BIG BAG O DYNAMITE

BIG BAG O’DYNAMITE
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Some new books of note from DE…

In the annals of televised science fiction, there is no more reviled, misconceived, and poorly executed concept than GALACTICA 1980. A disaster from start to finish, it was mercifully killed before it finished an entire season, and earned an eternal hatred from fans of the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA that will never die. So when Dynamite announced a series based on the concept, my skepticism level was high enough to cut off my oxygen supply. No possible way that someone could take one of the largest piles of chicken shit ever created and make chicken salad, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Writer Marc Guggenheim, along with artist Cezar Razek, did the impossible. Ignoring everything that happened in the show, Guggenheim took the concept, that of an aged Adama, Dr. Zee, and Galactica finding Earth in 1980, and ran it to a far more interesting and logical conclusion. Carter opens fire, the a battlestar crashes on the White House lawn, and the Cylons show up with very little opposition facing them. Grim, nihilistic, fatalistic, exciting… Guggenheim starts with an open field and goes to town here in issue #4, turning our own lovely planet into another version of Caprica. Honestly, there was no reason for this to work, no reason for this to be as compulsively readable as it is, but sometimes the universe turns itself upside down and weird shit happens. The conclusion promises a GALACTICA 1981, and with the way this one ends, I’m massively curious to see what Guggenheim has up his sleeve next.

One of my stronger areas of geek expertise happens to be ROBOCOP, so as I sat down with issue #1, I was a bit wary about what I would find inside. Previous efforts to translate the character to comics have been mediocre to half-assed, mostly. So I was pleased to see that writer Rob Williams had 1) been paired with artist Fabiano Neves, my favorite artist in the Dynamite stable and 2) that the book feels like a genuine ROBOCOP piece. Answers of continuity are set on the inside front cover (the story takes place after the first movie), and from there we jump right in. There’s a new CEO at OCP, and she’s overseen a new initiative to step up policing in Detroit now that the law enforcement function is private instead of civic. I won’t say much, but I will note that it involves an upgraded version of the ED-209s that failed so spectacularly in the first film. There’s a nifty action sequence, nasty corporate shenanigans, terrific byplay between Murphy and Lewis, and the traditional bizarre newscasts and commercials (including one that’s so sick that it’s actually inspired). I’m down for more.

The best superhero comic being published today is THE BOYS, and THE BOYS DEFINITIVE EDITION VOLUME 2 is easily the best way to enjoy the book. Writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson (with an assist from John Higgins) continue their massive deconstruction of the genre in this oversized slipcase edition, and it’s a glorious thing to see. Issues #15-30 are reprinted here, along with sketchbook work, a script, one of the most amusing emails you’ll ever read, and more. The story itself, and the action contained within, are all terrific, but what the book really gives you is the deep foundations of the relationship between Wee Hughie and Annie, neither of whom realizes exactly who and what the other really is/does with their lives. This Romeo and Juliet setup (he works for an organization that kills wayward superheroes, she’s a member of the largest team and will eventually be a target) is kind of heartbreaking really; they’re both so perfect for each other that you enjoy their happiness, but if you know anything about Garth Ennis, you know he pisses on happiness like a dog on a hydrant.

The package here is excellent, and I always recommend this comic to those looking for something a little different with their superheroics. I don’t go out of my way to own premium products, but this is one I consider a necessity.

CHEW 7-8

CHEW #7&8
Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

Welcome back to ‘International Flavor,’ the latest story arc in CHEW, one of the most inventive and side-splitting comic books available on the market today. Tony Chu, a FDA agent who is able to discern the entire life history of anything he puts into his mouth, is on the trail of a fruit which tastes like chicken, a highly coveted (and illegal) food stuff. Given Tony’s luck, however, nothing is as easy as it seems.

Chu is taking an unofficial vacation to the island of Yamapalu with his brother, an infamous chicken chef, to learn more about this mysterious munch-able snack, and what he finds is nothing but trouble. Enter a new character by the name of Lin Sae Woo, a bad-ass chick with skills up the wazzu and who happens to be so stacked she even turns the heads of canines. Her involvement in CHEW is unfortunately not as long as it could have been given the versatility of her character, and her early deportation takes the book in a new and darker direction which will keep readers on their toes.

