Thursday, December 29, 2011

Supergod Hardcover Review

128 pages
$27.99 (2011)
$17.99 (2011) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781592911004

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Garrie Gastonny, Felipe Massafera, and Digikore Studios

Reprints: Supergod #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: On the eve of the end of the world a scientist recounts the cause of humankind's demise.  He explains mankind's inherent urge to create deities and gods to worship as the root of our downfall.  A superhuman arms race between nations bred impossible, remorseless beings of ultimate power.  Once these beings were loosed upon the earth it was only a matter of time before the apocalypse.

Krishna's first act to save India - population control!

In India scientists create a supercomputer built within cloned flesh and fashioned to resemble the god Krishna.  China builds a man with the ability to meld flesh into complex biological structures.  The United Kingdom secretly launches astronauts into space only to have them return fused to a spacefaring meta-fungal colony.  Iran births a creature of pure, uncontrollable and destructive energy.  The United States turns one of their astronauts into the six and a half billion dollar man.
This looks kinda familiar - is it one of those visual metaphors?

Pros: Covers are interesting, Ellis writes some cool sci-fi concepts, art by Gastonny is competent, suitably dark and ominous, widescreen action (and destruction), mature

Cons: Plot has a few holes, not much explanation for some events or abilities, didn't like the tag line "Praying to be saved by a man who can fly will get you killed", Gastonny's art is not fantastic - felt like the dialogue/words didn't connect to the actual art sometimes

Mike Tells It Straight: Ellis writes a good high-concept science-fiction documentary in Supergod.  It's not your typical superhero story and puts a fanciful spin on what real-life superheroes might be like - i.e. world-destroying beings of unparalleled destruction.  The story is a commentary on human nature and our need to believe in something higher than ourselves.  Ellis is very good at this type of widescreen, super-scientific story, but the art was a bit weak (covers were neat). 

If you like Ellis' work on The Authority and Planetary then this book will be a perfect fit.  The deconstruction of the superhero genre was started way back in the early '80s by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman on Miracle Man, hit the mainstream with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and Moore's Watchmen, and dragged through the mud by Rick Veitch's The One and Bratpack.  Will this be a seminal work for Ellis?  Only time will tell, but it's thoughtfully epic and a noteworthy read. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Annihilation Book Two Hardcover Review

Annihilation Vol. 2
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
320 pages
$29.99 (2007)
$24.99 (2007)
ISBN 9780785125129

Contributors: Keith Giffen, Simon Furman, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Renato Arlem, Jorge Lucas, Greg Titus, June Chung, Dave McCaig, Chris Sotomayor, Cory Petit, Joe Caramagna, and covers by Gabriele Dell'Otto

Reprints: Annihilation: Ronan #1-4 (of 4), Annihilation: Silver Surfer #1-4 (of 4), Annihilation: Super-Skrull #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: The Annihilation Wave has broken through from the Negative Zone to our universe and destroys everything in its path.  None are safe as Annihilus, long-time foe of the Fantastic Four and possessor of the Cosmic Control Rod, unleashes his ruthless armada to scour the cosmos of life.
Ronan kneels for no one! What? I'm just resting

Ronan the Accuser was falsely convicted of treason in a political move by the House Fiyero, the current ruling house of the Kree empire.  He is in pursuit of Tana Nile, the one who bore false witness at his trial.  She has holed up on Godthab Omega, a pitiful backwater planet filled with exiles and rejects including disgraced Korath the Pursuer and his Kree Starforce.  The planet is under siege by a group of cosmic female outlaws led by Gamora, the deadliest woman in the universe!  Tana Nile is under their protection, but something strange is happening behind the scenes on the planet.  Can Ronan accomplish his mission before the Wave destroys them all? 

The Super-Skrull has learned the Wave will soon break into Skrull space.  He wishes to protect his estranged son from the Wave's planet-killing weapon the Harvester of Sorrow.  Unfortunately the Skrull empire is in disarray after Galactus ate their homeworld (burp!).  Now he must journey to the Negative Zone in order to find the Harvester's weakness and raise a rebel army of Annihilus' enemies.  A deadly traitor is hidden among his allies - will he reach his son in time?
You sank my battleship!

Amid the debris of a score of ruined worlds glides the Silver Surfer in shock at the limitless destruction caused by the Wave.  Annihilus has a deeper desire than mere conquest - he seeks the power cosmic and wishes to distill it from the bodies of the former heralds of Galactus!  The Sufer is beset by a pack of Seekers who sorely test his strength before he is joined by two former heralds - Firelord and Red Shift.  They join forces to create a formiddable opposition for the Wave, but the Surfer knows only Galactus can prove a true threat and journeys to seek his aid.  Say goodbye to the remorseful Surfer you once knew as he is reborn in cosmic fire anew!

