Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kirby Your Enthusiasm, ep. 34: My Life With Neil Gaiman

IN WHICH I talk about my history with the quirky English writer and how it grew to an obsessive love thanks to Amanda Fucking Palmer.
Plus my review of Grant Morrison's MULTIVERSITY #1.
20 minutes. Check out the podcast HERE.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Happy 75th birthday, Batman!”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1.-6. Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Frank Quitely (DC, 2014) *****
- some pieces originally published as Batman And Robin #1-3 (writer: Grant Morrison, 2009), The Sandman: Endless Nights (writer: Neil Gaiman, 2003) and The Invisibles Vol. 3 #1 (writer: Grant Morrison, 2000)
Finally finished this book and it’s amazing. Quitely’s artwork is stunning and rises well above even some of the less-than-stellar stories he was given. Sheer brilliance.

7. The Undertaker Morton Stone #1 (Gestalt, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Ben Templesmith (inc. Cover); Ashley Wood
The Undertaker Morton Stone has been locked up in Corkscrew Asylum for two years. Now he's come home to Thunderhead Cemetery and his darling (but deceased) wife, Lucinda. With his dead dog Cryptoe by his side, Morton is hellbent on finding the real Toe Nail Clipper Killer, Mr Noddy.
8. The Undertaker Morton Stone #2 (Gestalt, 2014) ****
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Gary Chaloner; Ashley Wood (interior); Ben Templesmith (cover)
The Undertaker Morton Stone and his faithful hound, Cryptoe are on the trail of the tosser Mr. Noddy. Little do they realise that Nod, the Toe Nail Clipper Killer, is on the lookout for Morty as well! Can the Undertaker get to split Noddy's corpus callosum with his spade, while avoiding that pesky a-hole Lt. Aubrey Turgid? Does Morton's spunky sister Sophie have all the clues? And are they all prepared for the dark, manky road they will have to travel to get to the munted truth?

9. Headlocked: The Last Territory Convention Special (Visionary Comics, 2014) ***½
Writer: Michael Kingston/Artists: Michel Mulipola (interior); Jill Thompson (credit page); Jerry “The King” Lawler (cover)
Kingston’s Kickstarter project to finish this insider look into the world of pro wrestling nears fruition. This is the first issue (albeit as a low-res PDF) off the factory line. From Lawler’s Saturday Evening Post-esque cover to the gritty’n’grim-but-intriguing story itself, this is a comic worth getting and supporting, especially as he a lot of big-name wrestlers besides Lawler involved with the project. Learn more about Headlocked at and!/headlockedcomic.

10.-13. Marvel Universe: Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Team-Up (Marvel, 2014) ***
- originally published in Marvel Universe: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #18, Marvel Universe: Ultimate Spider-Man #22, Marvel Universe: Hulk: Agents Of S.M.A.S.H. #4, Incredible Hulk #271 (Marvel, 1982, 2013-14)
Writers/artists: various
A mixed bag of adapted tales from various animated TV series, linked by GotG appearances. Of the first three, USM is probably the funniest, although Hulk is also a lighthearted read. The fourth tale – featuring Rocket Raccoon’s debut – is typical godawful early 80s Marvel writing by Bill Mantlo, with slumming art from Sal Buscema.
14. Stray Bullets: Killers #4 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: David Lapham
15. Moon Knight #5 (Marvel, 2014) ****½
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Declan Shalvey
Ellis finally hits his stride with this ultra-violent, poetic-yet-almost-wordless tale of Moon Knight rescuing a kidnap victim from an apartment building filled with thugs. Annoying then to learn that this is his second-to-last issue. Fuck.
16.-17. The Woods #2-3 (BOOM!, 2014) ***½
Writer: James Tynion IV/Artist Michael Dialynas
The teachers and jocks go all Lord Of The Flies on the student body as this “school-mysteriously-shipped-to-a-hostile-planet” tale picks up steam. Nasty and getting nastier.
18. The Royals: Masters Of War #6 (Vertigo, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Rob Williams/Artists: Simon Coleby & Gary Erskine
A strangely dissatisfying end to this alternative WW2 miniseries that held some promise at the beginning. In the end it all just, kinda, petered out.
19. The United States Of Murder Inc. #3 (Icon, 2014) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
20. Justice League 3000 #8 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artists: Keith Giffen & Howard Porter
21. Original Sin #5 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artists: Mike Deodato (interior), Julian Totino Tedesco (cover)
22.-23. Original Sins #2-3 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
24. Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Jason Aaron & Al Ewing/Artists: Lee Garbett & Simone Bianchi (interior), Dale Keown & Jason Keith (cover)
25. Original Sin: Hulk vs Iron Man #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Mark Waid & Kieron Gillen/Artists: Mark Bagley & Andrew Hennessey (interior), JG Jones (cover)
26. Infinity Man And The Forever People #1 (DC, 2014) ***
Writers: Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio/Artists: Keith Giffen & Scott Koblish


