Thursday, December 29, 2011

DMZ #72 - The Final Issue - Review

ONE MAN WAR


Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli have brought readers of Vertigo Comics the groundbreaking series DMZ for six years, and this month they ended the story that framed the second American Civil War. Matty Roth went from being a helpless man stranded in a war, to a powerful photojournalist, and then a revolutionary. He was imprisoned for his actions in the DMZ, and he gladly took the punishment, even of the crimes he didn't commit. This issue picks up 15 years later, and it's wonderfully understated and beautiful.

A tourist is walking around New York City as she reads Matty Roth's book that covers his life in the DMZ. As she visits the sites of major plot points in the narrative, Matty Roth's captions give us insight into his point of view now that he's sentenced to life in prison for war crimes without parole. You get the sense that he not only accepts the responsibility of the war, but is glad that he could help it come to some sort of closure, even if it is based on some lies and deceit.

There isn't too much more I can say about this issue that can do it justice. It was the same level of writing and art that six years of creative genius produced month after month on comic book shelves across the country. If you missed this series while it was being released I highly recommend picking up the trades whenever you have the time.

This issue and this entire series gets a 5/5. Lets hope we get more high quality comics like this that push the envelope in the near future.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Joe the Barbarian (Hardcover) - Review

A MODERN FAIRY TALE PERFECTED


Many writers and artists try to capture the stories of young people trapped in other worlds but few hit the same chords that stories like Alice in Wonderland did for generations of readers. With the flood of modern and urban fantasy stories hitting the market not only in comics, but also in movies and TV, it's hard to make something original, fresh, and heartwarming all at the same time. Luckily for fans of Grant Morrison, Joe the Barbarian does just that. Not to mention the fact that it's collected in a beautiful hardcover.

Morrison's story of a hypoglycemic young boy on the adventure of his life through his house and through a world entirely in his mind is touching, thrilling, and reminds us all how powerful even a quest for sugar can be when death is knocking at your door. The artwork by Sean Murphy is spectacular. His depictions of a fantasy world paired with living action figures, skeleton warriors, and pipe-dwelling pirates always feels authentic, lively, and full of emotion on every page.

The entire book is relatable to anyone who has ever experienced a high leveled hallucination brought on by fever or illness. It captures that strange state of being in two places at once -- reality and a dream -- and even conveys the mental stress of living in two worlds at once. Morrison and Murphy have depicted this phenomenon in a way that only comic books can, and it proves that you can find adventure in the most unlikely of scenarios.

I'm going to give this series a strong 4.5/5 for gripping me with every issue (or chapter) and for having complex and real characters, even Jack the Warrior Rat. The hardcover collection gets the same score for it's bonus content in the back, beautiful presentation, and slick indented cover underneath the book jacket. This book is a must for fans of Morrison, Murphy, or adventure enthusiasts who want to take back the light from the darkness.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Memorial #1 - Review

MEMORIES AND A POWERFUL KEY



Writer Chris Roberson and artist Rich Ellis launched their new series Memorial this month through IDW Publishing. The story focuses around Em, a young woman who has lost her memory and searches the city on her lunch breaks trying to find any clues to her forgotten past. But when she finds a strange green door at the end of an alley, her entire life changes from strange to worse. With killer puppets, moving statues, and talking cats filling her life, Em is about to learn the truth behind her mysterious and magical past.

If I had to describe this book I'd say it's two-parts Doctor Who and one part modern urban fantasy. The writing is a mixture of modern and classic fairy tales and the art style is a simple, clean, and bright approach much like The Unwritten takes in its artwork, though with less of the retro feel. It gives it an approachable tone and air to the story that keeps your attention but doesn't rely on the overly dark or morbid imagery that many comics do today.

The one strong quality about this book is that it has a female lead in a comic book that doesn't rely on sexing her up or making her a femme fatale. She's a girl-next-door type without the implications of something sinister or flirtatious. I'm interested to see how Em grows as a character and how her inter-dimensional travel pans out. She seems to be a girl who isn't afraid to take risks, and that's always a recipe for interesting storytelling.