One thing I cannot express enough to CHEW readers when indulging in this book is to Take. Your. Time. The jokes etched in the background are well worth the slight headache one receives from squinting at the pages to catch every detail, and I will give kudos to any creative team which gives shout outs to outstanding films (in the case of issue #8, ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ are the deserving recipients). Layman can even make well-used puns the height of hilarity. Plus, one cannot truly enjoy a book without identifying with some aspect of the central character/s, and one of the things I love best about Tony Chu is his ability to completely lose his cool when the situation calls for it. When the shit hits the fan, Chu lets go in a therapeutically violent fashion.

Layman consistently delivers balls-out hysterical material with enough of a dark edge to continually remind readers that CHEW is not your average comic book. Add to that Guillory’s talent of being able to seemingly pull images right out of Layman’s head, thus creating a harmonious blend of humor and form-fitting artwork, and you have an unbeatable comic. No genre can attempt to claim CHEW as one of their own, be it comedy, police drama or general comic craziness, because this series will forever exist in a class all its own. If you are not reading CHEW, you are not enjoying comics to their fullest extent.

UNKNOWN: DEVIL MADE FLESH #3-4

UNKNOWN VOL. 2: THE DEVIL MADE FLESH #3,4
Written by Mark Waid and Illustrated by Minck Oosterveer
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

The last two issues of the second volume of one of BOOM’s hottest creations give further proof that UNKNOWN is a series built to last. At the end of the second issue Catherine Allingham, the world’s greatest detective, was making progress on her case investigating a series of murders which had something to do with the mysterious town of Mountain Oak. However, that progress led her to a barn where her current partner, Adriana, turned a gun on Catherine.

Not to be outdone, Catherine had already discovered her ‘partner’s’ betrayal and took enough precautions to ensure her and her new partner, a ten-year-old boy who is more than what he seems on the surface, a fighting chance. From here on out the plot becomes a bit complicated but not incomprehensible, and Catherine finds herself fighting for her life and soul in a way she never could have expected.

UNKNOWN is the antithesis of Sherlock Holmes tales in the sense that each story arc begins with what appears to be a solvable mystery and ends in mysticism, otherworldly foes and more questions than answers. In other words, Waid has me hooked. Rather than end this second volume with an easy out with regards to Catherine’s nigh-incurable brain tumor, he puts a different spin on her ailment, paving the way for future story lines.

As for the artwork, the stunning pained covers give UNKNOWN a haunting, ethereal feel before you even open the book. Oosterveer continues to deliver believable and attractive characters, and his pencils in the last issue during the climatic cave-bound battle are as disturbing as they are alluring.

The second volume in this vastly entertaining mystery/mystical comic series does not disappoint. By introducing new enemies, bringing back old friends and creating new challenges for the most intelligent P.I. in the business, Waid, Oosterveer and BOOM have the formula for great comics down pat.

LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME 1

THE LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME 1
Written by Rick Remender and Drawn by Greg Tocchini
Published by Radical Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

In the not-too-distant future, plans are afoot for the American government to begin broadcasting a signal that will engage a neurological reaction in people that will prevent them from engaging in any sort of criminal behavior. In addition, steps are underway to eliminate paper money on a permanent basis, meaning every transaction a person makes is traceable. Not only has this begun to create a surge of people exiting the country for parts north and south, but it has also set a deadline for those that live outside the law. And before lifelong criminal Graham Bricke makes his U.S. exit, he has one more big score in mind, one that will make the new system work for him. All he needs to do is find the right safecracker and right hacker and he can pull it off before the signal fires up in two weeks. But in a world where criminals are about to become extinct, finding the right ones to play on your team is harder than ever.

LAST DAYS OF AMERICAN CRIME is a juicy bit of genre fun, full of sharp dialogue and brimming with artistic zest. Remender, who has shown himself capable of writing solid material in almost every genre, demonstrates here that crime might just be where he’s most adept. The plotting here is tight, using a cross-genre convention (putting the team together) effectively to not only propel the story forward, but to inform the reader about the specifics of this future society without bogging down in exposition. His protagonist is a classic “older guy looking for a final score”, and his secondary lead is a classic femme fatale. All the pieces are here, and for me, they worked. I was engaged by LDAC from the very beginning and got hooked by Graham’s quest.

The art, by Tocchini, is really something to look at. It has a sort of impressionist look to it, effectively using shadow and color to suggest movement and mood. It gets detailed when you need it to, and it softens when the story makes moves into different emotional places. Backed by some strong production values, and with some sketchbook work and a Remender interview at the back of the book, this is a strong read and a solid value at 64 pages for five bucks.

