RATING RECENT READS
❤ = LOVE
☠ = EXTREME DISLIKE
☃ = INDIFFERENCE
It’s simple: a GREEN HEART means I loved the book, a RED SKULL & CROSSBONES means I extremely disliked the book (I attempt to reserve the word HATE for things I truly hate– and I try not to hate on inanimate objects) and the INDIFFERENT PINK SNOWMAN is just a “Meh. Who cares?” moment.
I offer short commentary with very few– if any– spoilers!
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it is worse that I dislike a book or worse that I don’t give a shit either way.
Please note: The books are listed in no particular order.
☠ Cyberforce Hunter Killer Volume 1 GN ($14.99, TOP COW) You know you’re in fucking trouble when the introduction to the book (written here by AOTS Roving Reporter Blair Herter) makes no sense. Mark Waid’s story is run-of-the-mill and flaccid. Kenneth Rocafort’s art was nice– but also seemed deliberately obtuse and sketchy.
☃ Invincible Volume 13: Growing Pains GN ($16.99, IMAGE) I’ve read lots better and more cohesive Invincible story lines. Ryan Ottley’s art, as always, is stunning. An apropos middling PINK SNOWMAN for the reuse of the boring PINK SEQUIDS.
☠ Zombie Warriors GN ($14.95, ARCANA) 1st off– silly me– I thought the book was about ZOMBIES. It’s not. It’s about kids injected with a serum that turns them into super-soldiers (sound familiar?) and they are recruited… Oh fuck it, I don’t care. (And you shouldn’t either!)
☠ Frank Castle The Punisher: Naked Kills GN ($19.99, MARVEL) A collection of 4 Punisher One-Shot comics– where 3 out of the 4 stories sucked. The lone winning tale being Jonathan (Rot & Ruin) Maberry’s “Naked Kill”. The rest seemed like the writer’s were stretching their styles to provide various forms of perversion, pain and degradation that Marvel’s MAX imprint normally delivers. While sometimes creative and different, I also did not care for Laurence Campbell’s art.
❤ Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter GN ($14.99, MARVEL) To be blunt: I went in with low expectations and came out a True Believer. Sadly, I don’t even remember seeing this comic solicited in “floppy” form. Kieron Gillen‘s story is thought provoking without being pedantic– showing how anyone, hero or not, can go too far in the pursuit of justice. Since I’ve seen NO promotion, I’m guessing the book sold very poorly… A true shame.
☃ Avengers/X-men: Utopia HC ($39.99, MARVEL) That’s a lotta money laid out to come away feeling indifferent. This book meanders through the Avengers/X-men conflict as Cyclops bridles under Norman Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R regime. Fairly boiler plate stuff. Paul Cornell’s “Dark X-men, The Beginning” short is the best story in the bunch– but certainly not worth spending $39.99 over. If you need to know what happens in this book– later issues of the X-men comic will most certainly fill you in. I’m sure those book’s descriptions of what happened in this hardcover are much more exciting than what actually did happen here. Luke Ross’s art on a couple of stories was also very jarring– when compared to the other artists used in the collection.
☃ Marvel 1602: Spider-man HC ($19.99, MARVEL) I reluctantly gave this HC a so-so grade– especially since “average” Jeff Parker stories are normally 10x better than the rest of Marvel’s output. Given the constrictions inherent in the Marvel 1602 era– Parker’s story stands as a cut above any other spin-offs to Neil Gaiman’s original series. It was a sort of cute idea when Gaiman did it but it needs to stop now.
☃ Runaways: Homeschooling HC ($19.99, Marvel) This book earns its’ mediocre grade because it is one of those semi-coherent, slapdash affairs that Marvel seems to be so fond of printing as of late. In this new Hardcover/Graphic Novel era, the Marvel Powers That Be seemingly have never seen a story that they didn’t feel deserved to be collected for one final cash grab. What’s sad here is the first 4 issues of Homeschooling– written by Kathryn Immonen and drawn by Sara Pichelli— are killer… A fine return to form for a book that surprisingly floundered under the crushingly bad stories written by Terry “Echo” Moore. So why didn’t I like it? Well instead of giving us 5 or 6 issues of coherent continuity– Marvel throws C.B. Cebulski’s “What If the Runaways Became the Young Avengers?” into the back of the hardcover. This may be a perfectly fine story in its own right… But put in at the back of this book at such a critical juncture in the ongoing story line left me feeling confused, gypped and angry. I wanted to see more of the current story I paid to read. If I wanted to read a “What If?” tale then I would have bought one of Marvel’s “What If?” collections. An “A+” for the first 4/5th’s of the book and a “D” for the What If? story… Simply because it is not where it should be. I got so mad when I realized they weren’t going to continue the regular story that I read the first 3 pages of the Cebulski story and then slammed the book covers together. (I dislike decisions that waste my time.)