Meanwhile Thanos joins Annihilus as advisor to attaining his goals.  Both share an affinity for death unparalleled in either dimension.  A pair of elder gods are released from their imprisonment to exact revenge upon their captor - Galactus himself!

Pros: Incredible covers by Dell'Otto breathe new life into these characters, art by Lucas and Arlem is pretty decent, old cosmic characters are revamped - some die and most are transformed/updated

Fear my flaming fist of orange rock
Cons: Titus' art from the Super-Skrull story was too cartoony/urban, these are side stories and it felt like nothing really significant happened, plots were convoluted, Surfer is still kind of a wuss

Mike Tells It Straight: The first volume of Annihilation was spectacular - epic cosmic warfare as whole civilisations fall and heroes perish.  Wonderful stuff, but this second volume felt more like a distraction to the main event.  The focus shifts to a series of side stories featuring one major and two minor characters.  We get a lead-up to the final showdown with Annihilus and a bunch of convoluted story.  The Surfer rebirth was a letdown because he keeps his conscience and doesn't become truly ruthless (which would have been a major shake up).     

This multi-part 'event' storyline shows its true colors with this volume - merely prolonging the story through decompressed side events and not adding any real value.  Only the vibrant covers by Dell'Otto saved this for me.  Overall the stories were mediocre, but still required to understand every facet of the complete saga.  Bah!

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 2 I Kick Your Face Hardcover Review

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 2 - I Kick Your Face
Marvel Comics
144 pages
$19.99 (2007)
$14.99 (2008) TPB
$34.99 (2010) Ultimate Collection
ISBN 9780785128557

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, Wade VonGrawbadger, Dave McCaig, Paul Mounts, Virtual Calligraphy, and Joe Caramagna

Reprints: Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7-12 (of 12)

Synopsis: The Nextwave group continue their mission to derail the Beyond Corporation's marketing plan to test and sell Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction (UWMDs) on American Soil.  Before going rogue the Nextwave unit worked for the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort (H.A.T.E.), a covert anti-terrorist organization. The Beyond Corporation happen to be the new financial backers of H.A.T.E. and a known terrorist front.

Despite their dysfunction the team defeated H.A.T.E. and crazed director Dirk Anger, but their greatest challenges are yet to come.  Beyond cooks up more bizarre experiments as they open a portal to a nether-dimension and unleash the Mindless Ones on an unsuspecting town.  Then they throw one-off superheroes at the team - like Bulk (a huffer who inhaled gamma irradiated gasoline from the same gamma bomb test site where Bruce Banner was transformed into the Hulk), a knock-off Captain America made from the super-soldier serum laden urine of the original Captain America after he was first changed, a failed scientist with a purportedly better growing formula then Giant Man, and most terrifying of all - the Forbush Man!
Finally something hairier than the original - killer Wolverine-monkeys!
Can Nextwave battle through these bizarre superhumans to uncover the seven onion-layers of secrets behind the Beyond Corporation?  You will be shocked, terrified, and bored all at the same time!

Mark Millar rumor confirmed
Pros: Crazy action with extremely irreverent humor by Ellis, some of the best art of Immonen's career - he pulls off some fun stunts like upside down panels and consecutive massive two-page spreads of the team battle Beyond's wicked creations

Cons: Totally whacked out, all-action with practically non-sensical story, Ellis' dialogue avoids contractions (using "I am" instead of "I'm") which doesn't sound natural

Mike Tells It Straight: Ellis and Immonen continue their mindless rampage across Marvel history with the final half of this high-octane satire piece.  There are explosions and witty one-liners aplenty with the occasional serious moment.  If you dug the first volume (i.e. if it didn't scare you off) then the finale is a wicked roller coaster ride.  I didn't think it was possible, but there is even less story in this volume than the first.  Definitely more head explosions.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bad Girls Trade Paperback Review

Bad Girls
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
128 pages
$14.99 (2009)
ISBN 9781401223595

Contributors: Steve Vance, Jennifer Graves, Christine Norrie, J. Bone, Daniel Krall, Lee Loughridge, Kurt Hathaway, and covers by Darwyn Cooke

Reprints: Bad Girls #1-5 (of 5)

Synopsis: Lauren is the new girl at San Narciso high school and she's having a hard enough time trying to fit in, but then the evil popular girls  get superpowers!  The wicked little tramps abuse their powers by partying and shopping.  Can Lauren and school nerd Ronald stop their dastardly plans? 

