Written by: The CinCitizens
Week after week, every Wednesday, there is a sudden influx of content in the comic book world. It's CC2K's job to sift through the garbage to find the gold. Every week we'll be bringing you reviews on the widest range of books possible. This week: Batman, Vinyl Underground, Joker's Asylum, Cable, Amazing Spider-Man, Trinity and more!
Joker's Asylum: The Joker #1 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Arvid Nelson
Arist – Alex Sanchez
Colors – Jose Villarrubia
Letters – Rob Leigh
Cover – Andy Kubert
Yes, I know that the only reason for the Joker's Asylum books is to both enhance enthusiasm for The Dark Knight (as if it needs anymore hype) as well as to gain new readers looking for more Joker action after seeing the film. In some respects, it bothers me that something like this has to exist only because of a movie release, but in others, it's a fun idea that can provide a chance for a great story to be told with these villains that are so iconic. The first installment features the Joker himself, and while it's not the greatest Joker story ever told, it's a classic one-shot structure that provides some truly great moments and good insight into what the Joker is all about; namely, his wicked sense of humor.
Nelson effectively avoids predictability in this Joker tale by essentially giving the Joker a method to his madness, at least in this particular case. There's a point and a lesson to be told here, and Joker uses his reputation for an indiscriminate killer for larger purposes of exposure. Looking back, it's a really great idea that is executed well, turning what seems like it might be another indulgent take on the character into a though provoking glimpse at the character's motives. I can't say much without giving away the beats of the story, but it is simply written and if this is an example of how the rest of the Joker's Asylum tales are going to play out, then I think we can look forward to a fun month.
One particular thing that stands out in this story and is not necessarily a problem, just strange. Apparently this tale takes place in the 1970's, which assuming it is in continuity, would make both Joker and Batman something like in their 50's, at least. Although, this story is told to the readers by the Joker himself, and as long time readers know, the Joker's point of view and attention to detail is always unreliable and skewed.
The art in this story does take some getting used to. In many ways, Sanchez's sporadic lines and ADD fueled character designs are a perfect fit for the Joker in his usual maniacal sense, except that this story is, as I said, one of a method to his madness. This isn't the Joker at his indiscriminate murderous insanity, but one of a conniving, methodical Joker with a goal in mind. As such, the art, while still more than enjoyable to inspect as it is greatly detailed with much to find, just isn't the best fit for the kind of story that is being told.
It's also somewhat important to mention that, as I mentioned, this book is meant as a go-between for new readers and hype hounds for The Dark Knight, (with the exception of Poison Ivy and Penguin all of the characters featured – Joker, Scarecrow, Two Face – appear in the film) that Sanchez's Joker has definite shades of Heath Ledger's Joker. Simple things like the way the characters hair and hair lines are drawn along with the scarred face of the character are all privy to the design of the film version. This isn't a good or a bad thing, and it usually happens with characters in books around the time a movie comes out.
In all, this issue will likely be included in future Joker collections as a must read story. Anyone with a love for the greatest villain of all time should absolutely check it out.
4.0 out of 5. CC2K's Book of the Week!
Amazing Spider-Man #564 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, & Dan Slott
Pencils – Paulo Siqueira
Inks – Amilton Santos & Paulo Siqueira
Colors – Antonio Fabela
Letters – VC’s Coris Petitopolous
When I first opened this issue, I said to myself “God, I want a consistent Spidey comic! Please.” The last two week’s stories felt like they were taken from past issues of Untold Stories of Spider-Man or Spider-Man Unlimited. I just want my Amazing Spider-Man to be amazing. Sorry, I will stop complaining now and start giving my review for this week. The first thing I’ll say about this week’s issue is how great the artwork is and the fantastic job Paulo Siqueira does in captivating the fast action pace for the car chase scenes. I’ll also say that I love Marc Guggenheim’s writing too. He writes for the first eight pages of this issue and besides giving us great sarcastic Spidey, he decides, hey I’ll have Spidey fire a gun and then web some children and throw them (somewhat safely) out a school bus window. Surprisingly pretty fun and I felt as if I was a little kid reading Spidey again.
