Who’s Afraid of Alan Moore?

Me. I mean the guy does scare me a little.

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Many years ago, I picked up Moore’s magnum opus about Jack the Ripper, From Hell, with the intentions to crush it like a brittle robin’s egg with my fierce comic-consuming eyes, but unlike my experience with some of his other work, this book bit back. Hard.

Now, I’m not saying I didn’t find any of Moore’s other work challenging (shit, you need a working knowledge of turn of the century Victorian pop culture to get half the references in most of it), but they were always rather easy to navigate. But From Hell fucked my world up. It was dense, horrifying, and exhausting to read, and I don’t mean that as an insult.

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*First date.*

I chewed my way through about 150 pages of the trade until I set it down for something else (I have a bad habit of that). I had all the best intentions to finish it up, but never did.

The book was eventually lent out to a co-worker who was talking about the shitty film adaptation with Johnny Depp when I said, “hey, did you know that movie was based on a comic?” I then launched into my whole “more people should read comics and stop wasting their time with shitty TV shows and bad movies.” Johnny-Depp-in-Frederick-Abberline-From-Hell-Movie-Wallpapers

*Fuck you, you beautiful idiot.*

In retrospect, pontificating about the glory of comic books to a non-reader should have never been punctuated with handing them a copy of From Hell. It was too much comic for them. Hell, it was too much for me.

Now, about six years later, I have purchased a new copy of From Hell and I am two issues (or chapters if you fancy) away from finishing it, and let me tell you: it might be the best thing Alan Moore has ever written.

I was going to wait until I was done with the book before I wrote anything about it, but unless this comic drops the ball in it’s final act, which I know it DOES NOT, this tome is one of the greats, not just in comics, but in historical fiction.

But it’s not just Moore’s writing the elevates this comic to the stratosphere: Eddie Campbell’s art is stellar, evoking the era via Victorian style newspaper cartoons. It’s amazing and renders the Whitechaple Murders in graphic detail.

I love Alan Moore, and I want so badly for all his work to be this good. This book is a reminder as to why I was so disappointed in Providence Act 1.

 

 

 

 

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When Kirkman is king.

I’ve liked The Walking Dead for quite some time, and on occasion, I’ve loved it. I remember first getting into TWD and wanting to read more from the guy who was writing it. I liked Robert Kirkman’s plotting and some of his dialogue was sharp as a cat’s dick in his modern zombie epic, but I was kind of disappointed when I ventured into some of his other work. I wasn’t impressed with the Invincible (I know that comic has a fan base just as devout, if not more so, than the one connected to TWD, but it never really grabbed me), and I found Battlepope funny at times, but nothing spectacular.

But now, I think Robert Kirkman has created the best comic of his career thus far with OutcastFor the first time I truly love a Kirkman book. No, seriously. I don’t really have any gripes with this series so far. Now, maybe if this thing overstays its welcome, I’ll be singing a different tune. But for now, the 18 issues that have been released are stellar.

Hell, this fucking thing has even spawned a damn good TV show, one that’s far better than AMC’s hit or miss adaptation of The Walking Dead.

Kirkman has written something that isn’t for everyone, and it’s great. There is certainly a niche audience for Outcast, and as long as things don’t get fucked up along the way, this series will join the great horror comic pantheon, joining the ranks of From HellLocke & Key, and Blackhole. 

Keep it up, Kirkman. Right now, you’re fucking killing it.

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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Bounding into Comics

Hey guys, I’ve been writing reviews for Bounding into Comics. Check them out here. Enjoy.

I’m currently reading From Hell and I wanted to know what you favorite Alan Moore comic is (and please don’t say Watchmen a bunch of times). Let me know in the comments.

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Preacher Episode 3

So while this episode sort of pumped the brakes on the batshit craziness, I still really enjoyed it. I felt like the tone from the first two episodes was pretty much consistent in this episode, and each character had some time to shine.

Jesse showing Cassidy how “The Word” works was inspired and made me laugh my ass off. It did a great job of making you believe that these two will eventually become best buds (then, of course, Cassidy says they are later, which felt a little unnecessary).

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*Bros.*

Tulip getting out of the speeding ticket was also really enjoyable. The fact that her plan B was to shoot that fool in the face just goes to show you that she’s the most dangerous person on the show.

Jesse other demonstration of “The Word” on Mr. Fuckboy Supreme Donny  was great, too. I really wanted him to tell that prick to pull the trigger, but Jesse’s display of restraint made the whole scene a little more believable.

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*Fuck this guy.*

I was hoping they would continue with the little Saint of Killer openings. I feel like that would have been an amazing way to lead up to his introduction to the Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy. He’s such an important part of the Preacher mythos, and I just really want to see more of him. I don’t know how close they’ll follow his story from the comics in the show. I kind of doubt they’ll take it to the extreme, almost cartoonish levels the comic did.

