Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bad Juju, by Randy Chandler

 Back in the old days, there used to be an online store, run by a wonderful guy named Matt Schwartz, named Shocklines. Shocklines specialized in small-press Horror novels, most of which were produced in signed-and-numbered limited editions. I stumbled upon Shocklines while I was looking for more from Richard Laymon, whose short story THE MAIDEN knocked my socks off. I discovered that, while there wasn't much mainstream work by Laymon, there was a whole world of small-press books out there, where he was considered one of the greats. Shocklines opened me up to a whole new world of collectibles, beautifully designed works of art published by Cemetery Dance, Subterranean Press, Necro, Bloodletting, Earthling, and many more. I probably spent enough money at Shocklines to buy a house, or a least put a really substantial downpayment on one. I bought so many books that I now have over 4000 still unread  in my study, nearly a decade after Matt closed Shocklines' virtual doors. There have been some real gems, but there have been more clunkers. Matt ran, and still runs, a Shocklines message board, which I used to practically live in. It was a tightly knit community of fans, Publishers, and Authors, and, much like Cheers, everybody knew your name. Book recommendations were tossed around, blurbs were given, money was spent....and after reading a handful of highly-touted duds, I realized that, since everyone was friends with everyone else, no one was willing to say when they didn't enjoy a book. (This is where I began to cultivate my reputation as a "Crabby Reviewer"...I called a spade a spade.) One of the most ballyhooed books on Shocklines was Randy Chandler's BAD JUJU. I bought it in 2003, and put in in "The Stack"...I later read Chandler's follow-up, HELLZ BELLZ, and was underwhelmed, so I was in no hurry to pick up BAD JUJU. Nearly a decade later, I've finally read Chandler's southern gothic epic.....the verdict?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Evil Ernie, Volume One: Origin of Evil

 One of my most cherished memories of collecting comics in the early 1990's is the original EVIL ERNIE mini-series. Not that it was especially good, or anything...but I bought pretty much anything that came out back then, and those original issues skyrocketed in value FAST, and I was able to turn around and sell them for about $500.00. (Which I promptly wasted on more comics, no doubt.) Since then, Ernie has faded into obscurity, but seeing as how no intellectual property can long go unexploited, Dynamite Comics has resurrected him in EVIL ERNIE, VOLUME ONE: ORIGIN OF EVIL.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Parker: Slayground

 This is my first exposure to Richard Stark's legendary character Parker, and it's easy to see why such a fuss has been made over Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptations of Stark's stories.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The X-Files, Season 10: Vol. 1

 I used to love THE X-FILES. Well, sort of love it. I liked when they did the "Monster of the week" shows (I still maintain that "Home", the episode with the inbred family, is one of the single best episodes of of any television show ever.. It's existence earns all of the shitty X-FILES episodes a pass.), but I absolutely loathed the "Mythology", which never made any kind of sense, and kept getting more and more convoluted, to the point where I just gave up on the show entirely. Bees, black oil, kidnapped sisters, alien spies...Jesus, what a fucking mess. So I missed out on Mulder & Scully being replaced, and Scully having a baby, and a bunch of other shit that I had no interest in whatsoever. I watched the two theatrical movies when they hit HBO (I'm not dumb enough to pay for two more hours of mythology!), and thought they were just dreadful. Overall, I guess that I feel that THE X-FILES is a really good idea that has almost never been handled right. Can IDW break that trend, and tell some worthwhile stories with Mulder & Scully....?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Batgirl: The Lesson

 One of the biggest losses of "The New 52" was Stephanie Brown, A.K.A. Spoiler, Robin, and ultimately, the final Batgirl. She was a fresh, likeable character whose adventures were a joy to read, a bright spot amongst all of the clenched-teeth, severed limbs, and decapitated heads of the Geoff Johns/Dan DiDio-era of DC Comics.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blazing Combat

This is truly a golden age for people who love great comic books.....Dark Horse, Marvel, and Fantagraphics (Not so much with DC, unfortunately...) are re-issuing classic comics with such alarming frequency that I've started trying to find buyers for my organs, before they get too old and stale. Which brings us to today's Crabby Review, Fantagraphic's BLAZING COMBAT....

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Shade

 I've beaten the drum long and hard (Ha ha..."Long and hard"...) for James Robinson's phenomenal STARMAN series, which I consider to be an achievement just slightly below such lauded works as WATCHMEN, FROM HELL, and THE SANDMAN. It's an amazing, epic series, and it represents Robinson's best work. (His DC mini-series THE GOLDEN AGE is nothing to sneeze at, either.) Robinson's output since STARMAN has ranged from mildly entertaining to dreadful and embarrassing, with most of it falling into the "So mediocre that I barely remember it" category. So it was with great trepidation that I picked up THE SHADE, Robinson's maxi-series featuring one of STARMAN's most compelling, complex supporting characters. Was he going to tarnish the memory of his STARMAN run forever....?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Best of Archie Comics, Book Three

 I have never been what you could consider a fan of Archie Comics. I had a handful of Archies when I was little, mostly purchased because there were no Super-Hero comics out that I didn't already have (And when Mom was buying, you got SOMETHING, no matter what it was! You don't want to derail the Mom/comics gravy train!), but I never thought to buy one when something better was available. And yet....I must have read those few Archies that I had a million times apiece. Perhaps my pre-teen mind saw this as some gateway to all of the cool adventures and interactions that I would have as a teenager...? Who knows. So here I am now, decades later....has my quest for nostalgia gotten so out of hand that I'm now buying ARCHIE collections....?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Black Beetle, Volume 1: No Way Out

 Francesco Francavilla is fast becoming one of my favorite Artists....but how does he stack up as a Writer?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies: Lawnmageddon

Disclaimer: I have only played the PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES game once, at my Mother-In-Law's house, on her Kindle. It was a cute, fun little game. However, my four-year-old Son, Mikey, is crazy about it. So I dedicate this review to him, and his love affair with Zombies.

Friday, November 22, 2013


  IDW weighs in with another adaptation of a Joe Hill short story, THUMBPRINT. This is a slim little volume, which the cover claims is based upon a "novella" by Hill, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't a short story, and a short short story, at that.

