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Comics Reviewed! Hellboy, Avengers, Kick-Ass 2 and more!

10.28.2010

 

NOTHING SAYS HALLOWEEN LIKE ANIMAL/SUPERHERO CROSSOVERS, TAKE ONE

Avengers vs. The Pet Avengers #1 (of 4)(Marvel, $2.99)
by Graig Kent

Here's what you get with Avengers vs. The Pet Avengers... a brief history lesson on the Age of Dragons in the Marvel Universe...the pet Avengers getting some candy as a reward for apprehending a robber...some nasty volcanic activity...a frog with a cybernetic arm...Fin Fang Foom (yes, sporting purple underwear)...dragons, dragons, dragons eating, eating, eating our heroes. Yes, it sounds pretty madcap, but in the grand tradition of Marvel Comics of old, it's all played relatively straight, and it's absolutely delightful entertainment as a result. Crankyfaced teens and smarmy hipsters might not find talking animals and their somewhat twee escapades entertaining, but it's their loss. Writer Chris Eliopoulus and artist Ig Guara have over a pair of mini-series and one-shots created their own slice of the Avengers franchise fit for readers of any ages, and you can tangibly feel their unironic investment in these characters and the adventure stories they tell. This is what comics were meant for.

 

NOTHING SAYS HALLOWEEN LIKE ANIMAL/SUPERHERO CROSSOVERS, TAKE TWO

Hellboy/Beasts Of Burden: Sacrifice (Dark Horse, $3.50)
By Graig Kent

Like The Pet Avengers, Beasts of Burden follows the adventures of a team of animals, but that's pretty much where similarities end. The adventures of the beasts are on a much smaller, less-world/universe-threatening scale, dealing with paranormal happenings in the small town of Burden, and it's played dead serious, often with horrifying or sombre results. With all the mystical happenings in the town it's not without reason that Hellboy would cross paths with the beasts, and he gets wrapped up in a mystery that's been plaguing the canine and feline mystics. This leads into an intense encounter with skeleton golems, a creepy witch-lady and a giant monster that can only be dealt with in Hellboy's usual style. Evan Dorkin (with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola) crafts a tale that is equally suited to the styles of both parties involved, and while Hellboy doesn't intrinsically fit in with Jill Thompson's watercolor style she uses on Beasts, she captures him fairly well throughout, though he does get rendered rather cartoonishly in the occasional panel. The coda felt a little detached from the main story, but otherwise it's a wonderful pairing (though I would like more Beasts adventures in the bag before a follow-up).

 

THE HOUSING MARKET BECOMES A BLOODBATH IN RADICAL’S “ABATTOIR”

Abattoir #1 (Radical Comics, $3.99)
By Adam Prosser

Hollywood has realized that a cheaply made horror movie dumped in late October has the possibility to clean up at the box office, and for much of the last decade the reigning champions of this have been the Saw flicks. Now Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saws II, III and IV as well as Repo! The Genetic Opera, seems to be attempting to apply this principle to comics as well, releasing the 36-page first issue of Abattoir right before Halloween. (I’m not sure what Bousman’s role here is, as he didn’t write the comic, but he seems to be acting in a “producer’s” capacity. The script is by Rob Levin and Troy Peteri.)

While this may seem like an inauspicious start, the comic itself is quite promising, with a feel very much like a late 70s-early 80s haunted house movie. It even seems to be treading similar ground to The Amityville Horror, with a story set in the 80s, and involving characters burdened with a house where horrible things happened. Rather than tell a simple haunted house tale, though, “Abattoir” goes in a surprising direction. The story involves Richard Ashwalt, a real estate agent who’s been saddled with the impossible task of unloading a house whose previous owner snapped and massacred his family and a bunch of other party guests for no reason anyone can see. A grim as things look, Ashwalt finds himself with a buyer almost immediately—a creepy old man named Jebediah Crone who, far from being repelled by the house’s sordid past, seems to relish it. Needless to say, despite the seemingly open-and-shut nature of the situation, taking Crone’s business looks like it might be a very bad move indeed.

One of the interesting things about “haunted house” stories (though in this case the haunting may not be literal) is that they provide a fantastical metaphor for things that we can all relate to. Everyone’s lived in a house, and wondered what became of its former tenants. In the case of Abattoir, we’ve got a setup with no supernatural elements (yet)—something that could easily happen in real life, and probably does all the time—but which transforms something as mundane as real estate transactions into an intense and unnerving setup. I’m not usually a fan of hyper-realistic artwork, but Bing Cansino and Andrei Pervukhin’s watercolour-style figures have an appropriately lurid and threatening look to them—even when they do look a little stiff, it adds to the unnatural atmosphere of the story. Meanwhile, Levin and Peteri have crafted an efficient, intelligent setup with smart dialogue and a masterfully handled sense of gathering dread. Halloween will be long past by the time the next issue arrives, but there’s no reason thiis series shouldn’t outlive the gimmicky date of its release.


TEENAGE WASTELAND?

