Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Top 5 Comics - 4/25/12

THIS WEEK'S CHART TOPPERS

I've decided to start listing and ranking the comics that I read every week to let everyone know what I enjoyed on the whole. I'll still do full reviews of individual books, but this will let people know what else I'm reading and give you a chance to respond and say which you enjoyed more.

Without any further delay, lets get to the top five in descending order:

5. Justice League Dark #8


I already did a full review of this issue, and if it wasn't such a slow week in terms of my pull list it probably wouldn't have even made it to this spot, but again, this is the little comic book that COULD be incredible. Hopefully when Lemire jumps on it will change direction. No offense to Milligan, I love his run on Hellblazer.

RATING: 2.5/5

4. The New Deadwardians #2


I've been talking all over the internet about how much I'm sick of vampire and zombie books, yet this one still got my attention. This issue was a really great detective story and makes me excited to see what interesting way a vampire could be killed that doesn't include the usual classic methods.

RATING: 3.5/5

3. Daredevil #11


Marvel doesn't usually blow me away with their books, but lately I've been finding more and more titles I can get excited about. Since its launch, the new Mark Waid run on this character has been fantastic. It's classic and inventive all at the same time. There's some wonderful moments between Daredevil, The Punisher, and Spider-Man in this issue, and the art by Marco Checchetto really blew me away. I wasn't familiar with him before, but I might have found my new favorite artistic take on Spider-Man.

RATING: 4/5

2. The Flash #8


If I had to explain to someone what superhero comic books are by handing them one title, it'd be this one. Not only is the artwork in this series phenomenal (I really mean it folks), but Francis Manapul is taking Barry Allen's powers in a new direction and expanding on their origins. It's something that's happened in a few of the New 52 titles, and each one seems to have knocked it out of the park. The Flash is just unhinged fun and adventure.

RATING: 4/5

1. American Vampire #26


Honestly, it was neck and neck between this issue and The Flash this week, but I have to give it to American Vampire for its cliffhanger and story development. You can read my full review on the blog, but I'll just go ahead and say that this team from Vertigo is a surefire win. I'm proud to say that I can thank one comic book for making me believe in vampires again. Not since reading the original Bram Stoker's Dracula have I been so interested in this type of story.

RATING: 4/5

So that's my first Top 5 Comics post. Let me know how you like it with a comment, question, or concern. And for being a guy who hates on vampires and zombies quite a bit, this week was full of them in terms of my pull list.

Justice League Dark #8 - Review

JLD MOVES AT A SNAIL'S PACE


WRITER: Peter Milligan

ARTIST: Daniel Sampere

COLORS: Admira Wijaya

LETTERS: Dave Sharpe

COVER: Ryan Sook

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Chris Conroy

EDITOR: Matt Idelson

PUBLISHER: DC Comics

PRICE: $2.99



I really like the concept of Justice League Dark. I like it way more than I do the recent revamp of Justice League. But I feel like the series is at a snail's pace when it should be moving like a bullet train. The JLD in this issue continue their fight against Cain and the legion of vampires that have infested Gotham City. Batman is on the scene, though he's just kind of in the background, and half the team is sent to purgatory to retrieve Andrew Bennett, the only vampire who can stop the attack on humanity.

I enjoy Milligan's work on Hellblazer, but I'm just not feeling it during this story arc. All of the characters are misfits, I get it. But they don't have any drive and are just kind of there. It feels like when you're hanging out with your friends somewhere and everyone is annoyed because there's nothing to do. There's no sense of urgency or mission, and that's something that you need in any Justice League title.

Sampere's artwork is pretty good in this issue. There are a few times that I felt like Zatanna was more a pair of breasts than an actual human figure, but overall I enjoyed the tone that was laid throughout the issue. The layouts moved well and the pacing was spot on, and the level of detail was perfect for a horror and action title.

What I'm looking for out of this book is the mixture of action and horror that we're getting on Swamp Thing or Animal Man. I think the reason this title isn't jumping out like the other "dark" titles is because the characters are so scattered in terms of their motivations and their actions as a team. I'm willing to give this book a shot as Jeff Lemire hops on as the writer, but right now I'm just not enjoying this arc. I enjoyed the first story line, so maybe it's just this crossover that's not doing it for me.

This issue gets a 2.5/5. It was a fun enough book, but it just felt like an event filler issue. I'm not giving up on the concept or title yet, but this story line has run dry for me.

American Vampire #26 - Review

MR. POOLE GOES TO MIDWAY
WRITER: Scott Snyder

ARTIST: Roger Cruz 

COLORS: Dave McCaig 

LETTERS: Jared K. Fletcher

ASST. EDITOR: Gregory Lockard

 EDITOR: Mark Doyle

 PUBLISHER: Vertigo

 PRICE: $2.99

Calvin Poole arrives in Midway, Alabama in 1954 and isn’t in town five minutes before trouble starts finding its way to him. As one of the few American Vampires, he’s a monster among monsters, and tries to keep his head down as he visits a person from his past life. But when he gets a cryptic warning about a band that’s visiting town, he decides to prevent a slaughter. The only problem is that he’s walked into an even worse and more horrific situation.

Written by Scott Snyder with art by Roger Cruz, American Vampire #26 is part one of two of “The Nocturnes” story arc. This issue introduces a new breed of undead that seems to be a formidable foe for the Homo Abominum Americanas (American Vampires), and could spell a whole new meaning for monsters in this series from Vertigo. Snyder never fails to introduce new characters into American Vampire that we can instantly connect with and understand. For anyone who has ever been hassled for their outward appearance or has been separated by circumstance by family members will sympathize with Poole and his situation. The 1950’s might be a new setting for these characters, but the wonderful stories are continuing on just as they started in the old west.

Cruz’s artwork is vibrant and alive. He captures the style of American Vampire but adds his own little touches in the character’s facial expressions and designs. It’s as if he guest directed an episode of a TV show rather than taking the reigns as a completely different artist. There are some great haunting moments in the panels that Cruz uses to cause spine-tingling reactions, and the last page just makes you thirst for more.

Whenever I hear someone complain about vampire movies or fiction, I always tell them that American Vampire is the exception to the undead craze. It’s really the only vampire story that I’ve been able to get behind one hundred percent in terms of story, characters, and artwork. I’ve never even seen a movie or TV show that has captured these creatures in such a unique and classic light.

This issue gets a strong 4/5. It’s not the best issue that’s been written, but damn if it isn’t still an amazing story.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Uncanny X-Force #24 - Review

AN ALTERNATE REALITY CLASH TO THE DEATH


WRITER: Rick Remender

ARTIST: Phil Noto

COLORS: Dean White

LETTERS: VC's Cory Petit

EDITOR: Nick Lowe

PUBLISHER: Marvel Comics

PRICE: $3.99

RELEASE DATE: April 18th, 2012

Marvel Comics has many X-Men titles, but for my money the best of the bunch is Uncanny X-Force. For those not familiar with the team and its current plot, it revolves around a black-ops group of mutants led by Wolverine to take on the jobs that no one else can bear. The rag tag team of Deadpool, Fantomex, Psylocke, and an alternate reality Nightcrawler take on an evil Bobby Drake AKA Ice Man to the death in the city streets. The team has a few plans on how to take him down, but they aren’t prepared for the level of power this alternate reality version of Ice Man has to offer.

This is what I wish the X-Men movies were more like. Rick Remender doesn’t pull out any stops in terms of characterization, drama, or action in this X-book. These stories have been filled with a rebellious nature that’s lacking from the regular titles, and this issue was another prime example of it. The dynamic between the team members is really strong, and I can’t think of a time when I’ve had so much fun reading them in this kind of setting.

The art by Phil Noto jumps off the page. It’s really spectacular. It has a level of depth that makes it feel like a short Hollywood film and a sense of layout and pacing that deserves just as much praise. The way he draws each character causes them to feel real and animated on a flat surface, and that’s no easy feat. I especially enjoyed all of the Nightcrawler action and subtle facial gestures on the character’s faces. When it comes to really selling sequential storytelling the expressions are what bring it home.

If you’ve ever been a fan of X-Men in your life, whether it’s the cartoons, movies, or comic books, this series will make you remember why you love the Marvel Universe’s most notorious superhumans. I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with this issue and give it a solid 5/5 for making me want to mimic Wolverine’s claws all around the house.

And again, just like Ghostbusters #8 this week, I love this cover and the newer X-Force logo.

Ghostbusters #8 - Review

EGON'S BIGGEST FEAR


WRITER: Erik Burnham

ARTIST: Dan Schoening

COLORS: Luis Antonio Delgado

LETTERS: Neil Uyetake

EDITOR: Tom Waltz

PUBLISHER: IDW

PRICE: $3.99

RELEASE DATE: April 18th, 2012


The recent spikes in PKE activity have been continuing, even after the Ghostbusters stopped the recent return of Gozer. As Egon spends days and nights trying to figure out the cause of the increasing spiritual energy, what he finds turns out to be more horrifying to him than anything he’s ever encountered before – a problem he doesn’t know how to solve!

When I reviewed the first trade of this new ongoing series from IDW, I talked about its ability to build and expand on the world of the original films and recent video game. This issue continues that new tradition and makes me appreciate the Ghostbusters franchise even more, which I thought wasn’t even possible. Ghostbusters has some of the most loyal fans in terms of film, comedy, and science fiction, and this series is the most faithful entry into its lexicon.

Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening are the perfect team when it comes to writing and drawing these iconic characters on the printed page. Each panel is filled with classic quips, true-to-character reactions and dialogue, and beautiful cartooning. The pacing is well executed, the story is captivating, and there’s even a wonderful extra story in the back about Tobin, Vigo, and Death.

Ghostbusters has always had a rich universe to explore; it’s just taken a team with a good pair of creative pickaxes to dig it up. Burnham and Schoening are tying all of the events of the movies and game together to make a continuity that’s fun, engaging, and deepens the mythology that these characters inhabit. While most licensed comic book adaptations simply use the characters they’re given, this book actually builds upon them and makes them better.

This issue gets a solid 5/5. And, before I forget to mention, I absolutely love the cover for this issue.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Shins "Port of Morrow" - Album Review

MERCER'S NEW ALBUM
Written by
Brandon Twa


The Shins

Port of Morrow

Columbia

7/10


As Natalie Portman's character in Garden State says “the Shins will change your life.” This was true for me as I'm sure it is for many other people. It seems that they come along at just the right time in the lives of people usually during a major change. For me it was the beginning of college. I was just starting to realize how big of a deal music was to me as I was going in to a field that had nothing to do with music. My first exposure to them was Oh, Inverted World and it blew my mind with its low-fi winding melodies, angsty tone and lyrics that had me pondering for hours.

Several years, 2 albums and a side-band later the Shins give us Port of Morrow. True to the Shins style, Morrow comes out during a time of change. Except this time its the Shins themselves that are doing the changing. James Mercer has decided to almost start anew, replacing everyone in the band but him. This change shows drastically in the album. Gone are the gritty guitars, mind twisting lyrics and sharp vocals of previous albums. This album is much more refined and produced. The guitars are clean and the lyrics less cryptic. The synths have a bigger role (which remind me a little of the synths from Oh, Inverted World, but sprayed with Windex and given a good scrubbing). It almost seems like this is a new band, but with bits of The Shins thrown in.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Its still got those Shins moments. “Bait and Switch” seems like it could have been on Chutes Too Narrow with its dissonant opening chord, and “September” is a great relaxing, introspective chill out song, perfect for singing around a campfire.

The songs that don't feel perfectly Shins-y are also incredibly good though. “No Way Down” and the Broken Bells influenced falsetto-filled title track are great surprises.

The reason for the score of 7 was a hard decision for me. Having loved the Shins so much it was hard to hear this new style. I like the fact that Mercer is changing things up and keeping his music fresh and original, not letting himself fall into a rut, but the Shins was such a good rut to be stuck in. I think I would have liked this album more if he decided to change the name of the band and start new, but the fact that he is passing this off as a Shins album felt weird to me. Again, not in a bad way, its just that the Shins are too sacred to me. Also there are a few “ehh” tracks on this album (“Its Only Life” and “40 Mark Strausse”) which isn't natural for a Shins album.

