Sunday, December 30, 2012

Avengers Issues 1 & 2 (Marvel Now!)

written by Jonathan Hickman
Pencils by Jerome Pena

The one great thing about this Marvel Now! era is that Marvel Comics will be publishing fewer titles. Unfortunately, some really good titles are being canceled and many titles will start that need to stay in the brainstorm bins. At least there won't be 50 X Men and 50 Avengers titles. Somehow, Marvel Comics continues to confuse many of us.

Jonathan Hickman had probably the best run on Fantastic Four since John Byrne. Hickman bought back some old characters and made them relevant on the Fantastic Four. He really utilized Reed Richards in a manner that really demonstrated his genius. Hickman did the same for Susan Storm. What he did to the Human Torch really bought me in. So when I heard he would be taking over the main Avengers title, I was really excited.

When I picked up Issue #1, I noticed two characters: Manifold from Secret Warriors (a character I loved but didn't see much of in that title) and Cannonball from the New Mutants. So Marvel was really mixing it up. When I opened up the issue, I noticed the awesome Monica Lebeau who was the sister with the afro in an earlier Avengers incarnation as Captain Marvel. On the last page of Issue #1, you also see Sunspot from the New Mutants. Also Hyperion from a Marvel imprint will be on the team as a powerhouse. So I was really excited about this. This would be a brand new Avengers team. I also noticed that several members such as Sun Spot, Falcon, Captain Universe (Monica Lebeau), Shang Chi, and Manifold are people of color. I don't recall this ever happening on the Avengers.

My biggest gripe with this title is that Hickman is doing two things. The first is to line up the main Avengers with the movie. Even Captain America dons the suit from the movie. I don't think its a good idea. I know Marvel is trying to cash in on the movie but movie watchers don't make consistent comic readers. Catering to them never works. Second, Hickman does too much in the first and second issue.

The premise of the story arc is that at one point in the past, Tony Starks came up with this idea that the Avengers needed something new. He approached Steve Rogers and reminds him it was his idea. Guess what the idea is? I bet you can't guess? Get more members on the team. Wait a second, didn't we just have like 15 Avengers titles with 50 different members on each team? Didn't Rogers already execute that idea? So as Hickman brings into the main plot, he has the reader going back and forth with Rogers and Starks picking out members of the team.

The main plot reminds me of All Giant X-Men where Professor Xavier had to recruit new X-Men to save the original X-Men. The "original" Avengers from the movie go to Mars to stop this new intergalactic villain and are captured. Rogers returns to earth and assembles a new team. We learn of the new roster in Issue #2. Outside of that, the first few pages of Issue #1 are confusing.

Two things save this book. The first are the covers. The first three issues have covers that you can link together to see the entire Avengers roster for this title. Dustin Weaver and Justin Ponsor's artwork is extremely detailed. Jerome Pena's pencils are incredible. While I dig Leinil Yu's hulk, Pena's hulk makes him look scary. Then again any green behemoth who can't be reasoned with and enjoys smashing everything should look scary. Pena's Thor looks Asgardian. His battle scenes are majestic. Pena really really saves this book.

I have to reiterate that Marvel sees these Marvel Now! titles as a jumping in point for new readers. While you don't need any background info to jump into the actual story, if you are not familiar with the New Mutants, Secret Warriors, other Marvel imprints, or earlier Avengers rosters, you won't know who half these people are. I am going to stick with this title despite it's confusion because Hickman did greatwork on Secret Warriors and the Fantastic Four and he has always surprised me.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Ends Issue #1

Written and Rendered by Jeff Hewitt

While we talk and obsess over the end of the world, we don't actually think about it. Sure, many of us have prayed over it and wondered when it was coming or watched endless specials about it on the History Channel, but we really haven't thought it through. It's sort of like winning the lotto. Sure we can sit around and discuss it for hours on end, but none of us actually think it through even after we hit it big.

In Jeff Hewitt's "The Ends," we witness the same thing. It's the end of the world and although Hewitt provides the reader a bird's eye view of events, he purposely leaves the reader in the dark as to what is going on. Yes, the Supreme Being has open up a can of whip ass on the universe and no one knows what to do.

While the world is unraveling, Hewitt introduces the reader to the protagonists. First, we meet Detroit's own Peregrine. Peregrine is a vicious crime fighter who retired since his ways were just too extreme. then we meet, Alec Powers, our slacker martial artist who is called while boosting some brewski's during a power outage. Finally, we are introduced to another Martial Artist who seems to fit the bill that most of us would be hoping for. You know the spiritually balanced guy with the level head.

What I enjoyed the most about "The Ends" first issue is the medium Hewitt chose. It's a very unique feel mixing actual photos, pencils, newspaper clippings, and other things you might recognize. This style brings more character and fleshes out the story. It is sheer chaos and I think this form conveys that it is the end of the world. It is details such as these that make me enjoy indie prints so much. The writers are willing and can take risks that the major publishers refuse to take. I think that Hewitt took one, and it has paid off.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Indestructible Hulk Issue #1

Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Leinil Yu

Originally, I was upset that Marvel was ending Jason Aaron's run on the Incredible Hulk. Aaron breathed so much life into the Incredible Hulk after Marvel introduced every colored Hulk on the color spectrum and just killed us with all these Hulks. It was mighty confusing. Aaron really bought it back to what the Hulk was: a part of Bruce Banner that he could not get rid of.

While I enjoy Mark Waid tremendously with his "Irredeemable" and all the work he did on Daredevil. I mean to follow Ed Brubaker is a tough sell. Waid did his thing and bought Daredevil back after the wonderful and underrated "Shadowland" story arc. Waid's run on Daredevil is a must have. Again, Marvel did a bad thing by ending that. I still didn't think that Waid could follow up after Aaron.

Banner realizes that he has been thinking this Hulk thing all wrong. No matter what he does, Banner and the Hulk go together like Bobby and Whitney. Banner realizes that he can't escape this. The best thing to do is embrace it and make the better of it. Banner also realizes that he wants to leave a legacy. He doesn't want to be known as the Hulk that smashes everything. He recognizes his genius and wants to utilize that to the fullest.

Banner approaches Maria Hill, the current head of S.H.I.E.L.D., and offers to be an agent of SHIELD as long as he is given all the resources and staff needed to invent things that will help mankind. This is a very dope premise. Of course, Hill believes Banner is on some new drug but the idea of the Hulk as an agent of SHIELD is too good to pass up. So Hill takes up Banner's offer on a probationary status.

Waid wastes no time and plows the Hulk into battle for SHIELD. If you are going to start off a new series, this is how you do it. If anyone can draw the Hulk smashing and the Chaos that flies from that, Leinil Yu is that dude (check Secret Invasion and Super Crooks). Yu is yet another artist that Marvel has in it's arsenal.

With Waid writing for the Indestructible Hulk, this new series looks very promising. Of all the Marvel Now! titles this is the only one that the reader will not need background information on to catch up with. Any new reader can jump in to this story and not be left behind.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All New X-Men Issues 1 -3

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Stuart Immonen

I know I am not the first to say that I am skeptical of this Marvel Now! era of Marvel comics. It comes right after the DC New 52 reboot. While Marvel consistently hammers in the idea that this is not a reboot, once all of the issues are released we shall be the judge of that.

When I heard about the premise of All New X-Men, I really became skeptical. How can you have All New X-Men with the original cast of the X-Men in the story? After the events of AVX and AVX: Consequences, Scott Summers (Cyclops) and many of the X-Men who are on the run are saving and recruiting all the new mutants that are popping up all over the globe. Wolverine and his X-Men decide to hunt him down. Meanwhile, the Beast has the idea of going back in time and bringing back the original X-Men team. I really thought this would not work. I must point out that I am a huge fan of Brian Michael Bendis. I was very sad to see the end of his run on most of the Avengers titles and his run on Ultimate Spider Man is probably one of the best series out there across the board. I still had my doubts.

Issue one of All New X-Men is so far the best of the Marvel Now! era. Uncanny Avengers is at a close second. Bendis does not disappoint. Stuart Immonen, like Leinil Yiu, is one of Marvel's best kept secrets when it comes to breakdowns. While Marvel's Siege left much to be desired, Immonen's pencils really stood out. I felt that his pencils were wasted on a lackluster story. Immonen does a wonderful job of portraying the chaos that is the post AVX world. Cyclops has return in full force and he stays getting on everyone's nerves.

The Beast goes back just in the nick of time. He shows up the moment before his past self is about the quit the X-Men. At first, the X-Men are wary and are ready to refuse jumping into the future especially after Beast admits that the technology he used is based off of Dr. Doom's inventions. Once he tells them that the future Cyclops is the complete opposite of his former self, the original X-Men decide to go with him.

In Issue #2, Beast returns to the Jean Grey School which is headed by Wolverine. When the current X-Men find out about Beast's idea, they immediately sequester their past selves. It's important to note that Beast picks up the past Jean Grey before she even knew she had telepathic powers. Once she learns that she will soon manifest these powers, they slowly come on line. Issue #2 is better than the first issue since we see how the current X-Men treat their old selves forgetting who they once were. This is were Bendis really shines.

Imagine your 19 year old self pops up at your door. I can remember my crazy 19 year old self and quite honestly, I wouldn't keep my eyes off of him. Now tell your 19 year old self that the man you considered a father and mentor is killed by one of the people you would consider like a brother. You couldn't expect your 19 year old self to sit still now would you? That's the mistake the current X-Men make.

Issue #3 shows how Cyclops was able to convince the other fugitive X-Men to join his side after the events of AVX. While it gets muddled here and Bendis doesn't really explain how Emma Frost returns to fight with Cyclops as his right hand, I am sure he will answer that later on.

I am really impressed with this new series and I came into it with many doubts. My only gripe is that if you are coming into in now without reading previous story lines and cross overs such as X-Men Schism and AVX, then you will be lost. I explained the premise to many people and they are all confused. Not to mention the fact that I have to fill them in on what happened to several X-Men who are no longer on the roster such as Jubilee and Professor Xavier. So if you are looking for a jumping off point back into the X-Men, I don't recommend this title until you've read previous story lines.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Cat with the Ruby Quartz Lenses

Most comic book fans of color understand the dichotomy between Professor Xavier's dream and Magneto's nationalism. Stan Lee has always claimed that he took this debate between both mutants from MLK and Malcolm X. In the last few years, Professor Xavier has allowed the reins of the X-Men to be handled by his protege, Cyclops. Magneto has once again joined the ranks of the X-Men and although he feels that his nationalistic approach is the best way to resolve the mutant issue, Magneto had realized that he is much older and not as powerful as he used to be. Considering the events that took place after the House of M, Magneto understand there is strength in numbers.

Cyclops, however, has taken steps that have bought him closer to Magneto's vision of the future of mutantkind. After the House of M, mutantkind has been reduced to a population of under 200. Cyclops decided to abandoned the school in upstate New York for an island off the coast of San Francisco they dubbed Utopia. It is on this island, that mutants have become an actual sovereign nation which Cyclops has vowed to protect by any means necessary. Although Cyclops continues to use the X-Men to stop all kinds of threats to humanity, he finds that his primary directive is to protect what remains of mutantkind with pre-emptive strikes. As Cyclops has taken more of a militaristic stance during several events, many mutants such as the Beast and Wolverine have parted ways claiming that Cyclops is stomping all over Xavier's dream. At one point, Wolverine takes several mutants with him to reopen Xavier's school in New York.

Enter Hope Summers and the Phoenix Force. Despite the misgivings of Captain America, the Avengers, and some mutants, mutantkind was saved. Cyclops was right in his assessment: the Phoenix Force could be used to revitalize mutantkind. Although Cyclops overstepped his boundaries and betrayed some of his teammates, he took a chance for his peoples and it worked.

I like this Scott Summers.

Before the House of M, I never liked Cyclops. I felt he was the weak link. So what he has optic blasts that can tear down a building. One punch to the grill and he was down for the count. He was always bossy and never seemed to want to have fun. Should we blame Cyclops for this? Remember, Professor Xavier groomed him to be a leader. He groomed him to be the one to take the mantel when Xavier either met his end or retired. Cyclops lost his parents to hostile aliens and ended up having to take care of his brother. He grew up way too early. So his entire life has been dedicated to helping his people. So it makes sense that Cyclops is all work and no play. He is in a position to make decisions that affect many people and the future of his race. Of course, he will take his position very seriously. While his decisions during AVX are questionable, his gamble proved right.

Now Cyclops is a fugitive and has decided to go Magneto's route of collecting oppressed mutants around the world, train them, and maintain their sovereign status. Check All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis to check the latest.

Too many people are running around lamenting how Cyclops has turned into the biggest butthole in comicdom. I disagree. His political trajectory makes sense. It's important to remind folks of what Cyclops has been through. He lost his parents at a young age and had to take care of his brother. He spent most of his adolescence fighting with a power he could not control. When he became an X-Man, he was immediately dubbed the group's leader. Despite that, he was alone. Bobby Drake still had his family and his privileges as did Jean Grey. The Beast had his intelligence to fall back on and he was even able to become an Avenger. Cyclops had no where to go. The X-Men was it for him. He couldn't quit.

Here is the thing: it all fits. Cyclops has done well for himself. Let's be real, he pretty much saved mutantkind. On top of that, he realized that he has made some horrible decisions and wants to make amends for that. While folks like Magneto and Emma Frost have taken his side without hesitation, Cyclops has reined in their excesses.

True, folks like the Beast and Wolverine have remained adamant about their opposition to Cyclops. With the Beast we have to ask, "what have you done for mutantkind lately?" Logan isn't an angel either. Let's not talk about the skeletons in his closet. So they are really not in the position to question Cyclops motives.

At the end of the day, I gets down with Cyclops.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Man With the Iron Fist
Directed and Co-written by The RZA
Co-written by Eli Roth

Before I go any further, I want to remind our readers that I came up in NYC during the Reagan era. Like the Wu-Tang Clan and many of their peers, I came up on a heavy dose of Shaw Brothers movies, 120, hip-hop culture, blunts, and 40s. So when the Wu-Tang Clan jumped on the scene way back in 1993 and bum rushed the music industry, it was like 1988 all over again. To many who did not live in that time and place, the Wu-Tang was a breath of fresh air. When I heard that the RZA was directing and writing a Martial Arts movie, I was just as excited as any fan.

In the last decade, many Martial Arts movies from the east have been given major distribution deals in the United States and have garnered rave reviews from the hardest of critics. Some were awesome and some were horrible. As someone who grew up watching the Shaw Brothers and later purchasing bootleg copies of the epic kung fu flicks that came out of Hong Kong in the 90's, it takes a lot to impress me. While I didn't expect the RZA to garner any awards for his screen writing, I hoped that a Martial Arts flick under his tutelage would be great.

As soon as the movie began, I realized I was dead wrong. I tried to give it a chance. Maybe the story would be okay. Once again, I was wrong. I wondered if maybe the movie was a parody, but the RZA was dead serious.

My first gripe is that all of the main characters had the corniest of names. The leader of the Lion clan is: Golden Lion. Yes, he sported the Flinstones gold mane. His lieutenant was (drum roll please): Silver Lion. The RZA was just the Black Smith (it's not until later that we learn that his name is actually, Thaddeus - how antebellum). The Black Smith's girlfriend just happen to be a whore named Lady Silk. They all lived in the Jungle Village. I had to check my calendar. It is 2012 right?

If you thought the names of the characters were something thought up while sitting on the toilet, the dialogue was atrocious. "I am Mr. Knife, but you can call me Jack!" Exclaimed Jack Knife played by Russell Crowe who does a decent job playing the white savior (Geez, RZA you even had the British save all the colored folk).

I think what made the movie unbearable is that the RZA narrated many of the scenes. As an MC on a track, his voice sounds pretty dope. That doesn't mean that it should be used to narrate a movie. I think this was a terrible mistake on his part. He should have had someone else do this. If he was looking for a street edged type of narration there are so many people he could have used for this.

So I hoped that maybe the fight scenes would be off the chain. I mean, the RZA grew up on the Shaw Brothers too, right? Not even the fight scenes were mediocre. I gagged when I watched the Gemini clan fight the oh so fearsome Lion clan. The Gemini Female (once again that is her name) stood upside down atop the Gemini Male. Oh, the enemy was so scared. They stood this way for a good 5 seconds before fighting.

Again, I didn't expect the RZA to write an epic masterpiece such as Fearless or the Five Deadly Venoms. I did expect the RZA to put something together that stood apart from overrated movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I was hoping to see some phenomenal choreography at the least. Unfortunately, the RZA fell short on so many levels.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Avengers Vs. X-Men

Avengers Vs. X-Men
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction
Pencils by John Romita, Jr., Oliver Coipel, and Adam Kubert

The other day, the wife and I rented the movie "New Years Eve." It starred Robert Deniro, Michelle Pfieffer, Jessica Biel, Sarah Jessica Parker, and a slew of other folks many of us love to see on the tube. It was horrible. So when Avengers Vs. X-Men (AVX) was promoted, I saw all the names of my favorite writers (I stan for Brian Michael Bendis and I believe that Jason Aaron can do no wrong), I pre-ordered it. Pre-ordering comics is something I have never done.

Let me say that on the X-Men/mutant side of the mainstream Marvel Universe, there has been a build up for a story of this magnitude since the conclusion of the House of M. So the events that happened in AVX make sense. On the Avengers side of the mainstream Marvel Universe, there was no build up despite Bendis' awesome writing. AVX seemed like an interruption to all that the things that were going on in the 4 Avengers titles.

While Issue one sets up the story, the subsequent issues fall short. AVX was really all hype. To add insult to injury, Marvel sold a separate series to actually display the battles between the X Men and the Avengers instead of putting them in the actual 12 issue series. It's enough that the readers had to stay up on the 4 Avengers titles and the 4 X Men titles to get the entire thread. I found it unfair that Marvel would do that to it's readers.

While the premise was wonderful, I found the execution to be lackluster. The Phoenix was returning to Earth and Cyclops sees this as an opportunity to use Hope Summers as the catalyst to save the Mutant race. The Avengers see the return of the Phoenix as a problem that needs to be dealt with. Wolverine and the Beast explain Hope to Captain America and the Avengers decide to enlist the aid of Hope and the X Men to contain the Phoenix. Cyclops refuses and fires on Captain America. When issue 2 comes around, it feels as if the reader is missing something. Of course, you have to read the other titles to get the gist of what happened, but the continuity flounders on several occasions.

Later Tony Stark decides to try to break the Phoenix Force into smaller components so that it could be contained but this backfires and it actually enters the bodies of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Illyana Rasputin, and Namor. This is where the story actually gets interesting. Initially, the Avengers decide that the super powered X Men, who are not taking care of the world's problems by using the Phoenix Force, are actually helpful and solved the issue. However, the President of the United States is not comfortable with this and urges the Avengers to do something. While this part of the story is interesting, I have to wonder who Captain America ignores the warnings of Wolverine and the Beast when this is going on and then has a change of heart when the president tells him otherwise. In issues 8 and 9 however, Namor, Colossus, and Rasputin are soundly defeated by the Avengers and the Phoenix Force leaves them and distributes the power between Cyclops and Emma Frost. This is never explained. I found this part of the story to be a missed opportunity.

While I enjoyed the New Avengers K'un Lun/Iron Fist story line of how the Phoenix force visited the earth centuries ago and was defeated by a previous incarnation of the Iron Fist, this story wasn't written well into the actual AVX series. We know that Iron Fist was supposed to train Hope Summers but in what? It's not like they had months or years to train her. While issue 12 ends the series and Cyclops is defeated by Hope Summers and the Scarlet Witch, seeing Captain America interrogate Cyclops while in prison was annoying at the least.

The artwork left much to be desired. It seems as if Romita and Kubert were rushed through the entire process. Their pencils seemed to be unfinished in most areas. Only Coipel's work was flawless. I understand that the AVX is supposed to be an upheaval of the mainstream Marvel Universe and it is supposed to set up new titles such as the Uncanny Avengers and A+X, but I think Marvel could have done more justice by making it a 6 issue limited series. The only real upheaval is that Professor Xavier is killed (although he will come back again). The writers spend little time on so many game changers that should have been explored like the destruction of Wakanda and the "divorce" of T'Challa and Storm. It's those small touches that make a difference.

Look, as readers of comic books, we get it. Comic sales continue to fall and comic book stores continue to close. Many of these crossovers and big events are about selling comics. However, doing this big events every six months seems to dilute the quality of the stories we enjoy. While I think its great that Marvel is canceling some titles that many consider dead weight (you don't need 40 Spider Man titles and 40 Avengers titles), there was probably a better way of doing it. If anything AVX was just as disappointing as Fear Itself. While Siege wasn't great at least the reader only had to purchase the 4 issue series instead of 100 other titles to keep up with the story.  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Spider Men
Brian Michael Bendis
Sara Pichelli

As much as I love Marvel comics, they do a gang of stuff that I avoid. They also publish a bunch of titles that somehow get lost in the shuffle that are actually great. I remember getting one tweet about Spider Men. It was just a picture of a poster with the mainstream Peter Parker and the Ultimate Spider Man who we know as Miles Morales. It was promoted quickly before the new movie was released this summer. Sure enough, I picked up issue one sometime during June.

We all know that Brian Michael Bendis rocks. His run on the Avengers (and most of the different groups) has been stellar. Sara Pichelli is probably one of the best pencillers in the game (yes, I said it). Her covers are the stuff of legend. Together, their work on the new Ultimate Spider Man is top choice and I hope they stick around with it for at least a few years.

I would be lying if I didn't say I was pretty geeked about Spider Men. Here is a confession: I was never really a big fan of Spider Man. He just didn't speak to me despite being a nerd while living in the projects. I am sure many of you want me to turn in my geek card somewhere. My thing with Spider Man is that he is like Gilligan's Island, his luck is always bad no matter what. I find that to be stupid. I digress.

I do love Miles Morales for several reasons. I love the world Bendis created for him because it does speak to me. I wondered how Bendis was going to mix the two worlds together. Remember in Morales' world, everyone knows that Peter Parker was Spider Man and that he is dead. What I love about the Ultimate Universe is that only the Norse gods come back, everyone else who dies stays dead.

So while Peter Parker beats Mysterio up for the umpteenth time, Parker stumbles upon an trans-dimensional portal that sends him into the Ultimate Universe. Originally, he thinks he is okay until he stumbles upon the Triskelion. Issue #2 has Parker and Morales battling it out. It's an awesome match as Parker unmasks Morales.

Morales brings Parker to Nick Fury. Parker escapes upon learning that the Peter Parker of this dimension is dead and everyone knows who he is. Parker encounters Aunt May and Gwen Stacy. It's an eerie meeting but Bendis pulls it off well. Fury brings in the Ultimates to capture the technology Mysterio has. I have to be honest, I was pretty scared about the entire set up. Bendis pulled it off. The artwork is superb. I wish it was longer than 5 issues. Everything happened pretty quickly. More props to Marvel for providing a free download for each issue. So those that purchase the single issue can have two formats to read it in. While I am not big on dimensional crossovers, Marvel was able to pull this off.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Walking Dead 100...101: Where is Zone 1?

For those that don't know, Image Comics' "The Walking Dead" has surpassed it's 100th issue. There will be no spoilers in this piece but I would like to focus on the protagonist Rick Grimes. Unfortunately, the TV show doesn't really convey Grime's dilemmas when it comes to his leadership position. While it does demonstrate how Grimes is thrust into being the leader, the TV show does not have time to go into the nuances. 

In the current story arc for "The Walking Dead," aptly titled "Something to Fear," Grimes and his crew again debate the idea that they could ever be safe in this new world order. Every time they find a place that is relatively safe, Grimes and his crew settle in and get complacent. Soon enough, something bounds around the corner and reminds them that most of the world is dead and ready to devour them.

I recently read the paperback reissue of "Zone One" by Colson Whitehead. It is by far one of the best zombie novels written in the last five years. Like Grimes, the main character in "Zone One," Mark Spitz, also debates whether he or anyone else can be safe in a world filled with flesh eating zombies. Spitz is on a clean up detail whose job is to enter buildings and get rid of the zombies that were missed by the U.S. Marines. Before landing that job, Spitz, like most of the humanity spent his days moving from town to town in search of food, water, and a place to sleep for the evening. Eventually, Spitz would find a small group of survivors who have hunkered down in a fortified bunker or home. It doesn't take long for Spitz to realize the futility of hunkering down. Yet somehow Spitz manages to stay with his group despite his doubts.

Many of the people in Grimes' crew always bring this up to Grimes. Even his own son complains about staying in one place too long. The children in the Walking Dead have become very accustomed to loss. Where as in Whitehead's "Zone One," the adults have become accustomed to not having many children around.

I remember having the opportunity to meet several of the boys of the Sudan. They were a great bunch to be around. One of them was a packer who I called Jay at a grocery store I frequented. We spoke often. One time, Jay and I started discussing the long walk he and his friends made from the Sudan to Somalia. It was thousands of miles. Jay would recall how they would actually find a place to settle in. It took them a few days to get used to it but eventually something would happen that would drive them off. They were attacked by people who saw them as a threat, or slavers, or they would run out of food and water. Jay admitted that even when he arrived to the United States, it took him months to realize that things were okay. He could finally sleep at night. Then 9/11 happened and he thought, "here we go again." Even when he noticed that people around him weren't going anywhere he believed that things were going to fall apart at any moment. He assumed that we Americans didn't get it. Which, in his case, we didn't get it because we have never been in those situations that Jay and his compatriots went through. Of course, Jay, like many people who experience this sort of trauma, suffers from PTSD.

The characters in The Walking Dead and Zone One all suffer from PTSD (as a matter of fact, Whitehead even has a name for it called Post Apocalyptic Stress Disorder or PASD). In the Walking Dead there are people who refuse to settle down and believe that moving about is the best way to survive. Unfortunately, Grimes and Spitz relearn that lesson over and over.

For those of you that know Robert Kirkman, he seems to kill off the characters readers fall in love with. In issue 100, Kirkman avoids the bloodletting he usually dishes out every 20 issues or so. Instead, he kills off one supporting cast of Grime's crew. Zombies make almost no appearance in this issue. Instead, Grimes and his crew are captured by living, breathing human beings. The reader finally gets to meet the head of the Saviors and he is much, much worse than the Governor. While the Governor was just a lying sociopath, the elusive Negan is just thirsty for power and will do anything to maintain that power. Negan also seems to be a genius at psychological warfare. Kirkman does a great job setting us up for the climax in this story arc. Negan and the Saviors are indeed something to fear.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Black Guard #1
Produced By Brothers of Spontaneous Combustion (BOSC) Comics

I know we have been saying that we were going to start reviewing Independent comics and here we are in July 2012 and we haven't even done that. Well, we got one. I will say that when I received Black Guard #1 in the mail, I felt like I was taken for a ride. I didn't open the plastic yet but I assumed it was going to be one of those informational issues that big publishing giants such as Marvel throws out to cash in on fans who are eagerly awaiting an upcoming story arc or series. So I sat on the issue for a few days.

One evening, I had the chance to sit back and give it the attention it needed. I don't regret ordering Black Guard #1.

Let me be frank. I have met quite a few black and brown folks who have started their own comic books and I didn't review them because the quality was horrible on so many levels. I am happy to say that the Brothers of Spontaneous Combustion (BOSC) have outdone themselves.

What makes nerd/geek culture what it is happens to be the cultural referencing made by the subject. Notice that I did not say pop culture reference. Pop culture implies that it was part of the mainstream culture. Check The Last Emperor's "Secret Wars" to catch my drift. You are either in the know, or you don't know. Black Guard is full of geek culture references. It's not your run of the mill, Nineteen nineties X Men cartoon series references either. That is what made me read the book over and over.

Eli Mercer, Black Guard's leader, assembles a team of former mercenaries, villains, and not so savory characters to attempt to "uplift the community." Unfortunately, Mercer is in over his head as the fun begins. The crew is well rounded with Sequoia, Melanin, Darius Doom, Odan, and FRO Bot. I spent a large amount of time laughing as reread the stories in the first issue.

If there was anything I enjoyed the most is the colors. The colors literally float off the page. I did not see that coming. It gives the indy comic the quality it needs. Overall, I can't wait to cop the 2nd issue of Black Guard. I also hope to see more from BOSC.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moonby Saladin Ahmed

Book review by Dan Tres OMi

This is yet another book I stumbled upon. The cover was immediately appealing. After reading the first two pages, I fell in love with the story. Saladin Ahmed introduces us to the ancient city of Dhamsawaat. A city ruled by a corrupt Khalif and besieged by The Falcon Prince, the precursor to Robin Hood, who is loved by the poor but hated by the rich and royalty. It is in this atmosphere we meet Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last of the real ghul hunters, and his young assistant the Dervish Raseed bas Raseed. Makhslood spends his time fighting off ghuls and defending people who have no other place to go. Raseed is a Dervish who has committed himself to fighting The Traitorous Angel (Shataan) with his very life.

I think the best part about this story are the two main characters. On one hand we have Makhslood who is an elder gentleman who has fought ghuls most of his life. He is looking to get out of the ghul hunting business since he is getting old and tired. He would rather spend his days reading books and sipping tea. Makhslood is a practicing Muslim but is very lax in his rituals. He openly flirts with women, enjoys fighting, and is known to celebrate just a little too much. He is like that loving uncle we all have and love to be around despite the fact that our parents would rather he not show up most of the time. Raseed on the other hand is extremely pious, young, and naive. His worldview is in complete conflict with his mentor. Their interaction is wonderful to watch. When it comes to fighting ghuls, their partnership is as one.

Ahmed throws many elements and characters into the story that forces Makhslood and Raseed to question their arrangement. In the end, they stay true to one another and win the day. Ahmed does a great job providing a full tapestry of the religion of Islam. You have your everyday practitioners, your mystics, and fundamentalists all wrapped up in a story of adventure. One need not know the history of Islam to appreciate this. One can't help but to fall in love with the characters as well as the city of Dhamsawaat. I look forward to hearing more tales about Makhslood and Raseed and the fate of the city of Dhamsawaat. Ahmed has introduced the reader to a great and wonderful world from our distant past.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Legend of Korra

It's easy to see that being a sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fan, it's a love and hate relationship especially when you are raising children. You want to see characters that look like you. You want to see heroines who are independent and fierce. And yes in the 21st century, there are still stereotypes galore. So it's difficult to navigate in those genres.

I really enjoyed Avatar: the Last Airbender. Most of all our children really enjoyed it. It was something we shared together and we felt like we watched Aang and his crew grow. I was really hurt by the movie adaptation. I mean when Hollywood does it bad, which is quite often, they pull out all the stops. So we had our fingers crossed when the news came out that they were continuing the Avatar series on Nickelodeon. It was frustrating to hear the news about the dates being pushed back and there were very few teasers. When it finally arrived, it was well worth the wait.

The Legend of Korra begins 50 years after the events from the original series. Aang is dead and Korra, from the Southern Water Tribe, is the new avatar. While she has mastered the fire, water, and earth elements, she is having trouble mastering air bending. Initially, she is slated to train with Tenzin, Aang's son and council person for Republic City. However, when Tenzin arrives and explains that he will not be able to train Korra, she decides to take matters into her own hands. That is when the adventure begins.

It seems that most of the action will take place in Republic City. It reminds me of Shanghai in the movie "Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zen." Now just add air ships, metal bending police, and triads, and you have the Legend of Korra. I loved "Legend of the Fist" and love Legend of Korra even more. Chief of Police Lin Beifong, is actually Toph's daughter, and has no love for the Avatar and would prefer to see Korra leave Republic City. This adds so much tension to the story.

Unlike the original series, Korra is not on the run from the Fire Nation. She even does press conferences which I think are hilarious. However, there is currently an anti-bender movement headed by the mysterious Amon. Korra doesn't help matters since she ends up destroying so much property when fighting. This brings more sentiment against her mission.

Through her antics and fierce independence, Korra sneaks out again and discovers the bending tournaments where fire, water, and earth benders battle it out for the everyone's entertainment. She actually joins a team and this eventually helps her with her air bending. Korra meets Mako and Bolin. Bolin is the comedian of the team. Mako is the serious one and of course, Korra's love interest. I like the idea that bending in the modern area has a commercial slant to it. This idea makes perfect sense. Tenzin, who is a monk, is dead set against Korra's entry into the tournaments but he eventually sees its worth.

Overall, this looks like it's a great series that will surpass the original in so many ways. I can't wait to learn about what happened to the other members of Aang's circle. It is great to see his children and grandchildren at play and they will be important to the story. You don't have to go back and watch the original series to understand what is going on. I think this is the best part of this series. It's a new Avatar, so there will be new stories and new adventures for everyone to pick up on.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Holy Terror

by Frank Miller

Published by Legendary

I waited to pick up this comic book after all of the hoopla about Frank Miller's rants. I remember after the success of the movie 300, Miller went on several interviews sounding like Karl Rove. Personally, I don't have any issues with people espousing their political ideology. As an Afro Latino, I have realized that many of my artistic heroes have ideas that are backwards, racist, and sexist. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't challenge those artists and those ideas. We should do that every chance we get but I learned that I shouldn't assume that just because I like someone's work it means that we agree on most things. When it comes to Miller, his genius is undeniable.

I mean to this day Miller's Daredevil and Batman are still my favorite. With the exception of Jim Lee's Batman during the Hush story arc, no one has been able to match either one. It bothered me that someone who created a comic book character who broke so many barriers (please read Miller's Martha Washington series - which is still unmatched to this day), could put together something as awful as "Holy Terror."

Originally, "Holy Terror" was going to be another Batman story. Rumor has it that DC found it too racy and in terrible taste. Many called it racist before it was even released. Miller also began doing more rants on interviews. Many other artists called him out on his rabid conservatism. It was ugly. I was scratching my head on it. The Batman concept explains the protagonists in this story. The Fixer is Batman without the ears and with Rush Limbaugh like ideology. The story begins with Fixer chancing the Cat Burglar or Natalie Stack. I bet you can't guess who that is.

I don't know if it was a situation where Miller already drew most of the story boards with Batman and the Catwoman and refused to re-pencil. If it was, it explains the sloppiness of the inks. Some scenes are indecipherable and the inks look as if Miller bled over the entire thing and dropped some coffee on it. I can safely admit that this is the worst ink work I have ever seen.

The story is cliched. It begins with the Fixer chasing Stack. Once he captures her, they being to make love. Then there are a series of explosions. Terrorists attack Empire City and destroy the Lady of Justice (the Statue of Liberty). It's Al Qaeda at it again. This time the chief of police is in on it. Fixer teams up with an ex Mossad Agent with the Star of David tattoo'ed onto his face. And it's on.

What is troubling about the depictions of civilians is the steep contrast between non-Muslims and Muslims. Miller even pencils some coon like drawings of President Obama. To be honest, I don't know why these profiles were part of the story. It seemed as if they were just thrown in there to make noise. I could see why DC left this alone. Overall, it's in horrible taste.

In the end, I felt like I supported something that should have been left in the dustbin. Again, I am saddened that Miller put out this product. While I don't believe that an artist should mute his or her's ideas or beliefs. I find that art should offend. Art should question. It should demand. Art should also make the viewer or consumer think. Art doesn't have to do this all the time either. While I don't agree with Miller's politics, I still don't get why he went ahead and publish "Holy Terror."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Isaiah Bradley, the New American, and Shout outs to Rogue Squadron

It was before the release of Star Wars Episode III, when I heard George Lucas reveal that he was going to put together a movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen. I remember being very excited about this movie much more so then watching Episode III. Whenever someone would negatively criticize Lucas, I made it a point to bring up the mythical production of a mainstream movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen. Being a historian, World War II has become one of my favorite eras to cover with the contributions by African American pilots and tank crews, Chinese partisans, and Russian female fighter pilots being my favorite parts. So when I saw the preview to "Red Tails," I have to admit that I had a large emotional investment in the project.

American pop culture in general has been very nostalgic when it comes to doing movies or stories about WWII. That war is considered "the just war." It is sacred ground. Anything about segregation, Japanese internment camps, and the dropping of bombs on civilians (Dresden stands out the most) is never to be discussed. The last movie that dealt with segregation in the US military during WWII was HBO's Tuskeegee Airmen in which Lucas took many cues from. With a smaller budget but stellar cast, HBO produced a wonderful piece. Lucas employed probably one of the best satirical writers in Hollywood today: Aaron McGruder and John Ridley. The most critical approach to WWII was put together in comic book form by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker entitled "Truth: Red, White, and Black." It's release in 2003 was controversial in geekdom since the story implied that the U.S. military experimented on African American soldiers with the untested super soldier serum that later made Steve Rogers Captain America. We learn that the original Captain America, Isaiah Bradley, was secretly fighting Nazi's while Rogers was doing parades and USO shows. Thankfully, Marvel Comics has kept Bradley's story as canon. What was interesting in the latest movie adaptation of Captain America is Derek Luke's role as Gabriel Jones one of the members of Howling Commandos. Luke's Gabriel Jones was the renaissance man speaking several languages, able to operate almost every vehicle, out punch any Nazi, and even give a shout out to Howard University.

It's important to note that McGruder on his popular Boondocks series on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, wrote a story about the elder Freeman as a Tuskeegee Airman entitled "Wing Man." It was probably one of the funniest episodes of that season. Ridley also penned a jingoistic period piece entitled "The American Way" for DC Comics about fake superheroes employed by the US government during the Civil Rights era to entertain the public. The black superhero of that story was called "The New American." His power was being impervious to almost anything but the catch was that he would still feel the pain of the particular onslaught be it bullets or flamethrower. We see that same approach to the characters in Red Tails. Most of them are hard, gritty pilots who can match barbs with the best of them but understand that their presence in the Army Air Corps stands by a thread.

Unlike HBO's story of the Fightin' 99th, Red Tails lacks substance. If anything Ne Yo is annoying. There is someone named Joker (Elijah Kelley) but all the comic relief attempts were done by Ne Yo. Cuba Gooding, Jr. was restrained in his role as Major Emanuelle Stance. Although, he had few lines, Gooding did well playing the old pilot dropping jewels on his young fighter pilots. While I love Nate Parker, he did not sell his role as squadron leader Marty "Easy" Julian. The stand out performance was by new comer David Ayewolo who played Easy's Wingman, Joe "Lightning" Little. Ayewolo carried the movie and one couldn't help but root for him. Like any black and white movie produced in the 1950s about WWII pilots, Parker played the by the book squadron leader who has conflicts with the maverick pilot. Unfortunately, we didn't see that chemistry played well between the two.

What I enjoyed the most about the movie is that it was about fighter pilots. Anyone who has worked around fighter pilots will tell you that they are a unique breed who want to see action. They disdain anything that grounds them. I know quite a few Colonels who are up for desk jobs who refuse to do this and want to remain fighter pilots until their heart stops. We see that conflict arise when Ray "Junior" Gannon (Tristan Wilds) is grounded by the flight surgeon. At one point Gannon laments that he would rather die than be grounded. This is how real fighter pilots think. Gannon, who insists on being addressed by his call name "Ray Gun," is referred to as Junior because of his green ears. As he is shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans, we see his fellow POWs rely on him. When he escapes and returns to his unit, they immediately call him "Ray Gun." There is even a Nazi villain. What's a fun movie about WWII without it's Nazi villain. The Tuskeegee Airmen even dub him "Pretty Boy." I must admit that I jumped up when he was blown out of the sky.

Overall, the movie could use some work. The acting leaves much to be desired. The pacing is slow. The real struggle of the Tuskeegee Airmen was pretty much written out. Lucas admitted that there was so much to cover and let's face it, the American audience disdains long history lessons. The movie is fun and the action is unparalleled. The dog fights are realistic and the costumes are spot on. I took my daughter to see this. Like my other children, she is familiar with the story of the Tuskeegee Airmen, Patton's Panthers, and Russian women fighter pilots. Like her father, my daughter is a huge Star Wars fan and I wanted to share this moment with her. She found the movie to be fun and entertaining. I think that was the entire point. So this writer salutes Lucas and I hope his gamble pays off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Avengers Origins: Luke Cage

Written by Adam Glass & Mike Benson

I enjoy when artists re-imagine a particular character. Even as a child, I had my issues with Luke Cage. Under Brian Michael Bendis's hand, however, Cage has been rehashed and remade. I enjoy it. They removed the stereotypical garb and he fights in regular civvies. He has been on the Avengers roster for awhile now. Honestly, he has become one of my favorite Marvel characters. This is a clear demonstration about how in comics it's about great writing instead of dope powers and a great costume.

When I saw the Avengers Origins series, I assumed it was another Marvel attempt to cash in on the Avenger's franchise. While Cage gets so much shine in several of the Avengers titles, I decided to pick it up. While Adam Glass doesn't change much about the story: Luke Cage was a street thug with a big heart and gets framed. While in jail, he takes part in an experiment that gives him his steel like skin and super human strength. He escapes jail and decides to use his muscle for good. What Glass changes are his motivations.

Cage confronts the childhood friend who betrays him and earns justice. I did cringe when I notice that he was wearing the black tights with the yellow disco shirt. I think that's where I have my issues. While I like Dalibor Talajic's pencils, there are pages where the work gets muddled. One some pages you can tell he took his time and on others, the pencils look rushed. While the artwork needed more work, the writing is on point.

If you are wondering, it is something that you should pick up. While Luke Cage doesn't have his own comic, he continues to be a major character in the Marvel Universe. It's good to learn something more about his past.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011: How it all went down...

One would think that all of the great stuff going down in 2011, we would have all the posts and exclusives. Time flies when you are having fun, so we dropped the ball about 1,000 times on this blog. We felt it was only fitting that we give at least one more post for 2011 even though it is 2012 as we post this. Again, forgive us our transgressions...

One graphic novel that stood out to us was of course, a non hero graphic novel. "99 Days" which was written by Matteo Casali and illustrated by Kristian Donaldson. It's on the Vertigo imprint which has released a gang of graphic novels and comic series dealing with crime and investigation. Some of it is great but much of it is not even worth the five finger discount. Vertigo still puts out quality stuff for being on the DC side so there other titles to check out. I will say that "99 Days" does a wonderful job of intertwining genocide with police brutality and gang violence as well as poverty and political strife without being too preachy or cliche. The artwork fits both locales in Rwanda and Los Angeles and it works seamlessly. Casali pulls off several twists. This better win an Eisner Award.

Vertigo did publish the last DMZ (Issue Number 72) this month. Let me say I love Brian Wood's writing. Ricardo Burchielli's art really kept up the storyline throughout its 72 issue run. The covers are probably the best in the biz. Vertigo knocked it out of the park with this. It won a gang of awards. I know some professors who use it in their political science and journalism class. I knew eventually, the series would end because of it's setting: Civil war torn New York City. I didn't like the last issue too tough. I mean Wood did a great job tying so many loose ends before the series ended. The last issue did bring back many of the characters we know and love. I just felt that it was outside of the story. I know it takes place 15 years after the previous issues when the war is way over, but still. It felt too distant. I wanted more. So yes, I am saying you can avoid this issue.

I will admit that the Captain America movie did not disappoint. It was everything I expected it to be. It's a wonderful piece of American propaganda when our soldiers fought the just fight and were heroic enough to be bulletproof. I love Captain America, I just don't dig this sanitized version of WWII. I think the movie played right into that. It even removed anything Nazi from history. That bothered me too much. I do think that Chris Evans redeemed himself in this role. He did horrible in Fantastic Four even though I felt much of the blame should be placed on the writers and didn't do too well in Push (even though he did his thing in "Sunshine," but again, the writer and director get full credit for that one). I give Marvel points for putting Gabriel Jones (played by Derek Luke) and giving a shout out to Howard University. What saved the movie was the last 5 minutes when Rogers is awakened in the 21st century by SHIELD.

The real winners of 2011 had to be DC with their 52 line. No one saw that coming and everyone thought it would be a flop. They hit us with four titles featuring non white characters: Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, Bat Wing, and Blue Beetle. While many might argue that some of these super heroes lean on other white heroes to work, who else is putting out non white superheroes with this much distribution. Marvel isn't anymore. Is this progress? I don't know but its a step in the right direction. It was a big risk especially in this economy for DC to do something like that so I have to give them cool points for that. I have heard many white cats call it a publicity stunt and that's a shame that some folks feel that way. We all know that paper is going the way of the do do and digital is where it's at. So DC get's love for taking that risk.

And yes for 2012, we plan on highlighting independent comic books by non white writers and illustrators so stay tuned for that.

The biggest story of 2011 was Ultimate Spider Man as Miles Morales. Even Fox News came out to blame Michelle Obama on that one. As usual Brian Michael Bendis did not disappoint. If you haven't checked it out already please do. Your best bet is to get the digital comic or wait for the Trade Paper Back. Yes, it's that crucial. I have to say that Marvel took a big risk on this one and it came through for them. The story is just so dope. So much to go over. It's not Peter Parker in black face. Bendis brings all the nuances of being a black child in NYC in the 21st century. Morales is about my sons. Morales is about me growing up in NYC trying to figure it out.

With all this and more, 2012 will be an interesting year in comics.

Thanks to all that follow us and pass our blogs around. We appreciate it. Yes! if you are wondering, more posts in 2012.