27.-28. Batman: Detective Comics #28-29 (DC, 2014) ***¾
Writer: John Layman/Artists: Aaron Lopresti & Art Thibert (interior), Jason Fabok (cover)
I reread the first instalment from Detective Comics #27 and was inspired to read the rest of the “Gothtopia” storyline. It was pretty good, but kinda petered out by #29.
29. Batman/Judge Dredd: Vendetta In Gotham (DC, 1993) ***
Writers: Alan Grant & John Wagner/Artists: Cam Kennedy (interior), Mike Mignola (cover)
30.-31. Batman/Judge Dredd: Die Laughing #1-2 (DC, 1998) ***¼
Writers: Alan Grant & John Wagner/Artists:Glenn Fabry, Jim Murray, Jason Brashill
32.-43. Batman: Hush (DC, 2009) ***½
- originally published in Batman 608-619, Wizard #0 (DC, 2002-03)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Jim Lee
Merely OK. A little overrated, to be honest.
44.-47. Batman: Mad Love And Other Stories (DC, 2009) ****½
- originally published in The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, The Batman Adventures Annual #1-2, etc (DC, 1994-99, 2003)
Writer: Paul Dini/Artists: Bruce Timm & friends
48.-53. Batman: The Widening Gyre (DC, 2010) ***¾
- originally published in Batman: The Widening Gyre #1-6 (DC, 2009-10)
Writer: Kevin Smith/Artists: Walter Flanagan & Art Thibert (interior), Bill Sienkiewicz (covers)
54.-57. Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC, 2008) ***½
- originally published in Detective Comics #784-86 and Batman: The Man Who Laughs (DC, 2003, 2005)
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artists: various
Ed retells the Joker’s first battle against a neophyte Batman and it’s great. His depiction of the psychotic, murderous Joker is pretty chilling in his pure, insane love of chaos and evil. The three-parter is a more by-the-numbers detective yarn co-starring the Golden Age Green Lantern. It’s probably the weakest Brubaker tale I’ve ever read.
58. Batman: Detective Comics #27 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: various
Got this free at Kings Comics as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations (also scored a free Frank Miller Batman mask and a sweet cupcake!). Sure, this is now the THIRD time I’ve read this issue (or parts thereof), but this freebie also contains a reprint of the first tale of “The Bat-Man” from the original Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Plus a sneak preview of Brad Meltzer’s reimagining of the same yarn with design work by Chip Kidd. Makes me want to catch the rest of it in the upcoming Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years.
59.-65. Batman: Under The Hood Vol. 1 (DC, 2005) ***½
- originally published in Batman #635-641 (DC, 2005)
Writer: Judd Winick/Artists: Doug Mahnke, Paul Lee, Tom Nguyen & Cam Smith (interiors); Matt Wagner (covers)
While I liked the way Winick continued the idea begun by Jeph Loeb in Hush, dealing with the return from the grave of Jason Todd as the demented vigilante Red Hood, I thought it ended kinda flat. But the Black Mask is an awesome villain.
66.-71. DC’s Greatest Imaginary Stories Vol. 2 (DC, 2010) ***
- originally published in a bunch of mags (DC, 1959-60, 1962-65, 1969, 1978)
Writers/artists: various
These feature a bunch of Batman and Robin yarns that range from silly (but entertaining) to just plain dull.
72. Batman: Death By Design (DC, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Chip Kidd/Artist: Dave Taylor
I picked this up on special during Kings’ “Batman’s 75th Anniversary Day” celebrations. I can see why they had so many remaindered copies: I can’t imagine too many fanboys being into book design and architecture. Still, if you ARE, then this is the perfect book for you as Kidd has filled this slim hardcover with both. The story’s a good noir mystery with a 1940s/50s-feel. I liked it, probably more when I reread the ending. Still...not surprised it didn’t sell well.
73. Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga #1 (DC, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: Jiro Kuwata
Speaking of Chip Kidd, I first read Kuwata’s version of Batman in his Batmanga book several years back. This new digital weekly series is reprinting the complete run of the original Batman manga from the 60s! It’s dumb in that typical “Batman of the 1960s” style, but with a vicious Japanese manga bent. Anyway, the first instalment features Batman and Robin’s first encounter with the seemingly unkillable Lord Death Man. Good stuff.
74. Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman (DC, 2001) *
Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Joe Kubert (main story)
Writer: Michael Uslan/Artist: Michael Wm. Kaluta (back-up)
Cover artists: Joe Kubert; Adam Hughes
75. Detective Comics #600 (DC, 1989) *
Writer: Sam Hamm/Artists: Denys Cowan, Dick Giordano & Frank McLaughlin (main story); Will Eisner, Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, etc (pin-ups)
This comic perfectly sums up everything that sucked about Marvel and DC in the late 80s and early 90s. A huge milestone in Batman’s publishing history is treated to poor printing, bog roll-paper quality, and a horribly written and illustrated main story that made me nearly fall asleep as I plodded through it. Oh...and by this stage in his career, every man and his dog knew Bruce Wayne was Batman and that he had a freaking cave under Stately Wayne Manor. Not good at keeping secrets are we, Bats? The only saving grace to this shockingly bad tribute issue are the pin-ups by the likes of Eisner (Batman teaming up with The Spirit), Walt Simonson and Mike Zeck. But this is pretty inept overall.
76. Gotham By Gaslight (DC, 1989) **
Writer: Brian Augustyn/Artists: Michael Mignola & P. Craig Russell
This “alternative history” version of Batman sees him do battle with Jack The Ripper in 19th century Gotham City. It’s kinda lame, has huge plot holes and I worked out the killer’s identity within the first five pages. Mignola’s art is lovely though.
77.-78. Elseworld’s Finest #1-2 (DC, 1997) ***¼
Writer: John Francis Moore/Artists: Kieron Dwyer & Hilary Barta
Mid-30s Doc Savage-style action featuring very different versions of Superman, Batman, Lex Luthor and others. It’s passable, light fluff. But nothing great.
79.-85. Batman Black & White Vol. 2 (DC, 2002) ****
- originally published in Gotham Knights #17-49 (DC, 2001-02)
Writers/artists: various
86.-96. Batman Black & White Vol. 3 (DC, 2007) ***¾
- originally published in Gotham Knights #1-16 (DC, 2001-04)
Writers/artists: various