Now this week, Marvel decided to break the issue up into three separate parts telling a different point of view of the same story (almost ala Spider-Man Unlimited but without it being three different stories). The first being Spider-Man’s, the second being Detective Simmons’s, and the last being bad guy Overdrive’s. They even made fun of it a little by using Dexter Bennett (aka the poor man’s J. Jonah Jameson). Since the story is told in three separate points of view, in each the main narrator almost runs over Dexter Bennett, which Mr. Bennett later declares that they each have made his list. I already stated how much I enjoyed Guggenheim’s tale, his tale is the strongest of the three, but Gale and Slott did step it up and this week’s comic did deliver.
Amazing does still feel like filler to me. In the past, I always felt like other comics should be judged by using Amazing Spider-Man as an example, and lately I am just not to excited to read it. Even with that said I was surprised on how good this issue was. I just hope the next few arcs are fun and strong because right now I feel like I’m waiting for the Anti-Venom arc to begin and all the rest is just fluff. Hopefully, they can provide something great and I’ll be a devoted Webhead fan again. Guess I’ll just wait and see.
3.5 out of 5.0.
Batman #678 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Grant Morrison
Pencils – Tony Daniel
Inks – Sandu Florea
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Randy Gentile
Holy shit. Did I just shoot up some heroin? Or am I addicted to smack? "Batman RIP" has jumped the proverbial mind boggling fence and done four backflips. Bruce Wayne it seems has woken up in a homeless amnesiac land, wandering around his city’s underworld and mumbling. Everyone around him is speaking on his behalf, maybe even giving him things to say, but a newfound friend of his sure is taking an interest in his survival. All this, and one didn’t even realize or recall that Bruce was in such a state until it was too late.
The supporting characters are a fantastic highlight of this book. Opening with Robin and the worry he felt in the past issue being magnified is only going to show in the long run the connection between Batman and the Boy Wonder. Something that Dick Grayson no longer understands that Tim Drake gets as only Robin could is running abound, and he knows it. And Nightwing, who makes an appearance, majestically matches his current cocky, disconnected form that he is carrying in his own book. It is not just a ticking time bomb of panels as readers wait to find out what will happen to Batman, but also what will happen to his self-built costumed family. Whatever happens here will not only have a lasting effect on Bruce, but one on everyone around him, everyone important to him, and possibly even the people of Gotham that he has been thrust into.
A personal struggle is not quite what is to be assumed yet. The ending of the book takes a scarily huge leap into surrealism, but with what was alluded to all issue with drug use, one shouldn’t take it too serious. I can only imagine many a fan boy is in a panic after the final panel. It’s understandable, but only to an extent, because regardless of how it turns out, it’s simply too shocking to be ignored or disliked. A down and dirty, drugged out Bruce Wayne sewing a costume made out of trash and becoming something otherworldly (or at least so he thinks) is the likes of something we have never seen (in this universe, anyway.) This is thanks to Grant Morrison, who has taken our brains on Batman, pulled them out of our heads through our ears and stomped on them, only to put them back upside down. Without spoiling too much I will simply say this is not to be missed. To enjoy Batman is to enjoy him on all fronts, and this looks to be a front not yet discovered in the realm of the Dark Knight.
5.0 out of 5!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 #16 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Joss Whedon
Pencils – Karl Moline
Inks – Andy Owens
Colors – Michelle Madsen
Letters – Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy
Cover – Jo Chen
Alternative Cover – Georges Jeanty, Dexter Vines, & Michelle Madsen
Yay, overly sarcastic Scooby gang and villains! Thank you Joss Whedon. This arc has Buffy traveling through time (well, just a scene or two, we’re going to have to wait for the next issue to see what the future holds) and I have a feeling that with Whedon writing this arc, my $2.99 will be a great investment. Just like I said in my last Buffy review, in this series you really get your fill of meat and potatoes. This week’s issue comes with Dawn turning into a Centaur, Skinless Warren, Buffy in New York, and Buffy in the future. Oh, and the return of the last vampire slayer Fray.
Fray’s co-creator Karl Moline joins the crew for this arc and draws some really kick-ass fight scenes right off the bat. Right when you turn to the first page, you get a fantastic splash scene with Buffy uppercutting Fray as they jump off a building. The future is drawn to look like the movie The Fifth Element with flying cars and lights flickering everywhere. Moline gives what every fanboy wants and never misses details, plenty of great facial expressions, half naked bodies, and he delivers little cliffhangers throughout the issue better than Buffy’s past illustrators. Whedon of course delights the reader with his signature move of cramped word bubbles using plenty of delightful wit, without every really over doing it. BVS is his baby and it is always great to have the creator back to deliver a new tale.
The only negative I have is how they left Xander. He just lost someone he cared greatly for and Whedon hardly addresses it. Xander states in the issue that he will not mope around and when he needs help grieving, he’ll talk to his friends. Then the remaining of this issue he’s pretty happy-go-lucky and though I love how Whedon writes Xander, I feel like I, the reader am suppose to just pretend that his girlfriend didn’t just die (which doesn’t feel right). Besides that, I love every part of this comic. Hopefully Whedon will continue to be on time with his scripts and if so, I should be giving this series a swarm of great reviews.
4.0 out of 5.0.
Cable #5 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Duane Swierczynski
Artist – Ariel Olivetti
Letters – Joe Caramanga
Variant Cover – Mark Silvestri & Frank D’Armata
What’s that on Cable’s chest, is it a mechanical spider? Nope, it’s a baby in a protective steel suit. It’s comedic gold, let me tell you. All amusingly endangered children aside, Cable has come face to face with Bishop and is trying to avoid further harm and of course, the death of the last living mutant baby by firing back and escaping. Having done that and made his way to what was once the X-Mansion, he takes care of business by wasting Cerebro and regrouping. Along with him is the waitress he met earlier, Sophie. Not quite in awe of the X-Mansion, she pities him and steals some X-clothes, only to reveal herself as being handy with guns and, later, the daughter of a military man. I focus on this, because, not only is it out of nowhere, it’s lame. While it might not be believable and may even be annoying to have a waitress who is unable to fight in any way tag along while Cable tries to run, it’s even worse to have someone who has shown those signs turn into a gun slinging Rambo.
Luckily, the issue doesn’t suffer too much from this due to the fleshy, ripe Cable and Bishop portrayal. Bishop takes quick care of the street police that have been hassling him from the beginning, and it displays just how powerful one mutant can be. To think that in this universe, a street once ran rampant with people like this on both ends of the moral spectrum, is fascinatingly dangerous. Cable continues his mellow, focused attempt at future saving. His disdain for the situation is never grumbling yet it’s not quite humbled. He just does. Trying to reason with Bishop, he is quick to realize that’s nearly impossible and to see a character of this type make smart, quick decisions is refreshing. Instead of making mistake after mistake to gradually worsen a situation, the situation is just already that bad. A few panels are wasted on gruesome death, but some are legitimate enough to give necessary shock factor. The book will take a different turn from this issue on, so read up if you are an X-Men fan, or wait to give it a try next month.
3.5 out of 5.
Grimm Fairy Tales #28 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Michael Dolce
Pencils – Jeff Zornow
Colors – Garry Henderson & Kieren Oats
Letters – Bernie Lee
Design – David Seidman
"The Ugly Duckling" gets the morbid treatment this issue from the folks over at Zenoscope. A new artists’ portrayal has developed artistically what looks as if it fits right along with every other issue of the book thanks to the colors brought forth by Kieren Oats. The same sensual facial expressions, hot bodies and gory situations are all accounted for. The ability to switch artists who are all talented so often and make one forget that they have changed is no easy task.
A girl named Robin meets Belinda, who has also changed her look, at a park after having grown up into a gorgeous, famous model. She speaks briefly with her, and then heads for a reunion. Cut back ten years, when she is a homely goofer in high school followed around by a dorky best friend who is in love with her and picked on by a bunch of stupid jocks. From here on, it’s easy to know what’s going to happen. That being a given, the high school situations are moderately interesting. To see what on film is usually awfully spoken word by horrible actors scripted in text is a much more enjoyable experience. The way the people are drawn can make it that much more believable as opposed to a real life, plastic surgery overrun blonde. Belinda makes her appearance as a substitute teacher, evoking everyone’s favorite style of hot pornos in her speech and appearance. Basically, the issue becomes everything you a teenage horndog ever wishes high school had been in just a few panels, which is amusing.
The moral of the story concludes with an old fashioned murder, but it seems contrived. It is so simplistic, so forced, and so easy that one would wonder if Michael Dolce thought of more than even a single idea before deciding on it. It is incredibly safe, and while it’s amusing in the beginning, the finish is lame not only in its’ attempt at horror but in its’ portrayal of itself. The smart felt from learning a lesson was more cleverly portrayed last issue with the "Three Blind Mice". However, it’s to be expected that stories developed in this Grimm format will often turn out this way. That having been said, the artworks’ quality being consistent despite switching artists so often and the fun portrayal of high school make this a sure choice for fans of the series.
3.0 out of 5.
Jonah Hex #33 Review by Gary M. Kenny
Writer – Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils – Darwyn Cooke
Colors – Dave Stewart
Letters – Rob Leigh
Look at the cover, now, how badass is that? In this month's issue of Jonah Hex, Darwyn Cooke guest draws for the mere reason of helping sales and making people inclined to actually start picking this fantastic series up. This comic is always saved for last on my pile for the simple reason of it always leaving me with a great taste; it’s like eating a steak dinner with an expensive glass of wine instead of a soda pop. This month is no exception and even with the issue being drawn by an amazing artist, who’s work I love, the real treat is the story.
A mute Canadian boy narrates this week’s story. It starts with his father teaching him all about horses while they traveling through a snowstorm in the Canadian wilderness. His father has an unfortunate accident with a bear trap and later succumbs to blood loss, which in turn attracts a pack of wolves leaving the mute Canuck helpless. Enter bounty hunter Jonah Hex. He is in Canada claiming a bounty of a nameless man, when he stumbles across the boy and the wolves. Jonah Hex does his trademarked kill ‘em and skin ‘em routine, beautifully and gracefully drawn by Cooke, and the mute boy is saved.
There is plenty of rich cowboy story after the incident but the most rewarding moment is at the end of the comic. Hex and the mute kid are now alone in a small Canadian town, and Hex has to go back to the States, the mute grabs Hex’s jacket in an attempt for him to take pity and take the kid along. Hex slaps the kid and leaves him. The kid is traumatized and sits alone in the snow, a few hours pass and a pack of wolves return. “Wow, Gary that’s messed up of you to say that the scene is a rewarding moment.” The reason I say that this a rewarding moment for the comic is because of what the writers did (or what they didn’t do). They never stray from the characterization of Jonah Hex and this keeps the comic working. If this were a Superman comic, the boy would have gone with and that would have made sense. With Hex, (especially for this cowboy comic to work) the boy has to be thrown to the wolves, not because Hex is an asshole (wait, it still might be because he is an asshole) but because if he wants the boy to grow up and to have a better life, he has to. The kid is a mute Canadian; he is going to have a hard life. Also, Hex probably figures that everyone, regardless of their age, has to face their wolves. The boy concludes “In the end I realized that my father taught me about horses. And Jonah Hex taught me how to deal with wolves.” Again, I’ll tell you, pick this comic book up.
4.5 out of 5.
Locke & Key #5 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Joe Hill
Artist – Gabriel Rodriguez
Colors – Jay Fotos
Letters – Robbie Robbins
Joe Hill returns for the fifth issue of Locke & Key with an ability to present something that feels fresh and new despite taking place in a very short period of time and despite only having been spread across five issues. The Locke family is attempting to live life as usual while danger is on the horizon. The spirit that Bode speaks to is becoming more and more restless as Sam comes closer and closer to carrying out the task that that spirit has somehow linked to him. All while this situation unfolds, the characters remain rich with emotion. The depression is still ever present in each and every one of the people Hill introduces us to. The mystery that has laced the book throughout is also being brought to the forefront in a way that is subtle enough not to be overbearing. As it unravels, it remains old fashioned and still questionable without revealing too much. The characters and their grief is the true focus of this story, and it hasn’t been plagued with a need to become about something beyond the characters at hand, which many comics and even films and books have been unable to do.
