Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Creepy Presents Steve Ditko: The Definitive Collection of The Artist's Work From Creepy and Eerie!

 Dark Horse has been doing a great job of curating the CREEPY and EERIE brands, with their phenomenal ARCHIVES volumes, as well as floppies featuring all-new work by top creative talent, and their CREEPY PRESENTS line, showcasing individual Artists or characters.

 The latest Artist to get this treatment is the legendary Steve Ditko. I became a Ditko fan when I was a little boy, thanks to Pocket Books' innovative digests, which were unheard of at the time. Comic books were NEVER collected back in the 1970's, so this was a rare treat, as well as a rare opportunity to read early Spider-Man adventures.

 I was raised on Ross Andru and Gil Kane's Spidey, with a dash of John Romita thrown in for good measure. I'd seen Ditko's art before, but seeing his work on Spider-Man was amazing. I'd never seen anything like it before, and it's still a high-water mark for me. Ditko's wall-crawler just cannot be topped.

 So I was thrilled to see that Dark Horse was collecting all of Ditko's work for Warren Publishing in one deluxe hardcover. There are sixteen stories contained within the pages of CREEPY PRESENTS STEVE DITKO: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST'S WORK FROM CREEPY AND EERIE!, fifteen of which are written by legendary Writer/editor Archie Goodwin.

 EC Comics remains the top of the mountain as far as Horror comics go, but Warren, while a distant second, was nothing to sneeze at, especially the early issues of CREEPY and EERIE, when Goodwin was at the helm. Goodwin is at the top of his game in these stories, and Ditko brought his A-game as well. The bulk of the book is taken up by Horror stories, but there are a few Sword & Sorcery stories, which would give Conan a run for his money. I'll always feel like his work on Spider-Man was his best, but the stunning black-and-white linework that he did for CREEPY and EERIE comes pretty damned close. Horror fans and Ditko fans NEED to pick this book up.

 Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saga, Volume Two

 I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed by the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples' SAGA. The monthly comic was a bestselling sensation, and I was expecting greatness, and what I read was, in a nutshell, really standard stuff. I rated it a 5 out of 10. The premise was good enough to get me to come back for seconds, though, so here we are, SAGA, VOLUME TWO...and the verdict is....?

 Better. Much better.


 Marko and Alana, fugitive lovers from opposite sides of a bizarre outer space war, are still on the run with their halfbreed baby. The trio were joined by Marko's parents at the end of volume one, and the second collection mainly deals with this new family dynamic.

 I'd rate this book an 8 out of 10, but even though I liked it a lot more than the previous volume, there are still a lot of things that grate on me as I read SAGA...I've been trying to pinpoint them, and the best way I can possibly convey my issue is to say that it has a lot of stuff that takes me out of the story. I'm kind of a stickler for stories being told in a way that's appropriate to their setting, and anything that breaks that mood can jar my mind away from the vibe that the Author is trying to set up. I recently watched Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED, and while I generally enjoyed the film, some of his musical choices took me right out of the film, such as the climactic shootout that was set to a rap song. I get what he was trying to do, but a rap song in a Western...? Took me out of the film immediately. There's a lot of that kind of stuff in SAGA, and I'm not sure how much of it is Author Brian K. Vaughan and how much of it is Artist Fiona Staples. First off, Staples' art really doesn't do much for me...I find her figures to be too stiff and blocky, and her backgrounds leave a lot to be desired. As for the things that jolt me out of the story......I'm reading about an intergalactic war, and planets populated by bizarre alien beings. Would those alien beings wear yoga pants and sandals? Would they use words like "Twat"...? Why does Prince Robot IV's race have TV's, complete with old-school antennas, for heads? Would an alien couple really talk about feeding their baby applesauce? Yeah, it's picky, but it bothers me. The book also suffers from the absence of The Stalk, who was surely one of the creepiest, most off-putting fictional creations ever. Ugh...I get the chills just thinking about her. Bad move killing her, Vaughan!