The only downside for some readers I can see to this issue is that it was a little talkative in the form of narration, but that's debatable. I enjoyed it. It didn't slow down the pace of the story at all, but it's definitely an introduction to a world and universe, so there's a lot of information to take in. I recommend giving the captions a second read through, especially in the different dimensions. The plus side of this is that it's world building in a nice way, so that the openness for alternate realities is wide and vast for readers.

This book is great for someone who is trying to get their girlfriend or friend into comics. There's a female lead you can stand behind, a great fantasy element that readers of Harry Potter or Fables can enjoy, and fans of shows like Doctor Who can appreciate the plot and setup. I'm going to give this first issue a 4.5/5 for being a good start to what looks like a promising series.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Green Lantern #4 - Review

WHO IS THE GREATEST OF THEM ALL?


I don't usually start my reviews this way, but I'd like to say that this month's issue of Green Lantern has a very fitting and beautiful cover. That being said, this really is an issue about Sinestro challenging his own corps and wrestling with the guilt of having his home world turned into a slave planet by those he entrusted with power. Even though he and Hal Jordan have arrived to liberate the citizens of Korugar, the people aren't excited about being rescued by Sinestro.

Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke were the creative team on this issue, and I feel like Johns pretty much owns the Lantern-verse at this point. We still get a ton of sad-sack Hal, which I'm sure will pass when he gets back on his feet, but we're also getting loads of wonderful Sinestro moments that are really fleshing him out as a character. I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not I'd like him back in the yellow outfit or to stay in green, and that means Johns is doing his job.

The artwork by Mahnke is what I've come to expect from him, and there are plenty of great ring construct moments that showcase his ability to ring sling with the best of them. It takes a really artistic touch to make the reader believe that everything is actually happening on the page, especially when it comes to a science fiction story like Green Lantern.

The continuing arc about Sinestro is really entertaining, and I think it was a bold move to start him out as the focus of the title when the New 52 hit the shelves. This issue gets a solid 4/5, and just proves my point even further that you really have to go to the comics for the truly powerful Green Lantern stories.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Supergods - Review

THEY ARE AMONG US


Comic book fans are more than familiar with Grant Morrison, who has written such epic and inspiring works as All-Star Superman, The Invisibles, and Batman and Robin. He's always had a very unique approach to reading and explaining comics and now he's collected them all in this book that highlights all of the ages that comic books and their characters have gone through, as well as the effect they've had on his life and others.

The book covers everything from The Golden Age to the comic book Renaissance that ushered in the books we currently read in shops and our homes. Each age is broken down by its trends, cultural impact, and creative approaches used by the teams that wrote and drew some of pop cultures most iconic characters. Morrison then always tastefully includes how the works affected him and his writing, giving you a more personal look at the topic rather than a regurgitation of information that you might find in a textbook about the subject.

The thing that I've heard some people complain about in this title is the more personal experiences of Morrison detailing his usage of drugs, alcohol, and his more psychedelic adventures with spirituality and abduction. But Morrison himself has constantly reminded readers that all he's doing is telling the truth about his experiences and nothing more. He doesn't try to sell you on a different viewpoint, he only uses the stories to explain how he approached his work and the work of others, as well as how he connects with the universe. Which, when you think about it, is all any writer is trying to do.

As a reference to the history of comic books it's indispensable, and the guiding light that Morrison provides through the different ages and his own career are as bright as a Green Lantern power battery on the pages of DC Comics, or perhaps a repulser blast for those more in favor of Marvel.

I give this book a solid 4.5/5 for being another example of how important comics and sequential storytelling are to the world as a form of literature, and its explanation of how important superheroes are to our culture, ideals, and growth as a population and collective species. This is great for fans of comic books and would make a great Christmas gift for someone who is looking to learn more about comics as a medium, or just about how and why they relate to Spider-Man or Superman so much. Take my word for it, it's a must read.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ink Ribbon - Release

MY FIRST INDIE COMIC DROPPED TODAY!




My first independent comic book, Ink Ribbon, was just released on Graphicly. It's only 99 cents and if you're a fan of Japanese manga and crime stories this book is for you! Give it a read and let me know what you think. I'm open to all forms of criticism, otherwise I wouldn't put myself out there.

Also, if you do buy it, you have my eternal gratitude.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Nerdist Way - Review

Nerdists ASSEMBLE!


