Friday, March 3, 2017

REVIEW: American Gods #1 (Dark Horse, 2017)

NEIL GAIMAN’S American Gods is one of my favourite novels of recent years and I look forward to seeing the TV show based on it. However, I have to say the first issue of this comic version left me A BIT COLD.
P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Gaiman’s tale of ancient and modern gods clashing in the United States felt…CLUNKY. There’s a lot of Gaiman’s text that’s been jammed into every panel, making the comic feel very word-heavy with the pictures thrown in as an afterthought.
Speaking of the art, the main story features Hampton’s art over Russell’s layouts and it’s…well, not the BEST work I’ve ever seen those two do. The back-up story by Russell and Lovern Kindzierski is much better, as Russell is more hands-on with the pencils.
Don’t get me wrong: any comic with Neil Gaiman as the source material is going to be a joy to read. I don’t know…I guess I expected SO MUCH MORE from this comic – high expectations will do that to you.
Maybe the series will pick up with issue two – I’ll certainly pick it up. With that said, for those who haven’t read American Gods the novel, then this comic version could entice them to check it out.

American Gods #1 is published by Dark Horse and retails for US$3.99. It goes on sale March 15.
Writers: Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell/Artists: P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell and Lovern Kindzierski (interior); Glenn Fabry (cover)

RATING: 6.5 out of 10

Thursday, March 2, 2017

REVIEW: The Once And Future Queen #1 (Dark Horse, 2017)

DC maxi-series Camelot 3000 was one of my favourite titles during the 1980s. There are shades of that classic tale in Once And Future Queen, the first issue of which was released this week.
Most notably, the Arthurian myth is transported to the modern-day and there's some gender-bending going on, most notably King Arthur is now an arse-kicking, chess-playing (!) chick.
Merlin as a helmet-wearing astronaut only adds to the quirkiness.
The script by Knave and Kirkbride is still hitting its stride by the time the first instalment ends, but I feel confident it's going to be a quirky, fun ride for the rest of this five-issue mini-series.
Brokenshire's art is a joy to behold.
This comic could be the sleeper hit of 2017.
Once And Future Queen #1 is published by Dark Horse and is on sale RIGHT NOW.

Once And Future Queen #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) 
Writers: Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride/Artist: Nick Brokenshire
RATING: 7.5 out of 10

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

COMICS READING FOR FEBRUARY: “Catching up (part 1)”

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

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      Zenith, New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        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

1. Quilte (Comix Tribe, 2016) ****
Writer: John Lees/Artist: Iain Laurie
From the team that brought us And Then Emily Was Gone comes another unsettling urban horror tale with a Scottish sensibility. This one-shot deals with a dream expert, Dr Quilte, who uses her unique abilities to help her patients conquer their fear of nightmares. But one day, she encounters a nightmare that may be too terrifying even for her to fix.
2. Comic Arf (Fantagraphics, 2008) ****
Editor: Craig Yoe/Writers & Artists: various
A really fun, respectful tribute/overview of some of the best (if not obscure) artists from comics and newspaper strips of the 20th century. The highlight is Yoe’s invitation to dozens of modern cartoonists to contribute the final panel to a series of one-page gags created by the legendary Milt Gross. R. Crumb, Jaime Hernandez, Peter Bagge, Mort Walker, art spiegelman and many more accept the challenge with varying results (although all are intriguing). A feature  on Argentine good girl artist Guillermo Divito is both educational and titillating. Really, the only low point in the book is a self-indulgent final section dedicated to...Craig Yoe. His sub-Victor Moscoso art doesn’t warrant such attention. Still, his dedication to publicising forgotten art does. I aim to get more in this series if I can find cheap copies online.
3. A.D. After Death Book Two (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Scott Snyder/Artist: Jeff Lemire
Wow! This just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait for the conclusion.
4. Dead Inside #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) *****
Writer: John Arcudi/Artist: Toni Fejzula (interior); Dave Johnson (cover)/Colours: Andre May
ANOTHER month, another instalment of what is rapidly becoming my favourite non-superhero title currently being published.
When we last left Detective Linda Caruso she was trying to talk down one of her friends from killing himself. Well, things go from worse to SHIT-BAD HORRIBLE this issue. People Linda cares about get hurt and killed left, right and centre this time round as shock after shock happens and the mystery of the prison murder deepens.
This is one dark rollercoaster we’re on, friends, courtesy of the masterful work of Arcudi. I, for one, do NOT want to get off the ride.
As always, Fejzula’s art is both gorgeously off-kilter and vaguely disturbing, like finding a dead mouse in the bottom of your sofa (true story – don’t ask). Or smelling something bad in your back room but you don’t know what it is or where it originates (that’s a future horror story, I’m sure – don’t ask).
5. Beast Wagon #1 (Changeling Studios, 2015) ***
Writer: Owen Michael Johnson/Artist: John Pearson
Talking animals in a zoo debate revolution on a stinking-hot day. Not sure if I fully understand what’s going on, but you can make up your own mind by reading the first issue for FREE HERE.

