Saturday, April 1, 2017

COMICS READING FOR MARCH: “Bits and pieces”


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

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     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. Once And Future Queen #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¾
Writers: Adam P. Knave and DJ Kirkbride/Artist: Nick Brokenshire
See review HERE.
2. Shadows On The Grave #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***½
Writers: Richard Corben and Jan Strnad/Artist: Richard Corben
A perfectly fine-if-perfunctory return to Corben’s underground horror and Warren magazine roots.
3. American Gods #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¼
Writers: Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell/Artists: P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell and Lovern Kindzierski (interior); Glenn Fabry (cover)
See review HERE.
4. 1st Folio #1 (Pacific Comics, 1984) ***
Writers/Artists: various
Various EC-style short strips from various students at the Joe Kubert School, including sons Adam and Andy Kubert. The best strip is a Sgt Rock-style two-pager by the master himself.
5. The Vesha Valentine Story (SLG, 2011) **
Writer/Artist: Des Taylor
This homage to vintage Hollywood and cheesecake glamma has some lovely artwork, but it’s ruined by the clichéd, by-the-books storyline and HORRENDOUS editing: spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, constant switching from past to present tense. It’s shoddy, amateurish work that ruined my enjoyment of the book. SLG should be ashamed of their efforts on this one.
6. Motor City Comics #2 (Rip Off Press, 1970) ***
Writer/Artist: Robert Crumb
The main story is a relatively dramatic, longer tale about feminist activist Lenore Goldberg being targeted by the government as a threat to its authority. The comic’s rounded out with several shorter strips , including the highly offensive The Simp And The Gimp. Same old, same old from Crumb.

7. Grendel Ashcan #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) ***
8. Batman/Grendel Ashcan #1 (DC/Comico, 1993) **
9. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Ashcan (Malibu, 1993) **½ 
I grabbed what I thought was a Grendel Ashcan comic from a dollar bin at OzComicCon in Melbourne a few years back. I opened it up recently to find it contained two other ashcan comics, plus a bunch of trading cards and other bits’n’pieces that typified the early 90s. Tons of embossed cards and artwork by guys who crashed and burned during that period. A time capsule.

10. Angel Catbird Vol. 1 (Dark Horse, 2016) **½
11. Angel Catbird Vol. 2: To Castle Catula (Dark Horse, 2017) **
Writer: Margaret Atwood/Artist: Johnnie Christmas
I PLANNED to write big reviews of these two graphic novels on my blog and send the link to Dark Horse (and plug it on Twitter), but I won’t now. Having read them I can honestly say they’re DRIVEL. Beautifully drawn drivel. Quirky drivel (considering the author is a 70+ noted author). But drivel all the same. Half-cat/half-human heroes. Rat people. Owl people. Cat-bat vampires. I’m flabbergasted this faux-Silver Age drivel got green-lighted by Dark Horse. Volume two, in particular, is interminable with a meandering storyline, bad plotting, awful cat-related puns and characters I do not give a SHIT about. It’s dumb. Yes, that’s the perfect word for Angel Catbird: DUMB.
Still, nice art.

12. Stratu’s Diary Comix January 2017 (self-published, 2017) ****
Writer/Artist: Stratu
Review HERE.
13.-18. Future Quest Vol. 1 (DC, 2017) ****
- originally published in Future Quest #1-6 (DC, 2016)
Writer: Jeff Parker/Artists: Evan Shaner, Steve Rude and friends
I was never a fan of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons (they were so cheaply animated), but their “adventure” toons seemed to suck the most. Worst of them all was The Herculoids, a story about a bunch of xenophobic nutbags who would kill ANY aliens who landed on their backward planet. Seriously, that was the plot of EVERY FUCKING EPISODE. Aliens land on planet. Herculoids attack them and kill them. End of episode. Seriously, this series probably sahped Steve Bannon and Pauline Hanson’s attitude to immigration as youngsters.
As for other HB toons, I was vaguely aware of Johnny Quest due to its reincarnation as a comic published by Comico in the early 80s. In the late 90s I’d seen a few eps of the post-ironic Space Ghost Coast-To-Coast on Adult Swim and I even possess a Space Ghost action figure.
But I heard good things about Future Quest – DC’s reimagining of the HB adventure line – and it’s pretty damn great. Parker is one of my fave writers of light-hearted action-adventure, while Shaner, Rude et al really capture the spirit of the original animated series (only giving them more life and vigour than they ever had on TV). All in all, I was pretty impressed with the first six issues.

