12-30-10:  Review--Stan Lee's The Traveler #2 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

If you read my review last month, you know I really enjoyed the first issue of "The Traveler," the story of a time-manipulating hero that battles time-travelling villains called the Split-Second Men. The opening story by Mark Waid and artist Chad Hardin was a great first issue. So how does the second issue of the series hold up?

Pretty well, actually. While the second issue isn't as action-focused as the first, we do learn that The Traveler himself is somehow connected to Julia, an FBI agent whose life The Traveler saves in the beginning of the issue. She happens to be the daughter of a scientist working on a project involving time manipulation. There's also a clear indication that one of the scientists involved in that project has a hidden agenda. 

We also get introduced to the latest, seemingly random victim of the Split-Second Men, and find out that there are some strange things happening to the time stream, putting not only the Traveler, but all of the people he's saved in danger.

"The Traveler" #2 builds on the strong foundation of the series debut, and has solidified a spot on my monthly reading list. Check it out.

4 out fo 5 Nicks of Time

12-6-10:  Review--Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers #1 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

Well, BOOM! has done it again. Continuing the string of successes that the publisher has had with its kids' line of comics, this week's "Chip 'n' Dale: Rescue Rangers" debut was great. Fans of the cartoon and brand new young readers will find plenty to love in the first issue.

Smartly, the book starts with an introduction to the core characters, and mixes some flashbacks in through the first issue to get everyone caught up on who the Rescue Rangers are. Writer Ian Brill thinks big in terms of the Rangers' first mission, as they are on a globe-spanning adventure right out of the gate. It seems that all manner of creatures have been affected by something that causes them to become overly aggressive and attack anything in their path. The Rangers are trying to find pieces of an artifact that could be the key to reversing the effect of this mystery epidemic. Artist Leonel Castillani and colorist Jake Myler handle all the action and locale changes well, and they really capture the look and feel of the old cartoon.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that BOOM! has knocked it out of the park again. Waid and company have shown that whether they are launching original properties or dealing with licensed ones, they consistently put out quality material.

5 out of 5 Ch-ch-ch-Chip 'n' Dales

12-1-10: Supergirl # 58 (DC Comics)

by Matman

When the January cover date books begin to start I take this time to purge my list! I look to see what book isn’t doing it for me anymore and make room for something that will. One book that is so far away from that list is Supergirl! Month after month, Supergirl remains in my top five dur to incredible storytelling and beautiful art. And I think Supergirl # 58 just proves my case.

The issue begins with Supergirl and reporter Cat Grant going to Arkham Asylum to talk to the Toyman! As we learn three children have disappeared and Cat thinks he may have something to do with it and Supergirl is there to keep things in order. Recent events have pitted the two against each other so this is an uneasy truce at best. If you are a longtime reader in the Superman world you may remember that Toyman killed Cat’s son Adam. Add to this, the Toyman may not be behind these missing children!


The amazing thing about Supergirl # 58 (other than everything) is that this is a great jump on issue! You don’t need to have a catalog of history, a Secret File and Sterling Gates at your side to tell you everything going on. This just starts, builds and then (bam) continued. That is a mighty fine comic book!

I say this to anyone who listens; Sterling Gates is a writer that in a few years, we will look at like we do Geoff Johns! He knows how to entertain, move a story along at a deserving pace and keeps the readers engaged! In this issue alone there are so many emotional twists the action becomes secondary.

Each month, penciller Jamal Igle turns in the best work of his career! Every page is a textbook example at how to tell a sequential story. He draws Supergirl in a beautiful and classy way deserving of the character and what she represents. And without words, you can tell that the lovely Ms. Grant has so much pain and anger behind her eyes. And holding it all together is Jon Sibal who inks Jamal better than anyone else and makes his work come alive!

Now if that doesn’t entice you how about the cover? Holy cow! Amy Reeder and Guy Major give you no mercy as it sits on the newsstand. Just look into the swirling blue eyes of this absolutely gorgeous cover and you will find yourself $2.99 lighter. I dare you pass it up or the Amanda Connor and Paul Mounts!     

Overall, Supergirl # 58 is the best book of the early 2011 cover dates. It packs a punch and has no weaknesses. I know I’ve been riding high on this book since # 34, but now is your chance to come to the party!

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 judge a book by it’s cover!!!          

11-28-10: Long Box Review--Impaler #1 (Top Cow)

by Brian LeTendre

Wow. After reading the first issue of "Impaler," my first thought was 'How did I miss this?' The series originally debuted in 2006, and it's a great take on both the tired genre of vampires and the mythos of Dracula itself. The story starts out in 1460's Romania, where the army of Wallachia is being overrun by vampires. In a twist to the legend of Vlad the Impaler, the version of Vlad in this story is an agent of church, who goes through a ritual to become a blessed warrior of God and battle the demonic forces assaulting Wallachia.

Fast forward to present time, and a seemingly abandoned cargo ship floats into New York Harbor. Upon closer inspection, police find the murdered crew on the ship, as well as an ancient evil that is now loose on the streets of New York.

Writer William Harms does the improbable here, as he crafts a very unique take on a genre that has been done to death. His dark story is matched perfectly by the art team of Nick Postic and Nick Marinkovich, who depict vampires as unliving shadows that can get to anyone, anywhere at any time.

All in all, a very creepy first issue, and one well worth checking out.

4 out of 5 Stay Away From The Shadows

11-24-10:  Review--Stan Lee's The Traveler #1 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

I've mentioned on the podcast a few times that I like the idea behind BOOM!'s new partnership with Stan Lee. Basically, he pitches the concept and someone else writes the book. In the new book "The Traveler," that someone else is Mark Waid, EIC of BOOM! and one of my favorite writers. Waid takes Stan's idea and runs with it, and the first issue of this series is a strong one.

In issue #1 of "The Traveler" much of the story is told from the perspective of a woman named Danielle, who gets caught in the middle of a battle between super-powered beings. Waid does a great job of introducing readers to the characters and the world through the eyes of a regular person who is experiencing something extraordinary.

You learn about how The Traveler’s time-manipulating powers and that of his adversary work as he explains things to Danielle during the heat of battle. And just when you take a breath after the action sequence that comprises the first two-thirds of the book, you get gut-punched by the ending.

It’s nice to see a veteran writer like Waid craft a shining example of a great first issue. Artist Chad Hardin keeps pace with Waid all along the way, and he really nails the punctuating scene at the end of the issue.

"The Traveler" #1 is a great first issue, and another strong start for Boom!

5 out of 5 Juliaaaaaas!

11-19-10:  Review--Brimstone and the Borderhounds #1

by Brian LeTendre

If there's one thing I don't want to do after I die, it’s work. But according to the vision of the afterlife in “Brimstone and the Borderhounds,” that's exactly what I can look forward to. In the first issue we see what happens when a jerk of a guy dies and finds himself on the slow boat to Hell, where souls become part of a whole new workforce. Before he can even finish crying about what he's not supposed to be there, a breakout attempt ensues and the jerk makes a break for it with a bunch of other souls. Enter Brimstone and his gang of Borderhounds, a group of pseudo-bounty hunters that bring wayward souls back to Hell.

The main character of Brimstone is based on William Kucmierowski, better known by his professional wrestling name, Brimstone. He, along with fellow writer Marcello Carnevali and penciler Sajad Shah have created a version of hell that is part “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” part prime-time wrestling show, and part Zakk Wylde video. While the first issue doesn’t delve too deeply into Brimstone’s story, it does a nice job of setting up the world and laying the groundwork for the stories to come.

Brimstone and the Borderhounds” #1 is a fun read that promises to get crazier with ensuring issues. I plan on sticking around to see to where this one goes.

4 out of 5 Figure 666’s

11-4-10: The Sea Ghost # 1 (Nemo Publishing)

One of our favorite segments on Secret Identity is the Saturday Morning Special! For us,  some of our favorite memories of childhood is watching cool, action oriented cartoons that seemed to be so much bigger than life or our imagination! So the fine tradition of Jack Kirby and those great cartoons of old I present to you (big echo effect), ‘The Sea Ghost’!!! 

From the incredible mind and pencil of Jay Piscopo comes ‘The Sea Ghost # 1’! In the same tone and style of Jay’s other work like ‘Capt’n Eli’ and ‘Commander X’ (both who make appearances here), comes another all ages adventure full of fun and nonstop action!  

‘Sea Ghost in the Machine’ introduces us to The Sea Ghost and his undersea world featuring his command center the Ghosts Grotto! Living in the ruins of Atlantis, The Ghost and his children Triton and Coral, he keeps the sea safe from evil.  When Commander X alerts the Ghost of some oddities in the Arctic, he makes his way to investigate. But when he gets there he finds a small vehicle that transports him to another world! But of course when he arrives he is treated as an enemy and hunted by everyone on the planet; land, sea and air. Can The Sea Ghost save himself and help restore peace to the planet of Eris?

Sea Ghost is an incredible character and not just because he looks wicked awesome and does even cool stuff! He is a father and sadly a widower who speaks to his wife in visions. Not only does he bust stuff up (which we all demand), but he can use his brain to reason before the fisticuffs. There is a lot of depth to this character as well as his support staff that I can’t wait to explore in future issues.

As far as Jay’s writing and art … brilliant! He creates such an inviting and warm feeling you can hear the ocean swishing and the cheesy music playing in the background. His visuals are very much in the tradition of Alex Toth and the King, Jack Kirby! If Mr. Kirby were still with us, he would be very pleased by the world Jay has created! 

‘The Sea Ghost’ One Shot is a pleasant and rewarding read that satisfies on all levels. It can sometimes hurt a book when it is billed as ‘all ages’, and that is a shame. My greatest comic reading experiences involve reading comics with my daughters, like I did with my father and grandfather. Anyone who loves comics, great art and the ability to share will certainly enjoy this first issue!  

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 “wish Aquaman was this cool!”

Sea Ghost # 1 (along with the first two highly recommended Capt’n Eli Adventures) is available now at www.captneli.com.

10-21-10: The Vietnam War: A Graphic History

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Vietnam War was a dirty subject. No one discusses it especially those who served in uniform because of the horrors they encountered there or the disrespect they received when they got home. It wasn’t until films like ‘Apocalypse Now’ and (a little later) ‘Platoon’ and ‘Hamburger Hill’ led people to ask questions about the war. How did it start? Why were we there? Why did we lose? Hard to believe in one graphic novel, these questions can be answered. 

