Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't Panic - New Show Coming Soon

Don't hit the panic button kids, Chronic Insomnia # 134 will be up and running soon! We've got a special episode brewing with a few extra bells and whistles, and didn't finish recording it last night.

Construction will be completed tonight, and you should be able to download it in the wee hours of Wednesday. It's so going to be worth the wait....

- Ryan

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chronic Review: Shuddertown # 1

Shuddertown # 1
Image Comics

Script: Nick Spencer
Pencils: Adam Geen
22 pages for $ 3.50

Shuddertown is the story of detective Isaac Hernandez and the lies he swims in. He's a classic noir protagonist; as flawed and dark as the criminals he seeks to bring to justice. Isaac doesn't have a lot of friends or a cheery disposition. What he does have is a history with drugs and a pile of cases that just don't seem to make any sense.

There's plenty of evidence at the murder scenes for Hernandez to find. The problem is that all of this gift-wrapped evidence points to dead people as the perpetrators.

It's a nice little hook, and Spencer plays it out with smart dialogue. Geen's pencils are very moody and fit the tale nicely. It's reminiscent of Maleev, or JH Williams, which always reminds me of Bill Sienkiewicz. (I wonder what percentage of today's comic book art we can actually trace back to that guy - 8 percent? More?) This is such a departure in terms of sophistication from Fade to Black that one finds it hard to believe they came from the same imprint. (although there are preview pages for Fade in the issue, just to remind you of the absurd fact) If somebody handed me this comic without the cover, I would have guessed Vertigo, for sure.

This is a mystery within a mystery. Spencer has been up front about the fact that there are layers here, and Hernandez foreshadows this as well. He's always talking about lies.

The success of the story depends upon the audience's investment in trying to parse out what is actually going on here. And I have a theory.

Before I lay this out, understand that we don't have much to go on here, and I'm traditionally very bad at piecing these things together. The good news/bad news for me is that I have a gift for maintaining the suspension of disbelief when I'm reading or watching something.

The good news is that I'm always surprised and can enjoy these things as the author intended. The bad news is that while everyone else knows the punchline a mile before it arrives, I'm the village idiot.

It seems to me that the themes here are A) Lies and B) Impact post-mortem. And I think that Isaac Hernandez is actually stone dead somewhere, and what we're seeing right now is the man's personal hell. What we're reading now is Hernandez being haunted by his past, trying to piece together murders that don't matter any more with evidence that doesn't make any sense. Hernandez is stuck in the past, but the world has moved on.

I don't have much to go on other than a gut feeling. My strongest piece of evidence is an interpretation of a brief phone conversation:

Isaac (and presumably the reader) are meant to infer that the Blevins case is in the past tense, and it is. But I think that somebody is trying to tell Hernandez that he is in the past tense. When Isaac meets Sam, he wants Hernandez to show him his side wound. Gunshot wound? Hard to say.

I think that wound may have been lethal, and Hernandez is just too committed to his own lies to admit it. Perhaps as part of a sacrifice of some kind. That wound is sitting right about the level a Roman centurion pierced Jesus to speed up his crucifixion.

It's quite possible I'm reading too much into this, but that's the whole fun of this kind of exercise, and these little opportunities to really test your noodle so rarely turn up in the genre. (Grant Morrison notwithstanding) I like this book a lot, whether I've "figured it out" or not. I suspect I haven't.

If you like Vertigo as a general rule, you'll like what you find here. This is worthy of your time if you're looking for something outside the superhero genre, and straight up your alley if you enjoy noir or stuff like 100 Bullets.

The only real disappointment for me was when I got to the back cover trumpeting the coming of issue of # 2......in June. I guess the good news is that Spencer is honest enough to announce the delay. I just don't get it, though. In order to find an audience in the era of mandatory attrition, you simply must hit that audience monthly. I hope this book survives, but I'm not sure that anything is going to fly in 2010 on a quarterly schedule. Shame, really, because comics needs a little more of this...

- Ryan

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Chronic Review: Nemesis # 1

Nemesis # 1
Marvel/Icon comics

Script: Mark Millar
Pencils: Steve McNiven
23 pages (sort of) for $2.99

Let's be real here, folks. We knew this was coming. We asked for it, and it does no good to complain about it now. Nemesis is 60 megaton no-sense-making, over-the-top-actioning, memorable-scene-creating fictional bomb that doubles as a three ring circus in the "real" world. God bless Mark Millar.

