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SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION 1 REVIEW – Not Just for Kids

Scribblenauts_Unmasked_1SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION 1
Writer: Josh Elder
Artist: Adam Archer
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News) 

I’ll be honest; I was ready to move right past this seemingly legoized version of the DC universe when it arrived in last weeks’ packet. I love Scribblenauts on my 3DS and I love DC. I also love peanut butter and pubes, but some things are simply best left separate, right? WRONG, because SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED is seriously awesome. Funny, fast paced and the sharpest lampoon of all things DC since Ambush Bug (the character, not the Ain’t It Cool editor).

Seriously, just forget the whole Scribblenaut connection all together. It comprises about only 30% of this book and it looks like this pattern will hold for the series to come. Yeah, Maxwell and his bitch ass notebook are the protagonist, but with each Scribble comes another harpoon at DC that are so Pixar nuanced and layered, parent and child will both laugh in glorious unison.

Issue one sets its scathing sites on Gotham, but not before starting the adventure in a place without place, the House of Mystery. Here, the Phantom Stranger gets tongue razzled by Madame Xanadu as she tells the Phantom he needs to go use his power of passiveness on Earth i (for imagination – if you get that, then you get the morality lesson this book delivers) to drive the Scribs to help the potato tot knight. This would be Crisis part, to stop the evil a’ brewin across all Earth i.

Once in Gotham the scribble trappings all end and Elder gets to have some real fun using his rapier wit on the entire Bat family and all of the big baddies they often battle. No one goes unscathed, not even my favorite bat character the bovinely delicious Bat-Cow. Special shout out to Optimous Superfan, Carlos Reyes, for alerting me the presence of the cloven hoofed one by posting a PR panel on the Fans of Bat-Cow group I admin on Facebook. Without him enticing my lizard brain allure for the beast I would have missed the other 99% of goodness inside.

This is a short review, because well frankly this is a short book, as it should be. We need books like SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED to ensure there will still be sequential art and word stories in the year 2030. There are a ton of kids’ comic books out there, and for some inexplicable reason people have asked me to review a lot of them. I turn down many because I believe comics are the original lapware for the whole family to enjoy, sadly so many books pander and any enjoyment is only had by the publisher who laughs their way to the bank. SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED makes the cut and is close to the top of my child approved comics…Optimous Douche’s Child Approved comics…just want to make that clear before any of you decide to abandon parental responsibilities.

FINAL CRISIS: MOAN OF ARC

The view from 2012: I was right – BOOYA!

FINAL CRISIS: MOAN OF ARC

By Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)

FINAL CRISIS is inflaming the ire of comic fans from both the pro and con sides of the fence. The pro side bandies about phrases like “you just don’t get it” or “viva la Kirby.” Conversely the people that are less enamored with this title incessantly whine about inaccessibility, lack of action and how hard it is being a stupid comic fan when trying to digest the genius of Morrison. However one resounding comment that seems to unite these battling voices is “It’s Grant Morrison, it will pay off in the end.”

Perhaps this is true. Perhaps issue seven will serve as the series’ Rosetta Stone, clearing all confusion and allowing us to traverse the earlier issues of the series with more clarity and thus far more appreciation for what was once underappreciated or completely unappreciated. But is this the way things should be? Should all series be critiqued with the sum outweighing the parts? As reviewers should we wait until the end of a series before passing absolute judgment? Well, as a reviewer I will emphatically say, “Absofuckinglutely not!” And here’s why…

Final Crisis 4First there is the simple element of good storytelling. All stories should have a beginning, middle and an end, or if we want to get all highfalutin they should follow Freytag’s Pyramid of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement  Unfortunately in our new world of writing for Trade Paper Backs we are treated to several issues of exposition, one issue of rising action, a few issue of climax, one-and-a-half issues of falling action and a page or two of denouement  This is all well and good when reading the TPB version of a series, but it’s hard to argue that the monthlies become a wasteland of simple incomplete story telling. There is a distinct difference between a cliffhanger and outright poor construction of a tale. By allowing this to happen it is essentially telling the monthly reader to take a flying fuck and just read everything nine, ten, eleven or fifty weeks after it has been released.

There was a time when comics were cheaper, yet seemed to offer more bang for the buck. I’m not pining for this forgotten era because it occurred well before Optimous sprung from his Mother’s loins. During this Paleolithic era, giant-size comic issues walked the earth and for a quarter or less you received not only a complete story, but at times two or three complete stories. Hell, even in today’s diminishing paged comics, some creators are able to offer a complete story in each issue of a series while still enticing the reader with cliffhangers. In my @$$holey opinion these are the singular issues that should be adorned with praise. And yes, we should hold incomplete and incomprehensible single issues accountable for their lackluster performance despite their cohesion when all is said and done. Until the day comes when we start paying a cut price for incomplete single issues, I will hold each 3, 4, or 5 dollar purchase accountable on its own merit. For as long as monthlies are distributed as fans we should expect, no, strike that, we should demand no less.

FINAL CRISIS COVERI’m not trying to make Morrison the poster boy for my rage, because there are certainly other creators guilty of dribbling out storylines like a clogged faucet. No, I think the blame falls squarely on the double dipping nature of comic publishers. Do we end the monthly? Perhaps, but it would be a damn shame to punish the writers that can still work within the monthly publishing model. Plus, ending monthlies at this time would cause a financial draught that I think few publishers could weather until they have enough of a backlog to churn out Trades at an equal rate. What I propose is a return to the now fossilized giant size issues. I would have loved to see FINAL CRISIS or 1985 come out as two giant sized issues rather than a seven month string along. As a reviewer I would also have been far more kind to a single king-size issue that compiles the exposition, rising action and first part of the climax in one tidy tome, rather than getting cock teased month after month.

GREEN LANTERN #34 9-4-08

Green Lantern 34GREEN LANTERN #34
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Publisher: DC Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche

Bromance, man-love, unrequited hairy nipple passion; there have been a slew of terms conjured up over the past few years to help an overarching homophobic society develop a level of comfort for the affection between two men. In the opening pages of this latest foray into the genesis of Earth’s original GREEN LANTERN (no, I don’t consider Alan Scott a Green Lantern) writer extraordinaire Geoff Johns boils down the relationship between Hal Jordan and Sinestro into one simple term that we don’t hear too often anymore: respect.

The friendship once shared by these two has become the stuff of legend over the past forty some odd years. Through a multitude of intergalactic battles and epic douchebaggery on the part of the great magenta one, it’s easy for us all to forget (especially younger readers) that these two were once fighting for the same side. While both acting in the purest sense of their mandated mission by the galactic guardians, it was never the “what” that drove a wedge between them, but rather the “how”.

One of the over arching challenges of doing a prequel is the fact that everyone knows how the story is going to end. The trick is to make the journey enticing by providing unknown nuggets in an entertaining and enlightening fashion. Lucas missed the mark with the last three (or I should say first three) “Star Wars” movies, for example. Johns avoids these trappings by delicately unfolding the Blackest Night prophecy and gently interspersing the feelings of these two emerald juggernauts towards one another and the galactic guardians. This delicate blend of the old and the new satiates even those overflowing with knowledge about all things Emerald, while also providing a damn nice entrance for those that could not tell an Abin Sur from an @$$hole TalkBacker.

What set this issue apart from the rest of the story arc is that Johns is truly starting to embark into new territory despite the fact we’ve all been here before. There is only so much you can do with Hal Jordan’s early years, the man is who he is and the circumstances that made him so are not to be trifled with. His Dad can only die one way if he is going to traverse the rest of his heroic destiny. Johns did an admirable job updating these events with modern sensibilities and his own spot-on interpretation of characterization, but aside from a few nuggets about “the prophecy” (oh the delectable prophecy), much of the material was old hat.

This issue not only tugs at the heart strings, as we see a friendship and a romance (not with Sinestro) form that we know is ultimately doomed, but Johns in usual style delivers a blindsiding donkey punch of action to boot. You want inventive ring wielding? You got it, as Hal for the first time realizes the full potential of not only his ring, but also the man that wields it. Yes, Sinestro is still a condescending prick, but he’s a prick that hasn’t lost his…well, his humanity for lack of a better word. There is a genuine affection for Jordan as Sinesto views a piece of himself in the neophyte ring wielder. Also for the first time in his life Sinestro is plagued with doubt at his own abilities as he sees Jordan overcome that which no other Lantern has ever been able to surmount, the dread color yellow.

This is the first issue where the prophecy became secondary for me and I just wanted to see more of Hal and Sinestro. Ahh well, there will be an issue 35 in four short weeks, where I am most thankful that Guy Gardner is not in the picture yet, because if anyone would drop the term bromance it would be him.

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!!!!

COMBAT JACKS 1 – MAKES ME HATE HALLOWEEN COMICS MUCH LESS

COMBAT JACKS COVERCOMBAT JACKS 1
Writer: Mark McKenna
Artist: Jason Baroody
Publisher: Banana Tale Press
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

Outside of giving women free reign to dress whorey, I hate Halloween. I abhor being scared and freeloaders – which really only leaves drinking pumpkin ale, but I can do that without a costume. However, based on the billions of dollars this day brings in, and the national fervor that stops me from being able to call a meeting at work past 1:30, I know how alone I am in my feelings.

Comic homages to this day riddle the shelves and in most cases 99% of them make me moan like a ghost that gets thrown in the dryer. This has nothing to do with my specific feelings on Halloween, my vitriol spews forth because it gives great creators a free pass to dial in pun filled, wafer thin, one-shots that have no consequence and usually end with some ultra cheesy breaking of the 4th wall. But my job is to review comics, and just because the theme of October makes me quake with anger being a douche does not make me irresponsible.

Thank God for COMBAT JACKS.

While the rest of the comic world conjures the same old tropes, COMBAT JACKS takes one of the most unique and dare I say downright gorgeous homages to all hallows eve I have ever come across.

Part Sci-Fi, part horror, and again insanely gorgeous, COMBAT JACKS is a welcome respite for those that could care less about things that go bump in the night. Now, when I say part Sci-fi that’s a bit of a misnomer, I think my high tolerance for COMBAT JACKS is the fact it’s 99% Sci-fi and 1% steeped in the theme of the month.

Two hundred years in the future we have trashed the shit out of Mother Gaia. Fortunately as earth gasps its last breath, Big Daddy Sol was able to capture in its gravitational pull a new planet, Maia. Maia isn’t only ready for life; it came ripe and ready with a breathable atmosphere and soil ready for cultivation.

HALLOWEEN BEGGARS BANK BAILOUT

In pure science fiction form, McKenna makes insanely more sense than any current politician. Instead of giving prisoners cable TV and bleeding the national tax dollars, McKenna puts these miscreants to work on Maia rebuilding a habitable landscape for humans. Everything seems to be going fine and dandy, until the workers stop shooting communique signals to Earth.

Enter the space marines, a rag-tag group of guys and gals sent to ascertain exactly what the fuck is going down on Maia.

To say more would ruin the rest of this book, the surprise ending and yes the very clever tie-in to the Holiday I hate so much. I will say though, the tie-in is anything but cheesy and I applaud Baroody once again for bringing some real life comic players to life within the ending pages of COMBAT JACKS.

McKenna is a long standing force in comics; his inking skills are bar none as exhibited by his pantheon of work at DC over the past two decades. The Banana Tale brand started as his homage to a story he once told his children, I’m glad to see it expand beyond kiddie fair and can’t wait for the next book that speaks to a theme I actually enjoy. Because even though I hate Halloween, I really enjoyed COMBAT JACKS.

I, VAMPIRE 0 Review – Predictable, But Doesn’t Suck

I, VAMPIRE 0 REVIEWI, VAMPIRE 0
Writer: Joshua Fialkov
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
As we reach the end of zero month, or as some have dubbed it “New 52 Course Correction,” two clear categories of books have arisen: there’s definitive prequels and what I have cynically dubbed issues 13.

My mortal perception of linear time made it hard to grapple with the fact not all zeroes must precede the events of issue one. I hit some books with reviewer abuse because of this prejudice. But as we now reach the end of this event, I had an epiphany or moment of forgiveness to see the merits in both approaches in moving the New DCU into Year 2. Which is honestly all DC ever promised, prequel was a badge stitched on by fans.

Or at least I did before reading I, VAMPIRE…

I, VAMPIRE is a case where I really wanted to see an issue 13, but instead clearly fits into the prequel category of my zero month taxonomy. Make no mistake, Fialkov and Sorrentino deliver the goods in this story of Andrew Bennett before he became the world’s nicest vampire, but I don’t know if I discovered enough surprises to say I absolutely needed this story.

In a time when manly men could wear lace and women were still wenches, Lord Bennett lives in the shadows of a love that must not be named. No, not bestiality. Well…maybe bestiality if you consider banging the help the same as schtooping a Golden retriever. I know some blue bloods do, so I won’t judge.

That’s right folks, the blood lust Mary, who is soooo superior with her belief that vampires are a leg up on humanity was once a common little cinder girl and Andrew her Lord in waiting. Mary and Andrew’s love has been forever doomed, which has been one of the most compelling elements of this series to date. In modern times it is ideology that separates them, while in this time of yore it was class.

I guess my beef with this zero offering (if you can call it that), is that I kind of guessed what was going to happen. Once I realized we were in elder days, when Bennett rode into the night to get some Mary play in a stable or broom closet (wherever you go to bang the help), I wasn’t exactly shocked to see his run-in with Cain, his maker and the original vampire.

Mary is basically a non-entity in this issue, which is a shame. I have found her to be a compelling antagonist and would have liked some of her life thoughts before she entered the unlife.

Again, Fialkov made the verbal parle engaging. Bennett never cowers, and Cain shows admiration for Bennett’s courage, much the same way I find it cute when our live lobsters try to escape the sink. And Sorrentino, good-God can Sorrentino draw. His talent has been one of the biggest surprises of the New 52, and I can’t wait to see more work thrown his way.