The Green Hornet, Volume One: Bully Pulpit

 Remember the excitement that you felt hearing aliens drone on and on about trade federations and embargoes and shipping blockades when you first watched STAR WARS, EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE...? Well, Mark Waid catches that same lighting in a bottle with his new Dynamite Entertainment title, THE GREEN HORNET, VOLUME ONE: BULLY PULPIT. Wake the neighbors, it's gonna be an exciting read!

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Volume 1

Since I'm not really digging DC's "New 52", it would stand to reason that one of their recent offerings that I actually did enjoy would be set apart from that mind-boggling new continuity. But if you had told me that I'd enjoy a comic based on a video game this much, I would have laughed in your face.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lazarus, Volume One

Greg Rucka has always been hit-or-miss for me...I've enjoyed a lot of his comic book work, but I detested his various runs on Batman, and his endless Crime Bible mythos stories for DC. I hated what he did to The Question and The Spectre, but I loved his GOTHAM CENTRAL arcs. So I went into his new creator-owned series with low expectations.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Crow: Curare

 IDW has been keeping James O'Barr's creation, The Crow, alive and healthy these past few years, and their latest collection, THE CROW: CURARE offers a decidedly different take on the mythos of The Crow than I've seen before.

Five Ghosts, Volume One: The Haunting of Fabian Gray

 I love the way that Image Comics, much like a crack dealer, gives you the first hit cheaply, in order to get you hooked. You can always get the first collection of any Image Comics series for $9.99, which is a great price for fives issues. So even if the book sucks, you still haven't lost much, except for the time spent reading it. So here we are, with another Volume One from Image, FIVE GHOSTS, VOLUME ONE: THE HAUNTING OF FABIAN GRAY...the verdict?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Justice League of America, Volume 1: World's Most Dangerous

 Wow, what a mess this is.


 Again, WOW....

 Before I actually begin to dissect this book, let me break down it's contents: The first five issues tell a complete story. In fact, DC would have done better to offer less content this time around, and collect only the first five issues. While they form a complete arc, it's basically a teaser for DC's FOREVER EVIL crossover. Then we have issues six and seven, which are chapters of DC's TRINITY WAR crossover, but still feature teaser elements for FOREVER EVIL. So this is a book that is dependent on reading JUSTICE LEAGUE, FOREVER EVIL, and TRINITY WAR, none of which are being collected until mid-2014. So basically, a huge chunk of this book is just unreadable.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cold War, Volume 1: The Damocles Contract

 I'm pleased to see that IDW's partnership with John Byrne is still going strong, and that they seem committed to letting Byrne do pretty much whatever he wants to do. He's certainly earned that right, having not only worked on most of Marvel & DC's greatest characters, but contributing legendary runs on many of them that are fondly remembered, and still being collected into bestsellers. This time out, Byrne delivers a post-WWII spy thriller, COLD WAR, VOLUME 1: THE DAMOCLES CONTRACT.


I'm an easy mark for Victorian era Horror. Something about that time period just makes it the perfect place to set a scary story. Throw in the fact that 99% of Victorian Horror contains at least some trace of or reference to Jack The Ripper, another of my favorite Horror subjects, and I'm in Heaven. So Sarah Pinborough's latest, MAYHEM, seemed like a great fit.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Spirit World

 I consider the solo work of Jack Kirby (And Steve Ditko, for that matter...) to be "Exhibit A" in the case of "Who was the driving force behind the success of the early Marvel comics?" While I consider Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to be brilliant artists and creators, it's obvious, when you compare their collaborations with Stan Lee to their solo work, that both Kirby and Ditko were hideously bad writers. If they had been allowed to script those early adventures of Spidey, The Hulk, and The F.F., there would never have been a Marvel age.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Batman Incorporated, Volume 1: Demon Star

 That thing lying on the floor over there...? That's the top of my head. It was just blown off by BATMAN INCORPORATED, VOLUME 1: DEMON STAR, Grant Morrison's brilliant penultimate Batman story.
Could this possibly be the BEST Batman story ever.....? (There are spoilers below.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Batman, Incorporated: The Deluxe Edition

"It all makes sense in the end!"

 So says Writer Grant Morrison at the end of his production notes in BATMAN, INCORPORATED: THE DELUXE EDITION, and it's hard to argue with the man. His lengthy run on BATMAN has been exciting, frustrating, awe-inspiring, impenetrable, infuriating, and sometimes plain old bad, but I'll be damned if everything (And I mean everything...) that he's done to date didn't start to gel and make an awesome kind of sense in this, his final pre-"New 52" Batman adventure.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Justice League, Volume 3: Throne of Atlantis

 DC's "New 52" JUSTICE LEAGUE has been a mixed bag for me thus far, and JUSTICE LEAGUE, VOLUME 3: THRONE OF ATLANTIS is the first time that this team has really gelled together for me. That's probably because this collection is Aquaman-centric, and I've been enjoying his solo title a great deal. (If anyone had ever told me that I'd be enjoying an Aquaman book, I'd have laughed in their face.)

 The book starts off with The Justice League helping Wonder Woman track down Cheetah, and this all seems to be leading up to something bigger, which I assume is DC's FOREVER EVIL crossover. It's a decent story, but Cheetah's power level is ridiculous (She kicks Superman's ass, AND turns him into a "Super-Cheetah", which very nearly killed any credibility that this book had up until that point. )

Friday, November 1, 2013

Batman: The Black Mirror

 Having just read the first three volumes of Scott Snyder's "New 52" BATMAN series, and thinking it was merely OK, Snyder's pre-New 52 epic, BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR is causing me to think that maybe the majority of the problems that I had with Snyder's BATMAN run are because of my dislike for "The New 52" in general, and less about Snyder's work as a Writer. Because BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR is pretty damned spectacular.

Batman & Robin: Batman & Robin Must Die!- The Deluxe Edition

 OK, now this is more like it.

 When last we met, I wrote about how disappointed I was in Grant Morrison's BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE. That volume fits snugly into the middle of this collection, BATMAN & ROBIN: BATMAN & ROBIN MUST DIE!- THE DELUXE EDITION, showing how twisty and convoluted Morrison's epic Bat-saga is, and just how truly fucked a newbie would be if he tried to read all of this shit in the right order. Anyway, I digress....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne- The Deluxe Edition

 Man, thank God for the internet.

 When I was a kid, there was no internet.

 And so, if I didn't understand a comic book, which honestly never happened back then, I would be relegated to asking my like-minded friends to explain what I was missing. I always felt that I was smarter than my friends, so they probably would have been of little help.

 These days, when I don't "Get" a comic, which is happening with alarming frequency now, I can simply Google something like "What the fuck happens in BATMAN: THE RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE????", and a helpful know-it-all's explanation will appear, as if by magic.

 Good God, even the Wikipedia synopsis made my head hurt.

 I have faithfully read all of Grant Morrison's BATMAN run up to this point, and while some of it has been very good, much of it reminds me of the breathless kitchen-sink comics that I used to create as a child. Non-stop action that was filled with big ideas that I never slowed down enough to explain. Shit just happened. And that's how I feel about Morrison as a storyteller: Shit just happens, and if you're not on the same wavelength as Morrison, you're either going to be left in the dust or mowed down. I recently reread all of Morrison's NEW X MEN run, and while it read MUCH better in the Omnibus format, where you could see the ideas and concepts reach full flower, it had that same breathless quality that made me feel like there were huge chunks of stuff that Morrison wanted to convey but just couldn't be bothered actually writing. So things just....happened.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chain Saw Confidential: How We Made The World's Most Notorious Horror Movie

I can't really remember the first time that I saw THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE...It was either on a rented Beta-max tape (Or possibly a Laser Disc...) at my friend Bryan's house when I was in my mid-teens, or else it was a grainy VHS tape that I watched with my younger Cousin Rob when I was in my late teens. I sure as hell remember my reaction to the film, though...It was identical to the comment made by Director John Landis (of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON fame): "Who made this....?"

CHAINSAW is such a vivid, realistic film that watching it evokes a reaction akin to being punched in the sack. I've often wondered what the people that made the film were like, and what it entailed making such a horrific film...Thanks to Gunnar Hansen, I now know.

Hansen, of course, famously portrayed Leatherface, wielder of the movie's titular chainsaw. Upon learning that he had written a book about the experience of making the film, I immediately assumed that it was ghostwritten, because surely Gunnar Hansen must be a slightly demented, hulking doofus that can barely string together two coherent sentences, let alone write an entire book on his own, right? Well, a quick internet search would have proven me wrong, because Leatherface, while certainly looking good on a resume, is hardly Hansen's claim to fame: The man is a respected Author, having written books of Poetry, as well as Travel and History books. And there's not a Ghostwriter in sight...

I was, however, correct in my assumption that there must have been some kind of madness at work, fueling the making of this film. Hansen tells some alarming stories of close calls with the chainsaw, and actors who could have been killed performing their own stunts. There's a kind of "Hey, gang! Let's put on a show!" mentality that permeated the production, encompassing both cast and crew, and as more than one person associated with the film says in the course of the book "Someone must have been watching over us."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai

 I'm a little behind in my reading, so I'm just now getting to this magnificent celebration of Usagi Yojimbo's 25th anniversary, originally issued in 2009 by Dark Horse Comics. USAGI YOJIMBO: YOKAI is a real treat for fans new and old.....a deluxe hardcover original graphic novel, with a gorgeous embossed, spot-varnished cover, with full-color watercolored interior art. 

 Sakai manages to make this story totally accessible to new readers, which is nothing new for him, but always amazes me. In this age of dense, impenetrable continuity that almost defies a new reader to try to gain entry, Sakai's USAGI YOJIMBO books are incredibly welcoming to neophytes.

 The story is quick and simple: Usagi is drawn into helping a woman find her missing Daughter, who has been spirited off into the woods by a Fox. Unfortunately for Usagi, it is Oborozuki-yo, the night when Demons walk the Earth, and this time, they're not content to merely scare people...they're planning to take over the world.

 Sakai populates YOKAI with all manner of Japanese Demons and spirits, and his art brings them to life wonderfully. The main story runs 56 pages, and the book is rounded out by a brief, but informative, interview with Sakai about his art techniques and the history of Usagi Yojimbo.

Highly recommended.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Colonized

 One of my pet peeves is seeing someone in an executive position at a comic book publisher decide that something that they wrote is good enough for his company to publish. It could be great, but most people will assume that it sucks and was greenlit because of the Author's place in the food chain......but mostly they suck, and it cements in your mind just why this guy is publishing instead of writing full-time. That brings me to THE COLONIZED......

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Twelve

 First off, this is why I buy collected editions, right here. Because chances are, that monthly is going to be late, or get canceled, or remain unfinished for years, or potentially forever. After getting burned enough times, I just learned to wait. Marvel starting publishing THE TWELVE in 2008, and it was published monthly for around eight months, until it was put "On hold" for a variety of reasons, starting with Author J. Michael Straczynski's screenwriting career. It was eventually finished, and released, in mid-2012. Ouch. Straczynski has a long history of super-late books, of which this is just one. I bought the first hardcover collection of THE TWELVE, which collected the first six issues, way back in 2008, and here I am reading the conclusion around FIVE YEARS LATER. Awful. More after the jump....

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Batman, Volume 3: Death of The Family

 OK, so it's been a year since The Joker had The Dollmaker slice his face off in the abysmal first issue of Tony Daniels' DETECTIVE COMICS, and not just in "real life"....It seems that a year has passed in Gotham City, as well. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's BATMAN, VOLUME 3: DEATH OF THE FAMILY sees The Clown Prince of Crime return from his exile to exact his chilling revenge on Batman's friends, associates, and loved ones. More after the jump....

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Batman: Night of The Owls

  DC's brilliant collected editions masterminds have done it again! How is a reader supposed to know what issues are being collected when the people publishing the book don't even know...?  

 BATMAN: NIGHT OF THE OWLS lists it's contents in the indicia as ALL-STAR WESTERN #9, BATMAN #8-11, BATMAN ANNUAL #1, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #9, BATMAN: DETECTIVE COMICS #9, BATGIRL #9, BATWING #9, BIRDS OF PREY #9, NIGHTWING #8-9, BATMAN AND ROBIN #9, CATWOMAN #9 and RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #9. The front cover flap, however, lists issues 8-9 as the only issues of BATMAN being collected. Issues 8-9 are correct, along with the Annual, but that leaves readers hanging, with no resolution to the central conflict depicted in the book. The book does, however, end with a short story (Which I assume was a backup story from BATMAN...) that totally ruins a major plot twist that is probably revealed properly in the BATMAN: THE CITY OF OWLS collection.  (Which is up next on my reading list.) So, aside from endless curses directed at DC's haphazard Production Department, how does the actual product stack up....? More after the break....

