Category Archives: Comic Reviews

The work of Alan Moore Part 1 FUNSIZE reviews

The fact that I love the work of Alan Moore is no secret. I talk about the guy constantly; I bought his massive tome of a novel; hell, I even ran a Top 5 list of the author’s comic work over at Bounding into Comics. However, that list didn’t really reflect my own opinion since it was polled by the other writers on the site.So I feel like this blog would be the best place to really tackle Mr. Moore’s body of work.

Let’s get to it (you know how this works: things’ll be graded on an A+ – F scale). But before we do, keep in mind that there are a few things out there by Moore I haven’t read, so if something isn’t on this list, it’s because I haven’t gotten up in its guts yet, or I’ve already touched on it on this blog before…

One last note: I am not going to grade these in any sort of order, chronologically, quantifyingly, or otherwise. Don’t look for a method to the madness; just go with it, bruh.

 

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Future Shocks (1980 – 1983)

Alan Moore spent most of his fledgling years cranking out stories for 2000 AD, particularly for one of the magazine’s flagship strips, Tharg’s Future Shocks, which are fun, short little sci-fi tales with twist endings. Honestly, they were very hit or miss, but the raw talent Moore possessed was undeniable in those little nuggets. Unfortunately, for every great (dare I say fucking brilliant) short story Moore ran, there were two or three ho-hum entries.

Final Grade: C-

 

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From Hell (1986 – 1996)

It rules. Read it. This is arguably Moore’s best work. That is all.

Final Grade: A+

 

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Spawn # 8, 32, & 37, Spawn: Blood Feud, Violator, Violator vs Badrock (1993 – 1997ish)

Image Comics was weird as shit in the ’90s. The company was producing some of the best artwork of the decade, but didn’t have a stable of great writers (sorry Jim Lee, but, no*) to elevate the material. Luckily Todd McFarlane and co. decided to hire some writers work a shit, and suddenly guys like Grant Morrison, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Moore were writing Wild C.A.T.S., The Maxx (which, in my opinion, never needed a writer to step in; that book was fucking great), and,of course Spawn (a comic that all four of the aforementioned writers took a stab at). Moore was the biggest contributor to the Image line up, writing for all these books and more. Ultimately his contribution to Spawn was very scatter-shot (as it was with all the Image titles he worked on). His Violator titles were pretty fun and issue #8 of Spawn actually introduced me to the work of Alan Moore and is a story that might be the best thing to ever come out of ’90s era Image…but the rest of it? Not so much. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a huge nostalgic soft spot for these comics, but in the end, you could tell Moore enjoyed playing with someone else’s toys, but his heart wasn’t completely in it.

Finale Grade: C+ (except Spawn #8. That gets an A)

*Yes, I know Jim Lee didn’t write the scripts for the early WildC.A.T.S. comics, but they were his creation and he was credited with “story by.” Now, fuck off, nerd. 

 

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Neonomicon (2010 – 2011)

Look, I’m a sucker for Lovecraftian horror…like a big sucker for it. If I ask you what a work of fiction is like, and you say the words “Lovecraftian” or “Cthulhu-esque,” the chance of me consuming said piece of fiction significantly increases (by the way, the work of David Foster Wallace is not Lovecraftian and my English major brother is a lying asshole). Now when  you tell me that there’s an Alan Moore comic that is directly tapping into H.P. Lovecraft’s world but is eschewing and/or satirizing all the horribly racist and sexist overtones, I’m gonna read that goddamn comic. Maybe I went into Neonomicon with inflated hopes, but it didn’t hit me with the level of elation I was hoping for. It’s not bad. Hell, it’s actually a pretty easy read (if you can stomach some pretty grotesque shit which may or may not include some non-consensual fish-monster-man on girl action), but it was certainly not on par with Moore’s usually caliber. The only think that really made this even remotely worthwhile is the tight dialogue and pretty interesting characters.  I guess I should probably grade this on a curve.

