Tag Archives: comic books

Zenescope Rides the Twister to OZ

Zenescope OZ coverOZ is one of the most beloved properties in fiction. Its public domain status has also made it a much revered property for reimagining. Now Zenescope is following the yellow brick road infusing their own style of female empowerment for friends of Dorothy everywhere (wait…uhhh…well you know what I mean).

I recently sat down with OZ writer Joe Brusha and artist Anthony Spay to find out why this version of OZ will be worth picking up this July.

Optimous Douche (OD): With all the fantasy worlds at your disposal, what made Zenescope choose OZ as its next playground for modernization?

Joe Brusha (JB) – When we created the Grimm Universe we established early on that there were four realms of power surrounding earth; Neverland, Wonderland, Myst and Oz. We planned to eventually introduce and reinterpret each of these realms to fit into that overall universe. So we’ve been planning to introduce Oz and modernize it for at least three years.

zenescope oz ScarecrowAnthony Spay (AS): There have been references to Oz in Grimm Fairy Tales and other titles as far back as 2009. Zenescope has made a name for itself with the reimagining of some popular fairy tales; but what the casual reader might not realize is that we have been molding these stories and characters into a cohesive, interactive universe- the Grimm Universe. OZ was a natural progression.

Optimous Douche: Will Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man all be present?

JB: All of the familiar characters from the original Oz story everyone knows will be present. Of course they are getting our typical dark and edgy reinvention so they aren’t going to look like, or act like they did in the original stories. I really love the way both the look and personality of the characters turned out for our Oz story and I hope that our readers do too.

AS:  Yes, all of the characters we know and love will be appearing, as well as some incredible new ones.  As for those four main characters, we have definitely put our own spin on the characters. Oz was originally a children’s book, so we had to make them fit in our universe- which can be pretty dark!   At the same time, they will be instantly identifiable, so I think we have struck a good balance. 

Zenescope OZ Tin-Man Optimous Douche: Can you give us one stylistic change for each of the four main characters and mention one of the new characters?

JB:  Dorothy doesn’t look much differently than she does in other versions of Oz. She definitely has more sex appeal but her main changes are in her personality and she’s tougher and scrappier in this version. The lion is much more humanoid and his look was established by a race of characters we’ve already seen in other Grimm stories called the Kavari. They are a tribe of warriors and Oz is their home realm. Anthony designed both the Tin Man and Scarecrow as well as most of the new characters so I’ll let him tell you about them.

Optimous Douche: Zenescope is known for gender switch-ups from the original work, will we see any flip-flops here?

JB: Not in this series. There are basically two reasons we’ve done the gender switches with characters in the past:  The first is that is gives us the ability to feature sexy, badass female characters in our artwork and that seems to appeal to the core demographic of comic book readers. The other reason is that we have a large base of female readers who really seem to identify with the strong female characters we create. So by focusing a lot of our stories on female characters we’re able to satisfy our two main customer bases. We have been introducing more leading male characters into the universe but I think the success of films and books like the Hunger Games and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo shows that you can build successful franchises around strong female protagonists.

AS: No, not in this series. In the case of Robyn Hood and Jungle Book, the stories dictated that we made those changes, as they were written for female leads, and there weren’t all that many female characters to play with in the original works.  Between Dorothy and the various witches, there were plenty of strong women in the previously established lore of OZ.  Somehow, I don’t think the ‘tin woman’ would have fit, haha.

OZ COVEROptimous Douche: The pantheon of OZ history is vast at this point, will this be an origin story where the foursome meet for the first time or some other point before or after?

JB: This is an origin story. In keeping with the idea of reinventing Oz to fit into the Grimm Universe we wanted to start at the beginning and not only introduce these characters to our readers but to each other. This story is a prequel of sorts and takes place in the past mainly so we could do an origin story.

AS:  Yes, this series is actually a prequel to a larger story arc, and details Dorothy’s initial journey through the realm of OZ, and her introduction to all of the other characters.