Pros: Artwork by Graves and Norrie is pretty good, Vance's writing is decent (until the end), Lauren's character is believable as she battles with her desire to be popular vs. doing the right thing

Cons: Couple typos with name of town - Narcisco instead of Narciso (weird name anyway), ending is too convenient/abrupt, cliched 'new girl in school' story

Mike Tells It Straight: This book never quite achieved its full potential.  We've all seen a thousand variations on the 'new girl in school' story and this one adds superpowers to the mix.  It's a cute story and apparently meant for younger/girl readers.  I gave it a shot and was surprised at the quality, but the ending killed it for me.  It felt rushed and silly (would have been perfect for a cartoon).  I'll relegate this to potential gift status for nieces and nephews, but not intended for mature audiences.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Criminal The Deluxe Edition Hardcover Review

Criminal: The Deluxe Edition
Marvel Comics - Icon
Oversized Hardcover
432 pages
$49.99 (2009)
ISBN 9780785142294

Contributors: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Val Staples, and introduction by Dave Gibbons

Reprints: Criminal (2006) Preview, #1-10 (of 10); Criminal (2008) #1-3 (of 3); The CBLDF Presents: Liberty Comics #1

Synopsis: A collection of hardboiled crime stories:

  • "Coward" - Leo is a planner and adheres to his own strict rules of criminal conduct.  His father was a major player in the city until he broke his own rules and ended up going away for life.  Sometimes called a coward for sticking to his rules and walking away from a job, Leo has his freedom and a lot of respect for being a crack planner.   He gets leaned on by a pair of crooked cops who force him to plan a heist.  You can never trust crooked cops and even worse, he falls for the ex-girlfriend of a pal who got killed on a job where he walked.  Now Leo is breaking all sorts of rules and getting on the wrong side of some bad people.  Can he stay one step ahead of disaster this time?
  • "Lawless" - Tracy Lawless just came home from a tour in the Gulf where he learned how to kill with precision.  His old man was hell on wheels until he got betrayed and killed by one of his criminal buddies.  His little brother took after the old man and got the exact same treatment.  Tracy blows back into the city with one thing on his mind - find his brother's killer and gut the son of a bitch.  He goes undercover with his brother's old crew, but will he fall for his brother's ex-girl?  Tracy is in deep and the truth may bury him.
  • "The Dead and the Dying" - three short stories
    • "Second Chance in Hell" - Jake is a boxing phenom, but his best friend is the son of a crime boss and keeps roping him in for muscle.  He meets a bad news girl with a body and heroin problem that won't quit.  He tries to save her from herself, but it backfires and she ends up ruining both their lives.
    • "A Wolf Among Wolves" - Teeg Lawless just came home from two tours in 'Nam where he learned how to kill with precision.  He brought the war with him and waged it on everything around him - family, friends, himself, and anyone unlucky enough to cross his path.  Now he owes a loan shark thousands and has to pull a major heist to get square.  It's going to be brutal.
    • "Female of the Species" - Danica fell in love with the wrong man - the son of a crime boss who gets her pregnant.  The son's father won't let that happen and makes the pregnancy go away.  Danica's life is ruined until she eventually learns how to use her sexuality as a weapon on the feeble minds of men.  She gets into trouble when her manipulations cross the wrong people.
Pros: Great cover!, beautiful hardcover edition, Brubaker's writing is top-notch crime noir, Phillips' art is dark/moody/clean all at the same time, tons of extras including trailer, covers, pinups, prose stories, afterword, and process notes, 2007 Eisner Award winner for best new series
Tracy Lawless has girl trouble

Cons: Too many extras, doesn't include the full second series (only the first three issues of seven)

Mike Tells It Straight: Brubaker and Phillips are a match made in heaven - crime noir writer working with an artist known for his rough, expressive art.  These stories are top notch in the genre by a proven team (they previously hit it out of the ballpark on a series called Sleeper).  There are no superheroes or magical beings anywhere to be seen.  Just hard luck stories and a half-drunk bottle of scotch. 

Brubaker proves he is a master at writing crime noir.  Easily as good as Frank Miller's Sin City, but more complex and real.  Where Miller's characters are one-dimensional archetypes and the art is perfected simplicity - Brubaker and Phillips give us a complicated world with murky motives.  I have nothing but praise for this book and highly recommend it.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Empowered Volume 3 Review

Empowered Vol. 3
Dark Horse Comics
Graphic Novel
208 pages
$14.95 (2008)
ISBN 9781593078706

Contributors: Adam Warren, Jo Chen, and Tomoko Saito

Synopsis: Empowered is a self-conscious superhero with a fragile hypermembrane super-suit giving her enhanced abilities at the cost of her self-esteem.  It's super-flimsy, unreliable and ultra tight giving everyone a free peek at her every nook & cranny.  She's a laughing-stock in the superhero community for being regularly captured and tied up. 