Final Grade: B- (but like a 71/100 as a weighted score)

 

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Marvelman/Miracleman (1982 – 1984)

The issues Moore scripted for this series did two things: 1. it set an amazing tone for what would follow (and is still in the works) by succeeding writer Neil Gaiman, and 2. it basically acts as a dry-run for Moore’s quintessential superhero deconstruction comic, Watchmen. I feel that this is arguably one of Moore’s most important works and really displays his prowess as a writer, running the gamut of what comics can offer. From action-packed super brawls to trippy sci-fi conspiracies to introspective poetry about the sorrows of humanity, Miracleman kinda does it all. This series is rarely discussed among comic fans, but it is often imitated (just go watch Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel; it basically shares the same plot beats as Moore’s initial arc). With all that being said, there are a few drawbacks to the book: some of the pop culture references are dated, and the third act drags a bit. But ultimately this is good, good shit, you guys. Go read it.

Final score: B+

 

Okay, so that about does it for now. I’ll be back with more Moore (see what I did there?) reviews soon. In the meantime, what do you guys think. Talk shit below. Am I right about From Hell? Pfffft…of course, I am.

 

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The work of Brian Azzarello Part 2 FUNSIZE reviews

Let’s get into it:

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Spaceman (2011-2012)

This is a weird one that a lot of folks did not seem to enjoy. I recall being in the monitory in my gaggle of comic buddies when it came to praising Spaceman. I actually thought this miniseries was a well thought out story with some really great ideas. I don’t remember Azzarello ever tackling science fiction before (as long as you don’t count Superman) and I thought he pretty much knocked it out of the park. The characters were great. The unreliable timeline was compelling. I only wish this book had lasted longer.

Final Grade: A-

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Superman: For Tomorrow (2004 -2005)

This one felt like a cash-grab. I don’t direct that toward the creators. No, no, no. That missile is aimed steadily at DC. Jim Lee was hot off of Batman: Hush and this book felt like the publisher wanted to simply capitalize on having such a superstar artist in their ranks. It’s not godawful, but fuck me, it ain’t great. I will say that the scene where Superman basically threatens the Earth was fantastic. Otherwise, this is a forgettable comic, and it makes me sad.

Final Grade: C-

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Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach (2012)

You know what. It’s fine. Not great, not terrible. Just fine. Move along.

Final Grade: Whatever.

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Joker (2008)

Goddammit, I really wanted to love this book. I remember picking the hardback up after the Dark Knight was released. Again, this sort of felt like DC just cashing in on an already established story. There were some interesting aspects to Joker, but overall, the book was more grotesque (which I’m not against, mind you) than compelling. However, the strip club scene is this graphic novel was great. It was absolutely disgusting, but great (see? I’m not a prude).

Final Grade: C+

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The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (2015 – present)

To say this series thus far has been a mixed bag would be a gross understatement. Every time Azzarello and Miller and Co. seem to add something worthwhile to the Dark Knight Universe, things just up and stall the fuck out. Look, so far, this comic is leaps and bounds better that Frank Miller’s abysmal The Dark Knight Strikes Back, but that ain’t saying much. Getting your scrotum pierced with a batarang would be a better time than rereading that fucking nightmare. Maybe Azzarello’s writing is helping elevate what should be a complete goddamn train wreck.

Final Grade: Who fucking knows?

 

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The work of Brian Azzarello Part 1 FUNSIZE REVIEWS

Even if Alan Moore would shun me for doing so, I’m finally getting around to reading some of the Before Watchmen titles, namely The Comedian and Rorschach mini-series, both of which were penned by one of my favorite writers in the graphic medium, Mr. Brian Azzarello. So I figured it’d be fun to touch on some of the books from his career that have made a lasting impression on me, good or bad. Here we go:

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Loveless (2005 – 2008)

Fuck, I loved this book. I was really bummed when DC/Vertigo pulled the plug on it. And they did it right when what started out as a western comic about assholes doing asshole things to each other was evolving into a vast, century-spanning epic about America (which would basically be a historical comic about assholes doing asshole things to each other). This comic is pretty much what Quentin Tarantino is trying to do in his movies now a days. Loveless holds up a mirror to American history’s ugly mug and makes it take a long, hard look at the horrors hiding behind its visage.

Final Grade: A-

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100 Bullets (1999 – 2009)

For ten years, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso created one of the greatest crime stories ever told. This comic is staggering in its execution (pun totally intended). Every single character is well-realized. The dialogue pops with authenticity, and the stories the series tells range from insanely intimate to monstrously epic in scale. There is no stone unturned in 100 Bullets. This is one of my go-to recommendations for my friends who don’t read comics. I tell them that if this doesn’t do it for them, I’m not sure what will (maybe Preacher?).

