* 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
SO, MAY was a month where I decided to read a complete run of a particular series or miniseries. It meant I finally knocked over some titles I’d collected but never bothered to read at the time, some of which had been sitting around for up to EIGHT YEARS. Let’s see what I thought of these various titles and whether they had an impact on me when they were read in one hit.
1.-12. Jersey Gods #1-12 (Image, 2009-10) ***¼
Writer: Glen Brunswick/Artists: Dan McDaid (interiors); Michael Allred, Paul Pope, Erik Larsen and Darwyn Cooke (covers)
Jack Kirby’s New Gods meets Jersey Shore meets The Sopranos? This series tried to be a lot of things, but clearly it failed as it was unceremoniously axed after only 12 issues. To be honest, Brunswick isn’t the greatest writer, McDaid’s art was mediocre and the rushed conclusion just smacked of...sucky rushed’ness. Had its moments, but this series didn’t deserve to carry on.
13.-25. The Filth (Image, 2017) ***¾
- originally published in The Filth #1-13 (Image, 2002-03)
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artists: Chris Weston and Gary Erskine (interiors); Carlos Segura (covers)
My problem with The Filth when I first read it in 2002-03 was that I consumed it as individual floppies, so there was a month’s gap between issues. It just didn’t make any sense to me. Re-reading it 15 years later in one hit and this mind-bending series still makes little sense, but I can admire Morrison’s madness and desire to cram as many ideas as possible into one maxi-series. Ned Slade is part of an elite secret super-cop defense system protecting the world from the disgusting CRAP that threatens to overwhelm it at times. Giant killer sperm, micro-colonies of I-Life creatures, unkillable super-assassins, self-made superheroes, insane cruise ship-dwelling pirates, dope-smoking Soviet ape cosmonauts, youth-stealing serial killers and more. But is Ned Slade real? Or is it his “cover identity” of Greg Feely – aging masturbator, cat lover and possible paedophile – the real person and Ned the fake identity? My head kinda exploded around issue #10, so I can’t answer that for certain. This is a very ambitious series and I’m glad I reread it. Do I understand it? No, I do not.
26.-37. The Defenders #1-12 (Marvel, 2012-13) ***
Writer: Matt Fraction/Artists: Terry and Rachel Dodson (interiors #1-3, 7); Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Thies (interior #4); Mitch Breitweiser (interior #5); Victor Ibañez, Tom Palmer and Terry Pallot (interior #6); Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton (interiors #8-10); Mirco Pierfederici (interiors #11-12) Terry and Rachel Dodson (covers #1-9, 11-12); Joe Quinones (cover #10)
Not one of Fraction’s better efforts – you can really see him being “oh-so-clever” and disappearing up his own arsehole with this “tribute” to 70s Marvel titles like The Defenders, Omega The Unknown and Jack Kirby’s Black Panther. Ultimately, he unleashes that hoary old deus ex machina of “Dr Strange goes back in time and undoes all the damage”. The Black Panther doesn’t die, the world isn’t destroyed, The Defenders were never re-formed. All in all, this circle jerk of a maxi-series was a waste of time.
38. Seeker 3000 Premiere #1 (Marvel, 1998) **¼
- originally published in Marvel Premiere #41 (Marvel, 1978)
Writer: Doug Moench/Artists: Tom Sutton (interior); Dave Cockrum and Joe Sinnott (original cover); Andrew Currie and Art Nichols (current cover)
39.-42. Seeker 3000 #1-4 (Marvel, 1998) **½
Writer: Dan Abnett and Ian Edginton/Artists: Andrew Currie and Art Nichols (#1-2); Andrew Currie and Andy Lanning (#3-4)
Pedestrian, wannabe Star Trek/Battlestar Galactica one-shot from 1978 was inexplicably reprinted, then reimagined two decades later. Abnett and Edginton desperatedly wanted this miniseries to become an ongoing series, but it’s just so fucking MEH. Earth’s last survivors are on a gigantic spaceship hurtling through the void looking for a new planet to repopulate. They meet friendly aliens, unfriendly aliens, an evil spaceship computer and the hint of a future plotline involving a murder mystery that will never got resolved ’cos nobody bought Seeker 3000...except me.
43. Marvel Premiere #50 (Marvel, 1979) *
Writers: Alice Cooper, Jim Salicrup, Roger Stern and Ed Hannigan/Artists: Tom Sutton and Terry Austin
Shock-rocker Alice Cooper is inexplicably dumped in an insane asylum and reduced to making bad puns. The story is loosely based on lyrics from his album From The Inside. It’s pretty lame.