97.-101. Juice Squeezers Vol. 1: The Great Bug Elevator (Dark Horse, 2014) ****
- originally published in Dark Horse Presents #26-28 and Juice Squeezers #1-4  (Dark Horse, 2013-14)
Writer/artist: David Lapham

102. Bunny & Rink #1 (Ninja Cafe Comics, 2014) **½
Writer: Zach Dominello/Artist: Seb Dominello
TV cartoons like Adventure Time and Regular Show have a lot to answer for. Now, a ton of shitty cartoonists with a “hipster” sense of humour think they can write and draw post-ironic kids’ comics that “adults will loooooove, too”. This painfully obvious attempt is about two ninjas: Rink manages a cafe while Bunny is a platypus. They meet, become friends, beat up other ninjas and get home in time to watch rasslin’ (yes, that’s the only reason why I bought it). Scrappy art, hip “humour”...I can see the demographic they’re going for. It’s just not me, thank fuck. Glad I only bought this for a buck as a digital comic.
103.-105. Future’s End #8-10 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: many

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


KRANBURN is a local comic that deserves your support. I picked up the first three issues at OzComicon in Melbourne two years ago, but only read them last month. It's a post-apocalyptic tale set in what's left of Melbourne and its surrounding areas. A bunch of survivors must fend off a growing horde of wasteland savages while not tearing themselves apart in the walled settlement they live in. Imagine Mad Max 2 crossed with The Walking Dead (or maybe Crossed) and you get an idea where Kranburn is coming from.
The comic is now up to issue 10. So you need to check out what writer/artist Ben Michael Byrne  is doing. It's savage, it's action-packed, it features NOSE BITING. What's not to love about it?

Digital for sale at:

Monday, July 21, 2014

COMICS READING FOR JUNE: “Hello, Mr Davis...thank you for everything”

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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1.-5. Captain Britain (Marvel, 2002/05) ****
-originally published in X-Men Archives#2 (partial), #3-7 (Marvel, 1995). Prior to that, published in various Marvel UK weekly titles
Writer: Alan Moore/Artist: Alan Davis
6.-10. Captain Britain (Marvel, 1988) ***½
- originally published in various Marvel UK weekly titles
Writers: Alan Davis & Jamie Delano/Artist: Alan Davis
The first Captain Britain arc is uneven but has enough wonderfully weird ideas –including sneaky appearances by Young Marvelman and Marvelman – that I enjoyed it a lot. But when Davis (occasionally joined by Delano) takes over the writing helm for the second arc, things fall apart. Maybe it’s because a weekly instalment has to move the story along pretty fast, but reading the second arc in one hit is tough going. Characters change personalities and motives in the seeming blink of an eye. So...uneven and unsatisfying. Still, Davis’s art is exquisite.
And I got the first volume signed by Davis at Supanova, so I’m not complaining.

11.-16. Squadron Supreme: Death Of A Universe (Marvel, 2006) ***
-originally published in Squadron Supreme: Death Of A Universe, Thor #280, Avengers #5-6, 1998 Annual, Squadron Supreme: New World Order (Marvel, 1989-98)
Writers: Mark Gruenwald & friends/Artists: Paul Ryan, George Perez & friends
A confusing, ultimately dissatisfying collection of the key tales in the history of Marvel’s JLA rip-off following the original, underrated Squadron Supreme maxiseries. Plot holes, inconsistent characterisations, massive continuity errors...this nine-year history of an alternative Earth’s super-team is littered with beautiful art and generally woeful writing. Also, the squadron’s arrival on our Earth between Death Of A Universe and Avengers #5 – documented in several issues of the Quasar series in the early 90s – is regrettably omitted from this TPB. In its place, we’re given a nonsensical (I assume fill-in) issue of Thorthat screws with the squadron’s continuity (it’s horribly drawn by a slumming Wayne Boring from a woeful script by Don & Maggie Thompson and Roy Thomas). It’s the nadir of an ultimately underwhelming collection. Still, I got it signed by Paul Ryan at Supanova in mid-June, so I’m happy.