 Also, I hardly consider myself a prude (In fact, I consider myself a pervert, but that's just me.....), but there are a lot of times where Vaughan and Staples make me say "Really...? Was that necessary...?", such as the Godzilla-sized Cyclops with a massive, diseased, dripping penis, and did Prince Robot's TV-screen face really need to show hardcore gay porn as he lies dying towards the end of the book? (I actually failed to notice the two pages of penises until I read an amazon review that pointed it out. Good job on the cock-spotting, amazon reviewer!) It almost seems like Staples is sitting there giggling, in her best Beavis voice, "Heh heh heh....I can draw schlongs! Boi-oi-oi-oi-oinnnng!!!!"

 Overall, SAGA, VOLUME TWO was a great improvement over the first volume. The end was enough to make me feel sad that I don't collect floppies anymore.....it's going to nerve-wracking waiting for Volume Three.

 SAGA, VOLUME TWO contains 7-12 of the monthly series, complete with covers and variants. Image Comics provided a review copy.

Friday, July 26, 2013


 This was quite a pleasant surprise.

 Fans of Mike Mignola's HELLBOY will feel right at home in the pages of Peter Bergting's original Dark Horse graphic novel DOMOVOI. The subject matter and the execution are not really alike, but it has the same effortlessly engaging feel as a Mignola story, and the art is wonderfully evocative of Mignola blended with Jeff (BONE) Smith. Peter Bergting 's story revolves around Jenni, a young girl who comes from a family with a history of magic and the occult. Although Jenni has nothing to do with any of this, when her Grandmother dies, she is forced to take a a perilous journey that will leave her forever changed.

  Bergting's characters are full of life, and perfectly rendered and written. The story blends folklore, fantasy, and horror, and left me wishing that it were longer. Here's hoping we get a sequel or follow-up of some kind.
The book includes a foreword by John (B.P.R.D.) Arcudi, and a small sketch gallery by Bergting.

 Dark Horse provided a review copy.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dark Discoveries #23

 It's been a while since I last read an issue of DARK DISCOVERIES, so I was really surprised to see how far they'd come in the last few years when my copy of issue 23 arrived in my mailbox earlier this week. It's a HUGE, squarebound magazine, in full color, and features fiction by Robert E. Howard & Ramsey Campbell, Angeline Hawkes, Jonathan Maberry, Weston Ochse, Joe McKinney, and Steve Rasnic Tem, as well as a whole host of non-fiction articles, interviews, and reviews. I enjoyed what I read, and I'll be back for more.
Dark Discoveries

The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror

 There's not a more welcoming sight than a Walt Simonson cover. He has four of them collected in THE ROCKETEER: HOLLYWOOD HORROR. That should be enough to justify a purchase right there.

 If it isn't, than how about if I told you that it's written by Roger Langridge and illustrated by J. Bone? Bone's style is a far cry from the lush work of Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens, but it works wonderfully, giving the book a kind of "Rocketeer: The Animated Adventures" feel. Langridge's story has a little too much of a "Scooby-Doo" vibe to it, especially towards the end, but any disappointment that I may have felt with the plot was more than made up by the masterful execution that Langridge demonstrates. I was especially happy that the book, while perfectly capable of standing alone, is a wonderful companion piece to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM, following up on some of that books plot points. We even get appearances by Doc Savage and his associates, as well as Nick and Nora Charles, and a host of 1930's Hollywood stars, as well as a surprise narrator that brought a huge smile to my face. This is a fun, lighthearted book, and it's really got me (Even more...) excited to see what IDW has in store for Cliff, Peevy, and Betty.

 THE ROCKETEER: HOLLYWOOD HORROR collects all four issues of the mini-series, with all covers and variants. IDW provided a review copy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

John Carter, Warlord of Mars Omnibus

 Sometimes you hear about people who embark on some insane effort, like going around the world in a sailboat, alone, or climbing Mt. Everest, or jumping into the Lion enclosure at the Zoo. When these people inevitably meet with some bad end, people generally think "They must have been nuts.", or perhaps they're more charitable and think "They just weren't prepared for what they were getting into."

