The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Comic Book Reviews for the Week of 3/5/2008

Written by: The CinCitizens

ImageWeek 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. Enjoy!

Cable #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Duane Swierczynski
Artist – Ariel Olivetti
Letters – Joe Caramanga
Variant Cover – Rob Liefield and Mike Caprioti

Marvel brings another spin-off book about with Cable, stemming from Messiah Complex, a story I am unfamiliar with. All the better not to know what’s going on from time to time when you’re dealing with comic books spinning off from a longer, more complicated series, I’m sure, but I digress. Not noticing a baby hanging from Cable’s front pocket on the cover, I was pleasantly surprised when he ripped off his cloak to reveal he had been kangarooing a child while dodging bullets.

Cable is a no-nonsense, never amused old man, but he’s far from a grumbler. He doesn’t complain about his position, even taking responsibility with pride in transporting this child, even though he has to change her diapers every time she shits in his pouch. Valiantly, he moves across a post-apocalyptic (or is it? That’s a difficult term to use in the Marvel Universe) New Jersey with an unknown destination.

Ariel Olivetti is an interesting artist. His backgrounds and coloring are well detailed in a style that’s not difficult to look at and is unique enough to be different from most other Marvel books. It seems more adult, more sophisticated, than say, books like Hulk, treating its characters less like comic book illustrations and more like human beings.

The only characters that are ever-present at this point are Cable and Bishop, both usually bland and more exciting here. Cable’s old man persona that once served to try and go back on a bad decision in writing for X-Men, has been turned around and is used in a story with a Children of Men like aura, which can only be a good thing. Time will tell if the book continues well, but it has certainly begun with a strong issue.

3.5 out of 5

Countdown to Final Crisis #8 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer(s) – Paul Dini with Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti
Pencils – Carlos Magno
Inks – Rodney Ramos
Colors – Tom Chu
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Scott Kolins

It’s hard to believe that Countdown started nearly a year ago now. Hard to believe, because anything important in the story didn’t start happening until 2008. While the series was entertaining enough before the high octane craziness that we’ve been seeing the past couple weeks, the Countdown team has finally gotten consistent. This issue brings us to the culmination of the events on Apokolips (or DOES it?!) as Solomon the Monitor and Darkseid finally square off…playing DC HeroClix? Not kidding.

In any event, this installment of Paul Dini’s epic makes it a little clearer as to what the Great Disaster actually might be and Ray Palmer’s role in preventing it. I will say that this issue seems a bit drawn out, with pages being filled with extended dialogue scenes in order to take up space. It’s not even that we get verbose dialogue, it’s just that they too often give an en entire panel only one or two word balloons when they could have just as easily fit four. This method effectively pushes the length of the book because what could be a half of a page turns into a full one.

The art in issue #8 is pretty up to snuff as far as what I’ve come to expect from this series. There is nothing that screams "rushed", which unfortunately, is the best you can hope for in a weekly book. The back-up feature this week is the origin of Bizarro, who amusing as he is, this two page story hits that abundant amount of Bizarro speak that makes you want to throw up.

One glaring omission from this week is Pied Piper. For a guy that’s played such a huge role in everything that’s going on in this week’s issue, where the hell is he? Perhaps next week…

3 out of 5

Image Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: Long Road Home #1 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Peter David
Pencils – Jae Lee
Inks – Jae Lee
Colors – Richard Isanove
Letters – Chris Eliopoulos

I really dislike Stephen King, a lot. I have never liked his novels, nor his pompous way of presenting them. However, I love his ideas. Therefore when another creator comes along and takes his concepts and adapts it, be it to film like we saw with Kubrick and The Shining or here with Peter David, I usually enjoy the product extensively. That was very much the case with Peter David’s first adaptation of the Dark Tower series, “Gunslinger Born”. Fast forward a few months and we now have in our hands the first issue of David’s second foray into Stephen King’s Dark Tower world with “The Long Road Home”.

The second mini picks up directly where the first left off, with heartache. The first mini series ended on a shocking cliffhanger, due mostly to my lack of knowledge of the Dark Tower saga prior to this comic series. We are still following Roland and his ka-tet (posse) as they try to escape the hordes of vigilantes chasing them down due to their sabotage of the Crimson King’s plans. Peter David does a commendable job catching readers up with his dialogue, making it not overly heavy in exposition where you take notice and therefore creates a smooth transition between series and the shipping hiatus. He even gets the book to a new and interesting place by the conclusion of issue #1 that has me intrigued for the future.

On the art side of things, Jae Lee again pencils some astonishing panels. While his art is very static, it is simply breathtaking. Every panel drawn could be its own full size poster which is very astounding. I really couldn’t see anyone else drawing this series and achieving the same tone that Jae Lee gets the book too.

My only complaint with the issue is the backup section. I read the first miniseries once it came to a hardcover format and none of the comic backup sections were present. Even without them I found the plot completely realized and carried out effectively. So coming into the new mini, and getting the monthly issues, it was to my surprise that I now had to pull a Watchmen and drag myself to read the backup material no matter how useful it might be. When I read comics, I want comics. In the end I did find these backups kind of tiresome to read, but if this stuff is right down your alley, then you will probably enjoy these new backups as well.

Overall it was a great start to “The Long Road Home”. I look forward to future issue so I can comment more on how much better other writers do with King’s own material.

Do ya kennit?

4 out of 5.

Image Dead Space #1 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Antony Johnston
Artist – Ben Templesmith
Letters – Rus Wooton

Science fiction is in a difficult place, with outer space, a once vastly exciting frontier with endless possibilities, falling into a level of predictability just as unlimited. Dead Space excitingly doesn’t enter into that equation, at least for a casual reader, bringing about something fresh for a change. It’s difficult to endure at first, not just because of the very stylistic art style but the generic Alien-esque command ship that it tries to hide by being too simple. All that changes, however, as soon as the characters are better introduced, eating amongst each other and debating about the ships’ latest discovery.

Bram, the main character and necessary maverick, is somehow a bit of a reinvention of the tired Han Solo space cowboy that took its’ biggest and worst turn in XBOX 360’s Gears of War with the boringly sarcastic and grumbling Marcus Fenix. He’s a little less forceful and is more apparent in terms of spoken word with thought, rather than speaking before he thinks. It’s a lot more interesting to see someone act more as a human being than as a heroic figure.

While the story takes its’ inspirations from obvious sources based on the cover and the first few panels despite becoming more original, at the very least its’ created a mythology ultimately more interesting than its predecessors. Gone are the billion dollar budget, unlimited resource ships of Alien fame (at least so far) and they have been replaced with a level of grit and lack of polish that’s fantastic to see. The Union Square and Lounge Area portions of the book show a world perfectly portrayed by the art style, a blur of depression and struggle for life that humanity seems to survive anyway.

The book is certainly going to be an acquired taste. It takes getting used to, based on the art style and on the questionable character centrality issues at first, with even a cover that looks fairly unappealing. Don’t be fooled, however, by the gross, half there reject visage on the cover. Inside is a book with great potential for science fiction development, with a cliffhanger providing enough steam for at least another look, if not beyond. A possible diamond in the rough, Dead Space is certainly to be noticed, at least before it becomes a video game that’s probably not going to be anywhere near as valuable.

4 out of 5

Image Detective Comics #842 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Peter Milligan
Pencils – Dustin Nguyen
Inks – Derek Fridolfs
Colors – John Kalisz
Letters – Sal Cipriano

I’m all for the one-shot format that Detective has had going for it since Paul Dini took over. The one-shot lets any reader pick up the book knowing that they will get an all inclusive story in that one issue, knowing that by buying that book they aren’t obligated to buy the next five in order to get a full story. In any case, this issue simply doesn’t deliver. Peter Milligan takes the reigns as a fill in to Dini’s run, giving us a story on Batman’s new mysterious armor, creatively called "The Suit of Sorrows". Barf.

