.-80. The Fade Out #11-12 (Image, 2015-16) ***¾
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
81.-83. Absolution: Rubicon #3-5 (Avatar, 2013) ****
Writer: Christos Gage/Artist: Daniel Gete 

84. Maralinga (The House Of Skullduggery, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Jen Breach/Artist: Douglas Holgate
Post-apocalyptic tale set in future Australia with gorgeous art by Holgate. But it took me about five minutes to read it and this is the only volume. Bummer.
85. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #18 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
86.-90. The Last Resort (IDW, 2010) ***¼
- originally published in The Last Resort #1-5 (IDW, 2009)
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray/Artist: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
The death of Elizabeth’s Books in Pitt Street earlir this month came suddenly. I hadn’t been past the store in a week and decided to check it out after I picked up my weekly comics haul from Kings Comics on the other side of the street.
As I got closer I saw that there was a 50% off sale going on. I asked the manager Amy if the store was closing down and she nodded, “We’re merging with the other store in Newtown.”
“That’s awful,” I said.
She looked at me and said she was so emotional all day that she couldn’t bring forth any more tears: “Don’t take my lack of emotion as meaning I’m not sad.”
This was Thursday. The store’s final day was the Friday.
Elizabeth’s – a Perth-based bookstore chain – first opened in Pitt Street in 2007. I think the Newtown branch came first, but I’m not certain. It sold new and used books – prices were frustrating, ranging from ridiculously cheap to stupidly overpriced. And I embarrassed myself more than once trying to sell them review copies of books I received at work. The staff somehow made you feel like a junkie scumbag and only gave you a cash coupon that you had to spend in the store. I stopped trying to sell them stuff on an intermittent basis after a few years.
Other than that, I BLOODY LOVED going there.
When I worked on Goulburn Street, I would walk past it twice a day to and from the train station. It became a nightly habit to check out what stock they had.
For the first few years, it was open to 9-10pm every night – it was cool going to the pub after work, staggering out at 9pm and still being able to scope out the bookshop on the way to Town Hall.
The first sign of the store struggling came when it cut back its opening hours several years ago. A new manager took over – Amy (not that I knew her name then) – and started concentrating on expanding its range of comics and books.
Elizabeth’s was a place where I could go in there day after day and not find anything worth buying for months. Then, suddenly, there’d be a stack of new comic books or a fantastically rare graphic novel and I would buy heaps.
Sometimes, I’d just buy a random stack of 10 or so comics – at $3 a comic that was a bargain.
Bought so many things there: Journey Vol. 1 by William Messner-Loebs, X-Men #106 (only $3 but it’s worth over $100), a ton of early 70s Fantastic Four mags and the complete Strangers In Paradise trades.
I scored bargains in the Newtown store, too, but Pitt Street was more handy.
Of course, I bought non-comics related stuff, too, including the last book-related gift for my father (four sci-fi novels that I don’t think he got around to reading).
And now it’s gone. When I went past the store the following Tuesday, it was empty and the shelves were being ripped down.
Sure, the Newtown store is still around – and it should fare better in that hipster suburb than it did in busy Pitt Street – and Amy’s gone to work there (I hope she’s allowed to bring her dog to the store, too. It was a fixture at the front counter of the old shop.)
Taking advantage of the 50% sale, I grabbed a copy of IDW’s The Last Resort trade for $9. And, true to form, Elizabeth’s gave me a bargain. As I flipped through the book the next day I found that in the extras section was the five original comic covers drawn by the late, great Darwyn Cooke. Every single pin-up had been personally signed by Darwyn.
I was overcome with a mixed feeling of elation and sadness.
So long, Elizabeth’s, and thanks for all the books.

91.-99. Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial By Fire (DC, 2011) ****½
- originally published in Suicide Squad #1-8 (DC, 1987), Secret Origins #14 (DC, 1987)
Writer: John Ostrander/Artists: Luke McDonnell, Dave Hunt, Bob Lewis and Karl Kesel (interiors); Luke McDonnell and friends (Secret Origins, Suicide Squad #2-6), Howard Chaykin (Suicide Squad #1), Jerry Bingham (Suicide Squad #7-8) (covers)
100.-109. Suicide Squad Vol. 2: The Nightshade Odyssey (DC, 2015) ***½
- originally published in Suicide Squad #9-16, Secret Origins #28, Justice League International #13 (DC, 1988)
Writer: John Ostrander and friends/Artists: Luke McDonnell, Keith Giffen and friends
110.-115. Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits (DC, 2016) ***½
- originally published in Countdown #10, Batman Adventures #12, Batman #613, Gotham City Sirens #7, Suicide Squad #1, Batman #13, Harley Quinn #21, Harley Quinn And The Suicide Squad April Fools’ Special #1 (DC, 1993-2016)
Writers/Artists: various
I finally saw the movie – review HERE – and really enjoyed it. Which made me want to revisit the classic comic series penned by John Ostrander in the late 1980s. Many of the movie elements are based on his first few arcs, so it was appropriate to read them again after nearly 30 years.
I loved Suicide Squad from the moment I first picked it up. It was the first gritty, noir comic put out by DC not called Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns. The fact that it was available on Aussie newsstands was remarkable.
The idea of a team of super-villains – Task Force X (aka “Suicide Squad”) – put together by ball-breaking Amanda Waller to carry out covert missions without official government sanction was a great concept.
Many of the storylines were current – even ahead of their times – including neo-Nazi demagogues, Russian dissidents and the cocaine trade in Nicaragua.
In the first arc, the squad battled a team of super-terrorists in the Middle-East. One squad member – Mindboggler – is killed when the cowardly, treacherous Captain Boomerang allows her to be gunned down rather than help her. Mindboggler’s death was shocking but a cool reminder that ANY character was expendable in the Suicide Squad.
In a later arc, Slipknot tries to escape during a mission to destroy the Manhunters’ lair and has his arm blown off by a device attached on his wrist (a plot device more brutally reworked for the movie). On that same mission, team leader Col. Rick Flag’s ex-girifriend Karin Grace betrays the team and is eventually killed.
A mission to Nicaragua sees the whole squad – Mister 104, Psi, Thinker and Weasel – die with only Flag surviving.
Of course, the stories in the first two volumes aren’t perfect. Ostrander is a fine writer but he’s still cobbled by DC’s 80s writing style that was a bit too wordy at times. On a more personal level, Boomerang is a great character undermined by horrible dialogue as Ostrander COMPLETELY MISUNDERSTANDS the Australian accent and slang. His dialogue is actually embarrassing at times.
Art-wise, I’m more tolerant towards it now, but at the time I thought Luke McDonnell was a poor artist – he had a really loose sense of human anatomy that saw people’s arms and legs go in directions that aren’t physically possible. His style is...well, CLUMSY.
That said, Ostrander’s writing – particularly his characterisations – makes the series and the first two volumes are very strong.
Really, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad feels like a precursor to the equally entertaining Secret Six (another team of villains featuring Deadshot).
Of course, Harley Quinn wasn’t around back in the 1980s, but when the series was revamped for the New 52, she became front and centre of the new Suicide Squad.
A couple of these issues appear in Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits and stand up well to the original run. I may pick up a trade or two down the line, especially as I’ve become a big fan of Quinn thanks to the movie.