ROB GUILLORY

Rob Guillory didn’t just wade into the comics zeitgeist- he dived in with a cannonball splash. With his first regular series, CHEW, which teams him with veteran comics writer John Layman, Rob took home the 2010 Eisner and Harvey Awards for best new series and the Harvey Award for Best New Talent. He recently appeared as a guest at the Phoenix Comicon for the first time, and I caught up with him there for this interview.


Marc: This is Marc Mason with the Comics Waiting Room, and I am here today with Eisner Award-winning and a Harvey Award-winning artist Rob Guillory. Rob, thanks for joining us.

Rob: No problem!

M: Rob, let’s go back to the beginning. You are young Rob Guillory, somebody hands you your first comic book; what is it?

R: Oh, man. I want to say it was, like, a He-Man comic or something. It was – I had a lot of comics that weren’t, like, Marvel, DC Comics. I remember Duck Tales and Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, that kind of stuff. It wasn’t like your mainstream superhero stuff at all. I did have some uncles that were really into the Green Lanterns, and man, I don’t even remember all of them. But some early DC stuff. They were all really old.

M: Was there one in particular that inspired you or captured your imagination?

R: Not really. I just loved the medium as a whole. I don’t think I had one – well, Iron Man, yeah; Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle was one of the first ones I really got into, probably way too young, because it was such a mature story, I guess. But yeah, Iron Man, probably.

M: At what point did you start drawing and cartooning?

R: I used to draw in the backs of my coloring books in kindergarten, and apparently I made a flip book at some point when I was 2. I’ve never seen it. My mom says she has it. I don’t know if it’s a real thing or not. But yeah, I always kind of sketched here and there. I made my first mini-comic in the 4th grade, and I made a shitload of them afterward.

M: Did you sell them to your friends or your classmates?

R: No. I think I showed a few friends of mine that were into comics and that kind of fueled me to make more of them. I didn’t show my parents any of that stuff. They were just for me, and I still have all of them.

M: At what point did you say, “You know, this drawing thing is for me. I think want to make a life out of it.”?

R: Well, I’m from Louisiana, and we didn’t have an actual community as far as art-wise, and I didn’t think it was a real career until college. That was the point where I figured well, I can maybe make this into a thing, because the internet was kinda in and everything, and I started going to conventions and things like that. But it wasn’t until 2001, my 2nd year of college that I got serious about it.

M: Tell us about your first work in comics.

R: Oh, man. I did a lot of free stuff. I did, um – – the first published thing that was in Previews was a thing called Bubba the Redneck Werewolf. It was a comedy kinda thing. I made 10 pages for it for free. It was actually a lot of fun, we kind of ended up writing it. Yes, that was the first thing. Teddy Scares for Ape Entertainment. I did a bunch of stuff for Random House in the UK and it never got published, that I think they’re gonna publish now off of Chew.

M: So, you’re doing this work and you’re not necessarily seeing the wide distribution that you kind of deserve. Where is your head at, at that point?

R: I didn’t think anything like Chew would ever happen. I mean, I thought that I had a good concept of storytelling, but I didn’t think that it would ever stylistically catch on, ever. I just didn’t ever really see anything like what I was doing, and it wasn’t that I was, like, better or worse or unique; it was just different, and most editors were afraid to really put it out there. So I was kind of waiting for the right vehicle to kind of showcase that I could do, like, horror, and drama, and comedy, and all of that simultaneously, and action, and all that stuff, and Chew was kinda that vehicle.

M: You know, that’s one thing I have noticed about your work. I’ve seen a lot of your work at this point, and you have shown, you know, initially in the pitch for Chew, you did it in a completely different style. How many different styles did you test out?

R: I tried out a lot of stuff. I actually – – while I was going to conventions and trying to break in, I also drew weekly comic strips for the school paper, and I did two of them every week, and they were extremely experimental. Every one of them was a different style- different color palate, different medium, everything. And as a painter – – my degree is in painting- I’m very diverse. So I did super cartoon-y stuff, way more realistic stuff, photo realistic stuff, it kind of – – I have a lot of stuff.

M: Was there another comics artist who you sort of pulled from initially?

R: Jim Mahfood. His stuff was really super independent, and super different than anything I had grown up with, and I loved it because it was so accessible and so….it was something I could do. I couldn’t do the superhero, super photo-realistic stuff, and I didn’t care too, and the Mahfood stuff was so much fun and so accessible that I could do it and grow off of that.

M: Your style now is unique, and Chew is a unique-looking book, and I think part of that comes from not only the Easter eggs you leave in the background of the art, but also the color. Do you have a philosophy in how you do the colors?

R: Whatever looks good is pretty much the philosophy. Actually, the first time I met Jim Mahfood at the first convention I went to in Houston, I showed him my stuff and everything, and his first response was, “Hey, have you ever thought about being a colorist, of breaking into comics as a colorist?” And I said, “Nah, I don’t want to do that.” And I apparently have good color sense, and as a painter, I do know some color theory. I just kind of go off of what feels right and what looks right, and I’ve just, you know – – it’s gotten more sophisticated over the years, but it’s exactly what I grew up with.

M: As a painter, do you still ever want to stretch a canvas and just go to town?

R: It’s been a while. I graduated from college almost 6 years ago, and I haven’t really painted much since then, except for live art stuff and that kind of thing.