You really have to sit back and just admire the sheer audacity of it all. This is a Marvel book, yeah. Kinda. Millar and McNiven both are marquee names, sure. But Ed Brubaker is a name brand, and Criminal can't break 10,000 issues with the Icon imprint. Brian Michael Bendis is an institution, and does Powers do any more sales than that over at Icon? No matter how "big" you are, creator owned books can't sell. That's the rule.

I'm telling you right now, Nemesis is going to score over 100,000 orders, and we're going to buy them because Mark Millar told us to. That's it. "Yeah, but what about the Kick Ass buzz?" I don't care. This comic is probably going to be bigger than the next Blackest Night issue that hits stands, and it's going to be bigger because Mark Millar told us it is. Now THAT is genius. THAT is power.

What to say about the issue itself..hmmmm. Nemesis is a complete affront to common sense and sophistication, don't get me wrong. You will find yourself shaking your head at times, wondering about the logistics of it all. Things happen in this issue that will have you literally shouting at the comic book "AWWWW, C'Mon!!!!"

But you know what? That's the juice. That's what we pay the strange Scottish git to do to us. He's got us engaged in a way that other comic books do not. This isn't a serial story on a page, it's a happening. Can you believe that guy paid $8,000 to name the hero detective in this book? Did you hear Millar refer to himself as the new Stan Lee? Did he say that? It sounds like him. What about that Times Square ad? Oh wait, it was photoshopped?

How in the world are we going to avoid spending the $2.99 to get in on this? You can't do it. No, it doesn't pass the reality litmus test. It's not supposed to. This is a delicious hook with the equivalent of a half billion dollar movie budget, and you either roll with it or just resign yourself to the fact that you're not as much fun as Mark Millar. Nemesis is not a story. It's a comic book "happening" that you can be part of for three bucks a month.

Nemesis and his motivations seem completely improbable. He crashes trains, he hijacks Air Force One, and none of it is handled on the page so that you could believe it might actually happen. But you have to believe it, because it IS happening, and in very graphic detail:

The premise, in usual Millar fashion, is blood simple and profoundly compelling. An obscenely rich super-genius with access to impossible technology has dedicated his life to making the lives of top police officers across the globe a living hell. At the beginning of the story, he's finishing up with a Japanese super cop. His next target is Blake Morrow, one of Washington DCs finest.

Morrow has decreased crime in the city by 60%. (Really?) He's a straight shooter. And an accurate one:

So Nemesis decided to make a special project of him. Before ultimately killing the target, our villain likes to pour salt on wounds by committing heinous crimes and rubbing it in the law enforcer's face. So how do you humiliate Washington's top cop? You muck with the president of these United States, of course!

It's completely absurd. If you allow yourself to roll with it and just accept the Millar ride for what it is, you will enjoy yourself. A lot. Unfortunately, you won't be enjoying it for very long. Of the 23 pages, 12 consist of either splash pages or contain three panels or less. You can read this in five minutes if you really care to. That piece of it is irritating, I must admit. But like I said, you aren't even paying for the comic as such.

I love McNiven's pencils as well, although you can certainly tell the difference between this and say...Civil War. Ever wonder if a colorist really impacts the look of a book? Check out Bullseye from Civil War:

And then compare it to Nemesis here on the right. The difference is staggering, really. The depth of the image is night and day.

Again, I'm not saying that I dislike the look of Nemesis. It's good. But WOW.

So how do I grade out the first issue? I grade it out highly. I knew what I was getting into, and I enjoyed it. I would have appreciated a little more bang for my buck in terms of total content, but at least they didn't go $3.99, and that was certainly a possibility.

Nemesis provides exactly what it advertised: completely epic, ridiculously stupid fun. And how is that a bad thing?

- Ryan

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chronic Review: Green Arrow # 31

Green Arrow # 31
DC Comics

Script: JT Krul
Pencils: Federico Dallocchio
22 pages for $2.99

As I've previously stated, I'm not a huge DC guy, not because I have any passionate dislike for DC philosophically. It just takes a lot of continuity knowledge to understand anything these days, and I grew up a Marvel guy, continued with it, and I have more back story in the data banks to help me process what's going on.

