Review – Unknown Soldier #10 (Vertigo, 2009)

Consider for a moment what you reasonably expect out of a comic book.

Personally, I look for a few things. I like to be entertained (obviously). I like to feel that I can connect to at least one of the characters in the book I am reading (in some, like The Walking Dead, I connect with many). I like to be suprised when I turn the page and I get something I was not expecting (but it has to be in a good way – Crossed can surprise me with its shocking violence but that doesn’t mean it is a good thing). I don’t want to be preached to. I don’t want to feel that I am getting ripped off with lazy artistry or poor storytelling.

There are many things I look for in a comic book. Unknown Soldier pretty much delivers on all those fronts. It is a brutal and compelling story, with very human characters in a dreadful situation that is, as far as I know, as accurate a portrayal of a real life event as we are likely to get in a comic book. Take the current arc, ‘Easy Kill’, which deals with the main protaganist, the titular ‘Unknown Soldier’, engaged in a mission to assassinate an American Actress / Humanitarian, whose death would enable blame to be pinned on the reprehensible Lords Resistance Army (LRA) – an army containing of ‘press-ganged’ children. How many comics would want to tackle such a controversial, literate and potentially damaging storyline? In other hands this could be a travesty. In the hands of Dysart and Ponticelli, it is absolutley compelling, as gripping as a good movie.

Look at these panels from the latest issue – the detail of the physical portrayal of a man planting land mines is subtle and powerful. As a reader, I can understand that this man is engaged in an act of planting landmines. I understand the significance of the act. With these panels, we witness the preparations for murder. What follows next is astonishing, agonising and brilliant.

This comic book constantly asks the questions that you might ask if you had thought about a particular issue or problem for long enough. It does it in a solid, intelligent and thrilling way. Every issue is not long enough, yet at the same time there is more in one issue of Unknown Soldier than in the majority of other titles in any week of the year. Its qualities are numerous, its faults…well, I haven’t found any. I cannot praise it high enough. Get the first trade ‘Haunted House’ if you don’t believe me. It is out in Spetember.

Finally, a quick word on the cover art, from Dave Johnson. If the cover is the front door of the house (so to speak), then you get the impression that this house is a very nice house indeed. If that doesn’t make sense, then let me just say that I thought the Soviet-era inspired cover, all righteous worker imagery, with that overcurrent of violence, does the contents of this book justice. That is high praise, considering the quality within.

Spider-Man, Spider-Banned – ‘Revolt in the Fifth Dimension’ (1970)

This was part of the Ralph Bakshi produced third season of the animated Spiderman serial (and was episode #74 overall). Straying far from Marvel continuity, Bakshi produced some off-kilter Spider-Man adventures during his tenure as producer. However, because of the ‘unsuitable’ themes of death and a hefty dose of Psychedelic Spatial queasiness, this episode – ‘Revolt in the Fifth Dimension’ – was the only one not to be broadcast with the original run of the series. As I have already stated, these shows were ‘non-canonical’ and in this episode there is a Villain who never appeared in the Spider-Man comic-books. The skeletal Infinata, the ruler of the ‘fifth dimension’ that Spider-Man encounters, is actually a character from ‘Rocket Robin Hood‘, a cartoon with a futuristic take on the Robin Hood legend. The reason Infinata is in a Spider-Man cartoon is simple – this episode is basically reused footage from the ‘Rocket Robin Hood’ episode ‘Dementia Five’.

Witness the madness and 60’s Spidey strangeness here;

and then compare it with the Rocket Robin Hood original – ‘Dementia 5’!

Links!

Here is the IMDB entry;
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0827425/

A synopsis of this episode;
http://marvel.toonzone.net/spidey67/episode/revoltfifth/

More on Spider-Man cartoons;
http://www.spyder-25.com/60s.html

Japanese Movie Posters (1969 – 1992)

I adore poster art, and following the recent Jaws and ‘inspired by’ Jaws posts, TWLB are now looking at Movie Posters from around the world. Having already covered Turkey, and Italy, today the focus is on Japanese Movie poster art. Some of these are truly great – the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Empire Strikes Back’ art is magnificent, and the ‘An American Werewolf’….and ‘Army Of Darkness’ posters border on insanity. No matter – the Japanese know how to compose a thrilling poster. Note that each movie title links back to its IMDB entry. Also, if anyone has any more examples of Japanese movie poster art, let me know;

The Terminator (1984)

The Italian Job (1969)

The Evil Dead (1981)

Army Of Darkness (1992)

Halloween (1978)

An American Werewolf in London (1981)

Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars (1977)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Review – Dark Reign: Hawkeye #4 (Marvel, 2009)

Like the Marvel Zombies 4 limited series (which I have just reviewed), Dark Reign: Hawkeye started strongly. Now, at issue 4, I feel it is starting to sag a little, with the reveal of who / what is behind the multiple Bullseye sightings and the whole Bullseye army that faced Hawkeye (aka the real Bullseye) at the end of last issue. Well, it didn’t shake me to the core, to be honest. In fact, it felt a bit limp, but it picked up toward the end. The problem is that, like so many other titles, you never get the feeling in this that Bullseye is in any real danger – and if he was, so what? Are you supposed to care that a cold-blooded Killer, a psychopath, could die at the hands of another?