Final Grade: fuckin’ A+

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El Diablo (2001)

This mini-series felt like a dry run for Loveless. There are certainly some cool elements in this comic, but ultimately it just feels bland. What made things worse for me, is that I read it after reading Loveless. I can only assume it would have had more of an impact on me if I had read it before. Oh, well. All’s fair in loveless and war (thank you, thank you; I’ll be here all week).

Final Grade: D+

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Batman: Broken City (2003-2004)

You know, some people shit on this comic, and I can understand why. Killer Croc is a pimp with some sort of crazy psoriasis; The Riddler is a car thief; things are not what they should be. But that’s what I dug about it. Teaming up with Risso again, Azzarello pretty much gave Detective Comics the 100 Bullets treatment and didn’t give a fuck about continuity or staying true the already established Gotham. They knew you were familar with these characters, but why not try a little something different with them?

Final Grade: B

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Wonder Woman (2011 – 2014)

Goddammit, was Azzarello’s run on this book amazing. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and wonder if Brian’s departure from Wonder Woman was the reason DC decided to bail on the New 52 and hit the reset button again. I mean, besides Jeff Lemire’s tenure as Animal Man writer and Scott Snyder & Capullo’s Batman, I don’t think there was another title with such a high caliber among the New 52. Azzarello took a character that the entire world was familiar with and injected her story with a brand new mythos, one that worked well in the grand scheme of the DC universe and produced a cast of great supporting characters to root for. This book is fantastic. I was never a big WW fan before this, and I don’t know if I ever will be again. Azzarello may have ruined the character for me by being too damn good at writing her.

Final Grade: A

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Bitch Planet Vol. 1 REVIEW

Note: This review covers the first fives issues of Bitch Planet.

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How can you not open a comic with the name Bitch Planet without a grin on your face?

The title alone would grab even the most jaded comic fan’s attention and make them pluck if from a store shelf and thumb through the pages. It’s a pretty clever sales tactic (maybe?). Now, I’m not sure Bitch Planet’s salacious title was necessarily intended to draw fanboys in, but it’s still a good call on Image’s behalf to give writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro free reign on this thing (at least, I assume so).

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*Badassery*

From the eye-grabbing title to the ’70s exploitation pastiche of the cover design; and from the punk-rock, feminist, sci-fi tale that’s part The Longest Yard and part Caged Heat to the hectic, yet smooth as a baby’s ass art style, this book feels like a singular vision with very little intrusive fuckery from an editor or a publisher in culling much material.

Bitch Planet is set in far flung (yet not so far-fetched) future where women have become objectified to the nth degree. There is a protocol for every female on earth to be pretty, subservient, and silent. And women who do not conform might just find themselves spirited away to a prison planet, where the guards are fascist perverts and the warden is a steely bitch who parades around as mother mercy to lull weaker inmates into a false sense of security.

But there are those who rise above this sexist reality and will risk it all to take shit down from the inside, bars be damned.

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*I mean, she makes a valid point here…*

The surface story is simple and well-told. But what makes Bitch Planet special (and I mean special in the way that there is nothing else like this on the newsstand) is its biting satire of patriarchal society and its amazing characters.

Each woman in this book has an agenda. They each have unique, strong voices and vastly different personalities. There are not stock characters in this thing. Female characters this strong can be a rare thing to find in a predominantly male-driven industry. So it’s refreshing when you get a character like Penny Rolle, a character who essentially holds up a mirror to all the jumpsuit, leather-clad female comic characters and says, “you ain’t tough, bitch. Look at ya!” Penny is tough. I’m talking eat rebar and shit nails tough.

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*She fucking rules.*

This book is smart, engaging, and dangerous. This comic isn’t for the masses, but it should be. DeConnick’s writing is razor sharp and De Landro’s art matches the tone wonderfully.

The only complaint I have about this book is simply the delays in its release (Bitch Planet seems to be on that six issues a year schedule that Saga has been rocking). I’d read this comic every goddamn day if given the opportunity.

But for now, I’ll take what I can get. Bitch Planet rocks.

Final Grade: A

**All images are from Image Comics. They own them and shit. 

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The Walking Dead RETROSPECT

Note: This retrospect covers the first 150 issues of The Walking Dead. I will not be giving up any explicit spoilers, but some of the links lead to them. So don’t get all click happy if you haven’t read the series yet.