 Am I nuts?

 Or was I just unprepared?

 Because Marvel's JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS OMNIBUS took me to my geek limit, and beyond.

 I have crystal-clear memories of buying two issues of Marvel's JOHN CARTER from Sheila's in The Bronx when I was a kid: Issues 10 and 11, which were horrible places to jump into the story. Issue 10 was the conclusion of the ten-part (TEN-PART!!!!) "Air Pirates of Mars" story arc, and issue 11 featured the origin of Dejah Thoris, John Carter's Martian Wife. Issue 10 featured a massive battle against a gigantic four-armed creature with an ape head, a mohawk, and huge fangs. There's a Gil Kane splash page of Carter fighting this creature that has haunted me for over 30 years. I've always wanted to see what led up to that battle.

 From this we learn: Some questions are better left unanswered.

 As I hit the order button on the Barnes & Noble website, I thought: "Wait a minute....I really didn't like those two issues when I was 8 years old....why would I like them NOW...? Unfortunately, nostalgia won the day, and here I am now, poorer but wiser.

 I'll start off by saying that many of the comic-books from my youth that I have revisited really suck. This is one of them. I was born in 1970, and I've determined that there really wasn't very much out there in the '70's that I care to revisit. I can read Lee/Ditko SPIDER-MAN books all day long...I can devour Lee/Kirby FANTASTIC FOUR books...but, to my tastes, once Lee stepped aside and let Roy "Paid by the word" Thomas take the reins, Marvel became a pretty fucking talky place. Some of these comics have so much text, block after block of endless text, that there seems to be little room for the art. It's not until the early 1980's, with the advent of Marvel's Writer/Artist double threats, specifically Frank Miller, that Writers eased up on the endless jibber-jabber. Miller had the confidence to actually SHOW what was happening, instead of filling the panels with "I drove my fist into his Solar-Plexus! He grunted in pain, but his knee quickly found my Spleen, reducing me to a quivering mass of nerve-endings!!" (This book is a prime example of this kind of endless jibber-jabber....Gil Kane delivers perfectly serviceable art, clearly showing what is happening, and Marv Wolfman covers it up with giant blocks of text TELLING YOU ENDLESSLY WHAT YOU'RE ALREADY FUCKING LOOKING AT!!!!)

 I used to have this mania that compelled me to read, in it's entirety, everything I bought. One day, while revisiting Robert E. Howard's CONAN stories, which I adored as a kid, I just decided "I can't take any more of this shit! I've gotta stop!" and I put the book down, never to return. This was a huge, liberating step, and it made me almost ruthless in how quickly I will give up on a book if it's not entertaining me. I was ready to give up on this omnibus after the first issue (It collects a soul-killing 31 issues!!!!!), but BECAUSE it's an Omnibus, and cost me a chunk of change, I literally felt unable to stop. I mean, it was worth collecting into the wondrous Omnibus format, so it must be good, right? RIGHT????


There are a bunch of John Carter books, none of which I've ever read. I have a passing knowledge of the character and his situation (Confederate Soldier faints in a cave, wakes up on Mars....), so I was able to hit the ground running with issue #1, which apparently places the series IN BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS 3 AND 4 OF CHAPTER 27 OF  "A PRINCESS OF MARS"!!! If there was ever a more bizarre place to set an entire series, I must have missed it. Writer Marv Wolfman throws so many outlandish things at the reader that I was amazed this ever saw publication. My head was swimming. Typesetting this omnibus must have been awful, because Wolfman seems to use every word on Earth, all collected and combined, then multiplied by Infinity, in this talkfest. Thank God for Gil Kane's art, which at least gives you something attractive to look at while you suffer. "THE AIR PIRATES OF MARS" goes on (And on and on and on...) for a staggering ten issues, before reaching a climax that could have been arrived at in maybe two or three issues. I'm still suffering from "The Vapors" from spending THE LAST TEN DAYS OF MY LIFE (!!!!) reading this thing, so before I pass out, I have to give you a quick hit list of some of the things a brave soul may encounter in this Omnibus:

A guy calling a woman a "Sensuous Slut!"

