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2016 Superhero Movie Reviews!

So this dumpster fire of a year is coming to a close, which means it’s time for lists! Yes, the Internet loves best of and worst of lists and year end retrospectives and whatnot as much as it loves cats, pornography, and gorillas (for some fucking reason). So I figured I would toss my hat in the ring and give you my thoughts on all the comic book movies that were theatrically released this year (chronologically) and grade them.  Let us begin:

February 12th

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Deadpool

It’s pretty good…

Sorry, I’m not going to jump this movie’s bones like the rest of the Internet. Yes, I thought Ryan Reynolds was perfect casting. And yes, there were some fantastic jokes that landed so hard they made me short of breathe from laughter. And yes, the big action sequences (both of them) were outstanding considering the budget the filmmakers were working with. But just like the titular character’s comic counterpart, Deadpool got on my nerves after a while.

I’ve been a longtime reader of Deadpool comics and the character is always more interesting when he’s playing second fiddle to just about anyone else (i.e. Cable and Deadpool; Deadpool vs. Hawkeye). I’ve always felt like there isn’t enough well-defined pathos to really make you give a shit about Wade Wilson enough, let alone watch him carry a film by himself. But despite that sentiment, Deadpool worked and was surprisingly energetic with a romance story that didn’t make me want to bash my face against the wall of a Hallmark Greeting Cards store.

Hopefully Deadpool 2 will do a great job with Cable. I feel like that groundwork for that relationship has already been laid with all the bits featuring Colossus. So…more of that, please.

Final Grade: B+

 

March 25th

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Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

No. Just no.

Every inane “plot point” in this superhero abortion has been argued over by smarter men than I. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of what I think about BvS, get a few beers in me and tell me you actually liked.

This movie sucks on a level I never knew existed.

Final Grade: F

 

May 6th

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Captain America: Civil war

I already touched on this movie before, and dammit, I like it. I the introduction of both Black Panther and Spider-Man felt natural and while the latter character’s presence was by no means necessary, it didn’t detract from the film. If anything, Spidey popping up felt like a nice little reprieve from the looming chaos that was about to ensue.

I don’t think this is my favorite Marvel flick thus far (that honor still belongs to Guardians of the Galaxy), but it’s definitely in the top 5. Also this cover…

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…it became real. And it was breathtaking.

Final Grade: A

 

May 27th

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Unlike most critics and the majority of my friends, I didn’t hate this movie. I actually kinda dug it. All the silly shit that made me love the ‘90s X-Men animated series as a kid was there: goofy costumes, bad jokes, lasers and shit, etc. X-Men: Apocalypse did what I never thought the X-Men movies would do, and it embraced the absolute absurdity of this franchise. But it did so without this…or this… I’m not going to say this a perfect film. Hell, there were a lot of things that were flat out dumb, but this one felt like a real deal X-Men team film and that final shot-

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Yeah that one – made me squeal in the theater. JUST LOOK AT THOSE COSTUMES! I enjoyed this movie so much, I even wrote an op-ed on it.

Final Grade: B

 

June 3rd

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

You know, as a man in my early 30s who grew up on Ninja Turtles, I was super excited to see this movie. The first film in this franchise didn’t do much for me(aside from a badass Splinter & Shredder brawl), but the trailers for this sequel promised a movie that should have knocked it out of the park.

I was getting a “live action” Boobop, Rocksteady, and Krang (fucking KRANG!) for the first time ever, Casey Jones was popping up, and the Shredder looked like he was going to be an actual character instead of some random guy who jumps inside of a giant robot. Well, TMNT: OOTS (by the way, this movie will forever be known as Oots) delivered on those promises in the same way an alcoholic parent promises to get you a new bike for Christmas but instead they bring home a Radio Flyer missing a couple wheels that they fished out of dumpster behind a TGI Fridays and they force you to take it out for a spin on Christmas morning (there’s eggnog to drink and they don’t need to be bothered by your constant crying).

Look, what I’m trying to say is this movie sucked.

Final Grade: D

 

July 25th

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Batman: The Killing Joke

This one hurt. I am a HUGE Alan Moore fan, and while I think The Killing Joke is one of his lesser works, it is an important piece of Batman history.

But do we need an adaptation? Not now, we don’t. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, adapting this very slim one-shot graphic novella into a half hour TV special would have make a huge splash and shocked audiences, but padding it out to feature length with an awkward sex scene and a boring B plot regarding gangsters Batgirl is investigating just make the whole thing a big mess that is equal parts tiring and trite. What saddens me further is that one of my favorite comic writers working today, Mr. Brian Azzarello, wrote the screenplay. I know he can write Batman well. I seen’t it!

Final Grade: D-

 

August 5th

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Suicide Squad

“Hey, Mike, was Jared Leto any good as the Joker?’

Why don’t you ask him yourself?

“Hey Jared, how do you think your Joker turned out on the big screen?”

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That’s because he was barely in the damn movie. And look, before you cry foul and tell me, “this isn’t Joker’s movie,” I know. I know. I know. I fucking KNOW. But don’t parade around a character so prominently in your ad campaign and not feature him in your movie. I don’t recall Rogue One doing that with Vader, and guess what, IT WORKED.