‘The Vietnam War: A Graphic History’ is the work of writer Dwight Jon Zimmerman and artist Wayne Vansant. In 160 or so pages, the creative team chronicles the situations leading to the conflict, the confusion behind the scenes and the dividing of the home front. 

In the time you read this book, you’ll have an unbiased and completely accurate look at the most controversial war in American history!  

Dwight Jon Zimmerman not only has comic writing experience (he wrote for Marvel Comics among others) but is also a well respected historical writer with several novels and countless articles to his credit. Here, he somehow is able to tell the entire history of the Vietnam War in an easy to understand read. But he also does this entertaining and not showing any agenda other than to educate and validate the efforts of those involved.

In the 1980’s Wayne Vansant’s work (The Nam, Days Of Darkness, Semper Fi) established him as one of the best war comic artists ever. Mentioning him in the likes of Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, John Severin and Sam Glanzman only strengthens the group. His attention to detail (weapons, equipment, and likenesses) is absolutely perfect and his flowing panels work so well they make you forget you’re learning something.

This comic book (or graphic novel) is an incredible way for readers to learn and experience this traumatic time in history. Not a disposable read, it took me a few sittings of an hour each to get through it, but I feel more knowledgeable and more informed on the event.

‘The Vietnam War: A Graphic History’ This book has also garnered the praises from a few of comics most respected creators including Joe Kubert and Jim Salicrup! It has also won some prestigious awards including the 2010 Gold Medal in the Artistic/Graphic category from the Military Writers Society of America and 1st Place Winner of the 2010 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award (Photography / Graphics). Add to that a humble review from me.

To find out more about Dwight Jon Zimmerman and Wayne Vansant just to to Facebook and send them a friend request! 

Matman – 5 out of 5 Red Poppies

10-18-10:  Review--The Daughters Of Merlin #1 (Jester Press)

by Brian LeTendre

“Destiny of the Dragon: The Daughters of Merlin” is a new fantasy series from “Night” creator Troy Hasbrouck that offers a twist to the legend of Merlin the wizard.  The story starts out with the fall of Camelot, right after the death of King Arthur.  A beleaguered Merlin watches as Camelot is being destroyed by dragons, and he makes the decision to take the fabled Excalibur and retreat, as its clear the battle is lost.  But he can’t leave alone, as we find out that he has secretly fathered three daughters that have been living with other families in secrecy for years.  Merlin believes his daughters are the only hope for the future, and he sends one of his allies (a witch named Tristana) to gather the three girls so they can make their escape.

Unfortunately for everyone, things don’t go smoothly.

Writer Troy Hasbrouck has managed to create something both familiar and new, as pretty much everyone knows about the legends of Merlin, but Troy’s take on the legend is unique.  The art by Edi Guedes is solid, from the design of the main characters to the rampaging dragons, he keeps up with the pace of Tray’s story nicely.   

Whether you’re familiar with Troy’s “Night” comics or not, this series is worth checking out, as it’s really a departure from what he’s done in the past. I’ll be keeping an eye on this series moving forward.

4 out of 5 Extra Crispy Squires

You can find out more about “Daughters of Merlin” and “Night" at www.jesterpress.com, and you can pick up issues of both series over on Drive Thru Comics.

10-14-10: Batman Confidential # 49 (DC Comics)

by Matman

Let me just get this out in the open…I’m not very happy with the Dark Knight! For the past five years I have been very disappointed in the direction the book has gone and the direction certain writers have gone. I have loved Dick Grayson and Damian Wane as the dynamic duo, but I just feel the simplicities are missing.

As I begin to watch my Bat-purchases and cringe with the thought of two more ongoing Bat-titles I just needed a change… a fresh take on the Batman. So when the creative team on Batman Confidential # 49 was names that weren’t quite familiar I thought this could be good.

Good is not the word!


Batman is responding to a 911 call and trying to get there before the worst happens. Sadly, he doesn’t quite make it. At the scene he finds a husband and wife killed in their apartment and following the clues, he realizes that their child is missing. Following the desperate escape route of the child he finds a situation all too real for him.

This book is one of the most gut wrenching and emotional stories I have read in a long time. Writer James Patrick has created the perfect Batman story. Here we see him use his detective skills in a desperate race to save a child. From carpet fibers to body positions, Patrick makes you feel like you’re part of the search whether you want to or not! In his story you see that despite the motives he may use, Batman is all about saving people.

Penciller Steve Scott has been away from comics for a while and has made his return in beautiful fashion! His angles, panel layouts and close-ups put you right into the action and flow perfectly. He draws a cinematic and very real Batman complete with beard stubble and flowing cape! If Steve Scott was the regular artist of Batman I would be very happy. Throw in James Patrick and you have a dynamic duo that could do some serious damage and help bring Batman to where he belongs…the greatest hero in comics.

The rest of the visual team (inker Rob Petrecca and colorist David Baron) all should be commended. Not very often I can say a comic was worth the price, but this team gave me my moneys worth and more!

If you have been like me and just wanting Batman to be entertaining again, than Batman Confidential # 49 will give you hope. I just hope Bat-editor Mike Martz knows what an incredible team he has here and lets them do some more Bat-work!

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 batarangs to the throat!  

9-29-10:  Review--American Corpse (Big Bone Studios)

by Brian LeTendre

This week I got my hands on a preview issue of “American Corpse” from Big Bone Studios. Writer Mike Dejarlais and artist David House have taken two oft-used concepts and combined them to create something pretty unique.

The book opens in modern-day Vietnam, where the bodies of several American soldiers lie buried in the jungle where their helicopter crashed during the war. A strange substance seeps into one of the graves, infusing the corpse of Sergeant D.K. Burton with life. Not your typical zombie, Burton climbs out of his grave fully sentient, wondering what the heck is going on. A village shaman explains that a ritual to put his spirit at peace actually brought him back to life, in a decomposing corpse kind of way. As Burton tries to get his bearings, it seems the US government may have been alerted to his presence, and they are in full cover-up mode.

This preview issue of “American Corpse” holds a lot of promise. The art by House is solid, and he draws a great zombie. Dejarlais puts a nice twist on the zombie and war genres, and the concept is original enough that fans of both genres will want to check this book out. I have a feeling this preview issue will be popular at NYCC in a couple of weeks.

4 out of 5 Zombies You Can Talk To

For more on “American Corpse” and Big Bone's other projects, head over to www.bigbonestudios.com. You can also pick up a hard copy of the American Corpse preview issue at the small press NYCC booth, #355.

9-25-10"  Review--Hello, Do You Work Here? #1 (Alterna)

by Brian LeTendre

"Hello, Do You Work Here?" #1 is a pretty unique anthology project from Alterna Comics. Alterna's Peter Simeti asked people who worked in retail to send in stories about their craziest (but true) workplace experiences. The book contains fifteen different stories, most of which are accompanied by art from a variety of independent artists.

I found the group of stories in this volume to be a mixed bag--some were really funny or creepy, a few were pretty mediocre, and the rest were in-between. Overall though, there were enough high notes to make the book a worthwhile read. Some of the highlights include a law office clerk who deals with a suicidal client on her first day, a Taco Bell cashier who has a borderline stalker for a regular customer, and a copy store clerk who gets accosted by a 70-year old man. The stories are short, quick reads and the art that accompanies them usually fits the tone of the story well.

"Hello, Do You Work Here?" should resonate with anyone who's ever worked in retail, and it makes a good coffee table book that you can pick up and read through in small chunks. I enjoyed it enough that I'll be picking up the second volume.

3 out of 5 Workplace Nightmares

You can get "Hello, Do You Work Here?" #1 and #2 for $.99 each over at Drive Thru Comics, or pick up the entire collection in one download for $1.99.

9-23-10: Review--Neil Young's Greendale (DC / Vertigo)

by Matman

Don’t worry if you are not familiar with the Neil Young CD, ‘Greendale’. This will in no way interfere with your enjoyment of this book! 

Neil Young’s Greendale is the visual accompaniment to his critically acclaimed 2003 ‘rock opera’ of the same name. You don’t need to be familiar with the music, but if you are it adds an incredible depth to your reading enjoyment. If you listen to it while reading the book, it makes the experience that much more alive.

In the quiet serene California town of Greendale, some weird stuff is going on… again. Here we are introduced to a beautiful free spirited girl named Sun Green, who upon her 18th birthday begins to change. Like all the women in her family she has a symbiotic relationship with nature. 

But as she becomes more aware, she learns that all the Green women upon this self realization are stricken by tragedy. Unfortunately for Sun, she begins to fall into the pattern of misfortune! 

Joshua Dysart has recently established his writing credentials on DC / Vertigo’s Unknown Soldier for which I’m a huge fan. Here Joshua has over 150 pages to tell his story in full detail with no restraint or space issues. He establishes characters so strong you would swear they were alive and walking among us. His writing also makes you think about the subject matter in an entertaining way. The story and message isn’t heavy handed its just what it is. Some things are opened to interpretation but all the while Joshua keeps the story moving along very nicely!

What can I possibly say about Cliff Chiang’s art that I haven’t already said a million times before? When pencil hits the paper (or whatever he uses) he brings words and ideas to stunning life. He has a way of capturing flow and beauty in ever panel. Whether it’s Sun dancing or a despicable murder scene, Cliff draws everything with such emotion. Visually this is Cliff’s most perfect work; beautiful, sad and incredibly pleasing.

Rounding out the creators is Dave Stewart on colors and Todd Klein on letters. Both help make this book look and read the way it does. Their contributions don’t go unnoticed.

I don’t want to call ‘Greendale’ Joshua and Cliff’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’ because I do believe the best is still yet to come from the duo. If you took either one of them out of this project, it wouldn’t have been as perfect a book. I certainly hope the two will work together again.

'Neil Young’s Greendale’ is a thought provoking tale that not only entertains but teaches as well. After reading (or even listening to the CD) you won’t look at environmental issues or personal callings the same way. This is good!