19.-23. Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 2: Civil War II (Marvel, 2017) ***¾
 - originally published in Power Man and Iron Fist #6-9 (Marvel, 2016) and Sweet Christmas Annual #1 (Marvel, 2017)
Writer: David F. Walker/Artists: Flaviano (#6-9 interiors); Sanford Greene (#7-9 interiors and #6-9 covers); Scott Hepburn (annual interior); Jamal Campbell (annual cover)

24.-25. Reese’s Pieces #1-2 (Eclipse Comics, 1985) **½
Writers: Otto Binder, Jerry Siegal and friends/Artist: Ralph Reese
Sub-Warren horror tales “with a twist at the end” drawn by the competent Reese (one of Wally Wood’s many assistants) and written by an eclectic mix of writers. Most of the tales are average at best, although “The Skin-Eaters” (written by Terry Bisson) in No. 2 has an unexpected sting in the tail that lifts it above the others.

26. Soldier X #1 (Marvel, 2002) ***¼
Writer: Darko Macan/Artist: Igor Kordey
I’ve never been a fan of Cable from the X-Men, but this random first issue of a new Cable series was kinda intriguing, as it seemed to be focusing less on the X-Men and Cable as a superhero and more of Cable as a war-weary soldier. Kordy’s Corben-esque artwork was a revelation. However, it’s still Cable – and I don’t give a shit about Cable.

27. The Red Ten #0 (Comix Tribe, 2013) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artists: various
A nice little Free Comic Book Day taster for the full series, a homage to Agatha Christie’s thriller novel And Then There Were None, only using superheroes this time. Watch the JLA get bumped off in a bloody murder mystery. Intriguing.

28. On The Line (Image, 2011) ***
Writer: Rick Wright/Artist: Rian Hughes
I picked this up at a Kings (http://www.kingscomics.com/) sale for five bux. It’s a short-lived newspaper strip that Hughes (one of my fave British artists) illustrated for England’s The Guardian in 1995-96 and it’s a fascinating time capsule of the Internet Stone Age. The toon was paid for by Compuserve and is full of passé jargon (like “electronic mail” and “ten hours of free surfing the web”) and extolling the virtues of communicating with “22 million people around the world…while steadfastly ignoring the fact that most of those people were using it to access porn.
Fascinating – and more than a little weird – to see The Guardian running advertorial from a company that raved about a future where people could read their news online. Like the rag didn’t believe that the net would one day leave them – and the rest of the newspaper biz – on the precipice of oblivion.
Anyway, a fascinating curio and Rian’s blocky b&w art is a treat, even though the gags are woefully lame (in that “we’re-trying-to-be-funny-while-advertising-Compuserve” way).
29.-37. Survivors’ Club (Vertigo, 2016) ***½
- originally published in Survivors’ Club #1-9 (Vertigo, 2015-16) 
Writer: Lauren Beukes and David Halvorson/Artists: Ryan Kelly (#1-3, 5-7, 9 interiors), Inaki Miranda (#4 interior), Ryan Kelly, Mark Farmer and Peter Gross (#8 interior); Bill Sienkiewicz (covers)
You can see that this was a promising ongoing series that was cut short and wrapped up in nine issues. So it feels rushed and not completely satisfying.
38.-43. Godland Vol. 1: Hello, Cosmic (Image, 2006) ***¼
- originally published in Godland #1-6 (Image, 2005)
Writer: Joe Casey/Artist: Tom Scioli
44.-61. The Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor And The Bogus Identity (Vertigo, 2010) ***½
The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man (Vertigo, 2010) ***½
The Unwritten Vol. 3: Dead Man’s Knock (Vertigo, 2011) ***½
- originally published in The Unwritten #1-18 (Vertigo, 2009-10)
Writer: Mike Carey/Artists: Peter Gross and friends (interiors); Yuko Shimizu (covers)