44.-46. The Last Temptation #1-3 (Marvel Music, 1994-95) **
Writers: Alice Cooper and Neil Gaiman/Artists: Michael Zulli (interiors); Dave McKean (covers)
Fifteen years later, Alice had another go to promote a new album via a comic. At least The Last Tempation drops the comedy and aims for a horror theme. Alice is The Devil (or some supernatural equivalent) trying to tempt Steven at Halloween to sell his soul and join his travelling theatre troupe. It’s a bit naff, but Zulli’s art is lovely, as is McKean’s collage-style covers. It’s hard for me to say this, but The Last Temptation miniseries is a rare misfire by Gaiman.
47.-52. Last Gang In Town (Vertigo, 2016) DUD
- originally published in Last Gang In Town #1-6 (Vertigo, 2016)
Writer: Simon Oliver/Artists: Rufus Dayglo and friends (interiors); Rob Davis (covers)
I didn’t even know I’d bought this trade till I rediscovered it a few weeks ago. Why did I buy it? Maybe I liked the concept of a 70s punk band turned Robin Hood-style thieves and targeting The Queen’s Crown Jewels. Yeah, I liked the concept. Shame the execution is so fucking bad. This is just a terribly pretentious, annoyingly left-wing, oh-so-righteous comic where a cartoonish, complicated plot and Tank Girl-style art (that’s NOT a compliment) leads to a whole lot of nothing. The Queen is evil. Punk is good (but the Sex Pistols and Malcolm McLaren were bad). Everything about 70s England was bad. Anarchy and crime is good. Bollocks! Utter garbage.
53.-54. Journey: Wardrums (Fantagraphics, 1987-90) ****
Writer/Artist: William Messner-Loebs
Three years between drinks is too long for a comic series, even one as enthralling as tale of the French-British war in Canada in 1812. It was meant to go for six issues, but only lasted two. Shame.
55.-59. Heralds (Marvel, 2010) **
- originally published in Heralds #1-5 (Marvel, 2010)
Writer: Kathryn Immonen/Artists: Tonci Zonjic, James Harren and Emma Rios (interiors); Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic (covers)
Captain Marvel, Hellcat, Emma Frost, Valkyrie and She-Hulk are thoroughly manhandled by Immonen who can’t write for shit. The art is okay, but there are far too many inconsistencies and shallow characterisations of the various female heroes who are thrown together for the lamest of reasons (“it’s Emma Frost’s birthday”). Lame.
60.-63. Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks #1-4 (Marvel Knights, 2004-05) **
Writer: Bruce Jones/Artist: Jae Lee
Nice art, but the story is nonexistent.
64.-67. Heroes Reborn: The Return #1-4 (Marvel, 1997) **¼
Writer: Peter David/Artists: Salvador Larroca, Art Thibert and friends
Considering this was how they brought back the real Marvel heroes back to the main Marvel U, this is pretty lame.
68.-71. Onslaught Unleashed #1-4 (Marvel, 2011) **½
Writer: Sean McKeever/Artists: Filipe Andrade (interiors), Humberto Ramos and Morry Hollowell (#1 cover), Morry Hollowell (#2-4 covers)
An anti-climactic conclusion to one of my fave shortlived series, Young Allies.
72.-87. FF #1-16 (Marvel, 2013-14) ***
Writers: Matt Fraction and Lee Allred/Artist: Michael Allred
Great art and a typically quirky Fraction story. I’m not surprised it only lasted 16 issues, although apparently this was a deliberate decision. The storyline seems to be a bit fractured, though, and certain plot strands don’t make any sense in hindsight...like the future old John Storm who returns to Earth to warn the new FF about the demise of the old Fantastic Four...who aren’t dead anyway.
88.-91. Mutant, Texas: Tales Of Sheriff Ida Red #1-4 (Oni Press, 2012) ***¼
Writer: Paul Dini/Artist: J. Bone
I first read this title in 2012 and it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. It had the same effect this time round.
92. Duckman #1 (Dark Horse, 1990) ***
Writer/Artist: Everett Peck
93.-97. Duckman #1-5 (Topps Comics, 1994-95) ***¼
Writer: Stefan Petrucha/Artists: Craig Yoe Studio, Clizia and George Erling, Everett Peck (#1 interior); Gary Fields (#2,4 interior); Craig Yoe (#3,5 interior); Don Alan Zakrzewski covers)
The TV series was funnier.