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 Perfect Blends

9-22-10:  Review--Mickey Mouse and Friends #300 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

BOOM! Studios is bringing "Mickey Mouse and Friends" back this month with the 300th issue of the series.  In addition to the regular version of the issue, a deluxe version of the book is also being released, which features some cool bonus content for longtime Mickey fans.

The main story in the issue is called "300 Mickeys," and it's written by Stefan Petrucha with art by Cesar Ferioli Pelaez.  The story begins with Mickey facing the dilema of choosing between a date with Minnie and a night at the arcade with Goofy. Lucky for him (or so it seems), his friend from the future Eega Beeva stops by for a visit, and he just so happens to be packing his duplication ray.  Eega leaves Mickey alone for a few mintues, and Mickey decides to duplicate himself in order to spend time with both Minne and Goofy.  

Things seem to be going well until Mickey finds out a glitch in the ray is causing the duplicates to duplicate--again and again.  Pretty soon there are Mickeys all over the place, with no end in sight.  How does he get out of this jam?  Tune in next issue to find out!

The deluxe edition of the issue features some great commentary from legends like Daan Jippes, as well as a classic reprint of a strip called "Tanglefoot Pulls His Weight."  In this one, Mickey and Tanglefoot take on several different delivery jobs, with hijinks ensuing on each one.

Overall, the 300th issue of "Mickey Mouse and Friends" is a great tribute to the characters and a fun read for kids of all ages.  The deluxe edition will set you back an extra three bucks, so everyone but the hardcore Mickey fans may want to grab the regular edition.  Either way, there's a lot of fun to be had.

4 out of 5 Duplication Rays

9-16-10:  Mark Waid's Harvey Awards Keynote--Was He Right?

by Brian LeTendre

Mark Waid recently ruffled a lot of feathers when he gave the keynote speech at the Harvey awards. The crux of his speech was that the comic industry's current approach to copyright and what it sees as piracy is very short-sighted. Mark talked about the idea that contributing to the overall culture of our society is more important than copyright, and that original copyright laws were put in place to limit an estate’s ability to control an IP forever. He also talked about filesharing and piracy, and how creators should be able to make money, but should not necessarily view the sharing of their created works as piracy. Anyway, he articulates his points in a great article over on CBR, which you can read by clicking here.

After reading what Waid had to say, I agree with a lot of what he says. The comic industry has been struggling with the digital dilemma for years now, and it's not going away. Giving someone free access to your work does not have to eliminate your ability to be compensated for what you create. In fact, webcomics have been one of the pioneers in the digital arena, and you don't have to look any farther than some of your own favorite webcomics to see how their business model has worked. This model is especially interesting to me, as I just launched a webcomic with a good friend of mine (which you can find over at www.mostachecomic.com).

The business model for many webcomics is simple and straightforward. Comics are put up for free online. If the creators are consistent in their content delivery, and the comics are good, they begin to build an audience. When the creators have built up a considerable amount of material, as well as a decent audience, they usually collect comics into printed collections and sell them. In many cases, they will also create merchandise like t-shirts, stickers, etc. to further monetize their creation. In almost every case however, the monetization happens after the product has been given away for free.

I am not suggesting that this is the same model that should be applied to current print publishers like Marvel and DC. I am merely pointing out that there are models out there that work. How often do you hear about webcomics piracy? You don’t, because webcomic creators have taken that issue out of the mix.

Should comic creators give away digital versions of their creations for free? Should characters and properties revert to public domain after a period of time? I don’t know, but even if you don’t agree with Mark Waid (or you took something entirely different away from what he said), the comic industry needs to start looking at newer business models, because the current one is a runaway train. Raising prices on print comics is a short-sighted solution that only penalizes the existing reader base, while creating even more of a barrier to entry for new readers.

For another interesting take on the subject, check out “PvP” creator Scott Kurtz’s response to the controversy here.

We also want to know what you think! Click here to head to the boards and sound off!

9-12-10:  Review--Star Crossed Galaxy (TwilightPop)

by Brian LeTendre

"Star Crossed Galaxy" #1 features a lot of elements that fans of "Firefly," "Star Wars" and "Battlestar Galacitca" will be familiar with, but the well-paced story and strong artwork make the book more than just a retread of what's come before.

In the first issue, readers arte introduced to a space-based future where the entire galaxy suffered a great plague some 500 years earlier. Humans are now part of a coalition of spacefaring races that are currently at odds with pirates that operate outside the coalition. The story follows Captain Cull and the crew of the Outlander as they encounter a band of pirates. Despite the protests of his crew, the overconfident Cull decides to board the pirate ship, and the results don't turn out so well.

Wrtiter Ryan Keyworth provides a action-packed story that keeps things moving and also gets readers aquainted with the universe. He gives each of the characters enough personality to stand out without slowing down the pace of the story. There's also an interesting subplot about a mysterious discovery by another coalition group that sets up future stories. The art by Matt Martin is solid all the way through, and he handles the action-heavy sequences and the character dialog scenes equally well.

I enjoyed "Star Crossed Galaxy" #1, and I'm looking forward to learning more about the characters and the universe they inhabit in upcoming issues.

4 out of 5 Galaxy-spanning Plagues

You can get the first issue of Star Crosserd Galaxy for $.99 at Drive Thru Comics right now by clicking here. For more info on TwilightPop Productions, head over to www.twilightpop.blogspot.com.

9-1-10: Review--BB Wolf and the Three LPs (Top Shelf)

by Matman

American history has a few black eyes! One of the most glaring is the bringing of slaves from Africa in the 1600’s and the fight for equality that went on over 100 years following the Emancipation Proclamation. Many think the struggles ended following the American Civil War, but writer JD Arnold and artist Rich Koslowski show in a unique way that wasn’t the case at all.

In 1992, 'Maus' told the story of the Holocaust as told by mice, pigs and other animals in a way that was powerful, yet easy to digest. 

Using that same anthropomorphic style of storytelling, 'BB Wolf and the Three LPs' is a retelling of the ‘Three Little Pigs’. But here, the victim is the wolf and others who suffer because of the color of their fur.

Taking place in Money, Mississippi during the 1920’s we are first introduced to blues singer, father, husband and hard drinker BB Wolf. All BB wants to do is play the blues at night and by day, bask in the sunshine and love of his wife and cubs. But when the Three LP’s (Three Little Pigs) come to illegally claim their family farm the trouble starts. In horrific KKK fashion, here called the PPP, the pigs not only burn down the farm but kill his family. For the rest of this book, BB Wolf goes on a spree that has nothing to do with blowing anyone’s house down! To say BB finds new and unique ways to serve pig is an understatement!

Writer JD Arnold makes his writing debut with this book and he starts out incredibly strong. His style and flow kept me interested throughout all 90 something pages. He handles some pretty heavy subjects and does it with respect to the reader. Many of my ‘no no’ subjects were dealt with in this book and instead of getting angry for seeing them, I felt despair, sadness and the rage of BB Wolf.

Artist Richard Koslowski turned in the artistic performance of his career! As a fan of his ‘Three Geeks’ and work at Archie I wasn’t prepared at all for his incredibly gritty black and white look. Rich takes some very upsetting and emotional moments and manages to make them powerful without the shock value. That’s not to say Rich doesn’t indulge in the gore of pig parts, that is there too!

To add to the experience of ‘BB Wolf and the Three LPs’ there is an accompanying music CD. The Lost Recordings will introduce you to BB Wolf and the Howlers and if played at the right moments will add another layer of enjoyment to the story you are reading.

Just when I start to think there can be no more original or relevant comic stories, I stumble upon one. ‘BB Wolf and the Three LPs’ is a magical book that within its covers will entertain, teach and horrify the reader.

‘BB Wolf and the Three LPs’ is a hardcover 96 page comic with an eye catching cover and the look and feel of the Mississippi Blues that is avaliable now!

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 drinks on the house

8-24-10: Sea Bear And Grizzly Shark # 1 (Image Comics)

by Matman

With so much seriousness, angst and anger going on in comics, you start to search out those books that are just going to entertain. Something lighthearted and fun that is the absolute opposite of a book like Watchmen. Say hello to that book!

Say hello to ‘Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark’!

The book is broken up into two parts. Sea Bear is written and drawn by Jason Howard (Astounding Wolf - Man) with Grizzly Shark by Ryan (Invincible) Ottley. We start with a quick origin of these species of predator by Robert Kirkman who does a fantastic job of explaining what is going on. There was a switch with sea and land creatures and the shark and bear just got mixed up. That’s it! Good enough for me! Who needs anything else?

First up is Sea Bear and a story of revenge. On a fishing trip gone horribly wrong, a young boy watches as his parents are dismantled by the sea bear and twenty years later, he goes back to take it out. But now, he’s not just dealing with the sea bear! The path to the killer is filled with robots, vampires and a fish girl who  stand in the way of his goal.

Up next is 24 pages of pure carnage staring Grizzly Shark! As a father and son try to enjoy a nice camping trip, the grizzly shark attacks and inflicts horror followed by absolute hilarity! While this is going on, a team of three hunters are called to help deal with this problem and for the rest of the story… carnage! Pure, funny, grotesque laughter as the grizzly shark gets the taste of blood. How will this one end? Bad!

Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark is a classic book! Both Ottley and Howard have had a lot of success with Roberk Kirkman and it’s great to see them step out on their own and both hit it right! This book will not change the world only make it funnier. Great art, fast paced storytelling and some off the wall situations make this a must read! 

Sea Bear and Grizzly Bear is a double sized comic from Image that at $4.99 is more than worth it! But who needs to put a price tag on off the wall animal attacks! 

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 Picnic Table Panics

8-11-10: Magnus Robot Fighter (Dark Horse)

by Matman

In 1974 I was a cute 5 year old at a grocery store with my parents when something caught my eye. My dad saw what I was eyeing and asked me if I wanted to get it. Of course I said yes! What was it? Something that changed my life forever, Magnus Robot Fighter # 36, Havoc At Weather Control! Holy Cow! Some 23,000 comic books and a pretty good podcast later, I’m still going strong!

To say the Robot Fighter is an important part of my past (and love of comics) is a huge understatement! Everything I love now about comics; art, style, storytelling was all formulated with that one 25 cent book.   

When I first heard that Dark Horse was going to bring back Magnus with writer Jim Shooter, I was a bit nervous. The last incarnation (from Valiant) started out strong and then ‘skweeee’, it got real bad fast! The core product is good enough and needs no ‘reboot’ or someone else’s interpretation. 