62.-63. WWE Kids #116-117 (WWE/DC Thomson, 2016) ***
Writers/Artists: unknown
As wrestling magazines go, this is kinda fun – mainly for all the cool tip-ons in each monthly issue. But the cartoon strips SUCK. There’s a page or two of untitled gag strips that aren’t even punny, they’re just LAME. And then there’s the ongoing two-page strip Superfan!, about an obnoxious brat whose whole world revolves around WWE. Obnoxious, destructive, mean – he’s the sorta kid you want to see get hit by a car. It’s like someone decided to produce a WWE-themed Dennis The Menace strip devoid of any charm, wit and talent. Amazingly successful in that regard, then.

64. Bricktop A1 Special (Atomeka, 2004) ***
Writers; Glenn Fabry and Chris Smith/Artist: Glenn Fabry
This one-shot reprints an old Fabry strip from 1992. It’s wonderful to see some early Fabry and his B&W linework is exquisite, but the story is laaaaame. It tries to be weird and quirky, but it fails on every level. Uninteresting characters, needlessly bizarre plot, bad pacing and a flat ending that hangs on a naff visual gag. Blah.

65.-69. Animosity Vol. 1: The Wake (AfterShock, 2017) **
- originally published in Animosity #1-4 (AfterShock, 2016) and Animosity: The Rise (AfterShock, 2017)
Writer: Marguerite Bennett/Artist: Rafael De Latorre
OK, the moment I saw tortoises with cannons strapped to their shell, I realised that this series was STOOPID. If this tale of animals gaining sentience and seeking revenge on humans was going to be truly chilling, then they should just be animals. But seeing pandas waddling around with rifles is just DUMB. Can’t believe I wasted so much money on this book.

70.-74. Deadly Class Vol. 5: Carousel (Image, 2017) *****
- originally published in Deadly Class #22-26 (Image, 2016-17)
Writer; Rick Remender/Artist: Wes Craig
After the shocking end to the previous volume, we get a whole new class of newbies trying to learn how to be assassins Kings Dominion School Of The Deadly Arts. Marcus is dead – and to be honest I’m not that sad. He was an arsehole. This new group look like way more fun, with plenty of dark secrets that emerge in shocking fashion at the end of the volume. I’ve always enjoyed reading Deadly Class but Remender has taken it to new levels in the past two volumes. Highly fucking recommended.

75. Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) ***¼
Writer/Artist: James Stokoe
This is an intriguing first issue – a space station picks up a signal from a seemingly abandoned space freighter and sends a team over to investigate it. They find three crew in cryo-sleep…and something else. As it’s told in flashback, we know that a nasty alien is going to turn up very soon and its first appearance on the final splash page is a heart-stopper. Dark Orbit starts slowly, but it appears business is going to pick up pretty bloody rapidly with the next issue.
Canadian writer/artist James Stokoe – of Orc Stain fame – gives proceedings a gritty, dirty feel. Everything he draws looks like it’s covered in motor oil, rust and coffee stains.
Dead Orbit gives off a vibe that’s more Alien than Aliens: claustrophobic, paranoid and downright scary. I look forward to where Stokoe takes us next.
Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is published by Dark Horse and retails for US$3.99. It goes on sale April 26.

76. The Red Ten #1 (ComixTribe, 2012) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artists: Cesar Feliciano (interior), CP Wilson III (cover)

77. Dead Inside #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) ****½
Writer: John Arcudi/Artist: Toni Fejzula (interior) Dave Johnson (cover)

78. Stratu’s Diary Comix Feb. 2017 (self-published, 2017) **¾
Writer/Artist: Stratu
Stu’s obsession with following people (and being followed) on Instagram reaches a manic peak this issue. While holidaying in South Korea he apparently spent all his time on Instagram or buying chocolates at convenience stores. Well, that’s the impression I got from reading this zine. If you’re expecting some in-depth analysis on what it’s like to visit South Korea – or even a superficial several-panel list of places of interest for prospective tourists – well, you’ll be disappointed. If Stu keeps serving this up for the rest of the year, it’s gonna make for a pretty dull diary comic.