M: Have you ever considered doing an exhibition of Chew art?

R: Actually, I’ve done a little one back home, that was just, like, 16 prints from the book, and it went pretty well, but I would love to do a big show showcasing tons of art from the book, maybe even just print the entire first issue and just put it out there in a gallery setting.

M: That would be really, really interesting.

R: I think it would be cool. The Chew stuff is accessible for non-comic-booky people. I mean most of our fans are either fans that have – – people who have never read comics before ever, or people who grew up with comics and left, and came back to it, and don’t want to read Superman. So, yeah, I think the style helps.

M: You make an interesting point about who the fans of the book are. How do the fans respond to you when they meet you?

R: They’re cool. I mean, I usually just hang with them and chat with them, I’m not really, you know – – I think most people are just kind of invested in us, not only as a book, but as people. A lot of our fans follow us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and are invested. I think there’s something to be said for having a positive relationship with your fans, because you always want the support of good people. So I feel like we’re nice to these people, they get really, really are involved in our whole thing, and they’re wrapped up in it, and they’re going to support it to the end of the book. I mean, they’re loyal. So, I think they’ve been cool.

M: As you go forward, last year you won the Harvey and the Eisner for Best New Book, and you won the Harvey for Best New Talent. This year, the Eisner nominations are out, and you’re up for Best Artist. How do you feel about that? Are you excited this time around?

R: I really wanna win. I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person to say it, but I kinda wanna win everything that we’re nominated for. I mean, it was awesome winning it last year. This year, I really wanna win Best Continuing because that would cement that we weren’t a fluke. I mean, being nominated pretty much cements that, but winning it says… you know, how many books have done that? And as Best Artist, man, that would be the same, because it would be such a practical joke almost, for people who think comics should be, like, one way, but our stuff is so not that way. I mean, I would love to win it. I’m hoping it happens.

M: I think you have a pretty good shot.

R: I think Skottie Young’s gonna take it. Because, I mean, he’s amazing. He’s an influence on me, and he’s done, like, every Marvel cover there is, so… but he’s a good guy to lose to.

M: As you’re going forward with Chew, what’s exciting for you, coming ahead?

R: We’re almost done with a third of the book, so we’ve kinda gotten over that whole freshman thing. Now we’re actually getting to play with the toys we’ve created, and moving forward between 20 to 30 is really exciting, because it’s – – we’re experimenting with changing the dynamic of the book even more, and then entering that second half of the book from 30 onward is going to be insane, because everything’s been building up – tension and introducing things. Now it’s almost time for payoff, and the payoffs are huge. So I can’t wait to get there.

M: I think the fans feel the same way.

R: I hope so.

M: Rob, thanks a lot for your time. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. Appreciate seeing you here at Phoenix Comicon for the first time.

R: Yeah, it’s been awesome!

M: This has been Marc Mason in the Comics Waiting Room with the award-winning artist Rob Guillory. See you next time.

IMAGE X 3

IMAGE X 3
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Image Comics


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three new books from the folks in NorCal…

50 GIRLS 50 #1 had some notoriety built up before it ever got solicited, as writers Doug Murray and Frank Cho went through a lengthy public audition process for an artist. Luckily, they struck gold with Axel Medellin (ELEPHANTMEN), who turns in solid work here. The story follows a spaceship staffed solely by women, as only they can survive wormhole travel. Unfortunately, as the ship makes its final approach to Earth, it turns out somebody somewhere made a mathematical mistake and the crew finds itself far from home, some stranded on a planet where the atmosphere eats plastics. 50 GIRLS 50 mixes fun sci-fi, good girl art, action, and a bit of intrigue quite well, and the result surprised me. I expected something along the lines of a pure exploitation flick, but instead there are some genuine characters to develop a rooting interest in. This first issue also features an interesting essay from Murray on the book’s development. Good stuff.

Ron Marz and Lee “Shields! Shields!” Moder reunite on SHINKU #1, a nifty vampires and samurai book. It’s modern day Japan, but there’s still one warrior with a sword running around taking on the undead. Fortunately for American tourist Davis Quinn, that involves saving his life when a lusty hookup goes horribly wrong. SHINKU is a lot of fun from the start; Marz has shown a wonderful gift for writing great female action heroes in his WITCHBLADE run, and Moder has always done well in drawing them (PAINKILLER JANE, for one). There’s an intriguing mythology at the core of the book, the pacing is splendid, you get just enough from the characters to leave you wanting more… and the book treats vampires right: as objects of fear, sex, and death. Not as objects that sparkle and marry teenage girls. This pair has a track record together for a reason- they know how to make good comics. Buy this one.

The original SCREAMLAND series was a highlight the year it came out, now we have a sequel, and the new SCREAMLAND #1 is as good as or better than any piece of the first story. Writers Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela begin by introducing us to Devil Fish (think Creature from the Black Lagoon) a drug-addled, orgy having has-been who manages to overdose just in time to ruin a fantasy film convention for Carl, the wolf-man hero making his return here. How does Devil Fish ruin it? His death puts the sex tape that all of the creatures made a couple of decades ago into the hands of the most amoral person they all know: the Invisible Man. If you suspect that leads to all kinds of bad news- including for the Invisible Man- you guessed right. By not retreading the same ground, the writers deliver a rich, entertaining, and surprising story, and artist Lee Leslie gives us pages that are sexy, funny, horrific, and full of eye candy. I hope the book keeps up this momentum- if it does, this truly will be a rare case of the sequel exceeding its original.