Just continue what was started before and I (I mean we) will be fine. That’s where Valiant went wrong. 

Deep breath…

From first page, this book read and felt like a Russ Manning classic! A bad group of robots have kidnapped a rich young heiress and despite his best efforts Magnus couldn’t prevent this. To help tey to save her friend, Leeja (Magnus’ kinda girlfriend) decides to make herself available for kidnap in hopes she could get her friend out! 

The art by Bill Reinhold is absolutely perfect! It has an old school feel with a very modern look. The robots look menacing and the ladies in their lingerie well, you know. The pages contain realistic style art with great moving action scenes. The story by Jim Shooter is flawless and flows perfectly. You can read this issue without any prior knowledge about Magnus, Leeja, 1A and the world of 4000 AD. To prove this point, you just have to read the bonus story; a tasty reprint of Magnus # 1. Jim Shooter is a great writer that when he puts his mind to it, is an incredible writer!

If you were a fan of Magnus Robot Fighter and were a little scared to jump back in, don’t worry at all. Dark Horse did this book right! 56 Pages, two complete stories and two choices of cover all for $3.50!  

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 Telemetric Beacons!

8-7-10:  Why "One Moment In Time" Is A Bad Idea

by Brian LeTendre

For those that haven't been following comics for the past three years, Marvel's Joe Quesada (along with J Michael Straczinski) infamously un-married Spider-Man and Mary Jane in the very controversial “One More Day.”  Most Spidey fans (including myself) thought it was poorly executed and largely unnecessary.  Some fans resented the decision so much, they have not returned to Spidey books since that event.

I, on the other hand, decided to put that event in a little box in the corner of my mind, and move on.  That decision worked out great for me, as the last few years of “Amazing Spider-Man” have been some of the best ever.  Creators like Dan Slott, Joe Kelly, Marcos Martin, Chris Bachalo, Mark Waid and others have crafted some of the greatest Spidey stories ever told.

A few months ago, it was announced that Joe Quesada would be returning to the pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” to tell the story of just how Peter and Mary Jane's wedding never happened.  The event was  going to be called “One Moment in Time,” and it would also reveal exactly what Mary Jane whispered to Mephisto before she agreed to the deal that wiped away her marriage to Peter.

The first issue of the “One Moment in Time” arc arrived a few weeks ago, and as I read the very first pages of “Amazing Spider-Man” #638, a sense of dread washed over me for two reasons.  One, because what I read was very unsatisfying, and two, because I fear it's going to undo what it's taken three years for Spidey fans to do―get over “One More Day.”

I realized as I read the issue that I don't want answers to the questions Joe Q is answering. What really happened on Peter and MJ's wedding day?  What did Mary Jane say to Mephisto?  How was time altered so that almost everything else stayed the same, but Peter and Mary Jane just never got married?  All of these questions assume that the premise of “One More Day” was so compelling, that we need to know more about it.  Unfortunately, “One More Day” was terrible, which means all the “One Moment in Time” is going to do is remind people of how terrible the event that led to it was.  Fans are going to get angry all over again, call for Joe Q's head, write angry message board posts about boycotting, et cetera, et cetera.  The worst part though, is that the great creators who have worked so hard to get Spidey fans to move forward from “One More Day” will have to start all over again, and this time they may have less fans along for the ride.

Yes, “One Moment in Time” is probably selling like gangbusters.  It was timed perfectly to be the hot topic at San Diego Comic Con, and there was plenty of attention heaped on it, probably as much positive as negative.  Issue #639 came out this week and was a much better read than the previous issue.  But will it be enough? If not, when the hype train has left the station and “One Moment in Time” is over, the regular creative team (and eventually Slott all by himself) will have to come back in and pick up the pieces.  Will the fans stick around for that, or will “One Moment in Time” kill the momentum the book has been building solidly over the past year or two?

What do you think?  Head over to the forum and let us know!

8-4-10: Review--Time Bomb # 1 (Radical Comics)

by Matman

There is a reason we talk about Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray all the time on the Secret Identity Podcast! Because they’re the best writers in comics! Unfortunately, with such a high threshold of work there is the waiting for the book that doesn’t quite measure up. Unfortunately for Jimmy and Justin, their latest book ‘Time Bomb’ ups that threshold again!

Time Bomb # 1 (from Radical Comics) is a story that reads like a cool 1980’s action movie! In Berlin, workers have accidentally uncovered a secret city about a mile below the surface. As the team goes in, they find it was built by the Nazi’s as a last stand during the closing days of the war. But this underground fortress was not just meant to just be a shelter, but as a launching point for a particularly nasty virus that can’t be stopped. Bad news is the weapon has been triggered and goes off, destroying Berlin and spreading. The only way to stop it is to go back 24 hours in time and stop this before it happens. Problem is, instead of going back to yesterday they end up going back to World War II.

As great as this story is, it’s the characters that Palmiotti and Gray have created that drive this story. The assembled team (a recently divorced couple, a know-it-all leader and a cold blooded killer) has zero chance of getting along, let alone surviving this mission. As we are introduced to the team we see they are not good people at all. But that is always good for a story.

The art is provided by veteran Paul Gulacy who is a great choice. In Time Bomb he does everything right; action scenes, the beautiful women and exotic locals, Paul is doing some of the best work of his career.

Now what can we say about Radical Comics.  Not only do they publish books that no one else would, but they provide unsurpassed quality and value. For $4.99 you get almost 60 pages of story and art, printed on great paper. And, they smell good too.

If my words don’t motivate you to get it, just open up a copy and see for yourself. My only complaint was a monkey was harmed making this comic book. If not hurt, than completely stressed out!

Matman Rating: 5 out of 5 deserved kicks to the crotch

7-16-10:  Review--The Calling: Cthulhu Chrinicles #1 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

Issue #1 of "The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles" may not be horror-filled, but writers Michael Alan nelson and Johanna Stokes have laid the groundwork for a good supernatural mystery, one that I’ll be following for a least a few more issues.

The there are three sub-plots running through the issue, but they all revolve around a mysterious incident where almost 2,000 people drop dead at the same time aboard a massive cruise liner.  One sub-plot involves a boy who was aboard the cruise liner, and is kidnapped by what appear to be Cthulhu cultists.  Another sub-plot involves a man whose sister has a psychotic break and predicts the events aboard the cruise liner, and the third one deals with the wife of a man who died aboard the ship.  Nelson and Tokes do a nice job of connecting these threads by the end of the first issue, while also leaving a ton of questions.  Christopher Possenti (artist) and Stephen Downer (colorist) do a nice job with the art, and it fits with the tone of the story.

Overall, the first issue of “The Calling: Cthulhu Chronicles” is promising, and it’s nice to see a more modern take on Lovecraftian themes for a change.

4 out of 5 Cloaked Strangers In Pictures

7-10-10:  Silber Minicomics Reviews--July 2010

by Brian LeTendre

I've talked before about some of the really cool minicomics that Silber Media has been putting out. "Lost Kisses," "Just a Man" and "XO" are a few of my favorites from what I've read so far. The most recent batch I received had three new titles: "Mecha," "Cops & Crooks," "Veggie Dog Saturn."

Mecha” was written by Brian John Mitchell with art by Johnny Hoang, and it takes place on what seems to be a future eartch, where Martians have invaded and subjugated the human race. The protagonist is a man who was raised as a slave, forced to fight for the amusement of the martians. He escapes one day, and becomes the leader of a resistance movement. Just when you think this story is going to be a war story though, Mitchell takes it to a much more personal place. The resistance leader falls in love with a woman and leaves the battlefield for a somewhat normal life. Unfortaunately for the new couple, things don't work out as planned, but it's not for the reasons you might assume.

"Cops & Crooks" #1 is also written by Mitchell, but features Jason Young and Eric Shonborn on art. It's a flip book that tells a tale from two very different perspectives. On one side is a young boy who grows up to become like his dad, after his fatcher was killed in the line of duty. The boy was raised aorund the foce, and grew up with an idealisitc view of protecting and serving. On the other side is a boy who gre up to be a criminal, as his father was killed by the police when he was a child. Overall it's a simple story, but the contrasting art styles of Young and Shonborn helps emphasize the differences in the experiences of the two boys, even though they are connected by a similar event.

My favorite book of the bunch is "Veggie Dog Saturn" #4, which is written and drawn by Jason Young, one of the artitsts on "Cops & Crooks." This book is actually published by Buyer Beware Comics, and is larger in size than the usual matchbook-sized minicomics Silber puts out. The book is a collection of autobiographical experiences from Jason Young's childhood. There's some humorous stories about Jason's first tattoo, trading for toys and comics, and his first swimsuit magazine. The standout tale for me though was one called Regina. It's a sad, powerful story about a young African-American girl who Jason was friends with when he was a child. She and her mother stopped visiting Jason's house for some reason, and he lsot touch with the girl, who he missed quite a bit. Years later he realized that among the knick knacks his mother had displayed around the house was a racist figurine that she had received as a child and kept amongst her other collectibles. Jason's realization of what it must have been like for his friend and her mother to see the figurine, and his thoughts about how things might have ended differently make this story resonate, and it definitely makes this issue worth reading.

As I've said before, Silber (and now Buyer Beware) is putting out soem great stuff that is a nice alternative to what you might be picking up at comic shops each week. You can find out more about Silber's minicomics at www.silbermedia.com/comics, and check out more Veggie Dog Saturn at www.buyerbeware.gettertrash.net.

6-27-10: Jonah Hex - No Way Home (DC)

This is a great time to be a Jonah Hex fan. 

Despite your thoughts (or reviews) on the recent movie, at least someone made one! Hollywood thought enough of my favorite character to make a movie and for that I’m very grateful. On the comic side Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray are month after month, writing the definitive Jonah Hex run. Each issue is better than the previous and chronicled by different artists who add their style and flair while keeping it all about the character. So how do we top all this? By bringing in an artist who has a little history with ‘Jonah Hex’! 