But the big standout for me in this episode was the very brief cameo of Herr Starr.

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*Yes, please.*

Holy shit, you guys. I hope they bring this character to the forefront in the show soon. Next to Cassidy, this guy is my favorite character (and definitely my favorite antagonist) from the comics.

So what did you guys things about episode 3?

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Contract Blues FLASHBACK!

So about 10 years ago I wrote a crime comic called Contract Blues . I was really proud of it and sent it to several publishers, all of which rejected it. I was doing some digging in the ol’ hard drive and came across the individual page files and I thought it would be fun to share them here. I don’t think you can get this any other way anymore. I sold out of the hard copies ages ago, and the digital distributor who was selling it may have screwed me and my artist, the disgustingly talented Lee O’Connor (No, seriously, that dude is amazing; check out his stuff).

Unfortunately without securing a publisher and a solid distributor, the project died. Lee had the layouts for issue two done (they looked fucking amazing) and I had the first five or so issues scripted and ready to roll. But money, work schedules, and just life in general got in the way of completing what I think would have been a really cool pulpy, action, crime, comedy comic book. But hey, I’m biased. This is one of those things I worked on in my twenties and really wished I had finished. I had so much fun working on this project, and if I win the lottery tomorrow, the first thing I would do is pay Lee to be my personal art monkey and crank out the 24 issues I had planned.

But without further ado. Here is Contract Blues #1. I hope you like it.

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Continue reading

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X-Men stuff.

Hey guys, check out this op-ed I wrote about the X-Men movies for http://www.boundingintocomics.com

I don’t say “fuck” in it, but I still think it’s pretty okay.

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Let’s Talk About Preacher Episodes 1 & 2

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Wow.

I love Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s horror, black comedy, modern day acid western series so much it hurts. I came upon Preacher in my late teens. The comic series had just wrapped up and the final trade paperback was about to be released. A friend of mine and I took turns buying every other trade with the meager income we were afforded from working part time at a grocery store. We should have been using that money for anything else, but we didn’t. We needed more Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip in our lives. And when that ninth trade finally hit the shelves, we took turns reading it and we both had the same emotional response: bittersweet catharsis.

I won’t get into the details of the comic here since I’m not sure how close the show will decide to follow them. I will say that thus far, AMC seems to be doing its own thing, which is a relief. Some fanboys will balk at the idea of a movie studio or TV station straying from their beloved property, which never made sense to me. The fact that AMC is making Preacher different should be celebrated. It should be exciting for fuck’s sake, especially when the tone of the comic and the fuck religion, fuck the establishment, punk rock sensibility that dripped from every page is still alive and well.

And that’s why AMC’s Preacher works. They may have given the story a makeover and made chop suey with its chronology, but they’ve kept its heart in tact. Not every comic adaptation can boast that (cough, cough, The Walking Dead).

Let’s get into the cast:

I wasn’t too worried about who they got to fill the shoes of Jesse Custer. AMC really just needed a dark, handsome man who could speak with a Texan twang and carried himself with all the confidence in the world…and that’s exactly what they came up with. Dominic Cooper does a fine job. And by the second episode, he seemed more comfortable in the character’s skin and embraced the lunacy of the premise.

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*Tall, dark, and punchy.*

I was however worried about the casting decision for Cassidy, who was my favorite character in the comic books (yes, I know he had some…let’s say dark moments, but at the end you still loved him). Luckily, Joseph Gilgun fucking kills it! Although the dialogue in the show has been scrubbed for network TV, this version of everyone’s favorite alcoholic Irish vampire is as rude and frantic as his comic counterpart.

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*Badass.*

The rest of the cast works well, too. The makeup for Arseface is amazing and really hard to look at. Even the supporting characters who either don’t make a big slash in the comics or aren’t even in it play their parts well. Everyone seems to be on board.

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*Barf.*

But the true revelation in this cast is Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare. Ho. Ly. Shit. I love this woman. She has brought more attitude and gravitas to the character in two episodes than the comic ever did in its 66 issue run (which I’m not shitting on any of Ennis’ writing, but I feel like there was more interest in the male leads). She is astounding. Every time she’s not on the screen I miss her.

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*Bigger badass.*

The excellent cast is not the end of all the things that work in Preacher. Far from it, in fact: the writing it tight and the dialogue is snappy and funny; the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; and other than a few little obvious budget restraints, the special effects are great.

I’m sorry I’m nerding out about this so much, but I’ve been waiting 15 years for this adaptation to come to life. And when I first heard AMC was doing it, I wasn’t exactly doing cartwheels in excitement. But all my fears and hesitations were squashed pretty damn quick. Now I can’t wait to see some of my other favorite characters come to life.

Watch this show. It’s so good, and, as cliched as it sounds, there’s nothing else like it on TV.

 

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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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