This movie was garbage. Not offensive-make-me-wanna-kill-myself garbage. Just uninspired, boring, dumb garbage, which is something I can deal with if it didn’t take itself so seriously.

Final Grade: D

 

November 4th

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Doctor Strange

Full disclosure: I know fuck all about Doctor Strange. With that being said, it’s hard for me to judge this on the source material (even though I am privy to the fact the character of The Ancient One was whitewashed like middle school American history text book). But I will say that as a standalone movie, I really enjoyed it. Sure, it was basically a mystical rehash of the first Iron Man film, but who cares? If a movie feels like a comfortable pair of pajama pants, you might as well wear them (guys, I’m bad at metaphors). Benedict Cumberbatch was great in the way Benedict Cumberbatch is great in everything (even when he’s playing “Kahn” in a shitty Star Trek movie).

Final Grade B+

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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 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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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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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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Mark Millar’s World Part 2: The Burning Clog FUN SIZE REVIEWS

I feel like I might have come off a bit too harsh on the creator-owned comics in the first part of my Mark Millar retrospect. I totally shat on both Kick-Ass and Nemesis, but they deserve it. Millar is a great story teller, but not every tale he tells is woven equally tight. Sometimes, great artists create crap. But I am a firm believer you should judge an artist by their best work, so I am more than willing to ignore some speed bumps. With that being said, let’s dive into one of my favorite creator-owned stories by Millar…

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Wanted (2003 – 2005)

This book simply rocks. It’s a nasty little Arthurian style “you are the chosen one” story where the chosen one happens to be the bad guy.  Wanted follows the exploits Wesley Gibson (modeled after rapper Eminem; no seriously) who goes from being a loser with a cheating girlfriend and shit job to a badass super villain with an endless supply of wealth and hedonistic, ball-draining activities at his disposal. J.G. Jones artwork is stellar. The pacing of his panels make the action pop, and Millar’s biting dialogue has never been so hilarious. As for the plot, it’s pretty basic (no spoilers), but the simplest stories often work the best. The story beats are familiar (and even somewhat predictable), but it doesn’t detract by how much damn fun Wanted is. Go. Read. Now.

Final Grade: A

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Superman: Red Son (2003)

Believe me when I say this: “I DO NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT SUPERMAN.” Like, not even a little bit, but holy hell, this is one Superman story I can get behind.  Red Son is simply a “what if…?” story that asks “What if Kal El landed in Moscow instead of Smallville?” The answer to that question makes for a compelling vision of the world’s most popular superhero. This book is definitely political, but not necessarily  in a red vs blue sort of way. The story of Red Son shows that greatness can be achieved under any circumstances, good or bad. It also says a lot about rival philosophies and how even some radical world views have their merit and can be shaped into something almost universally appreciated…Also, Batman is a badass anarchist who terrorizes Superman. It’s rad.

Final Grade: A-

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Jupiter’s Legacy (2013 – present)

This is another one I wanted to love. The concept is solid: Superheros have become so strong in numbers, villains stand no chance against them (there’s a really cool scene early on where a pack of heroes give some random baddy a good ol’ blanket party, only to comment on how it wasn’t the most noble of battles). With the lack of actual villainy to combat, the super-offspring of these heroes don’t know what to do with themselves and slip into lives of being celebutantes (think Paris Hilton, but if she could fly and had heat vision and wasn’t completely awful). All of this makes for some really interesting characters, but not all of their motivations were strong enough to justify their actions. But to be completely fair, I’ve only read Book 1 of the series, which covers the first 5 issues. I’m hoping that the second half of this series turns things around and really tries to have fun with the world it has built.

Final Grade: B-

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The Ultimates (2002)

Hey, nerd! Do you love all those fun superhero movies Marvel Studios keeps cranking out? Do you get a big boner knowing that you’ll get two every year for the rest of your natural life or at least until they start bombing at the box office? Ya do? Well then, you should pucker up and kiss Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates’ big, fat ass, because without this book, those movies might not have been worth a damn. I feel it’s impossible not to give this book a great deal of credit for, if nothing else, giving Marvel Studios some solid groundwork to build The Avengers on. A lot of the story beats and character traits (e.g. Sam Jackson Fury) from The Ultimates have been translated to the big screen and most of it works really well. I suggest reading this book if you haven’t, and it’s good (but not quite as great) follow up (but not the third one by Jeff Loeb; that one’s not so good).

Final Grade: A-

 

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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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New Direction

Like Stain’d so famously put it, “It’s been awhile.” (thank you, Scott Aukerman for the joke that keeps on giving).

I feel like this blog has been dormant for far too long so I’m going to use it for something I love to do but don’t do often enough: talk about comic books.

That’s right. Comics. Graphic novels. Funny books. That thing you read on your iPad because you hate paper or you’re running out of room for long boxes. You know the things.

I’m going to start this off this week (in the next post) with a review of Neil Gaiman’s Miracleman The Golden Age TBP. And yes, I will talk about Alan Moore in that post. And yes, I’ll get into why I don’t really like super heroes. And yes, I’ll discuss my strenuous relationship with Mr. Gaiman’s work. And yes, I will assign it some sort of letter score because the Internet seems to crave that sort of thing.

So after a bit of a face lift and a some push on the Twitter, I think this’ll be something that sticks…

Or not. Who knows?

 

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