‘No Way Back’ is a full blown, take no prisoners book. It’s violent, disturbing and has some moments that you may just want to look away from. But that is the world of Jonah Hex. Here Jonah is confronted with his childhood; a hellish series of events that seem to do much to explain why he is the way he is. He finds that his mother who abandoned him is still alive and wanted for murder. But this is just a set up to get Hex involved and bring him out into the open. As he digs deeper into the situation, he finds out that he has a half brother who is the opposite of him. When they meet, Jonah sees a man of faith, family, and hope. He is the preacher / sheriff of a town with no alcohol, guns, gambling or prostitutes. Interesting to note is as Jonah wears the ‘Mark of the Demon’ scar on his face, his brother has a full tattoo on his chest of Jesus on the cross. Who got the worst of this deal? The book ends with a showdown between Hex and his longtime nemesis El Papagayo who is looking to settle a score because of Jonah’s father. Join the club!

The visuals in this book were done by Tony DeZuniga who is none other than the co - creator of Jonah Hex. As a young Hex fan, it was Tony’s expressive lines and panel lay outs in Weird Western Tales that helped shape my love of the character today. Now almost in his 70’s his art packs the same emotional punch it did back then. 

I know I sound like a paid employee of Gray / Palmiotti Incorporated, but how do they keep doing this? This book is yet another reason they are the best writers in comics today. Whatever they do is gold and I’m so grateful they’re on Jonah Hex doing the best work of their careers! 

The biggest compliment I can give this book is finding it worth the price I paid. This is a hardcover book so it has a bit of a price tag on it ($19.99 US, $23.99 CAN). After reading this book I had to take some time and collect myself. By far the most brutal Hex comic I ever read and there are some images that will take a long time to shake, but this is the man’s life! He didn’t choose this path as you’ll read. 

Easily one of the best Jonah Hex tales you’ll read. But what would you expect from my Jonah Hex creative dream team!
Matman Rating – 4.5 out of 5 hot spring ambushes!

6-24-10:  Review--Power Girl #13 (DC)

by Brian LeTendre

It's no secret that both Matt and I are huge fans of Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Amanda Conner. Their run on "Power Girl" was fantastic and returned the character to the forefront of the DCU, in my humble opinion. So when it was announced that Judd Winick and Sami Basri would be replacing P/G/C as the creative team on the book, I, like many others, was very disappointed. Still, I was willing to give the new team a shot, and I'm glad I did. "Power Girl" #13 does an admirable job of picking up where the last team left off, as well as taking the series in a new direction.

On the story front, Winick kicks off brand new storylines for Power Girl's superhero and civilian identities. Maxwell Lord is back, and Power Girl gets called in along with a bunch of JSA and JLA heroes to find him. After stopping Booster Gold from inadvertently creating an international incident, Power Girl tracks down a lead on Max Lord that runs her right into a group of OMACs. Meanwhile, in her civilian life, Kara finds out one of her employees has cleaned her out financially, putting her company Starrware Industries into dire straits. Winick does a nice job of bouncing between these two storylines throughout the issue. I won't spoil what the OMACs and Lord are up to, but it seems like a pretty big deal to me.

Sami Basri's art style is much subtler and lighter than Amanda Connor's and it will take me a bit to get used to. Conner's work on "Power Girl" would jump off of every page at you--Basri's style in issue #12 flows along nicely with the story, but lacks the punch I was accustomed to.

Overall though, Winick and Basri took on an almost impossible task, and for the most part succeeded.  "Power Girl" #13 is worth checking out, and I'll be giving the new creative team at least a few more issues to make a lasting impression on me.

3.5 out of 5 You Just Got OMAC'eds

6-15-10: Review--Captain America # 606 (Marvel Comics)


by Matman
Since Captain America # 25 (the death of Cap issue), Ed Brubaker has done what many thought impossible! He kept the title not only afloat without the lead character but made it interesting and a whole lot of fun. By building up the supporting cast, he gave us a ‘5 out of 5’ each month. Forgetting the regrettable and schedule challenged ‘Return of Steve Rogers’ mini, let’s get back to the main book and the lives of Steve and Bucky!

Captain America # 606 sees the return of Baron Zemo; a classic Cap villain that, like the Red Skull has so much heritage and needs to be around. Zemo is visiting one of the Thunderbolts storage facilities and runs into a creepy and mysterious guy called the Ghost. He tells him the shocking news that the new Cap is the old Bucky. This of course doesn’t set well with him. After all, he always has the happy memory that his father (the original Baron Zemo) killed him and now he doesn’t have that. Next we see Falcon and Bucky in a classic battle with some baddies. But Falcon gets a little worried that Bucky is fighting a little too close to the edge and reckless. It may be time for Steve Rogers to get involved! This and the return in the final pages of ….

No time for spoilers!

Once again Ed Brubaker proves why he is one of the top five writers in comics today and the best Captain America scribe…EVER! Yup, I just said that! Ed keeps the action rolling and his stories have always read like TV shows. He is a master at making you really look forward to the next issue with great cliffhangers. The art by Butch Guice is solid and a good fit following the runs of Steve Epting and Luke Ross. In this particular issue Butch has a lot of retro moments that I’m not sure are deliberate. His fight scenes and panel layouts are very reminiscent of classic Sal Buscema from the early 1970’s. And without the incredible lettering by Joe Caramagna we would have nothing to read, just great pictures.

For years it wasn’t cool to be a Captain America fan, but for the past few years, it has been an incredible read. Captain America # 606 is the start of a two issue story called ‘No Escape’ and if you haven’t been reading Cap or just want to see what the hype has all been about, give it a try. Marvel has been hyping up their Heroic Age event and with books like this, the tag fits. 

Matman rating – 5 out of 5 angry Zemo! 

6-9-10: Review--Secret Avengers # 1 (Marvel)

by Matman

There was a time when owning a copy of Avengers # 1 meant something. 

Following relaunches and new creative teams over and over, the ‘mighty’ Avengers lost their charm and mystique! This month, not only has Marvel relaunched The Avengers, but has also pushed out about a thousand new Avengers books. Prime, Academy, Secret, Happy, New, (I think I made some of those up) gave fans not only choices, but a drain on the comic budget.

The book I was most excited about was Secret Avengers. The Avengers have always been a high profile team, so the fact that there is a ‘secret ops’ version was very intriguing. Within the first few pages we see Valkyrie and Black Widow lurking in the shadows trying not to get caught. As the job goes wrong, Steve Rogers comes in guns-a-blazing and saves the day. On the other side of town Ant Man and Moon Knight are on their own mission. Throw in War Machine, Beast, Nova and Sharon Carter and you have an eclectic team that has some serious character.

At the helm is writer Ed Brubaker who needs no introduction or career retrospective. He can write any character and creates ‘no return’ situations that keep you guessing the whole time. The art by Mike Deodato is very un Avengers like, but in this book, works brilliantly. This is a creative team that if given time, can create a brilliant book, not just a strong Avengers comic. The use of Steve Rogers as the new Nick Fury is a brilliant idea, but what about the old Nick Fury? Sorry no spoilers!

If you need to be financially choosy during ‘The Heroic Age’, than I strongly recommend this book. It’s a departure from the super team books and contains characters that all have issues.  Many are not team players and that could be interesting as the series progresses. Let the big team save the world from Kang, Ultron and (fill in your favorite Avengers bad guy), let the Secret Avengers do their business in the dark.    

Matman Rating – 4.5 out of 5 smootchie kissy scenes

5-13-10:  Review--The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Archaia)

by Brian LeTendre

For those who aren’t familiar with “the Killer,” it’s a French comic that centers on an assassin for hire.  The book follows the main character through the jobs he does, and delves into the life he is forced to lead because of his work, as well as how his past has a way of catching up with him.  Archaia brought the original series over and translated it, releasing two volumes last year that comprised the ten issues of the original story arc.  This week the first issue of the second arc entitled “modus Vivendi” arrived in stores, and it serves as a great jumping on point for those who might be new to this series.

Issue #1 starts with The Killer explaining that he’s taken four years off from killing for hire, but is back in business because he was jonesing for some action.  He takes a series of jobs in near Venezuela, where he’d been enjoying his time off.  After taking out the first two of his three targets with no problem, The Killer balks when he sees the third—a nun who spends all of her time working with the poor and giving to others.  He decides to dig a little further into the details of the job and finds there is a connection between all three targets.  He digs a little further and fins out the job has much bigger implications than he could have imagined, and now he has to choose between answering for a job he didn’t finish or killing someone akin to Mother Theresa.

This book has a lot going for it, and everything starts with the well-paced story by writer Matz.  He does a great job of bringing new readers in and updating old readers within a couple of pages.  The rest of the story unfurls itself like a well-crafted James Bond tale.  The art by Luc Jacamon really brings across the feel of the locations in Mexico and Venezuela the story takes place in.  He’s got a subtle style that is very even-keeled, so when he punctuates an action scene, you really feel it.

Issue #1 of “The Killer: Modus Vivendi” is a great start to the new story arc, as well as a perfect introduction for new readers.  Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5 Trigger Fingers

4-29-10:  What Does The Future Hold For The Marvel Cosmic Universe?

by Brian LeTendre

Since the “Drax the Destroyer” miniseries in 2005, fans of Marvel’s Cosmic Universe (MCU) have enjoyed an absolute renaissance.  Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Bill Rosemann not only brought the MCU back from obscurity, they made it the most compelling part of the Marvel universe for the past five years.  Annihilation, Conquest, War of Kings and now Realm of Kings have pretty much surpassed any of the vents that have happened back on earth during that time.  They’ve taken characters like Star-Lord, Gladiator and Ronan the Accuser and made them awesome.  Heck, they even made Blastaar seem pretty cool.  

As the summer months approach, the MCU is gearing up for another big event: “The Thanos Imperative.”  This time however, there’s a bit of uncertainty that’s coming along with it.  The future of the MCU just might depend on how well this event sells.

You might have missed it, but DnA and Rosemann confirmed that both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Nova” will be going on ‘hiatus’ for the duration of “The Thanos Imperative.”  Those who read Nova #36 and “GotG” #25 saw ‘The End’ on the last page of both of those issues, and they both certainly felt like last issues to me.  While sales of both “Nova” and “GotG” haven’t been blockbuster, they’ve both been in the top 100 on a fairly consistent basis.  Last month, “GotG” #24 placed 96th on the list with 21,643 sold, and “Nova” #35 was 98th with 21,407 sold.  Just to put it in perspective, last month both outsold “GI Joe,” “Punisher Max,” “Haunt,” “Star Wars Legacy,” “Outsiders” and “Spawn,” to name just a few.