❤ Invincible Presents Volume One: Atom Eve & Rex Splode GN ($14.99, Image) If you told me I would have liked this book better than the most recent Invincible graphic novel– I would have told you that you’re nuts. But I did.
☃ The Strange Adventures of H.P. Lovecraft GN ($16.99, Image) I wanted to like this GN, I really did. But in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything but, “It was okay.” I felt the story dragged on too long. Liked the art. I guess in the end, after reading so many of Michael Alan Nelson’s excellent Cthulhu books from Boom! Studios– maybe I am just Cthulhu’d out. Too much squid, perhaps? Either way– if you need a Cthulhu fix, I suggest the Fall of Cthulhu books from Boom!
☃ Pug GN ($14.99, Image) The is a perfect example of a book being judged by its’ cover. The cover to Pug is vibrant and alive. One of the most striking– yet simple– pieces of artwork to grace a hardcover or graphic novel in many years. Unfortunately the fun stops there. The artwork inside is crude and definitely suffers from not having the great coloring that enhanced the cover. The story is somewhat simple as well. This is what I call a “development” book. While I cannot wholeheartedly endorse this effort– I’ll be back to purchase what they do next. I also did not like the sideways “comic strip” style book format (and I love reading and collecting comic strips collections). I think the use of this different comic book format actually detracted from the reading experience here.
❤ B.P.R.D. Volume 13: 1947 GN ($17.99, Dark Horse) I love almost everything to do with Hellboy. Everything. And the B.P.R.D. comic book is no exception. This volume investigates the early days of the B.P.R.D. when Hellboy was just a child. You might understandably wonder, “How exciting is a Hellboy book without Hellboy?” The answer is: DAMN EXCITING. It’s wonderful to watch craftsmen like Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart weave the Hellboy legend– giving life to the many names and faces that pop up in the current comics. It may sound like an investment (and it is)– but if you aren’t reading Hellboy or B.P.R.D. in collected form– then you are missing out. If can afford it, start at the beginning. Dark Horse is good at keeping all these volumes in print– and even if you only bought one trade every other month, you will catch up… And I believe you will be very glad you did.
❤ Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love GN ($14.99, Vertigo) Shawn McManus is one of the greatest artists in comics and he works so sporadically in the medium that you just want to hunt him down and chain him to a desk until he draws 100 more books. Chris Roberson’s spy story is lots of fun too. I can’t imagine fans of Fables or Jack of Fables not loving every panel of this trade paperback!
❤ The Expendables GN ($16.99, Dynamite) I am trying to figure just what Chuck Dixon did (if anything) to deserve being seemingly “exiled” by the Big Two comic publishers (DC/Marvel). The guy is a damn solid writer who turns in above average work on everything from G.I. Joe to The Expendables. I haven’t seen this movie yet but I know Sylvester Stallone’s writing well enough that I am certain Dixon’s dialogue is funnier. Dark Horse and other publisher’s should give this guy all the work he can handle. Unlike many of his peers who turn into hacks when faced with the perpetual grind of monthly comic book writing– Dixon gets better with age.
❤ The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Among Them GN ($14.99, Image) Creator Robert Kirkman is leading up to something insanely sinister in this latest volume of the hit Zombie series. His rag-tag group has found a community walled off from the Zombie menace– where children still run the streets playing as if nothing has happened… A concept that can also be found in the excellent Billy Connolly Zombie film Fido. Much like Fido, this Zombie suburb is rotting from the inside. My only gripe? That the graphic novel wasn’t double-sized… So I could keep reading what happens next!
❤ Absolution GN ($24.99, Avatar) There are days when you just want to read a “straight” superhero story or some science fiction or even a war story. But if you want to read a story that’s almost guaranteed to be OUT THERE— then 9 out of 10 times Avatar’s got the book for you. Christos Gage brings on the provocative in this collection– as a cop superhero kills a bad guy one day and discovers that he likes the expediency of it. When the killing gets easier, he begins to believe it is the only way to do his job. All kinds of different themes get examined here– from the religious to the ethical– and Gage refuses to let any subject off lightly. If you like your hero action in your face and mind bending, then this book’s for you.
