Saturday, December 30, 2006


I’m back to close out the year, and the big finish is actually a pretty big finish! Seven new books from the good folks at Dynamite Entertainment! But before I dive in: thanks to every single one of you that takes the time to come here and read, as well as those who make their way to the main site from here. I appreciate your time and attention, and I do my best not to waste it.

The ARMY OF DARKNESS MOVIE ADAPTATION is adapted and drawn by the great John Bolton, straight from Sam and Ivan Raimi’s original script. This is easily the best AOD product on the market; the movie itself holds up quite well, and Bolton does an amazing job of adapting it to the page and making it flow. Plus: it’s John Bolton for fuck’s sake! He’s one of the true giants remaining in the medium, and puts the majority of his peers to shame. Ash’s journey to the past looks so pretty here that it almost puts the actual celluloid stock to shame. Film adaptations are a dying art, and few are ever any good (the Goodwin/Simonson ALIEN being the major exception), but this ranks right up there with the best ever produced.

James Kuhoric writes ARMY OF DARKNESS VS. RE-ANIMATOR, with art by Sanford Greene and Nick Bradshaw. This trade paperback collects the first four issues of the AOD ongoing series, and features the first of Ash’s crossovers with other horror franchises. Kuhoric does a decent job of bringing the two together, and the story gets off to a decent enough start, but as it moves forward, the RE-ANIMATOR elements get pushed aside for too long. There are also a couple of narrative jumps (such as Sheila’s fate being handled mostly off-screen) that don’t quite play right to the reader. My major quibble is that the EVIL DEAD films were solid “R”s, and the gore factor in the book is very high, but the language gets “bleeped”. I don’t quite understand why blood and severed heads are okay, but the word “shit” isn’t/

ARMY OF DARKNESS: OLD SCHOOL is also written by Kuhoric and drawn by Kevin Sharpe. The next three issues of the ongoing, plus the TALES OF AOD one-shot are collected here, and it is a marked step-forward over the previous book. Ash and his new comely comrade Sugar head back to the cabin where his troubles all began, and he must confront the animated body of his dead friends and girlfriend in an effort to find a way to save Sheila’s soul. By returning to the heart of the AOD saga, Kuhoric delivers a perfect gift to the fans of the character. Throughout the book you’ll find one easter egg after another designed for the serious franchise fanboy. But the book also works as a solid story for the reader who isn’t a fan of the franchise as well; what you have here is a solid “haunted house in the woods” story. The addition of Sharpe to the art chores makes a huge impact as well; his style is more realistic and adds to the horrific nature of what happens to Ash and Sugar.

Top Cow Productions co-produced MONSTER WAR with
Dynamite, lending Witchblade, Darkness, Magdalena, and Lara Croft for a face-off against the classic monsters Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfmen, and Dr. Hyde. Written by Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegowski and drawn by Joyce Chen and Victor Ishimura, the story finds Mr. Hyde plotting to use Dracula to split the world’s population into vicious vampires who spread a disease and weak victims, and to use the Frankenstein Monster as a gate to allow ancient evil to roam the Earth. Oh, and Dracula uses the Magdalena’s virgin blood to power himself. If you couldn’t tell from all that, this is a pretty incoherent mess, and the story is very difficult to pick apart. The writers are solid veterans of the horror genre, but this is a swing and a miss for them. The artists do their best to make it work and look nice, but in the end, nothing captivates here beyond the collection of covers. AOD tie-in: from here, Dracula arrives on the final pages of issue seven and headlines the next few issues of the ongoing.

ARMY OF DARNKESS #12-13 are written by Kuhoric and drawn by Fernando Blanco
(with the final page of issue thirteen drawn by Sean Phillips). This two-part conclusion to the ongoing series wraps up the proceedings tightly; all the threads put into place by the Raimi films and the previous issues come together with a reasonable explanation for why Ash’s life has sucked shit at every turn. Bringing together virtually every character of importance to the AOD saga, this feels like an earned ending, not a cheap one, and it brings the goods for fans of the saga. But the real kick in the pants is that final page, where we see Ash’s arrival at his next destination: the Marvel Zombies universe. I’ve never been a huge fan of AOD, but this crossover promises to be one of the more entertaining books to hit the shelves in 2007.

Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern deliver DARKMAN VS. ARMY OF DARKNESS #2, aided and abetted by James Fry on the art, and it brings the goods. The Necronomicon has possessed the love of Darkman’s life, Julie, and Ash has been magically summoned to battle her Deadites. Seamlessly blending to the two franchises, the two heroes first fight against one another and then team up to try and rescue the woman’s soul. Issue one was heavily focused on Darkman, but issue two shoves a bit more of the focus towards Ash, giving each character a more balanced amount of “screen time.” While not a big AOD fan, I am a huge DARKMAN fan, so this series is playing right into my soft spots, particularly the cliffhanger reveal. When you bring together two veteran talents like Stern and Busiek, you expect something really good; and fortunately, with this mini, you’re getting it.

See you all in 2007!


Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Welcome to the first (of what I think will be two) holiday review blog. Today’s entry covers three items from our friends at Image Comics.

OUTLAW NATION is written by Jamie Delano and drawn by Goran Sudzuka and Goran Parlov. DC/Vertigo originally published OUTLAW NATION, but after sales figures came in for issue fifteen, it was given a death warrant and ended four issues later. This collection unites all nineteen issues under one cover, a mega-sized 450 page+ book. NATION follows the adventures of Story Johnson, a semi-immortal writer who returns from 25 years MIA in Vietnam to find his extended Johnson family in radical disarray. His father is controlling governmental agencies, his evil half-brother is a murderous freak, and he discovers that he has a son… and that son is about have to have a child of his own. Add a single mother and her mentally unstable son to the mix, and you get a sprawling Americana epic. The story is rich and complex- I really haven’t scratched the surface in explaining it- and the art, presented here in black and white, is terrific. The only place where the book suffers is in those final issues, where Delano had to artificially crank up an ending. But even then, he turns in a perfectly respectable effort. This is a keeper of a book.

Jae Lee writes and draws the collected HELSHOCK, co-published by Dynamic Forces. HELLSHOCK has been one of those “long, lost” projects, a book that achieved high praise and acclaim, but disappeared before it was ever completed. Now, Lee has put together his final chapter (and more) and brought the series together under one cover. The story concerns a young psychiatric intern named Christina who finds her own sense of reality and appropriateness eroding as she gets deeply involved with her patients. Unquestionably, the strength of the series was Lee’s beautiful artwork, and what makes this paperback even more interesting is that you can watch it develop over time. By the time you get to the now completed final chapter and see what he can do now… all you can do is say “Wow.” The series’ fatal flaw was that the story itself was never all that compelling, and Christina doesn’t garner much of your sympathy as a reader. The collected edition goes a bit further in highlighting the storytelling deficiencies, but the art makes the book more than worth buying.

ELEPHANTMEN #5 is written by Richard Starkings and drawn by Moritat. One of the problems with the earlier issues of this series was the anthological format; the creative team was delivering two stories that were generally unrelated and doing nothing but marking time in this world. But with issue five, the book takes a sharp turn into telling a larger, longer story, and the results make for a distinctly better comic. By returning to a couple of plot points introduced in the zero issue, we start to see the tapestry of a genuine plan behind Starkings’ stories, and it gives you a lot more confidence that ELEPHANTMEN isn’t existing solely as an artistic exercise. Of course, if it did, this would still be a fairly successful comic; Moritat keeps improving with each issue he turns out. But in the end, it’s better to produce something interesting and readable, and this could turn out to be something special in the long run.