So what gives?  Is Marvel just preparing those series for a relaunch following “The Thanos Imperative,” is have we really seen that last of those two titles?  More likely, Marvel is waiting to see how “The Thanos Imperative” sells before they make their next move.  That series will feature Nova and Star-Lord pretty heavily, as well as a bunch of other major players including Quasar, Silver Surfer, Gladiator, Medusa, Magus, and of course, Thanos.  It will be a showcase of cosmic characters, and will likely serve as a barometer for just how popular the MCU is.

Personally, I doubt that Marvel is planning to close up shop on the MCU even if “The Thanos Imperative” doesn’t do huge numbers.  We’ve seen ads that Nova is becoming a Secret Avenger, so maybe that just means he’ll be transitioning from his own book into that one.  That combined with the shake-ups in the “GotG” roster over the last several months may just mean that we’ll see a new title or two replacing “Nova” and “GotG” coming out of “The Thanos Imperative.”  Perhaps a new Silver Surfer ongoing?  Or maybe a new cosmic team book featuring some faces old and new?  Who’s to say, but I think we’ll have at least one cosmic title when it’s all said and done.

What I’d absolutely love to see is a monthly anthology of cosmic stories featuring characters from the MCU.  Call it “Tales of the Marvel Cosmos” or something.  Feature one main story with a major character or team (Surfer, GotG) and then a few back-ups with more obscure characters.  It would be a great way to highlight all corners of the MCU, and people would only have to worry about picking up one book a month.  I’d easily pay $3.99 for that (maybe even $4.99 if it was double-sized).

So what do you think?  Are “Nova” and “GotG” gone for good?  What would you like to see coming out of “The Thanos Imperative”?  Head over to the SI forum and discuss!

4-20-10: Review--Billy Hazelnuts And The Crazy Bird

The mind of Tony Millionaire is a funny, wacky and kinda disturbing place, but man do I Iove it! From his brilliant version of Sock Monkey to his side splitting off humor strip Maakees, Tony has a warped look at life. Again… I love it! Uncle Gabby, Drinky The Crow and Sock Monkey are some of the greatest characters I have ever read. Add to this his latest character, Billy Hazelnuts.

‘Billy Hazelnuts And The Crazy Bird’ is a fun loving tale about a gargoyle looking creature created out of cooking ingredients. He lives on a farm with a young scientist naked Becky who is doing her best to keep the peace between Billy and all the animals.

We start the story with Billy rounding up cows by throwing them into the barn. Then the battle moves to a five page battle with a tiger cat. After he is reprimanded by Amy he storms off and witnesses a battle between the same cat and an owl. Despite Billy’s anger towards the cat he is more upset that someone else was messing with him. When he catches the owl in his nest, he punches him in the face scarring it off. But as Billy savors his victory, he soon notices an egg hatching. With the birth of a baby bird, Billy’s troubles only begin.

This is the second book starring Billy Hazelnuts and is an incredible read! I let my daughters (ages 14 and 11) read it and they loved it. The cool thing is both of them loved it for different reasons but agreed it was weird. The panels and layouts are very unorthodox and the characters and story are weird.

Weird Is Good!

‘Billy Hazelnuts And The Crazy Bird’ is an incredible book for all ages. There is nothing else like it being published today and I think that is why it’s so special! In a time when comic fans are counting every penny and scrutinizing every purchase, rest assured this book is worth every penny.

‘Billy Hazelnuts And The Crazy Bird’ is published by Fantagraphics Books and is a deluxe square bound book (114 pages) for $19.99.

Matman Rating – 5 out of 5 Owl Punches!

4-18-10:  Review--Ex Occultus: Seal of Solomon

by Brian LeTendre

"Ex Occultus: Seal of Solomon" sees arcane adventurers Francis Wakefield and his sidekick Hollander traveling to Bulgaria, circa 1874.  They meet a man named Marko Savanovic, who hires them to track down a ring that was believed to belong to King Solomon, and which possesses the ability to control demons (for those that know how to wield it).  Wakefield and Hollander track down the antiques dealer that is currently in possession of the ring, and it seems that he’s begun to tap into the ring’s power.  They have to contain the situation, try to get the ring, and then figure out what to do with it.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine.  Writer Robert James Russell combines the occult lore, relic hunting and monster fighting aspects of the book well. 

The fact that the "Seal of Solomon" is taken directly from Christian legends lends a feel of authenticity to the book.  Artist James Emmet captures the dark tone of the story, and his use of color in this issue helps punctuate certain parts of the action and the world.   

"Seal of Solomon" is a great "one and done" story, and another solid chapter in the "Ex Occultus" series.  

4 out of 5 Magic Rings

You can get "Ex Occultus: Seal of Solomon" for a mere $1.00 over on Drive Thru Comics right now, and head over to www.whoissaintjames.com to stay up to date on all of the saint James projects.  Fans of "Ex Occultus" will also enjoy “Wakefield’s Journal,” a series of bite-size tales starring the characters from Ex-Occultus that is available on Drive Thru and the Saint James site for free.

4-11-10:  Review--The Waking #2

by Brian LeTendre

Raven Gregory’s “The Waking” feels like an episode of “Law and Order” mixed with a Romero movie.  And I mean that in a good way.  Issue #1 ended with a dead man walking away from the morgue, and issue #2 peels away another layer of the onion.  It seems that the dead are coming back to get revenge on the people responsible for their deaths.  

“The Waking” is told from a few different perspectives.  There are two pairs of detectives that are investigating unrelated deaths, however that fact that the victims are coming back to life connects the two cases.  There’s also a father who is trying to deal with his resurrected daughter, who is compelled to seek out the one who killed her.  As the reader, we are being shown how all of these pieces connect, but the fun is seeing the different parties start to connect the dots.  

Vic Drujiniu’s art is a great compliment to Raven Gregory’s story here—it’s not over the top in grotesqueness or gore.  This isn’t a splatter tale, it’s a mystery, and the creators do a nice job of keeping the supernatural elements of the story from overpowering everything else.

I’m really enjoying this series so far, and if you’re sick of paint-by-numbers zombie tales, “The Waking” will provide a nice change of pace.

4 out of 5 What Goes Around Comes Arounds 

4-9-10:  Review--Robot 13 #3

by Brian LeTendre

After a knock-down, drag out battle with a Phoenix in the last issue, Thirteen ends up being found unconscious by a blind man wandering the mountainside (perhaps in Peloponnese) near his home.  He takes in Thirteen and helps him recover from the battle.  Through their discussion, Thirteen learns a little more about himself, as the old man recounts a legend about a protector of Crete named Talos who battled giant mythical creatures many years ago.  Before they can finish their conversation, they are attacked by a Cyclops who is looking for revenge against Thirteen, who he refers to as the ‘Man of Bronze.’

This series gets better with each issue, as it continues to delve deeper into Greek mythology, revealing more about Thirteen as well as the origins of the mythical creatures he battles.  We now know that Echinda, the ‘Mother of All Monsters’ is hunting Thirteen, and that he is most likely the fables hero Talos that slew monsters in Crete many years ago.  With those revelations come many more questions though, and it’s clear that creators Tom Hall and Daniel Bradford are just getting started with this epic tale.

The intriguing story is beautifully illustrated by Daniel Bradford, who really uses color and shadow to great effect.  He’s got a great sense of scale, and the mythical beats have a real epic feel to them.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, and I expect you’ll be hearing a lot of big things about it in 2010.  Head over to
www.blackliststudios.com and order the first three issues now, while you can still say you were a fan before it became the next big thing.

5 out of 5 Heroes of Crete

4-7-10:  Review--Marvel Comics App (iPad/iPhone)

by Brian LeTendre 

The highly touted iPad arrived this past week, and there were tons of applications that launched as well, most designed to take advantage of the new device. One of those apps was a Marvel Comics app that uses the ComiXology engine to power it (it’s available for the iPhone as well). The app allows readers to purchase individual comics for $1.99, and offers a whole bunch of free samples from some of their premier titles.

The app is a Marvel-branded version of the ComiXology app that debuted in July of 2009 (publishers like Moonstone, Zenescope, Image and Bluewater have been publishing digital versions of their comics through the app for some time). When you open the app it takes you to the storefront, where you can see a bunch of titles that are available. You can browse by series, creator, genre, or even by which comics are free vs. paid.

The reader itself is smooth and easy to use—individual panels are focused on, and a tap in the corner of the screen advances the reader to the next panel. If you tilt the iPhone or iPad on its side, the view will change to landscape mode. The app will save your place when you stop reading mid-issue, and it also contains a list of any comics you’ve downloaded.

So, from a technical standpoint, the app is great. Where it’s not so great however, is the pricing model and the comics you don’t have access to.

First, let’s talk pricing. Charging reader $1.99 for a digital version of Captain America #2, which came out in 2004, is ridiculous. Marvel has already made a huge profit on the print version, and the cost to digitize it is minimal. Make it $0.50 at most. If they’re going to be charging two bucks a book, then they should make new issues available on the same day they appear in stores, or at the very least, a month later, to give the retail stores a head start.

But the most glaring issue with the Digital Comics app is the fact that it does nothing for existing Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscribers. I pay $60 a year for Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, and it’s a great deal. I have access to thousands of comics, which I can read on my computer. Unfortunately, most of those same comics will cost me $1.99 apiece to read on the Marvel Comics iPad/iPhone app. That’s Marvel pretty much giving the middle finger to the people who have supported their digital initiatives up to this point. I’m sure Marvel will spin this as a technological issue, or a Flash issue (because the iPad doesn’t support the format), but it comes down to money in the end. Personally, I think a solution that would work for everyone is if Marvel released an optional $10 add-on for their Digital Comics Unlimited service that allowed readers to access those comics on the iPad or iPhone. I’d pay an extra $10 a year to have that kind of access to my subscription.

So, I think the value you get out of the new Marvel Comics app for the iPhone/iPad will depend on whether or not you currently subscribe to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. As a current subscriber, I’m disappointed with it.