GECKO AND STICKY: SINISTER SUBSTITUTE

THE GECKO AND STICKY: SINISTER SUBSTITUTE
Written by Wendelin Van Draanen With 30 Illustrations by Stephen Gilpin
Published by Alfred A Knopf

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Dave Sanchez seems like your normal middle school boy. He oversleeps, runs late to class, but generally does what he’s told and even works as a delivery boy after school to make a little money. But he isn’t quite as normal as he seems. That’s because he has a pet gecko that is not only sentient; it also talks to Dave, and rather frequently. Plus, Dave happens to possess a metal ingot that allows him to stick to surfaces and crawl up walls, and as of late he’s taken to dressing in disguise and playing superhero around his town.

Not. Quite. Normal.

However, Dave does his best. And it even seems like his luck, along with everyone else’s in the school, is turning for the better. The odious science teacher, Ms. Krockle, is gone, and in her place is a substitute teacher. Anarchy reigns for a little while. But even anarchy gets boring for middle school children, and suddenly the substitute doesn’t seem quite as harmless as he’s been appearing to be. In fact, he’s starting to look a little familiar. And if Dave’s gecko is right, he might just have to do the most painful thing of the young boy’s life: rescue Ms. Krockle from the clutches of something even more evil than her.

This charming prose novel, ably illustrated in a way that enhances the text rather than overwhelms it, is a marvelous piece of work angled at the younger reader. Van Draanen’s writing style is light and loose, sounding much more like a storyteller sitting in front of a room full of kids than an omniscient narrator. The characters are funny and about as real as you can get in this kind of fantasy novel. Dave is very relatable, both for boys and for girls, and the environment he lives in is vibrant and keen. The villainy isn’t so villainous that it would scare kids, and has enough humor in it to make them laugh as Dave does his superheroic best to win the day.

As an added bonus, you get an honest-to-goodness Hispanic superhero in these pages, something in woefully short supply at the major comics companies right now (Blue Beetle was cancelled a while back). Every child loves reading about heroes that look, act, and sound like them, and Dave is perfect for that. There’s also a nifty guise to some basic Spanish in the back of the book for those that want to learn a little something as they read.

SINISTER SUBSTITUTE is the kind of book I would have devoured as a kid and then went looking for more. It’s the third in a series, and I suspect that many that pick this one up would go on a quest for the first two as well. Recommended.

CWR 49: Farscape and much more!

Friends-

 

Issue 49 of Comics Waiting Room opens up 2010 and here’s what we’ve got for you!

 

FARSCAPE Examined! Marc Mason takes a look at the Complete Series DVD set and examines the fate of the cult sci-fi show.

http://www.comicswaitingroom.com/farscape.html

 

Separate But Unequal! In the shadow of MLK day, Vince Moore examines the recent push for female-driven mainstream comics and wonders if it’s at the expense of black male heroes.

http://www.comicswaitingroom.com/vince48.html

 

Geeks on a Plane! Avril Brown discusses why every nerd needs a vacation and how a good holiday relates to reading a great comic book.

http://www.comicswaitingroom.com/avril45.html

 

(Almost) Everything Must Go! Marc Mason has decided enough’s enough and the shelves must be pared down. Will you benefit from the purge?

http://www.comicswaitingroom.com/mason49.html

 

Suspension of Disbelief vs Internal Story Logic! Elliott Serrano tackles the diffeence between the two and calls out Tom Breevort and Jack Bauer for failures in both.

http://www.comicswaitingroom.com/ccw38.html

 

Enjoy the reading!

 

Marc Mason

Editor-in-Chief

Comics Waiting Room

 

BABYMOUSE: BURNS RUBBER

BABYMOUSE #12: BURNS RUBBER
Written and Drawn by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Published by Random House Children’s Books

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Babymouse is once again up to her old tricks. She’s zoning out in school, fantasizing, rather than learning. She’s being lazy, continually relying on her friend Wilson to bail her out when she does something dumb (such as crash her bike). And she’s looking for new ways to get in trouble… which the upcoming soapbox derby will surely grant her.