LUCID – CYCLOPS

LUCID/CYCLOPS
Written by Michael McMillian and Drawn by Anna Wieszczyk
Written by Matz and Drawn by Luc Jacamon
Published by Archaia


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new hardcovers from the gang at Archaia…

Agent Matthew Dee isn’t your ordinary Fed. He’s proficient with a gun, but he’s far more effective as a combat mage, thus he has been appointed “Protector of the Realm” and does the mystical dirty work for the White House. But when a centuries old threat rears its head, he finds himself involved in a conspiracy with a scope that even a man of his talents cannot imagine. Death, destruction, and betrayal follow. There’s lots to like about LUCID– Dee is an interesting character, the underlying setup for how magic plays a part in the world is interesting, and the way that magic is portrayed artistically on the page is visually interesting. Ultimately, the book is fun. But it is also an object lesson on the publishing side of things- I saw issues three and four in floppy back when they came out, and I couldn’t make heads or tails out of them. Yet the material makes perfect sense presented here in the collection. LUCID is a strong argument for skipping the monthly and going straight to graphic novel. It reads better, looks better, and is far more satisfying. Oh, and for those that care about such things: its writer and creator, McMillian, has made a name for himself recently as an actor on TRUE BLOOD, which helps this book get an intro from that show’s creator, Alan Ball.

Volume one of CYCLOPS collects the first four issues of the series, and as with LUCID, the collection treats the story a bit better than the pamphlet comics do. This is, in part, due to the monthlies breaking longer stories into pieces. Here we get the two longer stories that encompass those four issues grouped as two long chapters, and they read wonderfully. The story, which focuses on a near-future where warfare has been almost entirely outsourced, follows Doug Pistoia, an ordinary guy who at first merely needs a job and instead winds up a military hero with his exploits broadcast in primetime television for the world to see. Matz and Jacamon, who have been teaming together for a long time, deliver the goods in CYCLOPS, mixing vicious satire, raw action, and strong characters to make for a riveting book. Doug is a complex and sympathetic protagonist, and watching him try to maintain his simple human decency- yet become slightly corrupted at the same time- makes for fascinating reading. I also admire the well-thought out social satire of the book- the creative duo has taken embedded journalism to the next logical step- making the soldiers themselves into the cameramen.

Two easily recommendable books.


DUNGEON MONSTRES 4

DUNGEON: MONSTRES VOL.4
Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and Drawn by Jean-Emmanuel Vermot-Desroches and Yoann
Published by NBM


Reviewed by Marc Mason

The DUNGEON graphic novels are perhaps the most underrated series books you’ll find on the shelves today. By my count, this marks the 13th volume to be translated for North American audiences, giving us well over a thousand pages of amazing characters, incredibly imaginative plots, and astonishing worlds. If you’re looking for something to demonstrate exactly how powerfully imagination can be melded with sequential art.

This latest volume of MONSTRES focuses a bit more on the funny, after the darkness of the prior effort. In the first story, young Horus (a sorcerer) finds himself vexed when a number of women that he has never met arrive on his doorstep claiming that he is the father of their unborn children. Soon he discovers an unusually strange plot set in motion against him and must use every bit of intelligence and guile in order to clear his name and continue to learn what he needs to in order to tap his great potential. In the second story, moronic monster Gro-Gro is given a quest that even he shouldn’t be able to screw up: go on a beer run. But unfortunately, it certainly does give him plenty of latitude to do something stupid, and so he does. Hilarity ensues, as it also does in Horus’ tale. Using incredible artwork, snicker-worthy dialogue, and snappy pacing, each story delivers and delivers big on its promise.

I’ve now spent years proclaiming my love for Trondheim, and in particular this series. The DUNGEON books never let the reader down- they show you grand ideas, they make you laugh, they hold your interest, they put the work of amazing artists in front of you- to ask more of comics would be greedy. If there’s a sure bet in the world of graphic novels, DUNGEON is it. Volume four of MONSTRES is as good a place to start as any.




ROGUE ELEMENT 82

Rogue Element #82: Summit City Comic Convention, Fort Wayne, IN. 6/17-6/18/2011

By Avril Brown

‘Road trip!’ and ‘New con!’ were the first thoughts in my head when my good friend and freakishly talented artist Kyle Bice suggested that we travel down to Indiana for a one-day, small town comic convention, the likes of which I had not experienced before. To top off the adventure to almost-perfect levels, fellow Slumber Party gal Molly Jane Kremer made us a merry party of three as we carpooled down to Fort Wayne, IN., home to such fantastic celebrations such as Summit City Comic Convention, and businesses like a Roller Dome, several strip joints and a scandalous sex shop known as the ‘Boudoir Noir.’

The ride down was long but immensely entertaining, the advantage of taking a road trip with comic book folk who happen to be close friends. Between bouts of ‘What movie title could describe a vagina or penis?’ games, disgustingly satisfying food breaks at Culver’s and the nerdiest of nerd-a-licious conversations three nerds can carry on, the distance dragged but the time did not. Arriving in our destination city roughly two hours later than expected (fucking traffic and Indiana time change), the three of us rode an elevator with former wrestlers Angel Gabrielle and Denys Cowan, the latter also boasting a solid career in comics, production credits including the first season of the animated series ‘The Boondocks’ and a long-standing supporter of minority rights in comics. After dropping our sundry in our room, we braved the dark and intimidating Indiana back roads (where we passed by a housing association entitled ‘Dawson’s Creek’ that looked a cross between its television namesake and an axe-murderer film) to find the elusive Discount Comic Book Service.

The party was kicking off at the Fort Wayne shop, a place, much like the TARDIS, that happens to be much bigger on the inside. Molly Jane and I were shattering ear drums like Siryn, squealing in happiness and surprised delight at the sheer size and presentation. Ten cent back issues, well-stocked shelves, yards of books and statues waiting to be shipped, oh my! DCBS is the O’Hare International Airport of comic shops: it does more business with people out of rather than in town, and the aisles were bursting with merchandise waiting to be sent to their nerdy homes.

A few drinks at the shop with old friends and new sparked a desire to continue our festivities at a local watering hole where we could really soak up the Fort Wayne scene. The bar we found, the Thirsty Camel (which we called the Camel Toe), did not disappoint. There were dimly lit booths when you first walk in, a little dance floor along a mirrored wall, five dollar Killian’s pitchers (we drank that place dry…literally. The keg was finished before our night was) and a jukebox which offered an eclectic array of music, including ‘Dance Magic, Dance’ by David Bowie. And that was only the beginning…

Flash forward to the con itself: Summit City is without a doubt one of the more pleasant Cons I have been to. There was barely a dull moment, Molly and I got to converse with oodles of our comic buddies while gathering sketches, prints, mini-paintings and for me, the eternally tempting five dollar trades…seductive bastards. The hall where the convention took place could be tucked away in San Diego Comic Con’s pocket, but it still took Molly and me all day to walk the floor. Small but therefore more intimate, SCCC had a light-hearted feel and a welcome, friendly atmosphere. Children were loving it and every category of patron seemed to have a smile on their face at some point or another.

Several panels were held, including one hosted by Chicago’s own John Siuntres of Word Balloon podcast and starring our elevator buddies, Angel and Denys and artist Jeff Newman. Denys shared an interesting anecdote of his past, recounting when comic god Archie Goodwin came up to him and wanted to talk wrestling, and Angel fondly remembered an adversary who “kicked his butt” before he cut Angel’s hair off in the ring.

In addition to a jovial atmosphere, Summit City also boasted two random new occurrences, ironically enough both dealing with hot dogs. Bad random: I order a Chicago style dog from a fast food vender across the street from the Con, and what do I find on my “Chicago style” lunch? Carrots. As if the substitution of Jalapeno peppers in place of sport peppers wasn’t bad enough, I also found fucking CARROTS on my dog. At least the cheese fries were rocking. Good random: There were two Storm Troopers walking the floor, one of which was wearing a hot dog costume over his uniform. Best. Costume. Ever.

I caught a picture of a little girl dress as Rogue and a boy dressed as Deadpool, holding the zombie head of an alternative reality version of Deadpool. I also bought my sister a present (a mini-watercolor of a wailing baby by Katie Cook) and Jesse a tiny sticker of Thor by (my father got Marty McFly). I traveled and partied hard the night before with excellent company and weathered through my deserved hangover the following day to enjoy my time spent with more excellent company.

By seven in the evening Molly, Kyle and I were on the road and back in Chicago in only a few hours, rounding out the trip with good conversation, heart-clogging crap snacks from Arby’s and Steven Lynch’s ‘Superhero.’ From start to finish, the road trip adventure to Fort Wayne was utterly fantastic and outright memorable, leaving me with a yearning to discover if all small town Cons are as cool as Summit City Comic Convention.

ROGUE ELEMENT 81

Rogue Element 81: The Surprising Secret of ‘Super 8’


By Avril Brown

You want to know the secret of the latest Steven Spielberg/J.J. Abrams collaboration, ‘Super 8?’ It’s good. Having been lucky enough to score a free, pre-screen pass (many thanks to the lovely Molly Jane for giving a sister the heads up), I walked into this film not sure what to expect. Thanks to the purposefully vague preview it was difficult to discern anything about the movie, besides the obvious ‘monster mystery’ theme, so I went in blind with no strong feelings one way or another and ended up rather pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the film.

Set in a rural Ohio town in 1979, the film opens with an off screen tragedy. A boy, Joe Lamb (played by Joel Courtney) has lost his mother in a terrible factory accident, and he and his workaholic deputy father are left to pick up the pieces. A brief altercation at the wake creates a minor mystery, but the film quickly moves forward to several months later where Joe is determined to continue helping his best friend Charles finish his school project: a film about the undead. They sneak out with the rest of their obviously tight group (the by-play between the boys is one of the best parts of the film, and certainly the most hysterical), with the addition of an older, obviously cool chick Alice (played by Elle Fanning). What begins as ‘production value’ filming quickly becomes a series of massive explosions and overwhelming damage as a pick-up truck veers onto the tracks, deliberately colliding with the oncoming train. Though the driver of the truck, who happens to be their science teacher, manages to survive the incredible crash, he warns the children not to speak of what they saw under threat of death, for them and anyone they tell. Most are willing to follow the scary advice of the former teacher/current gun-wielding train wrecker, but Joe and Alice are not so easily swayed, and bit by bit the conundrum surrounding the crash and the contents of the US Air Force-owned train deepens. Runaway dogs, missing car parts and appliances, missing people all leave the good deputy with too many questions for the evasive military personnel. Happenings get stranger and more dangerous over the days until something happens that leaves Joe no choice but to solve the secret once and for all, no matter what the cost.