Are you a nerd looking to simplify your life and find an excuse to stop procrastinating with video games, movies, and TV? Do you have creative aspirations but just don't know where to start? Then you're in luck, because stand-up comedian and Nerdist Industries founder Chris Hardwick has written a productivity book just for you! The Nerdist Way is a combination of self-help, self-discovery, and self-improvement for the people who love popular culture, science fiction, and anything else that might separate them from the “jocks” or “populars.”

The book is split up into three different sections: Mind, Body, and Time. Each section is divided into multiple chapters and has various sections for different topics. Which include treating your life like an RPG (role-playing game), learning to live a healthier lifestyle, and devoting your day to getting the most out of your hours and minutes. All of this sound daunting and over-complicated, but that's the beauty of Hardwick's book, it simplifies everything!

The Nerdist Way is the perfect companion for anyone who has been looking for the jumping off point for their nerdy or even normal career. It doesn't just give tips that are helpful to people who play Dungeons and Dragons, the information here can help anyone who wants to run a small business or just plain get more things done in their life.

Hardwick's writing style is just like his comedy in the sense that it's very conversational and makes you feel like you're having a cup of coffee with him rather than being thrown information between two covers. He isn't afraid to poke fun at himself, throw in jokes with information, or deviate from the topic in order to relate more to the reader (though it's always worth it). He even goes in-depth enough to let people get a glimpse at his dark years in his twenties, which he chalks up as a learning experience and a life lesson he couldn't do without. It really does give people hope who don't have any self-esteem or drive to chase their dreams down and sink their teeth into them.

If you're looking for self-improvement and time management to put your life of comic books, video games, and fan fiction into a nice neat pile and have it start working for you and your goals then this is the book for you. I'm giving it a solid 5/5 for it's relaxed attitude, wonderful information, and effective techniques.

If you want to learn more about Hardwick and Nerdist Industries, visit www.nerdist.com.

As a personal side note, I'd like to take the time to say that if you're not sold on Mr. Hardwick as a writer, you can at least revel in the fact that he's a genuinely cool guy. He hosts Web Soup, works on Attack of the Show, and helps a multitude of other podcasters on the Nerdist Network.

When I met him this past March in Ferndale, MI after one of his stand-up shows (which was wonderful), he and musician Mike Phirman were kind enough to take a picture with my friends and I, posing in the classic Ghostbusters movie poster stance.

(That's the former Warp Whistle Podcast crew --Brandon Twa, Matt Hartdegen, and me (far right) minus Nic Kanaar who couldn't be there -- with Mr. Hardwick and Mr. Phirman (who is a very talented musician))

Second side note: I've lost 50 lbs. since this picture, also thanks to Hardwick and the Nerdist Podcast for introducing me to Tim Ferris. I've gushed enough, now go buy the book.

Swamp Thing #4 - Review

THE ROT IS SPREADING


As a small child with the power of the rot makes his way across the country spreading death and disease, Dr. Alec Holland finds himself with a woman he only knew as the monster Swamp Thing. The power of the green reaches out to Dr. Holland and pleads with him to become their warrior king and defeat the rot before it can take over. It promises him that he’ll have the full support of the green and the red (Animal Man) at his side, and shows him the entire history of Swamp Things over the span of the Earth. As Dr. Holland wrestles with his destiny as a monster, the rot continues to build power and plans to eradicate all life as we know it.

Scott Snyder and Marco Rudy have put together another gorgeous issue of Swamp Thing in the New 52. Snyder has not only brought the character back into the mainstream, but he’s also expanded on the mythology of the character and made the creature more of a symbol of the Earth than a plant monster. The dream sequences where Dr. Holland talks to the other avatars of the green is a sight to behold, and both Snyder and Rudy deserve credit for painting such a mesmerizing picture on the page.

The corner of the DC Universe that Swamp Thing and Animal Man are carving out with their intertwining stories is one of the best that’s going on in comics to date. The story in each title keeps building to the big confrontation with the rot, and I for one am excited as hell to see the green and the red team up to destroy the forces of death and preserve life.

This issue of Swamp Thing gets a 4.5/5 for continuing another wonderful story by the talent Snyder. If you’re enjoying this book I also recommend Synder’s Batman and American Vampire which is available through Vertigo.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Venom #10 - Review

THOMPSON TAKES CAP


If there was one aspect of Spider Island that I really enjoyed it was the team-up between Venom (Flash Thompson) and Captain America. When I saw the cover for this issue of Venom I had a bit of a nerdgasm. As Thompson buries his father and tries to put their past behind him, Jack-O-Lantern arrives at the funeral with a proposal Thompson can't refuse. With his family on the line, the symbiote slowly enveloping Thompson's psyche,and Captain America ordering the new Project Rebirth to be shut down, the stakes have never been higher in this title.

Rick Remender is not only taking Venom in a whole new direction, he's keeping it fresh and building a story and cast of characters that are forming a beautifully contained narrative while also expanding on the Marvel universe. Thompson has gone from "the lucky guy with the alien costume" to a full-fledged hero with villains, motives, mistakes, and hopes.

The artwork by Lan Medina is fast and furiously paced. It bridges nicely between a funeral, a crime boss setting, and a battle in the snow covered mountains between Venom and Captain America. There's nothing better than seeing one of my favorite characters jack another one of my favorite character's rides. Although I'm interested to know if it was planned to have Steve Rogers get his rear end kicked by both Venom and Deadpool in the same week? Probably just a coincidence.

I'm going to give this issue a 4/5 for being a fun issue and the start of a great new arc. There were tense moments, great action scenes, and complex characters. If you haven't been reading about Marvel's other web-slinger, you're missing out. I can only hope that the new Scarlet Spider series will be just as good.

Action Comics #4 - Review

ROBO-TASTIC ACTION!


Grant Morrison is the writer who made me love Superman as a comic book character again with his All-Star Superman title. In his Action Comics run in the New 52 he's really exploring the possibility of a world that doesn't want Superman around. As robotic armies are manufactured as fast as Superman can punch them into pieces, the young Kryptonian finds himself overwhelmed and outgunned for the first time in his life. This feeling of helplessness is very welcome in a Superman title, because even though he is "the man of steel," he's not interesting unless he faces challenges that he can't overcome without working for it.

This issue had a few new tweaks to the story that I was really fond of. For starters I really liked that he was wearing a white shirt with an "S" symbol this time around. It makes sense that he would be making these at home and it might look suspicious if a young person Superman's age were always buying royal blue shirts. It also just kind of looks cool and switches it up from the norm. I also enjoyed the cameo of Steel in this issue, as well as the tie-in with the city of Kandor. Morrison is dropping little golden flakes of greatness all over this issue and it really shines.

Rags Morales' artwork feels so kinetic that I found myself holding my breath while reading some of the panels. You can really feel every pull and punch that Superman dishes out and takes in this issue, and he takes a pretty big beating. I'm not completely sold on John Corben/Metallo (or is it Metal-Zero), I think he looks a little clunky. But I'm sure he's going to become a bit more streamlined in the future.

This issue had great action, fast pace dialogue, and a cliffhanger ending that makes readers yearn for more. It deserves a solid 4/5 for a great addition to the new title. Although I was a little confused as to why they bothered to split up Steel's story and put it in the back with a different artist? Maybe Morales was running behind or maybe they did it just for fun, either way it didn't take away from the overall book and it was fun to read.

Animal Man #4 - Review

THE ROT COMETH!


Buddy Baker and his daughter Maxine are going toe-to-toe with two of the Hunters Three as the third stalks the rest of the Baker family. As the avatars of the red explain to Baker what role he plays in the web of life the stakes are raised and the promise of harder and more horrific battles to come are promised by the ancient beings. Baker will have to accept his new role as his daughter's bodyguard as well as father if he's going to protect the world from the power of the rot.

Written by Jeff Lemire with pencils by Travel Foreman, Animal Man #4 is yet another notch in the DC Comics belt for their New 52. Baker is back and better than ever as he throws himself into danger to protect others faster than the claws that are trying to tear him apart. It's no surprise that Baker is slowly becoming one of the comic book community's new favorite heroes. Lemire has gained his fame in the world of indie comics and is bringing his strong characterizations to one of DC's most underrated characters. It just goes to show how even an obscure hero can take the spotlight with the right creative team.

