Tag Archives: image comics

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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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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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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Orc Stain REVIEW

*Note: This review covers the first TPB of Orc Stain, which collects issues #1-5.

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Every pop culture nerd has that one cancelled-too-early television show they just can’t shut up about it and feel the need to tell you why it’s an outright crime it’s no longer with us, as if the show was some young medical genius with the cure for cancer in his head and just as he was about to write it down, he was murdered in the streets (for me, that show is Carnrivale, by the way).

But rarely do we (we, as in the collective Internet nerd herd/fandom) bitch about early cancellations or (even worse) absent issues that leave loose ends never to be resolved when it comes of comics. But the medium falls victim to early goodbyes as much, if not more so, as TV shows.

Comic books are filled with half realized stories. Look at Battle Chasers or Scud: The Disposable Assassin (Yes, I know Rob wrapped things up, but it took over a decade to do it) or Loveless or whatever the fuck Kevin Smith does with Batman and Daredevil half the time. Hell, I’ve been on the production end of unfinished comics. I published one issue of a crime comic before my finances dried up and my artist caught bigger fish. Of the hundred or so people who read it, I’m sure some of them would like to have known what would happen next (just email me, I’ll send you the scripts).

Now if I were to carry a torch for any one comic book with the same passionate flame I burn for Carnivale or Terriers (seriously, go watch that show), it would be James Stokoe’s Orc Stain.

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*Just look at this shit! Tell me you’re not into this…*

I recommend this book to my friends all the time, and when I tell them what it’s about, they look at me like I’m completely nuts. It must be the same expression I gave the clerk at my local comic shop when he recommended it to me.

But just like the clerk  after he made his recommendation to me, I explain that the comic is indeed filled with orcs, and they use dried up dicks as currency, and the hero is an orc named One Eye, because, guess what? he has one eye, and he has a hammer that can break anything (including mountains and other orcs’ dicks), and none if makes any sense, and then I punctuate my ramblings with the simple words: “…and it’s pretty fucking rad.”

After convincing people to read this book, I have have to give them the bad news: there are only 7 issues of Orc Stain, and we haven’t had a new one in four years. Then when the look of sadness slides across their faces, I tell them about how they use dicks as currency, and I win them back over.

James Stokoe is a madman. His art is as manic as his storytelling, and Orc Stain is the best work he’s ever done .

Final Grade: A+

Note: Gronches are what they call dicks… Yes, Gronch. Go ahead and adopt that into your vocabulary now.

 

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Wytches Volume 1 REVIEW

Pledged is pledged…

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Before I picked up this trade, I’d had very little experience with Scott Snyder’s work. In fact, the reason I gravitated to this book was Jock’s cover art (hypocritical, I know; art is always second place for me when it comes to scooping up comics). I flipped through the first few pages, read the synopsis and few quick Amazon reviews on my phone, and purchased it at my local brick and mortar. The first trade is $9.99 MSRP, and let me tell you, (besides subscribing to Heavy Metal magazine) page-for-page, this book might have been the best bang for the buck I’ve ever spent on comics, for two reasons.

Reason 1: The story is quite good. Hell, I’d even call it great.

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Wytches be scary, yo.

The story starts out simple enough: a troubled teenage girl is trying to adjust to a tough living situation and ever growing family strife while a bunch of supernatural crazy shit turns her world completely upside down. The new witch folklore this book presents is refreshing and turns what is usually fodder for young adult fiction or crappy CW shows into truly terrifying creatures. The only issue I had with Wytches was how quickly the resolution in the final issue (#6) came about and the giant information dump near the end to make for a (mostly) nice, clean ending. I wonder if Snyder and Jock were worried the book wouldn’t get picked back up (luckily, all signs point to issue 7 coming out sometime this year). But these nitpicks can be overlooked.

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“GAH! Nitpick! I said, nitpick! Not fucking nosepick!”

Reason 2: This book opened my eyes to how damn good Scott Snyder is as a writer. I mean, really good. Shortly after reading Wytches, I plowed through his run on Batman and The Wake, both of which are amazingly good. This guy is the real deal. Not since I first read Jason Aaron’s Scalped have I been so head over heels for a comic scribe. I’d read this guy’s grocery list (I bet there’s something creepy on it).

If you’re horror fan, read Wytches immediately. It rocks.

Final Grade: A-

**images from imagecomics.com and comicbookresources.com**

 

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East of West REVIEW

NOTE: This review covers the first four trade paper backs of East of West, which collect issues 1 – 19 and The World source book.

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*Source: imagecomics.com*

Read this book. Now. Stop reading this, go get the trades, and consume them with you eye teeth. They are fantastic.

East of West is one of those rare books that takes genre tropes, tosses them in a blender, and produces something on the page that is larger and far more intriguing than its separate parts. I mean, it would be easy to call this book a science fiction story and move along, but you would be doing the work Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta have produced a great disservice.

This book has everything: drama, horror, romance, action, adventure, Native American mysticism, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, family blood feuds, gunslingers, political intrigue, and a robot balloon. When I say East of West has everything, I mean it has EVERY-FUCKING-THING.

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*source: East of West #19 (I think) from Image Comics*

The last time I recall being shotgunned by ten different genres and loving every moment of it would be when I read the first three Dark Tower books by Stephen King.

While being shotgunned by genres may seem overwhelming, the abundance of stuff jammed into each issue does nothing to hinder the flow of the story or character development.

“So, Mike, what is East of West all about?” you might ask.

To which I would like to reply, “Shut your face and just read it.” But what I would probably tell  you is that the comic follows one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death (yes, that Death) as he travels across a version of the United States, where the line between magic and technology is blurred, in search of his lost child, a child who just might be the harbinger of End Times, like, for real.

I guess that would be the elevator pitch. And if that didn’t grab you, I’d probably tell you about the robot balloon again.

I don’t want to be cryptic about this comic. I really don’t, but every time I write a word in this review, I feel like I’ve said too much.

This is one of those stories that it methodical in its telling. And while sometimes what’s going on can seem arcane, things always come around full circle.

This is a challenging book, but not challenging in the way one would consider Alan Moore’s A Disease of Language challenging. This book likes to keep you in the dark right up to the point where you want to drop the comic like a vomiting baby that’s not yours and walk away. But the precipice of making you do so is never crossed. Just when you think you’re going to give up, East of West grabs your stupid, stupid face and makes you read its crazy words and look at its batshit, bonkers pictures and then it shakes you silly and makes you scream, “thank you, sir, may I have another?” and then it give you this:

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*Source: East of West #3*

On a Pale Robot Horse Thing or Something… 

This book does not give a shit if you like it or not. And its apathy isn’t presented in a pretentious Radiohead sort of way; it’s in a switchbladeand broken beer bottle, punk rock sort of way. This book has a permanent sneer on its face and it wants to show you something different. It wants you to feel the plight of its characters in every panel and reconsider what you think makes traditional story telling work. And love it or hate it, there’s something to be said for that.

At the time of this writing, the first four trades paper backs are out now and the fifth will be released soon. There is also a deluxe hardcover that collects the first 15 issues called The Apocalypse: Year One. Pick them up or get the singles if you’re a glutton for punishment.

Quick reminder: Robot Balloon.

Final Grade: A

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