17.-21 Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale (Archie Comics, 2014) ****½
- originally published in Afterlife With Archie #1-5 (Archie Comics, 2013-14)
Writer: Roberto Aguirre Sacasa. Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Read my blog entry about this graphic novel HERE.

22. Green Lantern/Superman: Legend Of The Green Flame (DC, 2000) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artists: various
The story behind this oddball prestige-format comic would take forever for me to document (look it up online). Ultimately, it’s a byproduct of Action Comics Weekly’s demise in the mid-80s combined with the Crisis On Infinite Earths upheaval that fucked up the entire DC line. This early Gaiman script was scrapped due to discarded continuity, but was thankfully revived 12 years later in this delightful story that features artwork from Frank Miller, John Totleben, Mike Allred and others. A forgotten gem that I was very happy to unearth in Elizabeth’s Bookshop.

23. Christopher Daniels and Kazarian Wrestle AW YEAH COMICS! #1 (Aw Yeah, 2014) ***
Writers: Franco Aureliani, Christopher Daniels/Artists: Franco Aureliani, Art Baltazar, Denver Brubaker, Frankie Kazarian, Scott “Scoot” McMahon
Former TNA wrestlers Christopher Daniels and Kazarian of tag team Bad Attitude sip a very special apple martini (actually a bottle of Super Secret Inter-Dimensional Transit Potion) that sends them to the Aw Yeah! universe. It’s soon a tag team war between Bad Attitude, Action Cat and Adventure Bug. This is the benefit of digital comics. Paying $3 to read an online version was totally worthwhile. It’s a fluffy 5-10-minute fun read. But if I’d tried to buy a hard copy direct from the company, it would have cost me $20 (inc. Airmail p&h), and I would’ve been extremely pissed off. So yay for digital, in this case from Comixology (

24. Minimum Wage #6 (Image, 2014) ****½
Writer/Artist: Bob Fingerman
I’m marking down this issue for TWO reasons: 1. It’s the last instalment in this arc and Fingerman won’t be putting out another issue till 2015. Boo! 2. He’s running a contest in this ish to find the clues he’s sprinkled throughout this issue and ID the British sitcom they’re from. Do you think I can work it out? Fuck, no! And neither can everyone else I've asked. Damn you, Fingerman, damn you to hell.
25.-28. White Like She TPB (Fantagraphic Books, 1998) **¾
- originally published in White Like She #1-4 (Dark Horse, 1994)
Writer/Artist: Bob Fingerman
One of Bob’s less successful efforts, this sci-fi tale of a middle-aged black man having his brain transplanted into a teenage white gal’s body is too try-hard and preachy when it comes to tackling gender and racial politics in America in the 90s. The art is a little too stiff, hyper-realistic yet unreal for my tastes as well. Bob got more into a more cartoony-yet-natural-feeling groove with Minimum Wage a few years later. Let’s chalk this down to “noble experiment” and move on.

29. Epic #1 (Comix Tribe, 2014) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artist: Fico Ossio
Cartoony art aside, this is a fun superhero yarn about a high school kid who attains superpowers. His Kryptonite? Pretty women!  Good stuff from Mr James.
30. The Astonishing Lloyd Llewellyn #3 (Fantagraphic Books, 1986) **¾
Writer/Artist: Daniel Clowes
Early, uneven sci-fi/hard-boiled detective mash-up by a pre-Eightball Daniel Clowes. Not entirely good, to be honest. I’m so glad I scored this rare-as-hen’s teeth comic for a mere $3 from Elizabeth’s in Pitt Street, Sydney rather than chase down the even-rarer trades online and waste my money.

40.-55. Burger Force #1-16 (self-published, 2009-14) ****
Writer/Artist/”Director”: Jackie Ryan
I interviewed Aussie creator Jackie about her remarkable, off-kilter photo-comic two years back at OzComicon in Melbourne and a lot has happened for her since then. Multiple awards, a successful 16-issue run and one of her “lead models/characters”, Remi Hii, is now a noted, award-winning TV actor in his own right. This surreal/60s spy pastiche/black comedy is wonderful and easily the best comic being produced in Australia today. Pick up all 16 issues to date NOW at

56. EAP’s Morella and the Murders In The Rue Morgue (Dark Horse, 2014) ***
Writer/artist: Richard Corben
57.-60. It Came! #1-4 (Titan Comics, 2013) ***½
Writer/artist: Dan Boultwood
61. Death Sentence #1 (Titan Comics, 2013) ***½
Writer: Montynero/Artists: Mike Dowling (interior), Montynero (cover)
62. Ordinary #1 (Titan Comics, 2014) ***½
Writer: Rob Williams/Artist: D’Israeli
63. That’s Because You’re A Robot (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: David Quantick/Artist: Shaky Kane
64. Real Heroes #3 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Bryan Hitch/Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary w/- Andrew Currie
65. The Many Harold Holts Of Space And Time (self-published, 2014) ***½
Writer: Ryan K. Lindsay/Artist: Louie Joyce
66.-68. Kranburn #1-3 (FEC Comics, 2011-12) ***
Writer/artist: Ben Michael Byrne