Optimous Douche: So does Zenescope’s OZ start in Kansas, OZ, or somewhere else entirely?

JB: It starts in Kansas. That was one of the things I wanted to keep the same as in the original story. Dorothy is an average farm girl from the Midwest when the story starts and we see her at home before the events of the story transform her into something much more.

SUPERMAN 14 – SALVATION FOUND IN H’EL

SUPERMAN 14 COVERSUPERMAN 14

Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Kenneth Rocafort
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey ( aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

“You take the old, you take the new, you take them both and you have the glue for Supes’ facts of life, facts of life.”

No, it’s not just my lingering boyhood crush for Lisa Welchel that made this old Alan Thicke ditty pop into my head. After a year of utter confusion for the Man of Steel I think RocLobster has finally been able to find the secret sauce to make SUPERMAN work in the context of the NEW 52. H’EL on earth is not only a great read from a solitary story perspective, but it’s the first true signs of cohesion amongst all DC titles allowing for some true honest-to-God universe building.

I applaud Perez’s and Morrison’s early efforts on both ACTION and SUPERMAN, but they were working under some crazy editorial mandates for Big Blue. I “think” the plan was to have ACTION be the introduction to “Superman” the character, where SUPERMAN the title was supposed to establish the world of Metropolis and all of Clark’s pals. But the “five years before” mandate and no consistent voice for SUPERMAN in any title made for decent solitary issues, but a messershit of confusion for Supes’ place in the DC Universe. I’m not even going to bring JUSTICE LEAGUE into this conversation because that was a whole other grab-bag of Super doldrums for Clark (me blue, me punch, me sulk).

Here’s the thing though, SUPERMAN’S world isn’t that interesting without SUPERMAN. Learning that media outlets are dying and Lois Lane will prostitute her integrity to the first media mogul that comes along will only carry a comic so far. I don’t care about Lois, Jimmy or Perry without Clark, no matter how many Lois-Nazis write me about the importance of Lois Lane in the DC Universe (yes, they exist by thousands, I would be happy to share the hate mail from my SUPERMAN EARTH ONE review).

Now, I was able to follow these stories and confusions because I’m older than Moses’ balls. At 38 I have lived through several iterations of SUPERMAN and read thousands of books that let my feeble mind easily fill in gaping chasms of logic and feeling. New readers had my deepest sympathy and anyone who asked me over the past year, “what book should little Johnny or Sally read if they like SUPERMAN?” immediately received my endorsement for ACTION, and ironically not SUPERMAN. Not because Morrison is a great child writer, but because that was closest to the essence of Supes.

H’EL on earth finally ends the confusion. With this first Super Crossover, RocLobster and the others have been able to bring clarity by not abandoning the past year, but consolidating it quickly and concisely. Yes, Lois is still an integrity whore to the whims of Morgan Edge, but there aren’t entire issues focused to the decline of print media and sacrificing real news for infotainment. Clark recently quit the Daily Planet because of this moral conundrum and all you need to know about this is plain as day in the opening panels of SUPERMAN 14. Lois is trying to bring Clark back into the media fold until their visit is interrupted by the appearance of Supes’ cousin Kara-El. Now, I will say that Clark’s former red-panties getting into a bunch about Lois shacking up with her boy-toy seems out of place since he has shown no romantic interest in Lois up until now (NEW 52 not old continuity), but I’ll let it slide, again because I know this will be an inevitable pairing…perhaps. Also since he’s smooshing face with WONDER WOMAN now, which is wonderfully alluded to in this interchange, I have to wonder why he truly does care. But the super heart wants what it wants I guess. I’ll also say the moment when Kara entered left me conflicted. On one hand it was hilarious. On the other hand, I think Lois has lost her nose for news immediately assuming the woman standing before her is a Cosplayer instead of the exact replica of the chick who’s been tossing tanks on the news. Considering this a fan-boy nit though, and a bygone since it was executed so damn well.

I had an issue with the heavy BOX OUT bubbles in SUPERMAN 13. What has worked so well in RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS felt like lazy exposition to me in the context of SUPERMAN. That’s corrected as well this issue, with only a few scant thought bubbles to draw new readers into the crossover.

The rest of the issue plays out as a knockdown drag-out between this new third Kryptonian, H’EL, and Supes. Kara sits on the fence, still not loving Earth, but certainly not feeling the disdain H’EL does. In very Zod like fashion, H’El, a former disciple of Jor-El and one of Krypton’s first astronauts (that’s how he got to Earth), thinks anyone from Krypton should be in charge of Earth and also has a real disdain for the hybrid clone SUPERBOY. It was actually kind of fun to see SUPERBOY tossed around like a Ritalin baby’s Stretch Armstrong. Apparently, like in the Star Wars universe, Clones only spell bad news and caused a lot of trouble in Krypton’s distant past.

The family dynamic between Kal and Kara is all New 52 while still holding on to ghosts of the past. It’s refreshing to see this commitment to what worked before and not abandoning it. Kara has to grapple with her younger cousin now being older and not remembering Krypton. While Kal must try to babysit a superbrat to ensure she doesn’t cause bad PR for Kryptonians everywhere.

No idea where this series is going to end up and frankly I don’t care. For one reason, I really like surprises. The other reason being I already have Tweeted confirmation from Scott Snyder that his run starting in January will take the series in a new direction. I will also give leeway to any book Rocafort draws. His abandonment for traditional panels and flair for cinematic moments are bar none. He makes the books move even if you don’t read one word bubble.

H’EL on Earth is exactly what the doctor ordered to redeem the Man of Steel, bind the DC universe together, and whet appetites for the when the new DC Golden Boy takes the reigns next month.

HARBINGER 6 Review – Valiant Makes Muties Really Real

HARBINGER 6 COVER & REVIEWHARBINGER 6

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Phil Briones
Publisher: Valiant
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I consider it my personal mission to herald the virtues of great comics to the masses. While I like to spread this love across the entire industry, lately I can’t keep my eyes off Valiant. Their realistic, no bull-shit approach to the fantastical is almost impossible to emulate while wearing spandex and capes. Hey, I understand gritty realism isn’t for everybody; and even I with all my dark cynicism need my escapist dose of poses and dialog bubbles that are decrees instead of conversations, but Valiant cracks a nut that no “Reboot” or “ReNow” will ever be available to achieve simply by virtue of who they are.

I was all set to extol the virtues of X-O MANOWAR this week, and while this ancient Norseman in futuristic battle armor is a great read, X-O is mid-story right now. HARBINGER, the Valiant answer to the X-MEN starts a new arc this issue and with it Dysart reveals yet another layer to a book that was already several stratums deep. Basically, if you’re a fan of old Valiant you’re a fucking idiot for not imbibing Valiant 2.0. If you are too young to remember old Valiant or still don’t know a Shadowman from Dayman, I hope the following will entreat you to learn more.

HARBINGER is the new term for the age old problem of muties, mutates, freaks, basically the next generation of humanity that can control the world instead of being hapless victims to circumstance like all of us poor old Homo Sapiens. What’s different with HARBINGER is that it takes a pragmatic approach to this problem as the real world dictates, avoiding the exercise of making the real world transform to fit the narrative.

The bad guy in HARBINGER, Toyo Harada, was the first of this next gen. An early baby-boomer caught near grand zero when America ended WWII in a flash of light. He is also one of the most powerful of this next generation; he can manipulate minds on a global scale, transform reality, and activate anyone who is latently carrying the HARBINGER gene. All of these issues have been explored before in comics, but never with this stark level of realism. Instead of donning a cape and hat, getting five mutants together, and then destroying some high-profile target, Harada realized that power simply was not enough. In this complex age, he who has the money writes the rules. One can use far less power to control much more if they have a solid infrastructure in place before begin their power play. To that end Harada spends the better part of the 20th century using his power to build a global conglomerate before moving into his end-game of check mate.

The flip-side of Harada is Pete Stancheck, a young man on the same power scale as Harada with a millionth of the ambition. In fact, Stancheck is more afraid of his abilities than ready to embrace them. Rightly so, as a member of the “better parenting through pills” generation, Pete grew up believing that it wasn’t the blessing of power he carried, but rather the curse of insanity. Once Harada took notice of Peter in the early issues of HARBINGER, we begin to see the man Peter might become, but the journey will be long. As a member of Harada’s HARBINGER Foundation, Pete quickly realizes Harada’s power play and makes a hasty exit for freedom. Peter was greatly helped in this decision when he uncovered last issue that his insane friend, Joe, who Harada swore to protect, was merely a pawn in keeping Pete under control.

That’s things in a nutshell; all good stuff…but what makes it truly great? This is where we get into the infinite layers that clearly show Dysart has a clear plan instead of just throwing random superhero tropes onto the page.

Harada is more than a man of power; he is the embodiment of the at death’s doorstep Baby-Boomer generation.  A generation that was able to ride the spoils their parents fought so hard for and lived a life of relative ease as a result. Alan Greenspan said thirty years ago that the next generation will not do as well as the Baby-Boomers. We all laughed at the time, but as the current state of the economy shows, where raises are a gift instead of an expectation, the legacy of the boomers could very well be a bust. Yes, this is part of the “stuff” of HARBINGER (not the Greenspan thing, that’s my value-add), Harada can slow the decay of time, but not stop it. And he is damned and determined to leave his final mark on the world.

A generation ago, when Gen X was far from middle-age, the kids who we are learning will be the renegade HARBINGERS (off Harada’s reservation), came together in a very different way by virtue of the time period. Twenty years ago life was much simpler, a tradesman could practice their craft and thrive, there was a freedom and prosperity when my generation was leaving High School and College that simply isn’t real anymore. Back then the HARBINGERS came together through happenstance as they all were searching for the adults they would one day become. The powers basically were secondary…at first In today’s world of heavy processes, and need for predictive ROI, very few young people hit the road searching for themselves.

We can also attribute this lack of generational courage to helicopter parenting that does nothing to prepare kids for tomorrow and keeps them in Mom and Dad’s basement until their first prostate exam. Fellow renegade HARBINGER, the fabulously floating Zephyr is a prime example of this new molly coddling. She’s fat, she knows she’s fat, yet she embodies her Christian name of Faith at every turn. Twenty years ago, Faith was a big fat mess mentally, even though she tried to keep a firm upper lip. Now, she’s part of the home schooled generation that as soon as the going got tough the less than tough turned to Mom to become their HS principal. Now Dysart doesn’t specifically state Faith is home schooled, but by her Golden Retriever levels of trust in humanity, it’s clear she was sheltered versus Mooed at in the hallways of public High School. Don’t get me wrong I love Zephyr, a character that simply floats instead of flies are the deconstructions comic fans live for.

Finally rounding out the new renegade HARBINGERS is Kris, the young lady who Pete has imprinted on as his life mate. With Kris you see the starkest differences between Valiant 1.0 & 2.0.  A generation ago these two were truly in love and Kris came with Pete willingly on his adventure of overthrowing Harada. In the 2.0 world, Kris and Pete only dated a few times, he thought more of it then she did, and in the first few issues he mind rapes her into loving him. Powerful stuff. Even more powerful was when he let her go, when he though the HARBINGER foundation was serving the greater good. Even powerfuller is the full circle this issue takes to bring Kris back into Pete’s arms and her altruism in taking on the babysitting of a living God.

I could continue to ferret out the details of HARBINGER; discussing in depth how each conversation has emotional resonance, how Briones’ art perfectly captures the moody scenes as well as the action with equal aplomb, but… wouldn’t you rather just read the book? Please say yes, my fingers are tired and I really want to get back to reading more Valiant books.

THE STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS – An Anything But Stereotypical Comic

stereotypical freaks coverTHE STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS

Writer: Howard Shapiro
Artist: Joe Pekar
Publisher: Animal Media Group
Reviewer: Rob Patey (A.K.A. Optimous Douche, Ain’t It Cool News)

THE STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS is ironically anything but a stereotypical comic and the four protagonists are anything but freaks. However, as we mature within the meat grinder that is the public High School education system, at one time even the most glorious and grand of us are made to feel like a freak. Being ostracized is part of the American maturation process, but so is the inevitable finding of self and then eventually kindred souls. Howard Shapiro has deftly put this maturation process on paper in the STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS without it ever feeling forced or rushing the point.

Music is at the theme for this tale of four High School students coming together to WOW the world in a  Battle of the Bands contest, but the soul of the book lies firmly embedded in the seemingly unnatural rapid maturation that we’re all forced into during our Senior year of High School.  Tom, Dan, Jacobey and Mark are all about to make their way into the world and what struck me most about the introduction to these four students, was that despite their differences, Shapiro didn’t need to go blue with any of their personalities. Yes one is a brain, one is a jock, one a bit lazy, and the other a bit weird, but not one of them is a bad kid. Nowhere are we faced with the trite attributes found in most youth culture fiction. No teen pregnancy, no drug abuse, none of the sensationalism that permeates media headlines. Were we to rely on the media, we would think all youth is damned and so is society. That’s simply not the case. As college admissions continue to skyrocket each year I think the STEREOTYPICAL FREAKS are more common than the little shits CNN uses to grab headlines.

And don’t think being good equates to vanilla. It’s that kind of thinking that perpetuates reality TV and makes little fuck bags like Honey Boo Boo and her “clan of the damned” TV sensations. Tom our lead protagonist pines for the girl of his dreams while trying to keep his 4.0 grade point average up. His doughy friend Dan simply wants to establish a relationship with is distant father. Mark, a former friend of Tom’s until Junior High stratified the jocks from the brains is doing his damndest to get a Football scholarship to college. And finally Jacobey is a new foreign exchange student who is simply trying to find a friend.

While music brings the boys together, the book is much more than the harmony they find to win the battle of the bands. Like music, the song of life has many different parts.  It requires those with a steady tempo, those who with a chaotic melody to share and finally those who sadly deliver the sweet, trialing, away finale to the song. Shapiro misses none of these essential beats.

The art is indie fair. That’s not a bad thing, but don’t come into FREAKS looking for big splash pages or hyper-detailed work. WALKING DEAD has proved B&W is alive and well, but the lack of inking in FREAKS did leave the art feeling flatter than the shuffling undead. Again, I get it. In the indie game, especially with a book as long as FREAKS, sacrifices must be made so the book can be done in a somewhat timely manner. Artist Pekar does a serviceable job with the straight pencil work, but even here I saw some definite areas were fine tuning could help him grow, interactions with environments and between characters is harsh. The world doesn’t mesh together – it’s a meeting of lines instead of a melding. The panel flow is spot on and tells a cohesive narrative, but sadly it’s uninteresting. I saw some definite areas where a slight shift of point of view in a scene would have helped the talking head scenes move much faster.

I enjoyed this tale of ordinary kids faced with the beginning, and in one instance the end of life, mainly because it wasn’t afraid to be real. This is a deeply personal work, from the Arena and Prog rock suggestions to accompany each chapter, to the voluminous dedication roster at the beginning of the book Shapiro gave his all to this tale. At the end of the day, even if a book has flaws, true dedication and heart will prevail.

Phonographics Radio – Darth Disney, Hurricane Sandy, and Blackacution

Phonographics Party 93.4

Phonographics Party 93.4

A big thank you to the cats of Phonographics and Party 93.4 for letting me spew comics and geek culture once again.

The November 3rd show was devoted to the joyous announcement that Mickey Mouse will keep George Lucas from ever making another Star Wars film, how much we hate George Lucas for destroying our childhood with the prequels, and why the hell do all black superheroes need to have fucking electrical powers. Thanks for keeping the stereotype alive Jamie Foxx and Spiderman.

Phono_Graphics_November_3_2012 Listen Now

X-O MANOWAR: BIRTH HC TPB 5-7-08

X-O Manowar BirthX-O MANOWAR: BIRTH
Writers: Jim Shooter & Bob Layton
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Joe Quesada
Publisher: Valiant
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka  Optimous Douche - Ain’t It Cool News)

Most comic book aficionados will agree that the early 90s was a veritable shit storm of bad ideas. Countless polybags, card inserts, multiple covers, nonsensical crossovers and issues with sub par material virtually collapsed the entire industry.

Then there was Valiant.

While the major houses were focused on increasing sales volume and Image was launching the age of anatomical monstrosities, Jim Shooter and company were laying the foundation for one of the most complex, intricate and well crafted universes to ever grace the stands of local comic shops.

Valiant hooked me from the very beginning. Being a mild obsessive compulsive it wasn’t the individual resurrected Gold Key titles like X-O, HARBINGER, SOLAR, ETERNAL WARRIOR and ARCHER & ARMSTRONG that intrigued me. Don’t get me wrong: the dialogue was sharp and witty, and the rendered realism of the characters was a refreshing departure from “the beautiful people, the beautiful people” that were being sketched in other comic books, but it was the continuity.

This universe was tighter than a nun’s vagina, and for a universe that covered all of human history from the beginning of civilization to the far distant future, this cross pollination of content was no easy task.

The first six issues of X-O MANOWAR, which can be found in this beautifully reprinted hardcover (along with a few other goodies) are a perfect example of this meticulous attention to a detailed universe and “ahead of its time” storytelling.

X-O kicks off seamlessly from the pages of its sister title SOLAR. Aric the barbarian is a man unstuck in time, cryogenically frozen for 1600 years and resurrected in the early 1990s. He awakens aboard a ship of spider-alien invaders; with the help of a mysterious cell mate and a diversion by Solar, he finds a way to abscond with the spiders’ most advanced version of X-O Armor, the Manowar class. This “good skin”, as Aric calls it, his barbaric mind only able to relate a technologically advanced war suit with a bear pelt, allows him to escape from the invader’s ship and lands him on a planet Earth very different than the world he once remembered. This is the “what”, the “how” is a story unto itself.

I mentioned earlier, during my schoolgirl adoration of Valiant’s continuity, that the actual storytelling was a feat unto it self and truly ahead of its time. From characterization to the actual dialogue, the foundation laid down by the team at Valiant resonates even today; in fact, I often wonder if today’s superstars could be telling their stories in the fashion they are without these books paving the way.

It seems today that a piece can’t be socially relevant or accepted without the insertion of a token homosexual character. Well before “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” made fat mid-western hausfraus accept the gay culture, Valiant took the bold steps to make a gay character a pivotal focal point of the X-O story with Aric’s right hand man Ken. However, unlike Marvel with Northstar, Valiant didn’t turn this into a media event, nor did they feel the need to let Ken’s sexuality define the character. At his core this human turncoat in the spider-alien organization is an opportunist, only taking sides with Aric once he realizes that this barbarian is going to lay waste to the entire spider-alien organization. It’s easy for a writer to craft stereotypes, but instead of having Ken sachet across the panels humming show tunes, they made him into a real character complete with foibles and other personality traits apart from his sexuality. This was damn brave way back in 1992.

I will admit that Valiant’s art is not to the liking of everyone, especially to those that weaned themselves from their mother’s teat to the sour milk found in the breast of early 90s Image. I liken what Valiant brought to the table to the renderings of Frank and Quitely. Nothing was hyper-stylized, everything felt real. Valiant valiantly portrayed characters’ flaws and wasn’t afraid to show the weathering that Father Time inflicts on all of us.

In addition to chronicling issues 0-6 of the original X-O series, updating the colors and laying out the book on today’s high gloss paper as opposed to the toilet paper of yore, Layton completes this saga with a brand new prequel tale showcasing the rise of the Spider-aliens, leader, Lydia. This is a nice denouement, but it’s also a bit of tease.

I’m thrilled that Valiant is reissuing and enhancing all of their old titles in hardcover. I offer two suggestions, guys: go ahead and skip the deluxe edition of H.A.R.D.corps, but seriously consider a reprint of UNITY. I would also be ecstatic if you could once again resurrect these characters with new ground breaking stories.

In the tarnished crown of early 90s comics, Valiant was the jewel that sparkled with the beacon of promise that comics could still be great.


1985 #2 Review 6/25/08

1985 #2 Cover

THE VIEW FROM 2012

I was an idiot, the characters weren’t the product of a rotten mind. The Marvel Universe spilled into our world and it was fucking amazing. Millar wins again!!!!

1985 #2
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Tommy Lee EdwardsPublisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche)

We live in a spoiler age. Internet leaks, bit torrents and well hell, Ain’t It Cool News, provide all the details of any story months before the actual material is released. I’m sure most of you reading this review already know how 1985 is going to end and the repercussions it will/won’t have on the Marvel universe. I feel sorry for you. The true thrill of 1985 is not having the faintest clue of what’s going to happen next, or quite frankly, what’s actually happening at the moment.

Set back in a simpler time when Republicans could out themselves in public and gays couldn’t, Millar’s latest “high concept” (I don’t know I heard the term once, I like it) immerses you in a state of non-reality, asking the reader to question whether they are trapped within a young man’s imagination or whether the greatest heroes and villains of the Marvel universe are converging on a small town in Nowhere America.

In addition to enjoying the book’s “mystery”, I’m also enamored with how easily I could relate to the main character. Toby, like most of Millar’s protagonists, comes from a broken home and is an only child. He spends all of his time reading comic books and looking for an escape from his mundane existence. Hell, not only could I relate to this story, if you got rid of the broken home and threw in a few DC titles to Toby’s pull list this could have been an episode of “Optimous Douche, This is Your Life.” Now, where Toby differs from the leads of WANTED and KICK-ASS is that he’s a believable kid. Not being thrust into an international assassin guild, or eating a retard sandwich, buying a wet suit, and fighting crime, Toby remains an average kid that is witnessing some extraordinary shit…perhaps.

The real question for readers at the end of issue two is whether the events Toby is witnessing are real or mere figments of an overactive imagination. Juggurnaut and Hulk Indian wrestle, Dr. Doom sets up camp in the middle of Nowhere America and now Elektro is on the scene. There would have to be some serious happenings for characters with this level of gravitas to converge in one place, but right now the encounters lack a compelling event to tie everything together. Instead, every battle is just a series of random comic panels brought to life. Whatever the ultimate answer is, I hope it’s not as simple as the Newhart dream sequence and Millar astounds us with a Hitchcock type twist that is neither simple nor easy.

In fact, Millar’s going to have to astound us with the overarching concept, because from a dialogue and art perspective this title teeters on just being average, hardly worth the extra dollar for admission. I was tepid towards Edwards’ imagery. It works on a representative level if we are in fact wandering through a teen’s imagination. While the various characters’ facial expressions are top notch, the dewy scenes seem to be lazy if the events are actually happening.

All in all, this series could achieve greatness if there are surprises around the corner.

THE VIEW FROM 2012

I was an idiot, the characters weren’t the product of a rotten mind. The Marvel Universe spilled into our world and it was fucking amazing. Millar wins again!!!!