Foreman's art is something to behold on this issue as he depicts monsters whose bodies morph at will and avatars of life that are composed of animals and men fallen throughout the ages. The entire book can shift from the surreal in the red to the realistic in Ellen's mother's house. It really showcases the broad spectrum of Foreman's ability to tell Lemire's complex stories.

I give this issue a solid 5/5 for continuing one of my favorite comic book story arcs. The promise that he'll soon be running into Dr. Alec Holland AKA Swamp Thing excites me to the levels of a schoolgirl seeing New Kids on the Block back in the 90's.

The Defenders #1

TIME TO GRAB YOUR BIG-ASS SWORD!


If there's a group of characters I'm really not familiar with, it's The Defenders. Luckily writer Matt Fraction has re-introduced the team for modern readers and given each of the characters their own personal role in the classic team structure. You've got Doctor Strange, the unsure leader who has recently lost his powers as the sorcerer supreme and is sleeping with grad students, Red She-Hulk, who has only recently come into her powers, Namor, who rarely likes to include himself in the problems of normal humans, Silver Surfer, who sees the world from an objective outside view, and Iron Fist, who would just assume collect the insurance on his multi-million dollar plane destined to crash on its maiden flight.

This first issue is the classic "gettin' the team together" and it works on every level. For people who aren't familiar with these characters it's a great introduction to Marvel Comics characters that normally wouldn't get the spotlight or their own series. I especially enjoyed all the scenes with Doctor Strange, and have now sided with many other writers and artists that doing a Doctor Strange story is always in the back of their mind.

The artwork by Terry Dodson (pencils), Rachel Dodson (inks), and Sonia Oback (colors) was incredible. It felt modern but classic at the same time. The scene where the group is falling from the destroyed plane is one that both conveys great sequential storytelling and the ability of a new team to pull together in a crisis situation. I'm also a very big fan of Doctor Strange's new outfit. Many people have been a little iffy on him losing his cape and usual color scheme, but I think this new modern look fits with the new aspect of Strange as a magical warrior without the sorcerer supreme powers on his side.

For a first issue that isn't a completely new concept with brand new characters this book delivers on many levels. There's tongue-in-cheek humor, action, and wonderful moments between characters like Silver Surfer and The Hulk. This book gets a 4.5/5 without any regrets, and I look forward to adding it to my pull list every month.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Violent Skies - Kickstarter

HELP SUPPORT OUR COMIC!


This is the Kickstarter for our comic book project Violent Skies.

You can learn more about the project here.

House of Five Leaves Vol. 4 - Review

THE PAST WILL CATCH UP WITH YOU


A strange new negotiator named Ginta has shown up in Edo and is meddling in the affairs of The Five Leaves and the new kidnapping gang The Night Crows. As Masa continues his work for the Leaves and Yaichi, he soon becomes close with Ginta as Ginta pushes his way into the gang. But as people from Yaichi's past start to catch up with him and The Night Crows continue to kill and kidnap children, the personal lives of Masa, Ginta, Yaichi, and the others start to come tumbling down.

Written and illustrated by Natsume Ono, his volume of House of Five Leaves was a wonderful character piece that delved deeper into the mysterious origins of the gang's leader, Yaichi. The more you find out about this light-haired stranger the more you can't help but read and see the dastardly things he's capable of. Half of the gang is convinced he only wants what's best for all of them while the other half is certain that he'd sell them out at a moments notice. The more you learn about Yaichi's past, the more the future starts to blur for Masa and the others.

Ono's writing and artwork is at her standard in this book, which means that it's excellent. For a manga that doesn't rely on action or explosions to move the story the pace and page turning power of Five Leaves is on par with any of the big battle stories like Bleach. Masa is a character that allows readers to see the life of organized crime in the Edo Period through the eyes of someone just as innocent as most of us, but at the same time expands upon him as his own person and not just a vehicle for storytelling.

This volume gets a 4/5 for being a great addition to the Ono library of powerful manga. There was a typo that I found in one of the middle chapters, but it didn't take away too much from the story. My brain just filled the missing word in. I only noticed because I started the page again after spilling a little bit of coffee.

