The Last Days of American Crime #3 Review

The finale in Radical’s latest bi-monthly offering has many things going for it. Sam Worthington’s attachment to the film version, writer Rick Remender’s (The Punisher, Fear Agent) high concept tale and Greg Tocchini’s eye melting art. Every issue of this series should come with a complimentary combination eye wash and brain soap. It’s dirty, but very entertaining. As with all good tales, it’s the central story idea that is the fundamental building block to a rollicking good time. Remender has not only a great concept, but the skills to build upon it.

The American Peace Initiative is a signal that will be broadcast America-wide, rendering all knowing criminal thoughts (and thus, activities) non-existent. Of course, it’s not necessarily a popular decision, with many leaving the Staes for Canada and Mexico, but for some opportunists they see the chance of a lifetime. Middle-aged Graham Bricke is one such man, and the focus of Last Days. The first two issues saw him form his team, consisting of lovers Kevin Cash and Shelby Dupree, as well as battle it out with Bricke’s former partner, Enrique.

This finale opens with a bloodied Graham and Shelby on their knees facing Enrique’s angry goons while their leader screams about his dead daughter. In case you’ve forgotten what kind of comic this is, the initial pages will “gently” remind you. With Bricke’s narration adding tension like a piano wire, it gets off to a good start and thankfully only gets better.

We learn about Bricke’s criminal past, his “flirtation” with an honest life and the motivation for this last job. With less seemingly random acts of violence Remender brings a laser-like focus in these 56 pages, and like any good heist film, makes the job one worth waiting for. Of course, there’s double-crossing, murder and the sense that you never really know what the outcome will be until the final page is turned, and when the broadcast goes out during the final few minutes of the job, it makes things even more interesting, and heightens my desire to see a faithful film adaptation. There is perhaps a tad too much exposition in the conclusion, but not enough that it ever gets distracting, and it doesn’t take away from the suspense and mystery from the entire series.

As much as Remender’s bloody fingerprints are all over this book, so are those of Tocchini. This is a series whose visual approach is as daring as its story. Tocchini’s pages could almost be the work of a team of artists, with inking, colouring and page layouts being a work of perfect tandem. He somehow manages to give scenes of flying fingers and bullet wounds an air of light-filled delicacy, maintaining an effective balance between dazzling beauty and bludgeoning brutality.

Radical prove again that they know what comics are capable of and are waiting for the other guys to catch up.

Knight And Squire #1 Preview

Bruce Wayne is coming back from the time lost grave soon, and it appears as though the original Robin Dick Grayson will continue to be Batman, as will Bruce. So Gotham will have 2 Batmen running around? Well, kinda. Bruce, in his slightly new duds, will be starring in 2 new ongoing series come November (David Finch’s Batman: The Dark Knight and Batman, Inc with its rotating guest stars by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette) and on October 13 the English version of Batman and Robin will have their own 6 ish mini. Knight and Squire is written by Paul Cornell with art by Jimmy Broxton. Preview of the debut issue below. Yep, it looks like very English and very fun.

Written by PAUL CORNELL; Art by JIMMY BROXTON; Cover by YANICK PAQUETTE; 1:10 Variant cover by BILLY TUCCI

Just as Gotham City has Batman and Robin, London has Knight and Squire – the British heroes and frequent allies of The Dark Knight! In a secret bar within the city where peace is kept magically, heroes and villains gather to enjoy a pint and talk about their day. But what happens when the magical barriers that disallow fighting are dropped and a building full of heroes and villains confront each other all at once? Knight and Squire have to keep the peace and save both friend and foe in this 6-issue miniseries from hot writer Paul Cornell (ACTION COMICS, Captain Britain and MI:13) and up-and-coming artist Jimmy Broxton (THE UNWRITTEN).

Batman 32pg. Color $2.99 US

On Sale October 13, 2010

Extra Sequential Podcast Episode Four

My buddy Mladen and I have now released our fantastic fourth episode focused on comic books and pop culture. Listen to it below or download it right here.

Also check us out on iTunes!

1:35 NEWS

We yak about the possible closure of famed Japanese anime production company Studio Ghibli and the latest updates for a few Marvel films including Iron Fist and X-Men: First Class. Kevin Bacon, Halle Berry, Vin Diesel and bland rom-coms are also mentioned for some reason.