6. Comic Heroes #27 (Future, 2016) ****
Every time I buy a copy of this English mag I learn about at least 2-3 new titles worth pursuing, particularly BRITISH comics, which always makes it worth picking up from my local newsagency. This issue included articles about English titles The Troop and Beast Wagon. There’s even a brand-new Beast Wagon two-page strip (writer: Owen Michael Johnson/artist: Jay Gunn) in the mag, which is why I’ve included this issue as part of my reading list. It’s kinda cheating but who gives a fuck.
7. The Deadbeat #1 (Alterna, 2009) **½
Writer/Artist: Jeremy Massie
Groan…another take on “real people” as superheroes. This time, a deadbeat middle-aged super is confronted by the estranged superpowered daughter he thought was long dead. Didn’t wow me.
8. Chum #1 (Comix Tribe, 2016)
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay/Artist: Sami Kivela
I read the ashcan of this “surf noir” a year ago and thought it had promise…then promptly forgot about it. I recently acquired 15 FREE Comix Tribe digital comics and the full first issue of Chum was one of them. OK then… this is kinda good – all femme fatales, compromised folk with complicated relationships, dirty money, brutal deaths and mysterious disappearances – but I’m not compelled to buy the next two issues of this three-part miniseries. So I guess it isn’t good enough.
9. Stray Bullets #20 (Image, 2017) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
10.-14. Tokyo Ghost Vol. 2: Come Join Us (Image, 2016) ***
- originally published in Tokyo Ghost #6-10 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Sean Murphy
After a promising start this eco-sci-fi nightmare yarn concluded in a pretty unsatisfactory way. Murphy’s art is great as always, but Tokyo Ghost is the first major misfire by Remender in several years. It’s nearly as bad as Low. What does it say about Remender’s writing when the only half-likable character is a psychotic mass-murderer called Davey Trauma? Honestly, I was rooting for him to destroy the world and kill everybody by the end of the series.

15.-19. Paper Girls Vol. 2 (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Paper Girls #6-10 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Cliff Chiang
This time-travelling, mind-bending tale of four teens from the 1980s being thrown into the future and dealing with mysterious aliens with hidden (possibly evil) agendas is so fucking good. In fact, Vaughan turns it up a notch with this latest arc. You have to read this series – thoroughly recommended!
20.-24. Done To Death (IDW, 2011) ***¼
- originally published in Done To Death #1-5 (Markosia, 2006)
Writer: Andrew Foley/Artist: Fiona Staples
I picked this up for $10 at a Kings sale, and that’s about what it’s worth. I wondered why IDW published this book of a (then) five-year-old miniseries from a minor comics company...till I realised it was Fiona Staples’ first published work. Her art is primitive but still evocative – she’s evolved so much in the past decade. Done To Death mocks the “sparkly vampire” phenomenon and is kinda blackly funny. But it’s of little more than curiosity value beyond Staples’ fumbling first efforts.
25.-30. The Discipline Vol. 1: The Seduction (Image, 2016) **¼
- originally published in The Discipline #1-6 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Peter Milligan/Artist: Leandro Fernandez
English writer Milligan has explored this territory before – the world of mysterious sex cults, perversion and murder – in his odious The Extremist miniseries. The Discipline is merely a reworked, slightly more palatable version of The Extremist with better artwork. Melissa, a sexually frustrated rich housewife, is seduced by an ancient creature and initiated into a group called The Discipline. She is unwillingly brought into an age-old war between The Discipline and some werewolf-like critters known as The Stalkers. The Discipline’s motives are unclear – as is much of the plot – but I presume if this series continues, then everything will be explained. Melissa tries to quit The Discipline but is forced to stay and do their dirty work after they threaten to go after her sister. Sadly, Milligan establishes in EVERY FUCKING SCENE that Melissa’s sister is a CUNT, so why our heroine would stick her neck out for her is completely illogical. In fact, the series is pretty illogical as a whole and has NO likeable characters – I honestly couldn’t give a shit if Melissa lived or died. If it wasn’t for Fernandez’ gorgeous, sexy artwork I’d rate this TPB much lower.

31. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari #1 (Amigo Comics, 2017) ****
Writer/Artist: Diego Olmos
This is a creepily enjoyable, faithful retelling of the 1920 German expressionist horror film. The sinister Dr Caligari and his somnambulist Cesare visit a rural town and murder follows in their wake. Francis and his fiancée Jane are rocked by the death of a close friend Alan, but who is the killer? The sleepwalking Cesare or someone else entirely? And is the sinister Dr Caligari the true villain who pulls the strings? Olmos’s stark B&W art is exquisite and makes use of light and dark in the same effective manner as the original movie. I look forward to reading the concluding instalment when it comes out.
32. Street Tiger #1 (Amigo Comics, 2017) ****½
Writer/Artist: Ertito Montana
HOLY SHITBALLS! I fucking love this comic – it’s violent, well-written, blackly funny and pretty damn great in every regard. Imagine if you took an artist like Adrian Tomine or Peter Bagge and told them to create the most grindhouse/kung fu/B-grade schlock action epic ever and THIS would be what they might come up with...if they were HALF AS GOOD as Spanish creator Ertito Montana. What I loved about the first issue in this four-part miniseries is that I was trundling along with the two main characters in the opening scene in a sushi bar as they bantered away about food... So I was totally knocked for a loop when a dude wearing a motorcycle helmet began bashing one of the guy’s head in with a baseball bat! It was soooooo Quentin Tarantino it hurt...IN A GOOD WAY (but not for the guy getting his brains turned into mashed potato, I suspect). The change-up in viewpoints, the casual banter between petty crooks and cops – this is like a comic version of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. And what’s the motive of this helmeted vigilante with a tiger emblem on his jacket going round Nam City (love that name, by the way) and offing crooks? The front cover calls Street Tiger a “revenge thriller”, so that intrigues me. The next issue will hopefully reveal all. Can’t wait.
33. Planet Of Daemons #3 (Amigo Comics, 2017) ***
Writer: Kevin Gunstone/Artist: Paul Moore
Hard to follow when I’v emissed the first two issues. It’s about witchcraft and Salem and “the eye of Lucifer” and succubuses. I was a bit lost, but that’s understandable.
All three titles are available as hard copies from Amigo ( I assume they’ll be available in digital format from at a later date.

34. El Gorgo! #3 (Gorgo A-Go-Go, 2010) ***
Writer: Mike McGee/Artist: Tamas Jakab
Took me ages to find this issue among my pile of STUFF, but I finally got around to reading it. This lucha libre/Cthulhu/Jack Kirby mash-up has its dynamic moments, even if Jakab’s art really isn’t up to scratch in parts. Sadly, this was the last we saw of the masked ape known as El Gorgo – its web site has been dormant since this issue came out.
35.-46. Sleeper: Season 2 (DC/WildStorm, 2009) ****½
- originally published in Sleeper: Season 2 #1-12 (DC/WildStorm, 2004-05)
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
47.-50. Kill Or Be Killed Vol. 1 (Image, 2017) ****½
- originally published in Kill Or Be Killed #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips

51.-57. Rough Riders Vol. 1: Give Them Hell (Aftershock, 2016) ****
- originally published in Rough Riders #1-7 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writer: Adam Glass/Artist: Patrick Olliffe

58.-63. City Of Tomorrow (DC/WildStorm, 2006) ***
- originally published in City Of Tomorrow #1-6 (DC/WildStorm, 2005)
Writer/Artist: Howard Chaykin

64.-73. A Train Called Love (Dynamite, 2016) *****
- originally published in A Train Called Love #1-10 (Dynamite, 2016)
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Mark Dos Santos

74. Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (Kodansha Comics, 2015) ****
- originally published as Itou Junji No Neko Nikki: Yon & Muu (Kodansha, 2009)
Writer/Artist: Junji Ito
A beautiful cat story filtered through the eyes of the world’s premier body horror writer/artist. It promises to be the most terrifying yarn ever, then turns out to be weirdly sweet.

