Thursday, 29 July 2010

What I Got and Why 29/07/10

Wowsers, them's some Slim Pickin's this week, but here we go anyway.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 - When I read that Brucie was coming back via a time travel adventure where he becomes Bat-Cave-Man, I thought they were joking. "That sounds fucking stupid!" Said I. Eventually curiousity got the better of me and I caved and bought #1, and I was pleasantly surprised. I tried the second because it was Frazer Irving, and before I knew it, I was actually quite into it. The fact that Johah Hex is guest starring in this issue doesn't hurt either.

Secret Avengers #3 - The Secret Avengers battle for the Serpent Crown on Mars. 'Nuff Said, True Believer!

I take it back a little about this week being slim pickings as I just picked up The Getaway Face, which is a lovely (and cheap) package, also I caught up on DV8: Gods and Monsters #4, which concentrates on super-douche Matthew Callahan, the c***-iest of the Deviants and I picked up American Vampire #5 which clears up the first story arc which I'll be talking about properly later.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Forgotten Heroes: Crimebuster

Action Ash
Most of you will recognise this character from the cover of Rage against the machine's second album Evil Empire. Trying to find the origin of the image once while bored I found out that it was originally painted by artist Mel Ramos as a portrait of the Golden Age comic book hero Crimebuster. I had never heard of this "Crimebuster" so, of course, it was straight to the google mobile.

Created by Charles Biro and Bob Wood for Boy Comics, Crimebuster was Chuck Chandler, who's father was killed by a Gestapo agent known as Iron Jaw. This was because the lower half of his face had been blown off and replaced by huge metal jaws (brutal, right?). So Chuck did what any young lad, shattered emotionally from the death of a parent, would do. He created a costume out of his Hockey uniform, got a pet monkey and went around beating up Nazis and criminals. You can check that out HERE (and don't ask me who the naked Greek mythology reject is on the first page, because I have no idea).

Later on he lost the cape and put on some slacks because his girlfriend said that she refused to be seen with him while he wore that ridiculous costume. Personally I'd have told her where to go, but that's just me.

I found all this out late last year, and had since forgotten about the character, until I came across this:

WTF? SRSLY! (click on picture to read the story)
This is truly a concept for a villain I haven't seen re-used. Literally half male, half female, split down the middle. This story had me laughing out loud at some points. Not just because of the freak of nature bad-guy, but because of certain bits of dialogue and the fact that the police commissioner switches from calm to bat-shit insane anger twice on page 9.

The Crimebuster stories seem to be a strange juxtaposed mix of child like antics, annoying comedy moments (mainly thanks to Squeeks, the pet monkey) and brutal violence all amidst dark scenarios, that certainly wouldn't be found in kids comics today. For instance, while swimming for safety he and his injured mother are shot at by German soldiers, one of which manages to glance a shot off of Chuck's melon, causing him to let go of his mother who in turn drowns.
Another example being, after his first attempt on Chuck's dad's life fails, Iron Jaw finds his victim in hospital, beats up a nurse and then slashes one of the poor guy's main arteries.
Sweet dreams kids!

I love Crimebuster and I have nothing more to say on the matter.

On second thoughts, in the words of the hero himself, I do have something to declare...

One, I don't like your face!

Two, I have a left and right to change it with!

p.s. A No-Prize to anyone who gets the reference in the He-She story to Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat. (Yeah, I read books too.)

Happy Birthday Krazy and Ignatz

It was on this day in 1910 that two famous comic strip characters made their debut in another comic strip. George Herrimen's The Dingbat Family was the starting block for his most famous creations Krazy Kat and Ignatz mouse.

At the bottom of each panel of the Dingbat's family's July 26th offering, another story was taking place, that of a mouse assaulting a cat by throwing something at it's head. This marked the beginning of something special.

George Herriman we salute you! - AA

Thursday, 22 July 2010

What I Got and Why 22/07/10

Atlas #3 - The third-to-last issue of Atlas, which is being cancelled at #5 because readers are dumb and Marvel would rather publish 17 different fucking Deadpool series' a month than something good. Adios Atlas, apparently you weren’t "random" enough, people would rather read about a shitty red ninja making dated pop culture references. Marvel and I are no longer BFFs.