20:15 WHAT WE’VE BEEN READING/WATCHING

The Darkness: Four Horsemen #1, Gaston Lagaffe, the American Splendor film, Superman/Batman 75th Anniversary issue, cartoon series King of the Hill, action film From Paris With Love, District B13, James Bond new and old, and the Monkey Island 2 Special Edition and Killzone 2 games. As an added bonus the term “lazy doofus” is mentioned twice and the Fantastic Four are compared to a ’70s rock band.

42:40 TRADE SWAP

Indie black and white OGN Power Out, and Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking Little Nemo in Slumberland from early last century.

57:50 WEBSITE OF THE WEEK www.io9.com

Poseur Ink Sale

Funky indie publisher Poseur Ink is having a liquidation sale. They have a huge range of discounted buttons, shirts and OGNs such as their Side A and Side B music anthologies. Check out all the goodies right here.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One Part One Review

Thanks to this show, Saturday mornings have become fun again. I fondly recall my youth in which I’d spend hours in front of the TV on weekend morns, watching He-Man, Thundercats and all the assorted goodness the box had to offer. The last 2 decades have seen my obsession move to comics as I’ve matured, but thankfully both artforms have often collided.

I, and I’m sure many other fanboys around the globe, originally had doubts about this show though. Taking its title from an ongoing series in the ’70s and ’80s in which Batman would team up with a different DC Comics character each issue, this toon was off to a good start, but when I saw the designs (Golden Age Green Arrow, but Modern Age Blue Beetle?!) and kiddie approach, I was disheartened. Then I saw the show and happy memories of colourful weekend distractions came flooding back. With some of the same writers and directors that have worked on previous DC animated films and series, such as Teen Titans and Justice League, the awareness of DC history flows lovingly onto these episodes.

With a more faithful approach than the last Batman show before this one, simply called The Batman, which ran for 5 seasons until 2008, Brave and the Bold is a daring interpretation to be sure, but never an irreverent one. Long-time DC readers, as well as newbies, will feel right at home, and that’s what makes this a wise move on the part of DC and Warner Bros, as this is the perfect gateway for curious comic readers.

Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) as Batman, Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants) as Plastic Man and John Dimaggio (Futurama’s Bender) as Aquaman are all great voice actors, with the latter bringing a great bravado and amusing derring do to the Atlantean king. The first episode sees Batman fighting a German with a clock for a face (Clock King), while others show Aquaman riding a platelet in Batman’s body and Gorilla Grodd and his hairy soldiers riding pterodactyls. It’s all zany and unapologetic, with a tongue in cheek attitude that even the most cynical fanboy can’t help but be entertained by. The beauty of Batman is that he’s such a versatile character and can fit into all these genres with ease without diluting who he is. As much as we serious fans like to dismiss the ridiculous Batman stories of the ’50s and ’60s, the fact is they do exist and Brave and the Bold isn’t frightened of taking that same approach. It’s evident from the jazz inspired score to the light hearted episodes and colourful visuals that this has family fun stamped on every frame, and I must say, I was suprised at how often I laughed.

There are 13 episodes on 2 discs, from the this initial season from 2008, with hopefully more complete collections to come. Season 2  has finished and a 3rd is on the way. Within these 13 eps, there’s a bunch of guest stars. Each show begins with a short pre-credits team-up, while the bulk of the show that follows features a different crime fighting partner. We’re spoilt with choice from The Atom (the new Ryan Choi version), to Red Tornado, Deadman, Wildcat, the current Blue Beetle, the Green Lantern Corps and The Outsiders (yay!). Those names may not mean a lot to the non-comic aficionado, but thankfully we are often treated to quick origin stories, which never seem awkward. There’s also an eclectic cast of villains of course, including Gentleman Ghost, Ocean Master, Despero, Felix Faust and more. The last episodes on this collection are the boldest in terms of storytelling, with a two-parter incorporating the alternate universe approach from Grant Morrison’s Earth 2 OGN, as well as the Tower of Babel arc from the JLA comics.

With surprisingly effective character designs that pick and choose from DC’s rich past, we’re given great new looks, such as a Batmobile inspired from the ’60s live action TV series and The Joker, as well as an evil Batman, who closely resemble their original Bob Kane designs from 1939.