Ninjette and Thugboy help support Emp's fragile ego while she trains rigorously to become a more potent hero.  We witness the earth-shattering spectacle of 'superhero karaoke' as Emp gets sauced.  Next she gets kidnapped and used in a series of supervillain capture gadget infomercials.  A new rival emerges to steal Emp's spotlight - Ocelotina the 'capture-wench' gets tied up and her videos go viral!  Poor Emp is no longer the #1 super-hottie captive! 

Major Havoc gets turned down by a supervillain
Emp brings the Superhomeys some Japanese homoerotic doujinshi (yaoi manga - written by women for women and featuring men) starring her less-than-kind male teammates to completely mess with them.  More secrets of the suit are revealed along with Thugboy's 'anti-cape' past.  The deadly ninja assassins finally catch up with Ninjette and it's a killer battle to the finish!  Can Emp and Thugboy save their friend in time?

Pros: Warren's art remains high quality with some serious action pages at the end, Emp is hot and scantily clad throughout, Ninjette's excessive beer-chugging while maintaining a perfect physique is explained, less Caged Demonwolf tirades in all capital letters (cuz that gets old), origins of Thugboy and Ninjette are revealed

Ninjette receives a brutal kick to the face
Cons: Digest-sized (like all those manga books your niece/nephew are reading at your family reunion), black and white, price and page count remain the same as last volume (higher than volume one), Warren's inks over his pencils (thankfully few)

Mike Tells It Straight: What!? Another Empowered review? I may be showing an unhealthy bias towards this book due to two interests - 1) Japanese manga/anime and 2) hot chicks.  Warren delivers another volume of Emp's adventures with the same offbeat humor mixed with a healthy dose of T&A.  Emp's supporting cast continues to be the focus as both Ninjette and Thugboy's origins are revealed (for the most part).  Mixed with the humor are some serious situations and a brutally violent finale.  Not what I'm used to from our titular heroine's adventures and it caught me a little off-guard.  It gets dark, but overall a good (quick) read and I'm still psyched to check out the next volume.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Annihilation Book One Hardcover Review

Annihilation Vol. 1
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
256 pages
$29.99 (2006)
$24.99 (2007) TPB
ISBN 9780785125112

Contributors: Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins, Kev Walker, Rick Magyar, Ariel Olivetti, June Chung, Brian Reber, Cory Petit, and covers by Gabriele Dell'Otto

Reprints: Drax the Destroyer #1-4 (of 4), Annihilation Prologue, and Annihilation: Nova #1-4 (of 4)

New Drax has tattoos

Synopsis: The Annihilation Wave has broken through from the Negative Zone to our universe and threatens to destroy everything in its path.  None are safe as Annihilus, long-time foe of the Fantastic Four and possessor of the Cosmic Control Rod, unleashes his ruthless armada to scour the cosmos of life.

Prior to these events we catch up with Drax the Destroyer, falsely sentenced and en route to the Kyln, a galactic prison at the edge of known space.  He's an ultra-powerful, but brain-damaged brute.  His prison transport crash lands on Earth releasing the Blood Brothers, Lunatik, and Paibok the Power-Skrull. The apparently dead Drax undergoes a strange transformation into a new, deadlier form.  

The Annihilation Wave smashes through the Kyln, emanating outward and razing all inhabited planets in its path.  It reaches Xandar, the home planet of the Nova Centurions who are an intergalactic peacekeeping force.  Among them is Richard Rider, the superhero known as Nova from Earth.  The combined might of the Nova Centurions is no match for the invaders and seemingly everyone dies in a brutally epic battle.


Richard Rider is the only surviving Nova Corps member and stands amid the ashes of Xandar.  He is awakened by the Worldmind, an artificial intelligence housing the combined knowledge of the now-extinct Xandarian race and the source of the Nova Force.  In order to protect and preserve the Worldmind, Nova must download it into his body - meaning he now possesses the combined might of the entire Nova Corps. 

The strain is almost too much for him to bear, but he is helped by Drax who was on Xandar after being recovered from Earth. Ultimate power proves too tempting as Nova attempts to kill Annihilus with the help of Quasar, who possesses the Quantum Bands. Can the two Earth heroes save the universe from Annihilus, known as "The Death That Walks"?

Meanwhile in Kree space, Ronan the Accuser is arrested for treason, the Silver Surfer senses the infestation of the Annihilation Wave and moves to investigate, and the Super-Skrull learns the Wave is heading for Skrull space.

Millions of sentient beings die horribly as the Annihilation Wave tears through the universe.  Can anyone stop this wholesale slaughter?