Batman Streets Of Gotham #14 - To my mind, the best of the core Batman titles at the moment, using Batman sparingly to great effect, each storyline focussing on a different denizen of New York's ugly sister. This series is essentially a continuation of Paul Dini's superlative run on Detective Comics
prior to the whole Batman RIP fiasco. Very happy to see that although Man Hunter has finished, we're still getting back up stories.

Prince of Power #3 - Loving this series. It's not great value for money, but it made me laugh aloud on a rush hour train to Kings Cross. I looked like a right twat.

Hellblazer #269 - I’m really enjoying Hellblazer at the moment. This story is kicking the shit out of John, and with any good Hellblazer story, John's loss is the reader's Gain.

Walking Dead #75 - TWD twice in one month? Don't mind if I damn well do! The full-colour back up strip is a doozy that pays off something from #7!

I was hoping to get CBGB #1 but I couldn't see it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Muktuk Wolfsbreath: Hard-Boiled Shaman

Before some kind citizen bought me the Vertigo Encyclopaedia (or as I call it, The Shopping List) my only method of tracking down these hidden gems were in the in house ads or "On the Ledge" columns in older books that I already had, or just trawling through the long boxes in shops that still have them. One advert screamed out at me: "Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman: a supernatural detective story set in the Siberian Wilderness".

"To the Longbox Valhallahan!"

After much rooting through the longboxes, of the comic shops of London Town, I managed to find... nothing! No trace of it anywhere, and thus I discovered that Muktuk Wolfsbreath is truly a bitch to find. Eventually, though I’m loathe to, I sought out the book shop wot lives in the internet and after about a year on a waiting list, the universe decided to spew up a few full sets at a reasonable price. I ordered and impatiently waited. The setting of the story is intentionally vague, but it’s safe to say it’s a long time gone. It’s reindeer skin and dog sled times.

Muktuk is a grizzled old Shaman, living in a yurt out in the Siberian wilderness, a sort of deer skinned John Constantine; a cross between Sam Spade, Doctor Strange and Grizzly Adams. Muktuk’s only real companion is his cranky (and generally slightly sozzled) animal spirit guide. Using his wits, general distrusting nature and all kinds of potions, lotions and hallucinogens, he gets himself in and out of some nasty business involving a mysterious ex-squeeze and some supernatural unpleasantness. Sensing a disturbance in the force, so to speak, Muktuk goes on the look out for the source of these nightmares, and bumps into the aforementioned old flame in a nearby settlement with a dark secret.

I like the representation of Magic in this story, it’s all psychotropics and talismans (talismen?) animal guides, and trips to the spirit world. The characterisations are a pleasure to read, it’s just a shame that there doesn’t seem to be more Muktuk available (though I’ll keep looking). The juxtaposition of the Film Noir genre elements and the tribal setting are a masterstroke that sit so well with each other that it makes you wonder why no one else has done it so successfully. To me it is much more effective than something like Northlanders, where I find the anachronistic elements detract from the story. The art is pitched at a great level, conveying the stark realities of living in the frozen countryside and the fantasism of Muktuk’s other world with equal aplomb (yeah, that’s right, juxtaposition and aplomb in the same paragraph. I’ve got a degree don’cha know).

Essentially what I’m saying is it's fucking good and it’s fucking weird. Catch it if you can!

Four and a half Shamonic Siberian Speedballs out of five.

**Update: I found another strip online. The hunt continues...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

X-Women: Like X-Men but European and Pornier

Story by Chris Claremont
Art by Milo Manara

As you may know, Marvel has branded 2010 it's "Year of Women" and have decided to spotlight the other half of the global population for a change, which has mainly consisted of one-shots and mini series spotlighting women creators and/or characters; It's an odd thing; a slightly patronising concept that has yielded some nonsense, and some internet chatter, but mainly some pretty decent comic books. I found Girl Comics to be hit and miss, but what anthology isn't? And the recent Namora One-Shot was pretty good despite it being another fucking submarine story. I skipped on Heralds and Firestar, but what I've seen of the artwork has me regretting that, and I hear Dazzler was fun. The less said about Her-oes the better.