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Unless you’ve been living in an underground fallout shelter in the middle of nowhere (Montana, maybe?), you know The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon that has wormed its way into the cultural zeitgeist like a tick in a deer’s ass.

This is mostly due to the hugely popular AMC television adaptation. But (and yes, I’m about to sound like a comic geek hipster, so please don’t close this page just yet) some of us have adored the source material for the better part of a decade, long before that first episode aired on Halloween in 2010, which makes it hard to discuss the comic series without the shadow of the show looming over any opinion us elite comic dorks might have on the show’s roots like a doomsday eclipse (too much?).

I remember sometime in 2004, a buddy of mine told me about a cool little black and white zombie comic he was reading and passed along the first trade paperback. After reading it, I scooped up the current issues until I was up to date and continued to buy The Walking Dead on a monthly basis for nearly five years. I used to keep a stack of back issues on my toilet tank. Friends and family members would spend a copious amount of time in my bathroom reading through them, long after they conducted their business (that would be pooping, by the way).

The series was all the rage in my circle of friends and we felt like the cool kids (or at least as cool as a pack of comic nerds could be) among out uninitiated fellow comic readers.

“Oh, you haven’t read this?” we’d scoff as we slapped a stack of (hopefully poop-free) singles in front of them. “For shame!”

This went on for some time…until the comic began to spin its wheels. Shortly after the whole “Battle of Woodbury” story arc, I fell out of the series like an epileptic baby in a crib without guardrails.

It wasn’t until several trade paper backs later, that a co-worker of mine discovered the book and asked if it was any good. I told them it was, at least the first 50 some issues or so were, but I had no idea if the series picked itself up by the zombie skull-crushing boot straps. It turned out the series had. It got good again. Like really fucking good. And about twenty issues later, it began to lose steam…until it got good again.

And that’s the deal with The Walking Dead (and with most monthly comics). There are lulls, and at times they feel like bottomless pits of boredom that make you wonder why you ever enjoyed reading the title in the first place. But unlike most ongoing monthly books, the TWD has zero supplemental material to tide you over until your flagship book gets its shit together.

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**Guess I have to deal with this shit for a bit.**

I mean, you can read Detective Comics until it gets shitty, and then easily jump ship to one of the other ten Batman comics on the newsstands and find one that’s worth a damn. TWD doesn’t afford the same luxury. If the comic isn’t good, tough shit. You have to deal with it if you want to know what happens next. You have to deal with characters talking in circles and spitting monologues that are so tiresome you wonder if they weren’t the regurgitated rally cry of a long dead character from years before. You have to deal with the artwork becoming repetitive and the story beats growing benign and cheaply punctuated with character deaths.

There is nowhere to hide from The Walking Dead when things take a nosedive. Shit, even the TV show has Fear of The Walking Dead as a companion piece.

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**There are no tigers in either show, though…so, I guess the comic still has the upper hand.**

There is good news, however. That aforementioned nosedive does not occur too frequently when you consume the series in large chunks. The trade paperbacks, which come out twice a year, do not have issue breaks and read like single chapters of a larger piece. This works to the series’ benefit. We’ve all read novels where things slow down for a chapter (or several chapters if you’re George R.R. Martin – Fuck A Feast for Crows) and most of us can power through until the next.

I’ve read the first 150 issues of TWD and two thirds of them have been in graphic novel form. I can’t image buying this book month-to-month (but honestly, I don’t buy any comics month-to-month outside of the occasional mini-series & Heavy Metal Magazine).

Now as far as story goes, it’s often difficult to tell where creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (and I guess Tony Moore in the first six issues) are going with things, but they always find their way to something interesting and often times shocking. Now, these things don’t always work. In fact, there have been shocking twists and deaths that have left a bad taste in my mouth (ref: the death of REDACTED from issues 100). It’s not that I have a weak stomach for excessive violence. Hell, I think this may be the only book where I kind of chuckled when an infant gets blasted with a shotgun (I know, I know, but go look at that page again; you know you don’t have anything invested in that baby or the person holding it so get off your high horse).

Even with all its shortcoming The Walking Dead is never godawful, and it’s usually enjoyable and even occasionally brilliant.

