Monthly Archives: September 2011

Book of the week: Batman 1

Batman 1 variant cover by Ethan van Sciver

1. Batman #1 (DC comics)
Again with a Scott Snyder book? Yes, again with a Scott Snyder book. I understand how much it looks like I have turned into a mindless Snyder fanboy as of late (last week his Image book Severed was my book of the week for the second time in a row, and his first issue of Swamp Thing was my third favorite book of the week). But this man has some major story-telling props, he’s a fan of the medium and an accomplished novelist. Apparently, those things make for a deadly combination when writing comic books, whether they be of the horror kind or the superhero ones. But I digress…

I was honestly worried that the DC reboot would interfere with the quality of Scott Snyder’s magnificent run on Batman, which started back in Detective Comics. If this first issue is a good measure, my worries were uncalled for. Not only is this a perfect continuation of the noir-ish story he was already telling, it’s also a damned good first issue for entirely new readers (while small sayings and Easter eggs are there for readers of Snyder’s Detective Comics run to remind them, that this story is naturally progressing). The rebooting stays at a bare minimum in this title, aside from Jim Gordon not having grey hair anymore, I can´t see any changes in the continuity.

Jim Gordon by Greg Capullo

Look who got his hair dyed, it's Jim Gordon as drawn by Greg Capullo in Batman #1 (DC comics).

The story picks up with Bruce returning to Gotham and relieving Dick Greyson of his duty of playing Batman, after traveling the world in Batman Inc. Besides that we see Bruce, Dick, Tim and Damian visiting an elite party, where Bruce unveils his plans for the Gotham skyline. Later we see Batman meeting up with detective Harvey Bullock, to investigate a weird, sadistic, ritualistic murder which reveals a message for Bruce Wayne. The issue ends with a cliffhanger showing DNA traces of the culprit found at the scene of the crime pointing to someone very close to Batman.

Batman rogues by Greg Capullo

It's a couple of Batman's enemies as rendered by Greg Capullo in DC's Batman #1.

It is very smartly written, as a narrative we read a speech Bruce Wayne gives about Gotham, while the issue starts out with a small breakout at Arkham Asylum introducing (and showcasing artist Greg Capullo marvelous new renditions of) Batman’s rogues gallery. Later on in the story we learn about Bruce’s new contact lenses, which have incorporated facial recognition software. This allows for a couple of caption boxes to introduce all of the secondary characters. In an interview with Snyder over at War Rocket Ajax I heard him say that this story arc will build on all his previous Batman work (including the Gates of Gotham miniseries). This excited me to no end, because I really liked the villain that got introduced in Gates of Gotham. In this issue we are already seeing the seeds of how this all may connect to Gates of Gotham (Wayne enterprises is aggressively investing in Gotham’s future architecture).

Batman and the bats by Greg Capullo

This is how good Greg Capullo can make Batman look, art from Batman #1 by DC comics.

And, (oh boy) the art. I’m not very familiar with Greg Capullo, in my mind he was ‘another one of those Image’ artists. But oh my God is he good! He is the perfect successor of Jock and Francisco Francevilla. It’s dark, it’s dynamic, it’s detailed, highly stylized and a bit exaggerated. Capullo was born to draw the Caped Crusader and it looks like he’s having a good time doing so. Especially the scenes where Bruce is in costume look fantastic! In the plain clothes scenes I get the sense that Capullo’s style isn’t really my cup of tea. But notwithstanding my personal taste, this looks ravishing.
Art: 9.5                 Writing: 9           Overall: 9.2

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Runners up for week 38: Criminal. Last of the innocents 4, Gladstone’s 5, Ultimate comics Spidey 1

2. Criminal. The last of the innocents #4 (Icon)criminal last of thew innocents 4 cover
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Despicable Airlines keeps on flying. With captain Riley Richards at the helm, you will be sure to get whatever you desire and don’t have to worry about the repercussions for your loved ones. As we like to say here at Despicable Airlines: ‘No one ever got rich over their scruples, so let them fly!’

In this final issue we learn whether or not Riley Richards gets away with killing his wife and manipulating everyone close to him over some money issues. If you thought Riley had made some dire decisions in the previous issues, you’ll be astounded at things he is willing to do in this issue. The art, by Sean Philips, starts out a bit worse than it has been in the rest of this series. The main initially character doesn’t look like he had earlier in the series. However, he quickly picks up the high level of artistry from previous issues and ends on a stung note. Basically, this is the story of a man who has let his life go down the drain and is willing to do literally everything to get things back like they were in his youth. Even if it means he will have to live a lie (and even fool himself) for the rest of his life.  These four issues provide an illuminating peek into the darkest corners of a human soul. It’s not fun, but boy is it good!
Art: 9              Writing: 9.5                Overall: 9.2

