Thursday, September 29, 2011

COOL SHIT 9-29-11



AMERICAN VAMPIRE #19: So . . . Skinner Sweet and Jim Book, mortal enemies, were childhood friends? And Book’s family adopted Skinner when his parents died, making them brothers? Very interesting. We finally get a look at Sweet before he was turned into a vampire. It turns out that even as a child, he was an evil little bastard. I desperately hope that what happened at the end of #18 wasn’t the end of him. Without him, I don’t know if I want to go on reading this book.




THE LAST ZOMBIE: INFERNO #3: So far, this book has just been good enough. For those who don’t know, the zombie apocalypse is over, and we won. It’s just that the world has been thrown into chaos, and a group of soldiers is making their way across the wasteland that remains. Dr. Ian Scott wants nothing more than to see his wife again, but somehow he’s become infected and is turning into a zombie. He keeps this a secret from the others because he wants to make it to his woman before he dies. The real star, however, and the character who made me want to add this book to Cool Shit this week, is Planters, one of the soldiers, who is haunted by what happened to his family during the zombie apocalypse. We finally get his story, and holy shit, is it a nasty one. If you only know writer Brian Keene from his novels, you should try out this book.



KICK-ASS 2 #4: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, what you see above is Red Mist gunning down several children, and that’s not even the worst thing he does in this issue. All right, he’s calling himself Motherfucker these days, but it’s still everyone’s favorite twat, Red Mist. Even his fellow supervillains think this is fucked up. His response: “Oh, come on. So iCarly loses a few viewers? Give me a fucking break.” He then proceeds to rape Kick-Ass’ love interest. That’s right, he rapes her. Think about the horrifying implications of this. When the Joker crippled Barbara Gordon, did he rape her? No, he merely shot her in the spine. When was the last time you heard of the Green Goblin forcing himself on Gwen Stacy? Right. Writer Mark Millar has upped the ante with this issue. It’s almost like he’s taken Alan Moore’s place. Remember when Moore published the second LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN? And he had Mr. Hyde rape the Invisible Man to death? It was almost as if Moore had seen the movie made of the first and was daring Hollywood to put that scene to film. That’s the same kind of feeling I’m getting from Millar on this one. I’d tell you to go out and buy this book, but considering its enormous popularity, you probably already have.

Monday, September 19, 2011

ARE YOU SURE THIS ISN'T A TROMA MOVIE? A review of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN


It starts like a Sergio Leone western. The Hobo rides into town, hiding in a boxcar, idly playing a harmonica while watching the countryside pass by. He could be Clint Eastwood in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. He could be Charles Bronson in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (hence the homage with the harmonica). He’s been everywhere, and he’s tired of living this filthy, aimless life. He wants stability. He wants a safe place to live. He wants . . . A LAWNMOWER?!



Sure, it sounds daft, but when you think about it, what does a lawnmower symbolize? Try it this way: who owns lawnmowers? People who have lawns to mow. In other words, people who have a place to live, a place to call their own. So is it any surprise that the Hobo spends a lot of his time peering through the pawn shop window at a lawnmower that costs a mere $49.99?


There’s a slight obstacle: the town he’s just arrived in has a bit of a crime problem, which is like saying the ocean is kinda’ wet. The Drake and his two psychopathic sons pretty much run everything in this city, including the police department, and this trio does their level best to make sure everyone in town is scared shitless of them.


Case in point: when the Hobo first sees them, the Drake and his sons ruthlessly murder one of their own relatives (the Drake’s brother, in fact) by putting a sewer lid necklace around the guy’s throat, dropping him down a manhole, wrapping his head with a barbed wire noose, attaching the other end of the rope to a car, and driving away so quickly that his head comes off with a geyser of blood. It’s so showy and insane and over the top that it’s a sheer wonder that this doesn’t have Troma written all over this. How could anyone other than Lloyd Kaufman come up with violence this absurd?


Well, it is actually writer John Davies and director Jason Eisener who have given this delightful gem of an instant cult classic to us, and neither of them have any affiliation with Troma. It is they who depict one lonely hobo’s mission to clean up this town and make it safe for regular folks, against all odds (of course) and with the aid of a hooker with a heart of gold (naturally).