69. Retro Sci-Fi Tales #1 (DarkOz, 2014) ***½
Writers/artists : various
Beautiful quality, full-colour comic featuring  an eclectic line-up of writers and artists. Very inconsistent in quality, but some real highlights in this mag including Michal Dutkiewicz’s gorgeous cheesecake cover, plus solid interior work from Douglas Holgate, Alister Lockhart and Greg Holfeld.
70. Starlight #4 (Image, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Goran Parlov
71. MPH #2 (Image, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Duncan Fegredo
72.-74. Future’s End #5-7 (DC, 2014) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
75. Spacehawk #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) ***
Writer/artist: Basil Wolverton
Classic artwork from the Golden Age.
76. She-Hulk #5 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Charles Soule/Artist: Ron Wimberly
77. Justice League 3000 #7 (DC, 2014) ***¾
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artists: Keith Giffen & Howard Porter
78. The Returning #4 (BOOM!, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Jason Starr/Artist: Andrea Mutti
79. Moon Knight #4 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Declan Shalvey
80. The United States of Murder Inc. #2 (Icon, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
81. The Royals: Masters Of War #5 (Vertigo, 2014) ***½
Writer: Rob Williams/Artists: Simon Coleby & Gary Erskine
82.-83. Original Sin #3-4 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artists: Mike Deodato (interior), Julian Totino Tedesco (cover)
84. Original Sins #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
85. Silver Surfer #3 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
86.-87. Dream Police #2-3 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artists: Sid Kotian (interior), Sid Kotian & Bill Farmer (cover)
88.-93. Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Frank Quitely (DC, 2014) *****
- some pieces originally published as Batman: Scottish Connection (writer: Alan Grant, 1998) and The Kingdom: Offspring #1 (writer: Mark Waid, 1999)
I started reading this at the end of the month and I got up to page 190 of this awesome book. To be continued...


Monday, June 9, 2014

COMIC REVIEW: Jug(un)dead

1.-5 Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: Escape from Riverdale (Archie Comics, 2014) ****½
- originally published in Afterlife With Archie #1-5 (Archie Comics, 2013-14)
Writter: Roberto Aguirre Sacasa. Artist: Francesco Francavilla

Even if AWA wasn’t a zombie comic, it’d still be a dark little comic. There’s a sinister undertone running through the first five issues that could have been explored even if it didn’t feature an undead apocalypse led by Jughead (who becomes zombified after being bitten by his supernaturally revived dog - shades of Pet Semetary there).
All the unpleasant and just plain wrong aspects of the regular Archie universe are amplified here, making Riverdale like a four-colour Twin Peaks. Archie is pursued by Veronica and Betty, two BFFs who spend most of their time abusing and backstabbing each other to a sociopathic degree. Archie describes Reggie as his “bud”, even though Reggie is clearly a nasty guy (his initial act – killing Jughead’s dog Hot Dog in a hit’n’run – is the catalyst for the mayhem that follows), who later shows himself to be both unhinged and a homophobe.

Obviously, Riverdale's only openly homosexual character, Kevin Keller, is here. But there's other psycho-sexual shenanigans on display in the first arc. Chuck's girlfriend Nancy is revealed to be in a secret lesbian relationship with Ginger.
Betty and Veronica's rival for Archie's affection, Cheryl Blossom, has the most perverse subplot of all - she's seemingly in an incestuous relationship with twin brother Jason (although this is implied and could merely be Jason's wishful thinking. Even if it's only that, it's still pretty damn sick).
Speaking of sick, Veronica’s hatred of Archie borders on psychopathic, but maybe it’s justified. Archie seems brave on the surface, but he’s clearly a neurotic loser who loves sitting on the fence while two hot chicks war for his affection. A nicer guy would just make clear who he truly wants to date (or fuck) and let the other chick down easily. Archie’s such a wimp he leads both girls on – it’s cruel and even a little mean...except you suspect Archie’s probably more dumb than mean. As Veronica’s butler astutely states at one point, “Archie Andrews doesn’t deserve you.”
As for Sabrina the Teenage Witch, who uses necromancy to revive Jughead’s beloved pet, she is banished to a netherworld early in the piece as punishment by her two aunties and is unable to reverse or stop the tragedy that soon befalls Riverdale. As for Hilda and Zelda, their true countenances when angered reveal they are more demons than witches.
Once AWA settles into the typical zombie tropes – although, unlike The Walking Dead, these zombies run – it’s a little predictable and the only real surprises are which of our beloved childhood cartoon characters are next in line to be turned into shambling flesh-eaters and who will live to run another day. (Sorry, Principal Weatherbee fans, but he gets munched on in the first issue.)

This first arc ends with a motley crew of survivors fleeing a burning Riverdale as the zombie plague spreads throughout America and a somewhat sentient Jughead becomes more than just a crown-wearing buffoon, he’s now King of the Zombies.
The best way to follow this series is via the trades as you get to see the dozens of alternative covers drawn by Francavilla, a true artistic find.
Even if you’re sick of zombie comics, there’s much to appreciate in this series. But a part of me wishes Sacasa had dropped the whole undead motif and focused on the true sickness that lies festering beneath the surface of Archie Andrews’ world.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The problem with RACHEL RISING - an extra thought

AS MUCH as I disparage Terry Moore's pricing policy for RACHEL RISING, I really want to reiterate how great this series is. I heartily recommend you pick up the first four volumes, which covers the first 24-issue arc. But I wonder how Moore will do now that the driving story of the first arc is now over. In some ways, it reminds me of David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS. The first season was awesome as it revolved around the search for Laura Palmer's killer and all the weirdness that surrounded the case. Once the killer (SPOILER: it was her father under the influence of the otherworldy demon "Bob") was caught, it seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the series. The second season just wasn't very good because there was no real reason for viewers to hang around and watch the general weirdness without a driving major plot being resolved. In RACHEL RISING, the evil of Lilith and Malus was defeated at the end of Volume 4. So now we're left with two undead friends, a sociopathic 50yo woman trapped in the body of a child and a doctor who fucks his wife's corpse at night. That's one step away from the cast of GOLDEN GIRLS! Anyway, Moore has begun a new arc where the Scooby Gang are looking for a friend's murderer, but it all seems forced. I really think the series would have ended perfectly at the end of #24, but Moore clearly wants to milk his cash cow a while longer. It'll be interesting whether he can maintain the quality of the first arc with this run.

COMICS READING FOR MAY: “Stray thoughts”


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

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

161 comics in a month? I will NEVER do that again.
1. Mouse Guard, Labyrinth and Other Stories (Archaia, 2014) ****
Writers/Artists: various
2. Zombie Tramp (Action Lab: Danger Zone, 2014) **
Writers/Artists: various
3. Help The CBDF Defend Comics (CBLDF, 2014) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
4. 2000AD (Rebellion, 2014) ***¾
Writers/Artists: various
5. Epic #0 (Comix Tribe, 2014) ***½
Writer: Tyler James/Artist: Matt Zolman with Fico Ossio and Vic Moya
6. The Dumbest idea Ever! (Scholastic, 2014) ***½
Writer/artist: Jimmy Gownley 
7. Guardians Of The Galaxy (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writers/artists: various
8. Courtney Crumrin #1 (Oni, 2014) ****
- originally published in Courtney Crumrin #1 (Oni, 2012)
Writer/artist: Ted Naifeh
9. Future’s End #0 (DC, 2014) ****
Writers/artists: many
10. Rocket Raccoon #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
Writers/artists: various
11.-14. Giant-Size Action/Thrills/Adventure/Fantasy (Red Giant Entertainment, 2014) **** for the concept
Writers/artists: various
15. Teen Titans Go! #1 (DC, 2014) ***¼
Writers: Sholly Fisch, Merrill Hagan/Artists: Ben Bates, Jorge Corona
16. The Tick (NEC, 2014) ***
Writer: Jeff McClelland/Artists: Duane Redhead, Ian Chase Nichols
17. Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics, 2014) **¾
Writers/artists: various 
18. Buck Rogers (Hermes Press, 2014) ****½
Writers/artists: various
Despite publisher Daniel Herman being a douchebag of the highest order, his reprinting of this seminal newspaper serial is superb, and this comic is a joy to read. But it still loses half a star due to Herman being a cunt.
* Listen to my podcast HERE for my thoughts on FCBD 2014.

19. Streets #1 (DC, 1993) **¾
Writer: James D. Hudnall/Artist: John Estes
Overly earnest, slightly overwrought and not-all-that-believable crime yarn – about a flawed cop trying to solve the murders of two teen runaways – from the usually reliable Hudnall. Este does a beautiful cover but his interior art is patchy.
20. The Great Society Comic Book #1 (Parallax, 1966) **
Writer: DJ Arneson/Artist: Tony Tallarico
Badly drawn, poorly written but this remains possibly the wackiest “satire” comic I’ve ever read. LBJ, Nixon, Robert and Ted Kennedy and more are depicted as superheroes. Any comic that uses the Ku Klux Klan for comedy is either pure genius or utterly inept.
21. Space Ghost (Comico, 1987) ***
Writers: Mark Evanier & Steve Rude/Artists: Steve Rude & Willie Blyberg

22.-27. Rachel Rising Vol. 1: The Shadow Of Death (Abstract Studio, 2012) ****½
- originally published in Rachel Rising #1-6 (Abstract Studio, 2011-12)
Writer/artist: Terry Moore
I’m sure that Moore is a tad pissed off that both Revival (Image) and The Returning (BOOM!) more than likely stole their ideas and his thunder – about the dead returning to life, with demonic intentions in mind – from Rachel Rising. Still, this is the first series that used the concept and it remains quite possibly the best. The only thing stopping me from giving this first trade a perfect score? The outrageous price for a 120-page book that took me 30 minutes to read. And I got it with a 20% discount on FCBD! Fuck! I’ll wait till someone gives me a disc of the other three trades in the series before I give it five stars. Damned if I’ll pay for a rip-off.