Kirkman might be a genius for crafting this thing so well. He’s made a soapy drama about the zombie apocalypse and it sells well every month. I don’t know of any other comic book that sells trade paperbacks in Wal-Mart or Target. I’m sure most of that has to do with capitalizing on the success of the television show, but shit, man it works. Kirkman and Co. have television-watchers and comic-readers eating out of the palm of his hand and now those two factions are cross pollinating.

Look, go read The Walking Dead. You can actually buy compendiums that collect the series in 48 issue chunks. And trust me, that first chunk is awesome. The second, not so much, and the third gets back to form.

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**Hey! New people!**

Many of the characters are likeable. Our hero of the book, Rick Grimes, gets put through the wringer so often, you wonder if the shred of humanity he still holds on to is even legit. The supporting cast is very hit or miss. There are some characters who seem like they get killed because Kirkman doesn’t know what to do with them, which is unfortunate. But there are other characters, who are snuffed out, that make the book devastating and actually add gravity to an already dire situation (I’m looking at you, REDACTED my sweet, sweet prince).

But when it comes to problems with characters, my biggest complaint might be with the villains. The series has really only produced three honest to god villains, and just one of them has been truly fascinating. Yes, I’m talking about Negan. And before anyone gets their panties in a twist, I like Alpha and the Governor just fine, but Negan is the closest thing we have to a filthy mirror version of Rick. Also, he’s super charismatic.

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**Ladies…**

According to the creators, we’re about halfway through this series. That’s both a relief and a disappointment. If they would have said we were 50 issues away from the end, I’d be doing back flips (I can’t do a back flip, BTW).

I don’t know what Kirkman has in store for us. He says there are tons of big things on the horizon, but he’s said that before and has delivered a mixed bag. But I’ll call his bluff. I’ll keep reading. And so should you.

Mid-term Grade: B

*Footnote: All images are property of Image Comics.

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Providence Act 1: REVIEW

Note: This review covers issues 1 – 4 of Providence.

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DISCLAIMER: I am dumb and often times, Alan Moore makes me feel dumber. Now on to the review.

Like many of my fellow comic nerds, I absolutely love the work of Alan Moore. Now, I’ll be first to say that not everything he puts out is golden. But this should not detract from how brilliant the man is, nor should it lessen his importance to the graphic medium.

I’m of the opinion that we should judge an artist based on their strongest works (hence why Francis Ford Coppola is still riding that Godfather/Conversation/Apocalypse Now wave; we all saw Jack; fuck that movie). But Moore doesn’t rest on his 1980s DC laurels. If anything, Moore has grown as a writer since the days of Watchmen and Swamp Thing.

Being that he’s bit of an elusive writer, Moore belongs to an echelon of comic creators that actually make me excited when I hear announcements for new work. Guys like Brain Michael Bendis, Geoff Johns, and Scott Snyder always have several stokes in the fire at any given time, which makes them far more accessible, but that’s not to detract from their talents.

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*Best resume ever!*

That’s why when I first heard Avatar Press was going to publish another Lovecraftian horror comic scripted by Moore and drawn by my favorite horror/shock artist, Jacen Burrows, I had to physically wrestle my erection into submission.

I thoroughly enjoyed (but didn’t love) their earlier collaboration, Neonomicon, and thought it had a lot of potential to be great, but was bogged down with Moore’s own fetishism of monster sex/rape.

I pre-ordered Providence Act 1 in Hardback the day its release was announced, and I immediately cracked its spine the day it was delivered, and about halfway through the first issue, I set the book down and walked away, wondering if I would be able to produce the energy to finish it…

This was not good. I had never had that sort of experience with Alan Moore’s work.

You see, usually with Moore’s stuff, I can’t wait to see what’s next (even in the case of Promethea where things were super entertaining at first, but ended super fucking weird). But Providence initially bored me to tears. I mean, all the elements were there: a quasi-detective story about a journalist named Robert Black researching occult stories throughout New England for a “Great American Novel” he intends to write, all the while a looming horror is just behind every door. This is a really cool setup for a story, but the book just didn’t click with me early on.

