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Drumheller #1 – Review

By: Alex Link (Story, script), Riley Rossmo (story, art, colors), Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A guy who takes lots of hallucinogens teams up with an ex-girlfriend to do paranormal stuff.

Review: This comic is really trippy.  It’s about a guy who is slightly insane and takes a LOT of drugs.  There also seems to be a splash of the paranormal flitting about.  So, when the main character hears a voice coming from his bag of golf clubs or the mummified body he pulls out of a swamp starts to move, you can’t quite tell: Is this really happening or is it just a drug-induced hallucination.

And that’s really the hook of the first issue.  It’s all about that weird cross-over between hallucination and and reality.  There probably is a central “call to action” that is driving the plotline forward.  But – honestly – I read the comic two days ago and I don’t even remember what the story is all about.  The central story is really secondary to the weirdness.

That may make the comic sound shallow, but that kinda misses the point because the weirdness is so well done.  The opening scene shows the main character on a golf course, in a bathrobe getting struck by lightning.  Then he gets up and watches a peacock emerge from a rain puddle on the ground and fly away…..then he notices that the peacock (not a penHEN) has laid an egg in the puddle, so he picks it up and then sticks his face in the puddle and his face emerges from the puddle in the sky of another world where the sun is out.  It’s really trippy and weird.  It’s also the sort of thing that makes me appreciate comics as a medium.  You could write prose about this sort of scene, but it wouldn’t be graphic enough.  You could try to put such a scene in a movie or TV show, but it would almost certainly look like crappy CGI unless you spent a FORTUNE on the effects.  Comics are cool.

Of course, the thing selling all of this is Riley Rossmo’s art.  He just has a really good eye for atmosphere and the surreal.  He’s kinda done this sort of “edge of reality” story a bunch of times in Cowboy Ninja Viking, Green Wake and a few others.  He’s an exemplary artist and anything he does is worth checking out.  I still wish we’d get to see him do that raw, monochrome style from CNV and Proof again, but he seems to be going in a different direction.  I think his art loses something the more it is cleaned up and colored.
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Adventures of Superman #1 – Review

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #1

By: Too many to list—check out the review.

The Story: Superman stops a meth-head, watches children play, and hurts a bizarre version of himself.

The Review: I think it’s appropriate for my review of this debut issue that I bring up some points I made in my initial review of Legends of the Dark Knight.  Besides the fact that I feel there’s already a glut of Superman titles (and more surely to come with Superman Unchained), I question the wisdom of adding yet another one to the mix.  Truly fresh Superman stories are growing ever rarer, and a monthly Superman showcase can only drain that well even faster.

I also have the same concern about the continuity status of these stories as I did for the ones over in Legends.  Without fail, the Superman we get here is one from pre-relaunch canon, down to the spit-curl and outer underwear.  This kind of thing sends the wrong signal from DC, as it signals a strong attachment to old continuity and tradition that surpasses whatever affection or viability the current Superman has.
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Dia De Los Muertos #1 – Review

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS #1

Dead but Dreaming by: Alex Link (writer), Riley Rossmo (art) & Nick Johnson (colors)

Reflections by: Christopher E. Long (writer), Rossmo & Jean-Paul Csuka (art and colors)

Te vas Angel Mio by: Dirk Manning (writer), Rossmo (art) & Megan Wilson (colors)

The Story: An anthology revolving around the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Quick Review: Anthologies are always interesting: You take the “good” with the “meh” and hope that the parts you enjoy are enough to justify the price-tag ($4.99 in this case).  This issue has three tales involving the afterlife and it probably makes sense to touch on them in order….

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Bedlam #3 – Review

BEDLAM #3

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A reformed Madder Red starts to help the police.

Review: This was a frustrating comic because it has teases of real excellence that get clouded in the execution.

Let’s start with how the glass is half full…

  •  Great art in places: The opening sequence of the comic that shows Madder Red murdering cats in his hospital room is the type of raw art I want from Riley Rossmo.  He is an artist that looks better without a colorist because his linework is so rough and visceral.  I love how he leaves his characters slightly roughed out and you can almost still see the erased pencils from the wireforms of these people.  THIS art reminds me of the guy who drew Proof and Cowboy Ninja Viking.
  • Unafraid story telling: Any comic that is unafraid to be transgressive gets massive points from me.  It isn’t so much that doing things for pure shock value is good, but by starting the story with a sequence of Madder Red killing 20-odd cats, Spencer and Rossmo have demonstrated the potential limits of the story.  When you consume fiction, you kinda know that certain things are off-limits: Batman will not die, no animal movie ever ends with all the doggies getting euthanized at the pound by the evil dog-catcher, etc.  With Bedlam we know that the creators are willing to kill children and kitty-cats and that the main serial killer has removed his own penis (remember that in Silence of the Lambs, Wild Bill just tucked it between his legs…).  At that point, I’m not sure anything is off-limits for this story.

