6 Dec

The Android’s Dungeon: Velvet, Letter 44 & Rat Queens

Posted by Bryan White | Friday December 6, 2013 | Comics,Reviews,The Android's Dungeon,Youtube

Watch this week’s episode of Cinema Suicide for the return of The Android’s Dungeon, the old Cinema Suicide comic book column now in glorious high definition. This week I let you in on three comics that have been working for me lately, The spy comic Velvet on Image Comics from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting, the sci-fi book Letter 44 on Oni Press from writer Charles Soule and artist Alberto Jimenez Albuqurque and Rat Queens on Image Comics from writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Roc Upchurch.

Read the first issue of Letter 44 here: http://io9.com/read-the-first-issue-of-letter-44-the-comic-everyones-1472795323

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The Cinema Suicide theme song is ‘Boston Hardcore Caligula’ by Agoraphobic Nosebleed from their album, ‘Altered States of America’: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/altered-states-america-deluxe/id293674799

This week’s music bed is ‘We Live In The Shadows’ by Doomriders from their album, ‘Grand Blood’: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/grand-blood/id714648460

6 Feb

The Death and Return of Superman in summary

Posted by Bryan White | Monday February 6, 2012 | Comics

Superman #75 - The Death of SupermanThis link comes from The Mysterious Troy Z, a Cinema S contributor whether he knows it or not.

It was October of 1992 and The Boston Globe confirmed some rumblings I’d heard from friends who rumored that DC was planning to kill off Superman and bring a halt to his titles. For good. Not one of us read any of the multitude of Superman titles available at the time as most of the guys were fanatic believers in the House of Ideas but a few of us had the taste to pick up a few DC books. Superman was never among them, though.

Among the punishments of living on the seacoast of New Hampshire at the time, we had one choice of comic shop within driving distance as all the shops that opened near us closed within a few months and were the characteristically dark caves of people who no idea about comics trying to capitalize on the sudden collectible status of comic books at the time. Chris’ Cards and Comics was the only one that managed to stay open – unless we decided to drive double the distance to Paperback Bazaar – and remains open to this day in the very same scuzzy strip mall in Seabrook, New Hampshire. I walked in, grabbed my sub and then swallowed hard as I grabbed a copy of Superman #75 off the special display, closely guarded by the shop’s owner, Chris, that declared that I would pay no less than $10 for a sealed copy. Let’s go over that again. Ten dollars. Books were still reasonably priced around $1.25 to $1.50 at the time so to shell out $10 for this book was kind of insane but in spite of never really following Superman, I wanted to see how they brought this all to an end and according to my friends, not one of them was going to rip their copy open since it was highly collectible. Boy, were they going to be pissed.

They actually bagged and boarded their sealed copies of the book. I ripped mine open in the car, horrifying them all, and promptly wrapped the memorial Superman arm band around the sleeve of my flight jacket, where it remained for the rest of the winter and let me tell you, winter in New Hampshire lasts a long, long time. The above video is actually pretty unkind to the death of Superman, which is a suitably epic death story. Doomsday was, in fact, pretty fucking stupid and I really wished it had been Lex Luthor that had done the job, but what do you want? It was the 90’s and everyone was still reeling from the complete lack of taste in pop culture brought on by the dread decade, the 80’s. The comic market was also feverishly trying to keep up with the demand for new books and in spite of what you may think, comic book creative teams are actually the losing team when it comes to coming up with new characters. Their parade of fly by night characters come and go far more often than heroes and villains who actually stick around. So Doomsday being a Hulk-style destruction engine with spiny-points is really no surprise. Superman #75 just isn’t that bad and I was actually a little bummed in the end. I mean, it’s fucking Superman!

In the end, the book had the desired effect. People who didn’t even give a shit about comics snatched up multiples of the millions of copies shipped and the whole thing sold out overnight. Overnight. Comics do not sell out. Like, ever. What these speculators didn’t know, however, was that they were playing a role in the destabilization of the entire comic book market. Market value for Death of Superman skyrocketed almost immediately. I know that at one point shortly after the book was impossible to find in shops, unbagged copies were selling for as much as $50 and sealed books were going for as much as $300 and then the bottom fell out. As Max Landis discusses in that video, DC pissed all over their creation and revealed their hand over the course of the next 12 months with some wingnut, hyper convoluted story about how Superman was just resting all that time. Comic fans recoiled in horror. Speculators couldn’t sell their stacks of sealed books fast enough and almost as quickly as it rose in value, sealed copies of Superman #75 plummeted to a point where they were selling a little below cover price just to get them out of storage. This stupid marketing move by DC nearly destroyed the entire comic book market.

So even though I think Landis is a little cruel to Superman #75, he’s pretty much spot on with his analysis of the Reign of the Supermen and Rebirth of Superman – which actually had the balls to ship in a sealed bag with a gimmick cover. Props for Mandy Moore, Elijah Wood and Simon Pegg. Hilarious video. I’d like to hear his thoughts on Red and Blue Superman.

12 Jun

X-Men: First Class, revisionist origins and why I’m okay with mangling Marvel continuity

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday June 12, 2011 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

It’s been too long since I’ve had a proper Android’s Dungeon column. Way too long. Truth be known, those article tend to fall in the middle of long comic book binges where I spend more time catching up on trades than I do watching movies and since I haven’t bought a comic in a very long time, it’s only appropriate that I leave the topic uncommented upon. I recently caught X-Men: First Class, though, and it nearly inspired me to go dancing through the streets like Gene Kelly on MDMA. So let me be clear and get a couple of things out of the way:

Uncanny X-Men #253My first comic book was actually a fantasy book called Killer. It had some Frazetta style cover that caught my eye. The first book that I bought and really liked was the final issue of that Punisher limited series in the 80’s that became the Punisher regular series but the first comic that I bought and became a fan of, the book that lured me into the world of comics in complete was Uncanny X-Men #253. Why this book? I can’t really remember. The cover, when compared the covers of other Uncannys of the time, is actually kind of a clusterfuck. When you figured two issues prior, the cover featured a Marc Silvestri illustration of Wolverine crucified to a giant X, this one doesn’t say shit. It was also a terrible book to start a series like X-Men with. I landed right in the middle of an exceptionally convoluted story that planted the only two active X-Men of the time, Forge and Banshee, in the middle of a search for the rest of the team after they had escaped The Reavers by stepping into the Siege Perilous, whereupon they lost their memories and were scattered all over the world. Psylocke was even turned into a Japanese girl ninja. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Jubilee (his then-latest relationship with a minor that was only a little less inappropriate than Batman and Robin) are floating around what looks like the set of Pirates of the Carribean only it’s in Japan or something. It was fucking nuts but I stuck with it and witnessed the long, slow demise of one of Marvels then-most innovative and hyper melodramatic books. How bummed was I?

I caught the comic book wave right around the same time that a lot of new blood was entering the mix. There was a new generation of artists working for Marvel and DC at the time and their young perspective on comics took old dogged books and breathed new life into them, even if that life was sometimes made rancid by the heavy hand of Rob Liefeld. The problem, however, was that as I aged, the books failed to grow with me and while my tastes were becoming more sophisticated and my expectations grew, super hero comics, X-Men in particular, failed to grow with me. The books multiplied as their popularity flourished but all this meant was that there were now more mediocre comics on the market than before, selling more books than any other series before them. Each one of these books had devolved into teenage soap operas involving more complicated romantic relationships between characters than interesting rivalries and conflict between heroes and villains. I became very bitter about supers books at this time but I never let go of that fondness I had for Uncanny X-Men during its glory days. By that I mean that period of the late 70’s into the mid-80’s where the book began to fall into insane sci-fi storytelling that had Professor X jumping in and out of his wheelchair almost on a monthly basis thanks to alien technology that could fix him and the awful shit that Magneto did to put him back in the chair. It also turned out that Jean Grey wasn’t dead, Madeline Pryor was a clone of Jean and Cyclops’ parents, long thought dead, had retreated into space where they were now cutlass wielding space pirates. Or something. No matter how wound up and twisted the canon became, I still loved it and still love it today. Which is one of my major gripes about Marvel Comics.

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11 Nov

The Walking Dead: A Practical Guide

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday November 11, 2010 | Comics

The Walking DeadIn the event that you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, The Walking Dead finally premiered on AMC to rave reviews and record setting ratings. Following its second episode last Sunday, it was approved for a second full season. To many, this was a foregone conclusion and for those of us playing along at home it means a couple of things: Comics don’t have to be exclusive to the movie theaters. Horror has arrived as a sophisticated form of entertainment. Seriously. The ratings for the pilot episode, Days Gone Bye, were bigger than anything on cable before it. Bigger than mainstream, high-brow pop-culture trendsetters like Mad Men. Lots of people are going to be jumping on the bandwagon, buying up the trades and back issues. I mean, a mint copy of issue number 1 just sold on eBay for nearly $2000! So if you’re one of those bandwagoners, welcome! I’ve prepared this handy guide to the comic and show to hold your hand as you get acquainted with Robert Kirkman and Frank Darabont’s vision of armageddon. Also, this article introduces the new Cinema Suicide feature, SpoilerVision! This article will inevitably get really spoilery so I’ve written a new function that keeps the sensitive plot details redacted for those who don’t care to know. To reveal the spoiler, all you have to do is mouse over it. For instance, This is example spoiler text.

The Walking Dead 28Square one: What is The Walking Dead? I mean, originally.
In 2003, comic writer and Kentuckyan, Robert Kirkman was writing a couple of low-note books: Super Patriot for Image Comics and Battle Pope for his self-published company when he kicked off the double duty of writing the series, Invincible (one of the best superhero titles of the last 10 years) and a George Romero inspired zombie horror comic, The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead was an expression of Kirkman’s frustration in cinematic horror where after the close of the third act, we were left to wonder what happened to the cast in the aftermath of their ordeal. Particularly in the zombie scenario. Since George Romero’s Living Dead cycle never featured the same cast twice, the ultimate fates of the people we’d been so concerned with for the previous 2 hours were left up to mystery. To remedy this, Kirkman conceived of a similar setting where the ordeal of the cast would go on and on until he felt that people were growing tired of it or he felt the story had been told. This has the potential to go on forever and at the time of this writing, it has, nearing its 79th issue and still going strong, now more popular than ever.

Is the show like the comics?
For the most part. AMC’s vision of the show sticks to the core narrative and characters so far, but where Kirkman’s initial entries into the series gloss over the basics, it blows a lot of prime opportunities to build characters and important relationships while it was busy trying to figure out where it was going.  The character of Shane, Rick’s police partner and competing love interest for Rick’s wife, Lori, winds up dead by six issues in when he cracks and makes like he’s going to kill Rick. Rick’s son, Carl, intervenes by shooting Shane in the neck. Frank Darabont has made it pretty clear in interviews, though, that Shane will be sticking around for a while, though. The show also introduces some red-shirt characters like T-Dog from episode 2, Guts, who are bound to share little of the dramatic weight and operate strictly as zombie food for when the first arc kicks in and the survivors, at Rick’s insistence, are forced to pick up stakes and move the camp to a safer setting. Apparently, the show playing fast and loose with Kirkman’s version of the story is ruffling the feathers of the hardcore Walking Dead fans and its refusal to adhere to strict Kirkman dogma is driving them nuts. These people are assholes and you are advised not to read their internet rants.

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17 Sep

Image Comics! The motion picture!

Posted by Bryan White | Friday September 17, 2010 | Comics,News

Rob LiefeldI swear to god, guys. After this I’ll stop talking about comics for a little while but I had to mention it. E. Christopher Clark of Geek Force Five brought this to my attention this morning. It’s funny these days when some off-hand tweet makes news but this is coming from Rob Liefeld – who I’m trying so hard not to bag on right now – and interpreting it’s ironic 140 characters could be a challenge. From the looks of things, Rob has been working on a screenplay about the rise and fall of Image Comics during its hey-day. His twitter feed is being bombarded with replies about who to cast but all I know right now is that whoever gets cast as Rob is going to have the hardest time getting that Rob Liefeld hair circa-1990 just right.

Nearly completed screenplay about Image Comics and the 90’s. Can’t wait to cast this baby!….Indie financing on tap…

It’s funny because it’s coming from Rob Liefeld, an artist whose hubris knows no end. If you’re just tuning in and don’t know who Liefeld is, in a nutshell, he rose through the ranks of Marvel Comics’ artists incredibly fast and was part of a new wave of comic artists at the time characterized by guys like Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen. Their art was high-definition and hyper-detailed but among them, the only one without any formal art training was Liefeld and it showed. His grasp on anatomy was questionable at the best of times and in defiance of physics at the worst. He embodied the fanboy dream, basically. They even did a Levis ad with him directed by Spike Lee.

Image ComicsLiefeld’s books are uniformly terrible but there’s something to this. See, Image Comics marked a sea change in the way comic book publishers did business. Back in the old days, if you were a writer or an artist and you created a character or a book, you were just a writer or an artist working for the company and those books and characters became the property of the publisher who could then paste the likenesses of those characters on anything they wanted and make a mint. Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and all these other guys were running wild at Marvel coming up with new books and characters and making the company a lot of money because they were in at the ground floor of a new wave of comic book popularity. Sick of making an artist’s wage and having massive star power behind him, Todd McFarlane led the exodus away from the major publishers and established Image Comics, where the creators of books and characters owned those books and characters and were free to do with them what they liked.

And it worked.

For a little while.

Youngblood by Rob LiefeldImage did gangbusters business because its creators were making high-gloss comics with variant gimmicky covers, loaded them with T&A and gore and served them to a market full of teenage boys hungry for violence and sex appeal in their comics. Unfortunately, not much of Image’s early output was any good and a couple of years into its run, the comic book bubble burst leaving thousands of unsold comics and a lot of companies in major debt, including Image. Eventually Image split up into a bunch of different subsidiaries, each belonging to a different artist. Liefeld, by the way, was booted from the entire operation for being a gigantic dick.

Even though Rob Liefeld has a bad reputation among comic book fans and insiders alike and he can’t write for shit, the story of Image and comic books in general circa 1990, is a very fascinating topic. You must understand that these young artists were like fucking rock stars at the time. The Wall Street Journal published an article about the massive profitability of buying and selling comic collections at auction and it injected shit tons of money into the industry. If you were buying comics back then, think of how many dingy pop-up comic stores appeared in your area back then. It was crazy and comics were big money. Image Comics pretty much changed everything with its wild theory of indie comic practice on a major scale and things were never the same again. If they can make a movie about Mark Fucking Zuckerberg and Facebook, they can make a god damn movie about Image Comics and it’ll be a lot more interesting, I’m sure.

16 Sep

The Android’s Dungeon: Lotsa comics coming to TV (Sandman, Powers, Fables)

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday September 16, 2010 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

PowersThe movies are a terrible place to adapt comics. I know, I know, it’s huge box office right now and a trend that shows no sign of stopping but think about it. Many popular comics being adapted to screen right now have been in circulation since the 60’s and some even beyond that. We’re talking whole decades of continuity and canon crammed into a 90 minute plus block of time. Unless you’re sequelizing the source material you have to fill in the origin story as well as  a robust super hero/super villain conflict and in the process, you have to cut corners in order to make it all fit. This incenses fans, of course. There is no one on Earth more critical of an adaptation than comic fans. The real place to put your comic adaptations is television.

The obvious problem is budgetary. If you go with a major network, then you have to produce a season of TV that runs 17 to 24 episodes in length. This results in a lot of fluff and filler. If your show is effects heavy, you’re going to spread your already meager budget pretty thin between your effects budget and cast salaries. So how do you remedy this problem? You go to cable. Cable network budgets are also quite fickle, though. You can run the shorter seasons but without a solid precedent to cite as a reasonable expectation of a return on investment, how do you convince FX that spending more than usual on a short season of a very specific genre of television is a good idea? Herein lies the problem. Until recently, the comic book medium, even as it raked in record box office, was seen as low-brow kids fare. You couldn’t produce such a movie unless it was accompanied by a merchandising line to cram the shelves at Walmart. Christopher Nolan’s extremely dark Batman movies mark a significant change in studio policy since the movies were not the sort of thing you wanted to take your kids to and you couldn’t find a Christian Bale action figure anywhere. Since that time, however, cable networks have been flirting with the idea of adapting comics to TV and pulling down some of that sweet super hero coin for themselves.

Sandmans Delirium

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13 Jul

The Android’s Dungeon honors Harvey Pekar, 1939-2010

Posted by Bryan White | Tuesday July 13, 2010 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

So I go off the radar for a couple of days, taking some much needed R&R, and what do I come back to the office to find? News that Mel Gibson is even crazier than I had first thought and news that Harvey Pekar had died. What the hell, world?

See, there’s indie comics and then there’s indie comix and for a really long time, Pekar fell into the latter category. He was one of those guys working so deep underground that he was associated with Robert Crumb and as Crumb started to come to the surface, Pekar hung out in the depths for a bit longer before his unique personal style was propelled into the mainstream with a sweet biopic starring Paul Giamatti. And it was about time. I discovered American Splendor on the high shelves of a local comic shop when I was at my snobbiest. Having been fed up with the double gate-fold excesses of super hero books in the early 90’s and a revelation that The Uncanny X-Men insisted on looping back around again and again to jump that fucking shark with a book dedicated entirely the marriage of Cyclops and Jean Grey, I started digging deeper for comics that had some kind of actual value to them in the creativity department and in the process found Harvey Pekar. Most of the my early experiences with off-beat indie books rolled off into oblivion, most of them pointless exercises in abstraction, but Pekar wrote with a voice that echoed in my head for days or weeks after reading.

If you’ve seen interviews with Harvey or the awesome biopic, which features him extensively, you know that he’s a pretty mousy guy and he comes off exceptionally pessimistic and bitter  but that was just his way. The real Harvey, seen in the pages of his comic, American Splendor, was deeply human and very funny. He documented his take on shit that happened all around him in his native Cleveland, Ohio, and did it in such a way that made the extremely ordinary seem downright exotic. This was a sentiment that I could understand seeing as how I’ve spent most of my life living in the slow lane of small-town New Hampshire (aren’t they all small towns?).  A lot of people have flexed their creative juice by talking up the banality of their particular setting but nobody did it like Harvey and it made the ennui of a thrill seeker living in a place where nothing ever happens seem a little less oppressive.

Harvey was the antithesis of pretense and his modesty is what made his art so potent. There’s an enormous back catalog of American Splendor to be read not to mention an excruciating document of Harvey’s struggle with cancer in the form of Our Cancer Year, illustrated by Frank Stack and co-written with his wife, Joyce Brabner. If you’re only marginally aware or completely unfamiliar, I urge you to look into the work of one of the greatest minds of independent comics. Pekar was a poet at heart, one of the last of the beats and chose to express his fustrations and general observations about the ways that we choose to live out our lives in comic book form. Often dismissed as kid stuff, Pekar was a cornerstone in the argument in favor of comics as art. He was billiant and funny and will be missed. To honor his way out, here’s Harvey deep sixing his regular appearances on Late Night With David Letterman.

1 Jul

Bombs away! Zombie Bomb volume 2 drops just in time for Comic Con!

Posted by Bryan White | Thursday July 1, 2010 | Comics

Zombie Bomb volume 2If you’re just joining us and haven’t been following me on Twitter or the Facebook, you’ve missed months of me going on and on about how excited I am to finally have a comic published. I also reviewed the first volume of Zombie Bomb just prior to its release before the Boston Comic Con, where it sold out in mere hours. What can I say? I liked it a lot. It was a great book. This time around, Rich Woodall and Adam Miller have been keeping it quiet and I’ve only gotten a brief preview of comics to come in volume 2, apart from my own, that is. It’s shaping up to be a kick ass comic. Better than the first, even. I’ve seen the colored and lettered version of my contribution, This Night I’ll Eat Your Flesh, and it had my pulse racing at the very excitement of seeing my story come to life on the page. It was a short that Rich Woodall liked so much, he did some rearranging of his own workload in order to do the pencils, himself, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Seriously. It’s fucking awesome! This is not to downplay the contributions of the other two artists on the story. Lawrence Basso, who I want to call Lance Bass so badly, turned in an appropriately nasty color job for the story that accentuates Rich’s pencils perfectly and the lettering, by Matt Talbot, even expresses every nuance of the dialog. When I finally get to hold the printed version of the comic, it’ll be a transcendent moment for me and when you get to hold the printed version of the comic, you’ll get to see a kick ass zombie comic. Honestly. Even the unbearably negative jackasses at Ain’t It Cool News’ Talkback compared the book to Heavy Metal Magazine, which is a staggeringly sweet analogy.

San Diego Comic Con kicks off on July 22nd, showering the internet with big-hype movie news, a new stand-up talking show from Kevin Smith and more photos of chicks in Leia slave garb than you can shake a stick at. It also brings the launch of Zombie Bomb volume 2 which you’ll be able to buy directly from Terminal Press at the show and at their website. I’m not positive at this time, but I believe they’ll have had a distribution deal worked out with Diamond at that point and you’ll also be able to order from Previews and find it on your local comic shop’s shelf. But don’t quote me. Check it out below, bitches, and see what I have in store for you when I put my own spin on the classic EC formula of irony in a horror comic. Click on each to see a larger view.

This Night I'll Eat Your Flesh by Bryan White and Rich Woodall This Night I'll Eat Your Flesh by Bryan White and Rich Woodall This Night I'll Eat Your Flesh by Bryan White and Rich Woodall

7 May

The Android’s Dungeon: Victorian Undead/I, Zombie/Sparta USA

Posted by Bryan White | Friday May 7, 2010 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

The prospect of Sherlock Holmes vs. anything is a pretty attractive deal for me but Victorian Undead is pretty much a horror/mystery wet dream that throws in everything but the kitchen sink to achieve maximum cool. I was once reminded here on this blog that not everything old timey and British constitutes Victorian and this is certainly the case here. Around the turn of the century, the last century, that is, Holmes and Watson are called in by Scotland Yard to have a look at a dead man who defies logic and continues to live. Before any conclusions are drawn, though, MI5 shows up and shutters the case. This, of course, does not stop Holmes who eventually uncovers a sort of writhing mass grave below the streets of London and stumbles into the plot of his now undead arch-enemy James Mortiarty to turn all of England into a shambling horde of zombies.

Writer, Ian Edginton, a 2000AD regular, is exceptionally familiar with the rich lore of Holmes, he also knows how to have a good time with a ton a genre tropes, all playing nicely with one another in a single six issue series. You get the usual Holmes treatment with the obvious zombie horror, steampunk elements and nods to Dr. Who, James Bond and Professor Quatermass. Victorian Undead, for anglophiles, is a gigantic love letter to British pulp culture. Fall in love with this book.

I have been waiting with baited breath for I, Zombie ever since I spotted it in the House of Mystery one-shot last year. I hate reviewing Issue 1’s because of how vague the books can be. Every issue 1 is out to introduce characters and set up the issues to come, so it’s hard to get a handle on what’s going on. I, Zombie introduces Gwen Dylan, zombie girl detective. She lives in a cemetery, hangs out with a ghost from the 60’s and puts up with the relentlessly awkward advances of a were-terrier named Scott. In order to maintain her state of human appearance, Gwen has to eat brains once a month lest she turn into a shambling, rotting corpse. In the process, she gains the memories of the brain she’s eating. In this particular issue 1, Gwen eats the brains of a murder victim and is compelled to find out what happened.

I began a love affair with Mike Allred back in the day when I was introduced to the pages of Madman, a quirky super hero book that you could read and still maintain credibility with your Eight Ball reading friends. Allred’s art here is Allred’s art. If you’re familiar with his minimalist, old school graphic design style, you won’t miss a beat. It’s all clean, organic lines, solid inks and soft coloring. Chris Roberson’s script is where the book excels, of course. This is about the most original mystery premise I’ve ever seen and the book’s tragic characters, bearing a likeness to the BBC series, Being Human, are a tragic lot in spite of the sometimes comical and weird circumstances. Lots of fun and nice to look at, I, Zombie is definitely worth following into issue 2.

I need you to understand something. I don’t buy monthly books anymore. The cover prices on these books are just too damn high and comics are full of shit, mostly. Something genuinely original comes along so seldom and even some of my favorite books don’t compel me to keep up with them monthly, but Sparta USA just might be the most fascinating title of 2010 that keeps me coming back every month for a new issue. Roght from the get go, something seems very wrong with the town of Sparta whose 10,000 citizens all play football at some level. As a matter of fact, the whole town seems cut off from the rest of the world, stuck in a small town mentality that is an extreme-right-winger’s dream come true. They all live under the thrall of The Maestro, wise leader with blue skin who shows up a few times a year to deliver babies supplied to the community by the President of the United States, who, in this book, is almost regarded as god or at least The Pope. Meanwhile, living in the hills is the greatest quarterback Sparta ever knew, now gone rogue and living off the land, he and his red skin return to Sparta to show everyone the mysterious and terrible truth about the world outside of Sparta.

I don’t even know where to begin with Sparta USA. The art isn’t much to write home about. It’s a thick line, low detail style from artist Johnny Timmons that is suitable and strictly utilitarian. However, it’s writer, David Lapham’s crazy-ass ideas of the Texas lifestyle run amok that cements the plot firmly in weirdsville. In its second issue, the series is out of its mind and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Whatever brought the idea to Young Liars writer, Lapham is beyond me and how he managed to pitch is successfully to Wildstorm is even harder to understand. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s fucking awesome, in fact. It’s just that it’s so original and strange that it’s hard to see any company printing this book. Sparta USA combines Americana with fairy tales and mythology and not that Fables way. It’s a hard sell but I urge you to check this one out.

20 Jan

The Android’s Dungeon: The Goon in Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. Wicker

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday January 20, 2010 | Comics,The Android's Dungeon

Why are you not yet reading The Goon? Literate comic fans like to talk about Hellboy and BPRD until they’re blue in the face but if you like comics about meaty big people punching monsters in the face, you can find a true brother in The Goon. The Goon is a tough book to pin down and creator, Eric Powell, tends to keep things light with sophomoric humor aided by the percussive visuals of a lead pipe/wrench/broken bottle to the head. However, this new softcover reissue of the Hardcover originally released simply as Chinatown, adds a flavor previously unseen in other Goon comics. At first glance, Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. Wicker looks like any other Goon comic with a lot of violence and pulpy dialog lifted from any Dead End Kids feature you can think of. Yet, Powell injects the usual silly antics of The Goon with real heart. Chinatown takes some time to explain a few things about the relationship dynamics of The Goon and Franky, the origins of The Goon’s facial scars and the truly touching cases of heart break in his life that sculpted the personality of The Goon.

At this point you may be asking yourself, what the fuck are you talking about? So to aid in this review I offer you this: The Goon is a comic published by Dark Horse Comics with art and writing by Eric Powell. It tells the story of The Goon and his sidekick, Franky, a pair of criminals that run the city with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. The Goon is primary enforcer for a criminal that may or may not exist named Labrazio (he does). In this particular edition of The Goon, The Goon tangles with an extremely powerful and mysterious criminal entity named Mr. Wicker, a mobster made of twisted branches and surrounded by a supernatural fire. We flashback between then and now, then being a time in The Goon’s life when he was in love with a woman who broke his heart and now when The Goon tries to redeem himself in the eyes of one of the few women to ever show him kindness. In the end, he winds up ruining everything, though not entirely of his own actions. That’s just how it goes for The Goon.

The action plays out like most Goon comics tend to do but the angle of The Goon’s past and his relationships gone wrong adds this completely alien touch to the entire book. It’s a substantial sadness that The Goon typically lacks, therefore putting you, the reader, way off balance and humanizing a character that usually expresses himself strictly with his fists. Though Powell expresses some trepidation in the foreward about telling this kind of Goon story, it’s this uncommon mixture of familiar Goon elements and unfamiliar dramatic ingredients that make Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, in my opinion, the best Goon story ever told. This special storytelling treat humanizes The Goon and it’s something that I’d like to see more of if only once in a while in order to maintain the enormous impact that it has.

Being a writer, I tend to downplay the artistic merit of comics when I review them, but Powell’s illustrations for Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. Wicker deserve mention. His style is an original blend of cartoons and anatomy depending on who the character is. Every panel of The Goon is a treat for the eyes, but the flashback panels receive a water colors treatment and a delicious red and gold color palette that perfectly communicates the dream-like recollections set in the seedy Chinatown district of this particular setting. The book winds up with a series of sketches and pre-inked panels along with notes that amount to a director’s commentary to explain the though process that went into the creation of this stellar comic. The Goon in Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker is not, under any circumstances, to be missed.

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