Written by Jim Zub and Drawn by Steven Cummings

Written by Ed Brubaker and Drawn by Sean Phillips

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Taking a look at two recent newbies…

wayward 1

I was somewhat dubious heading into WAYWARD #1, mainly because, while I can appreciate the professionalism in the execution, writer Jim Zub’s SKULLKICKERS is not quite my thing. That was, frankly, dumb on my part, particularly because WAYWARD is wildly different than that other book. This one is thoroughly modern, introducing us to Rori Lane, a half-Irish, half-Japanese teenage girl who arrives in Japan to move in with her mother. At first, we are led to believe that the book will simply be one about culture clash and adapting to identity, and that alone would have made it interesting because Zub makes us like her immediately. But as the book progresses, some intriguing supernatural undertones settle in, and suddenly we get something more along the genre lines of BUFFY. It’s a glorious surprise, and I loved every second of it.

Of course, it works as well as it does because of the fantastic artwork turned in by Cummings. I’ve seen his art recently on a couple of graphic novels from the major book publishers, and he shows here why he’s been in that kind of demand. His characters are eye-pleasing, his backgrounds are gorgeous, and his storytelling is excellent. In short: this was a book I expected pretty much nothing from, yet when I was done with it, I wanted the second issue immediately because of how good it is. One should never be afraid to admit being wrong, and I was very, very wrong in my attitude approaching this one. Buy it.


I’m not sure what else I can say about THE FADE OUT #1 that every other reviewer (and professional for that matter) hasn’t already said. With FATALE having wrapped up just a few weeks ago, you’d have thought that maybe Brubaker and Phillips would take a break, enjoy a victory lap, whatever. But instead, they have followed up almost immediately with this one, and it might be their best work together yet. When Charlie Parish, a hack screenwriter, wakes up after a party with no memory of what occurred, that’s troubling. When he enters a room and finds starlet Valeria Sommers dead? Well, that’s way past troubling.

Set in the Blacklist era of Hollywood, Brubaker and Phillips create a grabber of a story, complete with fascinating characters, zesty dialogue, gorgeous milieus, and enough intrigue to keep the audience sucked in to the very end. Nobody does this stuff better than these guys, and I’m not just talking right now. I’m talking ever. In looking at their output over the past few years, it’s clear we are watching two people in their prime doing work that will outlast them far after they’re gone. They’re the Lee/Kirby of noir.


CHEW: Warrior Chicken Poyo

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Avril Brown

This number one (and possibly only) CHEW comic exclusively focused on everybody’s favorite badass motherfuckin’ bird POYO is exactly was one would expect from the twisted imaginations of Layman and Guillory. There are expensive parades and body doubles. There are guts and plenty of gore. There are bad guys in need of a good killing and Poyo is eager to deliver.


The CHEW duo really let their nerd flags fly in this issue. After saving the President of the United States from micro-nuclear-battle-nanites, Poyo is summoned to another dimension where readers are bombarded with dozens of references ranging from ‘Lord of the Rings’ to ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Walking Dead.’ Poyo teams up with a variety of otherworldly creatures to defeat the evil ‘groceryomancer’/agravictusimperior (someone who can grow and control oversized, homicidal vegetables), and naturally Poyo is the only one left standing. His method of choice when finally dispatching with the main villain will have Poyo fans cheering out loud. To thank and give respect to Poyo for his badassery, he is declared the new monarch of Yoek. That’s KING Warrior Chicken Poyo to you.

As with every issue Layman and Guillory put out it is worth scrutinizing every page for all the hilariously inappropriate Easter eggs. There’s a reminder on the President’s desk to keep all cigars out of the Oval Office (burn!) and great shout outs to Poyo during his parade. This issue is just straight up, good bloody fun, and given how fast the first printing sold out it looks like fans appreciate this gift from the CHEW crew. You know you have a great series when fans are begging for every carnage-laden story starring a psychotic, murderous hero foul they can get their hands on. Well played, Layman, Guillory and Poyo. May Poyo continue ripping hearts out of chests for years to come.



By Marc Mason

Some final notes on this year’s show and the future of the con:

– Kudos to my friends Paul and Darlene Horn for their genius engagement with the local community. San Diego’s THE DONUT BAR asked them about creating a SDCC themed donut, and the result – The Infinity Bearclaw – quickly went viral on social media. See for yourself:


– I started seeing more articles this year agreeing with what I wrote after the show last year: this is still a great show for comic books. The sheer amount of square footage dedicated to comics is staggering. And despite what you hear, not always easy to navigate. There were always plenty of people blocking the way down on that end.

