Tag Archives: JMS

DREAM POLICE #2 REVIEW: Sandman’s City Comes Alive

Dream Police 02 coverDREAM POLICE 2
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image / Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: @robpatey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I don’t review enough second issues, and companies like Image truly need this sort of PR given their deluge of new titles cropping up. See, there’s this dirty little numbers game with comics, issue ones get so much PR love they sell like gangbusters, you can then watch subsequent issues drop in attention and sales quicker than Justin Bieber’s career.

In many cases this drop off is warranted, since it seems the muse du jour is to develop a tits concept that can be used as a TV or movie pitch, while letting the true intricacies of creating a long lasting serial come secondary (or even lower on the list). This is where I truly appreciate the Image sub-brands like Joe’s Comics and Skybound, it’s an extra hallmark that tells us the exec producers and/or writers are imbedded and dedicated to the comics’ medium as opposed to “get less poor” huckster one and dones.

DREAM POLICE is a title that does not deserve a drop off, and quite frankly warrants a second glance even if you found fault with the first issue. JMS’ exploration of detectives who patrol the land of dreams became far more fleshed out this issue, swapping out cute clichés about naptime, for some true world building, exploration and seeds of distress for our protagonist, Joe Thursday.

That’s right, Joe Thursday, a play on Dragnets Joe Friday. Here is one of those bugaboos purists had with the first issue. This type of word play along with when Joe was flipping through the jukebox in a diner where all of the titles were laden with the word dream really kicked up some vitriol amongst the review and reader community. Personally, if this land is a construct of where we humans go at night when our frontal lobe is on REM overdrive, I think this embodiment of the zeitgeist makes sense. So, fuck you other reviewers for not liking it, and suck on the story goodness I got out of issue 2 as reward for not being an elitist snob.

We learned in issue 1, that while this dream city might look like New York it is only a facsimile. Like other famous fabrications of real world places like Disney World, it takes a swarm of serfdom to keep the wheels in motion so the guests never lose their aesthetic distance. This issue is JMS’ chance to build his classes that consist of: our main cop characters Joe and Katie, who respond when dreams go south; the builders who meticulously craft our real-world settings and then immediately deconstruct them once we wake up (kind of like doozers without the Fraggles); the mighty morphing characters of our dreams or who play us in 3rd person dreams; and of course nightmares. There are others, but these are the big ones for now.

Also introduced in this issue is the high concept that the workers of this world were never once human, nor have they simply always “just been.” Essentially every being is “born” as a wisp and then sort of chooses its role when ready. They are functionally useless, but naïve and scamp-like enough to amuse the denizens of dream land so that they want to protect them. The mystery of this issue arises when one of these wisps is wiped out by a dreamer who can’t control his shit…literally. Junkie dreamers are dangerous, so dangerous in fact it brings out the middlemen between the dreamers and well…God.

I know it’s a lot for one issue and my play-by-play comes across as quite clinical. To balance characterization with creation, Joe Thursday is more than a simple beat cop pastiche; he carries a secret that could tear this and ultimately our word asunder. It’s the heart behind the high concept I frankly demand from a JMS title.

If you’re coming back for Kotian, you won’t be disappointed, he gets noir meets supernatural perfectly. The dans are square-jawed, the dames are delectable and the dreams are out there. If you felt wandering after issue one, this follow-up is your map. If you felt you needed more meat on the bone, then strap on your bib.

APOCALYPSE AL 1 REVIEW – Retailers and Readers Will Rejoice at New JMS Creation

apocalypse-al-01webTHE ADVENTURES OF APOCALYPSE AL 1 (Release February)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Sid Kotian
Publisher: Image – Joe’s Comics
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

As much as I love JMS’ writing, there’s something that else that compels me to play a megaphone heralding his work – candor. Joe is one of the last strongholds of no bullshit, he tells it like it is even when it comes to his own foibles. Our steady stream of bitching about delays (THE TWELVE), boredom (SUPERMAN walking) and continuity cataclysm (totem SPIDERMAN) are all subjects Joe will gladly bend your ear on for hours and never place scapegoat shields in front of him. It’s important to understand this fact when reading APOCALYPSE AL because Joe is once again taking a no bullshit approach to correcting a common comic book cluster fuck – retailer ordering.

Not to belabor the point, but I think a bit of context is in order. Retailers must order books months ahead of time from a little book called Previews in most cases. Previews offers not a morsel of actual information about books, each title is articulated with 50 words of pure Public Relations pabulum. To leave retailers and ultimately readers further in the dark, publishers place gag orders on folks like yours truly so we can’t open the kimono on pieces until release date in stores. A few publishers, OK one, Titan Comics, has broken this model by at least giving reviewers open speaking rights about books when they are about to come out in Previews. And you know what, it’s worked. They’ve gone from 0 to some big sellers in a short time through this open information sharing. Now, Joe’s Comics is taking the same approach, but expanding it several thousand fold. Not only has Joe thrown reviewers worldwide an issue of APOCALYPSE AL, but retailers will also be getting a copy this Wednesday BEFORE they have to submit their February Previews’ order. Everybody loves free shit, I predict the simple good will of this gesture alone will help Joe’s Comics move more copies than any of the other #1’s from the imprint released this year.

