Daily Archives: July 10, 2011

Book of the week: The Bulletproof Coffin

This week I’ve had the pleasure of perusing comic book pages graced with the polar opposites in comic book art styles: From the trippy visuals of Shaky Kane, to the instantly classic linework of Art Adams and the wonderfully dynamic photo-realism of Ben Oliver, sprinkled with some Immonen and Kubert. And to top it all off, I read Dark Horse’s Creepy nr. six with art by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and (OMG!) Neil Adams.  Really, the art of the comics I read this week was amazing. It goes to show what a very good time it is to be a fan of this medium.

Book of the week: The Bulletproof Coffin
Picked up on a whim because of the wacky title, I was pleasantly surprised by this six issue Image series by David Hine and Shaky Kane. The main ingredients of this book are modern day individualistic animosity, a LSD-trip gone bad, a brilliant satire of the works from publishers like EC, a commentary on creator rights and a surprisingly heartwarming story of never-ending zombie love. I don’t think any summary of this story does it any justice, but let’s just say that it explores what may happen when a comic book reader finds a way into his favorite classic comics like The Unforgiving Eye, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, Red Wraith comics, Shield of Justice and the Coffin Fly. Each of these characters are superb spoofs on the shockingly sensational silver age comics of the fifties and sixties.

Red Wraith, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, The Shield of Justice and the Unforgiving Eye

From left to right: Red Wraith, Ramona Queen of the Stone Age, The Shield of Justice and the Unforgiving Eye.Left bottom corner Golden Nugget heroes in better days, with the Coffin Fly on the right. Images from the Bulletproof Coffin, published by Image comics.

The protagonist Steve Newman is a voids contractor with an interesting job perk. The night before his company empties the house of a recently deceased resident, he enters the house to look for any valuables which he may save from ending up as landfill. This is a great benefit for Steve because he is a collector of pop culture paraphernalia. At the beginning of the book he makes the catch of his life, when he finds a stack of comics that are published after the date of the series’ cancellation. He soon mysteriously finds his way into these comics as the masked vigilante Coffin Fly. Roaming the endless plains of the far-flung feature in his Bulletproof Coffin ‘trawling up forgotten artifacts from a bygone age’. This is where he meets the time traveling heroin Ramona  and gets involved in a struggle to save the earth which can succeed only if he reaches the creators David Hine and Shaky Kane…

Not only do the single issues of this series include a pseudo silver age gem, which is read at the same time the protagonist reads them, there is also some bang-up back matter in the first five issues. The first one reprints a retelling of the history of Golden Nugget comics, the fictitious publisher of these mysterious comics that Steve finds, and the team of Shaky Kane and David Hine that made them great. The fact that this story is blatantly ripping of the story of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ,the creators of the Marvel comics universe, combined with the fact that Kane and Hine are in fact everything but fictional, gives the whole package a weirdly surreal vibe. If you don’t like the meta stuff, stay away from this series. If you do, you’ll find yourself lost in these stories within stories with great mysterious twists and turns around every corner. If you like your comic book art to be exclusively of the mainstream variety, you best not pick this up too. However if you like something else for a change, Kane’s psychedelic combinations of hard lines and harsh colors is very likely something you’ve never seen!

Average scores of the six issues: Art: 8.7  Writing: 8.8     Overall: 8.75

Runners up, week 27: Creepy, Avangers. The Children’s Crusade & Flashpoint

2. Creepy #6
The last book I read this week was a total surprise hit. I have read an issue of Creepy last year, thought it was fine but didn’t give it a second thought. I don’t really know why I picked this up, but man am I glad I did. Normally I’m not a big fan of anthology books because for every great story there’s always one I don’t care about. But in this issue every contribution is fantastic, especially art wise. I gave out only 9’s and 8’s for art in this thing.  The stories are great too, but what makes this book really stand out is the glorious art by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams. All very different artists, using vastly different techniques but man is this a tour de force of pure, black and white eye candy.  The stories range from a Western about a man so greedy that even death can’t contain it, a psychopathic clown, body snatching Aliens with a memory problem, Hitler’s bitches and a great collaboration between Archie Godwin and Neal Adams about an unfortunate brain transplantation. Below are some sample images, and the scores of this book.

Panels from Creepy #6 by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams

In order from top to bottom, panels by Nathan Fox, Jason Shaun Alexander, Kevin Ferrera, Garry Brown and Neil Adams from Creepy #6 by Dark Horse Comics.

Art: 8.9       Writing: 8.2     Overall: 8.55

3. Avengers: the Children’s Crusade# 6     
Just another miniseries about a couple of kids that picked up the slack of the Avengers after they disbanded? Apparently not. This book, and especially this issue, is very important for the overall status quo of the Marvel universe, particularly for the X-men family. It was Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch that betrayed the Avengers in Avengers: Disassembled, years ago. After that, it was Wanda who, by uttering three words, decimated the mutant population of the Marvel universe, in House of M. This issue finally seems to resolve the event that has become known as M-day. Since House of M, Wanda has been mostly out of the picture. However, this series revolves around the Young Avengers Wiccan and Speed who are searching for Wanda because they believe her to be their mother. When they find her, some shit goes down. You shouldn’t just get it because it ‘matters to the continuity’, both art wise and from a storytelling standpoint this book is solid. That’s not surprising looking at the attached creators; writer Allan Heinberg and artist Jim Cheung. Looking for well executed superhero action, drama and humor? Then this is for you.
Art: 8          Writing: 8         Overall: 8

4. Flashpoint #3
The DC blockbuster summer event leading into the September reboot (as well as too many tie-ins) is moving along nicely. This third issue of five written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Andy Kubert finally explains what the hell is going on. Maybe,  I could have picked up on it earlier but apparently this new continuity is the result of the Reverse Flash tinkering with the time stream. Fried Flash convinces Batman’s dad to team up with a larger version of the Titan’s Cyborg and they go look for Superman, because if anyone can help them avert the pending world war between Wonder Woman and Aquaman (and restore the timeline) it’s him. However not everything is as we’d expect… Another exiting prospect of this issue is the further merging of the Wildstorm universe and the DC universe, with a surprise visit from a major Wildstorm character. This book will not revolutionize the industry and it doesn’t have to. It’s thoroughly entertaining and what more could you wish for on a major event book? The art keeps getting better, yet while I see the craftsmanship in the dynamic figures and character expressions it’s just not my cup of tea.
Art: 8          Writing: 8         Total: 8

Quick shots week 27: Great art and nostalgic video games

5. Flashpoint: Hall Jordan #1                                                                  7.7
For a photo realistic art style, this book is really dynamic, both in layouts and the panels themselves. A hugely entertaining read of the reckless Hall Jordan trying to sway Carol Ferris. At the end of the book Abin Sur shows up, but he already has his own Flashpoint series. Does that mean Hall will be intergalactic deputy of space Sector 2814?
6. Ultimate X #5                                                                                       7.4
The best book Jeph Loeb has done in a long, long while. The art by Art Adams is what really sells this book. ‘Karen’ finds a last gamma irradiated addition to her X-men who are not X-men and Nick Fury shows up as a kind of deus ex machina. Didn’t they stop doing that? Don’t worry though, just look at the pretty pictures.
7. Sonic  the Hedgehog #226                                                                      7
Inspired by Vince B. of the Eleven O’Clock comics podcast I decided to give the blue speedster hedgehog of video game fame a try. I wasn’t disappointed, yet I wasn’t blown away. It’s a good comic that’s appropriate for kids and had some great lines for adults. Nothing wrong with it, just not my cup of tea.
8. Carnage #5                                                                                                 7
My guilty pleasure if ever I had one. This does not change the symbiote game like the current Venom series does. It’s just Venom beating the snot out of Spidey and Iron Man. I’m a product of the nineties and this makes me nostalgic for Maximum Carnage, both the story and the SNES 16 bit video game. I just kept wondering, why not use a sonically based weapon and be done with it? Zebb Wells has a good handle on the characters and the dark Clayton Crain arts suits the mood of Carnage.
9. Marvel Universe vs Wolverine #1                                                         7
Surprisingly good start to this self-contained mini-event. I liked Jonathan Maberry’s writing on the Vibranium Wars and this is equally good. The guy knows his way around a large cast. Great dark, moody art by Laurence Campbell enhanced with Lee Loughridge on colors. It’s like Marvel Zombies seen though the heroes’ eyes.
10.  Fear Itself #4                                                                                       6.9
Great art, not so good writing. The characters don’t sound right and plot jumps around too much and Cap and Thor start to resemble their movie counterparts more closely every proceeding panel. To me personally this is the worst event book I’ve ever read.
11. Flashpoint: Project Superman #1                                                        6
I read this after Flashpoint #3, expecting to find out more about the Superman I saw in the main book. What do I get instead? A story about another guy with bad character design (especially the angular hair) and the promise of the real Superman next issue. Decent story, though not what you would expect of the title and really rough art.

So my second week as a comic book reviewer. Honestly it was great fun. I read 16 issues and on average grade them 7.9. Not bad at all.