Invincible: Compendium One - Review

KIRKMAN'S ULTIMATE HERO COLLECTION


This massive trade paperback of Invincible, created by Robert Kirkman, was released by Image Comics and complies the first nine trade paperback's worth of the incredible series. It follows the story of Mark Grayson, a teenager who has finally matured into his superpowers from his father Omni-Man. On the surface Omni-Man seems like the lovable Superman character and Mark is destined to become his successor. As Mark develops his own identity as the hero Invincible, he starts to discover that his father has ulterior motives, and that the world of superheroism isn't as black and white as he'd like it to be.

I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this giant tome of comic book lore. It tells an incredible story while at the same time spoofing or lampooning some of the comic book's biggest characters and plot cliches. What starts as a light-hearted romp of superhero antics soon turns into a blood bath of betrayal, violence, and harsh reality hitting young wide-eyed dreamers.

There really isn't much to say since this story has been around for years, but as a collected volume it starts out with a bang and doesn't let you go until the end. I'm going to give this collection a 4.5/5. I would have given it a perfect 5/5, but it is a little daunting to carry around. I suppose a tablet/digital version would have been a little more economical, but I do enjoy seeing it on my shelf.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Muppets - Movie Review

IT'S TIME TO LIGHT THE LIGHTS!


When Walter, Gary (Jason Segel), and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) go to Los Angeles to visit Muppet Studios, they find the building in ruins and an evil oil tycoon named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper)who wants to turn the landmark into an oil rig. It's up to Walter to rally Kermit the Frog and the other Muppets to put on one last show to try and save the theater and their legacy in popular culture.

I used to watch The Muppet Show all the time as a kid. "Pigs in Space" was one of my favorite sketches, especially the one that guest starred Mark Hamil. So how does this new movie stack up after having The Muppets put into obscurity?

It's just plain fun.

It has a very lighthearted nature that lends itself to the old movies and it doesn't try to make itself more edgy or dark like many other older properties have tried to do. They actually make a ton of jokes about this in the narrative and it plays off the characters really well.

The story is mostly about Walter realizing that he's been a Muppet all along, and Gary learns how to live without his brother and give Mary the attention she deserves. Kermit tries to fix his relationship with Miss Piggy, and many of the other Muppets have their own little stories. There's wonderful guest cameos by stars like Jack Black and Donald Glover, and really catchy songs depicted by some of your favorite characters from The Muppet's past.

I recommend this movie for anyone who wants a film that the whole family can enjoy, or wants to watch the felt characters of yesteryear make their triumphant comeback. I'm giving it 4.5/5 for being itself. Which is really what the entire theme of the movie was in the first place.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Incorruptible #24 - Review

THE BALLAD OF ST. LUCIFER


Max Damage has built his own prison in Coalville, where he plans to enact his own code of justice in a lawless world created by The Plutonian. But St. Lucifer has other plans. As the world's new military forces declare martial law on the city, Max is caught between siding with corrupt government officials or a supervillain bent on controlling the city's power supply.

Written by Mark Waid and drawn by Marcio Takara, this issue of Incorruptible was a delight to read. It threw out the blatant similarities between the military and supervillains that other readers and I have been ignoring for years -- they're in it for control. Damage's dealings with the government and St. Lucifer show his ability to look at the big picture and decide what's best for the city as a whole. After making The Plutonian turn around and leave with only a whisper, he's definitely become the world's best hope at regaining some sort of civilization.

The art by Takara is stunning. It's comic book cartooning at its best. Even scenes where characters are only talking are brimming with animation and emotion. There's a wonderful shot in the end with Damage carrying a prisoner to his facility, which also teases that the next issue will be Damage's origin story. I can't wait to see what sort of twisted tale Waid and Takara take us on next.

This is one of the best ongoing superhero stories out there. It's strange, most of the best books in the genre aren't from Marvel or DC, and they all seem to rely more on their own characters and backstories that are unique to their universes. It might be because they don't have as many rules as the big two publishers. Characters can die or betray others at any moment because they're not a part of the hardened pop culture of comic books. That gives the creators more freedom to play with story and plot, and less moments where they have to bring characters back from the dead because fans are angry.

This issue gets a 5/5 for proving that sometimes the best superhero fiction comes from a much smaller source. BOOM! Studios is the king of making comics that are relevant, edgy, and creatively diverse.