Sunday, August 9, 2009

You've Been Warned Vol II Issue XXVIX

Comic reviews by a fan, for the fans!

** As always, mind the spoilers, fanboy. **

- OPENING REMARKS -

Absolution #1
by Christos Cage & Roberto Viacava
Avatar Press


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That ol' anti-superhero trend is goin' around again. Everywhere you look there's the image of a sculpted champion, with bared teeth and narrowed vision, splintering the skulls of evildoers only slightly worse then they themselves. It got old in the 90's. It's gonna get old again. In the meantime we may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Absolution is a textbook definition of this trend. John, our "hero," under the employ of government law enforcement and romantically involved with a police officer, routinely allows his nemeses to perish, and occasionally helps them along. He's a simple man haunted by the deaths of innocence slain by super-criminals, and isn't above eliminating those monsters in retribution, even if it means he himself becomes just as bad as they.

This sentiment isn't new. Hell, hardly a month goes by when this same subject isn't broached in, say ... Batman maybe? It's Gage's handling of the device that makes it fresh and unique. His story is geared for a mature audience (in every sense of the word), taking full advantage of all the horrors of the modern world (such as racism, meth addicts, and child dismemberment, to name a few). It flows rapidly, defying traditional comic conventions by letting the characters actions speak loudest. The only time we're allowed a glimpse into our ethically questionable protagonist's mind is though fleeting glimpses of the horror he's witnessed. This wouldn't be nearly as poignant without Roberto Viacava's gritty representations of Gage's twisted plot. Truly, this artist and writer have a partnership as fluid as their product.

It won't break new ground. It won't revolutionize the industry. But it will most likely be better then 95% of the super-hero books this year purely by its uncompromising, unapologetic drive to tell a poignant, shocking story. In the end that's enough to get my attention, money, and praise.

The Destroyer #5
by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
Max (Marvel) Comics


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Speaking of the anti-superhero trend ...

Kirkman's Marvel swansong wrapped up this week, with all the shocking gore you've come to love and expect from the writer. This yarn (about a terminally ill hero looking to tie up his loose ends and leave the world in better shape than how he found it) wasn't the author's best effort. Wasn't his worst either. That leaves it in the middle ground. If we've learned anything about this author from his multitude of titles, it's that he thrives during an extended storyline. Still, it wasn't without its charms. We all came for the blood, guts, and naughty words, but in the end the more intriguing aspect was our hero and his battle-hardened family; his maimed yet supportive wife, his sidekick/son-in-law, his stand-offish daughter. These characters brought heart to the gorefest, and secretly made me long to see Kirkman on a Marvel team book (but if you asked me about such a longing in person I'd deny it).

Look for a collection of this book if you're smitten with the whole "anti-superhero" thing I keep bringing up, or happen to be a Kirkman fan (duh). Aside from that, it's your call. It won't knot your socks while they're still on your feet, but it's still very much a quality story, and worth the attention of anyone looking for comics with a lotta bite.

Old Man Winter
by J.T. Yost
Birdcage Bottom Books


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I was torn about whether or not to write about this title, as I always am with Xeric books. I find myself habitually weary of kicking up-and-comers in the proverbial unsuspecting balls, particular since I'm afraid they'll hold a grudge and seek revenge for any slighting I may dish out on them. In the end I've figured I have more good than bad things to say about J.T. Yost, so hopefully everyone's balls will remain unharmed.

Comprised of five short tales, Old Man Winter paints a mostly bleak vision of life as suffering. Aside from its strongest story, Logging Sanjay, a light-hearted retelling of harmless, comical pranks in a quiet town, its companion stories drag the reader into a bleak, cold world of torment. I have to confess I'm not impressed with the content of these other stories, which often times ring preachy and bloated with political agendas (i.e. animal rights). What I am impressed with is Yost's artistic abilities. I absolutely love his style. Yost has a knack for sequential movement. His art naturally attracts the eye. In particular his use of gray tones is masterful. I can't recall the last time I've seen such a beautiful black and white book. I'd love to see this author's work on a larger scale.

I feel comfortable saying J.T. Yost is another name to watch out for in this industry. If he doesn't lose his flair for the visual end of things, and can get it together on the narrative end, he'll be a creator to reckon with.

- PICK OF THE WEEK -
Frankenstein's Womb
by Warren Ellis & Marek Oleksicki
Avatar Press


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I read this title before I fell asleep last night. About an hour after dozing off my girlfriend woke me up so we could have sex. As she climbed on top of me I slowly began to realize I was still asleep. At most I was only 60% conscious. A large chuck of me was still dreaming, and it was dreaming about what'd I'd read in Frankenstein's Womb.

No pun intended, this is an extremely pregnant tale. Mostly an essay drawing parallels between the sciences of yesterday and today, Ellis lets us tag along for a conversation between one Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin (aka Mary Shelley), and her bastard child (aka Frankenstein's Monster). It's an odyssey of a conversation that takes us through the ages, and in the end shows us how the imagination of this unassuming woman helped spark the modern age.

Ellis draws a lot of shockingly obvious parallels, such as the use of electricity in modern medicine to that of the creation of Frankenstein's monster, that make me feel like a total twit for not recognizing on my own sooner. It's one of many insights which comprise a book begging to be not only read, but studied, thought about, and discussed. It's an brilliant, eerie piece, as one might rightly assume from the title.

Books like this are why Ellis commands the massive fanbase he does. I highly recommend this piece. However, I don't recommend having half-awake sex after reading it. Unless you're into that sort of thing.

- PAN OF THE WEEK -
Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire #1
by Jason Aaron & Roland Boschi
Marvel Comics


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This is a GREAT story. Best fucking Ghost Rider story I've ever read. Jason Aaron is redefining this otherwise lifeless character with each new issue. It's brilliant. Fucking brilliant.

The way Marvel is handling this brilliant story is fucking criminal. Canceling the monthly series and relaunching it is a mini-series is pure bullshit. Charging a dollar an issue more for this mini-series is pure bullshit. Claiming the book has added content and then only throwing a fucking reprint of Ghost Rider #1 (circa 1970) in is pure bullshit. So much bullshit in such an otherwise superb story ...

Marvel is taking one of their best fucking books and cramming it to the brim with bullshit. What a dumbfuck thing to do. Shit like this is why, with each passing month, I'm picking up less and less of their books. I'm sick of getting inundated with bullshit.

Once again, to whoever's responsible for this unending sea of shit: fuck you.

You've been warned.

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