A double-page spread, by Carmine Infantino, that features a naked ass! (It's a monster/zombie-guy ass, but nonetheless, it's a naked ass in a 1978 comics-code approved book! you go, Carmine!)

 A guy walloping Dejah Thoris while screaming "SLUT!!!" Who knew "Slut" was a comics-code approved word?

 John Carter and Dejah Thoris sneaking off to bone each other constantly! (Again, who knew such horny people could exist in code-approved books????)

 Marv Wolfman incessantly referring to Dejah Thoris as "The incomparable Dejah Thoris".

 More "Almost kinda about to happen" implied attempted rape than you could ever imagine in a code-approved book.

 LOADS of Women getting decked by guys. Martian Women must be TOUGH!

 Human-looking Martian Women who reproduce by LAYING EGGS!!!!!  

 The dawn of all life on Mars, which started with a huge tree, which grew FRUIT that became Martian people and creatures. Yes, these people literally GREW ON TREES!!!!

 I could go on and on all day. This book is batshit-crazy. I thought the ten-part story was bad, until Chris Claremont comes aboard and says "Ten parts....? How about TWELVE parts, fuckers?? I'll get this book cancelled yet!" (Which he did, before the story ended, but then it somehow CAME BACK for four more issues and an Annual! Oy!)

 There are some bright spots, and they're all in the artwork. Carmine Infantino contributes a three-part Horror story, which includes two mind-bogglingly beautiful double-page spreads. There's some beautiful Dave Cockrum art in the Dejah Thoris origin issue. (On a related note, I can't believe how little clothing they got away with putting on Dejah Thoris. This comic must have launched 40 or 50 thousand cases of premature puberty.)
 If you're sincerely interested in this book, but the glorious omnibus format is too pricey, Dark Horse did a black-and-white book that collects the full run. I'll post a link below.

 Summation: Nostalgia can be a bad thing. Love that Alan Davis cover, though.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Danger Girl and The Army of Darkness

 First off, I'm not a member of the EVIL DEAD/Bruce Campbell cult.

 I was blown away by EVIL DEAD when I saw it shortly after it's initial home video release in the early 1980's. My friend Bryan and I ran a ghetto gauntlet walking to The Allerton Theater in The Bronx for a 10 P.M. showing of EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN, and that kind of took the bloom off of the Rose. It was a comedic remake of the original, and we were both very disappointed. Plus, Ash was kind of a know-it-all dick. ARMY OF DARKNESS didn't improve things much. While I am still able to watch and enjoy these films for what they are, none of the sequels can touch the original. And since the comic book series is called ARMY OF DARKNESS (Due to, if I remember correctly, some weird licensing thing that only grants them rights to characters/situations from the film of the same name, and not the EVIL DEAD films...), it maintains that annoying ARMY OF DARKNESS tone that irritates me so. (I did, however, enjoy the MARVEL ZOMBIES crossover.)

 So that brings me to DANGER GIRL AND THE ARMY OF DARKNESS. I am a fan of the DANGER GIRL franchise, albeit a fair-weather one: I think the original mini-series, which featured art by J. Scott Campbell, is amazingly fun and entertaining. Once Campbell moved on, the book suffered, and so I moved on, as well. I returned for DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE, which was a return to form for the DG franchise, so I had slightly elevated (I won't call them "High"...) hopes for their meeting with Mr. Ashley Williams....

  ...and I was really no more let down than I expected to be. This is a fun, lighthearted DANGER GIRL adventure, made slightly annoying by it's regurgitation of tired ARMY OF DARKNESS tropes.