– On the other hand, the media end of things continues to be an utter nightmare to navigate through. Fellas, please move Artists’ Alley to the center of the floor. Use it as a divider. Don’t stick it on the far end where it’s almost impossible to get through during the middle of the day.

– I thought the folks running the show did an outstanding job this year. Everything seemed to run quite smoothly, and I saw fewer instances of the security team being unpleasant than I ever have before. The environment surrounding the show was outstanding, and all involved should be incredibly proud.

– Okay, now I’m about to court controversy.

I love the city of San Diego. I love going there even when it isn’t Comic-Con. I love the weather. I love the sights. I love sitting at Petco Park for a ballgame. If I could, I would move to San Diego tomorrow and gladly spend the rest of my life there, and I’d be happy every single damn day of it. So would Soph, for that matter.

But as much as I got back to having a great time at the show this year, this was the first time that I honestly felt like the city was trying to break me, and I can’t be the only one.

There have been some interesting articles appearing lately about the economic impact that the show has on the city and what might be considered a paucity of spending by con-goers compared to their massive numbers. And you know what? I understand completely, because the rest of the city is draining the attendees before they ever hit the floor.

To be blunt: I stay at a Motel 6. Not a fancy downtown hotel, far from it. Yet my bill inched ever closer to a grand this year. Seriously close. Too close. But with the demand created by the show, they go into gouge mode, just like every other hotel in the area. And some restaurants. And so on and so on…

For comparison’s sake, let me tell you about ALA 2014, the American Library Association’s annual conference, an absolutely massive show. It was in Las Vegas at the end of June, and I stayed the exact same number of nights that I did in San Diego. I stayed in the Riviera, one of the classic hotels on the North strip, which is only a half-mile from the Las Vegas Convention Center. Like the Hyatt to the San Diego Convention Center, okay?

My hotel bill in Vegas was 40% of my San Diego hotel bill. Vegas, you see, doesn’t go into gouge mode because a big show is in town. For Vegas, that’s just business as usual.

Yes, it’s hot in Vegas in July. But they have the space, and they have fantastic air conditioning. It pains me to say it, but there used to be a feeling in my gut that I would feel a huge sense of loss if the show ever exited San Diego, and that feeling is gone. I would be perfectly fine if the show moved to Vegas. Better than fine, really. I’d certainly have more money to spend on the convention floor.

The planned expansion of the convention center in San Diego is once again in doubt, and talk about moving the show is going to become prevalent quickly. Whatever happens, I’ll still spend time in San Diego, a city I love very much. I just may do so at a time when the city loves me – and my wallet – back.

Right now, SDCC is not that time.


AISLE SEAT 2.0.85: SDCC 2014 PART 4

By Marc Mason

Saturday was pretty uneventful for me.

After breakfast, I made my way to the convention center and there was a palpable difference in everything that day. The crowds felt bigger. The security personnel looked far more stressed. Every line I saw for every single thing in the building looked longer. Even the streets I walked as I headed to the show felt more packed with bodies.

That’s just Saturday for you in a nutshell.

For me, I got started back on the comics retailer end. To that point, I had yet to actauuly buy myself anything at the show. Now part of that comes from the fact that I own plenty of comics and around 2000 graphic novels. If I buy something these days, there has to be a pretty compelling reason to add to my bookshelves, you know?

I spent a lot of time at the half-price trade paperback dealers again, and this time, I found something I wanted very much: an omnibus collection of remastered SPACE: 1999 comics that were originally published in the 70s by Charlton. This collection came out of Archaia, and those folks do fantastic work. There was no hesitation on my part: that bad boy came home with me.

After that, I made final rounds, talking to folks about the site, and talking to folks about myself. By 5pm, I felt as though my con was complete, so I went back to the hotel to grab some rest.

It wasn’t until much later that I wound up giving some interesting thought to what I did for dinner. Not so much the food itself, but the experience of getting there. You see, I walked two miles to dinner. What’s funny about that is that for SDCC, that seems perfectly normal. Yet in my daily life here in Tempe, no way in hell would that happen. Not even in winter when it isn’t hot. You just don’t do it.