Never been a huge Green Arrow guy, either, although I certainly have respect for Mike Grell. I'm pretty much "evented" out at this point, as well. So what the HELL am I doing chasing down part 2 of "The Fall of Green Arrow" for?

Well, I made the "mistake" of listening to the latest episode of Raging Bullets, pretty much the premier podcast if you're into DC. Nobody likes anything as much as Sean Whelan and Jim Segulin dig DC comics. So the mistake isn't listening to their show, because the passion is infectious and they dig deeper into these books than most shows would dare attempt. It's funny actually, that in episode #199 they claim to be doing "rapid fire bullet" reviews instead of their usual developed treatments.....and the show ran 150 minutes!

No, the mistake is that when you get done listening to Raging Bullets, you understand enough of what's going on where you find yourself wanting to read some of the damn books they cover! Such was the case with Green Arrow after listening to the Ragers cover Justice League: Rise and Fall, which represents chapter one in this Oliver Queen downward spiral.

It has always seemed to me that the best concepts and the best "event" books are based on things that are just dirt simple and matter. Now James Robinson has been penning this little mini-series called "Justice League: Cry For Justice" which has been met with mixed reviews. At the end of that thing, (spoilers coming) Green Arrow has suffered trauma to the point where he's crossing lines in the name of vengeance. Like...putting arrows in people's faces until they don't breathe any more lines.

That's the hook, and it's dirt simple, and it's compelling. "What would happen if a guy with already creative moral principles gets pushed to the brink and starts going postal?" I'm not saying this is an unprecedented achievement in storytelling, nor should it have to be.

What I'm saying is, this is organic storytelling that builds off of past events, remains true to the spirit of the character, and makes for good drama. How do you react if you're this guy's teammate? Friend? Wife? This is what I believe Brian Hibbs was getting at in his last "Tilting at Windmills" column on Comic Book Resources, in which he laments the rise of plot-based storytelling.

This Green Arrow plunge into darkness is not a plot-based storyline focused on the death of Prometheus and the almost certain impending demise of the Electrocutioner. That's not where the juice is. The juice is how this plays out for the man inside his tortured skull, and whether or not he's going to have anyone or anything left when he's done with his vendetta. This is character-based drama, and to me at least, it doesn't feel manufactured or artificial.

Things are shaking down in this book that matter. Forget leaving your toothbrush out or your dirty sock on the floor, this cat is drawing arrows on his wife:

That's just not bound to play well with her. I like this so much better than the "deaths" these characters routinely survive, because this will be playing out on screen. So many times we're promised "this time everything will change forever", usually because somebody dies. And then they're gone, and nobody cares, and the whole thing is forgotten until the character's improbable return from the grave. Lather, rinse, repeat. (I would say Brubaker's Cap is a notable exception to that formula, though. That character's disappearance was handled with care and depth on the page)

Well, Green Arrow isn't disappearing. He's murdering people, he's burning bridges, and one would think this is going to have to be dealt with on the page for a good long time to come. So I'm in for the duration, because this is bloody fascinating to me.

What's extra beautiful about the scenario is how organic it is. Eventually, this sort of thing would happen, would happen quite often, really. Reasonable people can come to very different conclusions about whether Ollie's actions are justified. I think he's dead wrong. I understand it, but I could never condone it. I don't think. That would be a deal-buster on the friendship thing, I think. My podcast partner would give him a high five and help him out, on the other hand. This whole thing is just more fun than most comic books allow themselves to be these days. Kudos to J.T. Krul for handling the whole thing with drama and respect for the character, and kudos to the DC braintrust for letting him run with this.

- Ryan

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chronic Review: Fade to Black # 1

Fade to Black # 1
Image Comics

Script: Jeff Mariotte

Pencils: Danielle Serra

22 pages for $3.50

I bought into this book based on the solicitation copy, which sold Fade to Black as a survival horror book with a few clever twists in store. Things suddenly get real for a group of five actors on a desert set when a mysterious band of cannibals start eating the production crew. That could be fun, right?

I like horror in general, and I like your basic survival scenario a great deal. Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight is one of my all time top ten films - that's how much I love the niche.

So how is it that I would rather have a fresh glass of blow fish toxin than read another issue of Fade to Black? Let me count the ways.

Maybe it's Mario's incredibly authentic "gangsta" dialogue:

Makes you feel like you're on the mean streets. Esse. Somewhere Brian Azzarello is crying, and he doesn't know why.