☠ Ultimate Comics Avengers: Next Generation HC ($24.99, Marvel) Hey, if there’s a red skull and crossbones— it must be Millar time! This is the already infamous story arc that has the Ultimate Red Skull allowing his henchmen to rape a woman right after he throws her infant child out of a third (or fourth) story window. Just ugh, Mark. Just fucking ugh. And you too Joey Q— for allowing this shit to see print.
❤ The Sword Volume 4: Air GN ($14.99, Image) The Luna Brothers make me feel schizo. One minute I am beside myself because their sense of story pacing can be so slow, the line art so plain and pedestrian… And the next minute I realize exactly what they are doing and they drag me back in for the rest of the ride. They are intent on creating fantastical stories in mundane, every day worlds. They insist that their main heroes and heroines look exactly like the guys and girls that live next door. Sometimes characters have discussions that restate complete conversations that occurred earlier in the same book— because that’s what people do… They repeat themselves. In many ways, this is the comic book art form at its’ most bare bones and gracious. The Luna Brothers are not trying to assault you. They are trying to tell you a story– nobody’s way but their way. And they always succeed. Check out Girls for some science fiction craziness and Ultra if you want to see the Brothers unique take on the superhero genre.
☃ Haunted Tank GN ($14.99, Vertigo) When I started reading this book, I thought I was going to really enjoy it. I love crazy stuff. Author Frank Marrafinio takes the conceit of the original Haunted Tank comic series and turns it on its’ ear. Confederate Calvary General Jeb Stuart– cursed forever to defend family members in time of war as a ghost— discovers to his shock that his current descendant is an African-American soldier fighting in Iraq. Cool idea but the sarcasm is never biting enough, racial themes never fully explored enough. Sure this is a Vertigo title– so you are going to read some things that will surprise you… But in the end, you’ll just be asking, “Why did I bother?” Henry Flint’s art is magnificent.
☠ Koni Waves: The Perfect Wave GN ($19.95, Arcana) Whenever anyone uses the word “perfect” in the title of their creation– they’re jonesing for trouble. Unfortunately, this Arcana collection is no different. Having been introduced to the original Hawaii 5-0 by my parents, I have always been fond of Hawaiian based stories– whether on TV or in comics. The most recent comic example being Mark Murphy’s excellent Tiki Joe Mysteries: The High Stakes Patsy from SLG. Everything Tiki Joe gets right, Koni Waves fails at. Koni Waves offers up a mountain of cheesy dialogue and silly, forgettable plots. The art– pedestrian at best. This is a personal gripe– but I cannot stand to look at page after page of simplified art with virtually NO background objects drawn in. BO-ring.
❤ MySpace Dark Horse Presents Volume 5 GN ($19.99, Dark Horse) I have adored every single one of these Dark Horse collections. Why? Because Dark Horse always makes a point of using some of the BEST creators in the business to make these short story collections. Most of the time these artists and writers are working with properties that they are well known for. Sometimes they are writing and drawing characters that they would never normally be associated with. Like all anthologies, there are winners and losers here. But the good far outweighs the bad. Allow me to direct you to David Malki’s hilarious Wondermark short called “The Gax of Life” and Jesse Reklaw’s great “Going to Work”. Malki showcases the unique humor that drives all of his Wondermark books (some of the coolest hardcovers ever)… While Reklaw writes the most scathing fictional story about the comic book world I have ever seen. Those 2 stories are worth the price of the GN– so other stories by Jeff Parker, Dean (Mister X) Motter, John Arcudi and Matt Kindt (among many others) are all gravy, Baby!
☠ Invaders: Eve of Destruction GN ($19.99, Marvel) This book literally could be retitled “Bait & Switch”. You think you’re buying an Invaders title– when you truly are buying reprints of Marvel Universe 1-7. The first three stories are indeed an adequate Invaders story… But the last 4 comics reprinted deal with The Monster Hunters. It’s this kind of bullshit that drives me crazy. I flipped through this book. Knowing that Roger Stern wrote it– and satisfied that the art was decent– I bought it… Only to find that more than half the book had NOTHING to do with the Invaders! WTF? The Monster Hunters do NOT appear anywhere on the front or back covers of this Graphic Novel. They rate a ONE SENTENCE mention on the back of the book in a mini-paragraph. WTF again?!? Marvel, are you so desperate for cash that you are now forced to HOODWINK your customers to generate sales? If so, fuck you!
❤ The Unwritten Volume 2: Inside Man GN ($12.99, Vertigo) This is a superbly crafted book. Mike Carey’s stories are dumbfoundingly good while Peter Gross’ art is perfectly suited for the subject matter. The final story in this trade revolves around a foul-mouthed rabbit and is one of the funniest, saddest things I have read in a long time. Without a doubt, this is the best series to come out of Vertigo since Bill Willingham’s Fables. What’s conceivably strange here? If you only know Carey from his X-Men work– you will be utterly flummoxed by how mundane that mainstream Marvel stuff is compared to how wonderful these stories are. I’m sure Mike enjoys those fat “X paychecks”– but I wish he would just create another title so he could work on his own projects– instead of working on heavily edited crap for the House that Stan the Man Built.
❤ Deathlok: The Demolisher HC ($24.99, Marvel) I really liked this book too. Charlie Huston is an excellent comic book writer. Lan Medina’s art meshes well with Huston’s crazy story. Normally I don’t like retcons– but Huston’s version of Deathlok is different enough and creative enough that I didn’t mind it was a retcon that also borrowed a heavy flavor from the original Rollerball movie starring James Cann.
❤ Battlefields Volume 5: The Firefly and His Majesty GN ($12.99, Dynamite) Let me just admit this up front: I believe I have liked or loved almost every single thing that Garth Ennis has ever written… Certainly everything he has created since he came into his “own” as a known comic book writer. This Battlefields GN is no exception. Another excellent entry in the series– with some truly knock-out moments that only a wonderfully imaginative writer like Ennis can supply. Extra points for being the only continuous World War II book currently being published.
☃ Wolverine Weapon X Volume 2: Insane in the Brain HC ($24.99, Marvel) I really admire Jason Aaron’s work on Vertigo’s Scalped…. But his Wolverine Weapon X stories– especially in this volume– just doesn’t woo me. First off, I am not a big fan of any form of entertainment that takes two dimensional characters and has them acting in a way that no longer makes them special. Wolverine– for all his inexplicable popularity– is one such character that really suffers from this type of off brand treatment. What Aaron and his editor didn’t seem to understand: Wolverine is really a nothing character. Creators who assign too much feeling or care to the murdering bastard don’t really understand that care is not what Logan is about. Killing is what Logan is about. I would have rather Aaron use his considerable writing skills to take the Killer Wolverine and wrap an exciting, intricate morality tale around that man. Slapping Logan into a pot boiler asylum story worthy of an old Twilight Zone episode presupposes that we care about Wolverine– when, in fact, must of us do not. We only notice him when he’s out being the best he is at what he does: KILLING. Still, Aaron’s writing is good– so I can’t state that the work or idea completely stunk… But I can type I am not the least bit surprised that Marvel canceled the title. Better luck for Aaron’s next iteration of the X-man.
☠ Dark Wolverine Volume 2: My Hero HC ($19.99, Marvel) Can someone tell me how many FUCKING people Daken can slaughter on camera before the “public” no longer trusts him at all? Is it 10, 20, 200? How fucking many? Here he kills 2 more. Threatens some people, walks around in a STUPID mohawk… Awww, who gives a flying fuck? Really?
☃ Wolverine Origins: Seven the Hard Way HC ($19.99, Marvel) The only thing that stops this book for suffering the scarlet stamp of the Red Skull and Crossbones is the VERY LAST IMAGE in the book. Since I am not your Friendly Neighborhood Spoiler— I will not tell you about the great reveal at the end. However, I will say that I am very depressed to see how this story line is turning out… Mainly because I actually thought that writer Daniel Way was going somewhere significant with it. I should have realized that when artist Steve Dillon left (and he never seems to leave any series until it comes to a natural conclusion) there was trouble ahead. Some may prefer Braithwaite’s art over Dillon’s. Not me.
❤ Impaler Volume 2 GN ($14.99, Top Cow) This book accomplished something I thought impossible– it made vampires scary to me again. The great writing by William Harms is moody and dark. The excellent art by Matt Timson adds claustrophobia. Some real unexpected shit inside too… All masterfully played out against a blanket of continuously falling virgin snow. I recommended buying Volume 1 and then reading these 2 collections together. Vampires= Scary. I never would have dreamed it.
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