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A Month In Comics: Buffy, Stephen King, and the Antichrist

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Forthcoming titles:

The Highwaymen sounds like a great idea for a Hollywood buddy movie, albeit a geriatric one. Able “Speed” Monroe and Alistair McQueen were the ultimate couriers and they’re coming out of retirement for one last job, transporting a top secret package for a dead President. Writers Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman team with artist Lee Garbett to bring this one to life. I’d love to see Sidney Poitier and Clint Eastwood in the inevitable film version.  Coming from Wildstorm June 20. Anticipation factor: 7

The Weapon is another title that sounds like it would make a great film. A high tech invention, evil assassins and an ancient mystical martial art – this sounds perfect for Jet Li! Fred van Lente and Scott Koblish bring us this four issue actionfest. Coming from Platinum Studios in June. Anticipation factor: 7

Black Summer is a new series from my current favourite comic writer Warren Ellis. Here Warren once again turns his fevered imagination to the superhero genre but this promises a more explicit take than the usual Marvel/DC fare. Art is by Juan Jose Ryp. The eight issue series from Avatar starts in August but watch out for issue 0 before that. Anticipation factor: 8

Sheena Queen of the Jungle gets reinvented for the modern age by Robert Rodi and Matt Merhoff from a concept by Die Hard scriptwriter Stephen E. de Souza.  Coming in June from Devil’s Due. Anticipation factor: 7

Tales from the Crypt is back! I’m not sure whether to be excited or disgusted but either way the bi-monthly series promises two stories each issue in the Crypt tradition. Coming from Papercutz in June.  Anticipation factor: 6

Crécy could be looked on as an attempt to cash in on the success of 300 as it deals with another epic historical battle between vastly mismatched forces but with Warren Ellis (yes him again!) writing it will almost certainly be much more than that. Anyway you can keep your Greeks and Persians this is the English sticking it to the French! Art is from Raulo Caceres. An Avatar graphic novel coming in June. Anticipation factor: 9

Doktor Sleepless is another new series from the prolific Ellis (does the man never sleep!), this time he’s joined by artist Ivan Rodriguez. I don’t know much about this, although I have seen the script for page one and it sound like it will be something pretty wild with Ellis in full unfettered mode. Coming from Avatar in July. Anticipation factor: 8

Avengers Classic promises to do for the Avengers what Classic X-Men did for that team, namely not just reprinting the original stories but also expanding on them with an all new back-up tales. As well as the Lee and Kirby original Avengers story this first issue also features tales by Dwayne McDuffie with Mike Oeming and artist Kevin Maguire teamed with none other than Stan “The Man” Lee! Coming from Marvel June13. Anticipation factor: 7

Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock offers a new take on the pre-Daredevil Matt Murdock, as it’s told in the first person by his boxer father. Written by Zeb Wells with bruising visuals from Carmine Di Giandomenico. Coming from Marvel June 6. Anticipation factor: 7

World War Hulk finally sees old Greenskin return to earth and to say he’s not happy would be the understatement of the year. Hulk writer Greg Pak teams with superstar artist John Romita Jr. for this five issue limited series while the equally talented Gary Frank takes over art duties on Incredible Hulk. Coming from Marvel June 13. Anticipation factor: 8

This month’s reading:

Action Comics 846

The Geoff Johns/Richard Donner writing team continue their tale, and it feels more like a sequel to Donner’s film(s) than a piece of the DC Universe. Still that’s not necessarily a bad thing and with Adam Kubert providing some spectacular visuals as General Zod not only unleashes the inhabitants of the Phantom Zone but traps Clark inside for good measure, this is shaping up to be one of the best Superman stories for some time. Grade: B

After The Cape 1

The idea of an alcoholic superhero is a good one but creator/writer Howard Wong lacks the experience to fully do it justice. Marco Rudy’s art at times recalls Frank Miller’s Sin City but at others looks quite amateurish. I had high hopes for this but Marvel covered similar ground much better in Iron Man years ago. Grade:C

The Authority 2

This is another title that I had high hopes for having been a big fan of the Warren Ellis/Mark Millar era. After what seems an age the second issue finally arrives and at least it features The Authority, even if much of the story is taken up with exposition. Next issue promises Midnighter cutting loose so I’ll be back for that, I just hope the wait won’t be as long. Grade: C+

Batman Confidential 2 & 3

There’s nothing new or fresh here just the same old obsessive Batman. Andy Diggle may think pitting the Dark Knight against Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor adds something we haven’t seen before but his handling of the characters is far too pedestrian. I used to love Whilce Portacio’s artwork but there’s barely a glimpse of his old greatness here. Grade: C

The Brave and the Bold 1 & 2

Issue 1 of DC’s reborn team-up title has Batman and the Green Lantern dealing with an extraterrestrial threat. It’s a fun read but very much a nostalgia trip and not something I’d care to buy on a regular basis, even with the awesome art of George Pérez. Thankfully issue 2 has an altogether fresher feel as Green Lantern is paired with Supergirl. There are some sparkling exchanges between the two and writer Mark Waid is clearly having a ball here. He also makes good use of the frequently neglected thought bubble, case in point: Green Lantern on Supergirl “You have food in the refrigerator older than her, Hal. Who are you Ollie?” Next issue features Batman and Blue Beetle, fingers crossed it keeps the same wit and energy. Grade: B+

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 1

Part one of "The Long Way Home" is somewhat less than I’d hoped for. It fails to really capture the fun and energy of the series and instead makes you realise that Buffy was far more than just Joss Whedon. It was a great cast who perfectly embodied their characters, it was first rate stunt men/women giving us some of the best fight scenes we’d ever seen on a weekly TV show and it was special effects guys working with limited money to create unusual villains. With the budget not a consideration in the comics medium we get a BIGGER story here than we’ve seen before but in the end instead of filling the void it just makes me miss the show even more. Grade: C+

Chronicles of WormwoodChronicles of Wormwood 1 & 2

A book guaranteed to offend both Christians and Satanists, Garth Ennis vision of the Antichrist is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Wickedly funny and extremely explicit in both words and pictures, this is the story of Danny Wormwood. He’s the son of the devil but he’s not interested in starting Armageddon, he’d rather run a cable TV channel. Trust me, until you’ve seen this you can’t possibly imagine just how crazy it is. You’ll be shocked but in a good way. Grade: B

City of Others 1

Steve Niles latest creation, Stosh “Blud” Bludowski, is a hitman without a conscience, without any of the normal restraints that hold us humans back.  Usually it’s the writer who gets his name first on the cover, so it says something about the legendary status of artist Bernie Wrightson that even paired with the hottest horror comic writer on the planet, it’s his name that gets top billing. City of Others is good gory fun, an action packed rollercoaster ride full of brutal violence and dismembered body parts. There’s also a healthy dose of mystery that leaves the reader wanting to find out more. Grade: B

IntiativeCivil War: The Initiative 1

This is a showcase title, geared to push some new and some retooled series – Omega Flight, The Thunderbolts and The Mighty Avengers. Thanks to writers Brian Bendis and Warren Ellis and artist Marc Silvestri it does its job exceedingly well,with Ellis Thunderbolts section the standout. The book also has a striking cover by Silvestri featuring Iron Man holding an American flag and Captain America’s battle scared shield. Grade: B-

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born 1 & 2

This is a beautiful looking comic, in fact I’d go so far as to say it’s the most visually stunning book currently on the stands. The pairing of artists Jae Lee and Richard Isanove is a match made in heaven. The story ain’t bad either, based on the epic Stephen King series of books and adapted by Robin Furth (plot) and Peter David (script) it tells the origin of Roland the Gunslinger. An epic tale with the talent to match. Grade: B+

Dark TowerDeathblow 3 & 4

Of Wildstorm’s reboots this is probably the best, but that not to say it couldn’t be better. It’s taking its time getting anywhere, a common complaint with so many modern comics, but at least things are starting to pick up. The final scene in issue 4 showing Michael “Deathblow” Cray’s “kids” tooled up and ready to take on daddy has me anticipating lots of very un-PC action in the next issue. Grade: B-

Doomed 4

Featuring the usual adaptations of horror greats like Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and David J. Schow this may be the final issue of IDW’s horror anthology magazine. The stand out, as usual, is Ashley Wood’s adaptation and this time he turns his attention to Matheson’s "Legion of Plotters", with the artist’s scratchy style perfectly complimenting the story of mental breakdown and murder. I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Doomed but if it is at least we’ve had four damn fine issues. Grade: B

Drain 2

I really enjoyed the first issue of Image’s new vampire series but this second instalment fails to live up to it. Full of lesbian vampire sex, actually that should be busty lesbian vampire sex, this is clearly aiming to titillate the teenage male audience and that’s fine if you’re a teenager but for someone who passed puberty in the last century it’s all a bit pointless. If I want busty lesbian vampires I’ll just watch a 70’s Hammer film. Grade: C-

FellFantastic Four 543

The FF are 45 years old but they certainly don’t show their age, particularly on the cover where Sue Richards looks like she’s barely in her 20’s. She’s also wearing an FF uniform that looks to be made of PVC something I hope they carry over to the next Fantastic Four film. As for the inside…well they break the team up with Reed and Sue taking a leave of absence to sort their marriage out. Enter the Black Panther and Storm to take there place and exit one reader. Regular readers of this column will know of my disenchantment with the current state of the King of Wakanda and his inclusion in this title does not bode well and when coupled with the departure of artist Mike McKone, leaves me with little interest in continuing to read it. Grade: C+

Fell 7

Not buying Fell yet? Why not? It’s ridiculously cheap compared to most of today’s comics, only $1.99. It also packs more story into a single issue than you’ll find in three mainstream books (or a years worth if you’re talking about Wildstorm). And it’s written by the insidiously talented Warren Ellis and illustrated by that Picasso of comics, Ben Templesmith. Each issue tells a self contained tale of Richard Fell a police detective in Snowtown, the sort of place that makes a room in Hell look like an attractive property investment. So the next time you visit your local comics store, approach the counter and say these three words – Buy, Fell , Please. You won’t regret it. Grade: B+

This is the final Month in Comics round-up but don’t worry (you were worried right?) Ian’s Cornucopia of Comics will live on. The Forthcoming Titles section will still appear every month and the reviews will (hopefully) appear on a more frequent basis.

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About Ian Woolstencroft