Top 10 Artists Of The 00’s!

In such a great decade for comics, you always hear an awful lot of praise for the writers.  When you hear people talk about Watchmen, a great deal of attention is paid to Alan Moore; when you hear people talk about Wanted, lovers and haters all talk about Mark Millar.  But a comic book is primarily a visual medium, and a talented artist can make a so-so book better, a good book great… or a great book only average.  Witness the art problems that plagued, for example, Grant Morrison’s ground-breaking run on New X-Men.

But this decade had its fair number of stars, art-wise, artists whose style and intensity nearly defined the titles they worked on.  These are our picks for the Top 10 interior artists of the 2000’s.

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Long Beach Comic Con 2009!

Yes, I was there at the first Long Beach con. I thought I’d share my adventures with all of you, and by adventures, I mean pretty sketches.

Amanda Conner’s Supergirl!

I’m going to get a detailed one someday, but these quickies are great too.

Darick Robertson’s Frenchie and Female!

It’s hard to tell in the photo, but this piece is huge.

David Finch’s Catwoman! 

David modeled this after Jim Lee’s art. So, to have Scott Williams ink it is perfect.

Doug Mahnke’s Frankenstein!

Doug. Mahnke. Frankenstein. ‘Nuff said!

Geoff Johns’ Hal Jordan!

I should’ve had him write in the word balloon: “I am so kewl!”

J. Scott Campbell’s Mary Jane!

Finally, after years of waiting.

Micah Gunnell’s Black Cat!

Always a pleasure to talk to this guy, and the sketch aint bad either!

Philip Tan’s Scarlet!

Man, that’s ugly. In a good way.

Simone Bianchi’s Shining Knight!

Two soldiers down, five to go.

Notable signed items?

Ennis’ second out-of-print Punisher hardcover!

Skull, courtesy of Darick Robertson. Mini-Frank, rendered by Jimmy Palmiotti. And that third signature belongs to big Frank himself, Thomas Jane.

The Pro, in oversized out-of-print hardcover style!

Signed by the entire art team: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Paul Mounts. This just demanded a Pro sketch, and Amanda was kind enough to deliver.

That’s all, folks. I had a blast, and I hope it’s even better next year.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Bruce Castle’s Mini-Reviews

I’m down, but not out!

Blackest Night #2

I was right there with Lebeau on the first issue, and you can find a bigger, better review of this issue from him. Johns definitely decreased the needless exposition this time around, but it’s not enough. This event is still moving at a dead snail’s pace. He spends too much time relishing in ghastly, deceased heroes terrorizing live ones. However, you can still find scenes to enjoy here, especially if you’re already fond of Johns’ particular brand of fun. Nightmarish sharks devouring Atlanteans here, a two-page, vertical splash of a resurrected Spectre there. The most impressive element of Blackest Night so far has been the images rendered by Ivan Reis. He’s officially a superstar.

Grade: C+

The Boys #33

Why is John McCrea drawing this? Shouldn’t he be drawing Herogasm? I’m not complaining. Carlos Ezquerra’s art has been sloppy the last few issues, and while McCrea is no Darick Robertson, his work here, and especially on Herogasm, is more than satisfying. Although, he’s still not the right artist for the job. This is a dark, violent arc of The Boys, and McCrea’s images are too cartoony. Ennis’ writing, however, is still top-notch. This issue was a blast. Watching Butcher systematically take down the Boys-filtered Avengers was very entertaining. The fact that this arc is so action-heavy makes it all the more upsetting that Robertson is absent.

Grade: B-

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #5

It’s nice to have Hellboy back. The reason for the delay was Duncan Fegredo’s, and the wait paid off. I re-read the previous four installments before this one, and Fegredo’s work is simply stunning. The Wild Hunt has featured a fight in just about every issue. It makes each chapter stand on its own as an episodic action series. Fegredo draws the hell out of the battle scenes, while Mignola crafts a menacing threat for Hellboy in the background.

Grade: B+

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1

Off the heels of the biggest event in the Ultimate Universe’s history, at the start of a brand new status quo, is this issue exposition-heavy? @*&# NO!!! In true, Millar style, he kicks this series off in summer blockbuster fashion, featuring an extended fight scene, and a last-page shock to punch you in the face! As I mentioned with The Boys, if a comic is action-heavy, you have to provide pretty pictures. Well, Carlos Pacheco, in his glorious return to Marvel interiors, is just the man to provide such pictures. He handles all of the action, including some tricky helicopter scenes, with professional ease. Looking for pure, pop bliss? You got it!

Grade: A-

The Walking Dead #64

Dale’s situation provides a wickedly funny beginning. Then we get a typical and sentimental revelation from Dale’s lover, Andrea. I say typical because we’ve seen a lot of it in The Walking Dead, but it is a natural reaction to grief, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that in this series. The rest of the issue is mostly spent planting seeds for future events that culminate in a tremendously badass moment for Rick. Another enjoyable issue, for sure, but this is mid-arc. So, it does suffer from the necessary plot-building.