This story reeks of cliche. The inner monologue is horrendous, and the dialogue is even worse. The explanation behind the Suit of Sorrows, is hardly an explanation at all. The feeling I came away with after reading this issue was that Milligan had this great idea for a backstory to this armor, but forgot it midway through the scripting process and instead decided to throw in as many cliched phrases and plot points that he could.

Of course, there’s usually something redeeming even in the worst books. In this case, it’s the introduction (?) of Gotham Jack. Sure, he’s basically just a criminal bookend on both sides of the issue as a way for Bats to reveal the effect the suit is having on him (that is, when the painfully obvious monologue isn’t doing it already), but he seems interesting. Perhaps if the issue had focused on Batman’s pursuit of Gotham Jack as well as Bruce’s search for answers about the Suit of Sorrows, this would have been a more satisfying read.

1.5 out of 5

Image The End League #2 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Rick Remender
Pencils – Mat Broome
Inks – Sean Parsons
Colors – Wendy Broome
Letters – Rus Wooton

I think I’m just a sucker for superhero archetypes. This cynical, hopeless world is populated by the last remaining heroes after the long standing battle with evil was lost. Among these heroes is a mix of archetypes that represent everyone from Superman to Captain America to the Spectre, to the Hulk and back again. And boy, does Rick Remender hate them. This is issue #2, and already the despair of our lead characters has tripled. People complain about these books with "generic superheroes", but what they don’t realize is that a story like this could never, ever, be done with an icon like Superman.

Debuting in this issue is a shadowy vigilante named Black, who seems to be The End League‘s version of the Batman. With an entrance prompted by the major plot development in this issue, it’s exciting to see how Remender will be handling the relationship of Black to the other Leaguers, especially since he is clearly the outsider. One other concept hinted at to be a major point in future issues is the concept of the Superman-based character, Astonishman, being a messiah figure, complete with a church based around him. We have seen Superman likened to Jesus Christ, and I imagine Remender plans to play upon those comparisons.

Yes, it’s a lot to take in. Remarkably, Remender is able to accomplish all of this and more in the span of one book. Helping him along is the fantastic work of Mat Broome, with a very basic panel layout that lets us enjoy his flawless pencil work. There is a great amount of detail in every page, and the quality of the work makes the bi-monthly shipping schedule worth the wait. Here’s to The End League.

4.5 out of 5

Image Green Lantern #28 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Geoff Johns
Pencils – Mike McKone
Inks – Andy Lanning w/ Marlo Alquiza & Norm Rapmund
Colors – Jo Smith
Letters – Rob Leigh

Apparently the color of the month is red.

Geoff Johns continues to build his epic throughout the pages of Green Lantern and issue #28 is no exception. The final chapter of “The Alpha Lantens” delivers the “goods”, so to speak. We get introductions to both the Red Lanterns, in the issue’s opening pages, as well as the beings behind the Orange Corps. What Johns has handled so well since the “Sinestro Corps War” is when exactly to peel back layers of the “Blackest Night” prophecy. Instead of dismissing the topic until 2009, which would be very easy to do, Johns instead leaves a bread trail throughout every new issue of the series, perfect for stringing fans along and keeping them excited about future issues and story lines because everything seems important. Even next month’s “Secret Origin” arc, where Doc. Brown jumps in his DeLorean and travels back to Hal Jordan’s introduction, guarantees to shed new light on the prophecy and what it actually means to Hal, Sinestro, the Green Lantern Corps, and the galaxy in general.

Not only do we get fitting introductions for two new corps, but we are finally revealed the second new law of the Book of Oa, and to say it’s a dooze is an understatement. I truthfully didn’t see this coming and without spoiling anything, the second law is pretty much an upgrade to law one. However, the story possibilities it creates are limitless.