I did pick Providence Act 1 back up and powered through it, trying my damnedest to be engaged, and by the end of it, I came to two realizations:

  1. I like Lovecraftain stories way more than actual Lovecraft stories. Now, this is a Moore book, but the man is using such thick Lovecraft mythos to convey it, it reads like H.P.’s greatest hits, more so than Neonomicon. I think you can create a Lovecraftian story without relying so heavily on the source material (i.e. Revival by Stephen King, John Dies at the End by David Wong, True Detective Season 1 etc.) and make is stand on its own.
  2. Alan Moore is simply not a “grab you by the collar” sort of writer any more. I doubt very much we’ll see many “a comedian was murdered in New York” openings in future work, which I have mixed feelings about.

Look, Providence is not bad, okay. Not every aspect was a chore and some of those aspects are quite remarkable: The dialogue in this book is some of Moore’s strongest in years; every conversation was well-conceived and felt real; Jacen Burrows’ art is fantastic and disturbing (the street vendor splash page gave me chills); and some of the diary entries were really entertaining and insightful.

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**Good Stuff…**

I’m not giving up on Providence. Eight issues have been released, which means Act 2 should be out soon (this is a 12 issue mini-series, by the way). This book does not tarnish Moore’s image in my eyes. There was enough here to pique my interest for future installments. I just hope they have a little less dreary pacing issues and a little more of this:

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**”Hi, I’m not in this comic.”

Is this shallow criticism? You bet your ass it is. But what can I say? I love monsters. Give me more of them, Mr. Moore.

Final Grade: C-

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Lumberjanes REVIEW

Note: This review covers Volumes 1 & 2 of Lumberjanes (Issues 1 – 8)

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**Friendship to the max!**

Lumberjanes is the story about a quintet of best friends (Molly, Mal, Jo, April, and Ripley [my favorite character]) and the adventures they go on during their stay at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, where things are not what they seem. That is the only way I could pitch this book to someone without robbing them of the sheer delight that comes from reading each page.

What Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Noelle Stevenson have done is created the comic book equivalent to a Pixar movie. They have produced an all-ages intellectual property filled it with rich characters, heartwarming relationships(Mol + Mal 4ever), and fun adventures that only the coldest of hearts would not enjoy.

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*Oh, did I mention Molly has a pet raccoon that doubles as a hat?*

There’s so much warmth and humanity dripping from each page. The art is fluid and the creature designs are fun and often very inventive. This comic should be animated right now. I want to know who at Cartoon Network needs to get punched in the throat for not bidding on this property with enough money.

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*Yeah, that’s Ripley, my spirit animal* 

I can honestly say that Lumberjanes is the best “cartoon book” Ive ready since Jeff Smith’s Bone.

Lumberjanes is a goddamn delightful comic. If you don’t have a big, dumb smile plastered across your face while you read each page, you are dead inside. This is the truth. Do not argue. Go read it. Buy a copy and give it to your daughter. Buy it for your Father. Buy it for your friends who don’tread comics. There is no excuse not to love this one.

I plan to continue reading this book. I feel like this review may have been a little premature since I’ve only gotten through a third of the issues that are out, but I just had to write about it. I adore this book. And if issues 9 – 24 are half as charming as the first 8, this series is gonna be just fine.

Final Grade: A

 

 

 

 

 

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Batman: Earth One REVIEW

Note: This review covers Batman: Earth One volumes 1 and 2.

 

Let’s talk about Batman.        

It’s pretty much an inarguable fact that superheroes, especially heroes like the Dark Knight and Superman, are so omnipresent in pop culture and that they have become humanity’s New Greek Mythos. Hell, several writers of comics and film utilize this in their storytelling to the point to where it’s downright annoying.

These characters are more than just their names. They are symbols. They represent the best (and worst) in us. People across the globe know their origins and back stories. They know their weaknesses and victories. They know their deaths and rebirths. These heroes have been dissected to pieces by children, comic nerds, and academics alike (in some cases, this is the same person in different periods of their life). It’s amazing how something as simple as a guy in a cape or a woman with a magic lasso can wiggle their way into the mindscape of the general populous and stay there for the better part of a century.

But of all the titans that have made such a splash, the one hero of our pop culture pantheon that is truly immortal, both within their own fictional universe and in the real world, is Batman.

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*See? Everyone loves this dude.*

Hear me out. Batman is truly a symbol… yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard that one before. And I’m well aware other heroes are symbols, too, but here’s the thing:

If you kill Clark Kent, guess what? No more Superman.

You kill Diana Prince? Adios, Wonder Woman.