Friday, October 4, 2013

Batgirl, Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection

Wow, was that disappointing.

 Gail Simone has done some stellar work on DC's BIRDS OF PREY and SECRET SIX, so I was looking forward to reading her take on Batgirl, especially since she had made Barbara Gordon such a compelling character in BIRDS OF PREY.

 First off, Barbara is no longer confined to a wheelchair. The timeline of "The New 52" is driving me nuts, because Bruce Wayne is only supposed to have been Batman for about six years, but DC wasn't really willing to commit to a full reboot, so he's only been Batman for a short time, yet he's still had a slew of Robins, he raised Dick Grayson, who is probably around the same age as Batman in this new universe, he's been broken by Bane and recovered, Batgirl has been shot by The Joker and recovered...it's been a busy six years. Anyway, the timeline drives me nuts. Was Barbara ever Oracle? It's not clear from this volume....no mention is made, at least not yet.

 Simone unwisely uses her first six issues to introduce two incredibly uninteresting new villains: The Mirror and Gretel. Both are good people done wrong, who decide that wanton death and destruction are good ways to follow up on the bad hand that life has dealt them. As a plot device, this always bothered me. Put this in a real-life context, and you'll see how ludicrous it is: Imagine if a close relative was killed, and that loss drove your Mother to become a Super Villain. Well, it's just as ridiculous here, times two. I could probably buy The Mirror, maybe.....He was a war hero, so I can see how he could physically stack up to Batgirl, but Gretel...? Getting shot in the head gives her the power to control men's minds? Sloppy and lazy.

 This is probably my least favorite Gail Simone book. She's always been hit-or-miss for me, with even her misses being at least semi-enjoyable, but this was just awful. It took me forever to slog through the six issues collected in BATGIRL, VOLUME 1: THE DARKEST REFLECTION, and if it wasn't for the attractive art by Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes, I'd call this a complete disaster.

 BATGIRL, VOLUME 1: THE DARKEST REFLECTION collects issues 1-6 of BATGIRL, complete with covers and a small sketch gallery by Jim Lee, Ardian Syaf, and Adam Hughes. I already bought Volume 2...it's gotta be better than this, right....?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Masks, Volume 1

 I'm a sucker for unexpected crossovers like this. You get some weird, disparate characters together, and I'll be there, whether I follow any of those characters or not. On the surface, this one seems like a natural: MASKS, VOLUME 1 gathers together The Shadow, The Green Hornet & Kato, The Spider, Zorro, Miss Fury, The Green Lama, Black Terror, and The Black Bat, as they band together to fight a corrupt regime that has taken political control of New York State, and is preparing to take over Washington next.

 The script, by Chris Roberson, is all breathless action, so there's no time for any character development whatsoever. If you don't already have a working knowledge of who these characters are, you're out of luck. Zorro and The Black Bat get full-fledged origin stories, but everyone else just appears as is, which is fine (Maybe, depending on your storehouse of geek knowledge....) for The Shadow and The Green Hornet, but I had no idea who Miss Fury and The Green Lama were, and I still don't.

 Roberson's script is serviceable at best, and ham-handed at worst. You'll be able to figure out who the big bad is as soon as you read a certain passage of clunky exposition early on, and even after the bad guy's identity is revealed, or I thought it was revealed, Roberson still tries to milk his identity for a shock. Weird. I guess since he didn't actually come out and give his name yet, Roberson felt it would still be a surprise. It wasn't. I did appreciate the way that Roberson winkingly included Doc Savage, who Dynamite does not hold the rights to.

 Alex Ross handles the art for the first issue, and is followed up by Dennis Calero for issues 2-8. The art is decent, aside from a handful of times where sloppy storytelling had me scratching my head as to just what it was that I was supposed to be seeing.

 Dynamite Comics does collections right, and MASKS, VOLUME 1 is no exception. You get all eight issues of the mini-series, the compete script for issue #1, Alex Ross' thumbnail sketches for issue #1, character designs, promotional art, and EVERY variant cover, of which there had to be at least a hundred. You get a lot of bang for your buck here.

 Dynamite Comics provided a review copy.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus

 Mike Mignola brings us another one of his occasional HELLBOY original graphic novels with HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS, along with frequent collaborator Duncan Fegredo, this time exploring Hellboy's little-seen childhood.

 HELLBOY: THE MIDNIGHT CIRCUS is a slim 56 page hardcover, and like the previous HELLBOY original graphic novels, it's a light, almost trifling, story that could hardly be considered essential, but is extremely well done.

 The story finds Hellboy sneaking out of B.P.R.D. headquarters after hours, and stumbling upon a sinister Circus troupe setting up their Big Top in the middle of a field. Hellboy is taken on a tour of the Circus by the owner, and discovers some secrets about his past and future that he'd rather not know.

 This is a quick read, but it's packed with the creepy moments that Mignola has become a master of. Duncan Fegredo uses a different art style here, and the result is gorgeous. While seemingly a stand-alone tale, I suspect that one of the characters introduced in this book will become very important to the Hellboy mythology somewhere down the road. I think Hellboy fans are going to have a good time, and new readers might find this to be a great place to jump into Mignola's Fantasy/Horror epic. Recommended.

 Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Green Lantern, Volume 3: The End


 I've been there for the entirety of Geoff John's run on GREEN LANTERN, and it's been a better than average run, but when I reached the last page of GREEN LANTERN, VOLUME 3: THE END, all I could think was "It's way past time that he moved on." Much like Chris Claremont on X-MEN, Geoff Johns has been on this book for too long, and it's just degenerated into a mish-mash of ideas that are presented over and over again, ad nauseum.

 This is a strange volume, in that it shares a handful of issues with the RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY crossover (Hardcover collection reviewed HERE), but then goes on to collect portions of a hardcover (GREEN LANTERN: WRATH OF THE FIRST LANTERN) which will not be available until March of 2014. So you basically get small portions of other, larger stories in this collection, and it's very unsatisfying.

 The book starts off with a new Green Lantern, Simon Baz, who seems like a nice enough character, but is totally unnecessary. Why introduce yet another Earth Green Lantern right before you wrap up your run on the book? Readers who don't know that Baz's story continues in the THIRD ARMY collection will be perplexed at the way the book jumps right into the FIRST LANTERN crossover without any resolution. The "First Lantern" himself is a dreadfully boring character that exists solely to give Geoff Johns yet another reason to trot out every Lantern from the entire color spectrum, and have our main characters swap rings back and forth endlessly. Sinestro is a Green Lantern, and he becomes a Yellow Lantern again. Hal is a Green Lantern, then a Black Lantern, then a Green Lantern again. Kyle is a White Lantern, but he can become any other color Lantern he wants, whenever he wants.