But at SDCC, you readjust what normal is. That’s the nature of the show.

After dinner, I hit the Hyatt bar, and I randomly ran into friend & editor Joe Rybandt there. It was a great learning opportunity, as usual. Joe’s one of the smartest guys in comics, and when he talks, I do my best to absorb what he’s saying. Whether he is discussing storytelling, professionalism, or how to properly conduct business, it doesn’t matter. The things he is saying are things you should know. If you want to be in the comics business, that is.

Dynamite head honcho Nick Barrucci dropped in as well, and after a nice chat, I decided to call it a show. I had a 7am wake-up call coming the next morning, and I wanted to feel halfway decent heading home to Sophie.


AISLE SEAT 2.0.84: SDCC 2014 PART 3

By Marc Mason

Friday, I had a different mission.

Over the last few years, more and more events and setups have been springing up in the areas surrounding the convention center. I have, to say the least, not been effective in getting out and seeing what they have to offer, with the exception of last year’s Godzilla Experience. Thus, I decided well in advance to take a chunk of Friday to explore what was going on outside… and to maybe try and just have a bit of fun for myself.

Look, it isn’t that the show isn’t fun. It can be a hoot. But allowing myself to have fun? I kinda suck at that sometimes. I need a reminder now and then to remove the stick from my ass and relax and find a reason to smile.

I took the trolley from the Civic Center to 12th and Imperial, which is just off of the Petco Park parking lot. I had received a metric ton of PR material about what was going on there, and even then, I have to admit that it was all fairly impressive. ADULT SWIM had a giant Meatwad with stuff inside. The TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES had an area promoting the movie and giving away pizza slices. SIN CITY had a huge setup that included a lineup of classic muscle cars (my better half, Sophie, loves that sort of thing, so I made sure to take plenty of pictures), there was a HELLO KITTY truck giving away promo materials, there were a bunch of foodtrucks where you could get lunch… and the crowds had found their way there. Even with some distance away from the con floor, attendees had flooded the area in a meaningful way. And why not? The stuff to do was pretty cool. The corporate backers had spared no expense in putting together something first class to bring eyes to what they wanted to promote.

Crossing the pedestrian bridge over Harbor Drive, I got a good look at all the stuff set up on the lawn between the Hilton Bayfront and the convention center, as well as a glimpse of what was going on behind the convention center. Most prominent, by far, was the SIMPSONS stuff.

The “Homerdome” – Homer Simpson’s head rising out of the ground – dominated the landscape between Hall H and the Hilton. You couldn’t miss it (and Fox didn’t want you to, as they prepare to make the entire series available in an app, as well as prepare a marathon of the whole show from start to now), yet that was not all. There were multiple Simpsons-themed booths, offering games and cotton candy to those willing to brave the lines. For visibility and drawing power, this was the show’s winner, hands down.

But for excitement, no one trumped the build for GOTHAM. A massive backdrop of the city skyline looked striking against the ocean behind it, but in front of it was a zipline tower and dual-line setup that allowed fans to do the zip and get a picture taken along the way that they could post to social media. The line was huge, the squeals of delight from the people going down the line were infectious. It was a brilliant bit of marketing, no question.

For me, though, the biggie was the GODZILLA exhibit. Legendary put together a two-pronged interactive booth. In one, you stood in front of a green screen and were then digitally added into the movie’s poster. This had the effect of making you look like you were in front of the Big Green, standing or running right in his path:

godzilla pic sdcc 2014

There was also an exhibit of different versions of the movie poster, a huge wall full of fan-art posters, a ginormous sculpture of Godzilla with a speaker in the bottom that let off his roar at random moments, a chalkboard where you could write messages about your fandom, and then a camera setup where you were placed into a poster as a .GIF file. I had mine sent to Sophie so she could see something important: I was having a good time.

Yes, I was smiling. I was having fun. Godzilla is my primary fandom as a geek, so doing those things gave me enormous pleasure. At that point, no matter what else happened, I knew that I was going to count this SDCC as a success.

Once I was done outside, I hit the floor for a while, talking to some publishers about stuff for the site and doing a little bit of window shopping. Indeed, that began to become a weird recurring theme: I love the cheap trades booths, but this year I was having a horrible time finding stuff I truly wanted to buy.