Anyway... This brings us to X-Women; A kind of a cheat because it was commissioned by Marvel's European publishers, and reprinted here. It's a One shot by legendary X-Men scribe Chis Claremont and drawn by popular European artist Milo Manara. The story sta- Waitafugginminute! Did that say Milo Manara? Italian porno comics Milo Manara? Vatican erotica Milo Manara? "The Smutty Sexcapades of the Invisible Nympho" Milo Manara? Doing X Men... With Chris Claremont?

That makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

So obviously I bought it

I must admit that being a naturally curious and red bloodedly pretentious teen it was not my first encounter with Manara's work, but certainly the tamest. I won’t get into it too much now, but I am of the opinion that editors are good. Editors are needed. And sometimes a little self censorship. Look at the work produced by Warren Ellis for example; arguably his best work is done when he has to behave and try and write a story that can be printed by a mainstream company. Does anyone but the die hard read all his Avatar Press stuff?*

So enough about the creative team, is it any good? Yes it is actually. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot is... I forget. Basically it's an excuse for an eastern adventure romp; beautiful women, exotic locations, roguishly charming pirates and naughty villains whao are probably foreign. The X-Women are cast as (somewhat more nubile) Tintins trying to stop Nefarious McBadgirl from launching her deadly McGuffinator in deepest darkest Madripoor. Manara excels drawing the exotic locales and shockingly, the action sequences. The underlying perviness does detract from it a bit, but it's more because you know Manara's previous form (I think it's worth noting that they don’t have a list of his other publications alongside Joe Quesada’s Afterword). It really made me want to read some more non-porn Manara.

Oh, I almost forgot the sheer lameness of the Storm as Tina Turner karaoke scene. Cringe.

Two pasties, a clam shell and a fascinator out of a possible full frontal.

*Answer: No

What I Got and Why 15/07/10

After a lacklustre week a couple of weeks ago and an I-spent-all-my-money-at-Gypsy-Hotel-so-couldn’t-buy-comics week the week after that, I'm here once again with a what I got and Why, which strangely has no overlap with Action Ash's. Okeydokey, here we...

Sweet Tooth #11 - Continuing to be intriguing and exciting and charmingly disturbing.

Scalped #39 - ‘Nuff Said.

X-Women - Novelty Value. See Review.

iZombie #3 - I’m really just getting this for the art. The story has enough to keep me interested, but some of the cutesy stuff like the were-terrier would normally be a big turn off for me.

Gorilla Man #1 - I was explaining this one in the pub: "It’s a man who's been turned into a gorilla, who's also a secret agent fighting a man with talking tumours of his ancestors for the head of Lucretia Borgia". That shit just sells itself.

The Walking Dead #74 - I heartily recommend this series to everyone. Start at book one and see if you can stop yourself from reading the lot. 74 issues and still going strong.

Jonah Hex #57 - I actually managed to get a copy this week which is nice, and it’s a Jordi Bernett issue so win/win! Thank you Orbital, now I've got my mean disfigured sonofabitch quota for the week without having to set foot in my local.

Daytripper #8 - This has been a great series. Interesting premise, lovely art, it's kind of pretentious, but really worth your time. This is a great alternative to superheroes and crime fiction.

I would be getting Shadowland, but a combination of Billy Tan art and not having finished Brubaker's DD run mean I’m just going to borrow it of Ash. Nice Cassaday covers though. I meant to get Scarlet, but I clearly wasn't that bothered as I forgot to look for it in either of the shops I went to.

Monday, 19 July 2010

God Hates Nerds? San Diego Westboro Special!

Them crazy backwards hate mongers at Westboro Baptist Church seem to have their sights on us geeks this year, having clearly decided that the US military are too fucking hard they're aiming to share their own brand of Christianity and their homespun homophobia with us comic book readers. Because God Hates Nerds!

Obvious really.

Having seen this image in the article I read about the proposed picket of San Diego Comic Con something about the sign struck me as peculiar. I've read ROM #9 and I don't remember any of that on page 13. Let's have a look.

See? No reference whatsoever. It's clearly ROM fighting Serpentyne for the right to slay wraiths on Earth.

I bet they feel silly now.