 My head was spinning.

 And again, all I could think was "It's about time he decided to leave GL...he really ran out of ideas years ago."

 And as Johns wraps up his seemingly eternal run on GREEN LANTERN, I drop another of DC's "New 52" books. This reboot is just not for me, it seems.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Green Lantern: Rise of The Third Army

 I wonder how DC is doing with these mythical "New readers" that the "New 52" was supposed to be attracting. I can't imagine that anyone not steeped in DC Comics lore could make heads or tails of the complicated, crossover-heavy chronology of the GREEN LANTERN books. I've been reading since GL books since the late '80's, and some of the stuff in the latest GL collection, GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY, had my head spinning.

 First of all, this is a MASSIVE book. It clocks in a a whopping 416 pages, and retails for $29.99, but you can get it a lot cheaper online. So you're getting your money's worth, at least. (It also makes me wonder just how they price this stuff....ALL STAR WESTERN, VOLUME 1 collected a measly six issues, in paperback format, and cost seventeen bucks. This book, a hardcover, collects 18 issues, along with extra material, for thirty. I don't get it.) So there's that.

 GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY continues Writer Geoff Johns endless quest to make The Guardians the most evil shitbags ever by having them plot to kill off the entire Green Lantern Corps, and replace them with "The Third Army", a kind of grosser Borg that will assimilate everything they touch. The goal is to bring perfect order to the universe by having everyone and everything in it be a mindless Third Army member. Then there will be no crime, fear, confusion, despair, etc., and The Guardians can finally sit back and take a load off.

 Oddly enough, for such a massive collection, The Third Army kind of rises in the background, and doesn't really make a great impact until the very end of the book. This makes it kind of a non-crossover crossover. Issues of GREEN LANTERN, GREEN LANTERN CORPS, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS, and RED LANTERNS are reprinted , and kind of sit there on their own before connecting in the final chapter. The only book that I read is GREEN LANTERN, and the issues collected here are also collected in GREEN LANTERN, VOLUME 3: THE END, so I could have theoretically skipped this whole affair and just read that book, and I probably would have been just fine. Having said that, I'll admit that I'm glad that I picked this book up, because the other GL books that I don't read all told compelling stories in their own right. Peter J. Tomasi did a great job on the NEW GUARDIANS and GREEN LANTERN CORPS chapters, and I especially enjoyed Peter Milligan's RED LANTERNS portion, which is saying a lot, considering how much Milligan has been falling on the "Miss" side of "Hit-or-miss" for me lately.

 The art is uniformly excellent throughout, and the story, while convoluted, works, so I just went with it.

 Complaints? Of course! This IS "The Crabby Reviewer", after all......

 First off, the book starts off with a new Earthling becoming a Green Lantern. He's a pretty interesting character, so that's nice, but.....How many times must DC go to the "Oh shit, our hero is gone, and someone NEW is taking up the mantle!!! " well? Geoff Johns is close to wrapping up his GL run here...did he really need to take Hal and Sinestro off the board completely and introduce yet another new character? There must already be 500 characters in this book. That's more than enough.

 And....after reading 400 fairly well-executed pages (SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!)
the book ends on a fucking cliff-hanger that leads to YET ANOTHER CROSSOVER!

 WTF, DC?????

 There's nothing close to a resolution here, folks. Just a "Buy more books, fool!" at the end.
I bitch about it, but I want to know what happens next, so, fool that I am, I will buy more books.

 Also, DC continues to publish probably the grossest, most depressing books out there. This one has dismemberment galore, hearts being ripped out, corpses being defiled, eyes getting gouged, people vomiting hot blood onto other people and melting them with it....It's fucking gross. I can deal with it, but don't buy any of this shit for your kids, unless you want them to become serial killers.

 GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE THIRD ARMY collects GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #1, GREEN LANTERN #13-16, GREEN LANTERN CORPS #13-16, GREEN LANTERN: NEW GUARDIANS #13-16, RED LANTERNS #13-16, and GREEN LANTERN CORPS ANNUAL #1, along with all covers and variants, and a sketch gallery by various artists. A fun read for GREEN LANTERN fans, but it may be a little overwhelming for newcomers.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wonder Woman, Volume 3: Iron

 I've always enjoyed Wonder Woman as a concept, and as a supporting player, but she's never really spoken to me as a lead character, and the closest that I've ever gotten to getting on board with her as a lead in her own series was when Greg Rucka was writing her monthly book around the time of INFINITE CRISIS. Now, having read the first three volumes of her "New 52" reboot over the past week, I can finally say that I have discovered a Wonder Woman that works for me, and I'll throw in this for good measure: WONDER WOMAN is, far and away, the best that "The New 52" has to offer.

 Brian Azzarello has always been hit-or-miss for me, but his work over the course of these three volumes is nothing short of outstanding, and he's complimented perfectly by Pencillers Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins, who share the art chores.

 The three volumes to date tell an ongoing story that looks to continue on into Volume 4, which will be released in March 2014. Zeus is missing from Olympus, and his children are engaged in a power struggle to see who will assume the throne of Olympus. Zeus' Wife, Hera, finds out that a young woman named Zola is pregnant with Zeus' bastard child, and sends her minions to kill it. The young woman, Zola, comes under Wonder Woman's protection, drawing Princess  Diana of Themyscira into the Olympians dangerous game of thrones.

 This third volume centers around Diana's quest to find Zola's missing child, who was kidnapped at the end of Volume 2. Interspersed with Diana's quest, we are introduced to Zeus' first child, "The First Born", who is headed to Mount Olympus to take the throne that he feels is rightfully his. Diana is aided in her quest by a familiar ally, albeit one who is new (I assume...) to this rebooted universe: Orion, of The New Gods.

 The banter between Diana and Orion is priceless, and I enjoyed seeing them bounce off each other. I hope Orion will stick around through the fourth volume. I'd rather see him hook up with Diana than Superman. Thankfully, Azzarello seems content to just ignore whatever is happening in the rest of the "New 52" Universe.