Indeed, it’s the derby that forms the backbone of this new Babymouse story, and I liked it quite a bit more than I did the previous volume’s math olympics. I think that’s in no small part to this volume having a bit more focus; BURNS RUBBER is really a two-person show. Half the focus is on Babymouse and her charming foibles and the other half focuses on her relationship with Wilson and the painful reality that their friendship is a bit one-sided. Babymouse tends to take and take from Wilson, to the point where it feels somewhat painful. But a larger part of the book is how she begins to see her own behavior and question whether or not she’s doing right by him.

Oh, and I would certainly guess that, by the time the series attacks whether or not she’s ready for a boyfriend, we’ll find out that Wilson is crazy about her. No guy would suffer what she puts him through, otherwise.

There are some really terrific bits in her fantasy sequences in this volume, including nifty homages to STAR WARS and TITANIC. There’s even a slight nod to the great French illustrator Lewis Trindheim. In short, BURNS RUBBER is a winner. Perfectly suited for the younger audience.

DINGO 1,2

DINGO #1, 2
Written by Michael Alan Nelson, Illustrated by Francesco Biagini
Published by BOOM! Studios

Reviewed by Avril Brown

If you’re looking for a fresh new book rife with action, the occult and a tough-as-nails anti-hero, then DINGO is your next read. The first two issues of BOOM!’s latest book, authored by the same genius behind the recent hit HEXED, are dressed to impress with colorful characters, plenty of bloody action, and one badass dog.

Relatively vague from the get-go, Nelson shows off in DINGO his knack for being creative but not confusing, especially given how few of the random plot details are explained. In the first issue readers are introduced to Dingo, an emotionally and physically scarred man who is into S&M, has a brother who is a rock star, is divorced from a mythical Greek crone, likes dogs and serves as guardian of a box which contains ‘his family’s deep, dark secret’ and should never be unleashed upon the world. The contents of the box as well as the origin of Daniel’s nickname ‘Dingo’ remain a mystery even into the second issue, and though some details of the tragic marriage to Darby, the dangerous, powerful and pilfering ex-wife are given in the second book, most remain deliciously undiscovered, as do many other puzzles.

Nelson has an amazingly creative mind and like HEXED, here in DINGO he has produced a slew of rich characters, filled with flaws and heart. Down-on-his-luck Dingo is obviously the main attractant, but so is Luna, the foul-mouthed assistant to Rick, Dingo’s brother, Darby, the Graeae ex-wife, and Cerberus, the truck-sized dog who was chained to a gas station and does not pant in Nevada desert heat. The art is well-matched to the story as Biagini delivers solid characters with the right amount of softness to their frame and one beautifully drawn pooch. Plenty of color back up the pencils, making the panels pop and each page a visual stunner. DINGO hits the ground running and never stops, taking readers for what looks to be at least as an enjoyable ride as HEXED, and possibly even better, especially for dog people.

HERCULES: KNIVES OF KUSH 4,5

HERCULES: KNIVES OF KUSH #4, 5
Written by Steve Moore, Illustrated by Cris Bolson
Published by Radical Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

The final two issues of the second Radical story arc starring the Greek demi-god Hercules and his merry band of mercenaries offers plenty of battles, blood and back-stabbing. A satisfying conclusion in a popular and bottomless series gives a sense of closure for that particular story arc while leaving the characters free for another money-making sequel, and HERCULES: KoK delivers such an ending.

The war between Pharaohs erupts as a murderous Seti seeks to squash his brother Amenmessu’s rebellion and sorcerous army. After somehow dragging themselves away from an orgy behind enemy lines, Iolaus and Autolycus deliver important intel to their current boss, who decides to meet his brother in battle. With the power of Khadis, horny weather witch extraordinaire, Amenmessu is confident in his victory, until Khadis turns her power on the son of the Greek god of lightening, with unexpected consequences. Lives are lost, wars are won, all of the Greek kick some serious ass and gratuitous violence is the name of the game. I cannot reveal one of my favorite parts of the series without belying the big reveal of who the spy in Seti’s house is, but I will say this: the final rant of one of the most amusingly amoral characters is hilariously detailed and truly a thing of beauty. This person knew exactly what they wanted and even in the face of horrific and painful death, gave no apologies for doing what was needed to achieve those goals. Amen to that.