But, the glass is also half-empty… Continue reading

Bedlam #2 – Review

BEDLAM #2

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: In which we learn that Madder Red’s reformation may be a part of a larger plot.

Quick review: This issue was a little disappointing.  It wasn’t in any way “bad”, but it lacked the snap of Issue #1 and failed to live up to that issue’s promise.  What made that first issue so special was the deeply demented nature of the central character: he was murdering lots of people and even after reforming, he was doing weird stuff like licking the barrel of a mugger’s revolver.  Madder Red was just really creepy!  That issue never missed a chance to be weird and because of that, we paid very close attention.

In this issue we slow way, way down.  Most of the scenes are of the “talking heads” variety as we start to learn more about what might be going on with Madder Red and why he is “reforming”.  It just wasn’t as memorable.
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Bedlam #1 – Review

By: Nick Spencer (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Jean-Paul Csuka (colors) and Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A maniacal mass murderer goes kinda straight.

A few things (with minor SPOILERS): 1). Very creepy and unsettling - I don’t know about you, but I’ve been exposed to too many types of media to be easily unsettled.  I guess I’m just desensitized.  But, this was a very eerie comic book and it all stems from the nasty/creepy main character.  In this issue, Spencer and Rossmo introduce us to a horrible serial killer named Madder Red.  He’s just freaky as all hell.  When we first meet him, he’s in the middle of a horrible killing spree involving dead kids and the horror continues throughout the issue as we alternate between seeing his crimes and following him has he (perhaps) tries to recover.  It’s a great example of creators really using the medium of comics to its fullest.  The concept and the words for Madder Red are horrifying, but when that combines with the visual of his creepy death-mask and odd body shape it really goes to another level of unsettling.  Even the red word balloons are a nasty touch.  From he first scene, you are pulled into the story.  Very nicely done!
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Debris #1 – Review

By: Kurtis J. Wiebe (writer), Riley Rossmo (art), Owen Gieni (colors), Ed Brisson (letters)

The Story: Hundreds of years after the fall of humanity, a young woman defends the last outpost of humans from mechanical monstrosities.

Review: This was a little disappointing on a couple of fronts.  As I mentioned in my “Picks of the Week“, the primary attraction on this issue was the art of Riley Rossmo.  I loved him on Proof and loved him in Cowboy Ninja Viking.  I even liked the art in Green Wake a lot, but found the narrative in that story to be really boring.  So, despite my reluctance to read another comic written by Wiebe (he also wrote The Intrepids which I ended up not caring for much and I didn’t enjoy Peter Panzerfaust as much as everyone else), I wanted to give this a try.  Surely Rossmo drawing post-apocalypse stuff would really take advantage of his scratchy and vital style.
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Rebel Blood #2 – Review

By: Alex Link (plot/script), Riley Rossmo (plot/art) & Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: Trapped in the forest during an apocalypse, Chuck tries to make his way home.

Recap/Review: Good and bad with this comic.  Let’s be in a good mood and talk about the good stuff first, eh?

The general premise for this comic is interesting: man is out in the middle of nowhere when the apocalypse happens.  Usually when we see these end-of-the-world stories, we follow people who are trapped in cities or the suburbs.  It’s very different to see the world-ending from the standpoint of a guy located in a very remote location where he has limited information and already accepts that “the authorities” won’t be coming to help him.  Even in normal times, the deep wilderness has potential for scary times as anyone who has encountered an oddball stranger in the middle of the woods can tell you.  There’s no “help”…it’s all on YOU to get out of the jam.  So, the story and the setting work and make sense.

I also find myself enjoying the protagonist’s attempt to get home and find his family.  It seems like this apocalypse might actually be starting in the wilderness and making it’s way to the cities?  Thus, has to escape the mutant-filled forest and get to his family before the ghouls eat his family.  It isn’t a new concept, but the idea of not being able to help your children during a crisis is a powerful one and one that connects with readers.
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Rebel Blood #1 – Review

By: Alex Link (plot/script), Riley Rossmo (plot/art) & Kelly Tindall (letters)

The Story: A man stuck in the wild tries to grapple with the onset of an apocalypse.

Review: This was pretty good.  The big attraction to this issue and series is artist Riley Rossmo.  He was incredible on Cowboy Ninja Viking back in 2010 and he has kept busy since then with Proof: Endangered and Green Wake.  I didn’t personally find the stories in Proof: Endangered or Green Wake to be very entertaining, so I was very happy to see Rossmo on a project that I might enjoy more.