All right, I’ll get off my soapbox, let’s talk about the actual book. When last we left Joe’s Comics I had reviewed my NYCC copy of PROTECTORS INC. Not a bad book, but parts and purpose left me scratching my head. Again, I say “not a bad book,” but that’s a relative statement. Other Joe’s imprints like TEN GRAND and SIDEKICKS are spectacular books, so PROTECTORS had a very high benchmark to live up to. Even though, I only went through a B&W version of APOCALYPSE AL, I’m putting it up on the spectacular shelf.

I’ll skip the PR blurb, because when you read it you’ll have a hard time discerning between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. Both deal with the mystical and things that go bump in the night. Annnd…right there is where we end the comparisons. Superficially, Al is a woman (aka Allison) where our hero of TEN GRAND is a dude. Dig a little deeper, Al is a late twenty-something serving an ancient family legacy to keep the world safe from demons. Joe, the hero of TEN GRAND is serving the world to meet his own ends of salvation for him and his deceased ladylove. Plus Joe is a dude in his late thirties/early forties. Anyone with enough time on this earth knows the difference of mindset a twenty-year age gap brings, even if we’re too fucking stupid to realize it when it comes to second marriages. Salty versus sweet would be the culinary description between the two protagonists.

There’s also a geographical shift between APOCALYPSE AL and TEN GRAND. TEN GRAND is all New York, a dark and gritty land suffocated by grittier people who bathe in a brutal honesty with one another and life itself.  Al is all L.A. baby; the demons have all the permanence of a back-lot set and are as equally three dimensional. Al is fully realized, but she’s leagues of happy happy joy joy above Joe. There’s something about constantly being exposed to the sun that makes people infinitely happier and far more optimistic about life even though Al mainly deals with and in death.

Quirky side characters make for better main players. It’s for this reason I beg for character parts versus leading man roles in my annual trip back to the footlights of community theater. Bit parts have the best lines and are often remembered long after the main characters fade into the memory ether. Al has a whole host of these friends that help her on her way to uncovering the absconding of an apocalyptic set of keys that will tarnish Tinsel Town and eventually the rest of the world (kind of like the Kardashians have already). A dead LAPD cop feeds Al intel, and is the voicebox for the shadow organization that has been feeding her father and his father before him jobs against the paranormal. She has a homeless seer with no filter on his prognosticating so Al gets ten times more mundane information than actual leads or clues.

I think (hope) I’ve said enough to entreat retailers into stocking the shelves with the next Joe’s Comics creation. If not, let me say that JMS has given us a strong yet still feminine protagonist. She is as equally cavalier as serious, and is just as conscious of her style as her character. As a man married to a shoe connoisseur, I’ll give JMS uncanny accuracy as Allison gets lost in a dream where she’s a temp forever stuck in sensible footwear. Kotian does a great job with expressions in this book. JMS deals on many emotional planes when he writes so getting the facial structure to deliver snark coupled sincerity is no small feat, especially when some of the faces are half rotted or from a nether realm.

I’m saddened by the fact this is only going to be a 4 issue miniseries. Apparently this book was in line with some special partnership for MTV Geek. Don’t know, don’t care – I barely knew MTV Geek existed before it went away. I’m really pissed because there could be a great intertwining between this book and TEN GRAND, the yin and yang of demon hunting would give a nice waft of cohesion in drawing the Joe’s Comics universe together.

Sorry, I’m not an editor, just a reviewer. BUY THIS BOOK, you’ll love Al instantly and will be totally on board with the ultimate antagonist that appears in the final panel.

 

 

New York Comic Con 2013 Day 2 Report

cosplayersIf you missed my first Con Report from this years’ New York Comic Con follow this link here and then come back and read this second chapter in my trek! Day One ruined my feet; this is what happens when one dresses for style versus comfort. I applaud the Cosplay girls (and I guess some of the guys) who hit this thing in seven inch fuck me pumps. Though to be fair, they spend most of the day posturing and posing whereas I moved across the entire center between Artist Alley and the Main Floor to talk to as many creators as I could before the closing bell.

Given the fact my pinky toes were bleeding into my shoes (literally), I took a slightly more relaxed approach to this day. Spending a little more time with creators, banging out a scheduled interview, and actually sitting in on a panel.