Pros: Phenomenal covers by Dell'Otto, epic interstellar battles, great writing by Giffen and Abnett/Lanning (best known for their DC work on Legion of Super-Heroes and Justice League), Drax the Destroyer gets a nice revamp, the art is good, Nova gets a major power up, Quasar even looks good, Annihilus is one serious villain, suitably brutal and epic

Cons: Walker's art is the weak link (although still pretty good), not much else

Mike Tells It Straight: Marvel's cosmic characters finally get the treatment they deserve - interstellar death battles and hopeless destruction!  Not since the Infinity Gauntlet has the cosmic status quo been shaken up this much.  Giffen, Abnett, and Lanning are prolific DC writers and they breathe new life into a stagnant Marvel space landscape.  It becomes instantly apparent that anything goes and no one is safe!

When did Quasar become a badass?
The first story gives Drax a much-needed revamp - he spent over a decade as a brutish dolt at the hands of Jim Starlin and I literally hated the character.  Giffen skillfully handles his rebirth.  Next we're introduced to the heart-pounding terror of the Annihilation Wave and screaming death of the Nova Corps.  I loved Nova's naive bravado as absolute tragedy descended around him.  His story reminded me of those "choose your own adventure" books from the '80s and really stayed true to his hot-head nature.  He's elevated to truly cosmic status.

Annihilation was published during Marvel's Civil War (the superhuman registration act splits the heroes right down the middle, Captain America vs. Iron Man) storyline and lost some of the attention it deserved.  I found this set of stories electrifying and edge of your seat - great start to an epic space opera! 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 1 This is What They Want Hardcover Review

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 1 - This is What They Want
Marvel Comics
144 pages
$19.99 (2006)
$14.99 (2007) TPB
$34.99 (2010) Ultimate Collection
ISBN 9780785122784

Contributors: Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Dave McCaig, and Chris Eliopoulos

Reprints: Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #1-6 (of 12)

Synopsis: Before going rogue the Nextwave unit worked for the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort (H.A.T.E.), a covert anti-terrorist organization.  They discovered a marketing plan from the Beyond Corporation, who happen to be the new financial backers of H.A.T.E. and a known terrorist front.  Beyond plan to use H.A.T.E. and Nextwave to test Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction (UWMDs) on American soil and then sell them to the highest bidder for a profit.

Now the Nextwave are being hunted by their former boss and director of H.A.T.E., Dirk Anger.  Nextwave group consists of:
    They will kick you in the naugthy bits
  • Elsa Bloodstone - monster hunting daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone, possesses ample cleavage, haughty European attitude, enhanced strength and agility
  • Monica Rambeau aka "Captain Marvel" or "Photon" - formerly of the Avengers, energy-based powers based on light, conversion to photons, lasers, and light beams
  • Aaron Stack aka "Machine Man" - sentient machine, can alter his body to produce useful tools or weapons, requires copious amounts of beer for his robot brain to function properly (or so he says)
  • Dirk Anger - director of H.A.T.E., looks forty, but is really 90-year-old sociopath kept alive by life-extending drugs and a bad attitude, chews lizard boom sticks, he's not part of the team - he just wants to kill them
  • Tabitha Smith aka "Boom Boom" or "Meltdown" - formerly of X-Force, powers include creating streams of super-heated plasma energy with extreme destructive force and allowing her to fly, kleptomaniac
  • The Captain - received the "Heartstar of the Space Between Galaxies" from a pair of altruistic aliens while on a drunken bender, can't remember his own name, incredibly powerful with super-strength, flight, and enhanced vision
Can they stop Beyond's evil plans and stay one step ahead of Dirk Anger's wrath?  It's samuroids, giant flying lizards wearing underpants, broccoli men, homicide crabs, and widdle cuddly bears of death - oh my!

Pros: Top notch irreverent humor by Ellis, Immonen's art is solid, action-packed with good use of lesser-known D-list heroes & villains, great parody of Marvel (i.e. Dirk Anger is a spoof of Nick Fury and totally hilarious)

Cons: No explanations or legitimate story to speak of - just action, minimalist dialogue by Ellis - he makes all of the characters sound British, Immonen's art is highly stylized in this one, over-the-top

Mike Tells It Straight: Ellis and Immonen craft a funny satire piece on the Marvel universe filled with non-stop action and self-mockery.  It's pretty much all action, sarcasm (turned up to 11), jokes, and nothing much in the way of story (i.e. all flash and no substance).  The first few issues were hilarious, but then the goofiness started getting a little old by the end of issue #6.  This could be Ellis at his best or worst depending on your point of view.  Check out a preview if you can and you'll get the picture. 

"Love it or hate it, it's an obsession, love it or hate it, that's my confession."