Maybe it's these clever little "character moments" that subtly announce that they are CHARACTER MOMENTS by punching you in the throat while holding a roll of quarters:

Could it be the super realistic emotional reactions of the characters? I'm sure if you were a budding actor and just saw your director's decapitated head laying on the table, you'd bust out your rapier with like this:

It gets better. Directly after this "Aggh!" and that something that I think was intended to be funny, the entire group just goes on about their business of looking for a cell phone as though it was a plate of cheese and crackers on the table instead of a co-workers skull.

If that weren't enough to make you close the book and set fire to it, this incredibly long and completely improbable piece of exposition should do the trick:

Wha??? Why exactly is Dave Koresh in the distance being cryptic about "rightful places" and the "goal" when he's surrounded by nothing but dirt and his lackeys? Not only is that bit too talky and too long, but it reads like it was put down by Ed Wood. This is the hook that's supposed to drag us into the next issue, that and the mystery of who "the one" might be from our group of five actors we care nothing about. I don't think so. It's not just clumsy, it's an affront to fiction.

What makes it extra painful is the fact that 9 of the 22 pages of this book contain 3 panels or less. It reads in 3 minutes. There's just no value here. I'm struggling to find something positive to say here, and I can't. These things happen. Unfortunately. NEXT!

- Ryan

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chronic Toys: Eaglemoss Shang Chi lead figure

Shang Chi: Master of Kung Fu
Eaglemoss lead figure # 111

Comes with 15 page magazine

Suggested Retail: 5.99 pounds

I just wanted to document the fact that I have this, and you don't. These Eaglemoss figures are one of those things I probably shouldn't enjoy as much as I do. But I do.

Shang Chi has always been cool. The name means "rising and advancing of a spirit". (they usually reminded you of this at least three times an issue - who was writing those damn things, Gregg Hurwitz?) He was the best there was in the world at Kung Fu.

The problem was, his dad was the nefarious Fu Manchu. That guy was a pain in the ass back then, and I'm pretty sure he's the reason Marvel can't reprint Master of Kung Fu today. They lost the rights. Doh! His father's curse continues into the 21st Century!

Jim Starlin was writing this book back in the day. I think when most people think Starlin, they think Thanos and epic space action. I think Dreadstar. But he was good at philosopher ass-kickers as well. It was the Doug Moench stuff that really got me hooked, though. It was ground level human drama and a lot of punching people in their face.

And that's how Shang Chi got his spirit rising and advancing. He would run around trying to dispense justice with vicious round house kicks. For me, Kate Beckinsale is usually enough to get the spiritual compass pointing north. We're different people, is what I'm saying.

Every one of these Eaglemoss lead figures comes with a full color magazine, usually with a shockingly cogent and useful history of the character, and also completely beat to crap. They wrap the mag and the figure in a plastic bag that has no choice to but warp, bend, and ding the book during shipping. Here's how sick I am. It's not enough that I have a lead figure of a fictional karate guy displayed in my bedroom. I've actually considered the fact that someday somebody is going to find a pristine Eaglemoss magazine, get it graded by CGC, and their 9.8 book is going to net them about $1,200. You need to be a higher caliber nerd for those synapses to fire.

Incidentally, these things are supposed to cost 6 pounds, but since we deal in dollars here in The City That God Forgot, you can expect to pay about $12.00, and that's not too terrible. My Shang Chi is a bargain at any price.

- Ryan

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chronic Review: Tales of the Dragon Guard # 1

Tales of the Dragon Guard # 1
Soleil/Marvel Comics

Script: Ange
Pencils: Alberto Varanda
48 pages for $5.99

Round about episode # 130 I covered this one in the "Next Week's Books" segment, put on my deep over-the-top British voice and really let rip with the solicitation copy. OH, did we laugh at this one. But me being me, I was mildly curious to test drive a Soleil comic, and wildly curious to watch virgins get after dragons.

Let's cover some fine points before we tackle the meat of the story. Soleil comics are french. They don't really do superhero books, specializing more in fantasy and science fiction. Sort of like Crossgen, only without a fascist tyrant running the firm. "Ange" is actually a nomme de plume for the writing team of Anne and Gerard Guero. Sort of like Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, only with more penetration. And virgins are women who have never had sex. Sort of like me.