Mike McKone is also turning in some fantastic pencils for his three issue stint on Green Lantern while Ivan Reis recuperates from blowing reader’s minds. McKone’s ability to do dynamic compositions create two specific splash pages in issue #28 that have burned into my mind, both of which involve the Red Lanterns. What is also a plus to see is McKone’s attention to detail when Laira loses her Green Lantern status, as you see her domino mask start to dissipate from her face, as well as the Green Lantern insignia disappear from her uniform.

With next month kicking off “Secret Origin”, it looks like Geoff John’s Green Lantern isn’t slowing down at all. A book with a truly epic story and an art team that continues to produce grade A work month in and out helps solidify Green Lantern as DC’s #1 book.

4.0 out of 5

Image Grimm Fairy Tales #23 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Raven Gregory
Pencils – Jordan Gunderson
Colors – Nei Ruffino
Lettering – Thomas Mauer
Design – David Seidman

As many of you may know, CC2K’s weekly comic reviews are still fairly new. Because of this, I have been trying to find new books to pick up on in the simplest way possible, as I was not a regular reader of comics. I came across Grimm Fairy Tales thinking it would be an easy entrance for me not only as a critical reviewer but to appease my inner horned out thirteen year old. In most respects, at least at first, I was completely wrong. The drawings do their job, entertainingly indulging in the exaggeratedly sensual female comic book figure. However, for the first twelve pages, or so, I was completely lost. I came to read in a description for the series elsewhere that Sela and Belinda are two dueling sorceresses of sorts, one using the power of fairy tales to improve lives of teenagers and one using them to make them worse. I would probably never have gotten that out of it, so it’s a good thing I looked it up. It didn’t help when Sela out of nowhere started talking to a giant spider. These are the unfoldings of the sexy horror comic, friends.

After the confusion finished, the story for the simpletons came about, with sisters Snow White and Rose Red living together in delicious contempt. Their outfits, not unlike something one would see worn by a girl capable on Halloween, are nonetheless better put together, possibly even more fashionable than the Samhain slut-fests they inspire.

One of the most interesting things about Grimm is the speech. The book retains a fairy-tale style despite being obviously geared towards adults. Only during the non story portions of the book are phrases like “anal-retentive” used, and if any were used during the story itself, they slipped under my radar. Everything else seems to read right out of a book found on the shelf in a kindergarten class. Minus the skimpy outfits and sexual tension, of course.

The book leaves me torn between seeing this as either entertaining just for girls, with its’ powerfully grownup Disney princesses, or more generally an exploration of sexual thought for anyone reading it. I feel it should maybe be a bit more over the top in that sexuality. Not even necessarily in a pornographic way, the humanistic attitude of something like Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man might serve these characters well. There’s no reason a book that’s essentially an adult’s fantasy has to be restrained, although mixing less restraint with the current style of dialogue might make it seem like porn anyway. Something in me tells me it could work, but that same something in me is probably in a corner right now, touching itself. This is a cool book.

3.5 out of 5

Image Halloween: Nightdance #2 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Stefan Hutchinson
Illustrations – Tim Seeley
Colorist – Elizabeth John w/ Courtney Via
Letters – Crank!

Michael Myers returns this month with Halloween: Nightdance in its’ second issue of a four part series. The books’ problems have come forward, despite the fact that its consistencies, good and bad, are fully apparent at this point. The main character, Lisa, is still esoterically trying to grasp her relationship to Michael Myers and a small boy who keeps sending her perverse artistry in the mail, all leading up to October 31st. Taking her time to hang out with friends, her story parallels with the same fellow from the first book, now in a hospital trying to figure out what happened to his wife and why he was involved in a rather fateful accident.

At this point, the story is beginning to come together. The sometimes amateurish arrangement and unnecessarily vague explanation of the first book has taken a change for the better, now with less confusing inner-monologue. The driver of the accident’s story is ultimately, because of this, a bit more interesting, and comes about just when you’ve had enough of Lisa’s teenaged daze.

Lisa’s friends, not typical of Michael Myers casualty, are interestingly well behaved. They aren’t stereotypically looking to drink and have sex, and seem to have more depth than the usual PJ Soles clones. They genuinely seem to like Lisa, and the only trouble they cause is being out at a fair during the day that her friend isn’t supposed to be at. Appropriately, Michael takes note of this.

