Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Young Liars #11 Review (Vertigo, 2009)

Coherent? No. Exciting? Yes!!

Fantastic cover, probably the best of the bunch, and they have all been excellent. Love the fact that DJ Danny Duoshade recommends tracks from Butthole Surfers and Mission Of Burma - fly that mid eighties punk / freak flag!!

It still makes no sense - even Danny acknowledges that fact, basically requesting that if you don't understand, don't ask him. He doesn't understand either. Or is he lying??? What do you get in this issue? You get something approaching a climax. Yes, somehow, the Young Liars manage a Butch and Sundance and come out all guns blazing against the sadistic Pinkerton killers. There is more about the Spiders, Sadie and lots of her relatives, Puss Bag in heroic mode (even though his accent seems to be a composite of all regions of the UK - I detect cockney, east midlands and west midlands) and Danny. Poor bewildered Danny. Yeah, right. Is he the biggest liar of them all? He certainly returns to centre stage, and grabs the ending from under the noses of those who would claim the Brown Bag empire as their own. It was terrific and fun and funny and the action was brilliant and I really enjoyed this issue. It is the first issue of Young Liars I have really enjoyed since those heady days of last summer....

No.12 promises to be a lot of fun. Or then again, maybe Lapham will pull the rug from under us and take us on another tangent, another time, another place. But I bet the cover will be fantastic.

Verdict - the best issue in several. This played up to the strengths of the title. It is anarchic, funny, slightly psychedelic and very acid-drenched. A brilliant return to form and the best title this week. Hooray!!! 9 out of 10

Marvel Zombies 3 #4

This great series ends with a flourish, a bang - and the dawn of a new Zombie Hunting Party.....


Let me start this review by saying that the third series of Marvel Zombies will not be the last. Anyone who reads comic books is hardly going to be surprised that Marvel are not going to kill off one of their cash cows (i assume that Marvel Zombies 3 has done comparable business to Kirkmans initial foray and its sequel). The fact that they have managed to build up a level of excitement (as far as I am concerned) for the next installment is a tribute to what Marvel are trying to do here.

So what do I think they are trying to do with Marvel Zombies? I think they are now using the success and recognition of the title as an opportunity to give a run out to some of the B and c list Superheroes in the Marvel Universe. In Marvel Zombies 3, it has done a great service to Jocasta and Machine Man as the central characters and heroes. Machine Man has been a revelation to me, as he has been showcased as an all-out action hero with elements of Schwazeneggers invincibilty and Willis' humour, along with a formidable body-as-weapon arsenal. It worked for me.

Jocasta, also, flourished in a role where nothing but desperate actions on her part would secure Earths survival. Throughout this series in particular, without the novelty of seeing the big guns 'zombiefied' (Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine etc), those Zombies that have been present have taken less prominence. The tone of the title has changed. However, there are still a lot of characters that they can play around with who provide entertainment (Black Bolt, Lockjaw, Kingpin - Kingpin in particular has a great scene towards the end of issue 4).

Whereas the focus of 1 & 2 was on the perspective of the Zombies and their hunger driven devastation of worlds, Marvel Zombies 3 has been about how Heroes have tried to combat the threat. So the title ends with the exciting build up to part 4. With Machine Man and Jocasta exiting stage left, Morbius steps up to the centre stage full of purpose and revenge and bringing with him a tantalising supporting cast.
This is where my point about showcasing the lesser known heroes is clearly illustrated; does anyone want a new title starring the 'Midnight Sons'?? Probably not.
Will people read Marvel Zombies 4, starring the 'Midnight Sons'? Probably. It is another High Concept; 'Monsters vs. Zombies'. This one, has a good feel to it.

As a standalone issue, the fourth and final issue had maintained the fun, fury, action and gore of the previous three issues. As a series, Marvel Zombies 3 managed something that I thought would not have been possible when I heard of its inception - it managed to be as good as the Kirkman titles previously in the series. Great writing from Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker got the art spot on with a visceral, humourous style. Let's hope that '4' is an equal to those that have gone before it.

Verdict - A success (against the odds as far as I am concerned.
Issue #4 - 8 out of 10
Marvel Zombies 3 (series rating) - 8.75 out of 10

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Punisher Dark Reign #1 Review (Marvel 2009)

Rick Remender and Frank Castle - a marvellous new Marvel Team Up!!!

The Punisher, as a character and in his numerous titles, I can generally take or leave…. though to be fair Ennis’ ‘Punisher Max’ has a fair amount of superlative issues and storylines – but what else can you expect from Ennis? The man is one of the greatest comic writers out there – and although I cannot always get my head around what he is doing (like ‘Crossed’) there is no doubting he is a master of this art form.

But we are not here to talk about Ennis. I want to talk about Rick Remender, the virtuoso behind the completely tasteless horror porn ‘XXXombies’ for Image in 2007. Although that title seemed little more than alternative high concept (‘zombies meet pornstars’ in the 70’s!!!’) it was not without merit, and certainly, for me, marked out Remender as a talent to watch out for. So here is, with a big Marvel title.

How does he fare??

Well, he makes this issue, a kick off for Frank Castles experiences during ‘Dark Reign’, into a barnstormer with a superbly minimal plot. Castle is planning an assassination attempt on Norman Osborn. The only problem is, Sentry is standing between Castle and his intended victim. The cat and mouse that ensues is strafed with funny, sharp and smart dialogue – like Castle, in one piece of dialogue, referencing Sun Tzu and explaining Christianity as an excuse for hippies (you have to read it). The action is superb – visceral, frenetic and very enjoyable. Overall it is fast, funny, brutal. It is a great issue. I have high hopes for this series. Go Frank!!! Go Rick!!!!

Verdict - Superb value, any other week (when its not Walking Dead week) it would be the best out there by a mile. 9 out of 10. Also - I love those covers (a tribute to Castles first appearance in the Marvel Universe in the pages of Spiderman)!!!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Walking Dead #57 Review (Image Comics 2009)

Kirkmans epic takes a detour into another pocket of hell as Rick faces the most appalling of situations

The longer you stick with this tremendous series, the more you expect the worst. You expect the worst to happen to the cast of characters. You expect the worst of human nature to manifest itself in many forms. Death is ever-present, but in this issue we see something that is possibly the most distressing and awful scenario I have seen in a comic. This is an issue is dominated by the sudden and shocking brutality that human can do to human and it isn't easy to experience this.

I read the book with almost an unwillingness to turn the page. I don't want Carl to die. I don't want Rick to lose his son. I want them all to reach safety somehow. I want the other children to get through, and I don't want to lose Michonne, Maggie, Glenn, Andrea or Abraham (who is becoming a fascinating juxtaposition of machismo and emotion). This issue throws a few more tantalising clues about Abraham Fords past. It promises to reveal more in future issues. There is a real prospect that we may see some characters we have not seen for a long time (and let us hope they are safe and well). All the while, the possibilities that lie ahead in Washington are just out of reach, making 'Doctor' Eugene the biggest enigma of all. He is still there, in the background, but a powerful influence on the course this group, and this story, is going.

What I am trying to say, again, but in a different way to before, is that I love this book, it is the best comic book of this year already, and it just matures and gets better. I don't want to think about what is coming up with issue #58 (aka 'The Unthinkable'). I will read it, with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach, my heart fluttering. I will be back to be enthralled by this most magnificent of comic books.

Verdict - This comic is peerless. It pushes the boundaries without resorting to peurile humour or scare tactics. There is a reason why terrible things happen in the context of this awful world that Rick, Carl, Abraham, Michonne and all the other survivors inhabit. This world that they have to exist in is broken and lawless. Bad things happen to good people. There are no rules. The further we go into this world, the more apparent and shocking that truth is. What astonishes is that Kirkman and Adlard still produce gripping, involving drama from such a desperately hopeless and devastated environment. There is still hope in these pages - you just have to look very hard for it at the moment. 9.25 out of 10.