3. Gladstone’s school for World Conquerors #5 (Image comics)     Gladstone's school for World Conquerors 5 cover
This is one of those series that takes well-known concepts and puts an entirely original and invigorating spin on it, in this case it plays with the tropes of the superhero genre and changes it up by telling a story from the viewpoint of the children from super villains, and their everyday life at a school for super villains. This issue is just heaps of fun, fun, fun! It’s impressing how, so far, with every new issue we learn something new about the characters and the world they live in. This issue sees Kid Nefarious banding together with his classmates to head out to earth (issue one explains that Gladstone’s is located on Mars) and defeat the Red Stormbreaker, the superhero who defeated all their parents. A fun detail is that Kid Nefarious learned about comic books for the first time, last issue. Now he’s constantly got his head in old comic books where he reads about the exploits and repeated defeats of his (and his classmates) parents, by Red Stormbreaker. Figuring that as villains their parents have never worked together to best Red Stormbreaker in combat, it’s up to their combined powers and education to restore honor to their parents’ legacies. This issue has great faux silver age art as well as great, dynamic action scenes by Armand Villavert.
Art: 9              Writing: 9       Overall: 9

4. Ultimate Comics Spider-man #1 (Marvel comics)ultimate spider-man 1 cover
Wow, this was really great. I just love the fact that Marvel’s ultimate editorial team is daring to put their ass on the line and do away with the old. This really feels like what the Ultimate line was ment for, putting new and unexpected spins on a bunch of characters we know through and through. The new Spider-man, Miles Morales (who isn’t Spider-man just yet) feels like a real, three-dimensional person. Brian Michael Bendis portrays him as a smart, but insecure kid. His supporting cast (parents and uncle) also feel really real. Plus, while this new guy also gets bitten by an irradiated spider, it looks like he has some interesting and original powers of his own. I´m thrilled to find out more. I really hope eventually we get to see some of the supporting characters from the old series (most notably Aunt May and Gwen Stacy), because Bendis wrote them so good and they were a very important part of Peter Parker´s story. Oh and the art, is this the first time Sarah Pichelli has done an entire Ultimate Spider-man issue? It’s spectacular, no scratch that, it’s ultimate! Because I always like to get a peek of the creative process, I’ve added this video of Pichelli drawing a page from Ultimate Spider-man:

I just wish we’d get some audio with it. I’d love to hear some of the thoughts that go into the drawings.
Art: 9              Writing: 9       Overall: 9

Quick shot reviews for week 38: If I read another first issue I’m gonna be sick…

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

A sweet two page sread of recess at Gladstone's school for World Conquerors, art by Armand Villavert.

 

5. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #1(Image comics)            8.7
After having read issues 2-4, this issue quickly and entertainingly explains why the school is named Gladstone’s. Besides that it does a pretty good job of introducing the students of this school for super villains: Kid Nefarious, Mummy Girl, Martian Jones, Ghost Girl and Skull Brother one and two (which we later learn will play a surprisingly important part in this story). Besides setting up the school (including such classes as explosives 101, extortion, oversized reptiles and home economics), and the characters, the story does a great job at unveiling a bit of the driving plot of the series: at the end of the issue we see a hero and villain meeting up in secret to arrange their next fight. The art is by Armand Villavert is beautiful, with sparse, delicate and highly stylized linework it reminds me a bit of the art by Corey Walker in the early issues of Invincible. The big difference being that Gladstone’s look a bit more playful. I think an extra round of applause should be reserved for Mr. Carlos Carrasco for his stark color combinations, which makes the art pop off of the page and makes the book stand out of the crowd.
6. The Vault #1 (Image comics)                                                                                             8
This had come out a couple of months back as well, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. The Vault tells the atmospheric and brooding story of an underwater treasure hunt. It reads very good, and feels like an excellent horror/thriller movie. But don’t worry, it doesn’t read like a movie pitch. It’s a well crafted comic which, I really dug. At first I was a little disappointed by what the treasure hunter team finds. But at the end, let’s just say I wasn’t anymore, and the horror/mystery vibe got amped up quite high. The art (quite photorealistic ) was a bit too standard for me, but that may be a personal taste thing. It fitted well with this story.
7. Demon Knights #1 (DC comics)                                                                                      8
Nothing wrong here, perfectly likeable book about DC characters both widely known (Etrigen, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage) and lesser known (the Shining Knight?). Looks good, reads even better. It takes place in the dark ages, I think it’s very interesting to see the early roots of the new DC.
8. Wonder Woman #1 (DC comics)                                                                                   8
Well, finally we’re back to a good Wonder Woman story. Great art by Cliff Chang. I don’t really know what else to say. Diana looks gorgeous, she gets involved in a murder plot against the unborn child of Zeus and thing are a quite dark. Good, clean fun, with a bit of a horror edge to it. Well worth your money.
9. Ultimate X-men #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                             8
I liked this mostly because of the characters, though the art (Paco Medina) and writing (Nick Spencer) didn’t hurt either. The characters of course are Karen Grant (aka Jean Grey), Angel (not Warren Worthington III), James Logan (little Wolverine) and firegirl (?) from Ultimate X and Johnny Storm, Bobby Drake and Kitty Pride from back in Ultimate Spider-man. Apparently Kitty is becoming ´the most feared and hated terrorist in the history of the United States´, which sounds very interesting. My only critique is that there was a bit too much going.
10. New Mutants #30 (Marvel comics)                                                                            8
Mephisto offers the team a deal to escape from Hell that seems so innocent I can’t imagine (but know there will be) a catch, while Dani Moonstar is defending Hel (notice how this one’s got only one ‘l’?), against the forces of the Fear Itself villain (the Serpent, right?). Great art by David Lafuente, especially the Dani scenes. This guy is so extremely good with expressions, it’s just a joy for the eye to watch the faces in this thing. The story by Abnett and Lanning is solid, fun and entertaining, though I’m still not sure they’ve got the newest recruit, Nathan Grey (aka X-man), pegged just yet.
11. Grifter #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                          8
I liked this despite never having read any Grifter prior to this. This is mainly due to the interesting plot, revolving around Grifter before he’s Grifter being abducted by telepathic space aliens (!?) while on his escape from a swindle. Unbeknownst to him, he’s missing 17 hours from his memory. Because of the abduction, his escape plan goes awry, he does escape from the aliens, but then is hunted by said aliens. Sounds a little out there, but it was really amusing to see that this wasn’t just another superhero story, but more of a science fiction mystery thriller.
12. Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 (DC comics)                                                     7.9
We get a very exploitative portrayal of Starfire, which I certainly notice (but have no problems with whatsoever). Beautiful art, okay story. I didn’t understand anything in the second half, other than Red Arrow and Starfire getting freaky together. But maybe that was the point as the last caption says: ‘to be explained’ instead of ‘to be continued’. So, at the least they have piqued my interest.
13. Pigs #1 (Image comics)                                                                                                     7.6
I really didn’t want to read another first issue, but this just looked so good. A stunning cover by Jock, followed by a conspiracy story about a second generation Cuban sleeper cell that’s gotten activated in the present and wants to overthrow the US government. The story switches between past and present and spans nearly 60 years. This is sure to be one of those rare books that’s rife with historic accuracy (the two authors must have done a ton of research) and political intrigue. The art wasn’t the strongest part of the book, but served its purpose well and got progressively better.
14. Star Trek #1 (IDW Publishing)                                                                                    7.5
Pretty standard Star Trek fare here, both story and art are pretty decent. This is a well told story about what looks like a psychic attack after the latest Star Trek movie. Get it if you’re a big Trekkie or really liked the last film (which both applies to me). Props are due to artist Stephen Molar, for really making the characters resemble their motion picture counterparts. If you’re not into Star Trek or the last movie, this is just ‘one of those comics’. It’s certainly not bad, not great either. But positively entertaining, just like many other comics.
15. Nightwing #1(DC comics)                                                                                7.5
This seems to be tying into the cliffhanger from Batman #1, it appears that somehow Dick Greyson has another alter ego besides Nightwing, which Gotham´s heroes don’t know about. Well written by Kyle Higgins, he’s got the relationship between Dick and Bruce down and writes Dick like a real person (eating cereal, grabbing his costume from the floor, facing his fears and insecurities etc). Now the art… it’s great in the action scenes, the rest though… …not so much. When people aren’t fighting they look stiff and indistinct, plus there are way too many two page spreads here.

Come back soon, for more wordy reviews of the top four books I read this week. In no particular order: Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors #5, Batman #1, Ultimate Spider-man #1 and Criminal. Last of the innocents #4. 

Book of the week 37: Severed #2

Sorry, I just can’t get it up… My book of the week review, that is. I’ve got a pretty busy week with work flowing into my evening hours, so instead of my normal (and timely) 600 word review, these are my abbreviated thoughts on Severed #2.

Book of the week 37.
1. Severed #2
(Image comics)

Okay, Scott Snyder, Scot Tuft and Attila Futaki have quickly become comic book Gods in my book. In just two issues, they have created a world so realistic, so raw, yet brimming with boyish naivety and childlike optimism. This slow burning horror story set in the 1920’s really is an amazing, unique endeavor in today’s market. Last issue we met the main character, 12-year-old Jack Garron. He wants to meet his natural father, and to do so he ran away from his foster home and jumped on a freight train. This initially didn’t turn out very good. But this issue Jack’s luck takes a turn as he gets his two sole possessions back from the child molesting train-cop and finds himself that rarest thing of all in the hobo life… …an  actual friend. But even his new-found friend is wearing a mask. We also learn that last issue’s villain Mr. Porter is a man of many names and it’d be more accurate to call him ‘the salesman’ (a vocation fitting perfectly in the historic context of this story), also we learn that he’s no mere sharp toothed child molester, but something far more terrifying. Meanwhile it’s very interesting to see how Jack is fooling himself about his background (after he’s learned that he’s a foster child, nothing seems real to him anymore other than his father inspired hobo life) and how he handles his first big disappointment.

The art by Attila Futaki is just as unique as the story. For lack of a better word, this feels kinda European (which is a bit ironic as both artist and reviewer are European). With his painterly style and cinematic storytelling Futaki lets his art breath and gives each panel enough room to maximize atmospheric effects. Just like last issue, I like Futaki’s color pallet, which strongly and effectively affects the ambiance of the scenes.
Art: 9.5 (some spots not as detailed as to make this perfect)
Writing: 10 (perfect!)
Overall: 9.7 (Oh, and check out next issue’s cover, now that’s creepy!)

Runner ups for week 37: Crawl to me 2, Swamp Thing 1, Jezus Hates Zombies 1

2. Crawl to me #2 (IDW Publishing)
I reacted quite strongly (with my whole body) to this issue, because of this follows a guttural review (sorry, I’ll be swearing up a storm), describing my reactions as I was reading. Just to be clear: This is a horror book about a young family who is vacating their new home were something is horribly wrong. [written at page three:] The first couple of pages had me going ‘What the Fuck?!?!’, almost every panel. [Written at page nine:] Holy shit, I know this can’t be real. Ryan, the main character also knows this, but holy shit is this working on my nerves. We’ve landed smack dab in crazy town. [Written at page ten:] And just when you think things have turned back to normal, people have no eyes. This is some fucked up shit! [Written at page fifteen:] OMG she’s just cutting her hair, but it’s SO fucking creepy!!! [Written at page sixteen:] But I guess that means Ryan isn’t crazy (or at least not the only one whose crazy), as the scissors are talking to her… ‘You know what you have to do right?’. Oh no. No. Not the baby, right? [Written at page seventeen:] And then it looks like the baby’s gonna bite it… Shit man… [Written at page eighteen:] I’m clenching my fist here and have a weird feeling in my stomach… Things are not right. [Written at page twenty-two:] And it ends with the creepy child molester’s belt buckle. Wow, this went fast, but it was scarier than a fucking roller coaster!
Art:9               Writing:9        Overall:9

3. Swamp Thing #1 (DC comics)
It took me a while to get into this issue. I didn’t really care for the first half, but the story really picks up in the last third. That’s the part where we learn about a dreadful new villain (emphasizing once more that Swamp Thing is unmistakably a horror title). This part also shows how Alec Holland is plagued by ´the green´ (Swamp Thing’s connection to all of the world’s flora) and his memories of being Swamp Thing. While I wasn’t particularly excited about the writing, the art though… Oh, my God can this Yanick Paquette guy draw. He was already wonderful recently on Batman Inc., but with this series he has even improved upon that. For a random example of his unequalled artistic qualities, the first page of this book has the best looking pigeons I’ve ever seen in a comic book. They don’t just look like random birds, colored to look like pigeons. These are some realistic goddamned pigeons. Also in my review of Justice League #1, I said Superman’s new costume looks kind of like a royal ceremonial armor. …Well scratch that, in this issue he looks like a fascist superhero… Which I bet is not what DC was aiming for…
Art:9.5                        Writing:8        Overall:8.8

4. Jesus Hates Zombies. A Jurassic kinda life #1 (215 Ink)
This was one of my favorite reads in some time. Especially the number of chuckles (and even laugh out louds) it got from me made it rocket up the chart. The story by Stephen Lindsay doesn’t particularly make a lot of sense (however, I haven’t read the first Jesus Hates Zombies series, so who knows?), but if you want to read something completely different, you should really try it out. While the main character is Jesus (H.?) Christ, this isn’t your momma’s Jesus. For one thing, this Jesus curses like a sailor. It’s surprisingly refreshing to read the son of God go: ‘Sweet candy cane strap-ons! Is it really you, buddy? Fucking miracles never cease!’ Other important characters in this are Abe Lincoln (Jesus’ main wingman in prehistoric times), Benjamin Franklin, (SPOILERS) Elvis Presley and the animated wheelchair of Steven Hawkins (?)… The story: Jesus and Abe are stuck in prehistoric times, which for some reason is becoming infected with a zombie epidemic. They’re struggling with the decision of just getting back or saving reality as they know it. I thought that beyond the Walking Dead I was zombied out, but this proves me wrong. It actually a very good story, both exciting and funny and accompanied by outstanding, energetic artwork by Belgium artist Rob Croonenborghs. The book is black and white, uses a lot of effective dot patterns for extra texture. The only problem I had with this is the format. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with a smaller format, I thought some of the more diminutive panels became a bit unclear because of the scale. But seriously go check it out, it’s a ‘gloriously fun-filled prehistoric romp’ of 64 (!) pages.
Art:8.5                        Writing:9        Overall:8.7

Quick shots for week 37: Space fights, money laundering and vampire whacking!

5. The Mighty Thor #4 (Marvel comics)                                                                   8.7
This issue Thor is packing the funny: ‘Aye, Omnipotence has its down side’. And we get to see that rarest of things in all Marvel comics: a glimpse inside the head of Galactus! Buy this issue for great all-out action between Galactus and Silver Surfer on one side and Thor, Odin and nine other Asgarians on the other. This is how a fight of cosmic proportions is executed, there are high stakes (they are fighting over an object that could sate Galactus´ hunger and thus save untold billions of lives throughout the universe), holes in big purple heads and blows that launch opponents through solar systems. And it’s all drawn really pretty by Oliver Coipiel, who went all out on the designs for Asgardian space suits.
6. The Rinse #1 (BOOM Studios)                                                                                      8.6
A crime series about high finance and low-down greed. Think the criminal part of Ed Brubaker’s and Sean Philips’ Criminal, combined with the procedural stuff from television’s The Wire and that makes for one hell of an interesting and original crime comic. We follow a hustler who’s very good at laundering money. In this issue he gets involved in a high stakes operation as well as, quite surprisingly, the law. The art felt a little like Sean Philips lite, which isn’t really a bad thing. The story was very good. Can’t wait to learn where this is going.
7. Batwing #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                 8.5
I think this is the second issue with Ben Oliver art I’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure I have become of fan of this guy. I picked this up because this spins out of Batman Inc., which I have loved thus far. This first issue, written by Judd Winnick, really is surprisingly good. We follow this guy that has gotten Batman Inc. support in an African country. He works for the police in his day job, which provides him with opportunities to tie his day and night work together. And that’s just what happens in this issue as he stumbles upon the work of one Massacre. Massacre seemingly likes to decapitate and dismember people and build structures with different body parts (hey, to each their own…). So, be warned this is pretty nasty, graphic, bloody stuff.
8. OMAC #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                       8.2
Read this because of all the buzz it got on the Eleven O´Clock Comics podcast, and while I get the cause of the enthusiasm, I just don’t share it. That may be because I’m not such a big Kirby fan as they are, or because I’ve never read any OMAC prior to this. Basically, this introduces OMAC as a kind of mind controlled super strong robot/cyborg Mohawk Smurf, that breaks into the Cadmus laboratory to hack into the mainframe. In doing so he reconnects his ‘master’ with the Cadmus database. It’s a fine comic, especially the art is very strong. Keith Giffen, channels Jack Kirby, while staying through to his own style and puts more details in his pencils than I think I’ve ever seen him do. This results in great dynamic art and exquisitely detailed backgrounds. What was visually most appealing to me is the coloring by Hi Fi studios. The dialogue was okay, but the flow of the story and especially the action was great. It’s just not really my cup of tea. I will pick up the second issue, but I´m still on the fence about continuing after that.
9. The Mighty Thor #5 (Marvel comics)                                                                       8
What happened this issue??? Well, things get VERY epic as Odin and Galactus knock each other out. Galactus got on his feet again, Odin didn’t. Then there’s also Volstag who’s preparing for war with the citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma. And Thor is jealous that Sif is riding on the Silver Surfer’s board… The art was a little worse for wear and Oliver Coipiel (maybe my favorite current artist) got an art assist from Khoi Pham, who is a great artist in his own right and can change his style well enough to match Coipiel, but it’s just not as good as Coipiel firing on all cylinders.
10. Sanguis #0 (DROP comics)                                                                                        7.7
Wow. That was good, that was very good. This short prequel flows like a motherfucker, has some strong Humberto Ramos inspired art, exquisite, rough and moody colors as well as strong, confident inks. This sets up the story for what we can expect in the following issues, a priest with a magical medallion, a hot chick vampire hunter, vampires (of course) and balls-to-the-wall action! I was bummed that the rest of the series will play out in current times and not in the ‘40’s, like this issue. A minor critique is that the inks on the last story page stood out a bit compared to the rest of the issue. That doesn’t spoil the book though, I’m excited to read on and curious as to what I’ll find in future issues.
11. Sanguis #1 (DROP comics)                                                                                          7.7
This again was very good. You get the feeling it’s written in English by a non-native, (which it is of course) however this does not take away from the experience, or the story (which is very intriguing) and makes me very curious for next issue, which is written in Dutch. In this issue we follow Father Fred as he heads out to Switzerland to fulfill the dying wish of his friend bishop Van der Steen. Here he meets the Frauenknecht family who is secretly tasked with the protection of the ‘best guarded secret inside and outside the church.’ A secret that goes back hundreds of years and currently hangs around the neck of the attractive young Frauenknecht daughter, Eve. What this issue lacks in action (especially compared to last issue), it makes up for in flow and smart story telling techniques. The art takes a weird turn this issue, it’s just as good as last issue (though again it looks like the inking is a tad inconsistent here and there with varying line thicknesses), but is different stylistically. While last issue it reminded me of Humberto Ramos topped off with some beautifully rough inks and colors, this issue the colors had a bit of a less rough texture. The pencils however, are still reminiscent of Ramos. Nevertheless, I get a stronger Tony Moore-vibe, with a bit of a Declan Shalvey edge to it… What makes this issue particularly strong though is the acting of father Fred. The grief over the loss of his friend, as well as the amazement of heading out to Switzerland for who-knows-what, are written very clearly all over his face.
12. Sanguis #2 (DROP comics)                                                                                         7.6
I loved the backmatter explaining a little about the artistic process of Dimitri Jansma. I really like to see artist evolve (or just change it up a bit), and that’s just what you get when you read Sanguis. Visually, every issue subtly distinguishes itself from its predecessor. Though I personally enjoyed the styles of the first two issue better (this issue showcased some adventurous color choices in certain panels), this looks top notch too. I especially liked the big splash page of people outside of a silhouetted house. It looks very peaceful, which I guess is exactly what it’s supposed to convey. In this issue writer Gert-Jan van Oosten continues to show his skills as a storyteller. Sanguis #2 flows really good, and in only two and a half issues Van Oosten has created a richly detailed world, which I really want to know more about. In this issue main character Fred Siebelink meets two centuries old, Sanguis warriors (aka holy vampire and werewolf hunters). Just as they’re starting to get acquainted, all hell breaks loose as they are attacked by a coalition of (weirdly familiar) werewolves and vampires. Enter one kick-ass action scene. My only nitpick of this series is that I want to know more about the Sanguis and the world they live in, I understand the need to keep some things a mystery. But I think that when we learn a bit more, readers will be vested in this world more strongly. Understandably, that might not be possible in the format they have for Sanguis. But maybe a future issue could have a prose peace, offering some sweet revelations or something. Come on DROP comics, the people demand more Sanguis!
13. Herc #6.1 (Marvel comics)                                                                                          7.5
Good jumping-on point and cute story about Hermes being ordered by Zeus to find the depowered, former god Hercules who has pillaged the legendary weapons cache of Ares, to continue his journey as a superhero. Fun issue, but that’s a given with Fred van Lente and Greg Pak writing Herc. Not so keen on the Mike Grell art though…
14. The Living Corpse. Exhumed #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)                   7
I bought this because of the super sexy (though really misogynist) cover. Sadly, (well, maybe not) things didn’t get so steamy (rapey) on the inside of the book. The art looked fine, though I was inked a bit too stiff if you ask me. Story-wise it was a fun, action packed issue of The Living Corpse fighting vampires. Also, a good cliffhanger revealing the villain of this book.
15. Static Shock #1 (DC comics)                                                                                     6.2
After having read (and loved) John Rozum’s latest volume of Xombi, I had high expectations for this series. Sadly they weren’t met. They didn’t even come close. The first half felt like a bad nineties comic (everything, from character designs, to buildings, looks like nineties Spider-man). Early on this issue is nothing but horrible dialogues, combined with mediocre art. In the end the quality picks up a little but not enough for me to stay interested. This issue sees Static working as an intern at Star Labs, having moved to New York. Unbeknownst to him, he becomes involved in an incomprehensible criminal plot, which ultimately (SPOILERS) seems to cost him an arm. Hence the name of the next chapter: ‘Disarmed’. (Really??? DC doesn’t think that’s a little on the nose?) I will be back, but only to see how they handle this mutilation…

I guess I’ll be lowering the number of books I’ll be reading the following weeks as I’m busy with both work and internship as well as having just cracked open the original book version of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.

Book of the week 36: Locke and Key. Clockworks 2

1. Locke and Key. Clockworks #2 (IDW publishing)

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

The cover of Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, with art by Gabriel Rodriguez, published by IDW.

And once more it befalls writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez that their comic is my book of the week (just like seven weeks ago, and ten weeks ago). It’s really easy to make this my pick again, however it’s pretty hard to write something new about this series (since I already wrote about how great this book looks and how wonderful it reads twice already).

If you haven’t read anything of this series, I think you could pick up this issue and enjoy it. But if you don’t read the previous four volumes you’re really doing yourself a disservice. To shortly pitch this series to new readers: it’s about the three Locke kids who live in Key house, in the town of Lovecraft (Massachusetts), with their mother and uncle. Throughout Key house, there lay hidden a hundred different keys, with diverse magical properties (one to open heads, one to open a portal which turns you into a ghost, one which turns you into a giant, one which turns you into an animal etc…). One of the keys has the power to end the world as we know it (the Omega key) and that is the key that the main bad guy Lucas ‘Dodge’ Caravaggio is after. Dodge has gotten his hands on a couple of the keys and doesn’t shy away from using lethal force to get what he’s after.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Another beautiful splash page by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

The latest issue of Locke and Key. Clockworks, picks up the story again, after the events of the last volume (Keys to the Kingdom) and a little bit of (much appreciated) background information got to us in the last issue. While the Locke kids think that the bad guy is dead, he’s actually closer to them than ever, and well away to achieving his nefarious goals.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

The inside of Tyler Locke's mind, as drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez. From Locke and Key. Clockworks #2, published by IDW.

Just to show you that this really is a dark horror book (SPOILER) this issue opens with the youngest of the Locke kids, Bode, throwing another kid under the school bus. Another example, showing just how fantastical this story is at certain points (SPOILER): the girl, Kinsey Locke, had removed her hate and fear from her head, using the Head key. Since then, the embodiment of her hate and her fear were confined in a closed-off coke bottle (they actually drowned in the never endings stream of tears of the fear embodiment). This issue, they escape from their bottle, climb into the oldest Locke kid’s (Tyler) head and wreak havoc in there. In part turning Tyler into a self-pitying, destructive crybaby. Just to show the amount of thought that the creators put into this book: the embodiment of Kinsey’s hate is wrapped up in newspapers. Reading this issue I discovered that the newspaper headings change every panel, to address something that’s currently happening. I’ll have to go back and see if they did this from the start. If so, that’s some pure genius Easter egg hunting material!  And just an example of the godlike artistry of Mr. Gabriel Rodriguez: I have never seen shards of broken glass flying through the sky depicted so beautifully as this:

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Really, have you ever seen any better shattering glass in the pages of a comic? Art by Gabriel Rodriguez, from IDW publishing's Locke and Key. Clockworks #2.

Oh, and did I mention that Tyler and Kinsey find a new key at the end of this issue? I’m guessing it’s the Time key or the Clockwork key or some such, as there’s an hourglass on it. I can hardly wait to find out what it does.
Art: 9.5           Writing: 9.5    Overall: 9.5

Runners up for week 36: #new52, Stormwatch 1, Animal Man 1, Action Comics 1

2. Stormwatch #1 (DC comics)            
Okay, I love the first couple of volumes of the Authority (I finally got around to buying the trades yesterday) and this has me all giddy about those characters again. Very exciting to see some of my favorite familiar faces back like Jack Hawksmore, Jenny Quantum (the spirit of the 21st century), the Engineer and of course Apollo and Midnighter. In equal parts due to their appearance, their original use of superpowers and their bad-ass personalities these characters are among the very best of the spandex crowd to have arrived fairly recent.  It will be really interesting to see how this team will interact with classic DC characters. A tip of the iceberg was already shown, as Martian the Man Hunter is part of Stormwatch (as well as the Justice League). Basically, Stormwatch is the interdimensional secret superhero police. This new series is basically Stormwatch trying (very unsuccessfully) to get Apollo to join them because they want someone with ‘Superman-level’ powers. But then the roguishly handsome Midnighter sweeps all the members of Stormwatch off their feet to hit on Apollo: ‘I’m the Midnighter. With your help, I can kill every evil bastard on the planet. Interested…?’ (Cheers for my favorite couple in comics) Great art too! Oh, and what’s with the shimmering red cloaked guy that’s showing up in all the new 52 first issues?
Art: 8             Writing: 9       Overall: 8.5

3. Animal Man #1 (DC comics)        
This introduces Buddy Baker, aka Animal Man, just as I remember him. This guy can tap into the morphologic field of all the world’s fauna, to use the animal characteristics he needs. A superhero despite himself, yet foremost a family man. The first half of this issue tells you everything you need to know, neatly and elegantly. Without spoiling too much, first we get to know him and his wife and two children in his home environment. Then he puts on the costume to stop a guy who’s holding hostages in the children’s ward of the local hospital. In this sequence we learn about the kind of hero Buddy is. He´s hesitant to use violence, much rather trying to talk conflicted persons out of their troubles. Lastly we see one of his nightmares, which is portrayed wonderfully disturbing and then we see him waking up to see the weirdness has hit his private life again… Okay, now that´s a creepy cliffhanger… …well, maybe it´s not so much the cliffhanger that’s creepy, as much as the visuals of it (keep away from the last page if you’re allergic to dead animals). Nothing wrong with the writing here, leave it up to Jeff Lemire to rock his keyboard and make some magically good comics. Now the art though… Until the relaunch announcements, I´d never heard of Travel Foreman. And in the lead up to the relaunch his work got pretty hyped. And although I love the cover, and this issue´s dream sequence, I just couldn´t get into the rest of the art. It´s not bad, just not my kind of style I guess. It improved throughout the issue, but not enough as I´d like. Something about the rough, detailed line-work and lack of blacks just doesn´t sit well with me.
Art: 7.7           Writing: 9       Overall: 8.4

4. Action comics #1 (DC comics)      
This is a hard book for me to review, I had pretty high expectations, which weren’t met. Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, not at all. It’s pretty good, just not quit here nor there for me. Basically it’s whats been dubbed Bruce Springsteen Superman, with his shirt and jeans and working man’s boots. He’s a little edgier than we’re used to, threatening non-super powered villains with death. He’s also a lot more brash, making statements to the media that: ‘You know the deal Metropolis. Treat people right, or expect a visit from me.’ He seems to be standing up for the little people more than ever, which I also like. It gives him a bit of a political activist edge. Also, this issue introduces familiar mainstays like general Lane, Louis Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor. Plus a great Morrison idea of weaponizing the city against the man of steel. Art was pretty good, reminded me more than a little of Mark Bagley on Ultimate Spiderman for some reason. Come to think of it this whole issue kinda feels like the ultimate take on Superman: He’s younger, has to start from scratch in modern times, gets deconstructed to the ground, hmmm… Well if it worked for Spidey, it surely can’t hurt Supes. Plus if Bendis can pull something like this, I think Morrison should be able to do it well enough too.
Art:Writing: 8       Overall: 8

Come back tomorrow, to see if I can add anything new to my already extensively formulated love for Locke and Key. As I review the latest issue of Locke and Key. Clockworks…

Quick shots for week 36: Three Dutch comics vs three US comics

5. Ultimate Hawkeye #1 (Marvel comics)                                                                 7.8
This feels like an extra shot of Jonathan Hickman’s Ultimate goodness. Good art, I only felt it wasn’t distinctive enough for my taste. Very well woven into the story of last week’s Ultimates #1, curious to see where this goes. This kind of portrays Hawkeye as the operative most likely to one day follow in Nick Fury’s footsteps as head of SHIELD. And I can totally dig that.
6. Invincible #82 (Image comics)                                                                                    7.6
Good issue, although I’m not thrilled by the Ryan Otley art, which was still good, but not as great as much of his run on this series. Also, it was fairly inconsistent. I’m still on the fence on the coloring, which is getting progressively more painterly over the last couple of issues. The story though, I really like. It’s showcasing Robert Kirkman’s ability to throw everything around. Sure Invincible is still a superhero, but everything around that is becoming different than it has been and Mark being a superhero may be history soon too. In this issue he starts questioning the aggressive approach and tells Cecil Steadman, superhero liaison at the Pentagon, how he wants to try talking instead of hitting, more often. Which I really want him to try. Peace man!
7. Captain Roffa #1 (Windmill comics)                                                                         7.4
Very fun comic produced in my old ‘hood, especially liked the art. The concept is basically Captain Marvel but as a local Rotterdam superhero. The two stories by Johan de Neef is executed very well. A bit too gag-like for my taste, but still very entertaining. But as said: mayor props go out to Boykoesh, this young artist I met at Breda yesterday. He does some great cartoony and extremely dynamic stuff, which gives the book an action packed feeling. His art is topped with very confident, clean line-work and beautiful greytones. Also, this guy does some distinctive personalities and facial expressions: There are a couple B-list Dutch celebrities in there (Tatjana Simic and Marijke Helwegen) and while depicting them very cartoony, he retains their distinctive facial features. Recommended for everyone who loves Rotterdam (look for such Rotterdam celebs as Erasmus, Bokito as well as the Euromast, and both Sparta and Feyenoord jerseys), or a tongue-in-cheek superhero parody.
8. Batgirl #1 (DC comics)                                                                                                           7
Oh, so that’s how they explain away the paralysis. I for one have no problem at all with this explanation for Barbara walking again. While it doesn’t happen often, some people do regain the use of their legs, after severe spinal cord injury. Plus, the reboot has shortened the time that she’s spent in the chair and it’s also implied that she’s still not totally comfortable on her legs. Having gotten that out of the way, there’s nothing keeping me interested here. Until……we see Barbara freeze up when she gets a gun pointed at her. She’s afraid of being crippled again. Interesting, a superhero afraid of guns… Still wondering about the new DC timeline though…
9. ACE #1 (DROP comics)                                                                                                       6.8
Compared to the zero issue, the art has improved a lot. In this issue Ranjit shows a bold, confident line, which I like a lot better. Writing-wise there are big improvements too, basically the blockbuster movie continues. The ACE team (Action Committee Extraordinary), with all kind of sexy recruits and mysterious superpowers (a multiple man, good fighting guy, a healer, a telepath etc) investigating and taking action against a really bad guy and his corporation. This hits on all the notes, funny, action, sexy… Some minor things though, the lettering in the word balloons fits a little too tight. Also, sometimes things are happening off panel and it’s not entirely clear what’s happening… Still I am very impressed with this early foray into independent comics publishing. If every issue keeps getting better as much as it did between issues zero and one, this will end up as a damned good comic and a strong product for DROP comics to show their skills. This also has me very interested in the rest of their titles.
10. ACE #0 (DROP comics)                                                                                                    6.3
Back in 2009, this was one of the fist comics out of the Dutch DROP comics studio by Gert-Jan van Oosten and his talented collaborators, and it kinda feels like that. ACE has a very interesting premise of an anti terrorist strike force with superhuman abilities. This basically reads like a big blockbuster movie filled with action (…duh…), car chases, sexy women and a funny bit every now and then. While it was very entertaining, and I liked the art by Ranjit Domisse (think of J. Scott Cambell) and the layouts, I thought the inks and dialogues where a bit rough. Hopefully this will get better. A refreshing detail is that this story plays out in the Netherlands, so expect to see a lot of Dutch scenery.

My Stripfestival Breda 2011 swag

Today, the whole family went to the city of Breda; wife and kid went clothes shopping; while I went to one of the Netherland’s biggest comic convention, the Stripfestival Breda. It was a great chance to meet people I had only known through the internet (Hello there, Gert-Jan van Oosten), as well as seeing some crazy talented creators in action, like Ian Churchill, Mark Schultz, Igor Kordey as well as the folks from smaller Dutch publishers DROP comics and Windmill comics. Of course, I also got some good swag:

I’m finally going to get balls deep into DROP comics, having bought all of their output: Sanguis #0, #1, #2 (premiered today at Breda), as well as ACE issues zero and one.  From Windmill comics I picked up Rotterdam’s own superhero: Captain Roffa, which came with a sweet, sweet sketch of Cable by Boykoesh. I also got two trades, which have been on my to-buy-list for a long time: the Authority book one and three. Lastly, I met this friendly Flamish guy Rob Croonenborghs who has recently published a U.S. comic through 215Ink: Jezus Hates Zombies. Like all the work at his table I looked at, it looks awesome and he gives away free sketches, with everything he sells. So he decorated my copy of Jezus Hates Zombies with a great sketch of Jezus versus Wolverine.

Oh, and to top it all of, when I got home I found that the first issue of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors had arrived. Thanks dethfilm!

Expect reviews of all this stuff in the following weeks. Even though I had a really tight spending budget I had a great time at the Stripfestival, and if anyone who’s reading this gets a chance to go there tomorrow (sunday the 10th of September) I highly recommend them to go there. If not to buy comics, then to meet some very talented and likable people!