A lot of the acting is really hammy. Characters like the Drake really call for it. But Eisener has a very important asset on his side in this department: the Hobo is played by none other than Rutger fucking Hauer. It is virtually impossible for Hauer to turn in a bad performance. He could read the nutritional value of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and make it sound intense and cool. In one scene, he threatens a character by saying, “I’m going to use this knife to carve welfare checks out of your skin.” It’s an awkward line that comes off as silly, but Hauer delivers it with such conviction one can’t help but feel a shiver. In another scene, he saves a teenaged prostitute from her pimp by ramming a shotgun against the guy’s face. He says, “You’re fucked.” And then he pulls the trigger. Yet the look on his face is just incredibly scary. He grins like a Sarlacc pit and has an absolutely evil look of glee in his eyes. To say nothing of his hobo-with-a-shotgun speech to a maternity ward full of crying babies . . . .


And as over the top and crazy as the ultraviolence in his movie is, it’s also pretty fucking intense. A lot of very vile and horrible things happen. In the scene where the Hobo decides to purchase a shotgun instead of the lawnmower (they’re both the same price), the pawn shop is robbed by three ski-masked thugs. One of them shoves a gun in a baby’s face in a scene that is genuinely uncomfortable. In another scene, the Drake’s sons trap a group of children on a school bus and use a flamethrower on them. To compound matters, they keep one of the bodies so they can parade the charred skeleton of a child on a news show.


And then there’s the scene where the Hobo earns the money he uses to buy the shotgun. Once seen, it can never be unseen. The look on Hauer’s face when he delivers this performance is . . . ghastly. The bloody grin he displays will haunt you for a long time to come.


Just the title alone is enough to entice you. You know you’re going to see this movie. You know it’ll be good for a few chuckles. But it’s also a shockingly good movie. It will change your life for the better. Hunt it down immediately.


HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
Written by John Davies
Directed by Jason Eisener
Produced by Magnolia Pictures
86 minutes
2011
$16.99

Friday, September 16, 2011

EVERYONE'S GOT ONE #8: WIZARD WORLD CHICAGO 2011

Truth be told, I wasn’t going to go to Wizard World Chicago this year. I’d made the decision last year, when DC and Marvel didn’t show up and everyone was Blago crazy. One thing changed my mind, and oddly enough it was because of my C2E2 attendance. Brian Azzarello told me that WWC would be hosting not just him, but also artists Eduardo Risso and Dave Johnson, all together at the same table. Since I’d never met either artist, I thought it would be a capital idea to go to WWC.



I almost wish I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but I was also disappointed for the second year in a row.


It probably didn’t help that I’d just had my gall bladder removed earlier that week. As a result, I had four healing incisions in my shaved belly, which is not a comfortable experience, especially since I was walking around all day. But thankfully, WWC serves ALCOHOL! Which brought me plenty of aid and succor.


But my main gripe with WWC was how much comic books have been forgotten. This con is much more for the benefit of pop culture. Gone are DC and Marvel, as well as many other prominent publishers. (Avatar is still here, but they have such a small booth that they’re easily overlooked.) Any comic book creators you find here are on their own in Artist's Alley or, like Azzarello and company, were with a charity. However, if you’re looking for celebrities, you can’t take a step without bowling one over. Want to meet Bruce Campbell? Want to get put into a submission move by the Nasty Boys? Want James Marsters to sign your Spike puppet? No problem. Except . . . .


How much are you willing to spent? Campbell costs a hundred dollars. And you can’t get any Buffy actor for less than twenty-five.


Here’s the thing: by ANYONE’S standards, that’s too much. Do these guys deserve to make money? You bet. That’s why they’re here. But don’t you think $100 is over the top? Don’t you think high prices alienate fans?


Case in point: I saw a girl waiting in line for Marsters, eyes full of stars, as if meeting him was the only reason she was here. Then, she got close enough to see money exchanging hands. She asked a volunteer how much it would cost, and when she was told $45, she was absolutely heartbroken. She got this sad look in her eyes, like she was about to cry, and she walked away.


Ten bucks sounds reasonable to me. They could break even in one hour on Saturday, I guarantee it.


But there are suckers who are willing to pay these outrageous fees. Hell, I was one of them. It was my personal mission on Saturday to meet Ash himself (although I admire him far more as BURN NOTICE’s Sam Axe these days). When I heard how steep his fee was, I blanched, but I had my copy of MAKE LOVE THE BRUCE CAMPBELL WAY, and I was intent on him signing it. I then found out that he only did the VIP signing, and it was full up. Foiled.


I did kick in the $45 for Marsters. I mean, come on! He’s fucking Spike! And he was a super-nice guy. He also informed me that the Fox lawyers told him it was illegal to sign over Buffy’s face. He spent a lot of time with each fan, making sure they got their money’s worth. I also met Nicholas Brendon, who was maybe the most affable guy I’ve ever met. He was having the time of his life, and it seemed like nothing made him happier than meeting his fans. I toyed with the idea of meeting Julie Benz, more out of love of DEXTER than Buffy, but I kind of liked the idea of leaving the convention with SOME money.