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Shanna The She-Devil Trade Paperback Review

Shanna The She-Devil
Marvel Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
168 pages
$16.99 (2006)
$24.99 (2005) Hardcover
ISBN 9780785110385

Contributors: Frank Cho, Jason Keith, Dave Stewart, and Rob Steen

Reprints: Shanna The She-Devil #1-7 (of 7)

Synopsis: An army unit crash lands on a mysterious island filled with prehistoric creatures.  Near the end of their fourth year of surviving on the island they discover an abandoned Nazi bunker filled with genetic experiments.  Only one of the experiments is alive - a blonde, blue-eyed superstrong woman they name Shanna.  Doc is the medic of the group and takes Shanna under his wing to educate her in the ways of humanity - language and behavior.  She possesses incredible physical prowess and an innate killer instinct. 

One of the soldiers picks up what he thinks is a packet of medical supplies, but is really a deadly virus created by the Nazis.  Now the entire camp is infected and only Shanna, with the help of Doc and two other brave soldiers, can return to the bunker (the place of her "birth") to get the antidote and save the day.  The only thing standing in their way is a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a bad attitude and a legion of hungry velociraptors!

Pros: Frank Cho draws incredibly sensuous women and his version of Shanna is A-mazing!, she has huge boobs and Cho renders them to perfection (they even obey gravity when she runs/fights/etc), Cho's art is fantastic and he really put a lot of effort/detail into this story
Cons: Cho's writing on the other hand - not so great, the Doc keeps saying "Holy buckets!" and the novelty wears off immediately, this version of Shanna is not the official version, but an alternate universe version (too bad, she's a lot cooler and less complicated), originally planned to be a MAX series (for mature readers) with nudity, but changed to a PG rating instead (we missed out on Shanna naked!), lightning fast read with excessive double-page spreads near the end

Mike Tells It Straight: Cho reinvents Shanna in this action-packed story with his signature art style and phenomenal attention to detail (he literally draws a double-page spread with one hundred velociraptors in it).  The story is a vague mess, but his art makes this book worth checking out.  No one draws women like Cho - they're voluptuous and natural (i.e. Shanna ain't no waif throwing cars around - she's got muscle to back up that grin).  If you like beautiful women then you'll dig Cho's art and this is an easy recommendation.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Godland Vol. 1 Hello, Cosmic! Trade Paperback Review

Godland Vol. 1 - Hello, Cosmic!
Image Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
144 pages
$14.99 (2006)
ISBN 9781582405810

Contributors: Joe Casey, Tom Scioli, Bill Crabtree, and Rob Steen

Reprints: Godland #1-6

Synopsis: Meet Adam Archer, former astronaut granted cosmic enlightenment and awesome superpowers on a space mission to Mars.  His home base is now the Infinity Tower in the middle of Manhattan with his three sisters (Neela, Stella, and Angie) as support staff - they tackle enigmatic menaces to mankind on a daily basis! 

A mysterious meteor crash lands on Earth drawing the nefarious attention of Basil Cronus, a dastardly villain who gets high by immersing his disembodied head in a jar of illegal drugs (or blood from cosmic beings).  The meteor contains a strange being with clues to the underlying cosmic tapestry of the universe.  Opposing Cronus is the enigmatic Friedrich Nickelhead, can Adam rescue the being from the clutches of these two lunatics?

Mmm...crunchy cosmic goodness
He must also save America's most beloved superhero, Crashman, from the foul clutches of S&M torturess, Discordia!  Seeds of discontent bear fruit at the Infinity Tower and this first series ends with a pop!

Pros: Quirky story with plenty of retro-cosmic action, rooted in the modern world despite the retro style, Scioli mimics Jack "King" Kirby's art style to perfection, cool cosmic enlightenment concept

Cons: Dialogue doesn't feel natural with art and character designs - i.e. Basil Cronus and Friedrich Nickelhead don't talk the way I would have expected based on their looks (too hip/modern), Crashman is kinda whack

Mike Tells It Straight: Get your retro comics fix right here!  The story and art are an homage to the epic cosmic-action tales of the '60s and '70s.  The plot is solid and Casey/Scioli design some neat characters.  Kirby's art (as aped by Scioli) looks good with the modern computer coloring techniques.  This book embraces the retro while keeping some modern sensibilities.  Casey is a master at hipster dialogue which didn't match up with the retro Kirby character designs for Cronus and Nickelhead.  Didn't quite feel natural to me, but I got over it.  A successful effort (convinced me to check out the next volume) and decent read.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Aztek: The Ultimate Man Trade Paperback Review

Aztek: The Ultimate Man
DC Comics
Softcover Trade Paperback
240 pages
$19.99 (2008)
ISBN 9781401216887

Contributors: Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, N. Steven Harris, Keith Champagne, Clem Robins, Chris Eliopoulos, Mike Danza, Ed Benes, Steve Lightle, Dave Johnson, Mike Wieringo, Norm Breyfogle,

Reprints: Aztek: The Ultimate Man #1-10 (of 10)

Synopsis: A mysterious stranger comes to Vanity City - the second-most corrupt, life-sucking city in America (after Gotham of course).  His mission is to stop the return of an ancient death-god, but first he must create a new life and camouflage himself among the masses.  The Q Foundation has trained him since childhood to become the perfect human and he wields an incredible armor with a four-dimensional power source including an ancient helmet worn by the god Quetzalcoatl.
Yeah, cool helmet

While his training prepared him to be the ultimate warrior it neglected to teach him about the outside world.  He fumbles through the most mundane social relationships and views the world in innocent, simplistic terms.  Witnessing a super-powered bank robbery and the subsequent foiling by a homicidal superhero, Aztek steps in with disastrous results.  He discovers the real world has a steep learning curve and he better wise up if his mission has any chance at succeeding.

