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WAYWARD #1 COMIC REVIEW: Zub Kicks Barriers Instead of Skulls

Wayward01B-AlinaUrusovWAYWARD 1 (In Stores August 2014)
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Steve Cummings
Publisher: Image
Reviwer: Rob Patey (aka – Optimous Douche, Ain’t it Cool News) 

I find it hard to believe it’s been 4 years since I was first contacted by a lone Eastern Europeanish immigrant named Jim Zubkavich. Traveling by steamer ship from the same piece of shit country as Balki from Perfect Strangers, I received his telegraph requesting coverage of his book SKULL KICKERS, which would be his indentured servitude golden ticket to America.

Now he’s a shining example of the American Dream and how indentured servitude is really a great piece of currency, the kavich has left the building and Jim Zub delivers another comic problem solver with WAYWARD 1.

That’s right, a comic problem solver. Anyone can write a story or lasso words around editorial edicts, but the ones worth remembering always stand at the ready to fill a void or vacuum.

Back then, with SKULL KICKERS Kavich showed us that comics could be fun as his nameless D&D characters pretty much kicked a bunch of skulls inside the story wrappers of every fantasy trope imaginable. 2010 was a bummer fucking year as the Big 2 put their current universes in neutral and took all the top talent to the board room to usher in the Meticulously Measured Metrics Age of comics. Kavich said, no silly Americans, do not be sad the beetle blues has been shot by the Lord of Foldgers, laugh at my silly dwarf man instead.

Wayward01A-SteveCummings_RossACampbellToday, Zub fixes a problem that has been screaming at comics since the first bra was burned and yet amidst that screeching there is still so little problem solving – that’s right, I’m talking about some lady protagonisting. Not only does Zub go lady, he actually goes teenage lady, and I’ll tell you that it definitely works.

Rori Lane is not only about to undergo a fantastic journey filled with comic bookey stuff, but she’s also on a journey of discovery as a stranger in a strange land that I already find equally if not more intriguing than the fantasy. Her half Irish, half Japanese decent only lasted until her parents divorce. Mom gets Rori, so Rori gets to move to Tokyo.

Zub paints the perfect balance of wonderment and fear in Rori as she navigates a land that many foreigners will never quite “get,” until they actually experience it. However, the land of the rising sun also activates something in Rori that I can only best describe as Splinter Cell vision. Rori begins to see pathways, or when put to good use, a strategic line to overcome any point A to point B obstacle.

Now, where most assholes would simply use this ability to YouTube X-Treme Parkor, Rori’s mettle is actually tested her first afternoon in town by Turtles in a half shell with big ass slobbering teeth and ironically bird flu (OK I made up the last part). Until a girl with an uncanny ability to summon felines and become cat like herself mysteriously saves Rori and then quickly abandons her. Not before getting some strange milk from a vending machine to solidify once more how strange Eastern culture is to us Western world folks.

Wayward01D-AdamWarren_JohnRauchWhat this review is missing is how well Zub paints these moments. Rori’s journey, the loss of her parent’s love for each other, how bat shit crazy Japan is for first timers, because he does it all in masterful and authentic detail. Steve Cummings is simply a new God of comic drawing, my jaw continued to lower to the floor page after beautiful page.

Sorry to tease WAYWARD so far ahead of release, but that’s comics folks. Retailers must order now, they believe they are people too, and so they sometimes need a little help stocking the shelves before you consumer types start navigating them. There are a deluge of titles coming from every corner of comics and Image is certainly one of the most massive #1 producers in recent memory. Out of all those so many books of genesis I’ve enjoyed, WAYWARD is one of the first that I feel is as much needed as it is entertaining.

DREAM POLICE #1 REVIEW – It Ain’t Quite Dreamscape or Dragnet – IT’S BETTAH!

dreampolice_1DREAM POLICE 1 (Preview Orders NOW, In stores April)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image (Joe’s Comics)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

If DREAM POLICE seems familiar, give your brain an extra special treat tonight for remembering a title from nine years ago. I was pretty impressed at myself for remembering that far back. In addition to comics I write and read a few ten thousand other words each week while on the clock for “The Man.” There’s a reason my memory was able to conjure this title, the publisher, the year and hell even the cover when I closed my eyes without the aid of Google; it was an awesome comic implosion. Not an explosion, that leaves behind marks and shrapnel – evidence it existed. DREAM POLICE before it vaporized in one issue like a nuclear blast showed us a take on the world of the nocturnal that’s the antithesis of the standard set by SANDMAN.

I had to know if I was right, so I went back to my email from whence this preview came and scribed the following…

Joe,

Is this in any way related to the Icon story from like 10 years ago? 

 Rob,

We did a one-shot at Marvel Icon, which didn’t get very much promotion, I think it was marketed to about ten people, and thus died on the vine. 

 I always wanted to revisit that universe and revive that book because I think it’s a lot of fun and I liked the characters.  It had kind of a Dragnet in the Dreamscape vibe to it that appealed to me enormously.  So one of the first things I wanted to do with Joe’s Comics was to revert the book back to us and reboot it once we’d established the line as its own thing. 

 I also fell in love with Sid’s work and wanted to bring him in on this before anyone else could grab him once Apocalypse Al comes out. 

 Point being, it’s a fresh start, a reboot and new beginning, and a great place for folks to jump in.

 joe

Not only did Joe answer my question with the same hyper yet easily digestible detail he puts into his work, he also just half wrote the review.

However, I don’t think Joe’s analogy can stand on it’s own. Let me clarify and translate for the younger generation. Dragnet was a detective drama from the 1960s, it starred Colonel Potter from M-A-S-H and television’s first character suffering from Asperger’s, Joe Friday. Joe Thursday, one of our two stalwart detectives of DREAM POLICE, is not suffering from crippling deadpan nor stuffed into a seersucker suit. Likewise his partner is not Col. Potter, yet the much hipper and constant deliverer of snappy dialog, Frank Stafford. There’s a sadism to these two characters that comes from policing the denizens of dream land. If I had to equate them to two other cops, I’m going with the characters from the American version of Life on Mars.

Dreamscape is was a movie from the 80s where psychics were popped into people’s dreams to consciously control the outcome. I’ll half buy this in the sense that Joe and Frank are certainly in control, but I think the comparison marginalizes the complex world and set of rules Joe (the writer) has set for the book. In Dreamscape dreams are but a vapor – a place conjured by the dreamer that disappears when the dreamer awakens. In DREAM POLICE this world exists separate from the Dreamer. See, we aren’t the true denizens of this dream land, but rather mere transients killing time until morning. The true inhabitants that Joe and Frank need to keep in line are the makers of our dreams. If anything I would compare this landscape to Albert Brook’s Defending Your Life where angels are the worker bees of purgatory, a place that feels very much like home. DREAM POLICE’S landscape is just as familiar; it’s an amalgam of all American cities replete with appropriate landmarks. The makers of our dreams are trollish craftsman that build the scenes, shape changers who play the part of our desires and  of course Johnny Law who keeps them all in line.

I found this all fascinating as the two went on calls, made supernatural collars and even had a run in with the top hat wearing toothy maw gentleman nightmares. Then Joe goes and throws a twist at the end. I don’t need to spoil it here, but it adds a third level to the book that makes you question whether you were just dreaming.

On the art, Joe’s right, Kotian does an amazing job. However, I can not tell a lie, I did not get the full effect. No one’s fault…well…except the archaic nature of the comic retail model. See for a book to make it to store shelves it must be issued in Previews. Previews comes out 3 months before the books are published. Previews gives shit details on what the book is about, so retailers have no means to separate the wheat from the chafe and ordering becomes a game of Russian Roulette, especially with #1s. So, it’s up to reviewers like myself to look at books while they are still in production so retailer’s decisions can ultimately benefit you when you walk into he shop. On one hand it’s awesome, we get to see liner notes, editor cut sheets and other behind the scenes detail usually reserved fro deluxe compilations. There are a few times, my review of the rough cut even swayed the final direction, as was the case with Diggle & jock’s, SNAPSHOT. I, and my review cohorts gushed so much over the black and whites the boys just skipped the coloring. On the other hand, I don’t get to see cool stuff like…color and rich fine Corinthian inks. So, yes, from what I saw of Kotian’s work in skeletal form made me beyond intrigued to see how much richer the details of this world become once the finish and polish is applied.

Joe’s Comics continues to be a welcome beacon for new comic fans. It’s separatist view of titles keeps constraining continuity off the table while an eclectic mix of themes can satiate the thirst of most readers’ favorite genres. I will say though, the universe has a gap. All of the protagonists in this universe are maudlin solitary sufferers. I’d like to present a challenge, I want to see a family book. Not the dysfunctional families of SIDEKICK or PROTECTOR’S INK, I mean a true family, an intricate lattice of inseparable personalities nor matter how dystopian their trials and tribulations become. Or don’t, I’ll still pick up every damn issue until Joe stops writing them.

SON OF MERLIN 1 REVIEW – The Real Dark Arts Start Here

son of merlin cover 1SON OF MERLIN #1

Writer: Robert Napton
Artist: Zid
Publisher: Image/Top Cow
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

God damn it, why does everything I love in this world die? Yeah, I know this gorgeously painted homage to modern magic is called the SON OF MERLIN, but son-of-a-bitch it pissed me off when the Big M shuffled off his mortal coil half-way through the issue.

From page 1, Merlin exudes copious amounts of mystical bad assery.  From looks to demeanor, I want more of Napton’s take on Arthur’s apothecary in modern times. Gone are Merlin’s traditional robes and Alan Moore crazy beard, he not only looks like “the most interesting man in the world” draped in Brooks Brothers, he IS the most interesting man in the world.

Napton drops us head first into the age old Arthurian feud that crossed the pond from merry ole’ England to the city that never sleeps, or tolerates outsiders (especially people from New Jersey), New York City. Zid’s visuals do the heavy lifting of interest entrapment as nary a word is spoken on the first few pages, but tell the tale of time passed perfectly.

Once Merlin does begin to speak; we realize this ain’t no cutesy Harry Potter magic at play here. From incantations to their ultimate effect, this magic is powered by pure testosterone. Not to gush over Zid’s visuals too much, the first time Merlin blows open a wall of bricks to rescue Lady Guinevere from her chains in an abandoned warehouse my jaw dropped.

Despite the chains, Gwen is no typical damsel in distress. She is Merlin’s “My Girl Friday,” assisting him to keep his magic and some coveted artifacts that feed all magical power away from another Arthurian bad girl Morgana le Fay. Issue one’s climax between Morgana and Merlin is delight, her evil is eminently transparent.  The panels contain as much energy as they do originality with Zid literally thinking outside the panel box. Her goal is to not just put Merlin in the ground, but to also get the book that contains his power. She only succeeds on one point.

I can’t believe Merlin is completely dead, but for now that is the pervasive perception.

The falling action of this issue brings us to our true protagonist Simon Ambrose, a physicist trying to crack America’s power problems through fusion energy. Oh, I should also mention he’s Merlin’s illegitimate son.

Merlin’s book of power eventually (and magically) appears to Simon and we learn how a rationale mind simply can’t accept the irrational. As Simon tries to open the book, burn it, hurl it out a window, and it keeps on keeping on, we see a man of science slowly lose his mind. Eventually Gwen finds Simon and explains the situation about his illegitimacy and how he must now carry forward this ancient battle between good and evil. Does he believe her, or have one iota of interest in tracking down all the magical artifacts? Hells no he doesn’t believe her, until Morgana’s magical minions come to steal away Simon’s artifact birthright.

SON OF MERLIN is perfect melding of lore and modern sensibilities. The harmonious nature between science and faith. And it’s also the culmination of a great idea, finding a great artist to bring it to life.

For anyone that felt this book took too long to get to market keep in mind a few things: One, Topcow announced the book when it was still being worked on. Two, art like this doesn’t come quickly, there’s nary a panel without background and everything is truly truly beautiful. Third, I have confirmation that all five issues of arc one are in the bag, so expect delivery to come like clockwork over the next few months. I know I’ll be waiting.

Get Diggled by Andy’s Jock in SNAPSHOT 1 Review…

SNAPSHOT 1 COMIC DIGGLE JOCKSNAPSHOT 1
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Jock
Publisher: Image
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche)

Here’s a lesson for you kids. Become a comic reviewer and completely fuck up the attribution of one of the most heralded names in comic history. Seriously my review of Batman 13 was the equivalent of walking into Leonardo da Vinci’s studio and asking him how much the cheese costs?

The creator in question is Jock and my review did not give the proper credit for what I thought to be the best part of the book. The end of BATMAN 13 felt like eye rape, Harley Quinn portrayed a level of profound sadness we’ve never seen before – and of course Jock was instrumental in that moment. Mea Culpas off. However, if you do ever offend to such a level, I only wish you the same fortuitous penance I’m about to share with you.

It’s a rare occasion we get our hands on an Indie Book by two already established creators, but SNAPSHOT is seriously underground at this point. A clandestine placement in Judge Dredd magazine and a possible release date from Image are all that exist of SNAPSHOT right now. Although by the time this hits true publication I think more deets will be available, by then everyone will have shuffled off their NYCC True Blood hangovers.

So what is SNAPSHOT. Well, as we say on the Spoiler Alert podcast…it’s so so so so so good (yeah we’re a clever lot – that actually replaced jizztastic). SNAPSHOT takes the Hollywood concept of a murder being caught on camera and modernizes it better than the reinvention of Betty White.

It all starts with a cell phone being picked up off the ground. Right from the start Jock shows his skill for interesting and cinematic POVs for the panels and Diggle’s aptitude for never stuffing a word balloon is welcomingly real and allows the art to breathe the story along. This book is B&W, but with the way Jock gleefully plays with shading you’ll be thankful they skipped a colorist.

Our teenage protagonist takes the phone to his day job, which is at the comic shop Near-Mint Rhino (so which one of you is it that frequents Vegas – hmmm). The conversation that ensues will ring like a “This is Your Life” for all the married fanmen out there who were able to sneak away for a trip to the LCS only to find a Holiday bumped the delivery date (hate that shit).

Then the sublime then turns into the fantastic after we find this phone is packing pictures of a corpse.Keeping the surprises coming just when you think this is going to be a standard hunt and chase of murderer to witness, the guys pull the rug out. Just when you think this is the simple case of a Doppelganger, there goes that rug again, and just when you think you think you have the payers figured out – you don’t. Oh and don’t get too attached to anyone.

There’re about ten mysteries in this first issue, but I never once felt lost. Also Diggle and Jock move this whole thing without one narration bubble, in case you don’t know, that’s the sign of a writer and artist that spoon perfectly. Buy this book when whoever publishes it at the time they will or will not publish it. Or just go buy back issues of Judge Dredd I guess.

P.S. This book would be worth picking up just for the one panel of the spiral staircase. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.