79. Heroes For Hire #6 (Marvel, 1997) ***¼
Writer: John Ostrander/Artists: Pascual Ferry and Jaime Mendoza
I had this entire series on my pull list back when it first came out and enjoyed it at the time.- although, in hindsight, it was mainly ’cos obscure villain Killer Shrike made a guest appearance in one issue. Always liked Killer Shrike. Anyway, this isn’t Ostrander’s finest work and the art is very post-Liefeld. I can see why this series didn’t last long.

80. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #22 (Image, 2017) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham

81.-85. Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier Vol. 1 (Lion Forge Comics/IDW, 2016) **
- originally published in Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier #1-5 (Lion Forge Comics/IDW, 2016)
Writers: Mike Baron, Adam Beechen, Barbara Randall Kesel, Fabian Nicieza and Martin Pasko/Artists: Leonardo Romero, Lucas Werneck and Nelson Pereira
Man, this was like an updated version of Mr T and the T-Force. That ISN’T a compliment. A douchebag recast as a noble, Luke Cage-style superhero. Ugh. This is one for my MMA/wrestling comix curio collection.
86.-89. 30 Days Of Night: Eben And Stella (IDW, 2007) ***¼
- originally published in 30 Days Of Night: Eben And Stella #1-4 (IDW, 2007)
90.-94. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Like I’m The Only Squirrel In The World (Marvel, 2017) *****
- originally published in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #12-16 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writers: Ryan North (with Will Murray)/Artists: Erica Henderson (with Steve Ditko and friends)
95.-100. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!: Don’t Stop Me-ow (Marvel, 2017) ****½
- originally published in Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #7-12 (Marvel, 2016-17)
Writer: Kate Leth/Artists: Brittney Williams and friends
101.-106. Karnak: The Flaw In All Things (Marvel, 2017) *****
- originally published in Karnak #1-6 (Marvel, 2015-17)
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Gerardo Zaffino (#1-2); Roland Boschi (#3-6)
Great things are worth waiting for – even if it’s EIGHTEEN months.
107.-110. Seven To Eternity Vol. 1: The God Of Whispers (Image, 2017) ****½
 - originally published in Seven To Eternity #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Rick Remenda/Artist: Jerome Opeña
111.-116. The Flintstones Vol. 1 (DC, 2017) *****
- originally published in The Flintstones #1-6 (DC, 2016-17)
Writer: Mark Russell/Artist: Steve Pugh
117.-121. Heartthrob Vol. 1: Never Going Back Again (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Heartthrob #1-5 (Image, 2016)
122.-126. The Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than A Beast (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in The Vision #7-12 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Tom King/Artists: Michael Walsh (#7 interior), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (#8-12 interiors); Mike Del Mundo (cover)
127. Merchants Of Death #2 (Eclipse, 1988) **½
Writers/Artists: various
A misfire of an anthology, mainly featuring short stories by unknown Spanish creators. The only thing of interest is the ongoing serial “Ransom”, written by a young Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Dan Brereton. It’s pretty ordinary, though.

128. The SuperFogeys #1 (Th3rd World Studios, 2009) DUD
Writer/Artist: Brock Heasley
Mocking nursing home residents and dementia sufferers, rape jokes…..hmmmmmmmm, what else was offensive about this “slice-of-life” comic about old-aged superheroes? How about the poor spelling and grammar, and the fact that it’s unfunny from start to finish? Yeah, that’ll do it.

129.-130. Sundowners #5-6 (Dark Horse, 2015-16) ***¼  
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artists: Jim Terry (interior); Chris Brunner (cover)
131. Ei8ht #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) ***
Writers: Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson/Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

132.-144. Mystique: Brian K. Vaughan Ultimate Collection (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published in Mystique #1-13 (Marvel, 2003-04)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artists: Jorge Lucas (#1-6 interior); Joseph Michael Linser (#1-6 covers); Michael Ryan (#7-10,13 interior); Manuel García and Raul Fernández (#11-12 interior); Adrian Alphona (#7 cover); Greg Horn (#8 cover); Mike Mayhew (#9-13 covers)
145.-149. Hulk: Hulk No More (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published in Hulk #10-13 and Incredible Hulk #600 (Marvel, 2009)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Ed McGuinness

Back-up piece writer: Audrey Loeb/Artist: Chris Giarrusso


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