28. Twist #1 (Kitchen Sink Comix, 1987) ***
Writers/Artists: various
Clowes, Bagge, Wolverton, Friedman could this not be a hit? Well, maybe because it feels like leftovers. Like these guys had bits’n’pieces they couldn’t get published elsewhere, so they gave them to Twist. This underground attempt at a Mad-style comic just feels thrown together and too retro for the 80s. Really, it feels more like a zine than a comic.
29.-31. The Spirit #4-5, 9 (Kitchen Sink Comix, 1984-85) *****
Writer/Artist: Will Eisner & friends
The colour and printing is beautiful for #4-5, but drops dramatically in #9. I wonder why.
32. Siegel And Schuster: Dateline 1930s (Eclipse, 1984) ***½
Writer: Jerry Siegel/Artist: Joe Schuster
Lovely pre-Superman work by two seminal figures in the biz. Really, this is just a taster/sampling of what might have been when the duo worked on the first (never published) issue of Popular Comics. Ah, what might have been.
33. The ACME Novelty Library #1 (Fantagraphics, 1993) ****
Writer/Artist: Chris Ware
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth may well be the saddest (although exquisitely drawn) comic I’ve ever read. But with 759 panels in the one book, this is easily one of the hardest comics I’ve ever read. Pity the man with poor eyesight.
34. Anything Goes! #2 (Fantagraphics, 1986) ****¼
Writers/Artists: various
Featuring Alan Moore’s legendary ode to the comics of yesteryear, Pictopia (which eerily predicted the dark, grim direction mainstream comics would head before he inadvertently pushed it in that direction through Watchmen). Ther’s also Kirby & Sinnott, Spiegelman and Jaime Hernandez. Anthology gold!

35. Andre The Giant: Life And Legend (First Second, 2014) *****
Writer/artist: Box Brown
An amazing, highly readable trade paperback examining Andre's life. I came away from the book liking Andre more than I did in the past despite the book showing how flawed he was as a human being. Even non-wrestling fans would enjoy this TPB. 

36. Real Heroes #2 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Bryan Hitch/Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary
Better than the first ish. I’ll give it one more.
37. The Returning #3 (Boom!, 2014) ***½
Writer: Jason Starr/Artists: Andrea Mutti (interiors); Frazer Irving (covers)
38. Minimum Wage #5 (Image, 2014) *****
Writer/Artist: Bob Fingerman
39. Starlight #3 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Goran Parlov
40. WWE Superstars #4 (Super Genius, 2014) **¾
Writer: Mick Foley & Shane Riches/Artist: Alitha E. Martinez & Puste
41. Protectors Inc. #6 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Gordon Purcell & Andrew Pepoy
42. The Royals: Masters Of War #4 (Vertigo, 2014) ***½
Writer: Rob Williams/Artist: Simon Coleby
43. Justice League 3000 #6 (DC, 2014) ***½
Writers: Keith Giffen & JM DeMatteis/Artist: Howard Porter
44. Krampus! #5 (Image, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Brian Joines/Artist: Dean Kotz
45. She-Hulk #4 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Charles Soule/Artist: Javier Pulido
46. New Warriors #4 (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writer: Christopher Yost/Artist: Marcus To
Not wowing my socks off. This series is dead to me.
47.-48. Deadly Class #4 (Image, 2014) ****¼
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Wes Craig
49. Black Science #6 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: Rick Remender/Artists: Matteo Scalera; Dean White
50. Moon Knight #3 (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Declan Shalvey
The weakest issue to date. I hope this is all leading somewhere substantial, Warren.
51. The Field #2 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: Ed Brisson/Artist: Simon Roy
And things just get weirder.
52.-53. Rover Red Charlie #5-6 (Avatar, 2014) ****
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Michael DiPascale
This is leading to an ugly ending, but this miniseries has been pretty awesome so far.
54. The Auteur #2 (Oni Press, 2014) ****
Witer: Rick Spears/Artist: James Callahan
Deliciously demented.
55. Black Dynamite #2 (IDW, 2014) **¾
Writers: Brian Ash & Yassir Lester/Artists: Marcelo Ferreira & Sal Buscema
Evaporated while I was reading it. I’m not down with getting a third issue, brutha.
56. Tales From The Edge #15 (Vanguard, 1999) *
This Bill Sienkiewicz art special with exclusive interview is intermittently interesting and infuriating, primarily due to Vanguard’s poor design skills. Whoever designed their mags and books back then needs to be anally raped ’cos the dude had no idea how to design. Seriously, who did he blow to get the gig? The eye-destroying layouts totally ruin Bill’s artwork and detract from his interview. An all-round shoddy effort by Vanguard.

57. Dream Police #1 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: JMS/Artist: Sid Kotian
An intriguing premise. Cops police people’s dreams battling nightmares, lucid dreamers and more. So why did one of the detectives change gender at the end of the first issue? Hmmm...I’m intrigued.
58. The United States of Murder Inc. #1 (Icon, 2014) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Alternative American tale about the Mafia winning the war against crime and capturing half of the USA. It caught my attention. A real return to form from Bendis.
59. The Woods #1 (BOOM!, 2014) ***¾
Writer: James Tynion IV/Artist: Michael Dialynas
A school is mysteriously transported to a hostile planet in another galaxy. Another interesting premise.
60.-62. Original Sin #0-2 (Marvel, 2014) ***¾
Writers: Mark Waid, Jason Aaron/Artists: Jim Cheung, Paco Medina, Mike Deodato, Mark Morales & friends
I don’t normally get sucked into mainstream crossover “events”, but this one looks kinda cool. Who shot The Watcher? I’ll try to stick to just the core issues and enjoy this murder mystery.
63. MPH #1 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Duncan Fegredo
64.-65. Southern Bastards #1-2 (Image, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Jason Latour
Good southern gothic crime tale, but I wish Latour had finished off his stunning first series Loose Ends before moving onto this one.
66. Trees #1 (Marvel, 2014) ***¼
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Jason Howard
67. C.O.W.L. #1 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel/Artist: Rod Reis

68.-86. Rachel Rising #7-25 (Abstract Studio, 2012) *****
Writer/artist: Terry Moore
A friend downloaded these issues for me off the net for nix. Instantly, they’re worth every penny I spent on them. A fucking fantastic series, made even better by the knowledge that Terry Moore isn’t ripping me off. Suck on that, Tezza.

87. Guardians Of The Galaxy Prelude #2 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning/Artists: Wellinton Alves & Manny Clark
88-89. Miracleman #5-6 (Marvel, 2014) *****
- originally published in various comics (1954-55, 1983)
Writers: Alan Moore, Mick Anglo/Artists: Garry Leach, Alan Davis, John Ridgway, Mick Anglo, Don Lawrence
90.-93. Deadenders #1-4 (Vertigo, 2000) ***½
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artists: Warren Pleece & Richard Case (interiors), Philp Bond covers)
94.-99. Wisdom #1-6 (Marvel MAX, 2007) ***½
Writer: Paul Cornell/Artists: Trevor Hairsine & Paul Neary (#1-2), Manuel Garcia & Mark Farmer (#3-6)
Pete Wisdom was Marvel’s desperate attempt to copy DC’s John Constantine. He doesn’t quite make it, but this is still an entertaining, off-kilter and ultimately bleak “superhero” tale set in the UK.
100.-102. The Extremist #2-4 (Vertigo, 1993) ***
Writer: Peter Milligan/Artist: Ted McKeever
A deeply unpleasant miniseries.
103. All-New Doop #2 (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writer: Peter Milligan/Artist: David LaFuente
A far cry from The Extremist.
104. Velvet #5 (Image, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Steve Epting
105. Silver Surfer #2 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
106.-110. The Damned: Vol. 1: Three Days Dead (Oni Press, 2007) ***½
- originally published in The Damned #1-5 (Oni Press, 2006-07)
Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artist: Brian Hurtt
Before they hit a home run with their supernatural western yarn The Sixth Gun, Bunn & Hurtt did this 1930s supernatural gangster yarn that DIDN’T hit a home run. A lot of the ideas used in this short series were clearly recycled for The Sixth Gun. Nothing wrong with that. Practice makes perfect, right boys?
111.-113. Superior Showcase #1-3 (AdHouse Books, 2008) ***½
Writers/artists: various
Indie creators tackle superheroes and the results are extremely off-key. My favourite short stories were Ace-Face by Mike Dawson, The Awesomest Super-Guy, Hollis by Farel Dalrymple  and Roger Langridge’s cover for #3.
114.-117. Future’s End #1-4 (DC, 2014) ***¾
Writers: Brian Azzarello, Jeff Lemire, Dan Jurgens & Keith Giffen/Artists: Patrick Zircher, Jesus Merino, Dan Jurgens, Dan Green & friends
Set five years in the future, this intriguing crossover examines a future Batman’s attempt to try to change the past and stop Mister Terrific from inventing OMAC, who we know (from #0) goes on to conquer and destroy Earth. Can I stick with a weekly series. Well, I’ll give it a go. It’s been strong so far.

118.-158. Stray Bullets: Über Alles Edition (Image, 2014) *****
- originally published in Stray Bullets #1-41 (El Capitan, 1995-2005, 2014)
Writer/artist: David Lapham
159.-161. Stray Bullets: Killers #1-3 (Image, 2014) *****
Writer/artist: David Lapham
Fuck me, this is very, very good. Lapham - whose mainstream work can be hit and miss - does a dark, twisted noir tale that reads like Twin Peaks meets Love & Rockets. The giant collection strained my neck and back muscles as I read it, but it was totally worth the effort. The new series - which really just continues the old series - has already gripped me. You don't need me to tell you anymore: just fucking buy the book AND the new series.