But if you kill Bruce Wayne? Fuck it! Who cares? We got a backup Batman, son!

Oh, and if you kill Dick Grayson? No worries, we got another one, yo…and another one after that and another after that, because it doesn’t matter who is under the cape and cowl; it just matters that there is a cape and cowl.

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#squadgoals 

Now, I know that comics have toyed with this exact character principal in the past (i.e. Danny Rand as Daredevil, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson as Cap, etc.), but I feel like no one has been able to reach on the same levels of overbearing iconography as ol’ Bats (maybe it’s just because he’s been around longer, I don’t know).  But Batman is important. Not Bruce Wayne. BATMAN.

Everyone agree? Good. So now with that being established, the question is how many times can we retell the origin of Batman before the audience gets completely fucking sick of it? The answer to that probably varies depending on your age. I know, I’m tired of it.

I’m in my 30s and I grew up watching the Tim Burton Batman movies, which led to Batman the Animated Series, then those god awful Schumacher flicks, followed by Jeph Loeb’s comic work, then Frank Miller’s Goddamn Batman, then Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and finally the utter shitfest that was BVS. All told, I’ve must have seen Martha and Thomas Wayne get gunned down in an alley followed by a training montage dozens of times.

Gunshot! Pearls! Crying! Training! Crime fighting! We get it!

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**This old chestnut**

That’s why I find it impressive when a comic book can make that tragic story interesting again. Enter: Batman Earth One.

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*WEEEEEE! OW! Fuck!*

This is a simple retelling of the Batman mythos that blends previous incarnations of the caped crusader and then homogenizes him to the bare essentials of what makes Batman Batman.

Writer, Geoff Johns and artist, Gary Frank present a Batman tale that exploits the shortcomings of the beloved character and humanize Bruce Wayne in a way very few writers have done before (at least not as affecting). Bruce isn’t likable in this story, but he’s not supposed to be. He’s a goddamn nut job. And with the help of the coolest version of Alfred ever, his nuttiness is cultivated into a weapon, one that doesn’t work in every situation.

This version of Batman is kind of a dipshit, too. He’s self-righteous. He’s overzealous. He makes bad calls. He’s the most believable on-page version of Batman I’ve read since Batman: Year One.

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*What a dummy…*

But what makes Earth One work is the remix of supporting characters: all the faces are familiar, but their stories and motivations differ from what we’re used to, and it’s quite refreshing.

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*Some things never change.*

There are elements that don’t always sing, however. There’s a interesting character gender swap that sort of petters out. And the Earth One version of Jim Gordon is basically standard Jimbo. Nothing really new or appealing, .

I don’t know if Johns and Franks have plans for a third graphic novel. Volume 2 ended rather abruptly with a lot still on the plate. I’ve never been this hungry to learn more about an already established character, but when the preparation is so fresh and unique (while not diverging from what makes the character work in the first place) it whets my comic palate like a son of a bitch.

These books are worth your time, especially if you’re a Batman fan (I mean, who isn’t?).

Final Grade: B+

 

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The Magician: The Long Day REVIEW

**Note: I was fortunate enough to obtain an advanced review copy of The Magician: The Long Day, which is about half of the finished graphic novel. For more information on the project, visit The Magician’s Kickstarter here.

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The Magician: The Long Day could easily be summed up as a crime tale about nasty dirt bags doing nasty dirt bag things to other nasty dirt bags, but that would be doing the book a great injustice. But I will say that the nasty business in this book is nasty as all hell. There’s an asshole-puckering torture scene early on that is particularly awful.

Luckily, writer, David Brown and artist, D.N.S. don’t rely too heavily on the nasty bits to propel their story forward. In fact, what you’re not shown is just as powerful. Before the torture scene in those first few pages, there’s a gut wrenching story about a puppy and a buzz saw that actually lessens the blow of the what follows (or enhances it; it’s kinda hard to tell). What the creative team has done here is crafted a rather well-paced, measured slice of comic noir doused with a bucket of 1970s exploitation cinema (see: aforementioned asshole-puckering torture scene).

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**Spoiler Alerrrgh!!! Barf!**

The plot of The Magician is ostensibly a McGuffin story regarding a blue duffle bag that belongs to a vicious gangster and the hatchet-wielding hitman named Eugene (who is seriously fucking disturbed) dispatched to retrieve it. Toss in some low-level thugs, junkies, and other unsavory characters, you get a general idea as to what you’re getting into.