Grade: B

Uncanny X-Men #514

We’re two issues away from this crossover’s conclusion, and I don’t think it’s the event anyone was really expecting. This isn’t mindless Dark Avenger-on-X-Men action. No, with Matt Fraction at the helm, we’re getting a highly developed and well thought-out story that presents realistic situations for these characters to deal with. The downside to all that is that we’ve had more set-up than payoff, but with an oversized, Mike Deodato-drawn conclusion in the near future, I’m sure we’ll get the carnage that we crave soon enough.

Grade: B

For more comic goodness, go here.

Everyone Likes Sketches

You may have liked my recent Comic Con 2009 post. Well, I recently had to upload some more sketches for reasons that may or may not involve money. So, I thought, since I went through the trouble of uploading them, I may as well post them here. So, enjoy!

Charlie Adlard’s Rick Grimes!

Darick Robertson’s Annie! NSFW

David Mack’s Echo!

Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon!

Ethan Van Sciver’s Barry Allen!

Ethan Van Sciver’s Hal Jordan! Word balloon provided by Geoff Johns!

Joe Linsner’s Dark Ivory!

Philip Tan’s Dr. Light!

Ryan Ottley’s Atom Eve!

Todd Nauck’s Emma Frost!

Review: The Boys #32

Writing: Ennis continues to split the screen time between The Boys and Annie. The Boys deal with the Female’s injury, and the fact that something may be very wrong, which leads to the goriest fight since the first arc. “The Self-Preservation Society” looks like it’s going to be one of the most action-heavy arcs of the series. While The Boys are kicking the crap out of the supes, Annie is faced with a horrible re-imagining, complete with a new origin and a dreadful new costume. The Annie moments were poignant, and a good commentary on the dark side of today’s superhero comics.

Art: As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, the art in a comic really does hinder the story at times. Though his attempts to keep Robertson’s style is admirable, Carlos Ezquerra is no Darick Robertson. This comic, particularly the action, looks very sloppy. He handles the Annie scenes well enough, but, as I mentioned earlier, this issue has a lot of action.

Final Word: The satire is sharp and thought-provoking, but, sadly, the art does bring the quality down. This is not one of the weaker issues of the series because of Ennis. I hope Ezquerra can move to a project that better suits his talent and I hope that Robertson comes back soon.

Grade: B-

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: The Boys: Herogasm #2

Comic book nudity! Sex! Orgies! Heroin, cut with Wonder Wom-I mean Queen Maeve’s vaginal mucus! Are you excited?! You should be!

This comic is so filthy! All of the issues actually got bagged at my local shop! I’ve only seen that once before. Anyway, this is Ennis’ first The Boys spin-off, Herogasm. Last issue, Ennis poked fun at all of the comic mega-events coming out, and there sure have been a lot of them lately, but the irony seemed to be that this series itself was useless. Oh, sure. I appreciate Zatanna jokes, “ELDARC EHT SLLAB. EKORTS EHT TFAHS,” as much as the next man, but that, plus a whole lot of nudity, was all the first issue really was. Well, this issue, Ennis managed to do the impossible. He added even more nudity AND more plot. Amazing!

That’s right. Herogasm appears to take place before issue #31 does, and so we’re seeing the explanation for some of the events already occurring in the main title. In addition to that, Ennis provides foreshadowing galore. There might soon be some internal strife in The Seven. Heck, we may even see some major Vought American plots unfold in this series. So, in addition to making your genitals happy (There’s some male nudity in here too, girls), Herogasm is indeed necessary reading.

Grade: B+

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: The Boys #31

The second half of The Boys begins now! But, this is Ennis, so, being that this is the start of a new arc, it’s probably a bit slow, right? Wrong! In fact, this issue features a few shocks that I sure as hell wasn’t expecting. I wonder: “Will this issue’s death be permanent?” Probably not, since we’ve been promised an “Origins” arc for these characters. Still, the twist was fun.

This is a more-than-solid issue of The Boys. It contains all of the usual humor and lovely characterizations, but with lots of fighting to keep my brain entertained. I’m still utterly fascinated to watch these characters, and the story, progress. The only unimpressive element of this issue was, sadly, the art.

Yes, Robertson has taken another brief leave of absence. Filling his big shoes is Carlos Ezquerra, and his renderings were a bit inconsistent. Some moments worked fine, like Hughie’s dazed look after committing some terrible acts. Ezquerra is certainly a capable artist, but damn it, some panels were just sloppy. But hey, this is his first issue, so let’s all hope that he gets more comfortable. With Herogasm’s humorous opening and now this, it’s a good time to be a fan of The Boys.

Grade: B

For more comic goodness, go here.

Review: The Boys #30

Boys #30

(****)

I often forget about how dark this book is. I think this series is often thought of as a gore fest with dick and fart jokes. It’s not. This series is all about the characters. However, these characters do live in a dark, dark world. This is the “We Gotta Go Now” prologue. “We Gotta Go Now” contained a lot of jokes, but the last issue was full of terror and surprises. We get one last terrifying surprise in this issue. Just a warning, it is unsettling.

Other than that, there’s nothing in this issue that even resembles action. This issue is anything but boring, though. Why? Because the characters are fascinating. The Frenchman and The Female have a nice moment. I’m eager to find out more about them. Hughie and Annie share some pain together. And as for Butcher? Well, he’s become quite scary.

