Mars Attacks #1, #2, #3, #4
Writer: John Layman
Artist: John McCrea
When I first told Jose I was reviewing Mars Attacks #1, #2, #3 and #4 for this week’s IMJ Capsule Reviews™, I got silence. It was at this moment I wondered whether I should torture him a little and start making up negative things about the series. A little back story for newcomers: Jose really likes John Layman. He loves Layman’s fantastic Chew comic and John has always been super swell to him both personally and professionally. And while Jose has never come right out and said anything, there was almost an unspoken pact between us that if anyone ever reviewed Chew— or any other Layman project– on Inveterate Media Junkies… It would be Jose Melendez.
But like I said, he’s never said anything like that to me (and he never would)… But I knew when I decided to review Layman’s Mars Attacks, I could have some impish fun. But I didn’t. Instead I just said, “I really enjoyed the book.” Pseudo crisis averted. The fact is, while Jose and I are most definitely two completely different people, we usually think the exact same thing about entertainment projects… Even if we get to our shared opinions from extremely different origin points.
For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever read a John Layman written comic I didn’t like… I even liked his Godzilla Graphic Novel Gangsters and Goliaths. (And I’ve barely tolerated any of IDW’s Godzilla comics to date.) Layman is one of those rare talents who has taken his ascension slow… Focused on his maintaining the quality of his core hit creation and is just now branching out to lend his talent to significant work for hire projects. (Layman’s Detective Comics stint begins October 3rd with Issue #13.)
I’m glad I read Mars Attacks for a variety of reasons. Number one, I’m happy to finally be lauding one of their licensed comics. I don’t read GI Joe comics with enthusiasm, never gotten around to reading my True Blood Hardcovers and will be the first to admit I have been more than harsh about their Angel and Spike books (even if I feel they still deserve every negative thing I ever wrote about them). I have applauded their comic strip collections numerous times… But praising classic comic strips is easy. I’m just glad to really, really be enjoying one of their comics for once.
Being a big fan of Tim Burton’s movie adaptation (yes, it was awfully draggy in spots– all Burton movies are), I was glad to see Layman bring the same sense of lunacy to the comics… Even if his brand of “Holy Crap!” moments are much more cogent and understandable than almost anything Burton put on film. The only thing I miss with the IDW comic, of course, is hearing the loud “Nack, Nyack, Nak-Nak!” sounds emanating from the Martians’ space suits. Otherwise, Layman’s Mars Attacks is better than the film in every way.
Another thing Layman does to perfection: He forgets the movie exists and writes the book from the perspective of the classic Topps Trading Cards that spawned all these adaptations. And when I say he uses the cards– I mean he draws his story inspiration directly from the images on the cards– and even has artist John McCrea drawn card recreations for every story. Writing a coherent, exciting tale based on Trading Cards first printed in 1962 requires a massive amount of organization. This kind of excellent pre-planning should come as no surprise to Layman fans, since he long ago announced he knew how Chew would end– and that he’d always envisioned an exact stop date for that comic.
But to also write this series with the same verve and sweat equity of a creator-owned property? That was unexpected.
John McCrea turns in the best art of his career. McCrea’s strong lines seem to really benefit from the new computerized coloring systems. Compare his Mars Attacks work to his Hitman stint: While I know the two series are almost a decade apart, McCrea’s pencils are softened by the new coloring techniques. His take on the Martians are much in keeping with the card series as well… But McCrea has found a way to make his big-brained “greenies” look even more evocative, ominous and dangerous looking.
Combine the art with a fantastically inventive story and you have a devilishly fun, entertaining comic book. I have no idea how well this title is (or isn’t) selling… But it should be moving boatloads. For the techies reading this review, Comixology back issues are also a bargain. While new books are priced at $3.99, back issues go for a much more reasonable $1.99 each. For the quality you’re getting, that’s money well spent in today’s comic book market.
You’ll rarely, if ever, see me state a $3.99 comic is worth the money. You’ve also never seen this high of a rating from me either! – Ian MacMillan
Adventure Time #8
Writers: Ryan North, Frank Gibson
Artists: Brandon Lamb, Shelli Paroline, Becky Dreistadt
I wanted to check this book out for two reasons: I’m a fan of the show and I’ve wanted to get my nephew (and possibly even my niece) into comics. If anything, young kids are the ultimate consumer because this medium is all new to them. When I opened up the comic and read the first page, I realized Adventure Time is not a book you should use to introduce kids to comics. I was plopped down in the middle of a story that began (at the very least) in the last issue. I, as an adult, was confused– even though I have a working knowledge of the show and (hopefully) more comprehensive skills than a child.
But that isn’t to say AT #8 was a bad comic. If you are a fan of the Adventure Time show on Cartoon Network… Or just love silly, absurd cartoons and comics– then AT is a great comic. There were a number of points in the story where I was laughing and having a great time. Few licensed comics feel like the show, movie or game they’re tied to. Adventure Time feels just like the cartoon.
I think I could become a fan of this comic as much as I am a fan of the animated series. But I do wish these All Ages comics really understood that you can’t just make certain the content is for kids… You have to make certain the entire experience is. Most kids don’t have any patience. To drag a comic book story out over THREE MONTHS or more is going to turn them off.
If KABOOM! would fill Adventure Time with one-and-done stories– or two complete stories like the show… I think AT could easily be the best gateway comic this industry has seen in a long, long time. – W.D. Prescott
Sabertooth Reborn Chapter 4: Revolution
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Simone Bianchi
This week I’ll be taking a look at two very different types of superhero comics. As far as “fights in tights” comics go, one is– and has been for years– the best it is at what it does and the other is… Wolverine #313.
For those of you who have only been reading comics for the past few years– believe it or not– Wolverine actually used to be a very cool character. Back in the day he only starred in one comic: Uncanny X-Men. When he would show up in other comics like Web of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk— those issues were events all by themselves. Not only was he a bad ass but his history was a complete mystery to readers. His past being shrouded in mystery was a huge part of the character’s appeal… Wolverine was a friend and a comrade in arms and a time bomb ready to explode in your face.
And then Marvel began publishing an anthology book titled Marvel Comics Presents. Each issue featured 4 different superheroes and with Issue #1, Wolverine was always one of those heroes. This title featured Weapon X, the biggest story anyone had ever written about Wolverine’s past. Shortly thereafter, Wolverine got his own comic. He then went on to be featured in Jim Lee’s X-Men. From there, things got more than a bit out of control– until he somehow also wound up as a member of the Avengers. Somewhere in-between, Wolvie’s past went from being a well-kept secret to a convoluted, over explained mess.
Also, for those of you who have only been reading comics for the past few years– believe it or not– Jeph Loeb actually used to be a decent comic book writer. He used to tell competent and somewhat enjoyable stories. He went from writing titles like Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-Man: Blue to writing atrocities like Onslaught Reborn, Rulk, Ultimates 3, Ultimatum, Avengers: X-Sanction, New Ultimates and, now, Wolverine.
Wolverine #313 is one of the most worthless comics ever created. This book, at times, insulted me both as a reader and as someone with an average level of intelligence. I kid you not when I say this comic is written at a 5th grade reading level… And even then I’m afraid I may be giving Loeb’s script too much credit.
There is nothing wrong with a comic being written for a 5th grader– if the audience you are trying to attract are indeed 11-year-olds. But that’s not the case here. I know this because in between all of the mind numbing dialogue and unnecessary violence, there was plenty of unsettling– some would say completely immature– instances of sexuality on display. Oh, I also know Wolverine #313 wasn’t written for children because of the Parental Advisory warning on the fucking cover.
This comic feels like it was written for the sole purpose of collecting a paycheck, nothing more. There is absolutely no heart or creativity to be found in it whatsoever. Comic fans should feel angered that Marvel thinks so little of them, when they will easily take their money for what is obviously a shit product. This substandard writing should never had made it past the desk of a single editor without someone demanding massive rewrites. And if the final script is actually a result of massive rewrites, god help us all.
I don’t know which is worse: The fact that Marvel paid Loeb (quite handsomely I’m sure) to write this shit knowing full well how awful it was or that there are adults out there who actually enjoy the amateurish story being fed them and gladly will pay four bucks a pop for more.
By the way, this issue explains that Logan was responsible for the entire Weapon X program. It was all his idea. You can thank Jeph Loeb for that gem next time you see him. If Wolverine hadn’t already been damaged beyond repair, that nugget of info may have miffed me a bit. – Jose Melendez
The Goon #42
The Bog Lurk That Lurked Like a Thing!
A Bad Thing!
Writers: Eric Powell, Tom Sniegoski
Artists: Eric Powell, Mark Buckingham
“The nameless man, the zombie priest, had come to town to build a gang from the undead. But even the Undead fear… THE GOON.”
That is the back story creator Eric Powell prints at the beginning of every issue of The Goon. And goddamnit, that’s all you need to enjoy any single issue. The Goon is a big man who leads a simple life of beer, women, and monster killin’… And if you have never read this book, it’s high time to change that.