The basic story in Rebel Blood is that of an apocalypse, but we see it through the eyes of a fireman who is working in the remote wilderness….hundreds of miles from civilization and his family.  So, this is kinda a different wrinkle.  One of the big attractions to an apocalypse story is the, “What happened?” aspect.  People who enjoy this genre understand that you usually are not given all the pieces to the puzzle, but find it fun to assemble the pieces that are present.  By telling the story in this remote way, “What happened?” is a much bigger question than usual.  All we know is that this guy is in a remote location and is being attacked by mutated animals.

The cousin of “What happened?” is “WTF is going on?” and this is a slightly different question in Rebel Blood.  Much of the information we see on the page is from various attempts the the protagonist makes to get home and save his family.  But, the catch is that each scene is different, with different family members dying in different scenes.  As a reader, there isn’t much indication of which scene was real……or if any of them are real.  For all the reader knows, these could be his mental imaginings of what he’ll discover when he goes to find his family or perhaps the guy has gone insane?  It’s really hard to know, but it adds to the sense of confusion that we feel… and that makes “What happened?” much more compelling.  Honestly…..this is a comic that can be enjoyed in a 10 minute read through, but also has some nuggets for a reader who wants to diligently analyze it panel by panel because I’m pretty sure the clues are all there.
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Daken: Dark Wolverine #21

Written by Rob Williams, Art by Matteo Buffagni, Andrea Mutti, & Riley Rossmo

The Cancellation: First, poor Rob Williams. Two titles canceled that were far better than most of the garbage that comes out every month. And with the plot lines he lay out, it’s a shame Daken got the axe. Hopefully Brubaker will pick up the dangling Daken/Winter Soldier fight that has been left in the air. Also, with Moon Knight ending, is the Count Nefaria plot going nowhere? I’ve been enjoying Daken’s schemes. It’s like he filled the void of manipulation that (adult) Loki left behind.

The Writing: At this point, Williams knows his series is ending, and it’s not for creative reasons. Some writers handle this by phoning it in and giving garbage because…why should they care? Williams doesn’t do that. He seems to be the other kind of writer–if you’re going to go out, go out in a blaze of glory. He digs all the way back to the first arc of Daken, back when it was still a Wolverine title with issue 75, and Daken manipulated the Fantastic Four into supporting him. Turns out, he still has them under his thumb and Johnny still thinks he and Daken are best friends. It was an odd scene, but rewarding to those who have followed Daken since he got his own series way back during Dark Reign. The scene also sets up some exposition nicely. Daken has really messed up his healing factor using the Heat drug, and now it’s attacking his body. What was supposed to be a story about a man building something becomes a story about a man facing his own demise. And he handles this exactly as you’d expect Wolverine’s psychopath son to handle it…but I won’t spoil that here. But this is very much a final stand kind of story, and I’m interested in seeing how Williams concludes his run.
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Green Wake #1 – Review

By: Kurtis Wiebe (story), Riley Rossmo (art), Kelly Tindall (letters) & Jade Dodge (edits)

The Story: A detective, noirish murder-mystery set in a purgatory-like environment.

What’s Good: Riley Rossmo (Proof, Cowboy Ninja Viking) has been good for a long time, but this is his best work yet.  This issue has all of his sketchy roughness such that the emotion of the scene just bleeds off the page, but due to the darker subject matter of the story, he’s allowed to go even further with this style (or clean it up less).  The other thing that he’s really adding here is cool architecture.  I’m always a sucker for guys who draw buildings and streetscapes well and Rossmo’s city (?) of Green Wake establishes much of the mood for the story.

Rossmo also does a lot of Templesmith-style digital work on his drawings to punch them up even more.  Like giving a scene a green wash to establish a mood that is only broken by the riot of red from the bleeding man in the street.  It’s just really powerful art and the art alone is worth the price of admission for this issue.

What’s Not So Good: I don’t get the story.  The Green Wake setting seems to be some sort of purgatory where the characters are stuck.  I’m sure that the mystery of “what is Green Wake” will be part of the point to the whole series.  But, this opaqueness really loomed over the entire story (for me) and made it such that I couldn’t concentrate on (and enjoy) the otherwise solid murder-mystery that is on the surface.
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Quick Hit Reviews – Week of March 30, 2011

What a strong week for comics!  Almost everything last week was at least “pretty good” and that makes us happy at WCBR.  Even though we’ll do out duty and tell you when a comic SUCKS, we don’t take any pleasure in doing so and it’s a LOT more fun to talk about what was good.  However, even though we review a TON of books in-full, there are always a few stragglers that get lost in the shuffle.  Thus, the Quick Hit Reviews….