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**”Hi, I’m Eugene and I’ll be serving you gangland justice tonight…don’t mind all the creepy shit about me.”**

While some of the dialogue is a bit jarring (there’s a scene between two goons about to rob a convenience store that just didn’t work for me; but of course not everyone is Brian Azzarello), Brown’s writing is really tight and his sense of gallows humor works well for the story. D.N.S.’ stellar art work stylistically vacillates between early Sin City books and classic EC horror comics like Tales From the Crypt that, coupled with Brown’s humor and love of gore, revisit a foregone era in comics.

If you were to flip through this book without reading it, you’d think it be a horror comic and not a crime book. In a way, it’s sort of both, which is not a bad thing.

The Magician: The Long Day is a refreshing read, one that reminds me of eighth grade when I used to read old copies of Creepy and Erie that an uncle passed down to me. I’m excited to see what comes next in the story and what these guys decide to tackle as their next project.

This is highly recommended.

Final Grade: B

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Black Science REVIEW

**Note: This review covers the first three trade paper backs of Black Science (issues 1 – 16)**

What a time to be alive. Just take a look around you (hopefully you’re surrounded by the abundance of stellar science fiction comics that are being published these days).

Things are good, you guys. Like, really good. If you don’t believe me, or you’re not surrounded by the aforementioned stacks on stacks, I want you to conduct a little experiment: go to your local comic shop and ask the clerk for some currently ongoing sci-fi comic recommendations. The clerk should quickly drop several books in your arms. If they do not, leave that store and never come back, because that place is run by idiots.

Now, if your local comic store clerk is literate and/or clinically sane and they have indeed loaded you up with myriad exciting titles, there’s a damn good chance that some of these books, if not most of them, are written by His Royal Majesty Rick Remender, our lord and savior. BOW YOUR HEAD! Gaze upon your hypothetical stack of comics! Behold! Atop it lies Black Science!

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This comic is unequivocal proof that Remender just might be the best living science fiction writer out there right now…and I don’t relegate that statement to just comics, I’m talking about the genre across the board.

I know that might seem a smidge hypocritical considering my lukewarm review of Tokyo Ghost, but that book is just getting started. Since I don’t review individual issues, my tune can change on a series. Just like a good TV show, a comics need time to evolve.

Black Science, however, does not need much time to get things rolling. The set-up of the book circles around a former member of a gonzo troupe of science folk known as The Anarchist Order of Scientists (yes, for-fucking-real: The Anarchist Order of Scientists) named Grant McKay, who has found a way to punch holes through our reality into other dimensions.

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**This is not one of the good dimensions**

With his gang of Dimensionauts (which includes McKay’s kids, his mistress, the asshole bankrolling his project and his assistant, a badass ex-military dude, and a young scientist who is arguably the most likable character in the book) McKay runs into doppelgangers of everyone on the crew and strange worlds of would could be and what technically are…just not here…or there…or wherever. Look, guts, the plot gets pretty twisted up.

Basically, the book is what if Harlan Ellison wrote Gilligan’s Island.

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**Gilligan’s doppelganger would have totally nailed Ginger**

Much like Remender’s previous masterpiece, Fear Agent, Black Science perfectly blends classic sci-fi tropes aped from works like Lost in Space and Flash Gordon with gallows humor and high concept social and moral challenging ideas.

At times, it feels like the comic is about to leave you in its dust, like it’s being difficult to follow for the sake of being difficult to follow, but things always come around full circle. There are several “oh, I see what you did there” moments in Black Science. The comic is constantly pushing the reader to their breaking point of fathoming the narrative but then rewarding with great pulpy twists and fantastic action.

Italian artist, Matteo Scalera’s work is wonderful and it truly feels at home with the hectic nature of the story. I’d like to see more from him. Follow him on twitter, by the way (@ScaleraMatteo). He’s always posting cool shit he’s working on. He reminds me of a more hyper-kinetic version of Sean Murphy.

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**Look at this craziness!**

Black Science is probably the best true blue science fiction comic out there (I’m not talking about science fantasy like Saga, which is wonderful, too) and it’s being written by probably the best sci-fi writer on the block.

Volume 4 TBP comes out next month, so now is the perfect time to get caught up.

Go consume this.

Final Grade: A

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