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From the Comics Bin/Raves and Reviews

Comic Picks for week ending 30 Jul 1999







Feature Story: A Time of Crow


Essential Reading


"Eric screams and screams and pounds his head against the wall until phantom fire trucks race across his vision. All he wants is pain. Pain and Hate. Yes, Hate. But never fear...
Fear is for the enemy.sadness.gif (39635 bytes)

Fear and bullets."

...J. O'barr, CROW BOOK 2:FEAR


People always want to know what titles I'm buying from month to month, here without further ado is my semi-comprehensive list.

Warren Ellis to my count is currently producing four monthly books, for Wildstorm the Superhero Saga AUTHORITY and the sci-fi series PLANETARY, for DC's Vertigo Line he's producing the horror series HELLBLAZER and the cultural rant TRANSMETROPOLITAN. To produce that kind of diverse output is Amazing in and of itself, but more Amazing is the high quality of each book. Each title is the pinnacle in its field, and its rumored he's working on two more titles for Avatar. Evidently Warren Ellis is in Race with Alan Moore to see who could write the most books a month. I don't see how either one of them can keep up both the quantity and the quality of the books they are currently producing, but as long as they can I'll be reading... and watching.

Along with Garth Ennis on DC's HITMAN and Vertigo's PREACHER (click for review), and Kurt Busiek on Marvel's AVENGERS and Image Comics' ASTRO CITY, these handful of writers, these three Brits and one American are not just redefining the medium, they are the medium. Their output bringing readers like myself back, on a monthly basis, to a medium I had written off a long time ago.

There are other notable factors riding this explosion of quality, steering it, DC's editorial decision to bring in writers from other fields (novelists, screenwriters) to script their NO MAN'S LAND Batman Stories is paying off in terms of quality, and trade compilations. However I still don't buy monthly Batman Comics for the simple fact there are too many of them, no way am I going to buy between 4 and 7 different titles to get one story. If the story is great, like Bob Gale, Alex Maleev, and Wayne Faucher's work on NO MAN's LAND, it will eventually be collected in a trade. And I can wait.  Click here to read more of my ranting, otherwise get to the reviews.


BREAKING NEWS!!! Effective with issue 143 Warren Ellis has resigned from Hellblazer. Here's the short story: Warren wanted to tell a story about the rash of youth violence in the heartlands, executives at DC pulled a "Buffy", Warren walked. For the long story click here.   Brian Azzarello of 100 BULLETS fame is slated to take over for Ellis.

HELLBLAZER 140-This issue marks my return to the Hellblazer comic. I read this series a few years back, a Swamp Thing spin off, the stories were at the best forgettable and at the worst awful. But after reading Warren Ellis' AUTHORITY, and seeing his name attached to script this series I immediately subscribed.  Issue #139 "Locked", makes me very glad I did. It's the first in a series of self contained stories, each one drawn by a different artist. In this one the art is rendered by Frank Teran. The premise of this story is straightforward and simple, a room of butchery and madness, that none may enter under fear of death and madness. None save a man called Constantine. To say more is to needlessly expose the story, but let me just say I've received over forty books for review this month and out of that forty only a handful were good enough to call great, to call memorable. This was one of them. Ellis crafts a story that is genuinely horrific, a true exposition of madness that gets under the skin... and squirms. Kudos to Frank Teran for the art that brings the words to life. Highly Recommended! 


nomans.gif (17213 bytes)For any of you who missed it the first twelve times I said it I don't buy Batman Comics, I also don't buy any other comic that has more than two titles, or any of that crossover fertilizer.  So the only way I read Batman stories these days is in trade form.

Case in point I received the new Batman trade, NO MAN'S LAND: NO LAW AND A NEW ORDER in July and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Written by Bob Gale (Screenwriter for Back to the Future), and drawn by newcomers Alex Maleev and Wayne Faucher, NEW ORDER is quite simply the best Batman Story I've read since Miller's Batman:Year One. The storyline goes something like this:

An American City rocked by one cataclysm after another, effectively degenerating into a state of total chaos.  The U.S. government ,already besieged with meta-human problems both foreign and domestic, does the unthinkable, it washes its hands of it, the government declares the area not just a disaster area, it declares it a no man's land. It gives the citizens forty eight hours to get out, then the government locks the area down.

Two hundred odd square miles of city, sealed away from America. No aid, no troops, no supplies, no one enters, no one leaves. In those 48 hours, before the gates shut, many people leave; the rich, the mobile, those who have places to go, or family to go to. Many people don't leave, the poor, the sick, the elderly, those who built Gotham out of their sweat out of their hope,  some who all they have in the world, all their hopes and dreams, is in four walls and a ceiling.

The Criminals don't leave, and the mad don't leave, and a lot of good people don't leave. That means James Gordan, Commissioner James Gordan, doesn't leave.

He came to a city of corruption over 20 years ago, A young pimple faced police rookie and he'd like to think in his time he's made something better out of the city. Something worth fighting for. He and a ragtag band of cops, and firemen, and nurses are holding the line. 

Here in a city that useto be Gotham, on land that useto be part of America, he and his gang of blue, are taking back the streets one block at a time.

They are Gotham's last hope.

They are the GCPD.

Pay allegiance...  or get your head kicked in.

(Sorry Warren, I couldn't resist.)

But in a Gotham without laws, they fear they might not be enough. They need something in the night, Gordan thinks as he lifts the familiar weight and feels the recoil deep in his shoulder. We need something in the night... to make them afraid.

Gordan curses softly, the thing he had once called friend, the dream that has deserted them. He curses softly and pulls the trigger again.

I really liked this story, as you can tell by my impromptu writing (Please Dennis, no begging, I'll write an issue for you). It grabs the imagination, call me crazy but I think this would make a great movie. But whatever you do don't get Joel Shumacher to direct. You want to do a movie about a Dark Knight, you go to a director who has proven himself in the Darkness. David Fincher, Baby. Now that would be a movie.

This is a great story, look for it to make my best of the year list. Received quite a few books the same day, the 4th issue of Warren Ellis' Authority, Muth's CROW #6, Alan Moore's TOP 10, but Bob Gale's A NEW ORDER blew them all away. It's so rewarding to know that when the chips are down, there are still American's out there who can still do it better than anybody else. Who can still bring the wood. Highest Recommendation.


sydney_ish01p17.jpg (11572 bytes)An Independent book I recently received was issue #1 of Arcane Comics Prophecy of the Soul Sorcerer #1. I have seldom received a nicer presentation in the mail, very professional. Obvious that a lot of  care, and a lot of time had gone into this presentation. The comic is very much in the early Image Style, unfortunately that's not a compliment. written by Eric Dean Seaton, Prophesy of the Soul Sorcerer has a very interesting story, a story I would like to see developed and run with, and I was rooting for the story from page one, but it had two glaring problems, the art and the dialogue.

The artwork on the first issue was done by Eric Dean Seaton, and the art had its moments like the full page pictures of Night Hawk, but as a whole it was too rough for my liking. However it looks like Eric Stanton has already taken steps to fix the art. On this page are samples of  Patrick Blaine's work and quite simply this guy's work blows me away, very seductive and vibrant. Very sexy. I've seen Blaine's work before ,and after, being inked by Andy Owens, and it looks much better before.

Blaine has very detailed drawings, highly complex shading, and a lot of thisarcane.gif (21050 bytes) looks like it's getting lost in the inking process; it looks like Owens is simplifying the work, making it into something very generic. Giving it a Rob Liefield look, that hurts rather than helps.

But with Blaine onboard, the art is no longer an issue, it's definitely top notch work. However we are still left with the larger problem of the dialogue. I think the story, the premise for the story, is great, but the dialogue isn't. it doesn't ring true, it comes out forced and contrived. Not everyone can write Dialogue, as Image Comics quickly learned in it's early years. But the creators were smart enough to put writers on their books. Liefeld put Alan Moore on Supreme, McFarlane was smart enough to put Paul Jenkin's on Spawn. And I think for PROPHESY OF THE SOUL SORCERER to survive Eric Dean Seaton needs to learn from others mistakes and get himself a writer. I really think Eric Dean Seaton is onto a great story, a great mythology, much like McFarlane's SPAWN, but for the mythology to take hold he's going to need a writer. My recommendation for this book: pass. But don't write this comic off, If  they can get a writer for it, we might just be hearing the name Arcane Comics, sometime in the future.



Well that's it for this go around, stop in next issue as we bring you more reviews than you can shake a stick at. And please remember to drop us your comments.




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