Scarlet #5 – I can see people having two very different sets of thoughts on this title.  If you’re a police officer or otherwise a general believer of the benevolence of the government, you’re going to really hate this comic.  On the other hand, if you’re a more of a free will, distrust of the “man” type of person I can’t see how this doesn’t scratch a Libertarian itch.  I’m in the latter camp and just love Scarlet.  This issue represents the ending of the first story arc that has seen the titular Scarlet go from meting out some justice against dirty cops, to being the sudden leader of a political movements.  All of a sudden she’s Che Guevara, but she isn’t sure that’s what she wants to be OR if she even can be the leader her “people” want.  Meanwhile we are also introduced to some possibly sympathetic heroes within the power structure and that’s good too.  I know some people decry Alex Maleev’s art as “tracing”, but I don’t care.  Even if he is tracing (and he swears he isn’t in interviews), I like the way he’s using it.  He’s just creating art differently than more traditional artists and it is hard to argue with the stylish results.  Grade: A-   — Dean Stell

Captain America #616 – Well, here’s a comic that’ll earn your $4.99, with a main feature and no less than five back-ups.  Better still, for the most part, it’s all pretty good stuff and there are absolutely no reprints or picture galleries to bulk out the package.  This meaty package is all story content and that immediately earns it some points.  The main feature, written by Brubaker and featuring Bucky in a nasty Russian prison, is really dark stuff and a surprising component to an anniversary issue.  That said, if anything, it functions as an effective teaser for what’s to come.  Dark and nasty as it is, it lets Brubaker shine, somehow melding gritty prison drama with giant killer bear deathmatches.  It’s desperate, dire stuff but also a lot of fun and it brings the hard-hitting drama and excitement back to Bucky after a couple of fairly ho-hum arcs.  I hope the actual Gulag story arc keeps this up.  With five back-up features, you know you’re going to get a mixed bag, but Cap #616 actually delivers the goods for the most part.  While the stories by Kyle Higgins/Alec Siegel and Mike Benson/Paul Grist are fairly forgettable, they have the decency to at least look good.  Meanwhile, the Howard Chaykin and Frank Tieri/Paul Azeceta stories are rock solid, really effectively ruminating upon, and making use of, the sense of “history” that is such a big part of who and what Captain America is.  The real barn-burner, however, is the masterpiece delivered by Cullen Bunn and Jason LaTour.  Tremendous artwork and writing deliver a story that not only focuses upon the importance of Captain America, but does so in a manner that relates it to contemporary times and issues in a manner that doesn’t feel preachy or forced.  Bunn and LaTour paint a picture of a troubled modern America that needs a Captain America more than ever.  And it still finds room for AIM spider robots.  It’s the kind of story that has me very intrigued regarding Bunn’s future Marvel work.  Grade: B+   — Alex Evans Continue reading

Quick Hit Reviews Week of Feb. 16, 2011

Some weeks it is just insane how many comics get published.  Despite the intrepid efforts of our writing staff here at WCBR, we simply can’t do a full review of every comic.  Thus, we bring you the quick-hit reviews where we say a few words about some comics that were pretty darn good and some others that are not so much…

Silver Surfer #1 – The story here is pretty good stuff.  It isn’t the best story ever regarding the Surfer, but a very solid story involving Earthly affairs with a surprising guest starring role from the High Evolutionary.  This action seems to dovetail with the High Evolutionary story occurring in the Iron Man – Thor miniseries from Abnett & Lanning.  What really puts this issue over the top is the art.  Stephen Segovia and Victor Olazaba do an awesome job drawing and inking (especially inking) the Surfer and Wil Quintana contributes great cosmic colors.  I am trying to pare down my “non-essential” Marvel titles, but this display of art will probably have me sticking around.  Grade: A-  — Dean Stell

Wolverine & Jubilee #2 - This is a great series so far that casts Wolverine in his best role: as mentor to a younger hero.  Not only is this my favorite role for Wolverine, but it has always been the best way to bring new members into the X-universe.  Jubilee isn’t new, but she is in a new “role” as she adapts to her vampiric powers (which we learn more about in this issue).  Kathryn Immonen even works in some very funny bits such as Wolverine’s revelation that one can apparently get one’s tongue stuck to Colossus if it is really cold outside.  I DEMAND that that story be in the next Strange Tales!  This issue is also telling a neat story that shows Logan and Jubilee finding zombies in Siberia and it would have gotten a better grade if not for a wholly confusing final page.  Seriously, the final page made me wonder if there was a printing error and I’d missed something.  Phil Noto’s art is again wonderfully pretty.  He draws such pretty eyes on his women.  Grade: B+  — Dean Stell

Venom/Deadpool #1 – No character but Deadpool could pull off a comic like this, and I highly doubt that many writers other than Remender could have written it. This fourth-wall slaughtering romp through the Marvel U is a great deal of fun, with in-jokes, creative references and absurdity to spare. The artwork is big and bold (as well it should be for this kind of a tale) and the story itself–Deadpool is on a quest to find the Continuity Cube, thus making himself the single most relevant character in the Marvel Universe–is a very funny concept that both Remender and Moll execute very well. I must admit, I’m glad I bought the single, $2.99 comic rather than trying to piece together the four mini-chapters that were spread out over four different books. The story is good enough, and fun enough, that $2.99 feels just about right. Any more cost–or effort–than that would be a little much though, even for a ‘Pool-addict like myself.  Grade: B    — SoldierHawk