2 out of 5 Cosmic Clunkers

4-3-10: Review--Green Hornet Year One # 1 (Dynamite)

I don’t have any working knowledge of the Green Hornet! I know he had a show a long time ago and Bruce Lee was in it. Other than that… nothing! So when Dynamite Entertainment announced they would be bringing the Green Hornet back, I was interested. Dynamite has done a great job with their entire stable of books, so why not this?

Currently there are a few series going starring the emerald bug. There is the Green Hornet (written by Kevin Smith), Kato Origins, Green Hornet Strikes and the book we’ll be looking at Green Hornet Year One!

In the first issue we are there at the birth of the Hornet and his sidekick Kato. Taking place in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Year One introduces us to a young Daniel Reid and Hayashi Kato; two young boys who despite coming from different countries and lifestyles share the same dream. They both wish to become their own man and not follow with the predetermined path of their fathers. The story is written in flashbacks and bounces around, but you never once loose track of the story. And you only have to wait 8 pages for the introduction of the duo as they take on some Union thugs and do a number on them. As the story unfolds we will see how Daniel and Kato meet and then decide to take to the streets to kick butt!

The book was written by Matt Wagner who is no stranger to comics. Known mostly for his art, his storytelling and dialogue was close to perfect. The action was well scripted and the story moved at a nice pace despite the flashbacks. In fact the time bouncing in this story added to the suspense and enjoyment I had reading it.

Artist Aaron Campbell has a style very much like Michael Lark and Michael Gaydos. His work is very gritty which lends itself well to the style of storytelling. Any other artist may not have captured the feel of the story as well. And if it was someone else I may not have liked the book as much.

As usual Dynamite gives you a choice of covers. Alex Ross, Matt Wagner, John Cassaday and Stephen Segovia all contribute beautiful eye catching work, but only one was all I needed. Alex, I chose you!

So as you can imagine I loved this book! It had everything I liked in my comics and I can’t wait for the next issue. When you end the first issue with Kato joining the pre World War Two Japanese Army, what do you expect me to do?

Matman Rating – 4.5 out of 5 Union Goons

3-14-10:  Did The Failure Of The Clone Saga Lead To One More Day?

by Brian LeTendre

The recent miniseries “Spider-Man: Clone Saga” was an attempt by Tom DeFalco, Howard Mackie and Todd Nauck to revisit the controversial clone storyline and give it the “director’s cut” treatment, bringing the storyline closer to how it was originally intended to play out when it was first conceived.  While the execution of the miniseries was somewhat flawed, I enjoyed it overall.  More importantly, it got me thinking about an equally controversial storyline—“One More Day.”  In examining what both of those storylines were trying to accomplish, it occurred to me that if the “Clone Saga” had achieved what it was originally set out to do, there likely wouldn’t have been a need for “One More Day” a little more than a decade later.  

Allow me to explain.

When the “Clone Saga” first started in 1994, it was originally designed to do two things—establish Ben Reilly as the original Peter Parker, and get away from the convoluted storylines and status quo that had become the Spideyverse at the time.  It was an attempt to get back to the basics of what made the character of Spider-Man appealing, and simplify his world.  When the initial books started selling well, the creators were made to expand the storyline, which led to the complicated mess that the whole saga ended up being.  Backlash over Ben Reilly being the original Peter caused the writers to change the outcome of the storyline, which further complicated matters.  The tragic part of the whole thing was that Ben Reilly was a cool character, and he became the scapegoat for everything that was wrong with the “Clone Saga.” Getting rid of him was something the creators clearly regret to this day.

So, fast forward to 2007’s “One More Day.”  The goal of this event was to get Peter out of his marriage to Mary Jane, get back to the basics of what made the character of Spider-Man appealing, and simplify his world.   Not since the "Clone Saga" has a Spidey storyline been so divisive among the hardcore fans.  Many were so unhappy with the creative decisions, they stopped buying Spidey books altogether.  I personally did not like the decision to get rid of the marriage or the execution of the story, but I can’t argue with the results.  Spider-Man has not been this fun to read in years, in my opinion.

Whether you like the current status of Spider-Man or not, the similarities between the “Clone Saga” and “One More Day” are interesting to think about.   Even more interesting is the idea that if the "Clone Saga" had been executed as planned, we likely would never have seen “One More Day.”

So, what do you think?

3-3-10: Lazerman # 4 (HB Comics)

by Matman

It all comes down to this issue! Lazerman vs. Razorman! This time it’s comical!

As I have been reading and loving Lazerman, I was wondering where and how the first story arc would conclude? Writer Alan Hebert has for four issues crafted a fun story with a lot of humor and great storytelling. The storytelling is very silver aged influenced with dialogue right out of those classic tales. One liners and funny jabs o’ plenty! Artist Chris Hebert’s work is very pleasing to the eyes with big panels and simple layouts. Bringing the visuals home is Team “HB” with the coloring. Nothing gets lost especially in the fight scenes. The focus is on the action, not the color of the moment background. This is the way comics should be; fun and easy to look at!

Lazerman # 4 brings us to New York City. After all if you’re gonna have a big fight, why not in the greatest city in the world? Lazerman is hot on the trail of his nemesis and in a great full page splash is following bad directions to find him. When he finally does he sees that Razorman has constructed a car…the (you guessed it) Razormobile. It runs on diamonds which in New York City is still cheaper than a gallon of gas. But as Razorman escapes in his new weapon, our hero soon finds out the extras; missiles, a big punching bag and then a huge robot! The battle gets out of the city and ends up at the Statue Of Liberty where Razorman explains how he is going to cut off the head of the beloved statue! How does it end?

No spoilers!

Some clever pop culture references to look for! Both featuring the closing scenes of two of my favorite movies (Planet Of The Apes and Superman The Movie) and an appearance by everyone’s favorite pod cast duo!

If you haven’t been reading Lazerman, than you are missing a great all ages comic! Not a kids comic by any stretch, but younger readers will appreciate it as well. With all the heavy, violent and way too serious books crowding the shelves, Lazerman is a refreshing change. Congrats to Alan and Chris for completing their first arc in a way that does the entire series proud. No letdowns at all!

Matman Rating – 4.5 out of 5 Dripping Breakfast Burritos

2-2-10: Review--Galacta: Daughter of Galactus #0 (Marvel)

by Brian LeTendre

“Galacta: Daughter of Galactus” #0 is a fun introduction to a great “what if?' character.   Adam Warren and Hector Sevilla Lujan have combined their creative powers to come up with a fun story for all ages.

The #0 issue of Galacta is actually the story that appeared in Marvel’s “Assistant-Sized Spectacular” #2 a while back.  Marvel has posted it on the Digital Comics site, since Galacta will be getting her own limited series on the Digital Comics site starting in February.

The story introduces Galacta as the daughter of Galactus.  She has the same cosmic appetite as her father, but she also has a fondness for the human race that her dad doesn’t necessarily share.  Because of this, she chooses to live on Earth and use the power cosmic to disguise herself as a young woman, and she only “eats” organisms that are not native to the planet.  In one instance she saves a terminally ill woman by removing from her body micro bacteria of Skrull origin.  In another, she dives into a pool of molten lava to snack on some Kree “Metallovores” that would have eaten through the earth’s core if left to their own devices.

It takes a lot of willpower for Galacta to use her powers so selectively, especially since all humans look like food to her, and she’s surrounded by them 24/7.   Galacta starts getting concerned when she finds that her hunger is becoming harder and harder to control, so she puts herself through a thorough examination to find out what’s wrong.  The answers she comes up with forces her to do something she really doesn’t want to—ask dear old dad for help.

I’m a big fan of alternate takes on established characters and events in the marvel U, and “Galacta: Daughter of Galactus” is a great one.  The story is accessible for both kids and adults, and longtime Marvel readers should enjoy it for what it is.

Starting in February, Galacta will get three seven-page issues on Marvel Digital Comics, which will eventually be combined with the #0 issue for a full-sized print version.  I’m hoping the character proved popular enough to get another digital series, and it’s great to see marvel trying out these ideas as a way to offer something unique through their digital service.

4 out of 5 Cosmic Hunger Pangs

1-31-10:  More Silber Minicomics Reviews

by Brian LeTendre

Back in July, I reviewed a batch of minicomics created by Brian John Mitchell.  “Just a Man,” “Worms,” “XO” and “Lost Kisses” were four very different titles with subject matter ranging from self deprecation to scientific experimentation.  Brian recently sent me another batch of minicomics, and like the last bunch, he continues to explore very diverse subject matter in each of them.

The biggest group of comics in the bunch was the “Lost Kisses” collection, which is a DVD containing ten issues of the comic as well as a 'making of' issue where Brian describes the creation process.  In going through all of the issues, this title has actually eme4rged as my favorite, because it's so personal and raw.  Each issue sees Mitchell examining an aspect of himself in a sometimes humorous, sometimes depressing manner.  He talks frankly and openly about past loves, addiction,  and feeling lost and uninspired.  The stick figure drawings are a perfect match for the tone of the comics, as they leave the focus on the story.

Mitchell took the “Lost Kisses” title in a totally new direction with the first issue of “Ultimate Lost Kisses.”  This issue features artwork by the legendary Dave Sim, and it focuses on someone else's life for a change.  The story involves a woman in her thirties who get a death row letter from the son she gave up when she was a teenager.  While the story is a huge shift for the series, the frank and personal nature of the issue is right in line with what the series has been about so far.

Another new title in the latest round of Mitchell's minicomics is “Marked.”  This supernatural series revolves around a retired monster hunter who gets sucked back into his former life when his sister is brutally murdered.  Jeremy Johnson does an amazing job on art, and lends  great atmosphere to the story with just one panel per page.  In the fist issue, the monster hunter confronts the demons that killed his sister, and we find out he's got a big secret of his own that he just let out.

The more I read of Mitchell's minicomics, the more impressed I am.  He has excellent command of the format―he understands what he can and can't do, and he plays to its strengths.   The stories are lean and mean, no filler, and even though the issue don't take long to read, I find myself going back to particular issues for multiple reads.

I highly recommend checking out Mitchell's line of minicomics over at

4 out of 5 Good Things Come in Small Packages 

1-29-10:  Review--Robotika (Archaia)

by Brian LeTendre

With “Robotika,” Alex Sheikman combines steampunk, samurai, cyborgs and sprinkles in some Wild West to create a stunning vision on the future.