 WONDER WOMAN, VOLUME 3: IRON was so good that I am tempted to run out and buy the floppies so I don't have to wait six months to see what happens next. Amazingly good stuff.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Star Wars, Volume 1: In the Shadow of Yavin

 This book was hyped out the wazoo, and I got swept up in it.....Imagine, Dark Horse starting a new ongoing series that told of the Star Wars gang's adventures between the movies....I've gotta have that!!! (Never mind that Dark Horse has been publishing those types of stories for decades now....) And written by BRIAN WOOD, Author of a lot of stuff that I really didn't like (Most of his stuff...) and one thing that I did (NORTHLANDERS), and something that I'm still not sure about (CONAN). With covers by ALEX ROSS!!! (All of his stuff looks alike to me. Look at that cover image above, and tell me you haven't seen 50 other Alex Ross covers that all look just like it.) If I had actually paid it any thought, I would have just passed on this book, but when have I ever given thought to something that could potentially squander away precious hours of my ever-decreasing life span...? Never. Exactly. So away I went......to a Galaxy far, far away....

 STAR WARS, VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN picks up shortly after the destruction of The Death Star, as Mon Mothma (Every time I hear that name, I chuckle and think of Mothra.) and Princess Leia lead the Rebel Alliance in search of a new base of operations. Leia assembles a secret squadron to search out potential sites for the new base, Han and Chewbacca are dispatched to Coruscant to make a deal for weapons to aid in the rebellion, and Luke moons over an Outer Space Indian chick.Also, there's a traitor in Leia's inner circle. I'm betting it's one of these new characters we've never seen before, but I'll probably never know, as Brian Wood doesn't bring this turgid, overlong story to any kind of a conclusion, and I probably won't be back for Volume 2.

 I decided about halfway through that I am totally uninterested in the vast majority of STAR WARS characters. Watching the movies now, the good guys are so bland and white bread that the only real interest I can muster up for them is nostalgia-based. I ate, slept, and breathed STAR WARS when I was a kid, but George Lucas killed that off with THE PHANTOM MENACE and Hayden Christensen's awful acting in the other two films. I'm more interested in the fringe characters, like Boba Fett and the Bounty Hunters, or the bad guys, like Darth Vader. Han Solo gets a pass because Harrison Ford gave him some charisma and personality. Luke and Leia and The Droids......not so much. And unfortunately, this first volume is heavy on Luke and Leia and their creepy lust for one another. Get a room, already!!

 Wood commits what is, to me, one of the cardinal sins of prequels and in-between stories: He introduces concepts and characterizations that don't jibe with what we've already seen in adventures that take place after this one, specifically the way he makes Leia a fighter pilot and an ass-kicker. I have no problem with Leia getting out there and getting her hands dirty, but.........If you are to accept the fact that she's out there, flying an X-Wing and leading an elite squadron right after the destruction of The Death Star, then why is she right back to sitting in the control room and worrying when we get around to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK? Maybe Wood has some grand character arc planned, where Leia screws up so bad that she never lets herself go out in the field again, but as far as this volume goes, none of her actions rang true. Nor, for that matter, did her manner of speech and her dialogue. I thought Wood did an admirable job of capturing the voices of the rest of the cast, but Leia didn't work for me at all, and that's a sticking point, considering the fact that she is the star of this book.

 Most of what worked in this book was due to the excellent art, by Carlos D'Anda. His likenesses are spot-on, and the amount of detail he imbues his panels with is, at times, mind-boggling. His Darth Vader is a sight to behold.
 Whenever Vader was front and center, the book had my full attention. Otherwise, I was counting the pages until the end. This volume also includes the Darth Vader story from last year's Dark Horse Free Comic Book Day offering, and it's a cracking good yarn that really shows why Darth Vader is the badass of all badasses. It even throws in Boba Fett for good measure. This story was the saving grace of an otherwise totally forgettable book.

 STAR WARS, VOLUME 1: IN THE SHADOW OF YAVIN collects the first six issues of Dark Horse's ongoing STAR WARS series, as well as the Darth Vader Free Comic Book Day story. Dark Horse continues their maddening tradition of not reprinting all of the original series covers. That drives me freaking nuts. There's plenty of room to print two or three cover images. It won't kill you, Dark Horse.....

 Dark Horse Comics provided a review copy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Matter Of Life

 My Son Mikey and I love Jeffrey Brown's DARTH VADER AND SON book, so I was excited by the prospect of seeing what Brown could do with more adult subject matter, and I'm happy to report that his latest, A MATTER OF LIFE, published by Top Shelf, does not disappoint.

 A MATTER OF LIFE is less a graphic novel than it is a series of loosely connected vignettes about three generations of Brown men: Author/Illustrator Jeffrey Brown, his Father, and his Son Oscar. The stories flow together wonderfully, creating a beautiful narrative that is funny, poignant, and heartbreaking, and these emotions are perfectly complimented by Brown's endearingly scratchy art. I grew especially fond of young Oscar over the course of the book....My Son is the same age as Oscar, and I could totally relate to the way Oscar and Jeffrey bounce around one another. If I had one complaint, and it's really the only one that I have, it's that Brown's lettering can be hard to read at times. But if that's the worst thing this Crabby Reviewer can come up with, you know you've got a winner on your hands. Highly recommended.

 Top Shelf provided a review copy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Batman- Detective Comics, Volume 1: Faces of Death

 When will I learn to trust my instincts? When, I ask you???? After forty years (FORTY YEARS!!!!) of reading comics, starting at the tender age of two, I generally know, sight unseen, when I will enjoy a book, and when I will loathe it with every tiny fiber of my being. I just KNEW that Tony S. Daniel was not going to be a good Writer, but my Wife's best friend's Husband was raving about how good a book this was, and I did want to see exactly WHY The Joker had his face skinned off, so here I am.

 Oy yoy yoy, this is a bad book.

 Generally, I would give a brief synopsis here, but I literally have no idea what this book is about or what happened in it, aside from the fact that it's as gory as hell, and I would never let my kid read it. I mean, I realize that most people reading comics are my age, or slightly younger or older, but Batman should be accessible to younger readers, and all of what was shown here could have been implied , or maybe less of it could have been shown. I mean, there;s faces being taken off, cops being decapitated, Commissioner Gordon gets abducted and has a Kidney removed against his will, there are dismembered body parts, eyes taken out by throwing stars....it's a real Horror show. I could probably accept this, if it was a competently written book, but as a Writer, Tony S. Daniel is a pretty good Artist.

 BATMAN- DETECTIVE COMICS, VOLUME 1: FACES OF DEATH presents the first seven issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, and starts off with Batman chasing The Joker, who may or may not be on a serial killing spree. This is never really explained, nor is the reason why he may or may not be killing people buck naked. Some loon called The Dollmaker is also maybe killing people (Again, bad writing, so I really have no idea...), and he comes over to The Joker's cell in Arkham Asylum to take his face off and helps him escape. Why The Joker would want his face removed is never explained. Then there's some nut little kid, who apparently comes and goes as she pleases, be it in a Hospital or a Police Precinct, places where I would expect better security, or at least someone to say "Hey kid, what are you doing here?", but I guess not. The book ends with Batman fighting The Penguin, with a one-eyed woman thrown in to complicate matters for some unclear reason. I don't know...I was just praying for this to end, and kicking myself for having bought the second volume as well.

 This is bad, bad stuff, and doesn't do much to make me a "New 52" fan. I'm still totally perplexed at just what DC was aiming for here. It was presented as a total reboot, but Geoff Johns kept going with GREEN LANTERN as if nothing happened, yet JUSTICE LEAGUE was a ground-up, day-one reboot. But Batman seems like he's been around forever, complete was his whole slew of Robins. I'm so confused. And in Scott Snyder's BATMAN, Bats works with the G.C.P.D., yet here, they shoot at him on sight.

DC is just a sloppy fucking mess, isn't it?

 BATMAN- DETECTIVE COMICS, VOLUME 1: FACES OF DEATH presents the first seven issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, complete with covers as well as the black-and-white versions of the covers (I just don't get the whole black-and-white cover variant thing at all...), and a sketch Gallery by Tony S. Daniel.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

 And so I reach the end of my seemingly random but accidentally alphabetical BEFORE WATCHMEN reading binge, and it seems I've saved the worst for last.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/CRIMSON CORSAIR is written (Mostly...) by original WATCHMEN Editor Len Wein, a name that's sure to be familiar to fans of 1970's Marvel and DC Comics. I've never really been a fan of Wein's overly-wordy scripts, but I kept an open mind, mainly because, I wrongly assumed, he might have some special insight into the Watchmen characters, since he was involved with the original and all.

 One day I'll learn to go with my gut. (Not that the collector in me would have allowed for the horrific possibility of skipping this questionable volume and not having a complete set!!!!! Shudder.....

 Anyway, the book starts with Wein and Jae Lee's six-part Ozymandias story, which basically regurgitates Bruce Wayne's trek around the world to learn  how to fight crime and kick ass before it settles into a pattern of Wein presenting WATCHMEN/BEFORE WATCHMEN greatest hits, where he shamelessly presents large chunks of other Writers dialogue without any kind of credit being given. The asshole in me did enjoy seeing the big "Fuck you!" that Wein gives Alan Moore by showing Adrian Veidt getting his whole evil scheme from an old episode of "The Outer Limits", which is an accusation that has long dogged Moore and the original series. Artwise, Jae Lee has never really clicked with me, for some reason. His work here is good, beautiful in places, but something about it seems cold and sterile to me. He always seems to pick the most bland way to execute a scene, as evidenced by the totally lazy sequence where we see Edward Blake discover Veidt's Squid-Beast. That could have been an amazing page, but it just kind of lies there and does nothing.Wein continues the trend of making Veidt another mustache-twirling megalomaniac, which was never really the impression that I got from Alan Moore, who presented him more as a man who has to do bad to achieve the ultimate good. And as much as I felt "Meh" about this story, I thought that Wein chose to end it too soon...I would have preferred to see it through to Veidt's Arctic showdown with his old compatriots. Not a terrible story, but not an especially good one, and not one that needed to be told.

Next up is the story that ran in two-page increments as a BEFORE WATCHMEN back-up, THE CRIMSON CORSAIR. This is basically a repeat of the TALES OF THE BLACK FREIGHTER story that Moore wove though the original series, and it's pretty terrible, and gets worse when Wein is booted off and replaced by Co-Writer/Artist John Higgins, after what I read was a pretty nasty behind-the-scenes power struggle. Higgins is a talented Artist, but he's no Writer, and the already weak story is virtually crippled by the hideous, hideous color palette that Higgins uses. It makes his art look muddy and ugly, and left me puzzled as to why the Editors let it go to press as is.

 Finally we get the totally unnecessary DOLLAR BILL one-shot. (Yes, I know that you could argue that the entire BEFORE WATCHMEN run has been unnecessary.....) This one is also Written by Wein, with art by Steve Rude. Rude's cover is fantastic, but his interior art seemed rushed, which would make sense as this story was, to my understanding, basically a last-minute afterthought. We get Dollar Bill's origin, and Wein once again uses scene after scene that we've already seen Moore and various BEFORE WATCHMEN Writers show us. The ironic end of Dollar Bill's career is almost entirely ruined by the puzzling perspective that Rude uses, so much so that Wein had to use dialogue to tell us what we are supposed to be seeing. Sloppy, boring stuff.

 Overall, there's little to recommend to anyone but anal-retentive collectors in this last volume. I'd say that you should read this one first, so you can go out on a high note with one of the other volumes.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: OZYMANDIAS/CRIMSON CORSAIR collects all six issues of the OZYMANDIAS mini-series, the complete CRIMSON CORSAIR back-up, and the DOLLAR BILL one-shot, complete with all covers and variants. The extras here are pretty sparse, with two pages apiece of Jae Lee and John Higgins sketches and preliminary art.

 DC provided a review copy, but I bought a hardcover anyway. Shame on me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Florida Theme Parks: A Guide

 My Wife and I honeymooned at Walt Disney World, and we've been back a few times since with the kids, so I'm always interested in books about the Disney and Universal Theme Parks. Alex Miller's FLORIDA THEME PARKS: A GUIDE wasn't quite what I was expecting from a book of this type. It's mainly a photo guide to Florida's various Theme Parks, with a (Very brief...) history and overview of each park. I liked the fact that it covered ALL of Florida's Theme Parks, many of which I'd never heard of, and the book has absolutely made me want to visit some of them. What I didn't like was the fact that it really didn't offer anything that you couldn't find in any of the Parks' promotional brochures. I don't think this book would be of any use to someone who is planning a vacation, aside from some pretty pictures. Perhaps very young Theme Park visitors would appreciate this book as a keepsake of some of the places they have visited or want to visit, but, pretty pictures aside, it's really not a very useful or practical vacation guide.

 The Publisher provided a review copy.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr. Manhattan

BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL/DR. MANHATTAN is the third volume in my four-volume WATCHMEN prequel binge, and it’s my least favorite so far.

 This volume collects three separate BEFORE WATCHMEN mini-series: Two four-part stories (NITE OWL, written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, and Bill Sienkiewicz and DR. MANHATTAN, also written by Straczynski and illustrated by Adam Hughes) and the two-part MOLOCH, showcasing the ill-fated retired villain from the original WATCHMEN.

 I do have to say this before I start: I’m a fan of J. Michael Straczynski’s work. I’ve enjoyed his writing on RISING STARS (Which would probably be remembered as a classic, if it wasn’t saddled with such hideous art for most of its terminally-late 24 issue run…) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Yes, I’M the one who enjoyed his run on Spidey!). I haven’t read everything that he’s written, but when he’s on, he can be really good. As I said earlier, this was my least favorite volume so far, but it was still a really good read.

 The book starts strong with NITE OWL, which is actually more of an exploration of the bizarre NITE OWL/RORSCHACH team than a solo story. Kudos to Straczynski for taking a throwaway line from the original WATCHMEN and making a strong, compelling story out of it. (Although I have to say, Rorschach seems to have stumbled across a new serial killer every time he turned around.) The art, by the Son/Father team of Andy & Joe Kubert, fits the story wonderfully, and the coloring compliments their art beautifully. (Bill Sienkiewicz takes over the inking reins from Joe Kubert halfway through the four-issue run….I’m assuming Joe Kubert passed away while working on the book. The change of inker really doesn’t seem to impact the art much. I was surprised to see that there was no mention of Kubert’s death in the collection, or any kind of dedication. )

 Next up is DR. MANHATTAN, which seemed a little too clever and deep for its own good. Straczynski does a good job of channeling Moore’s introspective voice, but what worked so well for one chapter in WATCHMEN stretches a little thin after four. The twisty, mind-bending narrative was certainly enjoyable, but it went on a bit too long for my tastes. 

 The book ends on a high note, as Straczynski teams with Artist Eduardo Risso for the two-part MOLOCH. The story follows the pointy-eared Magician from his birth through his death as a part of Adrian Veidt’s plot to save the world, and it’s quite a compelling read, but it’s marred at times by Risso’s heavy-handed art. Part of the shock of finding out that Veidt was the “Bad guy” in WATCHMEN was because Moore and Gibbons played it totally straight, and didn’t portray Veidt as a scheming, evil fuck….Straczynski does his part, but Risso has so many panels of Veidt leering, grinning, and making evil faces that it’s hard to believe no one saw this guy coming a mile off. A great story, with a few points taken off for the occasional heavy-handedness of the art. 

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: NITE OWL/DR. MANHATTAN collects all of the original covers, as well as variant covers, sketches, and concept art.

 DC Comics provided a review copy, but I bought a hardcover anyway, because I’m mentally ill and need help.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Before Watchmen: Minutemen/Silk Spectre

 Of all the BEFORE WATCHMEN books, this was the one that I was least looking forward to reading. I really wasn't interested in reading about The Minutemen, and The Silk Spectre was not a favorite character of mine. (Don't get me wrong, I liked her in WATCHMEN, but I didn't feel like she was a character that needed further exploration.)

 I'm happy to say that the creative team of Darwyn Cooke & Amanda Conner made a believer out of me.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/SILK SPECTRE starts off with Writer/Artist Darwyn Cooke's six-part MINUTEMEN story, THE MINUTE OF TRUTH, which is nothing short of brilliant. Cooke's story uses Hollis Mason's biography, UNDER THE HOOD, as a springboard, as Mason attempts to get the blessing of his former Minutemen teammates before the book's publication. Mason's memories of the team's true history make up the bulk of the story, and coalesce into a gripping mystery with an absolutely shattering climax. Cooke is firing on all cylinders here, making all of the characters involved into fully-realized, three dimensional people. The finale beautifully mirrors Nite-Owl and Rorschach's assault on Ozymandias's fortress at the end of the original WATCHMEN, and aside from ending a little too abruptly for my tastes, it was masterfully executed. I especially enjoyed the way Cooke used the Edward Blake/Comedian character, portraying him as a totally unrepentant sociopath, rather than a man who is at the mercy of forces beyond his control. This is really good stuff...It's no WATCHMEN, but it's strong enough that I think it will stand the test of time.

 Darwyn Cooke returns with the four-part SILK SPECTRE story, teaming up with Co-Writer/Artist Amanda Conner, and while it's not as good as MINUTEMEN, it's still a lot better than I expected it to be, mainly thanks to Amanda Conner's gorgeous art. I've always been a fan, but she really dialed her already beautiful art up to 11 here. I don't think there's anyone in comics, with the possible exception of Kevin Maguire, who can give their characters such a wide range of facial expressions. Conner contributes a wonderful little afterword at the end of the book that confirms my assumption that the art for SILK SPECTRE took her a long time to finish, and all of her hard work shows. The art was so beautiful that I hated to turn the page, let alone close the book. The story didn't work quite so well, unfortunately. While I really enjoyed seeing the complex relationship that Laurel Jane Jupiter has with her Mother Sally, the original Silk Spectre, the bulk of Laure's story finds her running away to live in San Francisco, where she becomes embroiled in a plot (Masterminded by a thinly disguised Frank Sinatra, of all people!!!) to lace LSD with a chemical that will make Hippies go out and spend more money. This plot is right out of a Scooby-Doo episode, and while it would fit in with a standard Super-Hero book taking place in the late '60's, it's a little (Or a LOT...) too far fetched for the world of WATCHMEN. But Conner's art was so damned good that I really didn't care. I want to see more SILK SPECTRE by Amanda Conner. Make it happen, DC.

 BEFORE WATCHMEN: MINUTEMEN/SILK SPECTRE features all of the original MINUTEMEN and SILK SPECTER covers, as well as all of the variants, an Afterword by Amanda Conner, sketches, pencil art, and character design pages.

 DC provided a review copy, but my crazy ass went out a purchased a hardcover anyway, because I'm nuts that way.