First stop though was the main floor while I had some energy!

kill shakespereKILL SHAKESPEARE – I have a personal history with this title. As a theater major in college I grew to abhor the bard, so I have dickishly avoided all requests to review this book that is actually wildly successful and well praised. I asked the guys how they would sway a naysayer like myself to imbibe the three volumes already available, they kindly said, “it’s an awesome action adventure if you like books like FABLES. If you hate the bard, look at your 8th grade teacher and shake you your fist at them for making you that way.” I retorted I’ll bite my thumb in protest or throw a cabbage. Nerd laughter ensues. Pictured are creators Anthony Del Col & Conor McCreery.

ryan browneRyan Browne – Ryan was signing some MANHATTAN PROJECTS issues and hocking his new title GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS from Image. This time around Ryan is taking on writing and art duties to tell the tale of super powered narcissist who are charged with policing barn storming farmers who keep trying to launch themselves into now commoditized space. There’s also talking bears and other crazy shit. Originally a Web comic, this hard cover collects the entire series with some surprise guest artists thrown in for good measure. If you’re too cheap to buy the book you can read it online.

 

 

dave schulner

David Schulner – Author of CLONE from Image about a protagonist who is part of a government cloning conspiracy. With eleven issues under its belt, the book was just picked up by NBC for a series with David and Robert Kirkman at the helm.

 

 

 

 

monty nero

Monty NeroDEATH SENTENCE is Monty’s brainchild from Titan Comics. The book explores a world where an AIDS like virus gives you superpowers for 6 months before you shuffle off your mortal coil. What would you do with that precious time and who would try to stop your before your 6 months are up?

Smoke, 2 Tanqueray & Tonics break so shit can get real down in artist alley where no PR wonks are around to keep things moving.

ben-templesmithBen Templesmith – I loved Templesmith’s work on TEN GRAND, but he’s no longer on that anymore. A big to-do amongst con chatter by the way. Here’s Ben doing some great technique with blood work on the page for a commission. He basically spits it through a straw for a true splatter effect. Get a commission, get some Ben DNA. I also like this picture because I feel like I genuinely made him laugh and spit some blood on the table.

 

 

 

peter tomasiPeter Tomasi – Peter worked his career in reverse from editor to writer and frankly I couldn’t be happier. Damian Wayne basically lived in two books in the New 52, BATMAN INC and BATMAN & ROBIN. All along though, BATMAN & ROBIN stood shoulders above for the heart and trueness of a little boy fighting against his gruesome nurture. I tried to get Peter to spill the beans on when the BATMAN & INSERT SOMEONE ELSE HERE would be ending and he said soon. When I asked him if it would be Carrie Kelly, he laughed at me and mimed zipping his lips. You won today Tomasi.

 

 

bad karmaBAD KARMA – Kickstarter done good. This 200 page hardcover is the culmination of four creators bringing together their ideas in one beautifully rendered trade. The guys were mum on the overall plot, but I did peruse some of the art and it is beautiful. Pictured are Alex Grecian, Jeremy Haun, B. Clay Moore, and Seth Peck.

 

 

 

 

JMSJ. Michael Straczynski Panel – My devotion to JMS stories is no secret. We’ve done about 6 interviews together and I always pester him personally when I know a new book is on the way. Here’s the thing though, instead of ignoring me, he actually responds. Granted if it’s a book like EARTH 1 we need to vet things through proper PR channels, but when it comes to creator owned stuff like JOE’S COMICS, the man is a machine of deep and honest responses to even my most ridiculous of questions.

I abhor panels and I hate lines even more. Thankfully they put JMS in a big enough hall there was no line and secondly once the door shut, this was a conversation not some PT Barnum like spectacle like the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY screening (and screaming happening next door).

As much as I’ve “hung” with Joe and read his work, I realize I am but balls deep in one of Joe’s many genres. When he finally opened up the floor for questions the Babylon 5 flood gates opened wide, along with a shit ton of movie questions. There was also some Dutch kid that kept trying to make him eat cookies. I would say I wish I were tripping if it I didn’t feel like I already was. Joe ended the, hell let’s call it what it is, the discussion, with some very uplifting words about following one’s dreams and handing out copies of the newest Joe’s Comics title, PROTECTORS INC #1.

With the panel over and an hour to kill before my Scott Snyder interview soon…

Back to Artists’ Alley I go!

glen brunswickGlen Brunswick – I love talking to creators who offer me a copy of a their book and my quote is already on the cover. To be fair though, I only read issue 1 of Brunswick’s NON HUMANS. We still had a good laugh though. I rectified my 1/5 review and gave the full TPB the review treatment last week. I love the concept of dolls coming to life spurred by humanity’s imagination so I was happy to see the tale come to a close. In addition to volume 2 of NON HUMANS coming out in April, Glen also recently wrote REALITY CHECK, the story of a creator’s super hero coming to life and not having a freaking clue what to do.

daniel coreyDaniel Corey – Author of MORIARTY from Image was selling the recently dropped trade. In Corey’s world, Moriarty wins at the falls and must find meaning without his greatest nemesis. For anyone who read the first two volumes and enjoyed them, help Daniel out by contributing to the volume 3 Kickstarter campaign.

 

 

 

 

peter davidPeter David – I simply love this man, he hits all the East coast cons and hasn’t seemed to age a day in the 7 years I’ve been pestering him for Ain’t It Cool (An even more remarkable feat at this con giving the recent stroke nonsense. Personally, I don’t buy it, he was Peter through and through) The coolest thing about Peter is that he talks all original properties at his table despite having written one of the best X-titles of all time, X-FACTOR. At this show Peter was all about SIR APROPOS OF NOTHING, the tale of an amoral knight thrust into destiny despite his best efforts to simply make a galleon. IDW has released the graphic novel version or you can read some of those non picture books to learn more about this less than chivalrous knight.

james tynionJames Tynion IV – It would almost be easier to list what isn’t Scott Snyder’s protégé doing right now for DC? Starting as a back-up writer for one of the best runs DETECTIVE Comics has ever seen, he has now moved into the big chair in RED HOOD & THE OUTLAWS and the recently announced BATMAN ETERNAL (for more on B.E. read my interview with Scott Snyder). In Artist Alley though, the guys like to talk pet projects; James’ is a web series called THE EIGHTH SEAL where politics is infested by things that go bump in the night.

 

 

Scott-Snyder-Rob-PateyIronically I now had to run across the building (make that hobble) for my 3:15 with Tynion’s Obi-Wan, Scott Snyder. I’m not retyping the full interview, just go here to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been to enough cons now to know when the shift times flip. After my interview with Scott I knew I had an hour to kill before there would be new folks to talk to in Artist Alley. I hunkered down in the press room with my cohorts Ambush Bug and Matt Adler to plan the evening’s shenanigans.

Drunk, I’m now drunk. Fuck you, Ambush Bug. And fuck you Matt Adler for laughing at the lushes. My feet feeling fine at this point I stumble to artist alley in hopes of some last few coherent conversations. All of you have my deepest apologies from this point forward.

ed brissonEd Brisson – While best known for his new Image book called SHELTERED, a tale of the pre post apocalypse gone wrong, Brisson was also at the con showing off some of his pre-discovery titles like MURDER BOOK and COMEBACK.

 

 

 

 

brian clevengerBrian ClevingerATOMIC ROBO is the name of the book and it is already 8 volumes strong. I know a ton of people who are fans of this little indie that could which is an amalgam of every 80s adventure you could imagine all wrapped into…a robot, so this is shot is for you folks.

 

 

 

 

unmaskedUNMASKED – Mike Sarro and John Broglia. Another Kickstarter team done good. UNMASKED is about a young journalist going around unmasking new heroes who have no problem with killing. She does it all in hopes for a return to the true golden age of heroes. Get volume 1 now from Arch Enemy Entertainment before volume 2 launches.

 

 

 

joe harris Joe Harris – Last, but certainly not least Joe Harris showed off his Image series GREAT PACIFIC, his IDW X-FILES project and GHOST PROJECT from Oni Press. GHOST PROJECT was intriguing not only for the fact it is being courted for TV, but also it’s just a cool concept about weaponized supernatural beings built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Flash-forward to today and the cadre is unleashed on the world by a few bumbling thieves.

And with that the closing bell rang and I hobbled back to my hotel to recharge for an evening of parties and glad-handing. NY Comic Con 2013 I thank you for an experience I will never forget.

PROTECTORS INC. 1 REVIEW – NEW YORK COMIC CON SNEAK PEEK

PROTECTORS INC 1PROTECTORS INC 1 (In Stores November)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Gordon Purcell
Publisher: Image
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool news)

PROTECTORS INC at the high level is Joe’s Comics answer to the JUSTICE LEAGUE. Naturally though, it has the JMS flourish of cynicism and truth powering the masks. There’s nothing idealistic here. Just like SIDEKICK and TEN GRAND, PROTECTORS INC. takes the traditional superhero tropes and indicts the bullshit black and white moralities that tend to permeate the capes and spandex site.

I received my copy of PROTECTORS INC during New York Comic Con last weekend. Actually everyone who decided to attend JMS panel on writing and well…anything that came into Joe’s head, received a copy as well. Joe didn’t do a hell of a lot plugging of the book, in fact he did a very cursory overview of the entire Joe’s Comics line. That’s a compliment, not a slight. Between advice and frivolity he made the panel about us and our questions. He left the panel by giving all of us a copy to let us go off and draw our own conclusions.

Now, I’ve interviewed Joe about six times over the years, the man is a bastion of candor and honesty. As a fellow Jersey boy, I can’t handle pretense either. If you’re going to say something, just fucking say it. So here it goes. I’m confused. There are many streams feeding into the tributary of the story about people disappearing amidst strange lightning storms and the first superhero The Patriot.

JMS PANEL NYCCIn the world of PROTECTORS INC., capes arrived on the front lines of WWII in 1944. After kicking some kraut ass The Patriot comes home and the next seventy years see the rise of 50 other powered individuals like the beautiful Angel, the machismo endowed Huntsman and a host of others. They don’t get a lot of play in the book, merely serving as exposition fodder for our narrator detective lamenting his very laisez-faire feelings towards the whole lot. In this world there are no caped bad guys, everyone with a power is good (or at least we’re supposed to believe they are) and the heroes serve as more celebrity in the skies than thwarting any real danger. Joe is definitely sending a message here about the corporatization of American ideals (like Times Square), but it might be too early for that. I think we needed a few less characters and a little more why we should care about these fifty fuckbags filling the skies.

I’m not an overly obtuse person, so I think part of my confusion stems from Purcell’s artwork. There’s a CIA agent in the beginning of the book, looks like a middle-aged blonde white guy. His human cargo disappears by lightening.  That’s the last we see of the guy. Now he may very well be The Patriot who simply disappeared ten years ago, but I’m not sure. Next is our detective who looks a lot like The Patriot both in and out of garb and the CIA dude (again assuming they aren’t the same person).

Despite my grimacing on the overarching plot, the book is rife with Joe’s natural dialog and flair for humor. This means I’m definitely in for the first arc. I have a feeling that will give enough time to crystalize why I should care about these incorporated protectors.

TEN GRAND 1 REVIEW – Joe’s Comics Has Wings Baby

ten-grand-cover-1TEN GRAND 1 (In Stores This May)
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher Image (Joe’s Comics)
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

Layers…when you read a JMS book, the main story is never the whole story. TEN GRAND imbibes this Straczynski staple as it transcends planes both mortal and nether in nature.

Just when you think TEN GRAND is a book about the down trodden, it becomes a book of the damned. Just when you think you’re reading a story about a gun for hire, you realize there’s a much higher power at play. Just when you think this is a story of revenge, you realize it’s truly about love. Just when you think you have everything figured out in TEN GRAND, you realize you don’t know Jack…or to speak more succinctly, you don’t know Joe.

No, I don’t mean Joe Straczynski. We all know him. SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, SPIDER-MAN, RISING STARS, SUPREME POWER… If you haven’t read these books, go now. You’ve been missing good comics. Plus, you’ll have time since TEN GRAND 1 doesn’t drop until May. No, the Joe I refer to is Fitzgerald, the protagonist of TEN GRAND who miraculously leads 3 distinct lives in this series opener. We learn about where Joe is now, where’s he been, and where he is going in perfect exposition form. Once a gun man for the mob, he now works on the side of angels — literally. Where’s he going? Some very very very dark places.

When Joe was “alive” he was in love. So in love he was ready to forego his chosen profession and start anew with his Juliette. Joe takes one last job to get enough cash to get out of town, unfortunately for Joe, but fortunate for readers, this last mark was much more than just a bad person. This mark was actually the embodiment of evil, a demon from the depths of hell that lays waste to Joe and his woman in seconds flat. Instead of crossing over though, Joe is visited by an angel. An angel like we think of them; ethereal, beautiful and presenting Joe with an offer he simply can’t refuse.

Joe is allowed to remain on earth even though his love is not granted the same stay of execution. However, the angel tells Joe that he can have five minutes with his woman every time he dies moving forward. Here’s the catch, Joe must die a virtuous death to be granted these five minutes.

But these are all events from the end of the first issue. TEN GRAND actually begins, in the gutters of the city where the disenfranchised dwell.  Before we learn one whisper about angels and secret pacts, we learn Joe is essentially a champion of the down trodden. Now, even though he’s their champion he’s also a bit of an urban legend. His first client, a young woman trying to find her sister who recently ran off with a group of new-age religious nut bags, is honestly amazed that this man exists upon first meeting. Even more amazing is that her miracle worker is rife with the same salty comments most middle-aged people throw at the young instead of just gruff grunts and nods. This was a great scene to humanize Joe as he applauds the young woman for not overusing the word “like” and also rides her for over using her face as a pincushion. It’s a conversation I’ve heard a million times and truly works in humanizing the book before it goes off into the realms beyond normal human understanding.

So, why TEN GRAND the title? That’s the price to hire Joe for help. Why TEN GRAND as a monetary value? Because as Joe explains to the young woman, it’s not too much to keep people asking for help, but just enough to weed out the nut jobs and those that might ask him to do a job of less than virtuous intent. He doesn’t count the money, because he doesn’t need to. It’s not about the money; it’s about ensuring the sincerity of the task at hand so if things go south Joe is at least guaranteed five minutes in paradise.

From here is where we start to learn of the angels and demons amongst us. Before things get too feathery though, JMS does another great grounding moment by having Joe circumvent a dead-end in his search for the cult by using the language of angels to unlock the truest Easter Eggs the Internet has to offer. Again, it’s not a big moment, but one more amazing beat to make all of the fantastic events feel real.

Templesmith’s art fits the morose tone of JMS’ words to the tea. There’s really not much to dissect or analyze here, Ben is THE MAN to draw TEN GRAND.

Delivery dates have plagued a few JMS titles in the past. There’s no reason to hide it. However, Joe was never fully in the driver seat. Now, it’s truly Joe’s Comics, he’s not just the writer, but also the editor-in-chief setting the schedule as he recently illuminated to me in this lengthy interview. I read this first issue of TEN GRAND way back in January – and I mean a completed cut of the book. You know what; I’ve also read issue 2 and issue 3 is actually already set in rough cut. So I can keep some wonderment from my childhood I respectfully decline reading anything but what’s going to the printer. For the scheduling challenged out there, this means that TEN GRAND is ready with issues today that won’t ship until August. I don’t know of any comic company this far ahead of the game.

I also give you a little whisper of a clue from issue 2. Remember that Angels are first and foremost soldiers and the only thing separating them from demons is altitude.

I’m a JMS fan through and through, but I’m an apologist for no man. I was as pissed off about THE TWELVE as everyone else. Again though, to paraphrase a quote the great Alex Karras in Blazing Saddles, “Writers are but a pawn in game of life.” Hence I think why we see so many writers jumping the corporate ships to reach the shores of autonomous publishing these days.

One part detective story, one part a tale of love, and one part angelic mind-fuck, look for TEN GRAND special editions at C2E2 in a few weeks (lucky bastards, all I have is a god damn PDF) and the full release this May.

DR. MANHATTAN 4 REVIEW – Screw You Guys, I’m Outta Here

DR. MANHATTAN 4 COVERDR. MANHATTAN 4

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Adam Hughes
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

While there are still a few BEFORE WATCHMEN stragglers left to cross the finish line, I think we’re safe to declare the front runners and those that have valiantly moved us through the time before a time that never was. There frankly were no losers in my opinion, even MINUTEMEN which I didn’t give a good God damn about was a very well-crafted comic book. I respect those that ideologically objected to this series for purity of the story or in fear of offending Alan Moore’s beard, but please shut the fuck up already. We know, you object, but ultimately those objections mean nothing. The series still happened, comics have still continued, and the band plays on and on and on. This isn’t merely heady chiding on my part, more a purposeful segue into the infinite uncontrollable possibilities that were DR. MANHATTAN.

Despite my fervent enjoyment and subsequent defense of BEFORE WATCHMEN, I will cast one thorny barb; most of the tales were mired in a sameness of structure that was more than expected at the outset. After all, these were prequels and the human experience is what it is: I am born, I grow, I live, I die. Even DR. MANHATTAN, a being who scoffs at the constraints of time, needed to come down to our mortal plane to tell his tale of infinite possibilities. Now, where ole Doc zigged when every other story zagged, is that his timeline was an infinite parallel stack cascading to equally infinite destinations, if he so chose.

WATCHMEN, the original source material, remains revered to this day because it encompassed the spectrum of human experience in 9 panel layout. BEFORE WATCHMEN was merely a taffy pull of that original human resonance: SILK SPECTRE the human heart, COMEDIAN our lizard brain, OZYMANDIAS our civilized frontal lobe, RORSCHACH our fear, and DR. MANHATTAN the desire for all of us to find God within ourselves.

So where does God begin his tale? Anywhere he damn well pleases. Again though, for our understanding, JMS started the story with Osterman as a boy learning the watch making trade from his Father. We all know of course this is simply an analogy for the celestial mechanics that would one day allow him to rematerialize after his atoms were dispersed across the cosmos. This story lingered the least amount of time in “this is your life,” and the most amount of time on what could have been. Using the Schrodinger’s Cat theory to explain there are infinite possibilities until they are perceived, we spent the first three issues of this series with Dr. Manhattan perceiving and changing the events that turned him from geek to God. What if he never got to become a physicist and simply a watch maker – meh, boring, reset. What if he never forgot his coat in the tachyon (or whatever the fuck he was working on) chamber? A nice life, if not pedestrian. What if he never tried to slide his big blue hand up SILK SPECTRE’S costume? And on and on and on. I love a good “What If?” tale, and each issue of DR. MANHATTAN played the concept to the fullest.

Ultimately though, each scenario always led to the same place – the world devouring itself. Tempering human aggression seems to be even beyond the control of God. Of course this can lead us to even further speculations about a random universe versus a pre-determined course, but let’s save that ye ole theological debate for the TalkBacks and comments. So yes, DR. MANHATTAN ends where we expect it to – again folks, it’s a prequel. However, I do believe DR. MANHATTAN was unique in taking us one small step further than WATCHMEN, but this could be my lack of remembrance since it’s been close to fifteen years since I reread the book.

After the squid has attacked, after Rorschach is dust:

Ozymandias:  “But you’ve regained an interest in human life.”

Manhattan: “Yes, I have, Perhaps I’ll go create some.”

And away Manhattan goes to a galaxy far far away; and like Q at the end of Star Trek, he makes the first amino acids make sweet sweet love to other acids to form the beginnings of new sentient life in the galaxy.

While that’s the end of the series, I should mention an interesting convention JMS played with half-way through the issue to get us there. Like when BATMAN lost his mind so many months ago, JMS makes the pages go topsy-turvy to reach the finish line. When Doc goes to tell Ozymandias of his wonderful journey into infinite possibilities we see the inception of their partnership to create a fuel source independent of the nasty nuclear annihilation side effect. Here we go Hebrew, Memento, whatever you want to call it, as we count backwards through the events of WATCHMEN that led to New York becoming Calamari’s lunch and their last fateful meeting when Osterman tells the earth to take a flying leap. I’m sure JMS had a specific intent in mind when doing this page flipping, but I think it best left to reader interpretation as to why this happens. Personally, I see it as a way to shift the point-of-view from Doc’s infinite possibilities to Ozy’s oh so human perception of how time passes. Also, it’s a countdown akin to that famous clock that struck midnight from the original WATCHMEN. Finally, life doesn’t simply beget life. Death and entropy are an intrinsic part of the cycle…or are they?

DR. MANHATTAN gets the award for the most thought provoking of the BEFORE WATCHMEN titles and the most original use of structure. Adam Hughes was able to keep pace with a complex topic and surpassed his past accomplishments with the reverse page order in the back of this issue. It’s a shame this one was only a four-parter.

SUPERMAN EARTH ONE VOLUME 2 REVIEW – Making Grounded a Good Word Again

superman earth one volume 2SUPERMAN EARTH 1 VOLUME 2

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Shane Davis
Publisher: DC
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

SUPERMAN is a character who seems to incite the same black and white feelings in the real world as he does within his stories. Just as Good and Evil doesn’t cross boundaries in the comic universe, hate and love leave no room for gray when it comes to audience response for the world’s first superhero. I know very few who are ambivalent to Supes like say GREEN ARROW, no real take-it-or leavers.

SUPERMAN EARTH ONE (SE1) Vol. 2 won’t entice the haters. While it’s a great retelling of SUPERMAN’S first encounter with the energy siphoning villain PARASITE and a teaser into a very famous villain for Volume 3,  make no mistake, despite this being EARTH ONE, this is SUPERMAN through-and-through.

I would say Volume 2 is far more SUPERMAN than even Volume 1, and waaaayyyyy more traditional SUPERMAN than anything happening in the New 52. Clark, Lois, Jimmy and the city of Metropolis are truer to their origins than any other offerings on the shelves. Especially if you are a Gen Xer who still adheres to a Post-Crisis model of what SUPERMAN should be.

I was adamant when Volume One came out that anyone who wanted to get into comics for the first time should look no further than Earth 1. Despite this prophecy coming before a time when the New 52 was even a glimmer in the eyes of Didio, Johns and Lee, my stance remains the same. From a continuity perspective EARTH ONE is as pure as Clark’s virginity (which gets tested nicely in Vol. 2) and as simple as it can get. Volume 1 presented us a world untouched by the fantastic. No other heroes and no advances in science beyond our own gave true feelings of fear when SUPERMAN was attacked on earth and came to the rescue for the first time. It was palpable, akin to all of the fears and uncertainty we felt on 9/11.  EARTH ONE has the affordability of not having to support other lines of business like toys, cartoons and other ancillaries that are DC branded, but have little to do with comics. It doesn’t have to carry the lives of all the ancillary characters that cropped up in the DC universe over the years. When a world can create a character like Cyborg and people have already donned masks as the JUSTICE LEAGUE is just forming, ones’ willing suspension of disbelief has to be non-existent for the world to feel anything like our own.

I’m also a big believer in the graphic novel format of this book. We have entered the age of instant gratification, making trades and graphic novels THE comic source for all but the true stalwarts of the hobby. Also, every book is written for trade distribution these days anyways, leaving the monthlies sorely lacking in full story potential especially as page counts continue to dwindle each year.  With EARTH ONE, you get a full Freytag as opposed to partial lines on the story pyramid. I’m not faulting monthlies, I still buy them. But I also live in a major metropolitan area making a jaunt to the comic shop a 5 minute affair, people in the hinterlands of America or other countries are not so lucky and as such live and die by the trade. It’s more complete, more portable and can easily be carried by global distributors as opposed to the anemic reach of say Diamond.

The biggest gripe amongst SUPERMAN purists from the first volume was the introduction of a race that destroyed Krypton as opposed to the planet naturally devouring itself or their star going supernova. Personally, I liked this approach. I don’t feel a damn thing was lost from the standpoint of SUPERMAN feeling alone in the universe and I liked the potential for a new nemesis with a Kryptonian bloodlust on the same power scale as the man of steel. It took what could have been a by the book origin and gave it a new twist for tomorrow. Volume 2 has no such twists. There is a new element which I’ll get to in a second, but for the most part this new installment stays on par with all the things we expect from SUPERMAN, but told with the humanizing voice that has made JMS a staple in comics for decades.

Vol. 2 is about relationships. The relationships between Clark and his life as Superman; the game of cat and mouse between Lois and Clark; his kinship with Jimmy Olsen; and last but certainly not least, his relationship with a  world that so desperately needs a miracle like Big Blue.

I’m going to utter a verboten word in SUPERMAN circles: grounded. While the phrase brings back a reminiscence of the less than spectacular SUPERMAN story that occurred before the New 52, the spirit of what those stories should have been should not be forgotten. I think those stories failed for one overarching reason, basically the rest of the DC universe. SUPERMAN seemed like kind of dick forsaking the rest of the cataclysmic shenanigans occurring throughout the universe in favor of a hippy beatnik soul searching across the US. It was a literal representation of a spiritual journey that could only work outside of continuity.

In SE1 Vol. 2 JMS was able to start fresh without the noise coming from other titles and other events in the DC Universe – and it all feels very grounded. Take Parasite for instance, the big baddie of Volume 2. In main DC continuity, I’m sure he once had an origin, but fuck if I can remember what it ever was. JMS humanizes this creature’s thirst for power by giving him an emotional base for his transformation and lust for more energy. Basically he wants power to compensate for a childhood of abuse, where he and his sister were powerless children against an abusive upbringing. If you weren’t an abused kid you won’t get this wanton lust for control and the need to never feel inferior, but you can’t deny this text book response that most children of abuse follow.

Another area that feels very grounded is the relationship between Lois and Clark. Here is where things are akin to the days before the two were married, a time when Lois knows something is not quite right with this kid from Kansas, but just can’t figure out what it is. What made the new approach unique isn’t the ham-fisted “oh here’s a disaster, where oh where is Clark.” Instead JMS takes a true journalistic approach having Lois delve into Clark’s past. What she covers is an exceptional person (mainly SUPERMAN’S PR mouthpiece) living a very unexceptional life until he came to Metropolis. Of course this was Clark not trying to show his Superness at the behest of Pa Kent, but this less than exceptional life is a red flag in light of his newfound success at the Daily Planet.

Last, but far from least is the very grounded approach JMS took towards Clark’s relationship with the citizens of Metropolis. Namely a junkie that occupies his front stoop and a hot to trot neighbor that has set her pheromones in old CK’s direction. Both characters show just how powerless he is at times to thwart the problems of the real world where everything can’t be solved with a punch or heat vision. This was also a time to address Clark’s inability to have relations with earth women taking the old Birds and Bees conversation in a whole new direction when the Bee has a stinger that could destroy the flower. JMS captures the awkwardness of this conversation in a flashback with Pa Kent and further explores the notion when Clark is powered down from tussling with the Parasite.

The Onion AV Club called this book an exercise in soap opera writing, if I were JMS I would take that as a compliment even though it wasn’t meant to be. I counted page upon page of action that has never occurred on Days of Our Lives, but I guess the reviewer missed those moments that encompass over half of the book. As for the quieter moments, this comment comes across as downright stupid and obtuse. Soap operas examine the human condition through the hyperbolic lens of truncated time. When two humans are interacting with one another under intense drama of course it will sound like a soap opera, since you know soap operas try to emulate real life in less than 45 minutes. Comics are soap operas with a Sci-Fi bend plain and simple and JMS is the master in my opinion of making comic moments feel as real as possible.

As for tomorrow, JMS is already busy on Volume 3 as I uncovered in my interview with the boys a few weeks ago. We get a taste of the next villain at the end of Volume 2 and I’m sure these scant pages will be the most talked about amongst fans. Its Lex Luthor kids, but not a Lex you would ever imagine. Instead of one we get two, in the form of Mr. & Mrs. Luthor. When the government needs to find a way to control SUPERMAN should he ever go off the rails, they turn to this wedded think-tank to do the job. We don’t get a huge taste of their relationship, but it’s safe to say they will be on very different ends of the ideological spectrum on what the final solution should be.

If you hate SUPERMAN, move right along. Everything that makes him the person he is will be found on EARTH ONE, but coated with modern sensibilities. If you love SUPERMAN like I do and have found recent offerings lacking as I have, SUPERMAN EARTH ONE is your salvation to an unfettered story that focus on the Man of Steel instead of the universe that doesn’t know what to do with him.