Unfortunately, the shadowy, unseen Michael is gone at this point. Much like the step from Halloween to Halloween II on film, Michael is no longer a shape in the darkness, but seen from an almost third person perspective, without so much as an out of focus frame to keep him mysterious. Regardless, it’s still well drawn and the color has retained its’ cool fall atmosphere. The cliffhanger ending sets up for an exciting third issue, leaving the option open to move back in the right direction in terms of Michael’s placement, but the style and story seem to be in full gear, for better or worse. If you haven’t been enjoying it by now, it’s time to jump ship before you start to hate everything even more. I will be staying on board.

3 out of 5

ImageJustice League New Frontier Special #1 Review by Erik Norris
Writer – Darwyn Cooke
Pencils – Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone
Inks – Michael Cho
Colors – Dave Stewart
Letters – Jared Fletcher

DC: The New Frontier is my favorite all time mini series. The book perfectly captures the 1950s, while giving readers the formation of the Justice League stripped down to its essentials. Everything about that piece is masterful and to see resurgence in interest spring from its recent animation adaptation is fantastic. Not only have we been given a feature length film, but Darwyn Cooke, the creator of the story, has decided to revisit the world he created by producing a one shot issue chronicling the “lost stories” of the New Frontier.

The issue, labeled Justice League New Frontier Special #1, presents three shorts covering background happenings from the original source material. The first tale is about the fight Superman and Batman staged to get the government off the Bat’s back, allowing him to continue his assault on crime in his city. As the longest tale in the issue, “Chapter X: The Greater Good” is the meat of what you are shelling out your hard earned cash for. It’s a cool story bringing the trinity of DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) together and does a superb job of showing their mutual respect for each other, when they aren’t trying to shoot kryptonite tow cables into each other, that is.

The two minor backup tales are also quite interesting. You get a team of Robin and Kid Flash, hinting at the eventual formation of the Teen Titans, as they try to thwart some commies from killing the president along with a Wonder Woman and Black Canary tale where Wonder Woman goes on a rampage to spread woman’s rights to all the men in a strip joint. I gotta admit, while the WW and Black Canary story was the only one lacking Darwyn Cooke art, handled instead by his long time collaborator J. Bone, it was extremely humorous. When you get Wonder Woman yelling, “Mercury’s Codpiece!”, and “Hera’s Girdle”, you know you’re in for a fun reading experience.

One final note is that this issue’s introductory page is probably the best piece to the entire picture. Rip Hunter has taken time out of his busy schedule to appear before you and explain where this issue fits in continuity with the larger DCU picture currently happening and after all the discussion of ‘coon skin hats, parasites that created aluminum siding salesmen, and 52 worlds, he sends you on your way with what this book is really about, good ol’ fashioned fiction. It’s a great opening and really sets the tone for the book as a whole.

While this special is hurt by its pricey $5 tag, I can recommend it if you’re a fan of Cooke, New Frontier, or both. While there isn’t anything mind blowing found in this one shot, it will produce some good laughs, and a great supplement to the original source material.

3.5 out of 5

Image Logan #1 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Brian K. Vaughan
Pencils – Eduardo Risso
Inks – Eduardo Risso
Colors – Dean White
Letters – Joe Caramagna
Cover – Eduardo Risso

Wolverine’s got his memory back… now what? With Vaughan at the helm, this three issue series called Logan has a whole heap of potential. Logan’s headed to Japan to revisit his past and conquer an old foe. What more about that do we know after reading the first issue? Pretty much nothing.