But I spent a lot of time in line for booze. It’s funny, you will see people lined up elbow-to-asshole for overpriced food (and the pizza this year was awful; the plate tasted better), but alcohol? The line for cocktails was very short at all times. In fact, once I saw the line was a bit longer than usual. That was until someone ahead of me noticed that this was for alcohol, not food. He took his friends with him. Others overheard him and joined him. Soon, it was just me and a guy with his family. He got beer for himself and a bunch of Pepsis for the li’l ‘uns. Unfortunately, while waiting my turn, I leaned on the railing only to have one of his kids come up to me and start licking the back of my hand. The lead-paint-chips-chewer’s dad looked over and didn’t stop him. Fucking parents . . . .


There were quite a few good things about WWC. For example, I came closer to finishing my Mickey Spillane collection by purchasing a couple of cheap paperbacks. While I was there, I noticed this little gem:


TORMENTED WOMEN is apparently a book, written by a doctor and former alcoholic, about the dangers of booze to women. It looks utterly trashy, so I had to have it. And where else but at a con can you find books like these?



I even found a few back issues of MAD which were absolutely delicious. The one parodying A CLOCKWORK ORANGE actually made me laugh out loud. They made fun of the symbolism of the movie, and at the same time used the word “faggot.” Even though it was permissible back when the magazine was published, it’s still kind of weird to see MAD use such language.



One of the things I miss about WWC these days is the lack of porn stars. There used to be plenty of them until WWC ruled that they couldn’t hang around anymore. ‘Tis a pity, as I enjoyed their presence greatly. I actually got to meet my favorite soft core porn star, Jasmine Gray, two years in a row. Shortly after the second time I met her, she died in a horrible car crash. It’s hard to believe that she’s gone, but every once in a while, I like to take down her old CANDY GIRLS DVD. It’s too familiar to “get the job done,” so to speak, but it stands the test of time.


I should also mention that I got a handjob from one of the porn stars who used to frequent WWC in the old days. I won’t mention her name (for reasons I’m about to bring up), but those of you with good memories will probably recall her. One year, I spent so much at her booth that I apparently qualified for the “special package.” I bragged about that for a year. Who wouldn’t? But when I saw her the next year, she was an absolute mess. She rummaged around in her purse for a marker with which to sign her new DVD when her purse fell over and spilled. I helped her pick everything up, and part of the mess was a collection of prescription pill bottles. It was stuff for serious mental problems. Talk about awkward. I never bragged about that handjob ever again after that.


Don’t bring up the Suicide Girls, who were indeed present this year. They don’t count. Sure, they like to show off their naked bodies, but not in a pornographic way. It’s about art for them.


I did manage to find a pretty cool booth where they were selling prints of scantily clad women murdering people. One of them really stuck out for me, the picture below. Fishnets drive me crazy. It doesn’t matter who wears them (female wise, of course). I once made out with an extraordinarily fat chick only because she was wearing fishnets. They look good on everyone, they really do. (Even Tim Curry.)



Here’s another cool thing: I got every comic book I brought with me signed. That almost never happens. Someone always calls off, or can’t make it for one reason or another. Not only did I get Azzarello, Risso, and Johnson, I got Matt Wagner, Pia Guerra, Bill Sienkiewicz, Rodney Ramos, and Ben Templesmith. Good fuckin’ times.


But the best part about WWC was, of course, Artist's Alley. This year, probably because so many major publishers were gone, they supersized AA. It was bigger than I’ve ever seen it, and there was a lot of good stuff to be found this year. (As you can probably tell from the reviews I’ve posted.) Sure, there was a lot of crap (as you can also tell from said reviews), and almost every single indie book had a hard time with spelling, but there was a lot to offer.


All right, I lied. I said I spent most of my time in line for liquor. Actually, I spent most of my time sitting at the Product of Society table with Leo Perez, Jon Lennon and a variety of other folks who stopped by. I had the most fun just sitting around, bullshitting with these guys, and meeting a lot of the fans who came by. You may have noticed that I didn’t review the new issue of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY, which I ordinarily would do. This time, I actually have a piece in it (adapted by Leo), so I can’t really say much about it (except, you know, buy it). It was fun watching people react to the fact that my story actually happened to me.


By the way, Leo also drew up a lot of very offensive sketches. He was giving them away to anyone who bought something at Jon’s table. If you were lucky enough to be there, you have one. If not, I think the offer is still good. Hit him up. You won’t be disappointed.


For those who don’t know, Leo’s adaptation is the “return” of TABARD INN (since the story is called TABARD INN TALES), so I figured I’d bring in a bunch of issues of my magazine (as well as bumper stickers) to give away for free. That’s right, for free. Jon was horrified by my decision (because he wanted to make sure that I got money for something I put so much of my heart into), but I insisted that we give them away. Remember a while ago how I posted that I was willing to give all three issues away for free, provided people sent money for shipping? NOBODY TOOK ME UP ON THE DEAL. That’s right, I can’t even give these fucking things away, and I have to get rid of them somehow. They’re cluttering up my house.


The offer still stands, by the way. If you want FREE issues of TABARD INN, let me know. Leave a comment below, or get me on Twitter or Facebook or even my actual website, http://www.talesofquestionabletaste.com/.


Anyway, I couldn’t help but laugh whenever someone would come by to take a look at the free magazine only to find each issue full of words instead of pictures. Many people chose not to pick up a FREE book because there were too many words. Jesus Christ.


The bumper stickers were the main attraction, though. People really loved CHOOSE DEATH, which surprised me. I thought the real winner was PUSSY SATISFIES. The one that horrified most into putting it back and fleeing was IT’S A PARASITE NOT A CHOICE, which made me smile.


But really, as I sat at Jon’s table on Sunday, shooting the shit with him and any fan who stopped by, I realized how much fun I was really having. That’s what a con is supposed to be about: like-minded individuals enjoying each others company, talking about art that turns them on.


And THAT is why I don’t regret showing up.


So, what do you think? Is WWC still worth attending? Or is it all about C2E2? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

JASON YUNGBLUTH IS FUCKED UP: A review of THE GREAT TASTE OF DEEP FRIED


But you’ll love him for it. On the very first page of THE GREAT TASTE OF DEEP FRIED, this writer/artist promises tasteless comedy, and he delivers it in spades. Meet Beepo. He’s a chain-smoking, hard-drinking party clown bent on traumatizing children. Meet his sidekick, Roadkill, a trash-talking, heroin-shooting cat. In their first, horrifying adventure, they take an entire “Lackluster Video” hostage with the power of movies that are usually blamed whenever some teenager goes on a killing spree. Shockingly enough, that’s their most innocent outing.



How to describe things like Scruffy the Sock Puppet to the uninitiated . . . ? Or how about the time Roadkill became a phone psychic? Or how about when Beepo clubbed the Pope to death with a baby seal? Or . . . well, you get the idea. This is some pretty fucked up shit, here. And through this, Yungbluth actually manages to make some social commentary on how badly doomed the indie comic scene is. For example, here are a few words on the subject from Roadkill: “Face it, folks: American humor is dead! All that remains are the unscrupulous consciences of the talentless, and that’s us, baby! We’re comedy sociopaths!”


And then there are the downright nasty parts of DEEP FRIED, like the comic strip above. There are a couple of really ugly continuations of Clarissa’s story later on. When she gets a stuffed animal for a present, just by playing with it a little, she “imagines” it into being alive. At first, the little fella is eager to play with her . . . until Daddy comes to tuck her in. Then . . . ugh. She also gives bathtub lessons to those who don’t want to be raped by Daddy. Sure, these get shocked laughs, but Yungbluth really crosses the line, in a very Gwar “Preschool Prostitute” kind of way, when he advertises GIRLS OF KINDERGARDTEN RECESS GONE WILD. Talk about nervous chuckles . . . .


But the true star of DEEP FRIED is Weapon Brown, who is actually Charlie Brown in a post-apocalyptic world. That’s right, Linus Van Pelt, a mad scientist, has kidnapped Chuck’s lovely Red-Haired Girl and is going to sacrifice her to the Great Pumpkin unless everyone’s favorite round-headed kid gets to her in time. It’s only funny if you have a vast knowledge of the Peanuts strip, but if you do. . . you will never look at Peppermint Patty the same ever again (or Marcy, for that matter).


You’ve got to be a sick bastard yourself to get any enjoyment out of DEEP FRIED, but if you are, you won’t find greater satisfaction anywhere else.


THE GREAT TASTE OF DEEP FRIED
Written and illustrated by Jason Yungbluth
Publisher: Death Ray Graphics
128 pages
$14.99

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"DON'T BE A CUNT, MATE": A review of STITCHED


Pruitt, Cooper, and Twiggy are three soldiers on an extraction mission who accidentally crash their helicopter over enemy territory. They were receiving no incoming fire. The captain just lost control, and these soldiers nearly became one of those unfortunate casualties of war caused by mishap. Pruitt, the commander, is injured, so Cooper constantly helps him get along across the desert as Twiggy, who is only a clerk, quakes the whole way, absolutely terrified of the situation she’s in.



And then the bad guys show up. No, not the Taliban, but . . . something else. They’re kind of like zombies. Could they be demons? Djinn? Who knows?


This is the idea behind STITCHED, a short film written and directed by comic book genius Garth Ennis. However, whenever he writes war stories, he usually writes the kind that are more along the lines of “boys club” tales. Here, the only man in the trio is Pruitt, who is badly injured. Cooper, who is an absolute bad ass, has the balls of the group, despite actually lacking the physical kind.


Tank Jones plays Pruitt as best as he can. He can’t stretch out into the role as a longer feature would have allowed. Kate Kugler is decent as Twiggy, who reminds one of Dante from CLERKS when she says that she’s not even supposed to be here. The true stand-out in the cast, though, is Lauren Alonzo’s Cooper. She plays the bad ass to a T, especially as she chides Twiggy into reminding her training when they face off against the monsters.


As for the villains of the piece, they’re not bad. They could be better. The guys in the white robes play as zombies pretty well until the heroes get beyond their clothes, to the stitched eyes and mouths. But the effect looks too much like plastic to be taken seriously. We don’t get enough of a good look at their leader, the guy in the black robes, so one can’t really comment.


As to the other effects, namely that of the bodies, they could have been much better. The absurdity of their deaths would have played off well in comic books, but here in a movie, it comes off as kind of silly, especially the guy who had his intestines pulled out through his mouth. However, when one of the monsters gets shot in the head, and giant pieces of its head are blown off, it makes for a good effect.


This is the problem with the bad guys, though: if they’re such evil, mutilating bastards, why didn’t they do better against the soldiers? They just sort of . . . staggered around. The worst it got was when one of them pressed its fingers into Pruitt’s leg wound.


As far as criticisms go, that’s about all that can be found wrong with the film. The writing is superb, but that goes without question. Ennis is also a capable director. The opening scene with the three soldiers struggling across the desert is beautiful, perhaps inspired by Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.


The editing suffers a little bit, though, when it comes to transitions. When one scene moves into the next using a black out, kind of like the space a missing commercial leaves on a DVD of a TV show, it jars the viewers out of the movie. The pacing is a little bit off in the beginning, as well, but when Ennis’s other heroes show up, everything falls perfectly into place.


Other heroes? Remember how our trio is there on an extraction mission? These other heroes are the ones they’re here to extract. In a moment of absolute peril, one of them shoves an assault rifle in a bad guy’s face and says, “Don’t be a cunt, mate.” In true Garth Ennis fashion.


The sad thing is, this is only a prologue to a bigger story. STITCHED is going to be a series from Avatar by Ennis with art by Mike Wolfer. It promises to be a hell of a book. Don’t miss out on how it all began. Get STITCHED now.


STITCHED
Written and directed by Garth Ennis
Produced by Mischief Maker Studios
17 minutes
$15

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BATSHIT CRAZY: A review of BLAST FURNACE #1-4


Where does one begin when trying to describe the sheer lunacy of Ryan Browne’s BLAST FURNACE? It probably helps to remind readers that he is also the insane genius behind GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS. Knowing this, all bets are off.

Blast Furnace is a recreational thief with an impressive ‘Seventies mustache that shoots electricity and a tie that is always on fire. He has a propensity for ultra-violence, and he loves his job, no matter how crazy it can sometimes get. For example, when we first meet him, he’s breaking into a Non-Descript Factory (no shit; that’s what it says on the building) to steal whatever’s inside. He has no idea what he’s after. Soon, he discovers that a bunch of gun-toting ostriches are mass producing golden eggs in this place.

He hates birds. When he was a kid, a pigeon shat in his mouth. His lifelong vendetta comes to the front, and he starts brutally murdering the ostriches before stealing their eggs. But it turns out that he knows some of these ostriches, and things get complicated.


Yeah. Things get . . . complicated. For example, there’s a giant robot businessman made of smaller robot businessmen, dragons, an outlaw bear and owl couple, and more. Browne has once again outdone himself with his off-kilter imagination. He also does mind-boggling things with his story structure. We actually start out with Blast Furnace checking into a motel, and all of the action happens in a flashback. (So far, we have yet to return to the present time. Or is it a frame? Who knows?) Then, when he runs into the ostriches he knows, he flashes back to a childhood visit to the zoo, during which he fell into the bear pit. The ostriches want to save him so they can be bought by a rich businessman and thus escape the zoo. (It’s a long story.) But the bear turns out to be Ralph, an essentially harmless guy who has mistaken a young Burn Furnace for Owlice, a former friend of his. Thus we go through yet another flashback as Ralph thinks back to his and Owlice’s brush with the law. We haven’t even got to the crabs that are threatening Burn Furnace’s wife.

And so far, we don’t know why Burn Furnace’s tie is on fire, or how he shoots electricity from his ‘stache. We may never get an explanation.

It’s not often that something this wild comes along. Don’t look for a lot of subtext and social commentary here. This isn’t what Browne is after. No, he wants to tickle the folds of your brain with his off-the-wall, batshit crazy sense of humor, and you will love the shit out of him for it. Go to http://blastfurnacecomic.com/2011/06/27/day-1-2/ immediately. You won’t be disappointed.


BLAST FURNACE
Writer and artist: Ryan Browne
23 pages per issue

Monday, September 12, 2011

A MONSTER OF A TALE!: A review of SCREAMLAND #1


All right, get this: you know all of those old Universal monsters? Those weren’t guys in make-up or rubber body suits. They were for REAL! Here’s the problem: these days, what with Hollywood relying on CGI effects, the monsters are kind of out of work. They’re making the convention rounds, but that’s about it. The only one who still manages to find somewhat steady work is Carl, the Wolf Man, but that’s only if you count cheap direct-to-DVD productions.



Then, something goes wrong: Devil Fish (aka, the Creature from the Black Lagoon) dies under mysterious circumstances. Well, maybe not so mysterious, since he went for a dip in a pool in which he’d dissolved a shit-ton of cocaine, but you get the idea. His obituary makes the papers as kind of a curiosity, and people quickly forget about him.


Everyone except Izzy, the Invisible Man, who was Devil Fish’s closest friend. He has just made an announcement at a convention to screen one of Devil Fish’s private films, a controversial piece where apparently all of the old Universal monsters were having an orgy at his place. Why is Izzy doing this? To stir up trouble? To get back at all the people who had forgotten his friend?

We may never find out. Even as Carl works hard at getting enough of his old compatriots together to stage an intervention on Izzy, we discover that someone has taken the initiative of killing the Invisible Man. Now the assembled monsters must work together to find the murderer . . . or there may be other monster slayings soon.

What a fun little idea! It’s a sheer delight to watch Carl get together with the Mass (aka, the Blob) and Robrain (a robot powered with a brain floating in juices), among others. There is nothing like reading about what it would be like if such monsters really did exist in Hollywood and how they would act if they did. Writers Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela deserve a lot of credit for parading this wonderful idea around.


Equally deserving of credit is artist Lee Leslie, whose rough edges perfectly depict these everyday monsters and their lifestyles. Carl looks exactly as one would expect with his hirsute features, and even though he wears a sleeveless checkered shirt to signify his backwoods attitude, he also keeps his hair slicked back like a Hollywood star.

Luckily, this book is much easier to find outside of conventions. Don’t hesitate in seeking this one out. You’ll have so much fun, you’ll hate it when you have no more story to read.


SCREAMLAND #1
Writers: Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela
Artist: Lee Leslie
Publisher: Image
27 pages
$2.99

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THE ONLY THING IN HIS BINDLE . . . IS JUSTICE: A review of THE TRANSIENT


So goes the tagline of THE TRANSIENT. Brought to us by the fine folks who gave us ONCE UPON A TIME IN 1972, it follows the crime-fighting antics of an initially unnamed vigilante. By day he picks through garbage and sells questionable wares to passers-by. By night he battles with the most absurdly stereotypical ‘Eighties punks since Troma put CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH to film. His only contact with the ordinary world is his sidekick/caseworker Steve (played to nervous perfection by Blake Stubbs). In fact it is Steve who eventually decides he needs a name, and after some heavy thinking, comes up with the Transient.

Sadly the Transient (a ruthlessly aloof Dave Ruthenberg), who would probably be at home as a member of Garth Ennis’s Section Eight from HITMAN, has very little regard for the lives of scumbags, so more often than not he kills those who would do others harm. He does so with improvisational weapons, probably found in trashcans. In one scene he takes down a wife-beater with a barroom dart and a crumbly brick. In another, he crushes a punk with a shopping cart. (And early on, before it becomes too punny, his patter is pretty funny. He might be the only person in history to say that FITNESS magazine is “slightly pornographic.”)


All of this horrifies Steve, who at one point wants to turn his companion in to the authorities, even though the Transient has just saved his caseworker’s ass from the above-mentioned stereotypical ‘Eighties punks. The only thing that stops him is the new horror that stalks the night for blood: VAMPIRE ABRAHAM LINCOLN!


That’s right, Lincoln has been laying low since the assassination attempt on his unlife, and he’s been living off the blood of women (mostly) for all of these years. Now, he is attempting to gather together 87 of these fine young ladies (get it?! Four score and seven!) so he can drain their blood within a fortnight. If he pulls this off, he will finally be free of his bloodthirst and his need to live in darkness. So he’s been hiding out in a blood bank, using punks to kidnap these women for him. Only the Transient (and Steve) can stop him!


Are there big gaping plot holes? You bet. You can probably figure out what they are from reading this review. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying such a fun movie. Michael Krebs, who plays Lincoln, pulls it off with the macabre glee of Vincent Price at his American International finest! And if some of his dialogue sounds familiar, don’t be surprised. Writer/director Chris Lukeman borrowed from some of Lincoln’s own real life material, enough to give Lincoln credit as a co-writer. (No shit! Look at the box!)


There are just two things that bear mentioning. At one point, the Transient and Steve dig up a zombie, Timmy, because he’d be able to track down Lincoln for them. This baffles Steve (as well as the viewers), and all the Transient can say by way of explanation is that Timmy is a “dowsing rod for the preternatural." That’s all we get?! Also, Timmy later bites a vampire, at which point her fangs fall out and she becomes one of the walking dead. Then Timmy and his new companion just . . . disappear. Which is kind of odd because it’s an action packed scene in which Steve is doing characteristically awkward battle with a vampire. Where did Timmy and his friend go?


Never mind this slight nitpicking. You’ll want this movie for your collection. How could you say no to a homeless vigilante facing off against vampire Abe Lincoln?


THE TRANSIENT
Written by Chris Lukeman and Abraham Lincoln
Directed by Chris Lukeman
Produced by Kill Vampire Lincoln Productions
24 minutes
$11.99

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A DECENT EFFORT: A review of APOCALYPSE CITY #1


Everyone in Artist Alley seems to think murder is pretty funny this year. Writer/artist John Hoban, the man behind APOCALYPSE CITY, is no exception. In the first few pages of his book, a mindless security guard stumbles upon a hitman, who then tells him, “You will die with honor.” The guard’s response before he dies? “Awesome.”



Next up we meet the hero of this piece, psychic detective Matt Sharpe. Hm. Didn’t anyone tell Hoban that psychic detectives were out this season? Nevertheless, he soldiers on with some actual witty dialogue, like, “What’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen Whoopi Goldberg naked!” The problem? As with many others in Artist Alley this year, everyone seems to think a crime scene is a laff riot. Nothing to do around a corpse but start crackin’ wise, right?


Here’s another problem: when Captain Mahoney shows up and starts belittling Sharpe’s ability, he seems to be forgetting that he exists in a world where people like Captain Radiation also exist. That’s right, with superheroes lounging around, Mahoney doesn’t believe in psychic abilities. That’s kind of like hanging out with Superman and not believing he’s really the Man of Steel.


Hoban’s book isn’t entirely bad, though. His character interaction between Sharpe and Diamanda comes off pretty well, and as earlier stated, he’s capable of some cracking good dialogue. And Sharpe’s unnamed gangsta foil is kind of funny, too. It’s weird that he’d be associated with the mysterious Mr. Bacchus (yeah, everyone is soooo creative with their characters’ names this year) and his odd death cult. Metal-face makes for some good action, but couldn’t he be little harder to find? If you’re going to fight crime at night, perhaps you shouldn’t wear your metal face mask to your bouncer day job.


For all its shortcomings, APOCALYPSE CITY has its charms. It might be worth checking out where it goes with the next issue. However, if it really took Hoban since 1992 to throw together issue one, as he says in his afterword, it might be a while . . . .


APOCALPYSE CITY #1
Writer and artist: John Hoban
32 pages
$5

Friday, September 2, 2011

THE FINE ART OF DOLPHIN FUCKING: A review of CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE


Well, FREAKANGELS is gone. It was great, having a free installment every (more or less) Friday, but now the story is over. Good news: Avatar is going to have another free weekly webcomic to take its place. Even better news: It’s going to be a new CROSSED book!



Simon Spurrier has taken the reins from David Lapham, and Javier Barreno is taking over the artwork. The ashcan preview starts out strong with one of the Crossed “zombies” fucking a dolphin in the blowhole. Yessir, when it comes to raising the level of depravity of something, you can always count on CROSSED. The best thing is, with each new writer, they know they have to top whatever came before. Since Lapham, who also writes CALIGULA, is a pretty hardcore bastard, Spurrier had to think long and hard about what he could do.


But he’s also kind of scaling the epic nature of the series back a little. Usually, each book is about a group of survivors trying to make their way through the horrible new Crossed-infested world to some destination which may or may not be worth it. Here, our group of survivors has found a relatively secure place, and they’re trying to make a go of it.


We see everything through the eyes of Shaky, who used to be a writer back in the old days. He wanted to start out his journal with something poetic and deep, but then he saw the guy fucking the dolphin and knew he had to go with shock. What else is there in the world of the Crossed? And a happy ending? Even Shaky knows better than that.


If you’re lucky enough to find Avatar at a con, pick up the ashcan preview. Otherwise, get ready for October, when the book goes weekly at www.crossedcomic.com!


CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Javier Barreno
Publisher: Avatar
12 pages
$1.99

Thursday, September 1, 2011

MORE CLICHED CRAP: A review of BRIMSTONE AND THE BORDERHOUNDS #1


You’ve seen it all before. The cop on the edge. The doughnut-chomping racist detective who exists only to fuck with the cop on the edge. The douchebag businessman who has IT coming. What makes BRIMSTONE AND THE BORDERHOUNDS different from the rest?



Not much, really. Hey, a lot of this story happens in Hell, rather than the tough streets of Anywhere, USA. That’s got to count for something, right?


Nah. Like too many writers, M.H. Carnevali depends too much on the crap he saw on TV rather than creative intuition to get his tale across. For example, the douchebag in question, Jack Dursey, is such a piece of shit that he couldn’t ever exist in the real world. Hell, even TALES FROM THE CRYPT might be reluctant to use him. He is the Enron of this book. He has just ripped off a bunch of people so badly that they probably won’t survive, and he doesn’t care. Shits given = zero. He even seems to enjoy hurting people. There is no humanity in him to the point where he’s not believable as a character. Do you think the folks behind Enron were this cold? No, they had reasons for doing what they did. Human reasons. They did what they felt they needed to do to survive, whatever other people may think of their underhanded dealings. Dursey seems to be doing it just for the fuck of it. The only reason he’s like this is so Carnevali can make his readers feel glee when Dursey gets murdered brutally by the real villain of the piece. Carnevali wants us to laugh at Dursey when he arrives in Hell and can’t believe this is happening to him. Cheap trick, fella. Cheap trick.


And then there’s the unapologetically named Lt. Altar, the aforementioned cop on the edge. He’s come upon serial killer, Mr. Hostile, in the past, and was even killed by Mr. Hostile for eight minutes. The problem is, Mr. Hostile is dead. Lt. Altar is brought in on this case because everyone thinks it’s a copycat. In the meantime, he’s got to weather a bunch of racist comments from the above-mentioned doughnut-chomper while he tries to do his work. The crime scene is an absolute laff riot, as per the needs of a clich├ęd crime story.


Shall we even bother with Mr. Hostile himself? Needless to say, he’s the usual psychobabble psychopath the genre has gotten used to. The kind of fella who listens to the voices in his head. Nothing more need be said.


It should be said, though, that Carnevali has taken on some fairly dark, visceral work. And for someone who wants to do that, he certainly seems to have censored himself. There are no truly bad curse words to be found in this book, not even when it’s really called upon. On the first page, Dursey says to one of his financial victims, “Tough spit, Manny.” Whoops! Sorry, Mr. Carnevali, but there goes your credibility.


It also helps to not have an overly involved prologue on your first page. Carnevali takes the time to go into the huge mythology of the world he has created (complete with footnotes!) to help the reader get into the work. However, this only serves to bore the shit out of the reader. Instead, why not let the reader learn about these things over the course of the story? Why not let the reader be surprised?


Here’s another problem: the book is called BRIMSTONE AND THE BORDERHOUNDS, right? And Brimstone is clearly the hero of the story. Then why is it that he isn’t introduced until the last page of issue one? He needs to be there at or near the beginning, so readers can get to know (and hopefully, identify with) him.


As with most books in Artist Alley this year, the artist is much more proficient at telling the story. Sajad Shah’s work is astonishingly good. Shah gives us something cool to look at while we’re trying to ignore how lame the story and characters are. Shah almost makes Hell’s stereotypical Jamaican DJ look cool (and almost is the best compliment on this one, really).


But for five bucks? It ain’t that pretty. Pass.


BRIMSTONE AND THE BORDERHOUNDS #1
Writer: M.H. Carnevali
Artist: Sajad Shah
Publisher: Hound Comics
33 pages
$5