His journey is spectacular as he meets heroes Batman and Green Lantern, fights villains including the Joker and his failed predecessor from the Q Foundation, learns the truth about his father's death, and joins the JLA. 

Pros: Morrison/Millar give us some interesting superhero situations, Harris does all of interior art - it's consistent

Cons: Art by Harris is mediocre, initial print run on this book had major misprinting errors with missing/repeated pages, series ends suddenly without any resolutions (due to cancellation), his feather wings are lame

Squaaawwkkk! It's a bird!

Mike Tells It Straight: Kind of a let-down.  Back when Morrison's JLA series was still being published I heard a lot of good things about this book.  When the collected edition came out I finally got a chance to investigate the hype.  Although the art is consistently terrible, the writing has it's moments if you can understand the read-between-the-lines superhero critique subtext.  We get a glimpse of potential greatness to come from this series, but then it's cut short and abruptly ended.  If you loved Aztek in JLA then you'll enjoy this book, but otherwise I would pass.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alias Omnibus Hardcover Review

Alias Omnibus
Marvel Comics
Oversized Hardcover
672 pages
$69.99 (2006)
ISBN 9780785121213

Contributors: Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, David Mack, Matt Hollingsworth, Richard Starkings, Cory Petit, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Bagley, Rick Mays, Art Thibert and introduction by Allen Heinberg

Reprints: Alias (2001) #1-28 (of 28) and What If Jessica Jones Had Joined the Avengers? (2005) #1

Synopsis: Jessica Jones is a former superhero (codenamed "Jewel") who runs her own private investigations firm - Alias Investigations in New York City. She left behind the cape and the lifestyle, but still has powers and a major tendency for self-destruction.  She drinks, smokes, curses, and can throw you through a wall.

In her first case she manages to accidentally capture a premier superhero's civilian identity on film.  Now she's on the run from any one of the many clandestine organizations after said superhero.  She still has contacts in the superhero community, but will they help a 'washout'? 

Jessica working and smoking, smoking and working
Her next case has the wife of Rick Jones trying desperately to find her husband.  Oh, did you know Jessica is related to Rick?  Something doesn't smell right and the Skrulls might be involved.  Then J. Jonah Jameson hires her to find out Spider-Man's secret identity.  He wants to publicly 'out' him like what happened to Matt Murdock being 'outed' as Daredevil.

Next Jessica is hired to find a missing girl in a small rural town.  She discovers the ugly side of the townspeople and the reason the girl disappeared.  Is it too late to save her?  Then Jessica heads back to the city and finds a new love interest, but will her usual neurotic shenanigans ruin yet another relationship?

A drugged-out girl dressed in a spider-costume startles Jessica at home and earns her the venom of J. Jonah Jameson.  It's time to find another missing girl as Jessica delves into the underground drug trafficking of Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH), but this time she may be in over her head.

We finally learn the startling secret origin of Jessica Jones.  Improbable guest star Peter Parker aka Spider-Man.  More disturbing is the reason Jessica quit being a superhero as she is hired by victims of a mind-controlling villain to confront him on their behalf.  She was also victimized by the same villain and is tormented by the very thought of facing him again.  Can she overcome her fears or will she hide behind a bottle for the rest of her life?  Final issue has a life-changing resolution.

Beautiful covers by Mack
Pros: Bendis' writing is pretty kick ass w/great dialogue, Gaydos' art is consistently gritty, Mack's covers are cool, published under the Marvel MAX imprint for mature readers - this means there's a f*$%load of cursing and some mature themes (that Bendis sure likes to use the f-word!), the What If? issue is great, book was an Eisner Award nominee in 2004 for "Best Continuing Series" and "Best Serialized Story", beautiful omnibus hardcover edition with tons of extras including sketches, interviews, and original pitch

Cons: No nudity (or damn little of it) despite the MAX imprint, Gaydos/Bendis reuse art panels with different dialogue (picture Jessica's head in three consecutive panels staring at us with different word balloons, get it?) - always seems like cutting corners to me, the series ended, most of the mainstream Marvel characters were off-limits due to the MAX rating

Mike Tells It Straight: When this series was originally published the Alias television show starring Jennifer Garner was airing and I literally thought the comic was an adaptation of the show.  Never picked it up, why bother?  Adaptations usually suck anyway.  Boy, was I wrong!  This series is completely unrelated to the television program and a groundbreaking look at realistic situations involving superheroes.