This comic has everything a reader could want in a single issue of a comic: Anyone can pick it up and understand it, it’s very funny and the art is unique and drawn extremely well. There’s an overarching thread to the comic but each issue is packed with craziness– and you always get a one-and-done story. There is never any story decompression… But there is always excellent satire.
In Issue #42, the Goon is attempting to rig a boxing match– so he can bet and make a bunch of money. A sleazy boxing promoter is out to stop the Goon by helping the underdog put a spell on our hero… While a bunch of creepy Powell-designed monsters try to warn and kill the Goon at the same time. As usual, the Goon kicks ass– and I laugh through the whole story. The boxing match goes off without a hitch (as much as that’s possible for any plan devised by the Goon).
Franky, the Goon’s best friend, is always ready to poke fun at the situations they find themselves in– and this issue is no different. Powell does a great job of presenting “Funny Horror” in an original way… And we even get a bonus glimpse of the Zombie Priest at the end of the book– which was fun, since we haven’t seen him in the last couple issues.
The Goon #42 also gives us a treat by snagging Mark Buckingham (the exemplary artist of Fables) to draw a back-up tale. I love how Eric Powell does his best to give you your money’s worth with every issue. The back-up is a good story but the art is amazing. It’s really fun to see the Goon drawn in Buckingham’s style.
The entire issue is a bucket o’ fun. It’s always nice to play in the world of The Goon. I have read this comic for about 6 years now– longer than almost all the other books I currently read. Issues only come out bi-monthly– so the comic is never a huge hit to the budget and always entertaining. – Tom Devine
Captain Marvel #4
Out of Sight… Out of Time?
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artists: Dexter Soy, Al Barrionuevo
Reading Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel #4 after thoroughly enjoying four issues of John Layman’s Mars Attacks was literally like taking a slippery slide from the Penthouse to the Shithouse. Too harsh? Screw that noise. I don’t know if I possess enough adjectives to appropriately harsh on this book.
From the very first panel, it’s obvious Captain Marvel #4 was not written expecting any new readers to purchase it. I rarely understood what was really going on… And there was virtually no attempt to help me. Even though I shouldn’t have to, I usually go back and buy the last few issues of a book to better understand the issue I am reviewing… But I looked at the Comixology previews for Captain Marvel #1-#3 and I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase them. Dexter Soy’s art in those comics– using a completely different, overwrought and messy technique– was absolutely horrible… Much worse than the really lame art in Issue #4. So I couldn’t justify the expense of buying more back issues to only have them lead me to the same conclusions I’d already made by reading #4. (Plus Marvel doesn’t discount recent digital back issues like many publishers do. I’m sure this makes comic shop owners happy… But I place this piss-poor decision firmly in the “GREED” category– since Marvel hasn’t seemed comic book retailer friendly for decades.)
DeConnick’s script– besides being poorly drawn by artists Dexter Soy and Al Barrionuevo— was full of cliche ridden plot and dialogue. The time travel aspects were sketchy, confusing and poorly exploited. Every character spoke like every other character. The “Flygirls” (woman pilots from– I’m guessing– Word War II) were equally cardboard and unbelievable… Never fully realized as real, breathing people from that war-torn era. The whole comic was an utter mess… A complete epic fail.
Finally, Captain Marvel’s new costume sucks. It’s a horrible reinterpretation of Mar-vell’s classic suit. (It defies comprehension how the publisher found any “letters” from actual “fans” expressing their love for it in this issue’s letter column.)
You know what I really miss? Brian Reed’s take on Ms. Marvel. That Carol Danvers was a strong, vital woman with tons of character and wit.
This Captain Marvel couldn’t shine that Ms. Marvel’s boots. – Ian MacMillan
Blood Communion Part 2
Writers: Clive Barker, Mark Miller
Artists: Janusz Ordon, Jesús Hervás, Marcio Henrique
I have been enjoying this comic ever since I returned to the hobby. The one thing that really upsets me: Unless you jumped on with Issue #1, even the most avid Clive Barker or Hellraiser fan will have a hard time figuring out this story. I’m really interested in finding out more about the production of this series… And I wonder if Clive Barker wrote the entire story, then left it to a comic book writer to turn into single issues.
The pacing of this issue (and the ones before it) seems to support this theory. There’s a lot going on in Hellraiser #18. There’s so much happening simultaneously, the narrative jostles between several sub-plots… As if the writers suffer from ADD. Similar to my Ghost #0 review from last week, I need to see a progression in a story to feel satisfied.