The faces on the characters are so painfully human that to see any of them suffer is felt outright by the reader. It’s always been easy to relate to the characters based upon their grief, and the fact that they are so realistically specific in their mugs despite being comic book illustrations is to thank for a big part of that. Also to think is the personality that feels carefully crafted and presented with each character by Hill. Even the policeman guarding the Locke’s house and the man of the sea who Sam hitches a ride with feel living and breathing.
The story has come to a climax and the characters are all reacting in a way that is far more finite that expected. The supernatural aspect of this story has been closely and carefully confined to one area, and as it is leaking into other sections of the story, it remains believable. Nothing about anything ghostly is over the top in its presentation, giving the idea that it could happen to anyone and making it ultimately more frightening. That’s not to say that it has been a very frightening book, because it hasn’t. However, anything presented in the next issue has a much better chance at being accepted and agreed with, even if it were to be over the top. Whatever the case may be, this book remains a must, and possibly the most important, purchase of your week.
5.0 out of 5!
Nightwing #146 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils – Don Kramer
Inks – Sandu Florea
Colors – Nathan Eyring
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Andy Kubert
Nightwing takes to finishing off his business with Talia and Dr. Kendall in the conclusion of the "Freefall" arc. Peter Tomasi’s debut as head writer has come to a close after a lengthy stretch of ups and downs. It has been worth the spots of awful dialogue and boring, wasted action thanks to the wrap up in this issue. Finding the base of operations for Talia’s warrior children once and for all, Dick infiltrates and stops what he’s spent months planning and tip toeing around. The finish is surprisingly humanistic and not without its tender moments. While it’s obvious that it will barely be a challenge for Dick to face off with anyone, his actions come second to the exchanges between Talia and Kendall, anyway. Talia is extremely upset with the misuse of growth acceleration, and Kendall and her but heads once and for all. No surprises, really.
Nightwing serves to enhance and underline the situation already at hand. Verbally, of course, he has everything to say about the situation, but keeps it brief and meathead-like. He seems to realize he’s not as intimidating as Bruce Wayne and tries to make up for that in being even more fearless. Cocky and conceited is the way it works out for him, yet he is not unlikable. Finishing the day in classic superhero fashion, he is triumphant without surprise, but not without enjoyment.
The book has a brief moral message that in regards to the subject matter seems suffocated. It might have been unable to be developed in any way, and it brings about some effectively shocking moments, but it makes it seem as if they couldn’t have been portrayed any further than they were. Also noteworthy is a meeting with a top superhero for the final pages of the book, discussing a more real than usual situation out of what Nightwing has gone through for the past few issues. Ending with smiling faces, it will be exciting to see Dick hopefully get beat up a bit from here on. Truthfully speaking, his current challenges aren’t much of a challenge, and if we’re lucky, that will change.
4.0 out of 5.
The Piper #3 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Mike Kalvoda, Joe Brusha & Ralph Tedesco
Pencils – Alex Medellin Machain
Colors – Garry Henderson
Letters – Thomas Mauer
I had almost forgotten this one was around. The kid from the other two issues who promised something that I don’t recall to the Piper is now being chased by him horrifically. His two friends who I hardly recall are murdered in the first few pages because of his refusal to keep his promise in paying the Piper and the book continues as he runs on foot from the paranormal, flute playing mad man. In the middle of that running, however, he stops to read the pages in his book to give himself a further understanding of exactly how to escape his problematic situation, despite not really running all that far from school. This simple aspect hangs over the issue as if it were an overbearing, obnoxious parent to a bastard child.
The artwork here is as high quality as the regular series and that is never a problem from Zenoscope. What you are expecting, you will be getting, sans an overrun world of thongs and tits. So, if those two aspects of this comic style’s portrayal of females are what you base your purchase of the book on, move along. The book has descended into a formulaic, silly monster movie and doesn’t bring up characters that a reader who has waited since the last issue would recall until the douchebag jocks make their way back around. It’s a relief to remember something about the rest of the series, but it’s not enough to save the reader from boredom.
Even a huge fan of the legend of the Pied Piper, if there is such a person, wouldn’t necessarily be entertained by this. The Piper hasn’t really done much to portray his name sake in a way that’s believable even with a fantastical expectation. The main character is a weak pipsqueak and reading the book at this point is a bit like watching a cat pretend to hunt a toy mouse. The act of a creature preying at its’ animalistic best can entertain the bloodlust in us all, but only when that hunting is applied to two interesting variables. In this case, they’ve become completely uninteresting as the book has reached its’ third issue out of four. A fan of the story and possibly die hard Grimm fans can find moderate enjoyment out of this book, but their might not be enough gratuitousness in it for them. This is to be skipped unless you’re deadly curious as to how it will wrap.
2.0 out of 5.
Trinity #5 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Kurt Busiek
Arists – Mark Bagley
Inks – Art Thibert
Colors – Pete Pantazis
Letters – Pat Brosseau
Cover – Carlos Pacheco & Jesus Merino
Story – Kurt Busiek
Writer – Fabian Nicieza
Artist(s) – Mike Norton & Mark Farmer
Colors – Allen Passalaqua
Letters – Pat Brosseau
Well, I'm pleased to announce that the fight with the big purple monster that no one gives a shit about that started in issue #2 of Trinity has finally ended in issue #5. That's four issues of the same battle, all complete with cliched fight dialogue spewing out of the mouths of our characters. Thankfully, the mere fact that this issue sees the end of this battle is enough to warrant it a higher score. Still, there's no much sign of the concepts that Busiek introduced in the first issue, and we are still forced to suffer through the back-up story featuring the Tarot Card Reader and Gangbuster.
And while Gangbuster is cool and finally gets into action in this issue, which is definitely the highlight of this installment, the previous four issues have featured almost nothing but generic superhero fighting and an exciting action sequence with Gangbuster is just overload at this point. There isn't anything fun about these fights anymore, and we are only five issues in. That's a terrible sign.
Granted, there is a slight amount of intrigue offered here coming from the Tarot Cards, and while I'm almost positive everything in this series is going to play out in some predictable way, the mystical touch is nice, suggesting the greater importance of the Trinity within the cosmos of the DCU.
Trinity is chugging along, but call me cynical, the way this series kicked off with a bang and has already become nearly stale are the same warning signs that I should've picked up on after giving Countdown a chance. I'm giving you my notice right now, I will give this book 12 issues. If I haven't become more than mildly interested in the plot by then, I am officially giving up on this weekly series, and perhaps any future ones that DC wishes to pump out.
1.5 out of 5.
The Vinyl Underground #10 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Si Spencer
Pencils – Simon Gane
Inks – Ryan Kelly
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Sean Phillips
Are you reading this book? Probably not. Should you be? What the hell do you think? Vinyl Underground is one of those books that I keep peddling to my friends yet everyone is too ignorant to give it a chance. Why? Fucked if I know. The art team is definitely the highlight of the show here, as a I've said many times over. Gane has an incredible knack for drawing beautiful women doing massively violent things, or having violent things done to them. This may sound perverted and wrong, but so far, this book has been gruesome, and Gane's work brings it to life amazingly. In this issue he gets yet another chance to shine though Spencer's great script, including a woman getting split in half by a table, a display of raunchy public sex, and a main character contemplating suicide via a leap of death.
I know that you are thinking to yourself that this book is probably just another example of gratuitous sex and violence, but issue #10 is a perfect example of how that is just not true. Through all the raunch and filth are characters that are deeply flawed but with a personal agenda that is identifiable. Mozz, the main protagonist, is dealing with his life in the public eye and the loss of his family members, all the while heading up a secretive paranormal investigative team. Throughout my comments on the series, I've compared it to the Scooby-Doo gang infused with lots of sex and drugs. This still holds true, but this issue in particular plays up the "secret identity" of Mozz, a Bruce Wayne like figure in regards to his social status. What's interesting here is that Spencer suggests that Mozz's crazy public persona was very much authentic, and became fabricated only when he cleaned up and headed up the Vinyl Underground team.
This series is tough to describe, as any of the plot points written out might make it seem like a shameful display of masochism and sadistic pleasures. However, any one that reads the series will be hard pressed to not become fully immersed in the seedy world of Vinyl Underground.
4.5 out of 5.