Though ‘Super 8’ is by no stretch an original concept, the familiar nature of the tale does not detract from the quality of its telling. ‘Super 8’ is a pleasurable nod to retro films from a previous genre, and though there is a minute amount of gore and plenty of explosions (much to the delight of Cary, the pyromaniac of the motley film crew), the movie has a generally warm and bittersweet message about family, fighting for what is right and learning to let go. The kids themselves are a riot and in classic Spielberg fashion are consistent comedic relief whenever they are on screen, talking over one another and forever picking on each other. In terms of acting, the adults held their own but the Oscar goes to those children, whom in many ways truly made the movie. Largely safe for children but delightful for adults (who appreciate the classic style and feel-good nature of the film), ‘Super 8’ is a safe and beguiling bet for families as well as fully formed humans without a young adult entourage. Though certainly not designed to be a summer blockbuster, ‘Super 8’ should earn its sleep hit ambition and be fancied by a majority of those who attend a screening.

NEW INDIES

NEW INDIES
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason


Diving right in…

Six or seven years ago, writer Charles Fulp teamed with artist Craig Rousseau for a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek miniseries called HARRY JOHNSON. Finally, years later, that book makes its debut in trade paperback. Now titled UNCOUTH SLEUTH (Fulp Fiction), Harry is once again ready to tickle your smutty bone with his combination of dick jokes, bad puns, and well-executed action sequences. I liked the book because it spat in the eye of political correctness, and because even though Harry was a sexist caricature, the women in the book inevitably got one back over on him. Fulp plays fair with the fairer sex, though on the surface you can sometimes lose track of that. The book also looks fantastic. Rousseau has long been one of comics most underrated artists, and his work here practically glows. The trade also adds a nice sketchbook section showing off some design work by the great Dean Yeagle. Definitely worth a look.

VEGGIE DOG SATURN #5 (Buyer Beware Comics) by writer/artist Jason Youn is another terrific issue in what has proven to be a very good minicomic series. Youn’s secret is that he keeps his work simple and relatable- there’s a universality to his storytelling that makes the comic so good. In one story, “The Tape”, he discusses something a teenage boy would remember perfectly- his older brother’s ability to fast forward a VCR tape to moments that showed nude women- something that any boy that young would remember forever- and a disappointing one as well, as he eventually gets older and discovers his brother’s “magic” secret. Youn’s art can be a little rough, but he does vary the line work and level of detail from story to story, showing that he’s thinking things out as far as how he wants to demonstrate place and atmosphere in the work he is sharing with the reader. If you’re a minicomic fan, this is an easy recommend.

Silber Media has released a new round of micro-mini comics from writer Brian John Mitchell, and a few of them deserve special note. The best of the new pack, by far, is STAR #1 which is drawn by artist Kurt Dinse. The story of a traveling musician who is always on the run from his (literal) demons, this may be the best looking comic that Silber has ever released. Even with the matchbook-sized format, the art is amazingly detailed and attractive to the eyes. The story works well, too, making this one a total winner. I was also impressed with MONTHLY #1 which features art from Eric Shonborn. On the surface it just appears to be about a man searching for love. But as the story progresses, you begin to understand that there is a lot more to this man than we first realize. The ending has a nice twist, and it looks really nice. Solid stuff. I’d also recommend ULTIMATE LOST KISSES #12. Here, Mitchell and artist Jeremy Johnson tell a tragic story of a teenage girl who sees her life destroyed in the space of only a few moments, and give us clues as to what will happen to her afterward. This comic has a nice bit of emotional resonance to it and shows good depth in the writing.

KIRBY-VAMPI

KIRBY/VAMPI
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Dynamite Entertainment


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Two new number ones from DE…

Perhaps the highest profile release of the year for Dynamite, KIRBY: GENESIS starts off with an excellent #0 issue that gives you an idea of how the setup is going to play out. Writer Kurt Busiek teams up with Alex Ross again on this saga, with Ross providing some story direction as well as layouts for artist Jack Herbert. The story follows an alternate Earth version of space probe Pioneer 10; in this reality, NASA actually does use Jack Kirby’s superheroic art representation of humanity. How does it link the King’s various creator-owned comic universes? In perfect comicbook fashion, the probe plunges through a wormhole and visits each one long enough to leave a trail for those characters to follow back to the “prime” Earth. That’s so brilliant in its simplicity that it’s almost crazy. Busiek writes the tale wonderfully, giving us a enough of a glimpse of the characters that it makes you want to keep reading, and the art by Herbert and Ross is delightful to look at. Throw in a treasure-trove of back matter that shows off design and gives a little backstory to the proceedings, and it’s hard to imagine a dollar better spent.

VAMPIRELLA AND THE SCARLET LEGION #1 takes place before Eric Trautmann’s excellent reboot of the character over on her main book, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun or entertaining. Writer Joe Harris wisely gives the reader something different than what you’re seeing over there, as he turns the focus to Vampi’s classic supporting cast. Thus we see the return of Pendragon, as well as the titled Legion, a group of ass-kicking women who take on the things that go bump in the night. Those characters come together after a discovery is made that shows that Vampi herself might be the tool for an upcoming apocalypse, and in the meantime, our heroine is tracking down the baddies herself, oblivious to the potential danger she represents if she is captured. As you might imagine, violence ensues. Artist Jose Malaga does a fine job of delivering a story full of dark, moody moments, twisted sexuality, and not a small amount of blood. Longtime fans of the character who have been vocally bitchy about her leaving the old costume behind in the main book will be happy to know she wears it here at all times. So if that matters to you…








ROGUE ELEMENT 80

Rogue Element #80: How Do I Love X-Men: First Class? Let Me Count the Ways…

By Avril Brown

I just stepped out of my second screening of ‘X-Men: First Class,’ the latest installment of the ‘X-Men’ franchise and, as I had dared to hope, it surpassed my expectations. The powers, the action, the story, oh my! My mutants were shiny as hell (and I’m not only referring to the super sparkly Emma Frost) and the plot was coherent, well-written and paced, and gripping. The casting was fantastic (with one notable exception), one of the cameos had me squealing in delight, and the plot was dark without forsaking the light. Someone recently mentioned to me they hate prequels because they already know how it ends, but I believe when a prequel rises to the challenge of delivering an entertaining and unpredictable story despite knowing how it ends, it bears the mark of a truly remarkable film. Therefore, without further ado, allow me to count the ways ‘First Class’ has captured my heart and will snare your imagination.

Casting

I loved the casting in this movie. Starting with the obvious, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender were outstanding, most especially Fassbender. James as Charles is arrogant, passionate, brilliant and a bit of a dog; Xavier to a tee (you have to read the comics to truly comprehend much Charles Xavier gets around; he’s even got a booty call in deep space). Michael as Erik is deep, dark and determined; a tortured soul and in many ways the product of the horrors inflicted upon him, but in some the result of his own limitations, just as Charles is bound by his. Both these amazing actors brought their all to these roles and appeared as natural with their ‘powers’ as a classically trained individual takes to Shakespeare. Kevin Bacon, whose acting I’ve enjoyed from ‘Tremors’ to ‘Balto,’ utterly rocked his role as ultimate badass, Sebastian Shaw. Though I am by no means a cunning linguist, I heard only flawless cadence as his tongue wrapped around English, German and Russian dialogue. The students of the first class are a joy to watch, and the woman who plays the shape-shifting Raven aka Mystique grows from a somewhat childish and massively conflicted person to a confident young woman who chooses her path and does not look back. My only severe complaint about the casting has to be January Jones (sorry Mom, I know how much you love ‘Mad Men.’). Although she looks the part of Emma Frost her delivery was wooden and boring, sapping the excitement out of one of the most attractive leads in the film.

Powers

One of the challenges in making a successful superhero movie is pulling off the powers without looking completely ridiculous, and the latest and greatest in special effects certainly played its part well in ‘First Class.’ The first three X films established how cool Magneto’s powers appear on the big screen, and it really is not that much of a stretch to translate telepathy (though I am in agreement with my co-host Wendi who made mention of Charles’ irritable habit of touching his fingers to his temples every time he used his powers), but diamond skin? Energy absorption? Sonic scream? Comic artists have plenty of leeway when it comes to presenting mutant abilities, but these powers are challenges in terms of cinematic conversion, and the creative computer gurus pulled them off with flying, or should I say sparkling, colors. Emma in her diamond form looked fantastic and even made a ‘chinking’ noise as she moved. When we first see Shaw’s powers in action he pulls the pin on a grenade and quickly contains the blast with slightly blurry arms, smoothly shaping the fiery explosion into a sphere which disappears into his body…and it only gets cooler from then on out. Banshee’s powers are more heard than felt and what one hears is an effect unto itself, but given what he is expected to do with his sonic scream, namely fly, a little visual is pretty much a given. Subtle yet impossible to miss, the hazy, undulating circles which erupt from his mouth give the optical obsessed viewer something to ogle. Azazel’s teleportation of course looked incredible (‘X2’ set the bar for tantalizing teleportation effects) and his application of it in the attack on the CIA base was chillingly effective and creepy. Riptide, although his powers and appearance were so altered for the movie I did not recognize him, also had visually stunning powers and MAN could that guy rock a suit. Angel’s wings were sexy cool, and though I understand the necessity of going off canon and giving her an offensive power in addition to her dragonfly-esque wings, the comic nerd in me rankled against her flaming loogies. Beast looked a little silly but unless they went with CG and a green screen, no one can don a blue furry cat-like suit without looking at least a little the fool. My only complaint on this front (MINOR SPOILER) has to be Darwin who ended up being a wasted character. In the comics Darwin has survived being blown up, shot, traveling at super sonic speed in deep space while hanging onto the back of a spaceship and facing off with a goddess of death. You would think movie Darwin would be able to survive until the second half of the movie.