What about variants, you say? Why not buy from the publishers’ booths and get a variant or something? Well, for one, I could give less than a damn about variants. I don’t ever buy comics for collectability purposes. And given the choice between a $10 variant at a show or supporting a local retailer by purchasing the regular $4 version from one of them? I’m going to support my local retailers every time.

After finishing on the floor, I once again headed back to my hotel to take a break. From there, I headed back down toward the water, alighting in Seaport Village to grab dinner. Post-food, I texted a friend and made my way toward the far end, catching up with him and others at the Hilton Bayfront. It was a great night, a cool breeze wafting through the air, and I once again met some new folks and had fun chatting with old friends. I stuck to ice water, and rather quickly I began to grow tired. I had spent a lot of time in the sun, done plenty of walking… and now the cool breeze was making me start to yawn with alarming frequency. My mind began to wander, and I made the decision to head back to the hotel and call it a night.

A short call to Soph, a head on the pillow, and it was going to be another night where I got plenty of sleep.



Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and more

Released by Marvel Studios

By Avril Brown

Am I in love, or simply open to persuasion? ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ delivered everything the previews promised us salivating fans: great one-liners (and entire conversations) delivered by a rag-tag group of misfits turned heroes while lots of shit gets blown up. But did the complete film deliver more than a bevy of just-this-side-of-campy humor and CG special effects? Did it tell a story worth watching?

Honestly, I cannot say for sure. Ever since the first trailer blew up the internet I have been as antsy as a nymphomaniac slapped with a chastity belt. I have been waiting none too patiently for the ‘Guardians’ to get into my pants and take my money, and I want so badly to say the wait was worth sweating in my metal drawers. Thankfully in many ways it was, but I am unsure whether it lived up to all of my expectations.

‘Guardians’ is most certainly a fun, and funny, comic book movie, chock filled with cheeky anti-heroes, more eighties references than you can shake a Walkman at and one hell of a soundtrack. From the very beginning when Star Lord dances his way to his intended booty I was immediately seduced by Chris Pratt’s pelvic sorcery. He’s just so…cool, my geek lust reached a peak. Actually, he makes an ass out of himself more often than not, but the way Peter Quill just picks himself up and keeps on going, no matter how dire the situation, is insanely attractive. He always has a quip ready to fire at his naysayers, and he’s so desperate for recognition he’s almost pathetic. But the Star Lord is a scrappy survivor, and I have always had a soft spot for such a ruffian.

The rest of the team holds their own as well, but one major element lacking is sufficient background to really get the viewer invested in each character. We’re given just enough to get where they’re coming from but not much else to go on. On the one hand, I get it: it’s nigh impossible to give each character their due diligence plus the ‘beat the bad guy’ story arc while providing plenty of action within a two hour-ish screen time. The major advantage ‘Avengers’ had (the standard by which I now hold every comic book movie) was almost every star player came to the table with established histories, and those that didn’t got great introduction scenes. Such is not the case with ‘Guardians.’ The time it took to give each member a chance to explain themselves detracted from time needed to flesh out the central story, and the nemeses. They did a fair job showcasing the heroes, but the villains got shortchanged in a big way. Ronan was somewhat trite and Nebula, the role Whovian Karen Gillan shaved her head for, was just wasted.

Whenever there is a comic book movie with such an excellent premise and tantalizing previews, one cannot help but walk into the theater with high hopes. Without a doubt, ‘Guardians’ is one hell of a circus ride, but it could have been better. Do the one-sided villains and slightly stagnant plot detract from the fun I had from start to the Footloose finish? Absolutely not; in fact, I am chomping at the bit to get back to the theater and experience ‘Guardians’ for a second time, ideally with a smaller crowd so I can hear the entirety of the many jokes woven throughout the film.

So, to answer the question: Am I in love? Well, though ‘Guardians’ is no ‘Avengers,’ I have to say the compilation of a foul-mouthed Ranger Rick, a talking tree who is both sweet and scary, an adrenaline addicted muscled-out maniac, a green assassin and a Star Lord who believes awesome music and fancy moves are the solution to everything, yeah, I have to say I’ve fallen pretty hard. As long as the ‘Guardians’ continue to crack jokes and riff off one another like it’s going out of style, I’ll follow them across the galaxy, and so should anyone looking to have a raucous good time.

And never forget Boromir’s sage advice: “One does not simply leave a Marvel movie before the end of the credits.” You’ll want to stick around for these tidbits, trust me on that.