Friday, 16 July 2010

The Mystery of Jet-Man Comics No10 - An Action Ash adventure

Earlier today, while in my local comic shop, I was routing through the back issues and came across a fairly old and interesting looking comic. It was called Jet-Man Comics No10. After closer inspection I found it was from 1946. It was the oldest comic I'd ever seen let alone touched, however it wasn't worth much, being British reprints of American material.

It contained the following:

Rocketman -Exactly what it sounds like. A man with a rocket on his back that fights crime. He also has a sidekick called Rocketgirl. Technically they were portrayed more like an equal team but obviously, being a woman, she's not good enough to be billed in the title. (JOKE! Before I start getting e-mails claiming I'm misogynist.)

Master Key - A rich playboy who has X-ray vision and fires beams of light that seem to burn from his eyes.

Happy Landing - Comedy about a soldier on leave visiting his girlfriend.

Johnny on the spot - A kid who happens to come across crime and then combats it with his gimpy friends.

And last of all Punch and Cutey - The adventures of a dim witted boxer and his tough nut sister.

There were also two prose one pagers in there titled Loan Shark Bait and Six Shooter Surprise.

Did you notice something?
That's right, no sign of the titular character, the aforementioned Jet-Man. I was intrigued and had to purchase this strange gem. The small print in the back of the book claimed it was Unusual Comics #2, so when I was at home with the magic of the Internet at hand, I began investigating.

After extensive searching I found something out. Neither Jet-Man nor Unusual Comics seemed to exist! This was strange when you consider the fact that even the most obscure comic books and characters from the Golden Age have at least a small paragraph of info on the Net. I was just about to give up when the results of a google search of character names from this enigmatic book, yielded an intriguing result. All of the characters had appeared together in Punch Comics.

Digging further I found the list of all the stories from the strange comic I now owned, and they were all in the same issue. Punch Comics #16. I'd found it! I had solved the mystery. I had a copy of Punch Comics #16 with the wrong cover and minus a story named Speedy Wheeler Saves the Day and Wins a Bike.

Yet the biggest mystery remains unsolved: Who is Jet-Man?

I wonder if I'll ever know. - AA

What I got and Why

Action Ash
I thought I'd do a 'what I got and why' this week, because I want to and you can't stop me.

Amazing Spider-man #637 - Loving the Grim Hunt, as everyone knows because I keep banging on about it. This has definitely got me back into Spider-man, and I can't wait to see how it ends.

Hawks of Outremer #2 - I've already read this one and enjoyed it. Not as much as I liked the first one but I could tell this ish was needed to help the story along. Also now Cormac has a companion so it will be interesting to see what kind of bloody havoc they wreak together.

Daredevil #508 - Not a regular reader of this but I wanted to follow the Shadowland storyline. The art looks nice and I'll probably follow it at least until Shadowland is over.

Conan #22 - The second Howard inspired title this week. Been following this since issue 0. It got a bit boring a little while back but now it's picking up again. This is the start of a new story arc.

X-Men Second Coming #2 - Final part of Second Coming. It's been a fun ride but now it's time to end.

Mystery Society #2 - The art in the first one was great but I wasn't sure if the story was interesting enough. So I intend to find out. Hopefully it's good.

X-Force: Sex and Violence #1
- The current X-Force run has yet to disappoint me so I couldn't pass up this lovely looking package.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Joker's Asylum 2

I'm a big fan of Batman, but not a regular reader, I tend to go for things on the periphery of the Bat-Mythos, like Gotham Central so when DC put out The Joker's Asylum One-Shots the other year, I was totally the target market. I picked them up, and unsurprisingly they were a mixed bag, but on the whole they were pretty good reads. In 2008 they put out single issues for The Joker (odd), The Penguin (good), The Scare Crow (intriguing), Two Face (experimental) and Poison Ivy (shite). And here I am happy to see they've come back again this year with another five stories, this time focusing on a different five villains. Looking at the list you can see that they used up the A-List on the last go round unfortunately, but I still figured I'd give it a try so I roped in my trusty Co-Bad Guy to assist in this endeavour. Here’s our twopenneth:

The Riddler - The Riddler has always been one of my least favourite members of Batman‘s rogues gallery, so it was with very little enthusiasm that I picked up this issue. I’m glad I did though, because it’s quite an interesting concept for a story. The entire book is a riddle, which like last year’s Two Face story leaves the ending up to the reader. I imagine this can be quite frustrating, but it’s also fun. This does have the unfortunate side effect of making the reader feel like a right thicko if they don’t guess the mystery man in the story. My guess is Two-Face by the way. VH