Any new Batman cartoon will always have a lot to live up to, after the fondly recalled animated series from the ’90s, but The Brave and The Bold is a refreshing and daring approach that works and reminds us of the magic of comics, and cartoons.

This Week’s Winners

Star Wars: Blood Ties #1. Aussie writer Tom Taylor (The Authority) is working his way through as many Star Wars characters as possible, with the last few months spent on his The Will of Darth Vader one-shot and second Invasion mini-series. Now he takes on the Fetts, and thankfully gives the father/son pair the air of menace that was missing from the second prequel film. With the debut of a new series called Blood Ties which will, “explore the familial links between some of Star War’s most famous, and infamous, characters,” Jango and son Boba are  a good place to start.

It opens with some unusual bonding involving Jango sending his clone/son to retrieve a tooth as big as himself from a hulking monster to teach Boba to fear nothing, before the pair are recruited by Count Dooku for a secret mission, which involves a twist at this issue’s conclusion. The relationship between the pair wasn’t explored as it could’ve been in Episode II, but Taylor and artist Chris Scalf redeem the bounty hunters here. Jango has a fierce reputation, as a rookie traffic controller learns the hard way.

Scalf’s work is something you might expect to see in the pages of  a lush Radical book. He nails the looks of the Jango, Boba and Dooku actors from the prequel films with a painterly look more common in the fantasy genre, but one that works splendidly in these pages.

The Darkness: Four Horsemen is written by David Hine (Detective Comics) with art by Jeff Wamester and is a past-set tale about Mob hitman Jackie Estacado. One of Top Cow’s best characters, Jackie received supernatural powers on his 21st birthday, giving him control over impish demons from another dimension, as well as tendrils and a mean costume/suit of armour. Here he’s recruited by an elderly head of a mob family to seek revenge on 4 bikers that killed his brothers 35 years ago. Now they’re back and causing epic chaos in a small town.  The four toughs haven’t aged and now seem to embody the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It’s a dark, bloody story, so don’t be fooled by the slightly exaggerated artwork.

Superman: Secret Origin #6. Finally this last issue has arrived. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank make for a formidable duo and their love of the Man of Steel’s history is written and drawn on every page. With Supes himself looking just like Christopher Reeve and a firm grasp of storytelling with a hint of nostalgia that never overpowers the tale’s structure (something Superman Returns never managed), it’s a treat to read. Superman didn’t really need yet another origin recap/retcon/whatever, but my jaded cynicism has been swept away with each issue of this great series. A battle with Metallo (in which Superman cleverly melts a drain cover over his kryptonite heart), the revelation to Lois and co. that he’s an alien and not human and the pitch perfect characterisation of the jealous Lex Luthor all help this issue fall in the winner category. Nice touches like pigeons flying off the freshly spinning Daily Planet globe and the fact that Metropolis’ citizens don’t look where they’re going because their eyes are skyward looking for the Man of Steel reveal Johns’ creativity as a writer.

Read Comics In Public Day

Today is the first annual International Read Comics In Public Day. A good idea every day, but hopefully this will encourage fanboys and girls to let the world know of their love of sequential art. You can find out more at the official website, which contains a great letter from a reader:

In Japan, comics (we call them “manga”, you know) are very popular, so adult people commonly read manga in public.

In the early 1970s, when the japanese college students began reading manga publicly, they were criticized by the previous generations.
But by that time, the kinds of manga had dramatically increased, and many mangas were eagerly accepted by the young people as their own bildungsroman, love stories, art forms, or even political assertions.

Of course reading comics…anywhere in the East isn’t a problem, with the artform being as deservedly pervasive and respected as it is. Here in the West we have yet to get a hold of that attitude, but we will one day. I read comics on the train ride to or from work almost daily, and never hide that fact. Last week I saw a hip, young guy reading a Fables trade and that kind of encounter is becoming more common, thankfully. Just today, I was flicking through the latest Previews catalogue  and a few comics, and I always make sure to open the pages wide so the curious people near me can glance (they usually do).

I hope RCiP Day goes well. There’s events all over the world, including Starbucks in San Diego. Power to the comic reading people!