The main plot– featuring Kirsty Cotton attempting to fight ex-Pinhead Elliot Spencer— is excellent and the Hellraiser mythos is all the richer for it. About half of this issue is devoted to this ongoing struggle– while the other twelve pages focus on the other sub-plots, chopping up the main narrative and playing havoc with the story’s cohesion. If Barker and Miller had just focused on Kirsty and Leviathan for the entire issue, this would have easily been a four star comic book.
The quality art helps this series tremendously… And emphasizes the Clive Barker aesthetic on every page. If you’ve watched any of the Hellraiser films or read Barker’s The Hellbound Heart— the images evoked in those projects would sync well with the comic art of Janusz Ordon, Jesús Hervás and Marcio Henrique. There were even two pages I would love to have as lithographs hanging in a future study I plan to own.
All that noted, I still hope for the story to get back on track and focus more on the main narrative. In that sense, Hellraiser #18 did much better than the previous two issues. I mention this again because, with a few tweaks, there is a potential for this comic to be one of the best series being published. But they’re coming up on the two-year mark and there still hasn’t been a good jumping on point for the series anywhere– and I think that’s a major problem. Sure, people can buy the trades but I’m not sure they are ever up to the current story arc. Even one missed comic in this complex series can create confusion. – W.D. Prescott
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artists: Ryan Ottley, Cory Walker
Invincible has pretty much been the best superhero comic on the market ever since its’ first issue shipped. This is a series I have always recommended to people who have grown tired of superhero comics in general. It’s also a comic I’ve recommended to people who strictly read indie books and have never given superheroes a try. Almost everyone who tried the first Invincible trade (Family Matters) eventually came back for more until they were caught up to the latest issue. It really is a title that anyone can get into and enjoy– as long as they love and appreciate quality comics.
For years Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley and Cory Walker have produced what is THE superhero comic that all other superhero comics should be compared to. The best part? To get the whole story, you only have to buy every issue of the Invincible comic. Sure, there have been a couple of spin-off books here and there– but everything important that has ever happened to Mark Grayson/Invincible has happened IN the Invincible book… Not in some tie-in or massive company crossover.
Novel idea, I know.
The title also has one of the best supporting casts ever created. To exemplify this, Mark Grayson is not in one single panel of Invincible #95. The entire issue is devoted to two supporting characters who have been around since the beginning: Rex/Robot and Amanda/Monster Girl. The growth and development of these characters over the years has been amazing. But then again, every character in this series has always been handled in that manner. No matter who is the focus of this comic, Kirkman and regular series artist Ryan Ottley always do their best to make it a story worth reading.
Unfortunately, there is not much in Invincible #95 for new readers– but for those who’ve been around for a while, it’s a story that’s been waiting to be told for over a year. I get the feeling Kirkman is flitting around the Invincible Universe tying up loose ends–before we get into the big story that will lead into Issue #100.
One last thing about Invincible: Like Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, anything can happen at any time to any of the characters in this comic. It’s a title that has its own rule book and doesn’t answer to any company mandate. I never know whether a new issue will make me laugh or rip my heart out… But Kirkman’s writing is always entertaining, thoughtful and interesting– while Ottley’s art continues to be some of the best you will find in any American comic. And when Invincible co-creator Cory Walker stops by every once in a while to help on art chores, it makes this book even more of a must buy for any superhero comic fan. – Jose Melendez
All Star Western #0
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Here I am again, praising another Jimmy Palmiotti/Justin Gray comic. I promise I don’t get bribes for all these breathlessly positive reviews… And I swear, if this comic sucked balls– I’d say so.
But there’s no harm or foul here. In fact, All Star Western #0 may very well be the best Jonah Hex comic of the New 52 era. Why? Because it’s primarily a Hex origin story not set in Gotham City… And that’s exactly where this comic needs to go– back to the wild West… Away from the grimy city that would eventually spawn the Batman… Even if the conceit of having Hex live in an early Gotham is a cool idea.
But I believe Hex belongs in wide open spaces. I’m not saying this to knock the current comic– just adding my two bits in hopes the DC Powers That Be will get their heads out of their asses, realize that having Hex in Gotham is tangentially positive at best… And let Hex hit the dusty trail again.
At least All Star Western #0 fulfills DC’s Zero Issue mandate– giving us Hex’s origin. (Of course, long-term readers have seen this origin told before, in greater detail.) And even though it’s repetitive for me (as a huge Hex fan), I’m happy as a pig in shit Palmiotti and Gray didn’t change anything. Normally, I would be apoplectic at spending $3.99 (for a digital version, no less) of something I’ve seen several times before… But I’m just glad DC didn’t dictate any new wrinkles to the origin. I had visions of all kinds of hi-jinks being added– as the DC crew sat around attempting to figure out how to make Hex’s early life more riveting– especially since the original story is filled with more than enough drama, pathos and heartbreak.