Harley Quinn - Harley is a fun, enjoyable and amusing character, but she's also a psycho killer. That seems to be what people forget. That's exactly what this story does. It concentrates on her wacky side with a pointless, kind of fun, little adventure and ignores the more interesting, darker side of the character. It's a shame because it could have been nice to see her as something other than the comic relief sidekick of the Joker. It was fun, but ultimately pointless. AA

The Mad Hatter - This book, like the Riddler and last year’s Penguin stories show the character falling in love. This is the sweet tale of one man’s all-consuming obsessive and potentially murderous obsession with an innocently oblivious stranger. This is The Hatter at his absolute creepiest, with suitably demented art from the partnership of Keith Giffen and Billl Sienkovicz (though I would’ve liked to see Seinkovicz on his own). VH

Clayface - Clayface is another character I've never had any real fondness for; I like Batman's villains to be mobsters, crooks and serial killers; shape-shifting mud-men? No thanks, take 'em to Metropolis. Too Sci-Fi by half. If it weren't for a sense of completion and the promise of Kelley Jones Art I probably wouldn't buy it. So I didn't. VH

I, on the other hand, like the idea of Clayface. I like the way Batman's rogue gallery ranges from drug dealing mobsters to crazy Sci-Fi shape-shifting mudmen and violent cannibalistc reptile men (which I will discuss next). Afterall, he does live in a world that revolves around superheroes. The story is a good and interesting one and the ending is surprising because *Highlight for Spoilers* Clayface actually wins, in a manner of speaking, and manages to escape.
Kelley Jones is the man! His art in this book is fantastic as usual. AA

Killer Croc - Is another character I like the idea of but know little about. This tale was good. Not amazing, not shit, but good. It just feels like I will of forgotten about it in a few days. It's not terribly original in execution with the cliche ending ("They're the monsters not me"), however it does keep your interest, even though you can see the twist (if you can call it that) coming. Visuals are pleasing and work well with the story. I think they could have done something more interesting with the character and story, they way they did with The Riddler and Two Face. AA

Friday, 2 July 2010

Makes you wonder, Wonder Woman!

Yeah... I’m not a fan.

I'm all for having alternate looks. If it weren't for sartorial changes, we'd still have a massive-eared, purple gloved Batman, a Grey Hulk, Steam Punk Iron Man, Red and Yellow Dare Devil and Top Hat Dead Shot to name a few. On the other hand, we'd never have had Blue Superman, Armoured Spider-Man, Red Superman, Armoured Dare Devil, Mullet Superman, Armoured Captain America, Punk Superman or Armoured John Constantine... OK, I made the last two up.

Sometimes these things work and are taken on permanently, like the aforementioned Dare Devil's full red unitard, sometimes they work for a little while, but clearly have a shelf life, like Spidey's Black Costume, or Bucky-Cap. Oddest of all are the characters that are always changing their looks, like The Wasp or the ever changing Iron Man Armours, or I dunno, all people ever. I'm not even mentioning Hank Pym, Marvel's answer to Mr Benn.

DC want to shake up Wonder Woman for the new decade - new costume, new (dubious sounding) origin. They've tried to make the costume hip, 'Now' and edgy, so they've gone to the cutting edge, renowned fashion-forward costume designer... Jim Lee? WTF? Now when marvel wanted to make a statement about super women's fashion, they hired "Shawn Dudley, the Emmy-Award Winning Costume Designer for TV's Guiding Light". Now, I don’t know what Guiding Light is, but I know what an award winning costume designer is, and what it is, is a better idea than hiring Jim "just add a jacket and some straps" Lee, even if he is your new Co-Publisher.

This Wonder Woman design isn't awful, but it's a flash in the pan if ever I saw one, and a foolish one too. I mean the original is ridiculous and impractical, but damn, it's iconic! It's fantastically kitch. This new one seems like a cross between 90s Avengers Costumes and Buffy the Budget TV Show Super Hero (I think that's what the show was called). No fucker's going to buy merch from that.