Moore has once again authored a comic surrounding the adventures of one of the most famous Greeks to grace mythology, and once again he has proved himself worthy of accolades. Blood, sex, money and war comprise the general theme of KNIVES OF KUSH, which would make any Greek poet proud. Moore remains true to the template he established for all of his main characters while also throwing in exciting new faces and scenery, and though lacking the volume of dark humor the first series boasted (Tydeus is sorely missed), he does make a point to includes comedic bits which keeps things light. Bolson’s artwork is absolutely magnificent, making each blood-splattered battle scene just as beautiful as the faces of the Royal Wives. Definitely campy and at times somewhat cheesy, HERCULES is a series for those looking for an action-packed good time with a bit of something for everyone, and fans of the first series should not miss this next great adventure of Hercules and colorful crew.

AFRODISIAC

AFRODISIAC
Written and Drawn by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
Published by AdHouse Books

Reviewed by Marc Mason

It’s a rare, but lovely feeling to have a book in front of you that you’re expecting great things from and not only have it live up to the anticipatory feelings you had, but actually surpass them. AFRODISIAC is one of those books.

For starters, it comes from the creative team of Rugg and Maruca. Household names? Maybe not in homes that only buy bigstupidevent comics from Marvel and DC. But discerning readers know them as the duo behind one of the 2000s best indy comics, STREET ANGEL. Few comic books hummed with as much life, energy, and creativity as that little gem, and the snippets of AFRODISIAC that have cropped up here and there over the last couple of years had only whetted my appetite for more. They do not disappoint.

It isn’t easy to describe AFRODISIAC in a single sentence. Is it a brilliant satire of the entire blaxploitation genre, regardless of medium? Yes. Is it an exuberant celebration of the changing nature of comics across decades of publishing? Sure. Is it a charming homage to the history of comics itself, using covers and artistic style to tell a meta-story about how the medium has engaged with its readers and the broader culture? Damn straight. This book is all of those, and more. The main character, Afrodisiac, was once a man named Alan Diesler (or Deasler, in a nod to many character origins, and even a classic faux pas where Peter Parker was once called Peter Palmer), and through a variety of changing origin stories (again, a nod to comics’ love of retcons) gained the powers of an irresistible-to-women, street-wise, super-powered man that keeps the people safe and the ladies satisfied. The book itself tells a broad variety of stories about the character, shifting from era to era, shifting art styles, and poking at the culture of the times along the way.

For instance, one amusing tale finds him squaring off against Nixon himself for the love of an alien invader. Evoking the early 70s and the counter-culture’s (well-deserved) paranoia about Nixon, the story works on multiple levels, even though it is perfectly lovely as a surface read. Nothing wrong with a little humor, after all. That is, however, why Rugg and Maruca work so well together; yes, the book is one big, sloppy wet kiss towards an undervalued piece of our popular culture, but it also finds a way to subtly weave in some depth as well.

I could go on and on about the numerous “covers” of original AFRODISIAC issues included here, or the way the “reprints” really do look like reprints, or about the tremendous job done by Rugg and AdHouse honcho Chris Pitzer on the book’s design. But instead I’ll just say: buy the damned thing. This was one of those rare books that made me happy from the moment I opened the cover. Highly recommended.

Also from AdHouse:

DRIVEN BY LEMONS
Written and Drawn by Joshua W. Cotter

I don’t know precisely what DRIVEN BY LEMONS is, which makes it exceedingly difficult to review. Joshua Cotter, whose first graphic novel, SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST, was brilliant, returns with this book… which is either a fascinating artistic exercise or a colossal failure.

Ostensibly, the book follows the story of an anthropomorphic rabbit that winds up in a mental institution. However, if it really is meant to solely be that character’s story of a descent into madness, it doesn’t come close to working. The narrative is so thin as to be absent, and while I respect that a book about a character’s insanity shouldn’t be a linear journey, there have to be enough touchstones to allow the reader to follow a broader story. And that simply isn’t the case here.

However, the book’s design and entire look calls into question that it all might just be an artistic experiment. It looks, and is shaped, like a notebook. There’s a ton of text at the front. Pages digress into explorations of form, movement, and pacing. So maybe what Cotter was aiming for here was a way to delve into some avant garde storytelling. If so, DRIVEN BY LEMONS becomes a lot more interesting, because there are certainly plenty of things going on here that capture the eye and make you examine the pages carefully.

But again, there’s no story, or at least one worth following. What is this book? Upon a second examination, I still wasn’t really certain. Thus, all I can ultimately say is caveat emptor; be sure about what you’re getting. If you can.