Monday, 28 April 2014

Captain America Vol. 1: Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1 (Marvel NOW!) Review

Captain America Vol. 1: Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1 (Marvel NOW!)

"When Captain America gives everbody
Writer: Rick Remender

Artist: John Romita Jr.

Collecting: Captain America #1-5

Background Information:

In previous iterations of Captain America, the star-spangled avenger faced some pretty ground-level threats. Recently, though, the Marvel NOW! initiative has taken a swathe of Marvel heroes and put them in new, status-quo-altering situations. For Cap, this means his stories are about to get a lot wierder


Castaway in Dimension Z has all the elements of a book I thought I would hate; it’s Captain America, who never really grabs my attention if he isn’t on the Avengers, it’s a story about alternate dimension, which is usually too weird for me (I even found DC’s Earth 2 hard to swallow) and it skips forward in time by a decade at one point.

But when reading this trade, I found the unthinkable happening: I was enjoying this book. In fact, I was really enjoying this book.

Okay, so in case the title doesn’t give it away, Captain America is trapped in an alternate dimension, caring for the stolen child of Arnim Zola, who I can only assume is an evil tellytubby (I’m not sure on the spelling, and that doesn’t bother me in the least) from mainland Europe. It sounds simple, but Castaway in Dimension Z  peppers it’s story with a tale form Steve Rogers’ rather terrible childhood, which adds plenty of extra complexity and character development.

Even more interesting, though, is seeing ol’ Cap become a father figure to Zola’s son, Ian. Ian’s a great character, and caring for him helps Captain America become a far more fleshed out character than he’s ever been before. As Steve protects Ian from all of the dangers of Dimension Z, writer Rick Remender somehow turns the WWII hero into an even better soldier, more hardened than previous versions of the character. It’s great to read and it actually makes me care about the super-soldier more than I did before. That’s not saying much, I realise, but I’m actually starting to like the guy now.

The book’s villain may look ridiculous, but both he and his daughter/sidekick feel very fleshed out in this volume. Zola’s hatred for Captain America evolves over time. He moves from simply hating the first avenger for opposing him, to believing that Steve killed his son to believing that Steve kidnapped his son out of some sick desire to torment him. It’s nice to see heroes progress and develop, but villain development is infinitely more satisfying. Zola’s Daughter Jet, also feels oddly fleshed out, considering she only makes major appearances in the last two issues.

My only problem with this story, is that the support characters, bar Ian, are bland beyond belief. I felt no remorse when they died, because the characters didn’t beg sympathy. Thankfully, the cast of supporting characters is kept to a minimum though, so they don’t exactly get in the way of things.

John Romita Jr’s art suits this weird new world like a glove. Harsh lines and exaggerated shapes abound here along with bold dark colours to make this whole world look strange and forboding. The book is littered with strange creatures as well as unfamiliar, alien landscapes. In short, you know you’re not in 616 anymore (note: 616 is the main Marvel universe). Usually, that would be a turnoff for me- you can only get so weird- but here it got me hooked. Each page feels like an act in exploration and it makes me wonder why I didn’t pick this book up sooner.

Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1 is a beautifully crafted book that takes a 90-year-old character and somehow keeps him feeling fresh. It gets a four and a half out of five evil telletubbies (seriously, how do you spell that?).

**** ½

+ Awesome Character development

+ Art presents a gorgeous new world

- Supporting cast is bland

Alternate Option: New Avengers: Everything Dies

Somehow Captain America is in the 616 universe as all of this unfolds. Heh, beats me.

Monday, 21 April 2014

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies (Marvel NOW!) Review

New Avengers Vol. 1: Everything Dies

So... wanna form a boy band?... Guys...
Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Steve Epting

Collecting: New Avengers #1-6

Background Information:

The New Avengers, contrary to what the title may suggest, are not a set of replacement Avengers, rather, they represent Marvel’s Illuminati. Here, that’s not group with a strange obsession for conveniently-placed triangles. Here, they’re a group that rule the world in secret made up of Black Bolt, Namor, Reed Richards, Iron Man, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and formerly Professor Xavier. Six of them possess one of the infinity gems each. These gems are important because together they form the infinity gauntlet- one of the most powerful tools in the galaxy.


What was wrong with calling this book, The Illuminati? This team, despite featuring both Captain America and Iron Man, is about as far from the Avengers as can be fathomed. It’s still a great team and it’s still a great book, but be aware that these are not the Avengers in any sense of the word.

So the Illuminati are called together with the kind of insanely massive crisis that you would expect to be worthy of gathering the world’s rulers; the multiverse is falling apart, causing multiple versions of earth to crash into each other. This presents the Illuminati with a bit of a moral quandary; these other earths are also populated, so the choice becomes one of destroying your own world or destroying someone else’s. It’s a great question that gets fairly well explored, with the ultimate answer being that sometimes tough decisions need to be made.

While  Everything Dies presents some great moral questions, the answer isn’t really satisfactory. These people are meant to be heroes, they are meant to be able to save someone against incredible odds, but that doesn’t happen. Isntead, Everything Dies reads like the first part of a two-part story. This is something that has been bugging me about Marvel NOW!’s trade paperbacks; so many of them feel unfinished; the majority of them collect about five issues. Compare that to DC’s 6-10 issues on average per trade and it’s clear which one is the better value for money. I like what I’m reading in Everything Dies, but I can hardly say that I’m satisfied with what I’ve read.

But that’s a small problem as what really seems to be on display here is the relationship between these characters. There is some great headbutting between Captain America, Black Panther and the rest of the Illuminati. My real problem here, though, is that none of these characters seem really likeable. They’re intriguing, they’re not people you can find yourself supporting. I mentioned before that this team are the furthest thing from the Avengers that you can imagine- that’s because thse characters just aren’t heroic. In fact, the only heroic character in the team gets removed from it fairly quickly. The result is a bad feeling in your stomach as you read.

That said though, there is some excellent action here, the pinnacle of which has to be the fight between Dr. Doom and a group called the Map Makers. If you want to know how big a claim that is, this is following a fight between the Illuminati and a servant of Galaktus- the big dude who eats planets. Let that sink in for a while.

The art here is fantastic. Epting manages to use a colour palette that allows him more detail than David Aja, yet still manages to feel minimal in its use. The result is a book where in multiple pages you sometimes have to pay attention to realise that Epting is using more than one colour. It’s not a criticism, though, it helps to book to have a kind of consistency that is very pretty to look at. The character designs in Everything Dies are also brilliant- Captain America looks better here than in his own book, and even ridiculous costumes like Black Bolt’s looks good.

Everything Dies is not a book about heroes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a passable yarn. It get three out of five conveniently-placed triangles.


+ Engaging morality tale

+ Art is great

+ Some awesome action scenes

- Characters are profoundly un-heroic

- Unsatisfying ending

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men

One of the best NOW! books I’ve read- you need to check this out.

Thor God of Thunder Vol. 1: The God Butcher (Marvel NOW!) Review

Thor God of Thunder Vol. 1: The God Butcher (Marvel NOW!)
I tried coming up with a joke for this
one... but couldn't... it's an awesome,
unfunny cover.

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Esad Ribic

Collecting: Thor God of Thunder #1-5

Background Information:

A few years ago, I would actually have had to explain who Thor was, but three movies later, most people already know who he is.

But in case you’ve missed those three movies, a cartoon series and the title of the book, Thor is the Norse god of thunder. That’s really all there is to him.


When people complain about Superman being overpowered, my reaction is generally “look at Thor!” I mean, the guy’s a god. In theory, any villain he therefore takes on, excluding another god, is going to be inferior, right?


Apparently, wrong. Actually, apparently; very wrong. The God Butcher centres on Thor’s investigation into the disappearance of gods all across the universe. Some has been killing these gods left right and centre, and it’s someone who directly affects Thor’s past, present and future.

Considering The God Butcher jumps around in time a lot, it’s surprisingly easy to follow. Thor looks and acts very different in each of his incarnations and that helps readers to distinguish which version of Thor they are reading about.

But the story does more than that; and actually makes some fairly interesting statements about belief and unbelief. The book’s villain, a nude Voldermort-looking character named Gorr is jaded by gods in general- what he thought he believed about the gods turned out to be false, and that sends him on a rampage against all the gods that he failed to understand. It’s a story that equally questions both devotion to deity and militant atheism. Too often, many comics seem to swing one way or the other and it’s good to see that writer Jason Aaron knows how to walk the thin line between the two. Gorr is a disillusioned believer, and all he did was discover the truth about the gods, but his behaviour is clearly villainous.

The only real problem with The God Butcher’s story is that Thor’s character feels like it doesn’t evolve as much as it should have. It’s disturbing, since most pages are given over only to Thor and Gorr. You would think five issues that are nearly exclusively devoted to Thor would have given the God of Thunder time to change his perspective on something, or learn some lesson about what it means to be a god, but that doesn’t happen.

But that is a very small complaint, as the relationship between Thor and Gorr is really what’s on display here. In a surprisingly short time, Aaron gives us a great view of the depth and breadth of Thor and Gorr’s conflict and just how it has played out over the ages. It’s impressive to consider that a story that covers the time between 893 AD- many millennia from now can seem as fully fleshed-out as this one is. Somehow, Aaron gives us a full, in-depth view of Thor’s relationship to Gorr without doing anything that would have detracted from the story. He doesn’t skimp on the action, doesn’t revert to talking heads, and doesn’t even make vague statements. By the end of the book, you start to wonder why the Thor movies have been wasting time with Loki when this guy seems like the biggest bad in Thor lore.

Esad Ribic’s art is some of the best that I’ve seen in a long time. Ribic’s style perfectly marries fantasy and sci-fi and it suits Thor perfectly. The hazed-over paints that abound in The God Butcher adds that perfect sense of mystery. I could not ask for better art in a Thor book and I’m glad I got in this one.

The God Butcher
is a near-perfect book, and an excellent example of why Marvel NOW! works. It gets a four and a half out of five nude Voldermorts.

**** ½

+ Deep statements about belief and unbelief

+ Thor and Gorrs story feels surprisingly fleshed-out

+ Beautiful art

- Thor’s character less developed than it could have been.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Teen Titans, Rape Threats and How We Debate Comics

Internet, this is you!

I think “Gone to Hell” is the correct term to use here.

For those out of the know; Teen Titans is getting relaunched as New Teen Titans this July. It’s being written by Will Pfeifer, who picked up the slack after Scott Lobdell’s run on Red Hood and the Outlaws, and drawn by Kenneth Rocafort, who also worked on Red Hood and the Outlaws. Red Hood and the Outlaws seems to have a thing for presenting former Teen Titan Starfire with large... um... let’s say assets.

Anyway, last week a new cover was released for New Teen Titans #1. Here’s the picture below.
Where the bad kids hang out

Former DC editor Janelle Asselin took issue with a number of things that this cover did wrong. To be fair, most of them were water-under-the-bridge style things; too many background objects, some perspective problems- fairly nitpicky stuff.

But there was one problem in particular; upon which she was right on the money;

“Let's start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl's rack. Perhaps I'm alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top. Anatomy-wise, there are other issues -- her thigh is bigger around than her waist, for one -- but let's be real. The worst part of this image, by far, are her breasts. The problem is not that she's a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don't have that round shape (sorry, boys). If you don't believe me, check out this excellent tutorial from artist Meghan Hetrick.

A secondary problem is that no girl with breasts that large is going to wear a strapless top for anything, much less a career that involves a lot of physical activity. In previous New 52 "Teen Titans" covers and issues, we've seen this same costume, but more often than not, WG's breasts are drawn smaller, or the top is pulled up higher. The way Rocafort has drawn her here, we're one bounce away from a nipslip. On a teenager. In case you forgot that entirely relevant point.”

This is a fairly valid point; sure, lots of women in comics are drawn with exaggerated figures, but most of them are 20 or older. All the same, acting on the assumption that it’s even okay to sexualise women who are of the age of consent (I don’t think it is), it’s still wrong to do that to someone who is, in the eyes of the law, a minor.

But what does Asselin get for her honest and well thought-out opinion? Various fans unloaded truckloads of abuse on her; from terms like “Feminazi” to more serious things like rape threats.
But this article isn’t about Asselin’s article. It’s about debate in comics (and other mediums for that matter).

I hate, let me repeat; HATE looking at comment sections on IGN and other sites when those involved cannot produce decent retorts to what they have read. You can tell them instantly, they’re the ones who label others as “DC fanboys”, “Marvel Zombies” or “Image... Goblins?”. When people don’t have an 
effective response to an argument, they normally resort to attacks on a person’s character.

This isn’t something that’s limited to one side of argument, either. I get just as irritated when I read “Homophobe” as when I read “Religious Bigot”. “Mysoginist” annoys me just as much as “Feminazi”. “Right-Wing Moron”, bothers me just as “Left-Wing Hippie” does. But it seems to be all over the internet.

In the comics-community, its sadly just as bad. Did you criticize a Marvel movie? You’re just a DC fanboy! Get over yourself. Don’t like the New 52? Pfft, Marvel must be paying you, moron! Not interested in Image? That would be because you’re not intelligent enough to appreciate anything non-superhero. It’s a dismissive style of comment that kills intelligent discussion. More importantly, though, you’re not converting anyone by saying it. Those DC fanboys will still be DC fanboys. The Mavel kids will still say “Make mine Marvel”. Image fans will still come back for the next issue of Saga. Your attack on their character just makes them mad at you!

Since when is a personal attack- be it over a comic, movie, policy or theological viewpoint- akin to having a solid argument on anything? When did it become okay for us all to act like four-year olds when we get online? Most importantly, why can we not come up with an argument that enforces our position due to its own merit, rather than one that vilifies our opposition?

Let’s face it; we’re better than that. If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re reading it for one reason: you love comics. Yet, for some reason, we as a fan community seem very uncomfortable in our fandom. We seem to tell ourselves that unless we’re tearing down someone else’s favourite thing, our favourite thing becomes less valid. Heaven forbid that those who were excited about New Teen Titans just ignore the article and continue enjoying it anyway. No, we need to bash, we need to demean, and we need to decry those who disagree with us as moral and intellectual weaklings. For what? A few “up-rates” on a comments section? Is that worth it?

Let’s face it, comics community, we’re better than that. We’re more intelligent than that. If you disagree with Asselin, go ahead; disagree. If you have a decent, mature argument to make, go ahead; make it. If you are interested in the comic anyway, go ahead; read the hell out of its 22-page-excluding-adds backside. But if you’re argument consists of name-calling, harassing, and threatening, then the problem is with your argument, not hers.

It’s become painfully clear to me over the last week that we really need to change the way that we come to debate in popular culture. The current state of it is not good, and last week’s drama just proved it. If we really expect to be believed, we need to start developing smart arguments that address the issues, not the opponents.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Green Lantern New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope (The New 52) Review

Green Lantern New Guardians Vol. 2: Beyond Hope (The New 52)

"And you know what? Your mask is
Writer: Tony Bedard

Artist: Tyler Kirkham and Batt

Collects: Green Lantern New Guadians #8-12  and Blue Beetle #9

Background Information:

In the last volume of New Guardians, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner received rings from Lantern Corps of all of the emotional colours. It got him on the bad side of the Guardians of the universe and allowed him to inadvertently put a team together consisting of Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Red Lantern Bleez, Star Sapphire Fatality, Sinestro Corpsman Arkillo, Orange Lantern Glomulus and Indigo Tribesman Munk. They raided a giant floating and encountered the archangel Invictus, who charged them with killing Orange Lantern leader Larfleeze.

If you want more information, please refer to my review of Green Lantern New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearers.


Beyond Hope does a far better job than its predecessor at tying into the rest of the Green Lantern books, which really helps New Guardians to feel like it’s part of the bigger picture. That said, this collection still reads like it’s about to be cancelled which makes it hard to believe that this title is leading into a crossover event.

So the New Guardians have been charged with killing Larfleeze in order to save a bunch of planets from being destroyed by Invictus. But first they have to charge their rings. This leads to the New Guardians separating to recharge their rings, and get into their own kinds of trouble by extension. For Kyle and Bleez, going to earth means getting into a fight with an assassin sent by the Guardians and meeting Blue Beetle. For Saint Walker, it means fending off an invasion of the Reach from the blue lanterns’ homeworld. For Arkillo, it means returning to the Sinestro Corps’ homeworld of Korugar, only to find that his corps has been decimated by Sinestro himself. Finally, Fatality goes to investigate where the archangel Invictus came from.

In the last volume, Writer Tony Bedard spent most of his time with Kyle Rayner. It was essentially Kyle’s book, and the other lanterns were just in it. Thanks to this different story structure, though, all of the New Guardians get some time in the sun, and you come out liking these other lanterns a lot more. Each lantern here does something cool and that’s pretty refreshing after reading a lot of team books from both DC and Marvel that really only focus on one or two characters.

By far the high point of this book, though is Saint Walkers defence of the blue lantern world against the Reach. Blue Lanterns have limited attack power without a green lantern nearby. Without their green friends, they can only hope to heal and defend. Bedard though, shows that their lack of attack power is hardly a weakness. The Reach’s army is made of beings from other planets who have been possessed by scarabs- small bug like devices that control whoever they latch on to, while giving them a tech-suit with different weapons and abilities. Healing them means disconnecting them from the scarab. It’s nice to see characters without a lethal ability hold their own against a foe that formidable and if anything, this volume made me desperate to see a Blue Lantern series in the future.

My only real problem with this story was that the end of this collection feels like a series cancellation. The decision is ultimately made that a team like the New Guardians cannot possibly succeed, and the team breaks up. That would be fine if the series were to actually be cancelled, but New Guardians is on its 27th issue by now- it seems strange that the team would break up now. What’s more, that breaking up doesn’t feel all that justified, the one responsible for Kyle getting the rings is revealed, and that causes everyone to leave- it doesn’t quite make sense.

Art here is fairly consistent with the first volume. As a slight improvement, the penchant Tyler Kirkham had for showing Fatality’s cleavage instead of her face is gone, but now he has one panel where only Bleez’s backside does more or less the same job. It happens less than the previous volume, but it still feels kinda tacky.

Beyond Hope is an enjoyable showcase for the non-green lanterns, but does leave you feeling a little deflated. It gets a three out of five replacement backsides.


+ Feels like it’s part of the bigger picture.

+ Good showcase of all the lanterns.

+ Feels like a cancelation.

+ Bleez is the new sexualised character.

Alternate Option: Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome

If you read one Green Lantern Book, you have to read them all.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Uncanny Avengers Vol.1: The Red Menace (Marvel NOW!) Review

Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1: The Red Shadow (Marvel NOW!)

"So, who's the tall guy taking this photo?"
"Shuddap, we're Avengers!"
Writer: Rick Remender

Artists:  John Cassidy, Oliver Copiel, Laura Martin.

Collects: Uncanny Avengers #1-5

Background Information:

Marvel NOW! really got kicked off by an event called Avengers Vs X-Men- it’s exactly what it sounds like. The X-men, through contact with the phoenix force (remember in the third X-Men movie how Jean Grey went nuts? It’s the force that makes that happen), became a little more nasty than usual and the Avengers, being the more popular franchise, save the day by defeating them.

Uncanny Avengers is the first official book of the Marvel NOW! line and focuses on the fallout of Avengers Vs X-Men. The world now hates mutants even more than they used to and the man most dedicated to stopping that, Charles Xavier, is dead.

Dead as a doornail.

A dead doornail.

Okay, I’m drifting off a bit. Back to the review!


Much like Justice League in DC’s New 52, Uncanny Avengers is Marvel NOW!’s flagship title. And like  Justice League Vol. 1: Origin was enjoyable, but less-than stellar, The Red Shadow is entertaining, but ultimately feels like it’s going nowhere.

No matter what powers other heroes may
have, they'll NEVER be able to throw
Optimus Prime at bad guys.
So humans hate mutants. That’s bad, in case you were wondering. And you know what? Captain America thinks it’s bad to. So he assembles a group of Avengers made up of equal part mutants and superpowered humans- a symbol of human/mutant unity. In the meantime, though, WWII baddie the Red Skull has removed the brain of Charles Xavier and is forming his own team to spread hatred and intolerance for mutants.

Call it a spanner in the works.

Okay, so the first thing to like about The Red Shadow is the choice for the cast of characters. Rather than ride the wave of popularity that characters like Captain America and Thor, Uncanny Avengers really makes this book about the mutants; Cyclops’ brother, Havok takes centre stage as the leader of the new team, while the most character drama happens between Rogue and Scarlet Witch- two mutants who can’t trust each other as far as they can throw each other. Even Wolverine- who has been in both the Avengers and X-Men camps- plays a relatively small role. Don’t get me wrong, Captain America, Wolverine and Thor all have major moments in the book, but this isn’t their book by a long shot.

Choosing Havok as team leader was a really interesting choice. There are a ton of more popular characters in the X-Men that could have lead the team, Beast, Colossus, Storm, Iceman, Gambit, the list goes on, really. It was great to see writer Rick Remender utilise such a left field character and make him feel like he really mattered to the overall story. He goes from not being sure about his ability to lead the group to being annoyed when Captain America tries to lead the team behind his back. It’s a great amount of character development for someone who was always considered to be the less interesting of the Summers brothers.

However, the story feels like it doesn’t go anywhere. This has to be the only Marvel story I’ve ever read where Thor can go mad and attack the rest of the team, where Red Skull can drive the world’s population mad and it still somehow feels like it doesn’t amount to anything. The main story arc is over too soon, and for all of the character development, there’s nothing here that really hooks you on to the second issue.

Hey, you guys remember that story
that is much better than this one?
The art is also a problem here. It’s not bad, but Marvel NOW! has made its mark by letting each artist leaveHawkeye and All-New X-Men feels distinctive and looks fantastic. It seems strange, therefore, that the art in The Red Menace looks like typical comic book fare. This isn’t helped by the fact that Red Skull’s team is composed of possibly the ugliest, most ridiculous-looking supervillains that I have ever seen. Thankfully, some clever panel design alleviates some of the otherwise unspectacular art. One of the best scenes involves Red Skull describing his plans for mutant genocide against a scene that very closely resembles the classic cover of X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a nice touch that will resonate with older readers, even if new ones may be confused.
their own distinct mark on the series they work on really look distinctive. The art in books like

The Red Menace is a book with plenty of potential, but it’s far from the best first outing that Marvel NOW! could have had. It gets a four out of five dead doornails.


+ Nice to see an Avengers book that doesn’t focus on the main Avengers.

+ Choice of characters is spot on.

+ Havok makes an interesting leader.

- Art looks too standard to be interesting

- Some awful bad-guy designs.

Alternate Option: New Avengers: Everyone Dies

Another Marvel NOW! Avengers book, if you want another one.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (Image) Review

The Walking Dead Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye (Image)

When hipsters shave their beards...
Writer: Robert Kirkman

Artist: Tony Moore

Collects: The Walking Dead #1-6

Background Information:

So, despite apparently the awful fourth-season ending on television (I don’t watch much TV, I’ll admit), Image’s The Walking Dead is one of the biggest non-superhero books ever released (thwarted only by IDW’s Locke and Key and Image’s Saga). It’s one of the books that Image Grand Poobah Eric Stephenson praised as being one of the real innovative comics that was apparently going to save the industry as long as we left those pesky superhero and franchise books alone.


Despite being endorsed by Stephenson, The Walking Dead  doesn't strike me as being that innovative. Sure, it’s a comic that isn’t about superheroes, but as a zombie story, all of the familiar tropes of the horror genre are there. It may be innovative for a comic, but for the horror genre, it’s more of the same-old-same-old.

But let me make this really clear; not being particularly innovative is different from being bad. Days Gone Bye is an excellent introduction to a series that deserves every sale it makes.

The story to Days Gone Bye is pretty simple; Rick Grimes is a small-town cop who gets shot on duty. He goes into a coma for a few days, and when he wakes up... ZOMBIES!!!

Okay, so we don't eat it, then? No?
Yes, the zombie apocalypse that every comparable zombie movie ever made has been predicting has finally happened. Thankfully, there is more substance here than you would expect from a contemporary zombie story. Days Gone Bye is full of horrifying zombies attacking en masse with progressively more gruesome ways of killing the undead, but those scenes really take a back seat to Kirkman’s well-written character drama. Kirkman’s put together a killer cast here; all of whom have their own reasons for being there, their own backstories, and their own unique status-quo.
happened, and nearly nowhere is safe. Reuniting with his family and a collection of mismatched others; they try to survive a situation that is deemed unsurvivable.   Like I said, it’s essentially the plotline of nearly every Zombie movie ever made, but Kirkman goes about this one in a pretty intelligent way. Sure,

After the first third of the book is when this diverse cast really gets a chance to shine. Sure, this book is mostly about Rick, but by the time he meets the rest of the crew, every other character has something major invested in the situation. There’s Rick’s old partner, Shane, who resents Rick’s presence in the group, his son, Carl, who borders on the sadistic side, his wife, Lori, who has some issues in the past to deal with, and plenty of others who create this fantastic group dynamic. Reading Days Gone Bye, you could easily forget that this is the same zombie story we’ve seen over and over again and just get lost in the drama. It’s a great move by Kirkman and one that really makes you think about what matters most in your life.

If you don’t want to do that, though, that’s okay; there are plenty of horrifying, suspenseful moments that keep your pulse beating. One of the most notable is a scene where Rick goes into the city to collect guns. He’s smeared zombie remains all over himself so as to appear to be one of them, and throughout the whole scene, you just find yourself waiting on that inevitable moment when the zombies get wise to the fact that Rick is still alive. It’s a triumph of storytelling and one of my favourite scenes in comics.

Even zombies take time to protest.
Art in Days Gone Bye basically has no right to be as good as it is. The whole book is done in black and white- which seems an odd choice, considering colour would really amp up the gross factor of the zombie hordes. This approach though, makes the book appear that much smarter. It emphasizes the fact that this book is really about people; not zombies and lets the living characters take their rightful place at the centre of the book.

My only problem with Days Gone Bye is that for all its entertaining storytelling, it’s really not doing anything new with the genre. I find it hard to call this comic innovative, because for all its not-superhero-ness, the content here is not too different to what you would see in any good zombie flick (something Kirkman admits in the forward). It’s still a good story, but if you’re expecting innovation for the horror genre, you won’t get it.

Days Gone Bye is still a fantastic book, though and it gets four out of five happy Eric Stephensons.


+ Great character dynamics

+ Excellent sense of tension and drama

+ Art highlights exactly what it should.

- Don’t mistake “not superhero” for innovative

Alternate Option: ... ummm...

There’s not much in the way of comics like this, but you could always watch “Dawn of the Dead”.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Green Lantern New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearers (The New 52) Review

Green Lantern New Guardians Vol. 1: The Ring Bearer (The New 52)
"Why can't we be friends, Why can't
we be friends..."

Writer: Tony Beddard

Artists: Tyler Kirkham and Batt

Collects: Green Lantern New Guardians #1-7

Background Information:

One of the biggest elements that Geoff Johns has added to the Green Lantern mythos is the existence of lanterns of all the colours of the rainbow. All of these colours have different emotional attachments. Green Lanterns harness the light of Will. The Sinestro Corps use the yellow light of fear. Rage is the source of the Red Lanterns’ abilities. Blue Lanterns get their power from Hope. Agent Orange, wields the light of Avarice. The Star Sapphires fight with the violet light of Love (point- sapphires are blue, not violet). And the Indigo Tribe’s owe their abilities to Compassion. These different groups don’t typically play nice together.

Why am I mentioning Geoff Johns in a review of a Tony Beddard book? You’ll see.


So New Guardians tells the story of the fourth Earth lantern, Kyle Rayner. Kyle is an artist, which makes him pretty well suited to a power that utilises his imagination. Unlike the other Green Lanterns, however, Kyle has actually felt a range of emotions outside of will. In the old DC universe, Kyle felt fear when he found his girlfriend dismembered and left in his fridge. He felt love multiple times as the Green Lantern Corps’ resident player (he’s had multiple girlfriends over time).

While nothing’s specifically mentioned about these emotions in The Ring Bearer, that may be part of the reason that rings from every lantern group in the universe suddenly pick him as their bearer. This has the dual effect of irritating the Guardians, the official bosses of the Green Lantern Corps, and irritating every single other Lantern out there. So Kyle finds himself on the bad side of the Red Lanterns, Sinestro Corps, Indigo Tribesmen and Star Sapphire, who each send their own representative to take out Kyle and retrieve the rings. The only one who is really on Kyle’s side is the Blue Lantern Saint Walker, but he’s still after his corps’ lost ring.

Somehow, this all results in a grudging team-up between these multi-coloured lanterns. Grudging team-ups have happened before; take Geoff Johns’ Justice League for example. The difference here, though, is that it works better than Johns’ attempts did. These New Guardians have a genuine reason for not liking each other- their emotional spectrums are so at odds with each other. The Sinestro Corps Arkillo, for example, distrusts Saint Walker because hope is naturally at odd with fear. Where Beddard succeeds, however, is finding meaningful ways for the characters to grow and reconcile their differences. It’s a great way for the characters to truly grow and New Guardians feels a better book because of it.

My only real complaint with the story here is that it feels less connected to the other two Green Lantern books than Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps. In these books, it becomes clear that the Guardians are up to something no good, and that becomes the real thrust of the two titles. In The Ring Bearers, the corruption of the Guardians is hinted at, but never really utilised.

That said, the story is still fun to read. The New Guardians travel to exotic locations and meet and fight a variety of alien life. There’s an underlying conspiracy here, even if it seems less drastic than the one in the other two Green Lantern books. And yes, there’s plenty of great, ring-slinging action. Being an artist, Kyle’s projections tend to be more interesting than most, and Beddard takes full advantage of this. Early on, Kyle saves a falling crane by using constructs shaped as giant construction workers. It constructs like these that really help New Guardians to stand out against other Lantern books.

Art here is distinctive from other Lantern books, but not really distinctive from other New 52 titles. That sounds confusing, but let me explain. In Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns most of the colours tend to be limited to shades of red or green. That’s fine, but eventually it becomes a bit monotonous. We're still, though, getting a lot of Jim Lee-esque work here. New Guardians stands out because its story allows the for a wider colour palette, and it looks bright, fun and just plain wonderous. My one problem with the art is the handling of Star Sapphire Fatality. Granted, she shows less skin than other Star Sapphires, but artist Tyler Kirkham crops her head out of at least two panels, allowing the reader to see only her breasts. At one point, you’ll even find yourself thinking “Um, why is her cleavage talking? Oh, because we can’t see her head!”

The Ring Bearers is a great utilisation of Kyle’s character as a vehicle for storytelling, but it’s a shame that it doesn’t really connect to the other two Green Lantern books as well as it could have. It gets a three and a half out of five talking cleavages.

*** ½

+ Characters are excellently utilised

+ Action is genuinely fun to read

- Doesn’t connect as well to other Green Lantern titles

- Fatality’s is too sexualised.

Alternate Option: Green Lantern: Sinestro

No Lantern book feels as significant to the franchise mythos than Geoff Johns’ work in the new 52- definitely worth your time.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Uncanny X-Men Vol 1.: Revolution (Marvel NOW!) Review

Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1: Revolution (Marvel NOW!) Review

Cyclops' costume has nothing to do with
Tron. What's Tron? We've never heard of
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Chris Bachalo and Frazer Irving

Collects: Uncanny X-Men #1-5

Background Information:

Marvel NOW! was started by an event called Avengers Vs. X-Men, in which the phoenix force (a mystic energy that has the habit of making people both very powerful and very crazy) took hold of certain X-Men; most notably Cyclops (Scott Summers).

Cyclops has had a rough run in the last ten-or-so years. The mutant population was whittled down to around 200, he lost half the X-Men in an event called Schism, and now the phoenix force has forced Scott to kill his mentor, Charles Xavier.

If you thought Cyclops was a bad dude in the X-Men movie, you ain’t seen nothing yet.


So now, Cylcops is a number of things; to SHIELD, he’s a fugitive terrorist, to the public, he’s a freedom fighting anarchist, to Wolverine’s X-Men, he’s a friend gone horribly wrong and to the X-Men from the past (see All-New X-Men, he’s a harsh introduction to reality.

Cyclops' career as a motivational speaker goes down the
Revolution somehow manages to juggle all of these interpretations of the character; giving us a Cyclops that All-New X-Men makes him out to be, but still one that isn’t quite the good guy. He’s trying to gather as many new mutants as he can to his mutant revolution while trying to dodge groups like SHIELD and the Avengers.  To complicate things, Cyclops, along with his senior teammates, Magneto, Magik and Emma Frost, have found that their powers don’t work like they used to.
isn’t as evil as

What Bendis does well here is give us a more human side of Cyclops. He’s sick and tired of being pushed around by humans, sick of being shot at, sick of being abused, sick of not being trusted despite saving the world multiple times over. The title “anti-hero” gets thrown around way too much for my liking. When most people say it, they tend to mean hero who isn’t all happy-go-lucky. Bendis’ Cyclops more fits my definition of anti-hero: someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a villain, yet we read him as though he’s the hero. It’s a character type that has been used for centuries- take Shakespeare’s Richard III, for example (yep, I referenced Shakespeare in a comic review, take that literary buffs!), and while Bendis is no Shakespeare, he uses the anti-hero trope fairly well.

I will warn you that unless you’ve been reading All-New X-Men, it’s gonna be hard to understand what’s going on here, which is one of my major complaints for this series. Considering this series really takes its base from Bendis’ other X-title, it seems strange that Revolution doesn’t reference it that much. All-New X-Men Vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men gave Cyclops and the crew some difficult questions to consider. How far had Cyclops fallen? Are the team still fighting for what they once believed? Those questions don’t get answered here, as much as you may want them to be. This makes Uncanny X-Men feel out of place. It’s weird since both books are written by Bendis, and it makes for a title that feels underutilised.

What's a great way to bring in female readers? I got it!
Trampy costumes!
The art here may appeal to some, but this is no Stuart Immonen. There’s a lot less detail here, and character designs can occasionally be jarring. This is especially true for the female characters, who wear as little as possible with the result being that these X-Men look either like dominatrixes or naughty schoolgirls. It’s an unsettling sexualisation that you think the comic industry would be over by now. Thankfully, the male characters, at least, look pretty good. Magneto’s new costume makes him look equal parts master of magnetism and cagefighter, while Cyclops’ new X-shaped visor is a very nice touch. Bachalo and Irving also use some interesting tricks in their page and panel design, such as removing colour from scenes that involve psychic communication. It’s still not the best X-art out there, but it passes.

Overall though, it’s hard to recommend Revolution unless you really want to see what Cyclops did after the first volume of All-New X-Men (which I recommend that you stick to). Revolution gets a three out of five Shakespearean Anti-Heroes.


+ An ACTUAL anti-hero

+ Nice “other side” to All-New X-Men

+ Some nice visual tricks and good male costume designs

- Doesn't utilise its relation to All-New X-Men like it should

- Female designs are kinda tart-y

- Not enough questions answered

Alternate Option: All-New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men

Definitely the best of the X-titles at the moment. You need to read this.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Superman Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52) Review

Superman Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel (The New 52)
What is he lifting, anyway?

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artists: Rags Morales, Andy Kubert, Brent Anderson, Gene Ha and Brad Walker

Collects: Superman Action Comics #1-8

Background information:

Action Comics is really DC’s flagship title. If you want evidence of that, look no further than the fact that it’s the series that introduced Superman. Say what you like about Batman, DC is really Superman’s playground. Action Comics has featured some of Superman’s greatest and most controversial stories such as Superman declaring his intention to renounce his US citizenship (resulting in some comments that made me truly weep for the species).

If you don’t know who Superman is... really? He’s the most iconic superhero of all time (Dear Kanye West; Sorry for stealing your act). His “S” symbol is one of the most recognised symbols in the world.


Luckily, on the off chance you haven’t heard of Superman until now, Action Comics give you a good insight into the origin of the world’s most famous hero. Superman and the Men of Steel is a brilliant first story for Superman, but the first Action Comics volume leaves much to be desired in terms of art.

Twirling is now a superpower.
So Superman has really just begun his career, here. Not yet wearing the blue tights, a much younger Clark Kent sports a t-shirt, jeans and worker’s boots as he fights injustice in Metropolis. Unfortunately, Clark is still a more or less unpolished version of his future self. He’s aggressive, defiant and nothing like the kind-natured Boy Scout that most of us envision when we think of the Man of Steel. Because of this, the government is naturally afraid of him and have set up numerous projects to subdue the last son of Krypton; including seeking the help of one Lex Luthor.

Okay, so the whole story is written by Grant Morrison who has written possibly the greatest Superman story of all time in All-Star Superman. He’s also responsible for a couple of year’s worth of Batman and Justice League stories. His style is... let’s say it’s a little weird. Morrison loves to delve into the more obscure parts of DC lore to write his stories and depending on who you ask, it’s the best thing ever, or the thing that kills franchises.

That said, Superman and the Men of Steel is surprisingly light on the weirdness for a Morrsion title. There’s some obscurity that rears its head here; references to the Legion of Superheroes, Superman’s dog, Astro, and at least one interdimensional creature shows up in this trade. All the same, this book feels as though Morrison is holding back. It’s a good thing that he does, though, because the result is a Superman story that feels amazingly grounded and pretty realistic for a guy who can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

On that note, those who feel put off Superman by the mistaken belief that he is overpowered should feel very comfortable reading this volume. Superman’s powers are scaled back, here. He’s still super-strong and insanely fast. He’s still bulletproof and can shoot radiation from his eyes. He still has X-Ray vision (which doesn’t help him see through Lois’ clothes; it allows him to see people as skeletons. Y’know, like actual x-rays do). But he can be beaten. He’s bulletproof, but a speeding train will still beat him around something critical. He can’t fly yet, and I haven’t seen him use his heat breath. It’s great to see a toned-down Superman in this volume; it allows us to see Superman as a real person, not the idol he eventually becomes.

Someone mentioned Superman IV: Quest for Peace.
Although the story here is fantastic, the art is what really drags this book down. This one volume boasts five different artists across its eight issues, and they aren’t guest artists. I should point out that none of these guys produce bad art. Rags Morales and crew are all accomplished artists in their own right, but with multiple artists working on the same issue there is a total lack of artistic consistency. One minute, Clark is a awkward-looking kid in a baggy shirt (the way he hides his muscles from the public), the next moment he looks like Harry Potter, the next, he looks Asian. He’s not the only character to appear to undergo a race change in one issue. Doctor John Irons, who we will come to know as Steel, actually looks like a white dude in one panel. I actually thought it was Lex Luthor talking to himself at one stage. Again, these artists aren’t bad, but you know that proverb about too many cooks? We’ve been served the art version of poo soup.

Superman and the Men of Steel is a great story, but the inconsistent art is a major letdown. It get’s three out of five bowels of poo soup.


+ Story is great.

- Art is all over the place.

Alternate Option: Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

I’ll be honest; it’s an inferior story to Morrsion’s volume, but readable. The art here is generally more reliable.