75. Comic Heroes #28 (Future, 2016) ****½
Overviews of John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, Claremont and Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants run and Captain Britain...a tribute to the late Darwyn Cooke...interviews with the Hernandez brothers, Joe Hill and Ed Brubaker...and a ton of insightful reviews. Fuck, I love this mag. This issue also has another brand-new Beast Wagon two-page strip (writer: Owen Michael Johnson/artist: Andy Bloor). Great stuff.

76. Cyberines #1 (Red Anvil Comics, 2015) ½*
Writers: Joe Martino and RJ Micheals/Artists: Cory Hamscher and Pow Rodrix
Generic superheroics of the lowest order. The plot is rudimentary and clunky. The dialogue is atrocious. As for the artwork…sheeeeeeesh! At times it’s almost feels like the artists have forgotten to illustrate linking panels and I felt as if I was constantly missing something important. For example: the main superhero is in an alleyway with his girlfriend, then he’s pulling somebody out of an overturned car, then he’s attacked by a supervillain. That’s literally three panels right there – my head was spinning by the lack of flow in the graphic storytelling. Of the two, Hamscher is mildly better in a sub-Eric Larsen kinda way. The only positive factor saving this comic from being a DUD is that there are two sympathetic Muslim characters in the comic, including a Muslim superhero. So…y’know, yay for that, I guess.
77. Crack Comics #63 (Image, 2011) ****
Writers/Artists: various
Shame the Next Issue Project ended after this issue.
78.-82. Snotgirl Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care (Image, 2017) ****
- originally published in Snotgirl #1-5 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Bryan Lee O’Malley/Artist: Leslie Hung
The genius behind Scott Pilgrim comes up with an intriguing, revolting, topical story. I really enjoy the mystery here – is everything happening to fashion blogger Snotgirl real or the hallucinations caused by her allergy medicine?
83. Astral (self-published, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Alex Chung/Artist: Louie Joyce
Beautifully illustrated sci-fi love tale.
84. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #21 (Image, 2017) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
85. Extremity: Ashcan #1 (Image, 2017) ***¾
Writer: Daniel Warren Johnson/Artist: Mike Spicer
86.-91. Scooter Girl (Image, 2017) ****
- originally published in Scooter Girl #1-6 (Oni Press, 2003-04)
Writer/Artist: Chynna Clugston Flores
92.-96. Deadpool & The Merc$ For Money Vol. 1: Mo’ Mercs, Mo’ Monkeys (Marvel, 2017) ****
- originally published in Deadpool & The Merc$ For Money #1-5 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artist: Iban Coello
97. Doc Weird’s Thrill Book! #3 (Pure Imagination Publishing, 1988) ***
- featuring Frankenstein in Prize Comics #8 (Prize Publications, 1940)
Writer/Artist: Dick Breifer
Captain Science in Captain Science (Avon, 1951)
Writer: unknown/Artists: Joe Orlando and Wally Wood
Avenger in Space Detective (Avon, 1951)
Writer: unknown/Artist: Wally Wood
Vic Torry in Vic Torry And His Flying Saucer (Fawcett, 1950)
Writer: unknown/Artist: Bob Powell
98.-101. Britannia Vol. 1 (Valiant, 2017) ****
- originally published in Britannia #1-4 (Valiant, 2016)
Writer: Peter Milligan/Artists: Juan José Ryp (interiors), Cary Nord (covers)
My first-ever Valiant trade, and nicely priced, too. This Roman-era detective tale is quirky and violent. In fact, I’m surprised it wasn’t an Avatar book.
102.-107. Outcast Vol. 4: Under Devil’s Wing (Image, 2017) *****
- originally published in Outcast #19-24 (Image, 2016-17)
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artist: Paul Azaceta

This series shits all over Kirkman’s other big horror series, The Walking Dead, even though it’s essentially the same story: a small band of heroes battling against a horde of evil creatures. The one big difference is that Outcast offers HOPE to the readers – good may triumph over evil in the end. Unlike TWD where we know EVERYONE’S fucked. But this series is really hitting its stride now and remains one of the few titles I can’t wait to read when the trade comes out every six months.