98.-105. The American #1-8 (Dark Horse, 1987-89) **¼
Writer: Mark Verheiden/Artists: Chris Warner and Art Nichols (and friends) (interiors #1-4); Grant Miehm and Chris Warner (interiors #5); Grant Miehm (interiors #6-7); Grant Miehm and Bruce Patterson (interior #8); Chris Warner (covers #1-6); Grant Miehm (cover #7); Grant Miehm and Chris Warner (cover #8)
This is an interesting beast with a beloved media-friendly superhero, The American, being exposed as one of the military’s deepest, darkest projects. In the process, Verheiden throws in conspiracy theories, a still-alive-and-pulling-strings Dwight D. Eisenhower, a washed-up middle-aged sidekick and a drunken investigative journalist Dennis Hough. It’s all written in that over-wordy 1980s style, at times wavering between “serious” Alan Moore-style scripts and wisecrackin’ Moonlighting-style comedy-action. The series reaches its natural conclusion in #4 and that would have seemed to be the obvious place to end a reasonably interesting miniseries. But Verheiden soldiered on. The next four issues kinda meander about with the remaining guy known as The American feeling lost without his purpose in life while Hough continues to fall further into a pit of alcoholism and domestic violence. #7 and #8 really felt like the series was heading somewhere new and different...then it stopped.
106. The American Special (Dark Horse, 1990) **¼
Writer: Mark Verheiden/Artists: Dougie Braithwaite and Robert Campanella
The series proper was wrapped up with this special, which was originally supposed to be #9. It ends on a downer: The American is shot by the disgruntled grandfather of a criminal that The American killed while stopping a robbery. His only friends, Hough and his ex-girlfriend Candice, go visit him as he lies near death on a hospital bed. And...THE END. But not quite.
107.-110. The American: Lost In America #1-4 (Dark Horse, 1992) ***
Writer: Mark Verheiden/Artists: Chris Marrinan and Brian Garvey; Dave Dorman (cover #1); Joe Phillips (cover #2); Mike Mignola (cover #3); Jim Lee (cover #4)
This self-contained colour miniseries sees The American leave hospital and, emotionally distraught, get caught up in a Scientology-style cult. Hough and Candice go searching for him and wind up in a redneck town where the locals don’t take kindly to the cultists who’ve settled in next door (shades of the Orange People in Oregon). This rapidly gets turned on its head when the cultists are revealed to be nature-loving, peaceful types (despite their strong-hand tactics in converting people) who wear MONKEY MASKS. And the redneck locals are the evil scumbags. After a huge fire fight where a large number of people are killed – and Candice seriously wounded – but it ends on an upbeat note with Hough sober and seemingly back on the rails, while The American and Candice have become an item. I guess that was as good a place as any to put The American to rest.
110.-127. Avengers Arena #1-18 (Marvel, 2013-14) *****
Writer: Dennis Hopeless/Artists: Kevin Walker and friends
Battle Royale meets Marvel’s sidekicks as 16 super-powered youngsters (including members of Runaways, Avengers Academy and the newly created Braddock Academy) are trapped in Arcade’s Murder World and ordered to off each other over the next 30 days. This series seriously fooled me – when I started buying it, I assumed that it was some kinda AI situation and all the budding heroes were locked away somewhere in a basement. How else would you explain Arcade’s near God-like powers? But as the series went on, I realised it was all REAL and the heroes who’d been killed were...y’know, DEAD. So some of my fave characters like Avengers Academy’s Mettle and Reptil and interesting new characters such as Apex, Cullen Bloodstone and Kid Briton actually bit the bullet during this extraordinary 18-issue run. The way Apex progressed from slightly amoral superhero to out-and-out psycho villain was intriguing. And my fave character was another Hopeless creation, Death Locket, who is abused and manipulated by Apex until the final issue. The series ends with the survivors swearing not to reveal the secret of what went on during their ordeal (a bit like the private schoolboys-turned-savages in Lord Of The Flies), but we see Arcade uploading all the video footage of their murderous activities for the past month to the internet. This is brutal, amazing stuff and I’m stunned Hopeless was allowed to romp so unfettered through the Marvel U. Which leads directly into...
128.-137. Avengers Undercover #1-10 (Marvel, 2014) ****½
Writer: Dennis Hopeless/Artists: Kev Walker (interiors #1-7), Tigh Walker (interiors #8, 10), Timothy Green II (interior #9); Francesco Mattina (covers)
Another underrated series sees seven of the Murder World survivors (minus X-23 and Darkhawk) trying to cope with their new-found infamy after the world has watched them via Arcade’s online videos. The group decide to track down Arcade (with distrastrous consequences), which ultimately leads them into making a decision to join Baron Zemo’s Masters Of Evil. Six of them are doing it so they can bring the organisation down from the inside, but Death Locket enjoys what she’s doing and, in a shocking final issue, decides to stay with Zemo’s evil clan. There are a couple of significant plotholes that bring Avengers Undercover down a notch but, all in all, it’s a fantastic lil’ series.