Story

The story was absolutely brilliant. Time period appropriate, utterly believable and appropriately drawn out, the plot and its execution were truly well done. The intent was to tell the story of Charles and Erik’s early friendship and their founding of a school to take in and train mutants how to control their powers, but the writers also had to create a scenario of how they met and why they decided to enter into such a venture, all in the span of two hours and eleven minutes. Not to mention action movies need a villain and a massive crisis in need of diffusing, and for the coherency of this film especially, the bad guys and their agenda were required to be tied into the more character driven plot aspects. In terms of scene specifics, given my adoration of the first ‘X’ film I felt the opening act in ‘First Class’ was a respectful nod to the poignant power of the nigh identical introductory scene in ‘X-Men,’ which was followed by a new dramatic and emotionally charged scene from within the concentration camp.

In a rare turn of attitude I had allowed myself to once again believe in an ‘X-Men’ movie before seeing the film, and I was richly rewarded for my faith. Twice I have born witness to the brilliance that is ‘First Class’ on the big screen, and I cannot rule out at least one more screening (especially since due to technical difficulties my second showing was free…three cheers for industrial failures), not only for the super-sized special effects, but to kick back and enjoy a good story and the resurrection of the spirit of a film franchise previously believed to be brutally murdered. Thank you, ‘X-Men: First Class’ for bringing, smart, sexy and cool back to the X-Men name. I am Avril Brown, a Mutant Lover, and Proud, once more.

ROGUE ELEMENT 79

Rogue Element #79: The Willfully Forgotten Fantasy Finales

By Avril Brown

We all have one, or more likely, several. The price one pays for diving into the fantasy world is accepting that characters and domains you grow to know and love are not within your control. Occasionally a show you absolutely adore carries on past its natural expiration date, turning something you once couldn’t get enough of into a painful acid wash for the eyes and imagination. This experience wouldn’t be half as excruciating if the series was not stellar to begin with, sinking its creative claws into your cerebral cortex from the very beginning. I cannot always blame the Powers That Be behind these formerly awesome ventures from giving it one more go to see if the magic is still there, and there are times where the series can rise above a bad patch and continue gracing the path of greatness. For the series that should have been laid to rest before they buried themselves, however, there is my simple, slightly childish yet massively effective solution: pretend like it isn’t there.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl

In a recent column regarding books turned into television programs I gave a shout out to one of my favorite Showtime series, ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl,’ starring the bombshell Brit and former companion to The Doctor, Billie Piper. At the time of that writing I had yet to see the fourth and final season of this steamy show about a high class London escort, and I wish that was still the case. I loved watching the erotic adventures of Belle the prostitute as she struggled to keep her relationships as Hannah the ‘legal secretary’ afloat. Her former madam Stephanie has a sharp tongue and a seemingly frosty demeanor which hides her true affection for her ‘girls,’ most particularly Belle. Bambi was first introduced in season two as an aspiring escort who looks to Belle for advice, though they rapidly became close friends. Ben is Belle’s best friend and ex-boyfriend who, despite his initial mixed feelings about her profession, stays close to her through thick and thin…or so we thought. The third season ended on a high note with Bambi marrying an aristocratic client-turned-love-of-her-life, Belle dumping her llama-faced prick of a boyfriend and Ben, inspired by Bambi and Byron’s romance, proposing he and Belle try being a couple again. Season four, however, completely drops Bambi and Byron from the plot lines, Belle returns from the two week trip to the Maldives she took with a client at the end of the previous season to a flat she somehow purchased within that fourteen day span, and though she and Ben do try and make a go of it, by the end of the series Ben has changed his tune and demands Belle quit her job or quit him, despite knowing full well she had no plans to give up her life as an escort. Though there were dramatic moments within the series dealing with lies, failed relationships and the threat of rape, the majority of the series was largely lighthearted, thus paving the way for the idea of a working girl and her best friend achieving a happily ever after. Not to mention I despise plot holes and regular characters disappearing without a whisper, so while season three had a fabulously uplifting ending and would have been an excellent conclusion for the series, the final season changed the general feel of the show and was largely depressing in its culmination, and will be thus far deleted from my memory banks.

X-Men

While ‘X-Men’ and ‘X2’ will forever remain two of my favorite comic book movies, I will never miss an opportunity to lambast ‘X-Men 3: The Last Stand.’ Outstandingly god-awful almost every step of the way, from the opening scene to the abysmal ending (which the producers liked so much they created several alternative final cuts), ‘X3’ will forever remain a jagged, poorly written thorn in my Marvel-loving hide. The series started strong with ‘X-Men’ ranking favorably with most constituents and ‘X2’ blowing everyone out of the water, but ‘X3’ finished the trilogy with utterly asinine dialogue and an excellent story idea gone horribly wrong. “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!”? Wolverine giving an inspirational speech? Jean killing Scott AND Professor Xavier before the pile of shit (aka the movie) was half cold? Would she had drowned in that deluge and never risen again, sparing us all such travesty! Despite my obsessive need to collect almost everything X-Men, which inexplicitly extends to horrific insults to the X movie franchise, ‘X3’ will likely sit on my DVD shelf never to be touched unless I stumble upon the monstrosity when I am really bored and really, REALLY hammered. Thankfully, due to my selective subconscious and the promise of a shiny new (and pretty damn decent judging by early reviews) ‘X-Men’ flick coming out this weekend, I can continue to enjoy the first two ‘X’ films without the experience being tainted by the inexcusable final installment to what should have been an enduring trilogy ranked among ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones.’ Speaking of…