Let me work my way through the presentation before I give you my take on whether or not this should be worthy of your bucks. It’s Brian K. Vaughan, and those of us that are fans of his work will feel almost obligated to pick this book up. And the writing, so far, is not much of a departure from Vaughan’s style; short, direct and witty. And for anyone acquainted with 100 Bullets, I’m happy to say that Risso does not disappoint either. The artwork is sparse and simple, yet detailed when it counts.
Where to go from there? Well, this one’s certainly a page turner. I’m not really sure, however, if that’s such a good thing. This is only going to be a three part series, and being one-third done, I feel like Vaughan is going to be hard pressed to do anything truly spectacular. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that I’ll come back after the next installment prying my foot out of my mouth, but after blazing through this first issue, I’m pretty confident that Vaughan is going to be struggling to force a good story out of Logan and his past. Will it make Wolverine fans happy? Sure. As everyone else looking for something with the scope Vaughan is capable of? I’m not sure.

Vaughan’s going to have to pull off some great writing with the second issue in order to keep me interested.

3 out of 5

Image Moon Knight #16 Review by Joey Esposito
Plot – Mike Benson & Charlie Huston
Writer – Mike Benson
Pencils/Inks – Mark Texeira
Colors – Dan Brown
Letters – Joe Caramagna

I don’t read Moon Knight for epic stories. I don’t read it because I have a lifetime of familiarity with the character and his supporting cast. I read this book because it is, quite simply, the most badass book being published. By badass, of course, I mean face smashing, knee shattering, face ripping, balls to the wall violence. And when there is such badassery aplenty, the artwork must follow suit.

Issue #16 delivers in that respect, and with flying colors. Yes, David Finch’s amazing work from the earlier issues of the series is missed, but issue #16’s Mark Texeira is more than capable, going for a more gritty feel than Finch’s super polished look. The grit works to the material’s advantage; scratchy lines are the shading marks on the page, and combined with the seemingly painted colors, the book reeks of Alex Maleev’s Daredevil.

Unfortunately, badass maneuvers and extreme violence can only take us so far. At some point, there does have to be some sort of story, a tale that leads somewhere. For 16 issues in, I still have yet to know, for a fact, what exactly is going on. That’s right, I honestly am almost clueless. Ever since Charlie Huston stopped plotting the script, it’s gotten much more understandable, but the after affects of his yearlong run are quite steep, resulting in much confusion on new characters. I constantly am playing the who’s who game, flipping back and forth between pages to figure out who this new person is on the page.

It;s hard to forgive the convoluted plot (if there actually is one), but the book still deserves to be read (seen), because there are some truly great pieces of work in this issue that it would be shameful to miss.

2.5 out of 5

Image Nightwing #142 Review by Tom Sanford
Writer – Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils – Rags Morales
Inks – Michael Bair, Mark Propst, & Sandu Florea
Colorist – Nathan Eyring
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Cover – Morales & Bair

“Terror At 2,000 Feet!” exclaims the cover to the latest Nightwing. How terrifying is it really, though? Dick Grayson seems to be pretty comfortable with being high in the air. Even though he’s being attacked by an unknown creature, he’s been diving from even higher heights for at least a while, enough to tell himself how exciting and how much of a rush it is. Fear is absent so far for Nightwing as he continues on with an unstoppable tear, trying to solve the mystery of what’s happening in the cemeteries under his watch and who’s behind it all.

The balance between superhero and man underneath falters this issue, giving what seems to be not enough of either. Both parts start off well, giving a little more insight into what’s actually happening criminally and how much of a pimp Dick still remains, teaching his main squeeze to swing from a trapeze in front of a bunch of 7 year olds. That’s maybe moved from too quickly, however, and after a short skydiving interlude, is segued into a lame, stereotypical superhero moment that Nightwing is simply too cool for.

Meeting an old woman by the name of Ma on the elevator at Justice Society Headquarters, Dick is faced with someone more interested with his life as a Flying Grayson than with his life as Nightwing. As a reader, this is ultimately the same dilemma we are faced with, as Dick’s personal life, even though it of course needs Nightwing to compliment it, is too interesting to not be curious about. He seems open enough to think about it, and is certainly open enough to talk about it, so further exploration only seems natural.

Somehow, soon after this scene the book sky-dived and forgot to pull its’ ripcords. The last half of the book seems like it will be ok, and certainly has its’ moments like an amusing note left for Batman, but it frustratingly turns into wasted dialogue. One can certainly appreciate the relationship between Dick and Tim Drake, but they way they talk to each other feels painfully like an episode of Gilmore Girls. The artificially spoken wit goes on for page after page, not at all what one would expect from the two. Maybe a momentary lapse in judgment, or maybe a problem, but the exchange between old friends Dick and Wally West from last issue seemed more genuine. Despite this, the book picks up in the end and promises a better following issue, still making Nightwing a series to stick with.

3 out of 5

Image Northlanders #4 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Brian Wood
Pencils – Davide Gianfelice
Inks – Davide Gianfelice
Colors – Dave McCaig
Letters – Travis Lanham
Cover – Massimo Carnevale

Well, if the opening of the arc, “Sven the Returned,” didn’t snare your emotions, the fourth installment of Northlanders will definitely do the job. Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice are absolutely brutal. While the first three issues of the series were enough to pull any reader out of their world and into the world of Sven the Varangian Guard, the fourth is the one that’s going to drive you into anxious obsession. I just finished the book and I’m already incredibly psyched for the next issue.

What was missing from the first three issues was a sense of scope and presence, well scratch that for the fourth. This time around, Sven’s uncle has sent his blood thirsty right-hand man, Hakkar, to take our hero Sven out. In the process, Hakkar does enough shit to force Sven into a state of unimaginable sorrow. Enough to piss me off… and it’s only the fourth time I’ve invested myself in the characters.

Great writing and amazingly devastating visuals make this series a must-have.

Jump on before it gets too deep.

5 out of 5

Image Punisher: War Journal #17 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Matt Fraction
Pencils – Howard Chaykin
Colors – Edgar Delgado with Jesus Aburto
Letters – Joe Cafamagna
Cover – Alex Maleev

Let me begin by saying that I haven’t read this book since before issue #11. Matt Fraction started a great new Punisher series that unfortunately was forced to spend essentially it’s first entire year as a slave to Civil War and the death of Captain America. And while Fraction’s writing was good enough to make these plot requirements seem less like a tie-in, Civil War was overstaying it’s welcome and the incredible mismatched artwork of Ariel Olivetti with this series was just too overpowering to bear. Alas, I hadn’t planned on picking this book up again until I laid my eyes upon the amazing cover courtesy of good ol’ Alex Maleev.

I don’t regret my decision. Issue #17 of War Journal plays out similarly to issue #4, thus far the best issue of this series, in that Fraction spends the issue with its narration and focus coming from a supporting character, leading Frank Castle himself to only be in a select few panels. This approach is incredibly rewarding, as not only does it give us insight into the supporting cast, but also how The Punisher himself is relied on by his allies.

Thankfully, there is finally an artist on this book that is able to keep up with The Punisher’s natural grit. However, while characters look great, there is an issue with perspective in many panels that cause the characters to look as though they are floating on the surface below them. Again, there are only a select few instances, but for a book coming from a major publisher I can’t really see any excuse to accept it. And I’ll be honest. As far as the artwork goes, Maleev’s cover is worth the price alone.

3 out of 5

Image Teen Titans: Year One #3 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – Amy Wolfram
Pencils – Karl Kerschl
Inks – Serge Lapointe
Colors – Steph Peru
Letters – Nick J. Napolitano
Cover – Karl Kerschl

Teen Titans: Year One #3, I don’t know why I was so excited to read this one. Perhaps looking for a retelling of the unification of DC’s youngest team got me a little too pumped. So far, not so good.

Don’t get me wrong, the art is great. Kerschl pulls of the world in which one would expect to find teens fighting crime and evil in a superb manner. The colors are rich and bright, and the lines are bold and striking. But the writing… bleh. I get it, the book is for youngsters, but Aqualad had only a handful of lines in this whole issue, his best being, stay with me here, “Robin is cool.” My God. The story itself doesn’t get much better.