The whole terrorism / counter-terrorism sub-plot, with Ben Urich investigating, is not really going anywhere, and is not particularly interesting to me. It is a shame, as Diggle is a good writer and he does what he can with the material, but this title is running out of steam, and could easily have been condensed into 3 or 4 issues as opposed to 5.

Overall, I don’t really see the point. What do we learn about Bullseye? Not a lot. About the ‘Dark Reign’ – well maybe there is a little more colour and shade added to that storyline with these issues. I don’t know a lot about the other Dark Reign titles, but I know there are a lot of them, but on this evidence, I am probably not the target market. I look forward to Diggles upcoming work on Daredevil, more so than the final issue of this series.

Review – Marvel Zombies 4 #4 (Marvel, 2009)

So, the fourth iteration of the Marvel Zombies comes to its conclusion. Overall, Fred Van Lente and Kev Walker have conjured up a nice, compact tale of voodoo drenched dark horror, alleviated by the occasional appearances from the head of Zombie Deadpool, and his silent companion and means of transport, Simon Garth. They get to play their parts, with Deadpool getting the better of the deal (but hey, everyone loves Deadpool, so that’s okay, right?).

The Midnight Sons, Man-Thing, The Hood – they all get their stories wrapped up. The plague cloud poses its threat. Hellcat makes a brief appearance. There are some Zombies in it, but this latest tale of the Marvel Zombies has been less concerned with the undead than a horror-mood. I think they managed to achieve it, making the title redolent of the many creature feature and horror titles that Marvel churned out in the 70’s. This tone, with the added mysticism that the Dread Dormammu added to the proceedings, gave the title a unique and generally successful air. Okay, maybe the conclusion is a little too neat and tidy, a little too pat – but taken as a whole, I enjoyed this tale of the Midnight Sons, and the fact that Van Lente and Walker raided the C and D lists of Marvel characters (again, like they did in MZ 3) and made something compelling and worth reading. Was the last issue entertaining? Not as much as the first couple of issues. Will I be reading the next chapter in the Marvel Zombies saga?

Hell yes – and it looks like we are going to be getting some Suydam covers as the franchise reinvents itself again – by going back to the characters from the first 2 Marvel Zombies series.

Review – Citizen Rex (Dark Horse, 2009)

This is the new Hernandez Brothers book, and the solicitation for issue 1 reads;

“What compels life without a soul?”

Comics legends Gilbert and Mario Hernandez join forces to present a bizarre, sexy view of the future and what it means to be human. Twenty years ago, the most famous, lifelike robot in the world was engulfed in scandal, arrested, and deactivated. Since then, an anti-robot movement has developed, while body modification is in and prosthetic limbs have become hot, black-market items.

Stories like these are the stock-in-trade of gossip columnist Sergio Bauntin, whose startling revelations earn him the constant scrutiny of both the mob and the city’s mysterious investigators, the Truth Takers. When Sergio catches wind of sightings of the long-missing robot celebrity CTZ-RX, all of these interests will collide in violence and intrigue.

Well, let me say that the art is, of course, gorgeous, in that Love and Rockets way, and the story involves you straight from the start, even if it is a bit disorienting. Talk of ‘dog-piling’ and ‘truth-takers’ abound, and the mysterious artifact at the start of the book (with the graffiti statement ‘Why?’ splashed across its imposing granite flank) moves out of view, but just lingers, a question unanswered….like so many others throughout this first issue,

The story tends to focus on Sergio Bauntin and his robot assistant Hazel – Sergio is 30 and his life is a mess, a socialite blogger who has had enough run-ins with authority to make his Father despair and his Aunts investigate his funding for the forseeable future…

Elsewhere we have the conundrum of Crime Boss Tango Bangaree and his link to Renata Skink and Sigi Skink, Renata’s pneumatic daughter? What does it all have to do with prosthetic limb removal and prosthetic limb sharks?

Well, no doubt these questions will get answered in a charming and attractive way. Although Citizen Rex #1 poses nothing but questions and puzzles in this debut issue, there is enough charisma and personality about this book to leave you wanting more. In other words, it is very, very good, and will be a welcome addition to my pull list.

Links!

http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/15-586/Citizen-Rex-1