All in all though, a great album to listen to. Just be prepared to hear something entirely new, yet strangely familiar.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Secret #1 - Review

HICKMAN'S NEWEST SERIES IS A WINNER


WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Hickman

ART BY: Ryan Bodenheim

COLORIST: Michael Garland

LETTERS: Rus Wooton

PUBLISHED BY: Image Comics

PRICE: $2.99


Jonathan Hickman takes his unique storytelling and ideas to a new battlefield in his latest series from Image Comics. In Secret, Hickman explores the world of corporate security and espionage. The way he writes corporate entities makes it feel as if they’re countries vying for military supremacy on Wall Street. And it works on every level. This comic has all of the same great aspects of a political or corporate thriller that makes people’s skin crawl when they realize how easy it is to steal information. Not only that, it reminds us just how powerful information can be.

The artwork by Ryan Bodenheim is very stunning. I wasn’t familiar with his work before this issue, but I’ll be looking for more of it in the near future. He completely captures the subtleties of pain and desperation in the faces of the characters and makes you believe that they have real world counterparts somewhere on the planet. The coloring by Michael Garland is also very impressive. Much like the film Traffic, the story is color coded in every panel depending on the characters and mood of the scene.

This comic isn’t for the casual reader who likes lots of action and things going “boom.” This is for the type of reader that loves a really intriguing plot with high stakes. Just from the first issue it’s clear that there are many twists and turns to be had in this series, and I know I’m eagerly awaiting the next issue.

If you’re looking for something in the thriller category and haven’t found your fill, or if you want to just get in on an incredible new comic book, Secret will be right up your alley. This first issue gets a 4.5/5 for not pulling any punches when it comes to story, tone, and characters.

Saga #2 - Review

THE NEW ISSUE FROM VAUGHAN AND STAPLES DELIVERS



TITLE: Saga #2

WRITER: Brian K. Vaughan

ARTIST: Fiona Staples

LETTERS & DESIGN: Fonografiks

COORDINATED BY: Eric Stephenson

PUBLISHER: Image Comics

PRICE: $2.99

Marko and Alana continue their journey to search for the Rocketship Forest that will take them and their daughter Hazel away from the war between their people. Meanwhile, The Will checks in with his agent to talk about his recent job in hunting down the star-crossed couple. But he soon finds out that he’s not the only bounty hunter on the job.

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples deliver another incredible chapter of Saga this month through Image Comics. There’s something new, epic, and iconic about this new series and the characters that inhabit the pages. Every turn of the page brings us closer to the world that Vaughn and Staples are building, and the end of his issue leaves us with a taste in our mouth that makes us hungry for more.

The writing in this issue is what we’ve come to expect from Vaughan in his comic book work. Even though the set pieces are fantastical and the characters are of different species, they still feel complete human and relatable. There’s a great opening scene where Alana has to share an embarrassing secret with Marko in order for them to get out of a jam, and it really reminds you of those moments when you’re just getting to know someone you’re crazy about. Hopefully without all the danger and looming death.

The art by Staples keeps standing out on all levels. Not only does she convey emotion fluidly through each character’s face, but the technology and creatures of this world just keep getting better and better. One thing to note that was very striking was The Stalk, another bounty hunter who will surely have a bigger role to play in the future.

Ever since my childhood I’ve looked for another great space opera to compare to Star Wars. And though I’ve found many that satisfy my love of science fiction and space battles, very few of them fill the void in terms of character development and understanding. This series hits all the right chords and comes out in a wonderful melody. This chapter of Saga gets a solid 5/5 on all fronts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Podcast is coming back!

REMEMBER THIS THING?


So since I've been getting so many lovely comments and personal emails about the videos that we've been doing, I think it's time to bring back the Sequential Review Podcast. We recorded about three episodes previously, and left it alone for a year. All of them are available on iTunes for download, and if you want to subscribe I can promise you at least one new episode this week, maybe two.

Here's the overall plan for content from now on:

1. At least 1-2 written reviews a week by me, and 1-2 written reviews by other writers.

2. At least 1 video review/discussion a week.

3. At least 1 podcast episode where we review/discuss a book, movie, TV show, or topic.

Just trying to get more content out there for people to gobble up.

