Monday, September 3, 2012

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds Bees Blood & Beer Trade Paperback Review

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds, Bees, Blood & Beer
Softcover Trade Paperback
152 pages
$19.99 (2006)
ISBN 9781600100475

Contributors: Ben Templesmith and Robbie Robbins

Reprints: Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse #0-4

Synopsis: Hard-drinking occult detective Wormwood has one up on the other guys - he's a walking cadaver animated by a demonic worm in his empty eye-socket.  He's seen it all and is known by all sorts of nasty demons and things that go bump in the night.  Wormwood is a right friendly chap if you get to know him, but seems to attract the wrong sort of crowd.  Attended by his clockwork man, Mr. Pendulum, Wormwood is more interested in knocking back a few than solving the grisly crimes of the heinous creatures who wander into our dimension from the nether regions.

Fond of spending time at a particularly notorious strip club, Wormwood and Mr. Pendulum discover the beer is spiked with demon seed which transforms the beer-swilling, degenerate customers into demon incubators.  If that weren't bad enough they stumble upon a demonic plot to spawn more demonic creatures from unlucky humans using laced erectile dysfunction medication (i.e. boner pills).

Phoebe Phoenix is a stripper with a penchant for using firearms and special tattoos which animate into powerful weapons.  She signs on to be Wormwood's extra bodyguard (as if a mechanical drinking buddy weren't enough) and doesn't quite know what she's getting into.  Rounding out the group is a ghostly detective who asks for help to solve the case.  Can Wormwood and crew figure out who is behind the quickly multiplying baby demons?

Pros: Dark humor, concept is pretty original and pulled off fairly well by Templesmith, art is passable (nice colors), scripting is good (amusing tongue-in-cheek jokes), bit of nudity (strip club after all), funny ending (although a bit anticlimactic), lots of extras including pinups & sketches

Cons: Slightly offensive with the demon spunk and zombie strippers, art and story are a bit simple (minimalist for sure, i.e. not much for backgrounds except pretty colors), quick read

Mike Tells It Straight: I like horror comics and Templesmith was the original artist on 30 Days of Night which was written by Steve Niles, now a household name in the horror genre.  His art is well known for being abstract with a heavy use of mood colors.  Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse is a fun, quick read.  I liked the characters and Templesmith proves himself good at scripting dialogue.

Now that's a disturbing image
His writing is very simple and straightforward - this book is meant as an establishing arc to introduce his main characters and entertain the reader.  A little suspense and mystery, but mostly a bunch of weirdos going on an adventure.  Wormwood is a nonchalant anti-hero with a chipper attitude and major league connections in the supernatural underworld.  Templesmith wins for originality and I was thoroughly entertained.  Looking forward to another round.  

TO BUY and Recommendations:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wanted Trade Paperback Review

Image Comics - Top Cow
Softcover Trade Paperback
$19.99 (2005)
$29.99 (2005) Hardcover
ISBN 9781582404974

Contributors: Mark Millar, J.G. Jones, Paul Mounts, and Dennis Heisler

Reprints: Wanted #1-6 (of 6); Wanted Dossier

Synopsis: Wesley Gibson is the biggest human doormat in the world.  His girlfriend is screwing his best friend - and he knows about it, he works a pathetic job in a cubicle while his boss treats him like shit, and basically everyone thinks he's an industrial-grade douche.  The poor guy grew up without a dad and his mom turned him into a big sissy.  The poor guy hates his life, but is too powerless to do anything about it.

Yeah, that's pretty #$%^'d up
He's about to discover his father was the baddest super-assassin to walk the earth.  Now he's heir to The Killer's fortune and a seat in The Fraternity, a secret society of supervillains who killed all the superheroes and control the world from the shadows.  They live with impunity, kill without consequence, and even plunder neighboring dimensions for treasure (and fun).  The problem - Wesley's a sniveling wimp.  How can he possibly live up to his father's image?

The Fox was The Killer's apprentice and puts Wesley through a test - shoot the wings off six flies or take a bullet in the head.  Fortunately for Wesley his father's blood pumps through his veins and he has a natural ability to kill things which he never even suspected.  Now Wesley gets put through the most grueling training imaginable to become the most deadly assassin in the world - to become his father's son.

Now Wesley has the power to take back his life for the first time.  He revels in his newfound status and abilities, but is swimming with the sharks of The Fraternity - the deadliest supervillains who rule the world.  Heading The Fraternity are the Council of Five - The Professor (who Wesley works for), Mr. Rictus (who hated Wesley's father and is the suspected killer of The Killer), Adam One (the oldest living being on the planet), The Emperor (Chinese despot), and The Future (neo-Nazi fascist superman).

The Professor, Emperor, and Adam One want to keep the status quo of ruling from the shadows, but Rictus and The Future want to burst out into the open and commit heinous acts of evil for their own sake.  Wesley is trapped in the middle of the power play and must fend for himself without anyone he can really trust.  Will his life of being pushed face-first into toilets cause him to side with Rictus and commit true evil?  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely after all.  Rictus supposedly had The Killer assassinated - can Wesley gain revenge and is Rictus the true mastermind?  It's an action-packed thrill ride as Wesley is pushed to his mental and physical limits in a sea of betrayal.
These are some very dangerous people
Pros: Great covers and interior art by Jones, awesome concept and writing by Millar, mature readers tag means lots of swearing/violence/nudity, dossier has pinups of characters by a bunch of top artists (Frank Quitely, Jae Lee, Joe Quesada), nominated for an Eisner in 2005 - best limited series, source material for a blockbuster Hollywood movie

Cons: Juvenile power trip story, scripting is awkward in parts, typical alternate reality tale with well-known superhero knockoffs - Bizarro/The Riddler/The Fixer/Clayface/etc, desensitizes readers to violence, different than the movie plot (although it bears some striking resemblances)

Mike Tells It Straight: I recently went on vacation for a family reunion (my wife's 90-year-old grandmother went skydiving and it made the news - yes, she's awesome), had some time to kill on the airplane trip, and brought Wanted along.  I've already seen the movie starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, and Morgan Freeman.  Thought it was great - action packed with cool setup and relatively decent plot resolution (hey, I'm an easy-going movie-goer and can suspend disbelief for a lot of shenanigans).

You may have heard of this movie
The actual comic book mini-series is very different from the movie.  First, it has supervillains wearing costumes and a bunch of powers (expensive to pull off in a major motion picture), and then it has the villains ruling the world from the shadows.  Cool concept which I haven't seen in comics before - score one for Millar.  I dug the everyman lameness of Wesley Gibson - he's a complete loser office drone with a pathetic life.  He inherits a bunch of money, cool superpowers, and a purpose in life (although it's to be totally evil).

Millar's concept works and he puts together a compelling piece of work with excellent art by Jones.  It's not a genre-defying miracle, but merely a compelling spin on That-Which-Came-Before - superhero stories of the last 50+ years where the good guys always win and the bad guys are inept morons.  Millar takes the grim-and-gritty of the mid-Eighties and dials it up to 11 with the villains on top.

I loved The Ultimates by Millar and Bryan Hitch - a realistic and fresh take on heroes with decades of adventures (baggage) relinquished from them.  Wanted is not as good as his work there or on Ultimate X-Men, but it's above-average and worth a look.  Fun and juvenile with a wink to the established universes of both DC and Marvel - doesn't elevate the medium of comic books, but fills out an unused corner which needed some furniture.

TO BUY and Recommendations:

World Without End Review

World Without End
DC Comics
192 pages (6 x 32)
$2.50/ea. (1990-91)

Contributors: Jamie Delano, John Higgins, and Richard Starkings

Publication: World Without End #1-6 (of 6)

Synopsis: In a strange land made entirely of hostflesh, the Gess have ruled for millennia.  The Brotherhood of Stern Resolve oversees a group of five guild houses which make up a sterile male society.  Women are called Skittons and held as cattle for ritual purposes, but all Gess and Skittons are unable to procreate.  Instead the Eugenics Guild uses technology to breed additional labor as needed.  The Brotherhood has the power to control the hostflesh through chemical and hormonal means, and they were the ones who created the capital city of Bedlam.

On the outskirts of the civilized world a growing unease and anticipation arises in the hostflesh.  A being called Rumour has appeared with the power to create life from the Host and represents the resurgence of the threat of 'female' to the Gess.  Now the Brotherhood recreates their misogynist champion, Brother Bones, to purge the female presence which threatens to topple their society.
Brother Bones scouts for Rumour with some Wingmen
Brutal, unrelenting, and completely unforgiving - Brother Bones becomes the Brotherhood's worst nightmare as he seizes leadership of the Gess and wages a pyrrhic war to claim Rumour's life.  Will her monsters overwhelm Brother Bones' minions and does the Host prefer a woman's touch?

Pros: Higgins' covers are striking, Delano writes a unique tale, battle of the sexes amplified to the nth degree, some nudity, mature story, ending was a bit unexpected/good

Cons: Higgins' interior art is less detailed/good as the covers, Brother Bones' speech is horribly difficult to read (Delano provides a translation guide at the end of issue #2) as Delano uses a mimetic alphabet to emphasize his archaic speech patterns - the guy talks a lot and this gets really annoying, I expected a superhero book based on the cover to issue #1 and this was not a superhero book
Brother Bones leads his army to the Scarlots fortress
Mike Tells It Straight: Jamie Delano is a great writer and this book is a unique vision containing an immersive, strange world.  It's pure science fiction and an interesting take on the battle of the sexes after a millennia of evolution.  The idea of an organic Host which has grown across the world is pretty weird and makes a neat backdrop.  I liked the concept (it's something different), but the finished product was somewhat lacking.

Higgins art was hit and miss - his covers (which he obviously spent more time on) were great, but the interiors were far less polished and felt rushed.  Delano's scripting of Brother Bones and Rumour (particularly Brother Bones mimetic speech pattern) were heavily distracting and slowed down the story unnecessarily.  If it was Delano's intent to slow the pace of the story and emphasize Brother Bones' distinct programming - it worked wonders for making me want to stop reading.  It took a heap of willpower to avoid skipping past the copious rantings of Brother Bones whenever the story refocused on him.
Rumour - this is a sweet cover by Higgins

I thought World Without End was a superhero book at first glance (the cover to issue #1 looks a bit like Batman fighting some tentacled monster) and quickly realized it was something else entirely.  Definitely a clever marketing trick during a time ruled by superheroes.  Delano wrote it between his run on Hellblazer and Animal Man.  This mini-series probably won't get a collected edition since it's become a bit obscure.  The covers make it look tremendously enticing, but I would keep it far down on the pull list despite the originality of Delano's Host concept.  Save yourself the torture of Brother Bones' lengthy and annoying speeches - unless you're into that sort of thing.

TO BUY and Recommendations: