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SANDMAN OVERTURE 1 REVIEW – “Endless” Possibilities

sandman overture 1 coverSANDMAN OVERTURE #1
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Art: JH Williams III
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I came into Gaiman’s brain child completely ass backwards through all the spin-off titles like DEATH, LUCIFER and even Jill Thompson’s adorably macabre THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK before I ever read SANDMAN proper. When the book came out I was in high school and my comics needed to reflect my real life desires like weed, girls and driving fast–thank you, Marvel and Image. That switch of soulfulness, the desire to peel back the universe and dissect all of its icky intricacies, still hadn’t matured in my brain. You need that, let’s call it self-actualization, to truly understand all the subtle layers of SANDMAN. Gaiman’s personification of humanity’s drives and desires caressing the main DC universe is a wonder to behold. If you get it, SANDMAN not only makes us think about our existence, but it also forces our favorite heroes to do likewise.

I’ve since rectified my mistake. I’m three volumes into SANDMAN right now and I’m balls deep with the third volume because I’m reading the over-sized annotated edition. SANDMAN OVERTURE, though, welcomes you whether you’ve read any of the prior iterations. This new volume gives you all of the required information if the Endless have never been in your comics repertoire, while at the same time welcoming back old readers with a marvelous facelift.

Where has Sandman been since we’ve last seen him? It thankfully doesn’t matter, meaning the past volumes still awaiting me are a surprise in the making. Actually, the first part of the book doesn’t even focus on our Sandman, but a piece of sentient flora bearing a strange black and white resemblance to our sleepy anti-hero. This lone plant burns inside The Dream, becoming no more and obliterating the prospect of dream for all denizens of this strange world.

That’s right–our Endless don’t control the fates and machinations of existence for all planets. Instead, each self-aware species in the galaxy has their own version of the Endless to keep them company at night, during death and to guide them on their course through destiny. This first chapter ends in sorts where it began, with a convening of all Sandmen, Sandplants and Sandgiants trying to suss out the fate of their fallen brother.

We get hints and inklings throughout the book on where the arc is headed, like a newly redesigned Death – now more Victorian than Marilyn Manson. Her goal is to give her brother Sandman his final fate, if only he weren’t being transported willy-nilly across the galaxy and planes of existence. Her tete-a-tete with Destiny is charming and apropos to highlight her casualness and his constant lamenting of inaction. After all, if destiny just is, then Destiny will be just is as well.

The Corinthian has also made a comeback. His ocular cavities are still chompers and he continues to defy his dream state to bring murder to the real world. Again, though, Sandman is transported away before he can undo what he has wrought upon the world.

In my way-back travels of SANDMAN, I’m only as far as Sam Keith’s work. I didn’t think another artist could tackle this book, especially not one as polished as Williams. I was wrong. Every page of this book is a pinup waiting to adorn your walls. From the subtle moments with The Corinthian to the grandeur of the cosmos and beyond, Williams simply outdid himself upon on every page. Gaiman is a man of many words, yet somehow Williams found a way to let every page breathe through the abandonment of confining panels and other comic conventions.

My words can’t do this book justice. For every moment I anemically truncate, Gaiman expounds with a poetic air. Destiny doesn’t simply introduce himself; he uses the page to convey the pain of his all-knowing yet do nothing existence. The death of flora Sandman is tragic and sublime, and again only takes up one page. Every page of SANDMAN OVERTURE is as haunting as it is engaging – exactly what one would expect from a dream of a comic.

UNWRITTEN: TOMMY TAYLOR & THE SHIP THAT SANK TWICE OGN REVIEW

UNWRITTEN TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE SHIP THAT SANK TWICE COVERUNWRITTEN: TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE SHIP THAT SANK TWICE OGN
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross, Kyle Higgens
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka: Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

If you’ve been following UNWRITTEN, the book whose veneer shines of pastiches that range from Harry Potter to the Books of Magic, you must buy this original graphic novel. Not only is it gorgeously crafted with its hardbound cover and high-gloss paper, this is essentially the Rosetta Stone to the mystery of how Tom and Tommy Taylor came to be. It’s the insight into their father, Wilson UNWRITTEN fans have waited a very long time to see.

If you haven’t been following this book, chances are you shunned it for the very pillars I used in my description.  But I’ve never seen UNWRITTEN being about magic or simply a cautionary tale for Daniel Radcliffe. All of that ended after the first story arc. UNWRITTEN explores the very inception of ideation and creation. As a man without much mystical or spiritual faith, I have always questioned whether humans create what we dream or if we are simply conduits receiving signals to facilitate a grander plan. Carey seems to have no such waffling (at least on paper), what man creates can and will come to fruition through story then in true form.  It’s the Tinkerbell concept taken to hyperbole; if we all believe at once – the public zeitgeist can make any flight of fancy as tangible as the nose on your face.

All right enough of the meta. The actual story lives in a duality between Wilson Taylor’s creation of two mystical boys and how much easier it was to create the fictional Tommy versus raising the real Tom. Writers well know the torturous existence our stories create for our souls and personal lives. We live in ideas and very often those ideas close out the rest of the world around us. When locked in imagination it’s very easy to lose those that have honored us with their love; they don’t know the story and their needs get in the way of us releasing the story on page. For most writers this drive isn’t malicious or calculated. We simply need space. Wilson Taylor is the opposite; in his drive to imbue a real boy with magic he used all those around him until his soul and theirs were completely spent. Through journal entries we see the beginning of Wilson’s plan unfold, while the other half of the story tells the origin of Tommy Taylor and his discovery of the magical spark.

It’s hard to tell which story was the better of the two since both tickled different parts of my cerebellum. Despite their connective tissue of magic’s inception they can certainly be read very separate and apart, especially since we are now well into Tom Taylor’s journey after cresting the 50th issue mark recently. Creating magic in the real world is a twisted dark affair wrought with a Machiavellian usage of real people to serve Wilson’s ends. Tom’s Mother is a nervous break-down waiting to happen until it does and Wilson like Honey-Badger doesn’t give a shit. The boy who would one day become a wizard also spends the first two years of his life in relative solitude. Even if one takes away the story deprivation tank Wilson crafted to infuse Tom with copious amounts of literature through osmosis, his time outside the tank is just as lonesome as Wilson builds an empire and transforms the fabric of reality. The cruelest measure was fitting Tom with a pair of spectacles for his first birthday without even a hint of myopia in the lad. But as Wilson explains it, the reflection must be perfect.

Tommy’s story on the other hand is brimming with optimism despite his hardships before discovering the magical spark. An entire world changes when Tommy discovers his true gift of magic, making Harry Potter’s Christ aspirations seem very limited since the muggle world doesn’t change one iota after Harry defeats Voldemort or discovers he’s special. Tommy is also far more heroic than his borrowed personas. Despite his parents passing, then subsequent servitude at the school of magic, there’s an air of confidence and surety we never saw from the boy under the stairs. Tommy is far more of a leader to his Hermione and Ron as opposed to a scrum player.

It’s funny; Carey actually doesn’t give himself enough credit for just how wonderful and original the THE SHIP THAT SANK TWICE truly is. In one journal entry Carey speaks through Wilson about The Books of Magic and other properties he borrowed from, so capturing public imagination would come easier. Also, Carey stated in a recent interview (or in my PR letter, I can’t remember which) that he was happy he didn’t have to create a full narrative for this first foray into the Tommy Taylor novels. I personally thought this was a pretty flushed out story, which while borrowing from other sources, is truly and wholly original. Especially the ending of the book where Tommy basically imbues his entire world with magic. Even if this book one does borrow heavily from the Potter novels,  book two will certainly be something wholly unique. That last line is a hint. I would love to read the other six Tommy Taylor books. I’m not sure I want to see them tomorrow, but perhaps after UNWRITTEN has run its course?

The art is spectacular as expected. It’s clear when the pencil changes hands, but since the book lives on two planes I wouldn’t expect any less of a shift. The world of Wilson and young Tom is as dark and foreboding as one would expect from my descriptions. It’s also a lot of close-up shots of man about to sell his soul for his beliefs. The world of Tommy is as light and effervescent as the hyper-colors on J.K. Rowling’s creations. A charcoal like dream melting into your eye sockets.

As I stated at the beginning, this book is a no-brainer for current UNWRITTEN fans. However, after this reflection I’ll say you truly NEED this book to understand the full UNWRITTEN story. Wilson came and went from the main comic so quickly we never gained true insight into his megalomania. Also, any true UNWRITTEN fan should want to spend some time with the books that have given our favorite protagonist such trouble throughout his life. If you’re new to UNWRITTEN, you’ll actually get what’s going on, but I don’t think you’ll care as much as true fans of the series. So buy TOMMY TAYLOR AND THE SHIP THAT SANK TWICE, stick it on a shelf, then go buy and read the first two or three trade volumes.

ASTRO CITY 3 REVIEW – BACK TO BASICS

ASTRO CITY 3 COVERASTRO CITY 3
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Brent Anderson
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool news)

I reserved reviewing ASTRO CITY at its new home, Vertigo, till now because the first issue threw me with its meta omnipotent narrator. I didn’t dislike the issue; it was simply a far cry from the ASTRO CITY I once knew. I understand why Busiek chose this route since it has been a long time since anyone has visited the birthplace of his homegrown heroes, it’s just not what an old timer like me was looking for.

For the uninitiated, ASTRO CITY is about people not heroes, and how their lives are affected by a world with super beings. It’s the natural extension of Busiek’s ground breaking work on MARVELS oh so many years ago. Except the sandbox is his own with ASTRO CITY and it’s a playing field where golden, silver and modern age collide. ASTRO CITY is about the dreams of mortals and how the God’s among them either squash or enable those aspirations.

Issues two and three have quickly corrected course. Another tenet of ASTRO CITY is that serves to reflect our own societal woes or wonders. For the past two issues, Busiek has pointed a laser sight at our failing economy, specifically the new job market where college grads are asking, “Would you like foam or no foam on your megafrap deluxe?”

I’m being a bit hyperbolic with that last statement since our protagonist, a recent college grad named Marella, opens issue two applying for what she believes is a job in a call center. In my mind someone with a programming degree shouldn’t be hocking low interest credit card loans though either. Fortunately for Marella (and us readers), her job becomes far more interesting once she says yes.

The call center is a front…sort of. Once she enters the door of the building and then the trans-dimensional portal inside she is whisked away to the sub-command center of Honor Guard. This is THE team in the Astro City universe, basically Jsutice League before they were wrought with so many problems and inexperience that seem to plague their current incarnation.

Marella isn’t being hired to hock anything, she’s actually been hired to be the front line of calls for help and triage what should be brought to Honor Guard’s attention. It’s not her ideal job, but certainly a far cry better than the alternative. Even in our world you’ll find much higher job satisfaction from someone working a 9-1-1 line versus asking people if they want to buy cheap real estate in Florida.

Another reason I’ve always been enamored with ASTRO CITY is that time is elastic. Often Busiek plays with entire decades of history like his last outing in DARK AGE. For this story though we’re only talking the course of a year.

But what a year it is. Again, ASTRO CITY is about people. So while the heroes are always omnipresent as Marella skills up, the true beauty of this story lies in a young woman finding herself and her place in the world. Here the story transcends to an all relatable tale as Marella gains confidence in her job skills, makes new friends with co-workers, deceives her family about what she does all day, and even develops a crush on the cute guy in the command console next to her.

Until it all comes crashing down.

Like any job Marella has metrics to meet, if you don’t triage correctly you waste precious escalation resources chasing ghosts. After being a chastised a few times, her team becomes gun shy about escalating issues to the next level. This proves to be a fatal move as one improperly diagnosed call gives a villainous group names the Skullcrushers the ability to obliterate a South American town.

I think I’ve described enough to entreat those who like me insist their stories be as much character development as carnage. I will say though, issue three is a story of redemption for Marella. She learns that mistakes don’t define a person, it’s rather the lessons we learn from those mistakes.

I’m thrilled ASTRO CITY is back and under the spearhead of a publisher known for a tight schedule. There have been lapses with past series that diminished a bit of the joy trying to recollect months prior. I’m aslo thrilled Anderson is in the pencil seat again. He’s been a staple of this series for a long time and truly gets how to make the characters look exactly like Busiek intends from an emotional perspective.

This isn’t just another pastiche, Busiek’s world is rife with originality even though it borrows from tropes we all know and love. I really believe new fans will dig this series, and Kurt provides enough Easter egg fodder so that old time fans feel once again welcome in ASTRO CITY’S bombastic and beautiful boundaries.

Optimous Douche Truly Gets Anthony Bourdain’s Comic GET JIRO

getjiroGET JIRO

Writers: Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose
Artists: Langdon Foss & Jose Villarrubia
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)

On Sale June 27

Let me be emphatically clear here, you must be a pure foodie to “truly” get GET JIRO. When I say foodie, I’m not referring to the unwashed masses who love to stuff their pie holes with chicken wings and Big Macs. You people are not foodies, you’re merely selfish gluttons who will become a problem for tax payers as you eat yourself towards immobility.

A foodie relishes the purity of the eating experience, a foodie takes hours to eat not minutes, and a foodie treats a meal like great sex. Foodies know that preparation is the foreplay and eating the meal should be a slow deliberate process that engorges all of the senses of sight, smell, taste (obviously), and texture on the tongue.

I’m a foodie bystander, Mrs. Douche though, a foodie to the extreme. Each night she literally takes 3 hours to craft our meals from all corners of the world (we’re on a heavy Israeli kick right now). Part of this appreciation comes from watching GET JIRO co-author, Anthony Bourdain, on his show No Reservations. Most food shows make me want to kill myself or the people on screen, I’m looking at you and your Dolly Parton hair-don’t Paula Deen. But Bourdain is something special: like yours truly, he’s a lanky mother-fucker from Jersey that spitfire’s sarcasm with an ease that transcends to art. While Mrs. Douche enjoys the food, I laugh with hilarity as Bourdain goes to exotic ports of call where the local see Bourdain’s sarcastic comments as sincerity because they just don’t get the concept; these are places like China, Iceland, the Mediterranean and the American Mid-West. But for all of his quips he also has a sincere love of food, which he articulates in poetic prose that makes the writer in me squeal with delight.

Bourdain is hilarious, and his dry, dark, cynicism permeates every page of this tale where foodie culture is stretched to delicious hyperbole. I’ve reviewed a ton of these books “by” celebrities in my five years of comic reviewing and I can’t think of one where I felt any involvement from the celebrity other than slapping their name on the book. GET JIRO is a true collaborative effort from a man that loves food and an accomplished team of comic experts. Honestly, I would expect no less from Vertigo.

The setting is future Los Angeles, where the city has been split into a very Berlin cordoning off of the haves and have-nots complete with Check Point Charlies to ensure the two classes never mingle. For example, buses that traverse between the two zones will not make stops in the elite inner circle for fear of the riff raff tainting their perfect culture. In this imagined future, food, not drugs, serve to give people their pumped up kicks. And of course where there’s a vice, there’s a kingpin of that vice or gangsta as all the kids say…12 years ago.

In the world of GET JIRO there are two lords of the kitchen. First up is Bob, an embodiment of the Emeril Lagasse’s corporatization of food combined with Don Corleone tactics to keep that coveted place. Bob is an ecological disaster waiting to happen as he flies in food from anywhere and everywhere with little concern for things like the extinction of the food he is preparing. On the other side of the fence is the aptly named Rose, who embodies the Whole Foods local organic approach to ingredient procurement. But don’t let Rose’s hippy ways fool you. Any zealot, even a hippy, can be dangerous when their ideals supersede their basic love of humanity.

In the middle of this war is our eponymous hero JIRO (I feel a limerick coming on). JIRO lives in the other section of the city, the outer ring, basically the Wild West of food and also where people go for their cheap fix. Except JIRO is no mere smack pusher. When we meet this sushi chef extraordinaire we begin to truly see the Bourdain influence in the book. When a customer walks into JIRO’s sushi bar and orders a California Roll, JIRO slices his head clean off. This is the ultimate in foodie humor, ordering a California Roll at a sushi bar is an insult to the chef on par with ass banging his mother while pouring sugar in his gas tank.

JIRO also serves as the catalyst for food lessons, like plate and food color balance, the right tools for the right job (i.e. cutlery) and a shit ton of recipes are hidden amongst the various dialogue bubbles if you’re smart enough to glean them.  Now of course the cutlery is used for more than cooking, like the aforementioned decapitation, as JIRO becomes the focal point of obsession for the two gang lords. They want JIRO on their team and they will get him at any cost.

Beyond the cooking, GET JIRO also gets what comic folks like. I attribute all of the high action, swift panel movement and tight dialog to Rose (the other co-author, not the character).  Plus, the art in GET JIRO is simply exquisite. Those of you reared in the 70’s will immediately recognize the line work of Foss from HEAVY METAL magazine. I imagine Bourdain had a heavy hand in this selection given the music choices he picks for No Reservations. Regardless, it’s a wonderful choice. Foss makes cooking as equally action packed as all of the blood baths when the gang rivalry truly starts to fire up.

I’ll admit, I chuckled when GET JIRO hit my doorstep. Even with the Bourdain seal of approval I was dreading this reading experience. The plot felt contrived and way too high concept on first inspection. But GET JIRO really works. Again, foodies will get the most out of this title, but that’s not to say that every traditional comic element isn’t set to the highest standards.

If you love food and comics, getting GET JIRO is a no-brainer. If you just love comics and have a low willing suspension of disbelief, watch a few episodes of Bourdain, gain an appreciation for how intricate true food preparation truly is, and then get GET JIRO.

SWEET TOOTH 40 REVIEW – YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN

sweet tooth 40 cover FINALSWEET TOOTH 40

Writer & Artist: Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

Just finished reading @JeffLemire’s SWEET TOOTH – Prophetic, Poignant, Beautiful Saturday, January 5, 2013 via Twitter

The first thing you learn in corporate communications is that the simplest messages are often the best. I’m glad for my gag order from DC, because to discuss a book before the embargo date I must use the simplest of phrases for my adoration to avoid spoilers. My generic Tweet perfectly summarizes the entire SWEET TOOTH series (all right maybe “prophetic” had to wait until this issue).

I will spoil a great deal in this review; you will know the exact secrets and mysteries about Gus, the eponymous SWEET TOOTH. How the plague was created, what it took to uncover the mystery of the animal/human hybrids that appeared with the plague, the final fate of Gus’ savior Jepperd, and last but certainly not least, the future of Gus and all life on earth. At no time though should you think you know SWEET TOOTH, simply because you know the final outcome. SWEET TOOTH is an experience, not a destination.

I‘m sad the journey is over, but elated by the fact more and more writers are realizing endings are essential to an impactful story. I write this review a few hours after learning one of my dearest friends took his life last night. Sadly, my appreciation for him today is a thousand fold over what it was yesterday. But that’s the tragic irony of life; we only truly appreciate things when they have completely slipped from our grasp. SWEET TOOTH is finite, but the memory and detail of each precious page will live infinitely longer than even the most grandiose of storylines in the ever eternal spandex set.

You could get everything you need to know about SWEET TOOTH from this final issue. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can. I honestly haven’t seen this expertise in concise plot consolidation since the opening pages of ALL STAR SUPERMAN. Even though this story starts many years ahead from where we left off in issue 39, introducing us to the sons of Gus, Lemire masterfully ties the two time periods together to whisk us back to the small cabin in the woods where we first learned of the plague, met the literally doe eyed and antlered Gus, and his stalwart protector Jepperd.

Seemingly as quickly as the book progressed over the past four years of its existence, Lemire brings us to the now, where we meet a grown Gus, the monosyllabic Beaver-Boy (now man) Bobby, and Gus’ two sons, one of which foreshadows Gus’ life mate with his piggy little nose. When the group is attacked by a band of normal looking humans, Lemire leads us to believe that the Hybrids are still on the run even so many years later.

But in a twist of irony…fate…whatever you want to call it, we learn that humanity’s time on earth is truly over, all that’s left are the last few elderly who were born before, or survived the plague. Lemire’s elude to the hybrids being the next dominant sentient species on earth has come to full fruition. As we discovered a few issues ago though, deep  in the bowls of the science station in Alaska where Gus was “born,” this isn’t the first time hybrids have roamed the land, nor will they be the last.  Yet this time they have knowledge of past society’s mistakes and can now rectify them.

Step one in this correction is shunning all technology. Again, bringing the series full-circle we end up back in the woods where Gus’ once lone cabin is now a thriving city that’s more akin to an Ewok village than an urban blight. Here stands the new Garden of Eden and the parallel of this biblical beginning is played to the fullest extent by Lemire without ever being heavy handed. The only human amongst them is the once quasi prophetic Dr. Singh who finally accepted few things are divine. He is now the healer to the first society. However, another human still fondly remembered is Jepperd. Each year his life and untimely death are honored by the inhabitants of this new society in a hybrid festival akin to Christmas meeting Thanksgiving, or as shopping malls call it – October.

All is not, peace, love and American Indian principles though. There are factions of the hybrid community who find Gus’ pacifist ways and empathy towards the remaining humans unsettling and we learn in a heart breaking moment that their leader is Jepperd’s son, Buddy.

I’m not going to say how this conflict is resolved because ultimately it doesn’t matter. This is not the story of a future society. This was the story of a little boy who looked like a deer, but had more humanity than the race he was sent to replace. This issue was about his days as a young man, a Father, a wise elder and lastly and ever so endearingly a friend.

Years ago I was ready to shun SWEET TOOTH. The name seemed ludicrous, the descriptions about a deer-boy from my fellow reviewers never hit the mark on what the story was truly about, and honestly I didn’t know anyone whose opinion I trusted who was reading the book. In a fortuitous turn of events, we were given an interview opportunity with Mr. Lemire and I was the only guy available in the Ain’t It Cool News @$$hole clubhouse to get the job done.  Sometimes happenstance is a much better guide in life than our conscious decisions. If I followed my gut I would have missed one of the most emotionally impactful series…make that stories…ever.

Vertigo’s LOT 13 #1 Review – Ye Olde Spirits Seek Retribution

Lot 13 1 coverLOT 13 #1
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Glen Fabry
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche Ain’t It Cool News)

Before I get into the frights and delights of LOT 13, I want to give some credit to the unsung heroes of comics: the editor.

Make no mistake editors are bosses, as such they get labeled as “the man,” especially in light of all the recent writer meltdowns in the big houses and the easy access Twitter gives them to spill their vitriol to the masses. I’m not saying these feelings are misplaced, an editor steers the ship and we have seen some comic ships crash into very rocky shores as of late. However, one editor I have never heard nary a bad word about is Executive Editor of Vertigo, Karen Berger. Whenever I talk to Vertigo writers for interviews, in tweets, or just the occasional Facebook exchange, the words used to describe Karen are “inspirational,” “Insightful” and “champion.” And quite frankly it shows in the work. I have read and reviewed almost every Vertigo title this year and I can only think of one that left me less than thrilled. It wasn’t even a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

LOT 13 continues to show Karen’s acumen for green lighting comics that show fantasy and fantastical events are best served with heaping doses of morose reality.

LOT 13 is simple in premise, but 10000 leagues deep in execution, story development, characterization and creepiness. The best horror writers know that it’s the whispers before the scare that get the pulse pounding waiting for the next BOO. It’s a balanced juxtaposition that the “Saws” and “Hostiles” seem to forget as they simply revel in gore. I don’t fault anyone who likes copious amounts of blood and entrails, but I personally don’t find that stuff scary – merely disgusting.

Niles’ LOT 13 uses gore, but never EVER forgets to make us care about the characters who are about to meet their probable demise in later issues. It’s like ‘American Horror Story” on page and just like the show I can’t wait to see what happens next in this 5 issue miniseries.

Our story opens in Fairfax, Virginia circa 1600’s when America was still under the rule of King Louis XIV. Being a pop culture junkie, my only knowledge of old Louis is Mel Brooks’ insistence that “it’s good to be the King.” Apparently old Louis though had some peculiarities when it came to the laws of man and nature, one such law being that suicide and murder would be tried as a crime against God. So, our story opens with a family of corpses on trial, a Father who murdered his wife and kids, then took his own life. Fabry paints this ye ole court scene with just enough rotted flesh in the dead and lack of hygiene in the living to present scare without becoming stomach turning. The mob desecrates the corpses and then we flash forward to modern day.

In the present we meet Ron, his wife and three teenage children. Here is where Niles’ panache for making the familiar interesting shines. As the family prepares to leave their small apartment for the greener pastures of life in (wait for it) Fairfax Virginia, they are a family exactly like mine with the exception of the kids. I’m almost 40 like Ron, my wife five years younger and when we moved we had the exact same debate on whether my comic boxes were heavier than the ornate furniture she fills her home with. This was just one moment of realism amongst many that kept my willing suspension of disbelief firm and in place once the fantastic began to transpire.

The family finds their home in Fairfax is not quite ready yet as Walter White and his crew cook meth for another week under the fumigation tent. Salvation though isn’t far as Ron and crew find a lovely unoccupied apartment building in the heart of town, LOT 13, the same place I’m guessing that the ye olde corpses were desecrated 400 years prior.

So where is the scare and horror in present day? All I’m saying is it comes in the form of a ghost boy, a creepier than most child who starts to haunt Ron and his family individually and then collectively as the book progresses. Is there a tie to the massacre in olden times? You betcha, but I’m not going to spoil it. It’s subtle, perfect and still leaves a slew of mystery that makes me wonder if it can be resolved in just another 4 issues.

LOT 13 is perfection on page with scare aplenty, but enough human drama to make even horror haters keep turning the page. 

PRINCE OF CATS Resurrects The Immortal Bard

Prince of Cats ReviewPRINCE OF CATS OGN
Writer & Artist: Ron Wimberly
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

The stupidity of this world makes me want to pound faces into jelly. Everywhere I looked online this is what people are saying about PRINCE OF CATS, “A hip-hop retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.”

Yeah, except: Romeo and Juliette were the focal characters of “Romeo & Juliette;” Tybalt, the lead character in PRINCE OF CATS, died in like the first four minutes of “Romeo & Juliet;” Romeo & Juliet at the foundational level is the story of young love and how it’s oft confused with lust. PRINCE OF CATS is the other side of “Romeo & Juliet,” the side that revels in sword play, blood lust, and the pure carnal pleasures that belong to the young.

But sure, it’s exactly like “Romeo & Juliet” – idiots! I truly hate the laziness imbedded in the rest of the reviewing community. If other sites had an ounce of self-respect, instead of cutting and pasting press releases, their reviews might sound a little more like this…

While the comic world wades in sameness,
with spandex, big events, and characters thin;
PRINCE OF CATS defies the lameness,
a smarter tale of a time that never was – yet has always been.

Wimberley channels the Immortal Bard,
with similar characters and motivation;
To say it’s a retelling though makes you a tard,
and clearly shows thy lack of education.

Tybalt was the antagonist long ago,
a foil to cock block lovers young;
PRINCE OF CATS is now Tyblat’s show,
a tale fore Romeo made him undone.

Wimberley drops pentameter in modern tongue,
infusing language yore with the time of Reagan;
as Capulet and Montague spill ancient blood,
across the streets of breakdance Brooklyn.

I won’t make you work too hard on this one. If my poetic verse is too esoteric, PRINCE OF CATS is quite simply the days before Romeo meets Juliet. I won’t call it a prequel because that would diminish the beautiful work of art Wimberley put down on page. This is a story unto itself; Romeo and Juliet are ancillary to the events of passion, frustration and honor that drove Tyblat to his untimely demise at the hands of Romeo’s blade. But even though we know how the story is going to end, can’t we say that about 90% of comics on the shelves these days? The journey is what matters. Wimberley infuses the language of urban culture inside the wrapper of iambic pentameter and not one feels forced or lacks fluidity. I’m as white as they come, so I won’t profess any credibility when it comes to the culture of urban communities. Like most, I merely have the White-Man guilt National Geographic view of the urban plight from movies and television. From what I do know of the “street” though, Wimberley hits every note of violence, territorial pride, and the fierce love and protection of family.

While I don’t know shit about the street, I do however know Shakespeare. I spent a good portion of the 90s getting my BFA in theater. I acted in three Shakespeare productions and I house managed Romeo & Juliet my first semester at school. I know Tybalt pretty well too. Given the fact he died so early in the production, our Tyblat would spend the time between his death and curtain-call trying to get me to be a pyramid notch below him in his Amway empire. You really haven’t lived until you have a man in a bejeweled codpiece espousing the financial rewards found in bulk toilet paper.

While 12 viewings of R&J hardly makes me an expert on the Bard, it gave me enough grounding to see Wimberly’s reverence to the original work without ever aping it. Juliet’s lessons in love move from the courtyard to the girl’s bathroom. Today, Juliet’s perceptions of becoming a woman would be naïve at best, and make her seem learning disabled at worst. Wimberley masterfully and tastefully winds the clock forward by having Juliet learn about love in the age when no topic is off the table for discussion. Imagine the carrot scene from Fast Times, where Phoebe Cates instructs Jennifer Jason Leigh on the finer points of pleasing a man. Now imagine that lesson delivered in poetic verse to Juliet from Rosalyn over a fine shared spliff. This is just one small example of Wimberly’s courage that cascades through every single page of this book.

Swords, mass bloodshed, hip-hop beats, love, and language – this is how you get kids to appreciate the value Shakespeare rained down on Western culture, not guys in tights using words that have been out of circulation for 500 years. While one must take a leap of faith with the flowery verse and swordplay instead of gun duels, everything about this book is completely accessible because it’s about the basic drives of humanity. We really haven’t changed as a species since Big Willy put quill to parchment; PRINCE OF CATS reminds us that the folly and pride of youth is unending and can undue even the greatest of royalty – including Princes.