Indiana Jones

When asked for his thoughts on series finales that should be unmade, my boyfriend Jesse mentioned ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ stating: “The trilogy was fantastic, but that last movie just hurt my feelings.” Now I heart me some Harrison Ford; he was my first celebrity crush and I believe I still have the scrapbook of magazine pictures I compiled of him somewhere in the recesses of my parents’ attic. I think he’s still got it and I anxiously await the release of ‘Cowboys vs. Aliens’ where he’ll play one badass colonel/cowboy. Indiana Jones, however, should have stuck with religious relics and his adventures concluded with the iconic and always enjoyable ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.’ Every cheesy aspect of the trilogy fans adore is elevated to a hackneyed level in the fourth film: one-liners are too corny, sidekicks are overly annoying and action sequences are beyond believable. I do realize harping upon a movie’s ‘believability’ sounds hypocritical given my addiction to the improbable, but one of the best things about Indy is his ability to find himself in slightly ridiculous situations, get the crap kicked out of him and take his numerous licks like a man. Narrowly escaping from a speeding tank plummeting over a cliff (the mechanics of which happen off screen, of course) feels more Indy-esque than our hero shoving himself inside a lead-lined fridge to stave off the effects of a nuclear bomb test, the blast of which sends the Indy-filled fridge flying miles into the air landing with a sickening thud outside the radiation zone where Indy emerges with nary a limp. Plus, the original Indy films always featured the mystical properties of famous religious artifacts, Dr. Jones’s specialty, but ‘Crystal Skull’ involves tracking and gathering psychic alien skulls made of crystal, and when they are re-attached to their headless skeletons the collective conscious awakens to fry a Soviet chick’s brain before the E.T.’s head home in their now-mobile spaceship. I think I’ll stick to the Nazi-melting ghosts that live in the Ark of the Covenant. My sister undoubtedly would love to join me in the land of ‘fourth Indy film’ denial but I believe she is too pissed she and her husband bought ‘Crystal Skull’ on Blu-ray before watching the movie. Live and learn, and keep your receipts.

Ultimate X-Men

Launched in 2001 shortly after the successful release of the first ‘X-Men’ film, the ‘Ultimate X-Men’ comic book re-set the mutants of Marvel and created a new world to play in. Ultimate Marvel spanned several of their most popular books (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Avengers), but I only had eyes for my X-Men. The original scribe on ‘Ultimate X-Men’ was Mark Millar, a notable comic author, and though my somewhat innocent sensibilities found the darker tone of the book initially off-putting I quickly learned to appreciate the edgy, foreboding and remarkably well-written ‘Ultimate’ universe. While many of these ‘new’ X-Men were not completely dissimilar to their mainstream counterparts, the little differences were always fun to discover (such examples include Nick Fury as a black man rather than white, Colossus as a gay man, and Dazzler as a tough bitch punk rocker rather than a candy-coated pop singer). Millar stayed on the book for the first three years, taking readers on such wild rides as the torturous missions of Weapon X, the devastation wrought by Proteus and the rise, fall and return of Magneto. (Rather than kill his former friend after he attacked the White House, Professor Charles Xavier wiped Magneto’s mind and attempted to rehabilitate him. When Magneto’s followers discovered he was alive they returned his memories, leading to one of my favorite pages in the entire series: Magneto floating several tons of scrap metal in the sky spelling out, “Thank you, Charles.” Wicked.) Brian Michael Bendis, one of the most recognizable names in the Marvel Universe, carried the torch for one year following Millar’s run and introduced several new Ultimate characters and a killer Wolverine story. Next came Brian K. Vaughn, who authored the majority of the ‘Runaways’ title (one of my favorite books EVER), and though I cannot condone him killing off Ultimate Gambit, he wrote several blockbuster story arcs including one of my favorites: “The Most Dangerous Game,” starring an Ultimate Mojo and company. After Vaughn came Robert Kirkman, and a full stop to my enjoyment of the title. Although I relish Kirkman’s twisted zombie comic ‘The Walking Dead’ (inspiration and foundation for the AMC television program of the same name) I did not care for his run on ‘Ultimate X-Men’ and felt he shredded the characters beyond recognition. From Nightcrawler going insane and kidnapping Dazzler, to reducing the mighty Shadow King to an ex of Storm’s whom she defeats in her head in one issue, all the way around to the sloppy ‘Apocalypse’ story arc, I felt ‘Ultimate’ had jumped the proverbial mutant shark and now pretend Kirkman was off playing with animated corpses during those two and a half years. Aron Coleite took over the book for the last year of the title when it was pretty much dead in the water, and while I collected the book until the bitter end I only half understood/cared what was occurring during the final story arc ‘Ultimatum’ as it was a crossover with the other Ultimate books I did not read. Thankfully, the first five to six years of the title are relatively rock solid and easy to get lost in, the consistently stellar art making even the darkest story easy on the eyes.

I could go on for ages about how many series I have sliced and diced to better suit my tastes. For some my surgical memory has exorcised only certain cancerous lumps, allowing me to enjoy an episode here or a scene there without letting the entire tumor infect my mind’s eye. My goal here is to demonstrate that it is alright to patchwork your favorite parts and snip off the rest, for your opinion is the one that truly matters when savoring your fantastical excursions. Fan fiction or even your own daydreaming musings can fill in the blanks, creating a whole new experience as unique as you could possibly conceive.