Daily Archives: August 29, 2011

Book of the week 34: Xombi #6

This week was a bit of a downer as far as comics are concerned to me. I tore into some Avatar books (Caligula, Crossed. Psychopath) and decided they weren’t really what I had hoped them to be. The same rings true for X-men Legacy and the Infinite by Kirkman and Liefeld. However, this week’s comics provided gems like the Ultimates, Mystery Men and Xombi.

1. Xombi #6 (DC comics)


I really hate it when I repeat my picks, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Xombi, from DC, really is one of the most entertaining and well made comics that I currently know of. It was only two weeks ago that I raved about the penultimate issue five and this week’s issue delivers just as much.

Since I concentrated mostly on the art in my review of the last issue, I’ll dig into the story and the writing this time. I can be sweet and short about the art though, it’s marvelous, take a look at the digitally painted sweetness of Frazer Irving in the pictures here, or take a gander at my review of last issue for the proof.

This series has been written by John Rozum, the original co-creator of Xombi, back in 1994. Xombi is a Korean-American superhero, created for Milestone media, the DC publishing imprint from back in the nineties. The first Xombi series reached 21 issues, and was part of the shared continuity of the Millstone– or Dakotaverse (Milestone heroes didn’t live in New York, but refreshingly in the Midwestern Dakota). Last year, through the Milestone Forever event, most of the Milestone heroes have been merged into the main DC continuity.

Xombi is a young guy, named David Kim, who used to work on a nanotechnological virus. Because of the nefarious interventions of one Dr. Sugarman, David was critically injured. When his assistant injects him with the virus to save his life, the virus does repair the damage done by Dr. Sugarman. However, it uses said assistant as fuel for the reparation process; the nanites devour her. This is the price that David Kim must pay for becoming a Xombi, a potentially immortal, technologically enhanced human being who keeps running into the supernatural. His superpower is basically twofold: he can repair himself from both physical harm as well as the effects of aging; he can mechanically alter the molecular configuration of everything he touches (for example making popcorn from paper, or a key from a coin).

The first issue of the current series starts out with David getting a call from his ally Julian Parker that he is needed in Dakota where it seems a very bad guy has escaped from a miniature prison, leaving a miniature bloody mess. When he arrives on the scene, he is met by a group of Catholic super-heroines: Nun of the Above, Nun the Less and Catholic Girl. Their investigation leads them to one Annie Porter having a discussion with Roland Finch, it appears that Annie was coaxed by Finch into breaking out a certain prisoner from the miniature prison. It turns out the prisoner is the vessel of Maranatha, the personification of God’s wrath, which Finch had intended for himself. Issues two and three depict a great fight with this being, which of course the good guys win. Afterwards Annie explains to our heroes, which are joined by the afore mentioned Julian Parker and Rabbi Sinnowitz, that Finch has stolen a chart, mapping out the positions of a number of mysterious and wonderful flying cities, which he intends to conquer. Annie originally came from one of those cities, the Skull Fortress, which has been taken over by the evil Roland Finch. Since his take-over, she has spent life as an exile, down on earth, doing everything she can to get the chart back. The last half of this series deals with the heroes planning and attacking the Skull Fortress.

Throughout this whole series John Rozum introduces a great many crazy, big ideas, issue six is no exception, with enemies like the Sisterhood of the Blood Mummies, who wear cloaks woven from spider silk, by spiders which crawl all over these cloaks making any necessary repairs and feeding on the mosquitoes drawn to the sisters, as well as the Dental Phantoms, who communicate through tickertape coming out of their mouths. This issue of course follows the culmination of the battle for the Skull Fortress and let’s just say that when all seems lost its wisdom that prevails. However, it´s not just action and wacky concepts. Rozum´s story shines in the parts with character development and especially when he explores the different ways that Annie and David handle their immortality and the loss of those around them who are (mere?) mortals.

John Rozum’s website does seem to imply that there may be more Xombi coming out in the future, but that could just be me reading into things. In the meantime, we’ll just have to make do with his new Staticshock series, which is one of DC’s new 52 series… Also, this volume of Xombi will make for a beautiful collected edition. If you want to get it and want to support the creators a bit more, buy it at Amazon through John Rozum’s website.
Art:9   Writing:9.5     Overall:9.3

Advertisements

Runners up for week 34: Mystery Men 5, Ultimates 1, Baltimore Curse Bells 1

2. Mystery Men #5 (Marvel comics)
Another one of those series that keeps coming back in top spots on this website. Sadly, the same applies to this series as for Xombi: ‘At least it will be over soon’. Issue five is another great one, I can’t believe this is the first collaboration of this creative team. Writer David Liss (Black Panther: The Man Without Fear, as well as books without pictures and many, many letters) and artist Patrick Zircher (Cable & Deadpool , Spider-man: Noir) these guys are obviously insanely talented. While no new characters are introduced in this classic tale of Marvel pulp heroes during the interbellum, we finally get to see Nox in all her curvaceous evilness, we also witness an interesting change in the main adversary the General. Nothing mind blowing about this series, but man it’s just crafted impossibly good. In this issue we learn that the group of vigilantes has split in two, the Operative, the Aviatrix and the Revenant reject the Surgeon’s methods (‘I like it when their veins are easy to find’). The Surgeon however, comes across Achilles and they form their own dynamic duo. In the end, all heroes meet again and they confront the General in his new (and even more monstrous) form, a struggle that doesn’t fare well for our pulp heroes.
Art:9               Writing:9                    Overall:9

 3. Ultimates #1 (Marvel comics)
Yay! Finally a new installment of the Ultimates that looks as good as it reads! One issue in, I am really, really digging it. While I think the quality was a little less than that of Xombi and Mystery Men, this was flat out the favorite thing I read this week. I have a soft spot for the original two volumes of the Ultimates by Mark Millar and Brian Hitch and this series is tapping back into that. It’s superheroes mixed with politics, realism, intelligence and intrigue and reads like the original Ultimates mixed with a little Queen and Country. Nick Fury is back in the saddle and it’s shown that he has his hands full as we follow him in the ops room, where he is dividing his attention between a border dispute between Uruguay and Argentine that is escalating into a nuclear conflict, rising tensions between the EU and the Norse Gods, a civil war in Thailand, Captain America gone missing, and to top it all off he gets into contact with the evil Reed Richards and his mysterious German-based community. This is writer Jonathan Hickman firing on all cylinders, it’s smart, it’s an info dump, it’s witty and it’s very well written. The pencils by Esad Ribic were great too, I think he can still improve a little. Some scenes looked perfect, others looked near perfect.
Art:8.3                        Writing:8.9                 Overall:8.6

4. Baltimore. The Curse Bells #1 (Dark Horse comics)
I was late for the first series, but now I’m loving this thing from the getgo. I have no idea if the world of Baltimore is connected to the Hellboy-verse, and I have not read the novel which introduced the character. Yet I didn’t have any problem getting into the story during the first series. This new volume explains enough to not have to read anything prior to this. Baltimore hunts vampires, and one in particular. He does this in Germany and Austria during the First World War, only the war has come to a halt because of a plague which is linked to the vampire epidemic. In this new series he continues his hunt, kills a lot of vampires and comes across an entirely new development concerning the vampires. Great atmospheric art by Ben Stenbeck, as can be expected from a book with Mike Mignola’s name on it. The writing by Mignola and Cristopher Golden is just as atmospheric, we really get a feel of the times and the way people think and talk about things like vampire’s and plagues.
Art:8                Writing:9                    Overall:8.5

Quick Shots for week 34: My good taste? I left it in the nineties

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 (IDW Publishing)                                       8
This kinda feels like an ultimate take on the Turtles, a new continuity with all kinds of references to what’s happened in the old books. Basically we see the Turtles sans Raphael and Splinter fight this new cat guy, we flashback to a part of their secret origin were we learn of April O’Neill an intern at Stock Gen Research who thinks she’s working on bio-engineering meat. but we soon learn a thing or two about a super-soldier mutagen, from a phone call between the revamped Baxter Stockman and the mysterious general Krang. And we see Ralph eating out of dumpsters and getting ready to open a can of whoop-ass to help another familiar face. Spot on characterization: Michelangelo, after kicking a thug in the crotch: ‘Sorry, no baby gangstas for you dude.’
6. Spontaneous #3 (Oni press)                                                                                              8
This series is taking very interesting twists and turns, although the writing was a little choppy in parts of this issue. Sometimes I didn’t get what the characters were referring to or what happened in a sequence. The reporter, Emily, shares her conspiracy theory with Melvin who’s obviously struck by why he hadn’t thought of it. To top it off we learn that both Melvin and his late father fit into the conspiracy. What really makes this interesting is the relationship triangle between Melvin, Emily and Melvin’s nerdy assistance buddy who is boiling with jealousy for the relationship between Melvin and Emily, while it’s also clear that Melvin is treating the poor guy really bad (in reaction to these things the nerd guy is looking to pay Melvin back) also great is the relation between Melvin and Emily, this weirdly upbeat reporter chick who might be into him a little and thinks that everything that’s happened is cool and fun, while Melvin might very well be too but he is too busy with his own thing and much too serious about it, to see or act upon what’s happening between them.
7. Flashpoint: The Outsider #1 (DC comics)                                                            7.8
It seems that Ifanboy is right. This issue was surprisingly good compared to the rest of the Flashpoint tie-ins (of which I’ve enjoyed a big part).
8. Batman Inc. #8 (DC comics)                                                                                        7.5
Hmmm…. That was weird. At first I was bummed that I saw no Chris Burnum art. After that I’m not sure what I felt. The digital art in this issue varies wildly from panel to panel, some are downright terrible, some are beautiful and some are unintelligible. I really didn’t like the panel that looks like the people were copied out of a computer game, especially those with the plain clothes investors… This issue finally addresses the long neglected idea of Barbara Gordon as a digital Batgirl in Bruce’s Internet 3.0. It’s interesting and could have many more good stories in them (hopefully it’ll stick after the reboot).
9. SHAM comics #1 (Zombie Marge Comix Group)                                                 7.5
A great satire series where golden age comics fallen into public domain are textually re-imagined into sometimes hilarious, sometimes a bit uninspired funnies. I really like the first story about BOZO (Binary Over-Zealous Obliterator) the retro robot. A dope fueled demented killer robot with a Frisbee bolted to his head, who apparently is not programmed to swing THAT way! After the first story the novelty wore off though, and not every story was a winner. Overall it was good for a couple of chuckles and just for reading something else entirely. This issue also contained a story by artist Basil Wolverton which was pretty to look at, which featured erect trees with condoms on them. I think one issue of this was enough for me though…
10. X-men #16 (Marvel comics)                                                                                         7.2
I really want to love this series, but it’s just not letting me. Ghisler writes a great Spider-man though, to Franklin Richards, about debunking the stories about the Bermuda Triangle: ´A good debunking puts hair on your chest.´
11. X-men Legacy #254 (Marvel comics)                                                                        7
They´re in space finally, I´m wishing this series was better.
12. Crossed. Psychopath #3 (Avatar Press)                                                                 7
Really great cover by Matt Martin. The Crossed (extremely sadistic zombie-esque creatures) in this series have a thing for wearing other people’s faces (ala Leatherface). There’s one Crossed woman here though, who wears a cock on her crotch, held together by barbwire… I’m just saying: That’s the kind of story we’re talking about. Story: Survivers picked up a psycho, who is a worse threat then the Crossed, in this one he divides the group. Kills his male companion, and rapes and mutilates the female, while they are sheltering from the Crossed, which he has lead to them. Talking about the deviant… Yep, this was revolting… Boy, this is actually hard to read, it’s so gruesome.
13. Caligula #3 (Avatar Press)                                                                                            6.9
Wow, just wow. Between this and Crossed. Psychopath I’m starting to question David Lapham’s sanity. This was, just so fucking weird. Caligula is portrayed as much more than a mad emperor. He’s immortal and the guy that wants to kill him for revenge, instead gets fucked in the ass by his talking demon horse Incitatus. However, this issue his luck seems to be turning (if only a little).
14. Crossed. Psychopath #2 (Avatar Press)                                                             6.7
Panels framed by the splashes of blood of a minivan driving children over. This makes me uncomfortable reading it next to my wife on the couch…
15. Crossed. Psychopath #4 (Avatar Press)                                                             6.7
Okay, that was it, I felt kinda sick after this although I have to admit it’s easier to take over the top scenes like Crossed swimming in a pool of blood filled by children thrown in a wood chipper, than the rape scene from last issue. I like weird and nasty just as much as the next guy, but this is just too much for me.
16. The Infinite #1 (Image comics)                                                                                  6.5
This one? Also not for me, it’s certainly geared at a certain audience and that’s not me. Impressive how Kirkman and Liefeld have made the most nineties comic ever, though.

For next week, I’m going to try two extra early reviews for Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1. Also, I’ll be digging out all the DC stuff I hadn’t got around to reading in a while, so expect a DC heavy week.