Try to remember that I might not always be able to deliver on all of this. I'm currently working as an Assistant Editor for Viper Comics, I've got a one-shot coming out from Visionary in May, and I'm producing other indie comics with great creative teams on the side. All the while writing reviews for the wonderful Cosmic Book News team.

Enjoy anything that does make its way on the site, and I look forward to your feedback!

-Kenny Porter

Swamp Thing #8 - Video Review

I review Swamp Thing #8 with Brandon Twa. Another great issue from another great series and creative team!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Animal Man #8 - Video Review

BAKER BITES BACK!

I sit down with fellow blogger Brandon Twa (who will soon be writing for Sequential Review) to talk about Animal Man #8.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Future DC Comics Movies - Part 2

WE CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT DC COMICS MOVIES

Part 2!

Future DC Comics Movies - Speculation Part 1

THE DC COMICS MOVIES TO COME . . . WE THINK



This is another fun discussion video (1/2) about future DC Comics movies and what we think would be fun to see on the big screen.

And no, we don't "hate" Superman, we just feel like he isn't written very well most of the time. Superman can be one of my favorite characters if he's done with heart, soul, and is powered down a little.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

iZombie #24 - Review

GET READY FOR GHOST DANCE!


If there’s something I’d like to devote money to in terms of literary research, it’s the connection between people who create comics and the people who love music culture. It seems that many creators and enthusiasts seem to have a cross over area with rock ‘n’ roll that should really be explored and discussed. But the people who get the attitude, tone, and lifestyle of rock ‘n’ roll comics down are definitely artists Mike Allred, Jim Rugg, and writer Chris Roberson.

Rugg and Roberson give us an issue of iZombie that’s a little less about Gwen and more about Agent Kennedy. We get a really fun trip down memory lane about a band with ties to a science fiction novelist, who also has ties to creatures from another universe. All of this is a recipe for cool on a scale that can’t even be measured.

The characters, art style, and even the fictional band, Ghost Dance, all feel authentic and very well crafted. Not only does the story move along at a wonderful pace, but it also pulls you in and makes you care about the end of the world and how it affects these characters.

Allred has proven he can add his rock ‘n’ roll attitude to just about any series and can make it a hit, but Roberson has taken Allred’s style and given it a really unique direction in the horror genre. Rugg brings his own touch to the style of iZombie in this installment and it really shines. I honestly had to fix this post because I thought Allred had done this issue as well. Luckily I was corrected by a very special individual. This issue gets a rockin’ 4/5 for knocking it out of the park and continuing the magic on one of Vertigo’s most stylish titles.

Invincible #90 - Review

HOLD THE CHORUS -- HERE COMES DINOSAURUS!


The one superhero comic book that amazes me every month went and did it again when it reached its 90th issue today. Not only is it a milestone for a creator-owned series like Invincible to reach that many issues, but it’s also a testament to an incredible creative team that keeps bringing something fresh to the rack every month. Kirkman and Ottley never skimp on story, art, and dare I say it, some of the best violence in town.

This issue found the new Invincible, formerly known as Bulletproof, taking on his first villain while being supported by Atom Eve back home. We also got some great scenes between Thragg and Dinosaurus, which ended in one of the most beautiful and violent fights between two characters that I’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, we get a look into what makes Mark so special in terms of his Viltrumite heritage.

I understand that many people have jumped on The Walking Dead train, and I think that’s great. Not only has the TV show opened people up the books, but also it’s really let the masses know that comic books don’t always have to be superheroes or big science fiction stories. What I hope happens in the near future is that people realize that Invincible is the superhero story that breaks the mold and that these types of characters can be just as compelling as in any other medium.

If you read Invincible already, this is another issue you can’t miss. If you used to read the series and dropped off at some point, this is a great time to jump back on. And if you’ve never read this comic book before and have been looking for a different take on a superhero universe, I just have one question – what are you waiting for?

This issue gets a 4.5/5.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - Speculation Video

A FUN VIDEO ABOUT THE UPCOMING FILM

I sit down with my friend and fellow Batman enthusiast John Orkis as we discuss the upcoming movie. No spoilers, just fun thoughts about the movie so far.