 The book, of course, finds the Danger Girl team searching for The Necronomicon, with help from Ash. Abby Chase and Sydney Savage take center stage, with Valerie and Deuce reduced to bit players, but that didn't bother me too much this time out. There's a delightful flashback to Sydney's childhood and recruitment by Deuce that's worth the price of admission alone, and Artist Chris Bolson acquits himself nicely. His art is attractive, clean, and easy to follow. Writer/co-creator Andy Hartnell does his usual great job with the DG team, but he threw in a few too many ARMY OF DARKNESS cliches for my liking. Must every AOD story feature "I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL!!!", "JOIN US!!!!!", and every other tired Deadite quote? (Thank Baby Jesus Hartnell didn't stoop to the ubiquitous Ash-ism "HAIL TO THE KING, BABY!"...I fucking hate that.) Every AOD comic features pretty much the same premise as the movie did, except in different time periods and with different people helping Ash, and DANGER GIRL AND THE ARMY OF DARKNESS isn't really much different.The addition of Abby and Sydney elevates the proceedings somewhat, and I enjoyed the book due to their presence.

 DANGER GIRL AND THE ARMY OF DARKNESS collects all six issues of the mini-series, as well as all covers and variants. Dynamite/IDW provided a review copy.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stormwatch, Volume Two

 Jesus, what a mess DC makes out of their collected editions.....I read the trade paperback of STORMWATCH, VOLUME ONE a couple of days ago (I couldn't be bothered to write a review...sorry.), and while I enjoyed it, it was nowhere near as good as I remembered from my original reading of the initial collections. You could feel Writer Warren Ellis' boredom with the generic Wildstorm characters, and the book only began to shine when Ellis started to clear the decks and introduce his own characters.

 STORMWATCH, VOLUME TWO is more of the same, as Ellis really starts to cement the team that will eventually become The Authority.  The art also sees a significant upgrade, as the all-over-the-place art of Tom Raney gives way to the more polished pencils of Byran Hitch midway through the collection. No offense to Raney, but his artwork, especially in STORMWATCH, VOLUME ONE, is mainly mediocre, and often hideously representative of the worst of the Jim Lee clones of the 1990's. Hitch is a huge departure, and a massive improvement.

 This second volume certainly delivers a bang for the buck, giving readers 14 issues worth of STORMWATCH, but therein lies my main problem with this collection. DC's initial solicitation of this collection read as follows:
 Warren Ellis concludes his run on Stormwatch, redefining the team and introducing new members including the powerhouse Apollo and brutal Midnighter. But when disaster strikes in the form of alien creatures, can the team survive? 

 This is VERY telling, because it implies that DC is going to be including the WILDCATS/ALIENS crossover, which is insanely important to STORMWATCH continuity. DC did NOT include that crossover here, and it leaves a HUGE hole in the book that is sure to confuse and upset readers who are unfamiliar with the series. There's no text page recap, nothing....just a hole in the story, made worse by the fact that the omitted crossover happens between issues 10 and 11 of STORMWATCH, so a new reader could just make the assumption that Warren Ellis decided to have all of this massive death and destruction happen off-camera. (To play devil's advocate for a moment, Ellis must have known that including a crossover with a licensed property was bound to be trouble down the road, so issues 10 and 11 do read as a complete story, of a sort. It seems like a TV show that didn't have the budget to show the big battle and just skipped to the tragic aftermath. You get the jist of what happened, but not the real impact of seeing it happen, and you never learn just who or what was responsible for the chaos, or how they were stopped, which is made more odd by the fact the issue 10 clearly tips off readers that they are about to encounter 20th Century Fox's ALIENS.) The decision not to include this pivotal issue undercuts the entire volume, and honestly, fuck DC for cheaping out. It was included in the trade paperback, so obviously including it here would be doable. But much like DC's MARSHAL LAW OMNIBUS, which was solicited as a be-all,end-all collection, but left out the HELLRAISER and SAVAGE DRAGON crossovers, DC decided to give the high hard one to fans, rather than the complete collection they coyly hinted at. So fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me......DC has burned me a few too many times lately with their collected editions, so now I have to be hyper-vigilant and wait for the product to be released and I've read a LOT of reviews before I give them my money.
The book also has a glued binding, which makes for uncomfortable reading and sometimes significant gutter loss.