Justice League of America #54 – What a difference new art makes!  Bagley’s time on this title was pretty drab, but I really, REALLY like the work that Brett Booth is doing in this issue.  Booth’s classic figures (with a beautiful fine line from inker Norm Rapmund) combines really well with Andrew Dalhouse’s understated colors.  I so enjoy this muted color scheme to brilliant and shiny colors.  The story is pretty good too showing Eclipso coming “back” and beginning to recruit shadow-powered villains.  Very little actual JLA in this issue, but that’s fine.  Hopefully this is the arc where James Robinson’s turn on the series finds its footing.  Very promising.  Grade: B  — Dean Stell

Captain America: Man Out of Time #4 – This series continues to be a wonderful character showcase for Steve, and a more overarching look at his current relevance to the Marvel Universe. I especially like Cap’s being forced to face the less-savory parts of American history he’s missed (rather breezily–or perhaps, very calculatingly–passed over by Tony Stark’s version of the temporal tour.) I am and always will be a huge Tony Stark fan, so the contrast we see between his America, and General Simon’s America, was fascinating, and a lot of fun to read. My only complaint is that, in this issue especially (and mostly for the sake of pushing the story along), Steve seems awfully naive. I understand that both he and the 40s are supposed to represent a more innocent and morally straightforward time, but…c’mon. Cap’s a soldier. He fought the Nazis for crying out loud. He’s seen the absolute worst of what humanity has to offer…and he’s really THAT shocked by the fact that, yes, crime and Bad Things still exist in America today? I do understand why he might be disappointed, but Waid and company spend far too much time milking that for the sake of a larger message.  Grade: B-   — SoldierHawk Continue reading

Quick-Hit Reviews: Week of Jan. 26, 2011

Got-dang! There were a lot of comics that came out last week!  Even with all the reviewers at WCBR burning the midnight oil, it’s not always possible to get a full review up on everything when Marvel decides to release all of their Avengers and X-books in one week.  Sheesh!  But, still, we endure….

Uncanny X-Men #532 – We begin the handoff of Uncanny from Matt Fraction to Kieron Gillen.  Fraction had his high moments with the Utopia and Second Coming events, but the rest of his run was pretty uneven and this issue illustrates a lot of the problems that I have.  There are three story lines in this issue, but none feel very important.  First you have Emma, Fantomex & Kitty Pryde fighting with Sebastian Shaw.  I’m very unclear on what this story is supposed to do.  It isn’t interesting and if they just wanted Shaw back in circulation (which is a good idea), there surely are more entertaining ways to do it than this.  Two, we have Lobe and the Sublime Corp who have engineered mutant pills so that regular joes can gain mutant powers.  That just isn’t interesting or threatening and it has a lot of the pseudo-science that Fraction likes to use, but doesn’t pull off very well.  It’s very much what happens when someone who doesn’t know science tries to write something that is very hip about current science topics.  Three we have this Collective Man story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  Unclear why this title can’t copy the formula that makes Uncanny X-Force so kick ass.  And Greg Land’s art is just bad.  I don’t mind his art the first few times I see it, but he’s been on this title for a while and we know his tricks now.  Marvel would be best served to just rotate him around their titles.  Grade: D — Dean Stell

2nd Opinon: There’s a clever idea to be found in the character of Lobe, but I’m not sure that it’s being used to it’s full potential.  A character who genuinely doesn’t hate mutants but merely wants to exploit an untapped natural resource is a nice change of pace, but the entire melodramatic quarantine gambit and the cookie-cutter personalities of his wannabe X-Men are somewhat sabotaging a story with lots of potential.  Throw in the obvious space-filler of the Collective Man sub-plot and the going-on-way-too-long side-plot concerning Emma Frost’s mission to disappear Sebastian Shaw (I’mnotgoingtopickontheGregLandartI’mnotgoingtopickontheGregLandart…) and I unfortunately found myself with a strong urge to go reread this week’s issue of Uncanny X-Force. Grade: C- — Joe Lopez