So when you see a Soleil book, you're looking at a reprint; a comic originally published in France, now translated and re-packaged for American readers. How cultured! This particular brand has a big fat "Mature Content" slapped on the cover. Mostly because of the breasts, but it's deeper than that. More on that score later.

In this comic, the world is plagued by dragons. They're big, they're powerful, and they're so bloody evil that their very presence infects and taints the surrounding geography and population. That infected area where humans turn into monsters becomes known as "The Veil". It's not a good place to be.

The only persons immune to this effect are virgin females. Not only are virgins immune to the physical/spiritual warping of the dragons, but they do not appear on "dragon radar", either. Usually they can feel you coming a mile away. Virgins have to be standing directly in front of a dragon to be noticed. The Dragon Guard represents a collection of virgin warriors dedicated to eradicating the bastard lizards. The comic tells stories from the historic annals of this (sometimes) revered clan.

It would be very easy for this book to fall prey to its sillier tendencies and become an exercise in T & A. Ange have fun with that aspect, to be sure. There are boobies in this book, and it understands on some level that a bunch of young virgin girls kicking dragon ass is a juvenile male fantasy. It embraces that, actually.

But it never caves in to the "juvenile" part of those expectations, and it does a very good job of putting some reality into the fantasy. I'll give you an example. This particular chapter of the Dragon Guard history focuses on the knight Jaina and her squire Ellys. The pair sit and wonder over a travelling lunch break how it was ever discovered that virgin girls were immune to the Veil. Young Ellys believes that enough brave girls attempted to protect their homes that eventually it became apparent. Here's Jaina's theory:

Who's right? Are either of them correct? We don't know. The comic takes the perspective of Jaina and Ellys, so if they don't see it, we're left to guess based on the evidence. There's another mystery that comes to mind toward the end of the book that seems conspiratorial, but the reader is left to their own interpretation. There is evidence that the dragon Jaina is questing to dispatch has been around longer than the local authorities advertise. Oversight, or were they waiting for the Veil to create gems near the dragon lair and letting peasants get killed in the interim? Hmmmmm.

This is a smarter book than you'd believe if you simply got sidetracked by the nipples. People react to the Dragon Guard on a wide spectrum as well. There is some gender bigotry, but Ange don't paint anything with too broad a brush. Everything in Dragon Guard is left a little complex, like life. I wish more comics were like that.

There is real horror in the story as well. We get a glimpse of Jaina's origins, and they are brutal. Her last images of her parents are trying to survive them as they succumb to the Veil. Most of that is handled off panel, which I also appreciated. It's creepier told in the fragments that we do get to see.

Jaina and Ellys meet a family on the road that they perceive as raiders. The surviving children claim they are just uninfected peasants hoping to find some help and food. Maybe that's the case, but they were waiting in the bushes with weapons. It's tough to know how to feel about that. And that's like life, too. Jaina sends the little girl down the road with this advice: "If your little brother start to scales or claws..kill him." See what I mean? This is not a T & A book, this is what the bad girl craze should have been in the 90s.

I can't say enough good things about this book. There is one plot device regarding a decision that Ellys makes at the end that feels a little false logically, but for the story it creates drama. And I can forgive that. There is some "Cinemax After Dark" type nudity, but the comic doesn't rely on that like a crutch. Varanda's pencils are fantastic. The women are gorgeous, the Veil infected are disturbing, and the Dragon looks awe inspiring for the "boss battle" at the end. I'm not an art critic, but doesn't this unusual panel perfectly convey motion?:

Tales of the Dragon Guard contains action, sex appeal, social commentary, horror, and it builds a world that lives and breathes with its own quirky rules. I'm completely impressed with this title, I'll keep an eye out for anything available in the states by Ange, and I'm on board with Dragon Guard for as many issues as I can find.

- Ryan

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Does Mikey Likey?

Green Hornet # 1 Dynamite Entertainment
Scripts - Kevin Smith
Pencils - Johnathon Lau
$3.99, 23 pages right in the fucking goat ass. Not to mention, at least three splash pages.

NOTE - I am not as good of a reviewer as Ryan might be, but here it is anyways. A side note, I am not a woman hater at all. I wrote all that just all for laughs. I was trying to be funny and kind of got a little on the creepy side. Forgive me.

Is this book going to come out on time, well who knows, it's a Kevin Smith book, so he might just sit at home and smoke weed all day, rather then write this book. From what we've learned in the past, we can be sure this will NOT come out on time through the entire run.

The book starts with a little green flag saying "Then" at the top of page one and The Hornet watching a meeting between the Yakuza and the Italians. He's in the rafters looking down upon this warehouse full of bad men with guns and for some unknown reason he shoots the Yakuza leader with a fucking dart gun. Now I don't claim to know The Green Hornet too well, but is he fucking suicidal? Apparently not, because he jumps down in front of all those fucking armed men and they talk to him, instead of just gunning him down. The Hornet threatens everyone with violence if they don't stop breaking the law in his town and they still don't shoot his ass. They have him dead to rights, guns aimed right at him, less than twenty feet away and they still don't shoot his ass. At this point The Hornet decides to kick the gun out of a guys hand and start whooping some ass, well this works out well for him, because at this moment Kato drives a car through the wall and knocks down about half the armed men. Kato gets out and helps Britt kick some major ass and all is well. The Italians are down and so are the Yakuza. This all seems too easy to me, but I'm not a huge fan of pulp type fiction, so this might just be the norm, but that seemed way too unrealistic to me. I would have shot that fucking green jacketed freak the instant he jumped down from the rafters.

Anyways, Green Hornet and Kato drive home and share a tender moment where Britt says goodbye to Kato. It's very touching and quite unmanly in so many ways, but I guess it works. Kato says goodbye and walks away. Britt goes upstairs and looks in on his son, at that moment Janet, his stupid fucking whore bitch, puts a gun to his back. What kind of sick bitch puts a gun to Britts back? Now I would understand it if she was protecting her child, but she apparently knows it's him before she even sticks the gun in his back.

He proceeds to kick her worthless tired ass and she says lines that are even more tired then she is. Here is a little of the wonderful dialog that Kevin Smith should be ashamed of writing. "Don't move masked man." Then as Britt has her in a fucking spine breaker hold she says this, which made me want to puke, followed by Britt saying, "Any chance you had of getting lucky tonight just went south." "Jesus Janet you're out of your mind?" This line is what sealed the deal for me. It really goes to show that Kevin Smith is smoking too much weed, or is just phoning this in. "I'm almost out of a marriage, You ever get that rough with me again" Then Britt says, "But you stuck a gun in my ribs" and then the final nail in the prose coffin, "And that's the only thing that's getting stuck anywhere in this house tonight, lemme tell ya" Fuck that bitch. She deserved to get her ass beat down. Don't stick a fucking gun in the ribs of a man that just took out the Yakuza and the Italians. That's just plain retarded. She's lucky he didn't fucking kill her.

Well after this misunderstanding and felony beating, we learn that Britt is done, his whole city is finally cleaned up. They argue about things that are so old and tired it's barely worth mentioning, but I will anyways. She claims he's said this before and doesn't believe him...yadda yadda yadda and he says that's it true and this time for sure. blah blah blah heard this all before, but I can look past that, since I'm still worried about her lack of respect for his beat down abilities. Britt claims all the bad people he needs to deal with are gone and the rest of the small crimes the local police can take care of, so he's now retiring.

So the book switches to what is now "Today" according to Kevin Smith. Some young guy, I'm guessing Britts son, is in bed and this chick is packing up her bags and leaving his apartment. He's drowsy and getting up, but he asks her what's wrong and she tells him that she's leaving him because he hasn't asked her to marry him in four years. Apparently he's a total douche bag and we are supposed to feel sorry for him. I didn't. So she leaves and there is all this press outside of his house, I'm guessing he's famous or something, and their taking his pictures while he's in his boxers. She gets in her car and drives off. He's pissed at the situation and that the press is snapping pictures so he moons them. Meanwhile we see an older man, with gray hair looking at the photo of his sons ass and all he can say is, "He's in shape. I'll say that much for my son." How hom-erotic is that?

Overall this book looks great. Johnathon did a great job penciling this and the colors are wonderful. However the story is as thin as Jean Luc Picards hair and it didn't do anything for me at all. I am disappointed in Kevin Smith on this one. He can do better than this. This is too simple for Kevin Smith. Shame on you for making me want to read this because your name is at the top.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Chronic Review: Marvel Must Have - Vengeance Of Moon Knight # 1-3

Marvel Must Have: Vengeance of the Moon Knight
Marvel Comics

Scripts: Gregg Hurwitz
Pencils: Jerome Opena
68 pages for $4.99

All right folks, let's start where I usually conclude - with price point. I'm sure I've miscounted the number of pages in this book because I was an English major, not a viable human being. But I rag on Marvel quite a bit for their Satanic pricing practices, and this......is nice. That's a lot of bang for the buck. Thank you, Marvel! More, please!

Not sure how I'd feel about that if I had purchased these just a few scant weeks ago for $3.99 per, but I imagine that blind rage might cover it. I picked this up on the recommendation of Monster Mike over at Where Monsters Dwell, because he reads a lot, he's a smart dude, and you could just tell by the way he pitched this title that it really connected with him. So I thought I'd give it a shot.

It's not unheard of for me to read Moon Knight, just so you know. It's one of my favorite concepts that just never seems to get done correctly. (Cloak & Dagger belong at the top of that list, too) I've been there through all of his many incarnations and reboots. I was there for the beginning in Werewolf By Night, I like the Moench stuff the best, I suffered through the "greater powers as the moon phases" nonsense, and the Terry Kavanagh stuff. And yeah, I was there when Stephen Platt took the world by storm (by blatantly aping Todd McFarlane) for about 5 minutes before retreating into obscurity again.

I really, really liked where Charlie Huston and Dave Finch were going when they had their shot at Moon Knight a few years ago. But like too many books, it didn't ship very often, and it took about 3.5 minutes to read an issue. I just couldn't abide waiting three months for three minutes, and dropped the book.

You can see now that Moon Knight is a character with some history and some baggage, and that's the problem. Gregg Hurwitz is in a tough spot, really. He could do the lazy thing and just plow with what he wants to do and ignore everything that's come before. There's precedent for that. He didn't do that, though. Hurwitz decided to recognize that the orphan Moon Knight left on his doorstep was a twisted, violent, bizarre son of a bitch. Hurwitz wants to radically alter that and turn him into a hero. For a little bit, at least. There's plenty of foreshadowing to suggest that this hero bit isn't going to last very long.

I respect that, and I understand that he needs to address the change of status quo inside the book that so that continuity obsessed readers can deal with it. If Hurwitz had mentioned the fact that this is a "new" Moon Knight once or twice, I think I could live with that.

Instead, Mr. Hurwitz takes the "New Moon Knight" horse, kills it stone dead, and then curb stomps it, chops off its balls, tears its legs off, turns it inside out, removes its knee caps with a Fisher Price screw driver, and then lights it on fire. You cannot go two pages in Vengeance of Moon Knight without being reminded that he used to be a psycho, but now he's trying his bestest to be super good.

Have the police mention it in the opener with dialogue, and then let the action speak for itself, please. It gets irritating to have the obvious re-stated over and over and over again.

Don't get me wrong, inside of all that slapping you in the face repeatedly with his attempt at redemption, this new Moon Knight rocks. Whenever Hurwitz is able to get out of his own way, the thing flows with passion and grace, and I'm 99% convinced that there is a really good book in there somewhere.

But it's like trying to date a moderately sexy born-again Christian chick. You're talking over dinner, and all night long all she can do is tell you the inordinate number of depraved things she used to do, but now it's all better and thank Jesus for that, don't you know.

You can tell there's something in there that you'd desperately like to nail, but you keep tripping all over the psychic baggage. "I used to just give head to every guy I ever met straight away, but those days are over now that I found Jesus. Isn't that great?"

"Yeah, thank God for that. It's a good thing I missed out on that mess." You want to respect it, but the past is being flung in your face the whole time, and mostly you find yourself wishing there was just a little of the old mentally damaged chick in there, so you could just swipe the bottomless bread basket off the table and drill her right there at the Olive Garden. But you can't, can you?

That's what it's like to read Vengeance of Moon Knight. There's just so much baggage on that character right now, I'm not sure if it's really possible to have a viable title right now. Although it's clear to me that if it were possible, Hurwitz would be a pretty darned good choice.

I don't know, perhaps I'm being unkind and too hung up on one particular gripe. It really seems like if Hurwitz would or could just let this thing BE what he wants it to be, instead of constantly having to worry about telling everyone what it ISN'T, we'd be just fine. I think if I could erase everything I know about that character and start with a clean slate, if everybody could start with a clean slate so he didn't have to announce to everyone how changed he is every five minutes, I would be as excited about this as Monster Mike.

But alas, I can't unlearn what I have learned. And that is why I fail. Or why Moon Knight fails. One or the other. Somebody be sure to call me when this chick irons out her issues so she can stop talking about them, or just goes back to being a giant whore, though. I'm in on that, for sure...

- Ryan

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chronic Review: Batman & Robin # 10

Batman & Robin # 10
DC Comics

Script: Grant Morrison
Pencils: Andy Clarke
22 pages for $2.99

I was mildly interested in this as the beginning of the "return of Bruce Wayne", and extraordinarily interested in this because it was billed as "Batman Vs. Damian." So what's the verdict?

Before I get to that, I have a confession to make. I like Damian. I like the idea of a really disturbed 10 year-old who's smarter than you are and entirely too lethal. It feels like kind of a stretch, but sometimes circumstances do create pre-teens who act as though they're 35 years old.

I watch cameras for a living, and occasionally I'll see somebody Damian's age, no adult present at all. I once watched a girl who couldn't have been more than 10 years old do her own school shopping, taking time with her selections, presenting coupons at the register. It was bizarre. The entire vibe and attitude was adult, and it was completely fascinating. Dakota Fanning always came off like that, as well. That's Damian, only with a giant dollop of evil. Maybe.

Most of the book feels like a haunted house mystery, with Dick, Alfred, and Damian trying to piece together what happened to Bruce and how to get him back. There are paintings in Wayne Manor that make it look as though Bruce Wayne has been travelling in time, working his way toward the present. Either that or there's an incredible amount of inbreeding going on, because the faces look awfully similar.

As the dynamic duo look at the paintings and look for clues or messages from the past that Bruce may have left behind from them, Damian begins to question his role should Bruce return.

This is where the juice is for me. Because for all his bluster, (and there's a gale force amount of bluster) Damian rarely does cross lines that Bruce would not. His connection to his father is extremely important to him, and it makes him complex.

As for the great "battle" between Batman and Robin, if you looked at the cover of the comic, you saw everything there was to see. And I felt quite cheated by that. What's interesting about the near-fight scene is that when Damian picks up that sword it's clear that he's suffering from some kind of programming from Talia, and not exercising free will.

I've liked everything that Morrison has done with Batman, and this is no exception. There's always this sense that all of this is an incredibly complex tapestry that he's been weaving from the beginning. There's even a "Batman and Robin will never die" reference (the very image that kicked off RIP) to remind you - I know where we've been, it's all connected, and you aint seen nothin' yet!

Morrison is now taking us down what I would think is the last chapter of his master plan, and I'm curious about where he might be headed. A secret Batcave with occult paraphernalia strewn about? An 18th century Thomas Wayne summoned an ancient bat demon? This is way more interesting than a guy with gadgets beating up drug dealers and sending costumed thugs to Arkham.

I don't think that I'll continue reading the floppies, but I'm quite convinced that I'm going to own everything Morrison wrote on Batman in trade form. If you like the character, there's no reason to be missing this book.

- Ryan

Monday, March 8, 2010

What I've Done To My Mother's House

OK, so I moved back in with my mother, in my eternal quest to fully become the 40-Year-Old Virgin. It's going along swimmingly, for the most part. My problem is that I have a lot of comic books and trades. I have A LOT.

The books I'm not so embarrassed about, because it's not just a collection, I'm running a business, a side hustle. I produce an income off the damn things, so they have a reason to be there in considerable number. So if some jackass wants to know why I have so many books, I can explain to them I just paid $30 for an Astonishing X-Men Omnibus and then turned it straight around for $129.99, and what does your hobby do for you, again?

But the comics.....oy vey. They're just sitting there. And some of them are classics, and some of them are valuable. But half of those comics I don't even know I have, will never read them again, and serve no purpose other than to take up space.

I thought I had between 6-8 long boxes of the bastards. No. I have twelve of them. TWELVE. And there just isn't space in my tiny little new room for that stuff, so instead I have turned my poor mother's basement into the most absurd spectacle of 4-color glory the world has ever seen.

Just to clarify, by the way, why wouldn't I place a Duraflame log up against my DC hardcovers? That's just classy.

And don't worry, I've got more than what's pictured. I have two more bookcases and another dozen short boxes of comics tucked into my bedroom. And no, I'm not setting a world record collection here by any stretch. But it's pretty goddamn absurd, you have to admit.

- Ryan