138.-140. Our Story Thus Far #1-3 (Jabberwocky Graphix, 1983-88) **
Brad Foster’s idea was a noble one: “the ultimate artist jam!” – and he certainly brought together an eclectic group of zine, indie and mainstream talent, including Rick Geary, Trina Robbins, cat yronwode, Valentino, Eastman and Laird, Kerry Gammill, Matt Wagner, Chester Brown, Phil Foglio, Michael T. Gilbert, William Messner-Loebs and Joe Staton. The problem is that a comix jam where everyone is given just one page to write and draw is going to become chaotic and confusing, no matter how strict the guidelines. This three-part exercise (there were supposed to be more volumes, but Brad clearly ran out of energy) just doesn’t make enough sense to make it worth reading. Frankly, it’s an unentertaining mess.
STRANGE DAYS INDEED
141. Strange Days #1 (Eclipse, 1984) **
142.-144. The Johnny Nemo Magazine #1-3 (Eclipse, 1985-86) **½
145.-146. Paradax #1-2 (Vortex Comics, 1987) **½
147.-148. The Best of Milligan & McCarthy (Dark Horse, 2013) **½
- including Rogan Gosh (Vertigo, 1994) and more (1978-94)
Writers: Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy/Artists: Brendan McCarthy (with Brett Ewins and others)
I’m not sure why I bought this book, especially as I have most of the comics this stuff was originally printed in, but I have to say that if this is the “best” of Milligan and McCarthy, I NEVER want to read the “worst”. Milligan is a fine superhero comic writer nowadays, but back in the 70s and 80s, most of what he wrote was pretentious art school tosh. This collection of his collaborations with overrated McCarthy are cringeworthy and naff. I gave up on some of the strips because the dialogue is so dense and dull and SHIT. McCarthy can draw (a bit), but it looks like he’s vomited his palette of paints on every page. It gives me a migraine just looking at it. I repeat, Milligan is waaaay better now – you’d just never know it reading this drivel. I’d give it a “DUD”, but I’ll give a star each to Paradax (an amusing post-modern superhero that pre-dates Zenith) and the loopy concept behind Skin (about a thalidomide skinhead). That said, I already have Skin as a stand-alone graphic novel, so I’ll review it separately.
149. Skin (Tundra, 1992) ****
Writer: Peter Milligan /Artist: Brendan McCarthy
Thalidomide and skinheads. Oh yeah, pretty bloody offensive. And, unlike most of M’n’M’s collaboratioins, this is a really entertaining, really violent graphic novel.
AND THEN THERE WAS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!
ME AND the kids planned to hit two places on FCBD: Phantom Zone in Parramatta and The Comic Shop in Liverpool. But the chillum turned so feral after our Phantom Zone sojourn that I decided to give Liverpool a miss.
Not that it mattered as we scored 20 comics between me, Helen, Jones and Dash. So that was 13 comics for me and seven for the kids. As a bonus, the following day, Helen took the children to the Parramatta Library where there were EVEN MORE free comics on offer, courtesy of Phantom Zone. So they nabbed another half dozen. All in all, a really cool score. So...what did I read?
150. Betty and Veronica #1 (Archie, 2017) ****½
Writer/Artist: Adam Hughes
Just about gorgeous on every level. Beautiful art by Hughes and his dialogue reminds me of the sparkling to-and-froing last heard in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series (only with less bloodsuckers). Just about perfect. I’m tempted to pick up the first trade when it comes out.
151. I Hate Image (Image, 2017) ****¼
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
Every Image comic gets roasted by the creator of I Hate Fairyland. Funny stuff.
152. Kid Savage (Image, 2017) ***
Writer: Joe Kelly/Artist: Ilya
Primitive alien meets space travelling human family is a familiar sci-fi trope and I don’t feel like any new ground is being explored here.
153. All-New Guardians Of The Galaxy/The Defenders (Marvel, 2017) ****
GOTG: Writer: Gerry Duggan/Artist: Aaron Kuder
Defenders: Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: David Marquez
The Defenders – based on the TV series – looks promising.
154. Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The High School Years/Plants vs. Zombies (Dark Horse, 2017) ***½ (Buffy), * (PvZ)
Buffy: Writer: Kel McDonald/Artist: Yishan Li
PvZ: Writer: Paul Tobin/Artist: Rachel Downing
155. Wonder Woman (DC, 2017) ***¼
Writer: Greg Rucka/Artist: Nicola Scott
156. Secret Empire (Marvel, 2017) ***½
Writer: Nick Spencer/Artists: Andrea Sorrentino (interior), Mark Brooks (cover)
157. Lady Mechanika (Benitez Productions) ***
Writer/Artist: Joe Benitez
158. World’s Greatest Cartoonists (Fantagraphics, 2017) ****
159. The Incal (Humanoids, 2017) ****¼
Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky/Artist: Moebius
Pretty cool sampling of this classic Euro-series. I wound up buying the full run in a Comixology sale. I look forward to reading it.
160. 2000AD (Rebellion, 2017) ****
Phantom Zone also had several FCBD titles from last year available as well. I grabbed the following:
161. We Can Never Go Home/Young Terrorists (Black Mask, 2016) ****½
WCNGH: Writer: Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon/Artist: Josh Hood
Young Terrorists: Writer: Matt Pizzolo/Artist: Amancay Nahuelpan
I liked the first volume of WCNGH, so this taster of volume two was pretty cool. But the surprise find was the intro to Young Terrorists. Seems like a cool premise – like a darker, noirish reimagining of Hit Girl’s origin. I’m thrilled to learn that the complete series is finally being released as a trade paperback next month.
162. Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite, 2016) ***½
163. Valiant: 4001 A.D. FCBD Special (Valiant, 2016) ***
I’m just not into Valiant.
In addition to the titles specifically made for FCBD, Phantom Zone gave away free copies of the following titles:
164. Invincible #133 (Image, 2017) ***¼
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artist: Ryan Ottley
165. Vampirella #0 (Dynamite, 2017) ***
Writer: Paul Cornell/Artist: Jimmy Broxton
166. Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 10 (Dark Horse, 2016) ***¾
Writer: Christos Gage/Artists: Rebekah Isaacs (interior), Steve Morris (cover)
167. Cinema Purgatorio #7 (Avatar, 2016) ***½
BITS AND PIECES
168. SINK #2 (Comix Tribe, 2017) ****¼
Writer: John Lees/Artist: Alex Cormack
The second issue manages to be terrifying, disturbing and poignant all a the same time. Your pal John Lees and Alex Cormack have kicked another goal in this horrific, uniquely urban Scottish tale.
169.-170. Stratu’s Diary Comix March-April (self-published, 2017) ***¼
I love Stu and this is a fascinating exercise of self-discipline, but the cupboard is bare when it comes to intellectual or entertaining reading material. Friending and blocking people on Instagram, internet shopping, TV shows or films he’s watched, vaping...there’s just not a lot of depth in what’s purportedly a “diary”. And I understand that dilemma – when I briefly did my own diary comic last year, I gave up because I was unwilling to share my most intimate thoughts to strangers. So what I was left with was the mediocre, mundane (and occasionally interesting) minutae of day-to-day living. The few times Stu explores more personal territory – like hanging out with his aunt or talking about how a certain person has let him down or helped him or whatever, then the zine gets more interesting. But those moments are a few and far between. That said, I did appreciate Stu’s mention of Seoul Station (the anime prequel to the excellent South Korean zombie flick Train To Busun. It encouraged me to buy it). I appreciate Stu’s work ethic and artwork (the personalised cover on the March issue was lovely). I note that he’s changed the format for April, turning it into an A6 digest (maybe for monetary reasons?). Either way, this zine is fine if you’re a friend of Stu’s and want to know how he keeps himself busy every day, but I wish it was so much more.
171. Powers #8 (Icon, 2017) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
172. WWE Kids #120 (DC Thomson, 2017) ** (for the cartoons) **** (for the magazine)
SuperFan is back this issue – and he’s still the most obnoxious kid in the world. Totally punchable.
173. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen From The Future (Scholastic, 2010) ***¾
Writer/Artist: “George Beard and Harold Hutchins” (actually Dav Pilkey)
Dash asked me to read this graphic novel because he thinks Captain Underpants (and everything else created by Dav Pilkey) rocks! He’s not half-wrong. This is quite funny, in a very puerile, toilet humour way.
174. Pug (Image, 2010) ***¼
Writer Derek McCulloch/Artist: Greg Espinosa.
A boxing-themed crime noir one-shot. A quick, easy read but nothing earth-shattering.
175. Secret Warriors Summer Preview (Valiant, 2017) **¾
Writer: Eric Heisserer/Artist: Raúl Allén
I’m sure this will be a fine series, but I have absolutely NO DESIRE to read a Valiant comic.
176. Oswald: Monster Wrestler (Monster Comics, 2014) ****½
Writers: Andrew Isaac and Brendan Halyday/Artist: Andrew Isaac
177. Viddy Well, Brother (Franken Comics, 2012) ***½
Writer/Artist: Frank Candiloro