Bendis' realistic dialogue and plot are a refreshing take on superheroes in real-life situations.  Alias is one of his best works and a phenomenal read.  It's not perfect by any means, but very interesting and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Jessica's character development during the series was amazing as she falls on her face more often than she succeeds.  She is a flawed hero in the same vein as the classic Stan Lee characters and this is what Marvel is all about! 
Jessica, why so...purple?

The Marvel omnibus editions are great - best possible reprint versions out there.  This one is no exception, tons of extras for true fans of the work.  You get the bonus What If? encore story in this edition which is not included in any of the other Alias reprints.  Major downside as of this review is the scarcity of the omnibus - it's fetching upwards of $200 a copy these days.  Hopefully Marvel will get the hint and print a new edition so more people can afford to own it.  If not, buy the ultimate editions plus the What If?...Why Not? trade paperback for the whole story.  It's a mature story and definitely worth it. 

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Absolute Edition Review

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
Oversized Hardcover w/Slipcase
416 pages
$49.99 (2011) Omnibus
$75.00 (2003) Absolute Edition
$14.95 (2002) Trade Paperback
$24.95 (2001) Hardcover
ISBN 9781401200527

Contributors: Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill, Ben Dimagmaliw, and Bill Oakley

Reprints: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: England faces an unparalleled threat to its security and only the most extraordinary team of adventurers can hope to save the empire.  They include:
  • Ms. Mina Murray (Bram Stoker) - former school mistress and one-time wife to Jonathan Harker.  Survivor of multiple visitations by Count Dracula.  Wears red scarf to cover bite mark scars.  Cursed
  • Allan Quatermain (H. Rider Haggard) - discoverer of King Solomon's mines and professional big game hunter with a crack shot.  Found near death in an opium den sucking the pipe
  • Captain Nemo (Jules Verne) - Sikh mariner, science-pirate and captain of the aquatic juggernaut, the Nautilus
  • Hawley Griffin (H.G. Wells) - embittered, misanthrope scientist who has turned his body invisible.  Found covertly raping girls under the guise of the Holy Spirit at a disreputable girls academy
  • Dr. Henry Jekyll (Robert Louis Stevenson) - troubled scientist who sought to separate his darker impulses from himself, but unintentionally birthed an unconscionable creature calling itself Edward Hyde and lacking all morals.  Found raping and dismembering French prostitutes
Edward Hyde doesn't play nice with others
The group must recover a missing new element called Cavorite which heralds sky-supremacy to the wielder.  Everything is not as it seems and their greatest allies may be their most wicked foes.  How can these five utterly different people work together to save England?

Can they keep the monstrous fiend Hyde in check for long?  Nemo's disdain for the British is near palpable, but why does he work for the Crown?  Quatermain is a washed up adventurer who may not have been worth saving.  Griffin's condition serves to further him from a humanity he already despises.  Can Mina Murray manage to wrangle these individuals to accomplish their lofty goal and who is the traitor?
The League regroups after some reconnaissance
Pros: Amazing concept/writing by Moore, quirky/interesting art by O'Neill, story is inspired by the best/greatest classic fiction writers of Victorian era, you can tell the creators had a blast working on this piece, Absolute edition has a ton of extras with an entire separate 192-page volume to house them, including original scripts by Moore (very detailed) and additional illos by O'Neill

Cons: Expensive book for a mere six-issue mini-series, wading through the extras can be a bit of a chore, O'Neill's art is heavily stylized, ending sky-battle is a bit hokey

Mike Tells It Straight: This is steampunk!  Wonderfully imaginative story by Moore as he borrows classic literary characters to make a psuedo-superhero team for the Victorian era.  You'll delight in uncovering the hidden gems of literary reference (Cavorite is from H.G. Wells' The Men in the Moon, plus many other references besides the main cast of characters) and it made me track down the original works by these famed authors.  Well worth the time - this book is for mature audiences (age 13+ recommended). 
Captain Nemo really, really dislikes the British
This Absolute Edition is an impressive collection.  Honestly, I found it to be a bit pricey and slightly overkill for my taste.  Perfect for the obsessed fan of this work or Moore in general, but the current rare status (out-of-print and fetching around $200 for a copy) makes it unattainable to my budget (I'm not alone there).  Buy the hardcover or trade paperback instead - this book is not the same as the movie, it's actually good.  Read it!
This movie was not approved by Alan Moore and it shows
TO BUY and Recommendations: