Category Archives: Comic Book Reviews
Rob Patey reviews comics on Ain’t It Cool News under the nam de plume Optimous Douche. He’s also so arrogant he posts them here.
A college student looking for thesis quotes recently tapped into my comic knowledge and over opinionated word salad with these comic book conundrums:
- Do you believe the current influx of comic movies or superhero genre films is a fad or something that will continue for the unseeable future. If you think it will continue, do you believe the films continue to adapt over time, fitting the culture and evolving?
- Why do you think comic properties are suddenly becoming so popular and profitable?
Great Questions Little Fella,
The superhero has already become passé as we see from the struggle in the big two comic companies to support ongoing continuity of story and character. The Bible never reached issue 900, because as we saw from modern day Jesus, Superman, when a comic becomes that long in tooth the character must change. For the uninformed, Action comics 900 was bemoaned because Superman essentially said America could no longer be his chief interest when the world is so connected.
While logical, this does break the very foundation of a character who was inspired to give us hope in the face of a great oppressor. In a world where terror reigns supreme, and our greatest fears are the unexpected, a mind reader serves as amore soothing balm than some man in his underwear willy-nilly scouting the skies for danger.
Even the Marvel characters, the baby-boomer contribution to Americana’s new titans, are feeling the buckle of age with their first reboot of time (after many undeclared ones over the years). What was once the hip and cool comic choice with; super-keen Spider-Man, groovy X-men and happening Hell’s Kitchen characters, and awesome Avengers are no longer needed when Nerds are now cool, different is now the norm and the powerful are the object of envy as opposed to inspiration.
Superheroes are like zombies, vampires and every other blip on the radar of our existence, a coping mechanism. The cape arose as religion waned throughout the 20th century, to supplant our saviors and inspire the now watered-down term, “hope.”
These super legends will wane, because if you transform too much, the metamorphosis births them anew regardless of branding.
As for delivery to the masses and a superhero summer movie schedule in the foreseeable future, what do you consider that time period to be? The marvel machine is scheduled into the 2020’s. When the X-Wing flies into a portal and crashes eon Graymalkin lane. hell they could go into the 2030’s. Then Warner Brothers needs to do their half-hearted competitive attempt at thwarting that revenue stream. They will throw at least a trilogy into the fray and given their slow dev times, those movies will chug past the teen years of this new millennium.
On question two, Superhero movies have taken over the cinema, simply because of technology. For years I have tried to make others see a comic book come alive as I did when I was four and bought my first Richie Rich. Panels, words, images flow seamlessly and scream alive in the minds of comic readers; those of us who also read books and see the world come alive.
As a being who lives in imagination more than Jackie Paper’s friend Puff; words, images and movies are all the same experience for me. My mind is so jacked, I literally have a movie screen playing all day in my head. Some, actually many people, can not take the same figurative leaps of imbuing life into story. For the spoon-fed of this world, the stories we have read for years needed computer graphics for the telling. Look at early CG, like the 90s Fantastic Four movies, and tell me if it was at all believable (even in the context of the time). Then look at the Fox attempt a decade later, with better graphics and you tell me which is more immersive and plausible.
Fantasy is a hard aesthetic distance for many to cross, they keep it at arm’s length because it can never be. For those individuals, superhero movies are new and finally of interest. They are a crutch into a genre that would have been impenetrable when the stories were first coming alive on the page.
For fast feasters who want the slugline before their lunchtime grab and quick gab store run, this quips for you:
“While the loss of Shane Davis for the more “grounded” (ZING) Syaf pencil of realism over hyper realism, it’s an exact match of tonality for the plot of Straczynski’s third foray into the hardbound full-arc world of Earth One.
About a year after the close of Volume 2 (comic time), Clark is still;
- Career setting with the shit hours and anemic salary of a cub reporte
- Juggling the jealousy of the twenty-something love triangle with Lois and himself in underarmor
- Desperately seeking to dull his Kryptonian awesome so humanity isn’t a foreign species…
- The object of affliction for Team Luthor (now man and wife instead of traditional bro and sis). These were the good villains this time, the ones driving sense, reason and pragmatic world mechanics I need to make the entire landscape worth of abandoning my aesthetic distance. Their love is hawt, their genius total science-fiction bullshit plausible (only Neil Tyson would get assed up) and motivation for going after Supes appropriately new age sociopath induced. Shame we end the book with only one left alive. Pretty baller though it was the one I wanted for fun in Volume 4. After all the female of the species is more deadly than the male. Said Rudyard Kipling, lead singer of the one hit wonder group “Space.” (little lesson how the class of 2030 will actually search engine cull answers with that joke).
New threats come with:
- Zod. Not a fan here. I will admit I am suffering from Wilfred Brimley levels of home delivery insulin for Zodabetes thanks to all the damn resets over the past decade. He’s bad, he always will be bad, for fucks’ sake why Zod why are you a boomerang. Outside of Terrence Stamp chewing the scenery in pleather parachute pants I have always been tepid to the oneness of him. JMS sweetens the well to deliver my #2 favorite rendition of this 2-D staple by making him an active participant in the E1 deliberate destruction of Krypton versus the standard natural disaster. Zod was in bed with Tyrel. Joe wrapped it in pretty prose, but given my girlish squeals towards other Zod can basically go fuck himself, glad he’s gone too.
- World government cabal. Good call on taking a tip from New 52 Earth 2 on the inception of this pragmatic approach to governance with a populace that can cross borders literally by jumping. From the bible to Star Trek global unity will present itself when there is a sentient species different from us beyond skin color or proclivity towards hummus, weed, absinthe, communion wine or abstinence. A species gots to hate and Superman is a realistic target. Their use of the Luthors to devise a Superman stopper used the confrontation from volume one in well played comic continuity fashion (also Joe threw in some suggestive swinger ideas that were lady lady guy hawt). Only their acceptance of Zod when he offers a team-up made me lose respect. I really think he was an editorial force with the way the IQ points plummeted at the blind acceptance of an offer to side with a devil you don’t know versus a clearly powerful but innocent fresh doe. Yeah, Supes trashed Metropolis in Vol 1, but he was also grabbing kittens from trees and other good deeds soon after.
- I like Lisa, I really do. Awesome Clark found the Pretty Woman who is more attractive and less grating than Julia Roberts in ever way. I can live with the slow burn Lois build. I totally dig Rumspringa, ask my parents about me taking the 90s to ‘matriculate” college. I…swear I am not a prude. I am also not a complete romantic like Clark and I have had my heart properly weathered by the sharper sex. He and Lisa cross past the friend zone, a task made much easier when Lisa discovers Clark’s work clothes. Sorry, I just can’t imagine a world where I could sit there and hear my significant other blowing a guy for rent and not feel inadequate over I may not be tipping as much as he does.
Notice my ordering there? My narcissism always puts random orders in the control of what resonates and affects me most. I played slapsies above and bitch “slapsies” with my actual review of “grounded” in SUPERMAN, but faults with that series were editorial and timing – not execution. Editorial knew the end was nigh so “rock out with your cock out” trumped a planned out schedule. SUPERMAN EARTH ONE has all of those great elements of Clark exploring his feelings for Lois without the editorial dive bombs of, “Hey Joe, can you have Supes skip over to Max Lord’s secret lair pick up Ted Cord’s brain and then do a vertical lift up to the Tower for a very special bedtime story about how Sue Dibney was whacked because Dr. Light perpetrated a crime of unspeakable assault on the soul.” All my words, not Joe’s in any interviews we’ve done.
I meander because I know JMS cares about this craft, and really any fan of Superman has all they need with the concept of EARTH ONE: A-Listers running free. Quality is assured and if you have a modicum of fandom for the creators, the characters and/or faithful and clever refreshing of nostalgia any EARTH ONE title is a no brainer on a solitary read level. Light commitment so that the friend or co-worker who always goes, “wellll, I loved comics, but there’s so many, I don’t know where to start, my co-worker sits next to me and mumbles all day about mobile security and how his email box keeps flooding with poorly formatted emails every Tuesday at 4PM heralding marginal comic news for the next day…” Fine, parts of that are the poor data dude who sits near me, but any casual naysaying on commitment or confusion of continuity can be bludgeoned with EARTH ONES’ thick binding. SUPERMAN like BATMAN and TEEN TITANS also pays no lip service to its universal counterparts, so grab a Bat, Cape or Titan and don’t worry about missing any vital beats cause or cross sell performance objectives to feed larger KPIs.
Now let’s talk about EARTH ONE and CONVERGENCE
If you didn’t read MULTIVERSITY GUIDE BOOK go now. Convergence I believe will bring forth a world of 52 comics wherein the New 52 merely exists as the larger whole. EARTH ONE for the correlation challenged will be another sliver. Insert etc here for likewise on Capt. Carrot, tiny robot corpse toons, Batman Beyond and the Nazis triumphant universes.
We have all been led to believe a “sort of” lie in that the New 52’s mentally handicapped heroes were supposed to be granted the closest parking spot as main continuity because they are what being reborn a hero is all about. I can now appreciate its existence as the guidebook describes it for heroes in their prime, but not beyond the definition of puberty. Sorry, but there are no fine lines between inexperience and incompetence. Awakening does not absolve being an asshole. Danger from within is sometimes more palpable than from galactic Giants. Also, get your upsells to trades, cartoons, movies and paying the salaries for unimaginative minds in WB Frog Tux’s to gobble market demographic reporting out of my comic universe damn it.
I’ve known these “truths” for awhile now because I read a
Fuckton of comics and I work in marketing (The devil’s second favorite profession behind my second career choice of lawyer). Your lexicons to this revelation have been laid before you. There has been a multi demographic play at multiple wallets since Batman Beyond told kids to come back, we have a world where BATMAN’s back got better and Superman is not in an extended coma. Yay, some more revenue until Superman wakes up and the rest of the world thinks we don’t know the definition of dead…kind of like a child…kind of like rest of 90s world sees comic books.
I don’t hate the New 52, but it is an arid play at introducing super-heroics when held against the weightiness afforded Earth One titles because of instant arc gratification and being able to deliver whenever your artistic big guns damn well say it has reached perfection (and puny editors actually can cower in fear without loss of share holder value). SUPERMAN, BATMAN and TEEN TITANS are all true awakenings and we can grow with them in real time as I once did with Kevin Arnold on the Wonder Years. Earth One can pace slow burn because it is not the testing ground for the best selling monthly<Trade<Cartoon<TV Show<Movie Fodder formula or da cheddar as douche bags would call the ultimate goal of money. Ultron went from comic to movie fast, go look at sales charts of comics than my fellow fools of non-paid focus grouping to see why so much expedience up the revenue chain. Good businessmen, even businessmice always double down.
Finally, with CONVERGENCE and now Marvel awakening to the continuity conundrum of forever people, we are blatantly being told instead of absolute certainty of pivotal numbered issue consequence, “just go pick a fucking continuity and we’ll fill it with titles based on eeny-meenie-miney-mo of gun shy retail preview picks based on zero information unless you buy into a value-add marketing program with the distributor (I’ll write a separate post on that cardboard news-stand revenue tie to premium order placement and ultimate sales, let me know if you want to hear it).
Well, maybe Marvel will be safe since this is their first time letting the universe asshole completely prolapse before trying to shove it back in. The first repack is usually factory seal fresh like CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. It gets loser with each repack though and slips out more quickly and more often when abused. See how quickly we needed to have a CONVERGENCE tuck after the FLASHPOINT PROLAPSE. In
20 years Marvel too will just tell you to go read this new Earth 617 where X-Men now wheel chair race at the Xavier 55+ Community for Broke Ass Mutants.
Sorry for the rambling, but please see we are not only seeing story shifts we are seeing a dynamic sales shift affecting stories. The EARTH ONE in description in the guidebook is some nebulas shit about a newly forming earth that will cool with heroes who are new. In my mind this means they are amoebas waiting to become a multicellular organism…excuse me…a SUPER multicellular organism…or it’s a world every time Superman evolves Vandal Savage has already evolved and merely urinates in the life pool and keeps it all FOREVS EVIL by issue after issue of drinking and then eviling with his golden weapon of PH level off-setting.
See folks, when I can write that sort of off putting mental imagery about a story vehicle I adore at 3:00 AM in the morning when I have a 7:00 AM with APAC and I am still ready to hit the story in a zombie caffeinated fugue state, we and the companies have taken the demand for universal cross continuity beyond reality. Kennedy woke up America from la-la-land and WATCHMEN was our book repository of decloaking the tropes with too much clever irony to back to being able to ever believe in golden age ideals. Let’s remember simpler times in this new a la carte world before us instead of wishing for something we really can’t ever have again and probably wouldn’t want anyway. You know the shit would be polybagged with a cover where the artist can’t draw feet.
FOILED AGAIN #ASKSROB
What’s your take on all the gimmicks coming out of DC Comics now? You seem to be a fan of DC but their constant stunts are killing me, especially as I feel they are distracting from the core of what makes comics – good story. First a New 52. Then 3d comic covers. Then Selfie comic covers (!) and now a scratch and sniff comic (Harley Quinn). How about writing some good stories? Wonder Woman and Batman (Maybe Aquaman) are the only characters that have managed to stay afloat in this new era of gimmicks. Is there hope for change?
Great Question Foiled,
I’m taking this into two parts, because cover clusterfucks are a different situation than story!
On covers, c’ the fuck’ mon dude, you’re a fellow marketing wonk. Surely you know as well as I do that blurring the lines between quality of product, and presentation of that product are utterly independent factors. We know this because we do it every day for our masters. We don’t lie, but anyone wearing a marketing hat is most certainly an illusionist. Were this the 1970’s, one of us would have a pornstache and be wiggling our fingers like Doug Henning while the other one was picking audience pockets (or we could both have a pornstache, I didn’t mean to limit us).
Are we really going to begrudge our fellow marketing wonks at not just DC, but Marvel, Valiant and a million indies looking to scalp the same success? We get assed up because we love this hobby, but on the same token the marketer in me applauds each of these companies as kids and noobies come stare at these seemingly magic pages that move as you walk past. I’ll also admit, the comic collector in me becomes a bit less jaded as well because if this is the bait to widen our dwindling club, than so be it.
Now, I will says the chance of sustainable interest in the medium varies by cover:
- Valiant 8-Bit cover reminded them of Pitfall, will remember a time when people had to read for fun.
- DC Pin-Up, Monster, Lego, Insert theme month here the person has a modicum of appreciation for art
- Marvel Wolverine holo-foil will probably keep coming back every time a new Avengers trailer is released.
- Looking to scratch and then subsequently sniff Harley Quinn’s beaver is the dude who walked in with his friend and will be blind from either alcohol poisoning or excessive masturbation shortly. Seriously those 4th wall breaking Harley Quinn one shots revel in awful…
So while the purist in me longs for a time back when covers were:
- Indicative of the story inside
- Not afraid to use a fucking word balloon
- And were not a cacophony of color and needless posturing poses.
The marketer in me, the grown up, the suit, the man will not deny the numbers. Scott Snyder’s WYTCHES recently sold 90,000 copies with Image. JUSTICE LEAGUE 1 sold 350,000 copies. “Wytch” was the better story? It doesn’t matter. When you are battling icon to icon, noise and not substance is the key to swift movement.
Comics are no longer printed for comics’ sake folks. When Gen X and before were kids, the sustainability of our favorite stories lived and died by how many floppies were sold. Today, floppies are R&D for the widening of dissemination into more lucrative revenue streams.
The fall of story for profit started with BATMAN BEYOND and trade pacing. If you look at today’s current universes and pacing of titles, the patterns are eminently obvious. We feel anemia in some issues because they are made purposely anemic to stretch out the page count. An editor must look at how these things will be collected for sale on Amazon since so few spinner racks exist anymore. It is the more portable and profitable means to an end. It is also a way to gauge the worthiness of content for animated cartoon, video game or the ultimate score of a movie.
If we look at MULTIVERSITY coming out of DC right now, it is truly the perfect follow-up to the decimation of the universe we saw in play four to five years ago around the time of FINAL CRISIS. The Monitors birthed 52 new worlds, which then instantly disappeared and turned into 52 titles about one earth.
Huh? Makes no fucking sense from a universal story perspective does it?
However, it makes perfect sense for a scared shitless Warner Brothers’ suit who got an M shaped pineapple shoved up their ass when the audiences didn’t give a rat’s taint about any of the 27 plot lines shoved into the GREEN LANTERN movie.
The New 52 was a lifeboat, not a rocket ship kids. As Mickey launches the Marvel brand into the billions of people served mark, DC needed to “youth”anise quickly or be euthanized by the WB corporate den of doom. Look at what changed and what didn’t. GREEN LANTERN and BATMAN were allowed to ignore FLASHPOINT because they were selling well and had movies in play. Look at the deluge of TV series that have come out from CONSTANTINE to GOTHAM. Each of these s steeped in the “freshness” of the New 52 to reach across the aisle at those who need imagination spoon fed to them.
This spoon feeding not only stymied the real DC New U of MULTIVERSITY, but has also obliterated an oft debated subject of tight universal continuity. With BATMAN BEYOND and the idea of series that live outside canon, publishers could ensure saturation into every demographic. Dark shit was going down in BATMAN during the late 80s and early 90s, and BATMAN BEYOND served up a younger dude who was way less morose and “deathy” than the days of broken backs and hunchbacks in the cave.
From that sincere broadening, we have the tainted “choose your own adventure” continuity we see today. Honestly, I truly believe I am a fool sometimes for reading as much of each universe as I do. Outside of Valiant, no one is doing a flawless cross. Now, DC takes the most hits because they made the most noise with their reboots. I look at Marvel as we close out 2014 though, and they are in just a bad of state as DC was pre September 2011. AXIS was a train wreck in a long string of who gives a fuck events this year that never interwove and now characters are being killed off for the sake of cutting off revenue streams from other studios. Wolverine is dead so that when Fox tries to do a movie in 2022, no 8 year old will know what the shit a Wolverine is.
I applaud the examples you used above for your vested DC interest. They are all great titles and if you look at each of them you will see they remained away from the taffy pulls of bringing the universe back to some semblance of good comic booking versus being a cross-media tentpole.
As for my coverage of books my formula is simple; “Review for those who care about what you say!” When I started reviewing comics for Ain’t It Cool seven years ago, DC showed an earnest interest in promoting my words and interacting with me on the then fetal social media channels. Geoff Johns would drop me a thanks for a review. Dan Didio accepted my friend request on FaceBook and I gathered some true fans for my work in their PR department at the time.
Despite my reviews being an equal 33% DC, 33% Marvel and 33% Indie, it was always DC giving me feedback and asking for further reviews and forwarding .PDF comps. Marvel from creators to back office have never given two shits about my thoughts so I stopped trying. I’m not needy for affection, I am needy to effect change in comics. That only happens when the right people are listening.
The record will show, I have never pandered because of comps or favoritism. However, I will ALWAYS give you priority publishing the more time and money you spend in trying to get my attention. I may shit all over the book, which I have done from my beloved DC all the way to the ignore me Marvel, but I will cover it with keyword rich text for SEO awesomemsauce.
You say you want good stories, well then go write them my friend. I will never be arrogant enough to believe my views have directly affected the choices made in the industry over the past flew years, but I believe I helped trumpet a public zeitgeist of disdain for choices that helped all of our feelings be heard.
Find your story solace where you need. I recommend EARTH 1 for true impact and full Fryetag’s Pyramid for your money. You simply must wait forever between volumes. In the meantime go to Image. DC’s CONVERGENCE in April will be interesting. If MULTIVERSITY is to be taken literally, we could have a serialized version of EARTH 1 like titles in floppy form. Personally, that will be the end of my time with New 52 or Universe Prime as I believe it is now designated.
Marvel, I can’t tell you. They don’t want to talk to me. So…
Do you want to #ASKROB? Submit your questions in the comments or via email – because this is the face of caring!
THE GIFTED is simply not for every comic fan. As much as I enjoyed this journey through the first animal’s awakening of sentience, THE GIFTED triggered my inate emotions and beliefs rather than spoon-fed what my reaction should be. There are no words in THE GIFTED, which makes sense. When we first realized our existence outside ourselves, we didn’t say, “Oh, fuck I could die one day? And there’s a thing called the future? Fuck, I can die one day!” Instead, we like the creatures of THE GIFTED, reflected in our eyes the obligations and horror that come with even our limited understanding of this universe.
This is all me. What I saw as I looked at each panel of Gooden’s gifted charcoal landscape were my own beliefs that animals, especially dogs, have already made their first four-legged steps to understanding the abstract as well as the concrete. My long time fan will know that my spirit animal, my guide, my patronus to get into fantasy terms, is the Golden Retriever. My Politically Incorrect Golden stream on Instagram is proof that I consider my good boy Fergus, my son. Again, these are my beliefs that I would never be so brazen as to present as fact for all. I don’t shun any naysayers who look at me and go, “He can’t love you, it’s an illusion based on food and creature comforts.” I will however laugh in their faces when their spouse saunters up a minute later to snuggle in for warmth and then their kid comes up to ask for money for dinner. Ahhhh, amore indeed.
I have to dabble in thoughts and feelings for this review because to look at the plot, this would be a one-sentence wrap-up. “Wolf looks over horizon, wolf goes over horizon, wolf meets man, man is an asshole, and wolf finds other enlightened animals to get some payback.” THE GIFTED deserves more than this, perhaps not the animal rights debate I’m sparking above, but certainly more than a cursory sum of the experience. In all comics, each panel can and should tell a story. However in an age of grand events, universal collapses due to bad business decisions of the past, and the pursuit to squeeze every last dollar out of creativity by creating comics for cross media viability we have essentially lost the desire to innovate. Much like the modern societal norm towards everything, we gorge instead of taste and appreciate.
One cannot gorge on THE GIFTED. This review took me so damn long to complete from UPS drop off to publish, because I saw care and craftsmanship from all parties. I was not going to sully this hard work with a dial-in write up. I carefully looked in each panel for the spark of life to appear: The transition from animal tracker looking to fill its gullet, to tracker seeking a guide to the larger world. The transcendence of knowing that man is both friend and foe. Hell, simply the recognition of transcendence to ruling the world as opposed to simply being part of it and sharing that forbidden fruit of knowledge with others who are close to seeing the spark themselves.
This is my Rorschach interpretation of THE GIFTED, see what yours will be in December (or sooner, I don’t know. I can barely keep track of my own schedule, just go to the website).
Optimous Douche Hijacks Spoiler Alert Podcast: DARK GODS, SOUTHERN BASTARDS, RASPUTIN, FUTURES END 27
I am Rob Patey. I am also Optimous Douche of Ain’t It Cool News. I am not proud of either fact most days of the week. I have taken your Spoiler Alert Comic Book Podcast, Ain’t It Cool News and Poptards Go.
Here is what I cover:
Fan Tweet – No mistake on the singular folks, that’s the tech savvy of our audience and production staff. Dan Day answers this week’s question, “What other things do you collect than comics?’ I tell Dan why his life is meaningless.
DARK GODS: Justin Jordan | German Erramouspe | Avatar Press
SOUTHERN BASTARDS: Jason Aaron | Jason Latour | Image Comics
RASPUTIN: Alex Grecian | Riley Rossmo
FUTURES END 27: Brian Azzarello | Everyone | DC Comics
NEXT WEEK’S QUESTION: Who is your favorite DC character? What is your favorite multiverse earth? What story would you write with that character on that earth?
Writer: Scott Snyder
Reviewer: Rob Patey
Before DETECTIVE and BATMAN, this upstart writing professor from NY (which even though I’m form Jersey I have never held against him), was entrenched in horror with a little title called AMERICAN VAMPIRE. Here’s a snippet from one of my reviews of issue 3:
“I originally came for King, but I have stayed for Snyder. As much as I will always love the master of macabre, his ability to bloat a word balloon is not the best fit for a visual medium. Snyder though, I think this guy has legs. Let’s see what happens when the King training wheels are taken off.”
So there it is folks, hate Optimous if you don’t like Snyder, I gave him his golden ticket (No, I’m not this arrogant, but I also predicted in 2008 Johns was headed for editorial leadership, just sayin).
Horror with heart was Scott’s introduction to comics, and WYTCHES has brought him home. Thank God DC squashed exclusivity last year, because after reading issue one of WYTCHES Scott is about to give some gravitas to the “Hocus Pocus” idea of Salem’s daughters and this time he can actually own the friggin property thanks to the lean Image corporate structure.
Of course, points and IPs are not the concern of us regular readers, so let me say that from a story perspective: Scott is building a mystery, he strengthens the true meaning of witches before Hollywood makes it more flaccid with insipid “Secret Circle” like shows, and delivers it all through the package of human experience as a young girl realizes just how dangerous she can be.
WYTCHES will be nothing you expect; yet somehow everything you have been asking for in this mythos. I loved last season of “American Horror Story: Coven,” but I realize now how pretty and sanitary the proceedings actually were. For Snyder’s WYTCHES, the wills of the earth are power, not confidence or how may times you get banged by the Sax man.
The one staple Scott missed in this issue is his deep reverence for history, and making the time or place of the story as vibrant a character as any carbon based life forms, or perhaps he has simply made it different this time around knowing that Jock is just as formidable with pictures as Scott is with words. While we don’t get any new history for Gotham or an exploration of the century we just lived, there is a primal introduction on page one as a woman is devoured by a tree. As Jock makes us more afraid of wood than a straight guy in a revival of “Anything Goes,” I believe Scott may be scratching under new surfaces of setting and letting his well-accomplished artist do the heavy lifting.
Because after this moment we shift back to normality, with a normal family on any normal weekday, waiting for the school bus to arrive. As middle aged Dad and teenage daughter play the last wisps of games from childhood (like kill the Hippogryph), Snyder and Jock both convey the underpinning of a great horror that casts a dark pall beyond the simple separation of young womanhood blossoming before a befuddled Father who now has a young woman instead of his tomboy buddy.
We find that the dark pall was the fact this young lady, Sailor Rooks, was the one who brought the lady eating tree to life.
And there’s the mystery folks: Sailor remembers the tree and bringing to life to thwart an attacker, Mom and Dad say it was a delusion (but are most likely lying) and let us not forget the freaky bald guy who has come back from helping Wesley Crusher explore the galaxy to now fuck with the Rooks in some very primal and disgusting ways.
With Jock and Snyder, quality is expected. With Image though, we all know that longevity is a never a guarantee. Not to open the comic Kimono too wide, but Image books get one arc to prove themselves on sales numbers, if they don’t make the mark than hope you weren’t too attached to that story. Of course with this baller marquee on the cover, I believe WYTCHES will have the current staying power of SAGA with the long draw editorial is letting Snyder play. He is letting points breathe instead of spewing them out en masse. This is not a critique; it’s a compliment to see what a creator who I admire and respect can truly accomplish when untethered from continuity shackles, family friendly mandates and larger story support structure.
The question of do you like it Optimous is moot and I still refuse to answer it point blank, so please stop asking folks. I love this book, but that’s an opinion and opinions are like assholes in that they usually stink and are utterly invaluable. Make your own decision. Are you ready for an old look at a new favorite in the horror genre? Do you have room for one more book on your pull list? Do you want staying power of story and the slow doling out of story versus flashes of character moments? If yes, than get up on WYTCHES bytches.
Writer: Mark Miller
Artist: Carlos Granda
Publisher: Black Mask
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)
Dear Mark Miller,
(Not the one who wrote KICK ASS and should be running all of Fox’s comic book properties across DC and Marvel if we lived in a world where story trumped TradeMarks),
I just finished reading PIROUETTE 1, my reaction remains as steadfast and unchanging as when you first unleashed the news to us before we started taping a Spoiler Alert Podcast about 18 months ago.
Vividly I recall your droopy dog Midwestern tone seeping out, “Hey guys, I’m doing another book for Black Mask, this one is about a clown.”
My New Jersey/Philadelphia caring tone soothingly replied: “Are you special? What the sweet shit is wrong with you? You have the opportunity to work with Carlos again, and you are wasting it on a profession that is merely entertaining to brains that haven’t developed past age 4 and instills either terror or blind rage in 80% of the population after age 4? Why do you hate fame?”
I have context for these questions; in the past 8 years I have known Miller as my editor on Ain’t It Cool, my Snyder as I played his Tynion on JUNGLE BOOK, and most importantly my friend through it all he has been there to shamelessly exploit these bonds for feedback and reviews whenever he has a new book coming out. One might think he is looking for favor or bias, but to the contrary his unwavering search for truth is actually masochistic in design. That’s why he asks the one friend he knows will not pull punches, but rather donkey punch the work into a coma out of love…and shit.
Let us look at a few of these past hooves to your bald head Mark so my feelings on PIROUETTE are seen as pure and golden as Pony Boy:
7 Years Ago: MUSCLES AND FIGHTS.
This publishing house from Wisconsin has accomplished publishing a book. Mark Miller writes, and does a PhotoShop art thing that I frankly found scary. That’s it MUSCLES AND FIGHTS is a horror book. WELL DONE
4-5(ish) Years Ago
NANNY AND HANK is a much needed bite to the current defanging of the vampire genre. The idea of octogenarians finding new life, albeit undead, allowed Miller to infuse humor and heart into a “Cocoon” like revelry of rejuvenated golden years. This book would be an instant classic, if it wasn’t being churned out in the 7th layer of hell by Satan, and was given an artist who thinks humans should look exactly like Muppets.
3-4(ish) YEARS AGO
JUNGLE BOOK, Miller has successfully breathed new life into the tale of Baloo and Mogwii. Yes, the once concave chested boy is now sporting a B-Cup, but the D-Cup on the cover is merely a ruse folks. Miller and Granda skipped the cheesecake for a substantive diet of story and words.
JUNGLE BOOK 2 I could not review for ethical reasons Mark told me I should have since I was co-writing the back stories. It was nice to learn ethics.
Last Year: OCCUPY COMICS
Mark actually trusted me to review OCCUPY COMICS without letting my personal politics bleed into the review. Well, his liberal claptrap is delivered pleasingly with a fun pirate theme. The words are melodically written and the art is a nice cloudy haze. This was still a more useless movement than a “Too Fat to Live” subject being given laxatives.
So with that trip down memory lane, you should take your next pull quote with an extra ounce of pride good sir:
PIROUETTE is Miller, Granda’s and Black Masks’ first book to challenge Big 2 quality in art and form, without sacrificing the indie spirit of shuddering social commentary.
This book is not about clowns; it is about servitude of the soul with no escape. It’s not even about the circus, but more the social structures that oppress us all.
You and I are a bit of Pirouette, even though she is a fifteen-year-old girl riding through the Midwest in a time when America was starting to thrive post WWII. Miller really doesn’t define a time, but Granda does with dress, décor and little wisps of machinery and cars in the background. Honestly, you really have to look to see these details because Granda made the foreground so absolutely gorgeous. Time like reality are purposefuly and wisely left ethereal.
After the horrifying realization on page 1, that Pirouettes clown mask never comes off, we see the resilience of the human spirit to play the roles we are given. How many of us are truly what we do each day to feed our families or to simply play a part on society? She dutifully entertains patrons with antics, which were surprisingly not as annoying as I find usual clown games.
Also like us Pirouette dreams of a grander existence, why toil in the sweat of the masses when she knows she has the talent to soar above on the trapeze? Some cunty blonde Ukrainians is why. These oppressors remind her why she can not fly until she reminds them that clowns are evil creatures with a sabotage to their act that leaves neither profits or Pirouette unscathed. Who among us has not tried to usurp our oppressors at least once?
Power, struggle and the horrors of loneliness are Pirouette’s true burdens, the circus is merely a myopic mechanism in which Miller clearly finds a safe haven to expose some very raw nerves of the human experience.
For the less esoteric plot and hero’s journey, we learn that Pirouette might not be the child of the clowns who claim to own her, and that her real life might be found in Lima, Ohio. Personally I’d rather stay in a nightmare circus than ever visit Ohio again, but I am not a native son nor lover of either.
As we see American Horror Story: Freak Show about to capture TV audiences with the same exact themes of family and freaks in post-Hitler America, I can’t help but think that I am the oddball in my initial aversions to PIROUETTE. Miller captured a zeitgeist, an air of the public conscious once again to explore our darkest eternal fears through grease paint and silly fucking noses.
ROB PATEY’S FU#$TON OF FUTURES END REVIEW
Thoughts and Thoughtful Reviews on ARMAGEDDON 2014
Hey there, hi there, ho there FiftyTwoKateers, it’s September again and we all know what that means, some BIG September events, which should not to be confused with the BIG August events that are only tangentially tied to the Passover pass off from the January events that launch the year.
I kid,I kid…sorta. Event is simply a marketing term at this point that really holds the same impact on story as a little thing we once simply called arcs and continuity. Anyone who keeps asking, “where the universal synergies have gone,” are the same stubborn bores who will never drink from the grossly misnamed event troth in some futile battle to take the word back to the past.
So, just chill. This FUTURES END catch-up is not an event summation, merely a state of one arc, five years from now, but started almost forty years from now, but not before we get the exposition about a war between Earth-1 and Earth-2 that I think will be starting very soon from now as FOREVER EVIL collides with FUTURES END…the part that is now.
I was at first confused on FUTURES END’S purpose. Need proof? Watch me choke on my piss poor prognostications with this quote from my issue one review:
“The D-list gathering is, essentially, the death, dismemberment and disenchantment of every hero festering on the bottom rung of the sales charts. No one is safe, as a neophyte in consciousness Eye begins to rip the DC universe asunder. StormWatch, which I faithfully stayed with much longer than I should have, is blown to smithereens. Green Arrow gets smashed and Firestorm is such a ball of self loathing it’s amazing he can fly without crying uncontrollably. One might think I’m not a fan of this book with this description, but here’s where the schadenfreude kicks in.
WRONG. FUTURES END has been less about making these characters simple paste on the side of a wall; it’s actually making them all kinds of awesome. Grifter and his little psychotic pre-teen ball buster of a sidekick, Fifty-Sue are awesome and hilariously self-aware, and the Firestorm flake-out has actually become a rather complex little dance of power as a now bullying team of left behind Justice Leaguer’s try to keep what little power they have left in their ranks.
As the main title to this universal arc (not event), FUTURES END has been a fun exercise akin plot wise to the 90’s favorite ARMAGEDDON 2001. Its far, but not too far, peeks ahead give us a true voyeuristic look at our heroes legacy versus the romanticized history when timelines are played with too far from now. FUTURES END is also old school JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL sarcastic, with Azzarello keeping the story very grounded in today’s more self-aware comic sensibilities.
FUTURES END seems to not be fucking around with the meaning of literal. Because things are looking mighty bleak in the following FUTURES END solo stories that sit behind the glorious moving covers that when stacked sound like a fat person jogging in corduroys.
So where will our heroes be in the far…ish end of the future?
(For anyone who cares whether I like these books or not, please consider their order to be that barometer)
FUTURES END THIS WEEK 9/24/14
FUTURES END FLASH 1: Come for the amazing Brett Booth art and stay for the moral conundrum, time antics and story payoff delivered by Roberts Venditti and Van Jensen. I was a big naysayer to bringing Barry back after having spent a lifetime with Wallly, but boring personalities aside, the book has always been solid. I was almost of a mind to yell no when Wally was introduced, simply because it felt forced since Barry and Iris weren’t knocking gold winged booties. Bad Optimous, because since the Valiant boys have come in and brought forth a mysterious blue flash from the future the book continues to accelerate in amazing. Five years from now, Blue Flash reveals his true face to Wally and Iris, unfortunately its after he pastes their brother and uncle Daniel, the reverse flash. Blue bails on tomorrow as best as he can considering the speed force time fractures to show up and get pummeled by a silver speeder. Barry facing his killer self, Wally imbued with the speed force finally and an uncertain tomorrow gave this FUTURES END entry my top billing of the week and goosebumps for further issues of FLASH.
FUTURES END SUPERMAN 1: With the cat out of the bag already that Billy Batson has been taking up the Supes mantle after Sally Struthers convinced Clark Kent he would be best serves digging for water in a dying continent, I walked into this one with a fair amount of skepticism. Surprises do happen kids because Jurgens wrote the hell out of this confrontation between Lois Lane and Shazam with the hood on her big mouthed reporter lady ways jeopardizing the illusion that Superman is still in action. Weeks’ pencils are superb as the talk is perfectly counterbalanced with a distress call to fight an old foe that eventually leads to a glorious epiphany.
FUTURES END HARLEY QUINN 1: The brain child of Palmiotti and Conner has been breaking the 4th wall worse than Christopher Walken reading his cue cards in…well everything. Thankfully direct DC deprecation has been outlawed in the future and only good ole’ innuendo remains. After a raucous Castaway spoof complete with her Wilson, our favorite albino sexpot wanders into an Apocolypto Incan tribe. The cover don’t lie folks, she does run into Mr. J. How did he get hisface back? Shut your whore continuity spewing mouth and enjoy the Joe Versus the Volcano themed fun.
FUTURES END BOOSTER GOLD 1: This would have made it higher on the list if this was 1987 and I knew what the hell Booster Gold was up to right now. I read a ton of DC books, because that has always been my deep dive universe. I love Booster of yore and it was that nostalgia that brought me to imbibe his New 52 life. My sentimental tolerance is thin though, and the new JLI fell flat for me and I think readers by its immediate canceling. Anyway…somehow Booster ended up being jettisoned haphazardly across the time stream like Sam from Quantum Leap. 1800’s Gotham, 31st Century Metropolis and Kamandi end days even. Now, the real surprise is good so I won’t ruin it here, but I can’t bump this up on my pecking order. Sloppy art handoff to a cavalcade of contributors and no context of setting or moment before leaves this title low. Jurgens did fine, but when a guy who reads about 48 of the 52 titles each month goes, “huh?” Something is rotten in Denmark’s editorial department.
FUTURES END’S PAST FEW WEEKS
FUTURES END BATMAN 1: Bruce Wayne is crippled and trying to muster up some gene tech that will let him make multiple Batman’s since the Batkids seem to have delivered lowered expectations, or are in hiding like Tim Drake. An odd juxtaposition to the vehement clone hating he’s showing Ra’s over in BATMAN & ROBIN. It’s also odd considering the events of…
FUTURES END BATGIRL 1: Where Babs has actually gathered a trio of Batgirl power including old favorites like Harper Rowe and Stephanie Brown. Gail Simone’s writing simply shined in the beginning of this issue with a wedding day disaster perpetrated by a certain crazy brother that pushes Babs into full-on Bruce Wayne vengeance mode. Her first step is a very clever double agent move where she learned the tricks of bad guys before delivering a final solution. The only times I really bemoaned the books’ choice were when Babs wore the world’s worst Mexican wrestler outfit after Bane training and then the wretched after school special moment where Babs says she never took venom she simply became a roided out freak. I know, drugs are bad hmmmm, kay? But I have to believe if bulking up was the answer to thwarting crime the bat brain trust would have brought more brawn to the table a while ago.
Contemplation of good and evil, light and dark, kindness and Kardashian has fascinated our tiny brains since we first grasped at sentience. A few millennia later, John Carpenter helped shaped these concepts for my generation from the overt presentations of “Halloween” to the more subtle darkness of the soul in directorial efforts like “Starman” (a Douche favorite for a more mature E.T. experience).
If one thing impressed me the most about this first arc of ASYLUM, it can be summed up with the word authenticity. Also, please keep in mind this is one thing in a very long list of accolades that I’ll hit in a few minutes. Celebrity shilled comics are a painful experience for us reviewer types; these projects are usually contrived by some vapid twit who had a Sci-Fi brain fart after snorting their ADHD meds at a party. This then sends their agent scurrying across Hollywood and beyond to build a comic solely in effort of selling their intellectual property into other more lucrative mediums. I will never begrudge a comic making it to big leagues in movie form, but never when that is an end to means situation. ASYLUM is an honest to God comic book and you can feel John Carpenter’s creative blood surging through every panel even though Jones and Manco are at the other end of the marionette strings. ASYLUM basks in the Carpenter staples while giving the creator a new playground in which to delight and horrify his legions of fans.
Not to rob from Peter to pay Paul here, but ASYLUM isn’t Carpenter’s only recent foray into comics. To avoid too much embarrassment, there is another big comic property of Carpenter’s that rhymes with “Swig Rubble from Betty’s Vagina,” about a truck driver in a little…vagina. There wasn’t an ounce of the Carpenter voice in this book, other than the literal rip from the movie in the opening panel. Joy, mystery and a true sense of kitsch that fans of the movie so loved are simply absent and void. My point is, if you want to spend more time with Carpenter don’t be too swayed by marketing budgets and your retailer who ordered too may books. ASYLUM is the Carpenter goods in comic form, so accept no substitutes.
The story is John’s take on the battle of good and evil through the collision of dual protagonists playing the opposites of faith and fact. Even the most jaded will admit to being touched by an angel or some inexplicable miracle even if the touching ended up feeling inappropriate. And even the most faithful will admit that the path does sometimes blur. We’ve all known LA is a cesspool of evil for years, but Carpenter, King, and company, look beyond the surface evils of agents and starlets to expose the actual terror lurking in Tinseltown. Satan.
Beckett, a priest who has seemingly fallen from divinity yet is still the go-to guy for Xtreme exorcisms. Duran is a cop without faith, but simply can’t make sense of the facts before him like angel killers and a growing militia of Satan’s minions ready to nom nom on the Hollywood sign. Together these two not only look to save innocents caught between the evils of man and The Beast, but also find a way to douse some of the darkest corners of their own souls with holy water.
I know on first blush this set-up might seem played out or trite, I’ll fully admit that was my thought as well during the exposition phase of the book. Thing is though, as we get introduced to what each man will do inside the plot, we also learn who they are behind the role and here is where Jones transcends plot with actual human drama driven by dead-on dialog. We see the gray lines of morality as Beckett struggles with his defrocking and carnal wants, as we watch Duran struggle with a high pressure job, extra marital temptations and the obligations every man eventually faces when he is serving in love for others.
As the city burns, the two men discover themselves and the need for their unique duality to help shelter against the storms of destruction, which they quell temporarily, but simmer in the scenes waiting for issue 7.
Four other honorable mentions should also be extended:
The Hobo Oracle of LA is a definite keeper. His salty prognosticating offered some much needed humor.
Beckett’s Yoda, kind of glad he’s dead. While I get the ole’ wily Priest’s mission, we don’t need any Charlies for these angels.
Manco’s art, sweet and tangy Jesus is this stuff beautiful. An Alex Ross darkly who has a better grasp of fluidity.
John Carpenter and Sandy King for making this a truly personalized experience with genuine feelings of gratitude towards the creative team for their hard work. Again, a clear sign that nothing was dialed in on the part of Carpenter for a cash grab. If this series keeps rolling forward as promised, my praise and admiration will only grow.
Love horror, love epic battles, and love John Carpenter? Go love the shit out of ASYLUM.
THE MULTIVERSITY 1
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ivan Reis
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool news)
I have waited five years for MULTIVERSITY. I feel as though my dreams of what this title would be though, are a far cry from what it is in this iteration, but I hold strong promise for what it could become. It’s not that MULTIVERSITY is bad, it’s just starkly reminiscent of this:
An Ode to FINAL CRISIS 1-28-09
God bullets fired from the gun of Kirby shatter the illusions of shackling continuity for a new dawn of infinite confusion.
Darkened calculus suffocates hope; Salvation in face painting gives purpose To elementary school art teachers at last.
Horsedogs ride the night, Their battle armor under a red son,
A crimson beacon to warn the talking kitty cats That cough hair balls of justice.
Boobies and boots, A Marvel versus an El. If only they didn’t fly, Then Jello their battle would be bathed in.
The Rubik’s Cube of discord realigns the trinity And bleeds through the parallel universe lava lamp.
The death of the Bat, Resurrection by a naked aborigine.
The Monitor’s world goes white, All hail the 5th world. I think!?%
My pea size brain can comprehend concepts of math that destroys or grants life. I can also even understand and honestly truly appreciate Sci-Fi Silver Age goodies like spaceships made of frozen music powered by harmonic drives. If this was all the 5th age were, and I still had the option of 52 x 52 Elseworld story writers crafted by more grounded writers, all would be grand.
The 5th age though seems to be the final shattering of the 4th wall. Like the powers wikis and social media gave the common man’s voice on the media waves, MULTIVERSITY is saying WE, you and I, the readers are now literally part of this world beyond just our imaginations.
Why? Kurt Busiek pulled a similar trick recently within the pages of his ASTRO CITY relaunch as well. But Kurt has always played that line, and more broadly not once have his books been heralded as the salvation of an entire comic line. I find it interesting though that this is the evolution towards the definition of our next comic epoch. If you thought the Dark Age of 1986-2000 shattered the illusion of comic hero infallibility, I’ll tell you now the kimono was only open just enough to see the tip folks. MULTIVERSITY says there is no longer any veil, that we are one with fiction.
WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY???????
After reading MULTIVERSITY last night I have since: helped our APAC office build a powerpoint deck for a CIO conference in a few weeks, walked my dog, sang some “once more with feeling” with one of the neighborhood kids while they petted my dog, listened to my Father tell a fascinating story about the hunt for a beaver in their retirement community and finally banged out a review in a meeting where I shouldbe looking at % marks on the screen. I’M NOT IN THE COMIC BOOK. MY LIFE HASN’T CHANGED. LIES!!!!
It’s a cute concept in theory and I’m fine with it being a fun facet for the three year olds clamoring to read Morrison books, but this is the crux of a story that has been touted as salvation twice now. After I saw the grand and glorious multiverse map big bang out of San Diego, I honestly was waiting to see MULTIVERSITY come in and devour the New 52. However, with this clear direction of talking directly to me through the pages, I beg that my predictions never become reality. I don’t understand the shame in simply telling some cool freaking Elseworld stories where Superman is a rabbit or Aquaman has boobs.
The MULTIVERSITY plot is quite simple; this is the forming of JUSTICE LEAGUE E. The Earth 23 Baraqaman, a character named Thunder from Earth 8, a Flash here, and an Aqualady there, you have a team that’s ready to go off and fight the threat of the last Monitor (remember the days of Pre-52 when the Monitors were reborn, then died, but formed 52 worlds, earth, universes that we only saw like three of over the past five years. Sweet Judas’ nuts I just lost my train of thought). These are the story elements I find alluring. I was delighted watching President Supes drive the JLE’s Frozen Music ship to see where a small knowledge of jazz will take them. Hell I even liked Captain Carrot whose universe is all cartoon physics based, and Dino-Cop, the character I’m sure Eric Larsen will file a lawsuit over. I am even on board with the fact that each character is a comic book piece of fiction on the worlds of their fellow team members.
Given this strong foundation, given the fact Elseworld fangeezers like me will buy the 52×52 titles DC can pump out (not even counting the stories that could take place in The Bleed and other ethers of the grand cosmic map), why the sweet hell was there this need to destroy what is supposed to be escapism by drawing us back in?
MULTIVERSITY holds such promise, but this issue promised me last night I would wake up in some grand adventure beyond my imagination and instead I simply woke up to the same grand adventure I live every day. Perhaps I am not seeing the grand plan here, but I also don’t need one if the goddamn story didn’t insist it would be there.
Unless Morrison has a way of unleashing the forces of Brainiac on the world this Christmas, I am casting aside about 15% of MULTIVERSITY 1 from my brain juice because I read comics to escape the doldrums, not be told that my doldrums are going to be saved by a group of heroes we all know will never literally come.
To keep getting my dollars MULTIVERSITY, I need a lot less talking to me and much more Elseworlds entertainment.