If you are presented with the third book in a six issue series, you’d expect that you’d be greeted with the climax. You’d reach the end of the book and a cliffhanger would be staring you in the face so hard that you’d actually get pissed off. But hey, you want it this way, right? Teen Titans: Year One has managed a way to cram two story arcs, seemingly anyways, into six issues. Really? As if the dialogue isn’t shallow enough?

Only get this is you want to be reaffirmed about how much of a cocky jerk Kid Flash can be. Oh, and Batman is only awesome when he’s pissed.

2 out of 5

ImageThe Vinyl Underground #6 Review by Joey Esposito
Writer – Si Spencer
Pencils – Simon Gane
Inks – Cameron Stewart
Colors – Guy Major
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – Sean Phillips

You have to love Vertigo. It feels like almost every new book that they launch winds up being a success in one way or another. The Vinyl Underground is no different. Now that the establishing chapter is out of the way, Spencer and Gane begin to delve into the complexities of these characters and their cases, which I have previously described as the Scooby-Doo team infused with lots of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Brutal and unapologetic, it’s impressive that Spencer is able to find the balance between good characterization and excessive violence for violence’s sake.

Issue #6 sees the gang set off on a brand new case that is both utterly disgusting to watch but also engaging enough that I’m disturbingly excited to see what the motives are. Gane’s impressive pencils easily show Mozz’s beautiful-people crew in all their glamour and can still capture the depravity of a junky in one well used panel. Not only that, but Stewart’s inks really are what make this book’s artwork. His heavy line work makes the characters pop and the action top notch.

God knows there are a bundle of worthwhile Vertigo books. Many of them are incredibly far along, or over already. That means there are hundreds of readers looking for the next big thing. As this is The Vinyl Underground review, I think you probably know what that next big thing is.

4 out of 5

Image Young Liars #1 Review by Joey Davidson
Writer – David Lapham
Pencils – David Lapham
Inks – David Lapham
Colors – Lee Loughridge
Letters – Jared K. Fletcher
Cover – David Lapham

David Lapham, mind behind Silverfish, is taking to the monthly continuing series world with Young Liars. The man has a knack for gritty and violent crime writing and, as such, will certainly be making use of his talents with this endeavor.

Heralded as one of Vertigo’s best new books, Young Liars comes out swinging. From one look at the very first panel readers will know that they are going to be hurled back and forth in a world of sex, drugs and (scout’s honor) rock & roll… coochie coo. Without ruining the sickening charm of the premiere book, Young Liars chronicles the life of rich and wild Sadie Dawkins from the eyes of the man that loves her, Danny Noonan. See, the love of Danny’s life was shot in the head before all of this started (I’ll let the issue do the explaining), among the things affected were her ability to make good decisions and keep in check her violence and sex drive. This is where the fun starts. While this seems like plenty to drive the storyline of any normal book, typical of Lapham, we’re all in for something a little different…. Straight from Vertigo’s website:

“But who shot Sadie only part of the mystery that drives YOUNG LIARS, from the twisted club scene of lower Manhattan to absurdist hijinx on the high seas. And from the hot shores of Ibiza to the haunted castles of Spain, Danny, Sadie and their entourage of losers will run from poorly disguised assassins, demented billionaires, and psychotic midgets — not to mention each other — in an absurd quest to get rich and famous. Or kill each other trying. YOUNG LIARS will provide relentless action, suspense, sex and murder in the way that only David Lapham can deliver.”

You read that right… “hijinx on the high seas.”

As for the aesthetics; well, they just work. Lapham’s art is nothing fantastic, but it’s just rough enough to depict the mood perfectly. The inks are heavy and the colors are unforgiving. While the first issue does little to depart from one environment, you will be able to get a semi-decent idea as to whether or not the art appeals to you by just opening the book.

If you’re looking for a new series to get in to, this may be the one for you. Only the next few issues are going to decide whether or not you’ll stay hooked, but Young Liars #1 did enough to pull me in.

4 out of 5

That’s it for this week, folks. Catch you back here next time, same bat channel.