Ultimate Spider-Man #152 – Bendis continues his great second wind on this title this month as we simultaneously discover just what Black Cat was doing during his battle with Mysterio many months ago and , in the present day, watch as Iron Man nearly outs Peter’s secret identity to all of Forest Hills, Queens.  There are plenty of standout moments in this issue, ranging from Aunt May’s reaction to Stark’s entrance gaff to the “Amazing Friends’” reunion with the just-returned Gwen Stacy.  Peter’s conversation with Gwen was particularly touching and felt honest and real in a way that most complicated relationships in fiction fail at.  While I do have to admit to being slightly annoyed that after three months of teasing, we still haven’t seen any actual super-hero schooling, Bendis hits the rest of the notes wonderfully and has gotten me one more invested in this comic’s cast.  Extra kudos have to go to penciller Sara Pichelli whose work here has improved greatly.  I’m not sure if it’s just a matter of her having become comfortable with the characters and their world, but this felt like an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man in a way that is usually reserved for one produced by a more regular artist.  Great stuff.  Grade: A — Joe Lopez

Thunderbolts #152 – This has been a superstar of a title over the last year.  Jeff Parker always keeps the title clicking along at a swift pace.  No drawn out, overly long 6 issue story arcs from Parker.  Here the action builds on a storyline that has been in Hulk (also by Parker) having to do with some mega-monsters that are escaping from a MODOK island and wreaking havoc on Japan.  I love how the Tbolts are all such a neat team, yet you never know when one of them might turn on the others.  Great action in this one as they fight the mega-monsters and deal with a new threat form Hyperion.  Kev Walker’s art is really tight too and perfect for this book with lots of oversized, hulking characters. Grade: B+ — Dean Stell

Secret Avengers #9 – While the kung-fu pulp element is dialed way down this month, this issue is solid if only because it’s one where the Secret Avengers live up to their namesake.  It’s shadowy superhero covert ops stuff with Steve Rogers and John Steele dueling one another.  In other words, it’s a pretty good time.  There’s even a superhero trade that almost seems like a spy-swap of sorts.  More than that though, Rogers looks particularly clever this month and truly feels like the leader of a covert squad.  If anything, the superspy tone makes for an Avengers book that has its own clear identity and, in some ways, it’s own little corner of the Marvel Universe.  It’s a unique read with solid writing and solid art.  The only thing wrong with it is that I’m finding John Steele a bit bland in concept and appearance as a bad guy.  There’s really just not that much to the guy, and certainly not much at all that we haven’t seen before.  Max Fury is far more compelling.  Grade: B — Alex Evans
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Proof Endangered #1 – Review

By: Alex Grecian (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist) & Frank Zigarelli (colors)

The Story: Bigfoot is back as Proof gets started again, picking up pretty much where it left off.

What’s Good: You don’t often get “jumping on points” with ongoing, creator-owned titles (i.e. Image, Vertigo, etc.).  One of the beauties of those types of comics is that they are telling a story rather than a series of adventures where nothing really changes (see: all Marvel & DC superhero comics).  That faithfulness to the story is the best and worst thing about such comic series: They are way more rewarding to read long term, but if you get left behind it is very hard to pick up in the middle and it can feel daunting to “catch up”.  So, it is a neat thing that the creators of Proof have given us this issue that really serves as a jumping on point for new readers.

“New reader” describes me pretty well for this series.  I was aware of the premise, have always enjoyed reading about cryptids and had read a few issues on Comixology, but was nowhere near “caught up”.  There was nothing in this issue that made me feel like I was being left out and the story did a nice job of laying out who all the characters are, what they’re up to while also continuing the ongoing Proof story (or at least seeming to) and laying out new story material.  That’s a lot of tasks accomplished for a single comic issue!

If you have read Proof or Cowboy Ninja Viking, you’ll be familiar with Rossmo’s art and it is on fine display here.  One of the things I really enjoy about his art is that you can see his pencil work in the finished product (lots of artists either erase all of the pencils OR clean it up digitally).  I’m not sure what his artistic process is like, but the end result is a pretty unique look and “unique looks” are part of the reason I enjoy non-Marvel/DC comics as much as I do.  Rossmo also shows in a few panels a great mastery of human anatomy that I really enjoy seeing (especially if you’re sick of seeing superheroes bulging with muscles that don’t really exist in nature).
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Cowboy Ninja Viking #10 – Review

By: AJ Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (art & colors), Clayton Cowles (letters) & Kristen Simon (editor)

The Story: The conflict between the two groups of triplets comes to a head as volume 1 of this very original series wraps.

What’s Good: This comic has all the elements that have made Cowboy Ninja Viking a fun and unique addition to the pull list for the last year.  When CNV started, the triple-personality concept was so novel and entertaining that it was almost hard to critique it objectively.  Now that the novelty has worn off, we can appreciate it for the interesting story-telling device that it is.  It basically has allowed a comic with a pretty limited cast to feel much bigger than it really is as Lieberman can use (or not) the various personalities to achieve whatever goals he has for the story.  The range of personalities is so complete that he has a pretty full toolbox of character elements.