Speaking of Butcher being scary, that brings be to Darick Robertson. A sign of a great artist is versatility, and Robertson has that in spades. Robertson can render a lot more than gore, Butcher’s mannerisms for one. Butcher has this smile that keeps appearing, and it’s one hell of an unsettling smile. That man has done some bad things, and we see some of them in this issue.

We’re only halfway through The Boys, and I’m already a bit sad. I love all of these characters, no matter how horrible they are, and I’m going to miss them when this series ends. Until then, let’s all enjoy the ride.

For more comic goodness, go here.

Top 5 Best Comics of April 2009!

This is a new feature. Let me know what you guys think. I read 26 comics in April, and these were the best.

But first, let’s kick things off with the worst book of the month:

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2 (of 3)

Batman: Battle for the Cowl #2

Written by Tony Daniel

Illustrated by Tony Daniel

Published by DC Comics

No, this wasn’t actually the worst book of the month, but it was the worst I read. And the fact that it’s so high-profile, gives me all the more reason to bash it. But, to be fair, this isn’t a terrible comic. In fact, I wish it were a terrible comic, because then, at least, it’d be a bit interesting. What we have here, is forgettable, generic hogwash. I suppose, if you were a huge fan of Tony Daniel, you might have a bit of a good time. I’m not that fan. Again, Tony Daniel isn’t terrible. In fact, if we were ranking mediocre 90’s, Post-Jim Lee artists, Daniel is near the top of the list. However, that’s still not nearly enough to keep me entertained while reading a story completely written for the art. Why the hell did DC let Daniel write this? “Hmm, what writer should we get to follow Grant Morrison? I know! Tony Daniel!” I could write more, but I’ve bashed this comic more than enough. This book isn’t even that fun to hate.

Secret Warriors #3 (Wolverine Art Variant)

5. Secret Warriors #3

Written by Jonathan Hickman & Brian Michael Bendis

Illustrated by Stefano Caselli

Published by Marvel Comics

Wow! Who knew I was craving a book like this? Oh wait, I did! I’m awesome! Only three issues in, and Secret Warriors is arguably the best comic that Marvel is currently publishing. It’s definitely the most exciting. First, we got that kick in the pants about Hydra. Then, we got the return of the freakin’ Gorgon. This issue’s Dum Dum reveal really wasn’t that exciting, but who knew that some of Phobos’ prophecies from the second issue would already come to pass? Oh, and Gorgon said something like, “Someday, I will kill a god.” Yeah, whenever a badass talks about killing gods, it’s always pretty cool.

Boys #29 (Cover B)

4. The Boys #29

Written by Garth Ennis

Illustrated by Darick Robertson

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

This was the conclusion of “We Gotta Go Now,” an arc that spent a little too much time on masturbation jokes. But man, did this issue blow the damn doors down. First, we get the chilling truth about the G-Men. Then, Hughie gets his badass moment. And…well, the shit pretty much hits the fan after that.

Walking Dead #60

3. The Walking Dead #60

Written by Robert Kirkman

Illustrated by Charlie Adlard

Published by Image Comics

It’s always hard to rate The Walking Dead on an issue to issue basis. That’s probably the reason why most people read it in trade. However, with this issue featuring  the conclusion of that horde business, the ever-growing madness of Morgan, and the feeling that Dale may finally turn on Rick, this was a terrific installment.

Read my full review here.

Secret Six #8

2. Secret Six #8

Written by Gail Simone

Illustrated by Carlos Rodriguez

Published by DC Comics

Ah, Secret Six, a title that never fails to put a big, stupid grin on my face. Actually, I wasn’t too impressed with the last issue. It wasn’t bad, but for the conclusion of the first arc, which was pretty awesome, it just wasn’t completely satisfying. This issue, however, was sweet and charming, while still managing to provide all that sick, twisted humor that the book continues to deliver. Oh, and Tiny Secret Six? Classic.

Detective Comics #853

1. Detective Comics #853

Written by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Andy Kubert

Published by DC Comics

So, I guess this arc wasn’t nearly as well-recieved as people hoped, huh? Then again, a lot of people don’t care for Morrison’s run, either. So what the hell do people know? Gaiman managed to pack everything he could about Batman into just two issues. He does a good job expressing the appeal of Batman, touching on everything from his love to his mortality. However, the undisputed star here is Andy Kubert. He produces possibly the best work of his career. Well, I don’t know if it’s better than Batman #666. I love that issue.

Read my full review here.

Pretty even between Marvel, DC, and Indies, but DC did snag the top two. Then again, DC was also responsible for the worst book of the month. Overall, I’d say that April was a pretty good month for comics. All five of these books were a hell of a read.

Review: The Boys #26

Boys #26

(***1/2)

Aren’t those Darick Robertson covers awesome? They’ve had a guest artist do a variant on every issue of this arc, but I haven’t picked up any because Robertson draws such hilarious covers. But what’s sad is that for the first time, Darick Robertson’s art is absent on the interiors. What’s up with that? I don’t know, but what I am sure of is that John Higgins is a perfect substitute.

Wow, John Higgins, you may know that name from some Alan Moore comics. He did the colors on Watchmen and The Killing Joke. And now I see his art in The Boys, how cool? Anyway, if Robertson has the bubonic plague or something, Higgins should definitely take over. He keeps the same artistic tone so well that I didn’t even notice Robertson’s absence until I began writing this review. That should tell you something.

This is the longest Boys arc yet and so far it’s sadly been the worst. The series has kind of reached the superhero-bashing fart joke mediocrity that many think this book is without even reading it. That’s incredibly tragic. But we do have an improvement here. Sure it’s more making fun of the X-Men, but it’s also making fun of the way Marvel treats those characters. Comments on the ridiculous excess of teams and more like that make this issue succeed at least comedically.

Another thing that makes this issue special is the further exploration of Hughie and Annie’s relationship. Ennis has made them one of the most interesting couples mostly because of their secret identities. Annie gives a hint this issue and though these romantic moments are beautiful, there’s also the looming shadow of the terrible thing that will happen if the secret gets out. This makes the last page terrifying.

Garth Ennis is one of my favorite writers. I always want a title where I can get my monthly dose of Ennis goodness. Though The Boys may never be as good as something like Punisher, it is certainly very well done. It’s almost always a great read and I hope this arc ends with a bang. Ennis, I know you have it in you.

Bruce Castle Presents: Anita Blake Likes Boys

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Laughing Corpse #3 (of 5)

Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse #3 (****)

Am I the only one reading this comic? Go read it if you haven’t read the books. I’m illiterate, but I like the the pretty pictures. And what pretty pictures they are. I love Ron Lim. He’s been drawing comics for how long? And yet his work still looks great. He captures Anita perfectly. I love her character. Hamilton is a talented writer. She should write more comics. Poor Anita! Everyone hates her in this story. Way to stand up for your principles girlfriend!

Large Cover of The Boys #25

Boys #25 (***)

This arc should be called “great covers with a mediocre story”. Seriously, doesn’t Darick Robertson draw awesome covers? I love the Wolverine hammer hands already, but now he has to hold that drink with them? Does anyone else get that “Xorn looking at the burger” feeling? Which is probably one of the best covers of all time and I hope you know that. It’s sad though. The last Boys arc was four issues and it was the best yet. This one is supposed to be super important, it’s six issues long, and it’s shaping up to be the worst Boys tale ever! C’mon, Ennis! You are better than this! Robertson, keep up the stellar work man!

Bruce Castle Presents: Old Friends Fight Skrulls, Alternate Earths, and “Louie Louie”=Party Time!

Secret Invasion Thor #3 (of 3)

Secret Invasion: Thor #3 (***)

Misfire is a good word to describe this series. It was aimed correctly and it appeared to have the necessary ingredients to fire well, but could not. Fraction is an extremely capable writer and he’s proved himself with Thor in his fantastic one-shots released this year. But he just doesn’t deliver here. The series tries to be unique or exciting but it always seems to fail. Braithwaite is very capable as well. I was just reminded of that when I reread Justice. Sadly, I believe his art was hindered by Brian Reber’s colors. The book looks very muddled and at times it’s difficult to tell what’s going on and it seems to be because of the colors. This series is not terrible, but it’s not worth your money.

Astonishing X-Men Ghost Boxes #1 (of 2)

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 (***1/2)

I wonder if this mini was planned or if this was a last minute development to deal with Bianchi’s delays. Judging by the incredibly small page count of 16, I’d say the latter. The lack of pages is the biggest problem here. The bright side is that Ellis’ entire script along with all the naked (Or penciled, I just like saying naked) pages of this issue are included. I don’t think I’ve ever read an Ellis script and the naked art comes from Alan Davis and Adi Granov so that was a treat. But if you don’t care about that stuff, this issue is a bit of a hard sell. This comic is written well and it looks great, but I’m not sure how important it is (The 4 bucks bothers me too). But I don’t know this could be imperative information.

Boys #24 (cover A)

Boys #24 (***1/2)

Talk about great covers, this one is amazing! The pic doesn’t do it justice, but you can still see all the detail Robertson put into this. If you like Animal House (If you don’t, what’s wrong with you?), you’ll appreciate all the visual references. That’s pretty much all this issue was, comedy. The plot moved along a bit, but it was overshadowed by all the laughs. So, I’d say this was a pretty average Boys issue. That’s good, but not great. Still, the cover alone may be worth the price of admission. But if you don’t like that cover (Again, what’s wrong with you?), you can still enjoy the fart, masturbation and X-Men jokes.

Bruce Castle Presents: F-Bombs In Comics? No!

Anita Blake: The Laughing Corpse #1 (****)

I was wondering what that “Mature Content” thing was about. There’s an F-word word in here. Is it just me, or is that pretty unusual for a Marvel book? Not a MAX book or an Icon book, but a regular Marvel book, that isn’t something you see often, is it? It’s not even that necessary. So, why did they put that in? Or if it’ll be imperative later, why isn’t it a MAX book or something? Oh well, I still love this stuff and I’m happy it got another series. No, I haven’t read the original Anita Blake books. Why would I want to read something without pictures? Especially if those pictures are provided by the talented Ron Lim (or Bret Booth on the first series), are you crazy? This stuff is thoroughly entertaining. Although I do have another complaint, why is this book 4 bucks? It has the usual 22 pages, so why do I have to spend an extra dollar? Boo Marvel!

Boys #23 (Cover B - Casaday)

Boys #23 (****1/2)

So, we’re done with the heavy political arc. What does Ennis have for us now? Comedy! Oh, and story too. Romance! Gruesome death! Sex in a public restroom! And did I mention the laughs?! I love this series! Ennis and Robertson are at the top of their game here. The series keeps getting better and better. I know that’s hard to believe because last arc was so awesome, but this has a good chance. Big stuff is supposed to happen soon, which explains the cool Cassaday variant. Seriously folks, you will laugh out loud when you read this issue!

Bruce Castle Presents: Screw Superheroes!

The Boys & Darick Robertson - With Exclusive Preview

The Boys #22 (****)

After a lot of political stuff, we get back to the basics. This is the conclusion of the I Tell You No Lie, G.I. arc. The Boys just keeps getting better and better. The last issue was the highlight of this arc (the entire series actually), but this is still a really solid read. A little more background is revealed, but we’re mainly getting back to all those loveable characters. Readers who felt a little conflicted about Ennis’ political agenda will feel more at ease in this issue. I’m still sad about Ennis departing Punisher, but readers should have no fear. The Boys is starting to become as consistently great as Punisher was.

Secret Six #1 (*****)

I love the Secret Six. I found both Villains United and that miniseries to be incredibly enjoyable. Why does Gail Simone write villains so well? I don’t know, but she does. Also, why doesn’t Nicola Scott draw more? Her art is gorgeous! As much as I admire Dale Eaglesham’s (Brad Walker did a good job too) art, this is the best the Six has ever looked. I don’t think I have to tell you that first issue’s are mostly set-up, but this comic is filled with humor, emotionality, action, and a creepy intriguing villain.

Foilball’s Review Roundup #48

100 Bullets #94 (****)

It’s so difficult to review a comic that’s part 94 of 100, so I’m not even going to try. The reason I’m spotlighting this baby is simple: Lono vs. Dizzy… FIGHT!!! This is like, 70 issues in the making and we don’t even get to see who wins??? You’re killing me! My money’s on Dizzy. She’s too hot to lose! Too cold to hold!

The Boys #21 (*****)

This could be the best issue in the series and The Boys aren’t even in it. We finally get the scoop about this world’s 9/11 and SHIT, it’s a doozy, folks. So, the Legend reveals that the Seven are a bunch of super cluster####s who in the process of saving the day killed a whole bunch of people on a plane. And then, out government covered it up. Oh, also, someone close to Butcher was killed in the tragedy. Man, no wonder he hates these bastards. The thing I like so much about this series, despite the heavy-handed political messaging, is how honest Ennis is with his characters, and by extension, his readers. Ennis’ super folk are just like us. The things they do to the normal people in this book are the type of things normal people would do if they were suddenly granted super powers. These guys are human first, heroes second. This makes them not just noble, but petty, cruel and most importantly, weak. I don’t read this as Ennis’ disdain for the human race as a whole, but only for that corrupt minority that makes like miserable for the reasonably good-natured majority. So, in conclusion: I love this book. I love it because it plays fair. It’s the type of comic I wish I could write, but I’m glad someone more talented than me is actually pulling it off.

Criminal #4 (*****)

New story! So there’s this dude, used to be a counterfeiter, among other things, and then one day he gets caught up with this sultry little number, who steals his entire pathetic little stash, but that’s okay, because at least it was fun, but she ain’t through with him yet, because, out of the blue, after a few weeks, her boyfriend shows up to kick his teeth in, only, not really, the dude overreacts which kind of forces this pissed off boyfriend thug type to beat on him, into unconsciousness, and when he wakes, brother, the girl is back and she’s been telling tales, because thug boyfriend wants this dude to hook a hiim up with some fake FBI badges… oh snap, just another Criminal tale!

The Walking Dead #51 (****1/2)

No, that rating ain’t no mistake. Issue #51 was solid from start to finish. Kirkman really surprised me with this one. The phone thing caught me completely off guard. I was expecting it to be the missing prison people, but no, I was totally bamboozled. And then the end, that little bit where Rick goes back for the phone? That was heartbreak. I wanted to cry, but then I remembered that I’m a dude, and dudes don’t cry. So instead, I gave a little grunt and a sigh.

Young Liars #6 (*****)

HOLY SHIT, SADIE KILLS A ROOM FULL OF BAD GUYS AND THEN DANNY TRIES TO KILL HIMSELF?!!? How does this book keep topping itself? I was worried there for a minute, since before we hit those last few pages, the story seemed to be winding down. And then… bam-bam-bam-bam! EXPLOSION OF AWESOME!!! To save money, I should definitely switch over to trades, but I love the idea that each of these issues is like a single off a record. Owning the floppies feels mandatory.

Quick Hits:
• Buffy The Vampire Slayer #17 (***): Uh, who are all these characters? I’M SO LOST!!! I shouldn’t have to read or reread the Fray series, Joss! Introduce your fracking characters! Oh, and O-B-V the dark and mysterious chick is Willow… DUH!!! This surprises no one, Mr. Whedon. BE BETTER, damn it.
• Eternals #3 (***1/2): The story takes a slight dip as we slow down to get a dose of Celestials back-story, but most of it is interesting so I’ll give them a pass. Plus, I’m not stupid enough to think it’s unnecessary. Stuff’s gonna git ‘uge, fellars! We gots to be prepare’d with the learnings and the bed timey stories.
• Green Lantern Cops #27 (***): Why does the art feel so dated? I like Luke Ross. Why does this suck? The story was fine. Boring, but fine. And then we get eyeball rain. WOOO!
• Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #2 (**): Late books! Not gonna lie, this comic stinks.
• Jack of Fables #24 (**): This will probably be remembered as the worst issue of Jack in the entire run. It was boring, I was bored. The climax was the epitome of anti-climax. About the only thing I did like was the part where the kid gets his fingers bitten off. Other than that, it felt like the story went one issue too long, as if Bill and Matthew were as bored with it as I was. Still, good art, a nice Bolland cover and a page of Babe at the end, so I can’t complain too much.
• Spawn #181 (***): This was just weird, or oddly paced. The story definitely feels rushed here. Oh, I wonder why. McFarlane is returning to the book. Yay.
• The Twelve #7 (****): Yes! Phantom Reporter guy might actually do something about all the evil shit going down! Good for you, dude. Took you long enough. Also, the parallels JMS draws between Captain America and Captain Wonder where very cool, especially the stuff pertaining to their respective sidekicks… although, I doubt Bucky would off himself if faced with the same situation as Tim. Bucky’s too cool to commit suicide.
• Wonder Woman #23 (**1/2): Maybe this issue redeems this arc, maybe it doesn’t. Honestly? I could give a shit at this juncture. Bring on the next arc!

NOTE: The scanner works! Scans will return next week! Rejoice!

Bruce Castle Presents: Garth Ennis Gets Political!

The Boys #21 (****1/2): The Boys just keeps getting better. I originally picked this book up because of Ennis. I stayed on board because it was a fun anti-superhero book with some laughs, entertainment, and some good character drama. During the last arc of The Boys, everything improved and we actually got some genuine romance from this cynical book. With this arc, Ennis shows that he is indeed a great writer. The laughs and the character development take a bit of a backseat in this arc. Though both of those elements are still present, they are pushed into the background to showcase the book’s political objective. I’m sure quite a few people dislike the new direction, but thankfully I’m not one of those people. I think it’s great that the story is getting more epic and I can enjoy some politics in my comics. This issue is probably the best issue of The Boys so far. It covers a single event in great detail brilliantly. Bravo Garth.

Crossed #0 (****): There are many stories that would be horrendous if placed in the wrong hands. Just look at that startling cover and I think you’ll know what I’m talking about. Thankfully, I think Garth Ennis will have the skills necessary to keep this away from the typical gore fest realm. With America’s economy in the currently atrocious state that it’s in and the ever climbing gas prices, I’m always thankful when I can get my money’s worth. This issue is only one dollar and for that you get 11 pages of actual story. This isn’t a preview. This is the beginning of the tale. This is the “outbreak” if you will, where everything goes to hell. This was advertised as the most deplorable Ennis book ever and I suppose it does deliver. Although honestly I was expecting something a bit more gruesome, but we’re only 11 pages into the story and I’m pretty desensitized to violence. My main complaint with this issue was that it was advertised as a different kind of zombie story with normal humans as the zombies instead of the undead. At this point I can’t really tell the difference. But I’m more than willing to overlook that because again, it’s only 11 pages and I thoroughly enjoyed the social commentary mixed in with the gore. For those of you who enjoy George Romero’s zombie films or comics such as Walking Dead, you should definitely through down the dollar to give this a try.

Bruce Castle is Quick

4 stars = Stop reading review and go buy now!!!!
3 and a half stars = Great issue and make room on your trade shelf someday soon
3 stars = Recommended and maybe even trade worthy
2 and a half stars = Recommended
2 stars= Not the best, not the worst, not recommended
1 and a half star = Terrible issue and vocalize your disgust at your next social event
1 star = Awful awful awful and you may want to consider dropping this title
0 stars = Next con you attend where the writer and/or artist are present you should throw this issue in their face

Astounding Wolf-Man #7– I’ll admit, I haven’t really been enjoying this series much. I love Kirkman, but this book has been very bland and has had a slow pace. On top of that, the issues took way too long to come out and I forgot nearly everything between issues. But finally, after 7 issues, the wait has paid off. Probably the best part about this book has been the exploration of family drama and it’s done well. The art has also been consistently impressive. Even though it is a bit cartoonish, there is a clean strong feel to it and the art conveys a lot of emotion in its simplicity and that shines here. I won’t spoil the end of the book, but here’s a quote from me while I was reading it “Shit. Oh shit! OH SHIT!” For those of you who either haven’t been picking it up or just dropped it after a few issues, there is a trade of the first 7 issues coming out that I highly recommend. It’s also going monthly now yay! Or as monthly as Kirkman can get.  

3 and a half stars

 

 

Batman 678– This was a mind trip. I think it was supposed to be. I think I finally love this storyline. You get this sense of uncertainty and terror that you’re supposed to have. Morrison could have done the cliché hallucination issue, but he didn’t. He still keeps tabs on Batman’s allies. There’s still some action here and some big events. There’s also some comedy and certainly the feeling that you have no idea where this is going. All I know is Morrison has a plan. He has since the beginning. He’s also referencing concepts from old Batman stories that no one remembers. This gives you the feeling that Morrison has read every issue of Batman twice and is picking certain things from different stories to bring you the best issues possible. I can’t wait to find out what happens next and the month long wait is beginning to be cruel.

3 and a half stars

 

 

Boys #20

The Boys 20This is the most important Boys arc yet. Not in the sense that the Boys world is drastically changing, but in the way that this storyline will gain and lose the most readers. In the past this book has been a brutal humorous character study with a foundation made out of a “Fuck Superheroes” theme. I know some have loved this concept and some who said “Ennis hates superheroes. I get it.” Now this book ties the world of this superhero satire to not only the superhero genre, but the history of comic book publishing and recent real world political events. I think that some will love this, and some will feel that it is a longwinded interruption of the ongoing drama. I however, feel that this book is a perfect marriage of the two concepts. I thoroughly enjoyed the Legend’s detailed and humorous tale, as well as the moment between The Homelander and Butcher. I suppose I enjoyed the latter more, but I still think this is an essential storyline that needed to be told. Hopefully, this arc will gain many more readers than it will lose. Garth, Darick, I’m enjoying the ride!

3 and a half stars

Hellboy The Crooked Man #1–  You know, Hellboy is always filed under the horror genre. I love Hellboy books, but I have never found one scary, creepy maybe, but never really scary. This issue actually scared me. It’s too bad that Mike Mignola hasn’t done much art on Hellboy recently (he didn’t even do the cover of this issue), but Richard Corben is really doing a great job. This issue is set in Hellboy’s past, which is perfect because if people wander into their local comic shop on a high from the new Hellboy movie, they can pick this issue up without having to know any back story on the character. I’m not looking forward to the next issue because it will give me any new information on Hellboy, but simply because it will be a great story.

4 stars

Foilball’s Review Roundup #30 – EXTRA Long Edition!

The Boys #19 (****)

Finally! Answers! I, like many others, was beginning to wonder if Ennis had completely bamboozled us. Maybe The Boys wasn’t really about anything? Maybe it’s just about normal folks getting juiced up and beating on super folks, like in some twisted revenge fantasy? No, no, no… oh ye of little faith. Ennis, that bastard, had a plan all along; he just took his sweet old time getting to it. Like most of his books, this one is really about the corrupt military-industrial complex and their abuse of power. But, unlike in most of his books (of any of his books?), Ennis fucking spells out the entire scheme in this issue. No, not just the plot. He’s talking about the real world. He’s talking about America. He’s talking about us. This entire issue reads like a post on some “Aliens Killed JFK” blog. And I loved it (mostly because I agree with everything being said). Politics and spandex! I want more. Besides those bits, which take up the majority of this issue, we’re also treated to a scene where The Homelander and Butcher have a quiet little chat. The Homelander… what an asshole. Okay, so for all the haters… come back. This book is worth it.

Doktor Sleepless #7 (****)

I finally understand what this book is about: “Where’s my jetpack?” It really is that simple, and really that brilliant. Special thanks to this issue’s back matter. Without it, fumbling around on my own in the dark, I don’t think I would have ever discovered it. I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last three years researching new technologies and “futurism” that I became blinded by the obvious. Which is not to say AT ALL that I am a futurist, I just enjoy its study. Anyway, for months I couldn’t fathom what the hell it was Ellis was talking about, but not because I didn’t understand the technologies he was using in this book. I mean, usually the ideas he uses are so far ahead of the curve a reader literally assumes they’re pure science fiction. That is, unless… unless that reader has been doing the same kind of research. I had thought Ellis had lost his touch. I read about nanotech clouds and thought to myself, “Jeez, Ellis, this stuff isn’t bleeding edge anymore… you getting lazy?” But that’s the point. It’s not bleeding edge anymore. It’s not part of some far away future with beings barely recognizable as humans. It’s here. The future is here and we don’t even know it. We are the bleeding edge. “Where’s my jetpack?” could be summed up as the complaint of our generation, but it also serves to display our collective ignorance, or… is that arrogance? Where’s your fucking jetpack? It’s been on your back this whole time!

Number of the Beast #5 (****1/2)

I am really enjoying this book. This may be my guilty favorite of the three “WWII heroes frozen in time” events running right now. I love that it plays with dozens of strands of Wildstorm continuity and yet still manages to be daring enough to create a whole new world of characters and subplots that could stand on their own for readers that haven’t a clue about the almost 15 year history of the Wildstorm universe. And I love The High. I love that he’s feeling betrayed by his own people. Superman is one bad day away from being The High. You know what? Forget comparing this to Project Superpowers or The Twelve, this mini-series event is as good as or better than Secret Invasion or Final Crisis. I sincerely recommend this book. It’s 8 issues long and runs bi-weekly so it is quite an investment. But, the bi-weekly schedule means you don’t have to wait as long for your next fix. Maybe that’s why I find it so satisfying?

Young Liars #4 (*****)

The plot is so insane, it literally changes from issue to issue, that I have no clue where Lapham will take us next. Bravo, sir. So much shit happened in this issue:

Danny takes off his shirt.
Big C finds out the truth about her friendship with Sadie.
• Danny and Sadie have lots and lots of sex. And blood.
Sadie takes over a cruise liner at gunpoint… in the nude.
Lapham tops it all off with the best cliffhanger yet!

This is quickly becoming my favorite Vertigo title. Better even than Jack of Fables? Hmm…

Quick Hits:
Amazing Spider-Man #551 (*****): A million stars! Please, when this whole “brain trust” idea inevitably falls apart… please, please, PLEASE give Dan Slott his own Spidey title to work on.
Amazing Spider-Man #552 (****): This is closer to three stars, but the glow of the last issue has colored me biased. Oh, wells!
Angel: After the Fall #8 (***): These, I like these. Why didn’t they start with these? Also, Lynch isn’t as bad as I thought. It’s the artist that sucks. Why do they continue to employ this guy? His pencils are some of the worst I’ve ever seen.
Brit #6 (***1/2): There was a really fun issue in this first arc, and now the book has kind of leveled off. This last one was good enough to grant the stay of execution.
Cable #4 (**): Slowing dooooowwwwwnnnnn… inject plot developments ASAP!!!
Criminal 2 #3 (****): What a depressing story… my favorite kind!
Green Arrow/Black Canary #9 (***): It’s not bad. It’s not good. It’s just forgettable. Like the entire run.
Green Lantern Corps #25 (**): Tomasi’s writing is wearing thin. The issue wasn’t terrible, but then it took a turn for the cheesy once the Mother Mercy creature started spinning her life story. Lame. More Mongul, please? Oh, good. He’s back next issue.
The Invincible Iron Man #2 (****): Despite how annoyed I am at the forced movie continuity, Matt Fraction is writing a pretty decent Sci-Fi book. Now that I’ve read Casanova, it reminds me of that book. I’ll stick with it for now.
• Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #3 (****): Much better than the last issue. I like the giant interdimensional eye on the last page… so fruity!
• The Last Defenders #4 (***1/2): The reason I like this book: it appears to be the only Marvel book that is actually dealing with the political ramifications of the Superhero Registration Act and the Initiative. That’s cool.
Moon Knight #19 (*): Whatever. I’m canceling this shit.
New Universal: Shockfront #2 (***): This book is really, really slow. It feels like a relaunch and not the next chapter.
Nightwing # 145 (**): Enough with the stupid glider! It looks stupid! It’s a stupid idea! I don’t want to see it anymore! Stupid!
Punisher War Journal #20 (*): Can’t wait for Remender to take over solo.
Robin/Spoiler #1 (*): Huge, huge, HUGE disappointment. Nothing happened that I wanted to happen. Definitely a fumble. Second and inches turned into fourth and punt. UGH.
Spawn #179 (*****): I know hardly anyone is still reading this comic, and once McFarlane comes back actual anyone won’t be reading it, but David Hine is doing a superb job of fleshing out the Spawn mythology. This issue is really, really good. I thought about putting it in the spotlight, but what good would it do? Everyone has their preconceived notions about Spawn. Bah.
Titans #3 (-): Last issue for me. Thank God. I read a review where the reviewer said they really liked this book. They are a liar.
Trinity #1 (**): Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman sitting around in public talking about superhero stuffs… WTF? What worked as an epilogue for Kingdom Come does not work here. Not at all. And what the hell is Wonder Woman wearing? White on white on white? I’m blind! Yes, this is a setup issue, but what happens when the setup sucks? Also, the backup was terrible.
Trinity #2 (***): More of the same terrible from the first issue, with a slight improvement… the villain here is the lamest looking character since Busiek’s failed Power Company book. I give you two months Trinity… two months then I’m out.
• The Twelve #6 (*****): The plot is thickening quite a bit now, almost ready to serve. I feel like this is what Rising Stars should have been. We all know Thor is great, but The Twelve has single-handedly restored my faith in JMS.
Ultimate Origins #1 (***): Not the best idea ever, but I’ll go with it. Of course, I’m speaking of the “Wolverine is mutant zero” idea. I’m interested, that should be enough for now.
Wonder Woman #21 (***): I’m so confused. I feel like a missed an issue. This arc is just not doing it for me, I suppose.
Young X-Men #3 (*): I gave this book three issues and in three issues Guggenheim proved that he can’t write an X-Men book. So, I’m done.

Man, that’s a ton of Quick Hits. I’m in Ohio this week so I didn’t have time to split this up into separate posts. Sorry for the long read, and any and all spelling or grammatical errors.