“Robotika” starts off following Niko, a samurai in the employ of the queen’s guard, who is sent on a mission through the badlands to retrieve a stolen piece of technology that has potential to change the economic landscape.  Along the way he encounters bandits, cyborgs, and Cherokee Geisha, a sword-wielding mercenary that takes a shine to Niko and helps him on his mission.  Niko completes his task and returns to the queen, but what she does with the recovered technology makes Niko question why he went on the mission in the first place.  He decides to give up his sword, and walks away from the queen.

Niko then falls in with Cherokee Geisha and her colleague Bronsky, as they escort a group of people on a pilgrimage to visit their god.  Needless to say, that adventure doesn’t turn out quite as intended, either.

Sheikman writes and illustrates this series, which is a good thing, as I’m not sure anyone else would have been able to convey the world he’s created in Robotika.  The visuals are amazing, and Sheikman does an especially great job of fusing organics with technology against the backdrop of the Wild West-like badlands.  It’s like nothing I’ve seen before.  

The techniques that Sheikman uses to make each character stand out are interesting as well.  Niko is mute, and much of his story comes from the characters and the world reacting to him. Cherokee Geisha is also mute, but has a voice modulator that makes her sound…odd.  Sheikman conveys this by lettering all of Cherokee’s dialogue vertically.  It’s jarring at first, but it also has the effect of slowing you down, making you take in what’s going on in every panel.  I actually came to appreciate it by the end of the series, as Robotika is not a read that you can breeze through.

Overall, “Robotika” is a very interesting experience through a completely unique world.  I would definitely recommend it.  

4 out of 5 Artificial Intelligences

You can check out the entire 132-page Robotika pdf over at Drive Thru comics for $5.99.  Click
here to go to the product page.

1-13-09:  Review--Army of Two #1 (IDW)

In October, Electronic Arts and IDW signed an agreement that created a new imprint called “EA Comics.”  The first quarter of 2010 will see two new comic series launch under this imprint, the first of which hits stores this week.  “Army of Two” is a series starring the main characters of EA’s “Army of Two” cooperative shooter games, and the first issue of the series is launching alongside the new “Army of Two” game.

Writer Peter Milligan (“Hellblazer,” “X-Statix”) does a nice job of establishing the foundation of the series in Issue #1.  Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem are a couple of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) that have recently started up their own company (after the events of the first game) called Trans World Operations.  As the story opens, Rios and Salem are hired for a job in Mexico that brings them into conflict with a street gang and a drug cartel that are destablilizing a region.  

Milligan approaches the story from two separate angles that converge at the end of the issue.  Salem and Rios’s story is one side of the coin, and a young kid who is facing initiation into the same gang they’re gunning for is the other.  You get a lot of insight into the relationship between Salem and Rios, which isn’t all that rosy.  You also get to see a kid getting pulled into gang life because he has no other options, and he’s not all that different from Salem and Rios, had they taken a different path.

Dexter Soy’s art on the book is great, and for a newcomer he shows off his ability to handle big action scenes right from the get go.  Jose Marzan Jr.’s inks add an appropriately gritty feel to the book.

“Army of Two” #1 is a promising start for the series, and fans of the games will appreciate finding out more about what makes the characters tick.  Whether or not there’s enough to bring in readers no familiar with the franchise remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t bet against Milligan.

3.5 out of 5 PMCs

1-19-10:  Review--Incorruptible #1 (BOOM!)

by Brian LeTendre

Mark Waid is following up his blockbuster series "Irredeemable" with a book that explores what happens when one of the world’s worst criminals goes legit?  Unfortunately, Issue #1 doesn’t have the same punch as its sister series did.

"Incorruptible" takes place in the same world as "Irredeemable."  Max Damage is one of the most feared supervillains around, and he’s one of the few to stand toe to toe with the Plutonian and live.  The first issue of the series starts out with Max’s former crew trying to pull off a job in his absence (it seems Max dropped off the radar recently).  When Max Damage himself shows up during a firefight between the gang and the cops, everyone is surprised to see Max side with the good guys.  We find out that a big reason for his change of heart was the fact that he was a witness to the Plutionian snapping and causing mass destruction.

What I like about the first issue of "Incorruptible" is that it begins to flesh out the world that Waid created with "Irredeemable."  The idea that he’s creating a whole new universe for new characters to populate is great, and it would be awesome to see BOOM! start to develop that universe with a host of new creators and characters.  On the downside, the story is pretty lean, and it feels like something that could have been done in about ten pages max, either as a backup in "Irredeemable," or a #0 issue to set up the new series.  I’m hoping things will pick up next issue, and Waid has definitely earned the benefit of the doubt by virtue of the amazing 2009 he had.

2.5 out of 5 Goin’ Legits 

1-10-10: Review--Empowered # 1 (Dark Horse)

Special Guest review by Dr. Michael Finger

In December, Dark Horse Comics released the latest in the “OEL” or Original English-Language Manga series, Empowered, from writer/artist Adam Warren. But rather than it being a full-length trade paperback volume like the five previously published since 2007, Empowered Special: The Wench With a Million Sighs is a standard, 32-page black-and-white one-shot conventional soft-covered floppy.

Generally speaking, Empowered asks what would happen if a teenage girl used her super-powered suit to help rid the world of genius super villains. But it just so happens this angsty, insecure young lady, named Emp, was blessed with the brains and personality of Brittany Spears.

In this stand-alone story, we follow Emp as she takes on the tyranny of Irresistimmovable, a villainous grave robber of superhero corpses. Spliced in between the battle, Ninja Wench and Thugboy, Emp’s respective roommate and boyfriend, sit through an alliterative diatribe from the demon kept trapped in a containment belt on Emp’s living room table. This alien overlord can no longer stomach Emp’s constant moaning. By the end of the issue, we discover what a real genius Irresistimmovable is and how the word “sigh” can be just as nuanced as “dude” if and when used properly.

This book is intended for mature readers, not due to any nudity, but to the implied and the (brief) not-so-implied sexuality thrown into the mix.  Drawn in penciled grayscale that is neither inked nor toned, Warren mashes up a dialog style—combining equal parts Stan Lee, ADHD, Red Bull, and Mountain Dew—with a plotline never taking itself or its satiric intent too seriously.

As someone who has yet to read any of the previous five Empowered volumes from Dark Horse, I easily followed the story and found it a wanted change from the continuity-laden, back story-driven work of late from such “historians” as Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns.  Rather, this a is light-hearted, mature-themed romp of superhero parody that does not rely on any more back story than what Warren can fit on the inside front cover.  Just don’t be put off from the slightly reduced height of the issue—according to Warren himself, he draws the pages on 8.5 x 11 sheets that don’t scale nicely to standard comic book size.

4 out of 5 Sighs of Teen-Angst

1-7-10:  Sneak Review--G-Man: Cape Crisis #5 (Image)

by Brian LeTendre

“G-Man: Cape Crisis” has been a fun ride all along the way, and a showcase for Chris Giarrusso’s writing, which often gets overlooked because his art is so damn good.  Issue #5 provides a satisfying conclusion to the series, as well as the promise of further adventures.

For those who haven’t been following along (shame on you), G-Man and Great Man get their super powers from pieces of a magic blanket.  Following Great Man’s attempts to sell extra scraps of the blanket to make some quick cash, the magic of the blanket was fractured, and the G-brothers were almost killed in the process.  This issue sees Great Man and G-Man having to travel together to Sky Mountain, home of the Old Gods, to try and resurrect the magic and get their powers back.

Issue #5 of “Cape Crisis” is chock full of the same great humor as the previous issues.  Laugh out loud moments include G-Man trying to convince his parents that his brother isn’t dead, a flying sofa powered by magic broomsticks, and deer whistles that attract giant sea monsters.  What’s great about this issue though, is that it brings in something we haven’t seen before in this series—G-Man and Great Man having to work together to overcome a larger problem.  It’s a logical conclusion to what we’ve seen up to this point, and Giarrusso executes it well.  There’s also a great bunch of colorful creatures that inhabit Sky Mountain, and the last few steps of the G-brothers quest feel pretty epic.  

The only downside to the issue is that once the quest is complete, there’s not much room left for an epilogue.  Luckily, the promise of another series means we’ll get to spend more time with these characters in the near future.  All in all, Chris G. has started to build a very interesting world for G-Man and his supporting cast, so go support this book and make sure we get to keep going back to visit.

4.5 out of 5 Fluffle Beasts

“G-Man; Cape Crisis” #5 is slated to hit store shelves on January 20th.  While you’re waiting, head over to www.chrisgcomics.com and check out the great galleries, toons and 8-bit game remakes.

1-2-10:  Review--2012: Final Prayer (Heske Horror)

by Brian LeTendre

I really enjoyed Robert Heske's last anthology “Bone Chiller,” and his latest collection tackles a subject I find very interesting: the predicted end of the world.  “2012: Final Prayer” is an anthology that offers a variety of perspectives on 12-21-12, the day the Mayan calendar ends and the apocalypse supposedly occurs.

Over a dozen stories by different writers and artists look at different aspects of the end of the world.  Chris McJunkin's “Final Choices” explores the idea that when the world comes to an end, everyone will experience it differently.  Jim Alexander and Andrew Dodd's “Manchester” follows a man whose last day on earth turns out to be his happiest.  Dino Caruso's “Hollow Victory”  sees scientists send a man into the future to see if the apocalypse really occurs.  He finds that it has, and ironically his beloved Chicago Cubs won the world series right before the world ended.

My favorite of the bunch though is Arno Hurter and David Edwards' “Bird's Eye View.”  The story follows Capitan Gregory Burke, a US astronaut that happens to be in orbit aboard a space shuttle when 12-21-12 hits.  Not only does he watch the end of the world from afar, he finds out that the planet was merely a vessel, an incubator for something that is finally ready to hatch.  He records his final moments as a record of the last day of humanity.

With “2012: Final Prayer,” Robert Heske has again pulled together an interesting collection of stories from a variety of creative teams.  The anthology is well worth checking out if you have an interest in the end times.

4 out of 5 Last Days on Earth

You can grab 2012: Final Prayer over on Drive Thru Comics right now for a mere $4.99, whihc is a great deal for a 150+ page anthology.  Click here to check out the product page.