Issue #10 also marks a pause-point for CNV as the creators are moving on to other projects for awhile.  But, they do a nice job of wrapping up the plot that had gotten a little confusing in the past few issues AND they leave us with a couple of very enticing plot-twists that will make it a real shame if the hiatus becomes permanent.  I pretty much want issue #11 next month!

Rossmo’s art is perfect for this series.  It is frenzied and kind of has a life of its own.  I particularly like how he knows which parts of the page need more detail.  Many panels feature people without much in the way of a face and this serves to direct your eyes to other parts of the panel where he really wants you to look OR to simply take in the whole scene rather than focusing on the individual faces.  But, he also masterfully shows pretty complex emotion on the faces of his characters when it is called for.
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Cowboy Ninja Viking #9 – Review

By: AJ Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (art & colors) & Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: A bunch of triple-personality types with a nuclear bomb!  What could possibly go wrong?

What’s Good: Cowboy Ninja Viking is something to enjoy every month because it is so different and unique.  There simply isn’t another comic that has such a frenzy of weirdness going on month-to-month.  The story is very deep and complex and rewards a reader who pays attention and isn’t afraid to pull last month’s issue out as a reminder of what happened.  Some of this is because it is a very dense comic.  The golden age format is put to full use to squeeze extra story in between the covers.

This issue continues several plots that have been stirring for months: the forces of good under Dr. Ghislain are searching for a lost nuclear weapon and our hero, Duncan’s is trying to regain his lost multiple personalities.  There is satisfying progress on both of these plots and the story moves forward with the still enjoyable interjections from the oddball personalities (the roadie character is becoming a favorite).

Rossmo’s art continues to be a real star in this series.  It is very unique style that in places is very sketch-like and scratchy, but the important details in panels receive the attention required to bring out the emotion of the characters.  For example, the character of Oliva Nix takes a more starring role this month and she moves from be squiggles in the background to being a very sexily drawn character this month (with the point of this change becoming clear towards the end of the issue).  It is very impressive work.
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Cowboy Ninja Viking #5 – Review

By: AJ Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (art) & Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: After sorting how who the good guys and bad guys were last issue, Duncan, Nix and Professor Ghislain try to stop the dastardly schemes of Mr. Blaq.

What’s Good: The first three issues of CNV were just a zany exercise in weirdness.  I loved the heck out of them, but there wasn’t a lot of story and I couldn’t have really told anyone what they were “about”.  Issue #4 really tied up a lot of loose ends and put the pieces in place to start to tell an actual story and now we are starting to get a real story and it is a good story so far. We’ll probably know over the next few issues whether CNV has enough story to be a real ongoing series.

Story aside, this continues to be a really cleverly written comic.  I spent the entire time reading it just snickering audibly to myself and wishing I wrote half as well as Mr. Lieberman.  Most of the clever parts come from the odd coupling of the larger-than-life Dr. Ghislain, Duncan (with his triple personalities) and Ms. Nix playing the straight-person.  Ghislain has really grown into a great character!  I also loved how in this issue for the first time they showed the triplets speaking with all three personalities without always using insert panels showing the character dressed up as a cowboy, cook, sniper, etc.  It really hits home how nuts these characters are when you see them essentially arguing with themselves.

Finally, the last panel is a great homage to the X-Men (substituting multiple personalities for mutants).  Describing it in words doesn’t do it justice, but I’m pretty sure we never saw Xavier rolling around with a martini in hand!

What’s not so good: There are a few places with I lost track of who was doing what in this book.  With these triplet characters, each one has three personalities and keeping track of which character has which personalities is a little hard.  It’s a fun book, but you do find yourself flipping back and saying, “Is the big guy with the crew cut the one with the Navy SEAL personality?”

Conclusion: This continues to be one of the biggest breaths of fresh air out there.  I’m sure at some point it’ll get stale, but it hasn’t so far.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell

Cowboy Ninja Viking #2 – Review

By AJ Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist)

The Story: Nix and the Cowboy Ninja Viking saddle up and head out to Japan to take down Ammo, but the Triplet’s not going down without a fight, and may actually be serving a larger endgame than anyone realized.

The Good: I’d read recently that CNV has been upgraded from a limited to an ongoing series, and I think that’s about the finest compliment you can pay a book like this. Lieberman and Rossmo have the makings of an insanely fun book on their hands here, and this issue just goes to show the last one wasn’t a fluke. Lieberman’s writing is smart and manic, gleefully chomping on bits of Tarantino dialogue and plot points from Alias and spitting the whole mess out on paper. You’d think that would make for a fairly disgusting, regurgitated mess, but you’d be wrong. These guys fully understand the genres and conventions they are exploiting, and they do it with a wink and a knowing smile. I like that this issue brought out Duncan’s character and made him more human, and I think the extent to which Lieberman can bring that out of Duncan will only fuel the success of this book. Rossmo’s art is perfect for CNV. I didn’t care for it one bit on Proof, but his frenzied style is exactly what this comic needs. Under Rossmo’s direction, the fight sequences between Cowboy Ninja Viking and Pirate Gladiator Oceanographer take on the kind of furious intensity worthy of only the finest summer blockbusters, know what I mean?