At 30 pages, the comic felt like a bargain. Moritat (already a legend to Elephantmen fans) draws the issue with verve and excitement– like he’s never seen or heard of a Hex origin before. His layouts are clean, yet dynamic. You really feel the pain the young Hex endures. Gray & Palmiotti even devise a way to throw in several pages of current continuity as well… A nice extra for loyal fans who are already familiar with Hex’s sad upbringing.
Mike Atiyeh deserves special mention for his color work. His tones are vibrant and muted where they need to be and serve to upgrade everyone’s efforts. (His stormy Gotham sky in the background of the last page splash is particularly striking.)
All in all, a great comic. If you’ve never read Hex’s origin before, you’re in for a special treat. If you’ve been there, done that– you’ll still enjoy it. – Ian MacMillan
Justice League Dark #0
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Cam Smith, Jack Purcell,
Scott Hanna, Walden Wong
I think all four of us have talked about the mixed bag that has been DC’s Zero Month. Some comics are actual origin stories and some are just past events in the character’s lives– usually before they’ve come out of the Superhero Closet. The one thing all the comics seem to do: Setup next year’s story lines. Justice League Dark #0 was simply that… And it was kinda interesting so see how John Constantine and Zatanna started out in the New 52.
I’m really split on this comic. On one hand, there was probably more Constantine character development in this one comic than the entire JLD series so far. On the other hand, there was nothing new– except the reveal of the bad guy’s identity… Which was a completely wrong move. The question of the villain’s identity was one of the dramatic forces driving the current arc. I was hoping for a big reveal at the climax of the story… But instead we get this spoiler issue… Which makes me wonder if the following issues will be filled with nothing other than mindless action. I’m not sure if any of the other zero issues had this kind of spoiler in it– but I think this puts another black mark on a series that already seems to be suffering from unsteady sales and underwhelming reader enthusiasm.
If you look at the issue by itself, Jeff Lemire’s script is as strong as any he’s written since jumping on board. The art is take it or leave it mediocre. It doesn’t seem like many of the zero issues had the same art team as the regular series and Justice League Dark #0 art was blandly generic– even for modern superhero comics. This comic fares much worse when put in the context of the entire series. Overall, it seemed superfluous, with an ill-timed spoiler. – W.D. Prescott
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
The second I heard Grant Morrison (the Greatest Comic Book Writer Still Writing Comics) and Darick Robertson (one of the Best Artists in the Industry) were getting together to create a four-part crime story revolving around a man and his imaginary friend, I got excited. Happy, even. The more I think about it, I imagine the news of Morrison’s first Image Comics work was more than enough to get most fans excited.
This first issue starts in typical chaotic Morrison fashion. Two stereotypical Italian gangsters are about to kill some guy. As they head towards an apartment building, a very intoxicated Santa Claus bumps into one of the men– causing a little scene where the two hitmen curse out Santa. Tempers continue to flare as the hitmen get to the building’s entryway, and they argue about not swearing so much– using the most vulgar language imaginable. (Remember this is a Morrison comic– things only make sense in a non-sensical way). They head up the stairs and bust in– to find their mark wearing a giant Alien-like bug costume while enjoying the, er, “company” of a lady. They shoot the guy in the eye and leave.
The whole time this hit unfolds, I am enjoying the crudest language I have ever read from Grant Morrison. For example, there are three uses of the “C Word” on just the first page. And while this entire scene doesn’t involve one main character from the book… It really does a lot to set the series’ tone.
The foul-mouthed dialogue continues as we meet the main character– an ex-cop in the middle of some crazy mob stuff. We’re also introduced to the ex-cop’s imaginary friend, who takes the form of a cartoonish flying blue unicorn. As you can tell, the themes in this comic are quite ridiculous, yet very straight forward for Morrison. We get a linear crime story with a blue unicorn as a kicker. The vulgar language is a perfect contradiction to the imaginary friend– who is very cute and pleasant-looking… Like something my 2-year-old daughter would snuggle with while napping. This stark contrast helps give the comic an edge and an original feel.
Happy! is a must buy… Another touchdown for Image Comics. Morrison has announced he’s done writing for DC after he finishes with Batman and one other project. It’ll be interesting to see if we get more Image comics from him.
If you are one of those weirdos that doesn’t like Grant Morrison comics, you probably won’t agree with my review either. But pick up the book for the great art. No one does a bullet to the forehead better than Robertson. – Tom Devine