The Not So Good: I’ve got two small issues that are still annoying me. The first is the use of the mono tones Rossmo uses to color the book. Last month it was blue, this month it’s red. Is it going to be green next month? Purple? Don’t know, and I don’t care, because frankly I think Rossmo’s art here, as well as the overall design of the book, is strong enough that it doesn’t need any color at all. The tones are an eye sore, but I don’t expect that to change. Also, I’m still not convinced yet that this idea of the Triplets is anything more than a gag. I’m sure this is a point Lieberman will address in forthcoming issues so I’m more than willing to ride this one out and see where it takes me.

Conclusion: Is there a point to teaching each aspect of a person suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder how to be an assassin, or does it just make for some fun, brutal storytelling? I’m not sure yet, but I do know that I’m having a good time reading this comic, and at the end of the day isn’t that what counts?

Grade: B

-Tony Rakittke

 

Cowboy Ninja Viking #1 – Review

by AJ Lieberman (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist)

The Story: Dr. Ghislain is the creator of a program that that trains people suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder to become killers known as Triplets.  Duncan, living his life as a Cowboy, a Ninja, and a Viking, is one of these Triplets and remains Ghislain’s greatest success, even if he/they want to kill the good doctor.  When another Triplet goes rogue, Ghislain and Duncan must put aside their differences to track him down.

The Good: Cowboy Ninja Viking has proven itself to be a very different kind of story, and that’s a great quality to possess in an industry saturated with mediocrity.  Lieberman has hit the ground running with a plot that is clearly aware of the many genres it draws influence from and unapologetic in wearing those influences on its sleeve with pride.  At the same time though, Lieberman’s not afraid to have a little fun with the story, and you can see that in the way he approaches the Triplets.  I enjoyed Duncan’s multiple personality commentaries and thought the uniquely-styled dialogue bubbles were a fun touch (the Cowboy has a six-shooter, the Viking has an axe, and the Ninja has a sword).  I wasn’t a huge fan of Rossmo’s art on Proof, but his style has definitely won me over on this book and feels more appropriate here, where the grainy linework gives the story the feel of an epic grindhouse movie.

The Not So Good: This issue is largely set up and explanation as the cast of characters needs to be introduced and fleshed out, and the plot needs to be laid out enough to give readers a sense of what the hell is happening.  This was a necessary evil for what I suspect is going to be a skillfully complex story, but I have to admit it made for some slow reading.  I was also left wondering what the point is, if any, of training people with Multiple Personality Disorder to become killers, beyond being a quirky plot twist.  This is one detail I feel Lieberman needs to address at some point if he wants to retain readers.

Conclusion: Cowboy Ninja Viking is a complex tale of action, espionage, and psychosis from a skilled creative team, and I’m definitely on board to see what happens next!

Grade:  B-

-Tony Rakittke

Proof #14 – Review

By Alex Grecian (story), Riley Rossmo (art), Adam Guzowski (colors)

John “Proof” Prufrock and his partner, Ginger Brown, are agents for the Lodge, a secret government organization that is tasked with the cryptozoological investigations of the creatures of myth and legend that exist in the world today. By the way, Proof is a sasquatch.

In this issue, part five of what is obviously a graphic novel tailored story, Proof and Savage Dragon (whose presence in this issue felt contrived and unnecessary) are in Illinois investigating the existence of thunderbirds, while his partner Ginger is searching for a missing golem named Joe, who has ventured off with a mysterious yeti named Mi-Chen Po.

In Grecian’s hands, Proof and Ginger are likable characters; there’s a sense of a Mulder and Scully dynamic to their relationship that has probably been enjoyable to longtime readers. However, I was disappointed to see how little they actually appeared in this issue.  I was also irritated with Grecian’s “Cryptoids” caption boxes of irrelevant trivia that stick out like sore thumbs. Furthermore, Rossmo’s art is very out of place here. His characters appear scratchy and unfinished, as they have no sense of life and look like little more than mannequins positioned on the page; leaving it to Grecian to convey the emotional arc through the dialogue alone.  I could picture Rossmo’s style on a title like Warren Ellis’s Fell, but here it’s simply painful to look at.

Proof seems to fall somewhere between comparable titles like The Perhapanauts and B.P.R.D, yet the latter two are so much more fun to read.  If Image is going to charge me a whopping $3.50 an issue for this, I need a more satisfying reading experience, and they did not deliver that here.

Grade: C-

-Tony Rakittke

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