Teen Titans #88 (DC Comics, $3.99)
By Devon Sanders

The Teen Titans are back and pretty much where I last left them last, some four years back. Oh, don't get me wrong; no one's happier than I that Titans mainstays Kid Flash and Superboy are back from the deaD again but it sure would be nice to see them do something other than fill the roles of trickster and sensitive jock, respectively. It's also great to see the team's roster return to its former glory as Wonder Girl is still around to doubt her role as Titans leader. Man-child Beast Boy is also still there to try and "out-teenager" Kid Flash. Rounding out the team is Raven and her feelings and her candles along with Deathstroke's daughter, Ravager with her one eye to make fun of and a sword. Also in this issue, they fight shirtless teenage boys who hiss and drip blood from their fangs and wonder aloud what they're fighting. All this and some out-of-character snark from a Teen Titans founding member introducing a new Teen Titan and we'll call it Teen Titans #88. Did I like this issue? I did. More because I enjoy this somewhat classic current incarnation of The Titans and with addition of the newest member, the possibility of a new team dynamic is almost too irresistible to pass up. My main concern is, frankly, the writing. This issue was, at best, serviceable. Writer JT Krul had the characters hit their notes, sometimes, ask the wrong questions and do so, all on the same page. A definite understanding of characterization and a definitive Titans mission statement is going to go a long way in returning this book back to its former glory. None of this is on display in the overall tone of this issue yet simply because the characters are who they are, I'm willing to let the writing find them. Artist Nicloa Scott is spot-on, as every Titan is on-point, occupying a body type and stature unique to their character while displaying a gift for facial expression reminiscent of Justice League artist Kevin Maguire. Teen Titans #88 isn't the start of something great or even a return to form. What it is is a chance to recapture something great and i for one truly hope it succeeds,

 

A KINDER, GENTLER, KICK-ASS? PROBABLY NOT FOR LONG.

Kick-Ass: Balls To The Wall #1 of 6 (Icon, $2.99)
By Jeb D.

Maybe it's just that success agrees with Mark Millar, and the wily Scot's certainly had his share of it lately, both inside the Marvel Universe and outside of its confines. And if the film version of Kick-Ass didn't exactly set the box office on fire, it was generally well received by critics and fans, with the consensus being that it was at least as well done as the comic that spawned it, and perhaps considerably better. Millar doesn't seem to have taken that as a backhanded compliment, and the resultant feelings of goodwill make the first issue of Kick-Ass: Balls to the Wall a rather different experience than was the case with its predecessor: Millar seems to have less need to prove himself the bad boy, and the storytelling seems designed for exposition rather than outrage.

In a way, it's as though the changes to the character of Big Daddy that were made for the film helped to exorcise some of the negativity and fanboy self-loathing that seemed to drive the first series: as this issue begins, Dave Lizewski is finding that not only has he come to accept himself and his role, but that the world in which he lives has bought into his fantasy-turned-bloody-reality. The sort of superhero team-up that nearly led to his undoing last time around is presented here as the natural progression of the imaginative fire that Kick-Ass lit with his appearances on youtube and elsewhere, and there's some sly spandex humor as Dave explores the possibility of hooking up with one Dr. Gravity for some, well… ass-kicking.

Somewhat less successful are other remaining plot threads from the first series. On the one hand, the return of Mindy Macready to something resembling a normal life, while unlikely in purely practical terms, did give her character's arc a strong conclusion. As this new series opens, though, Millar's fudged things a bit, mingling comic and movie stories to show us a Hit-Girl who is finding it difficult to cope with the restraints of a sane everyday life. As I say, while anyone in Hit-Girl's real situation would probably face those same difficulties in adjustment, in terms of fictional story terms, it does rather feel as though she's been dragged back onstage for an encore that is due more to the positive audience response than any need to continue with her story.

And, in terms of female characterization, Dave's continued obsession with Katie Deauxma (to the point where he sees her becoming his "Lois Lane" or "Mary Jane") is annoying and unconvincing: sure, people get hung up on sex objects for reasons that have little to do with logic or sense, but it's stretching things to expect that someone with Dave's recent hard-won experience of the world wouldn't have better perspective.

Maybe most indicative of the relatively sedate nature of the comic is John Romita Jr's art (with Tom Palmer aiding in the finished work, it's smoother than the previous series): there's little fighting in the issue, and nothing resembling the blood 'n' guts of the previous series. Granted, that will come in future issues, but it's interesting to see Romita's art reflect the relative calm that has descended on this cast of characters... for now.

All in all, a perfectly respectable setup issue, though the question might be asked whether it was really necessary to take an entire issue just to advance Dave's story by an additional nudge or two-particularly when the final panel suggests that a great deal of issue #2 is going to involve more even more setup, introductions, and recap. But if you're invested in the world and characters of Kick-Ass, you'll find this a welcome return.

 

YOU PROBABLY CARE MORE ABOUT CARNAGE THAN I DO

Carnage #1 of 5 (Marvel, $3.99)
By Jeb D.

Carnage. Spider-Man. Iron Man. Team-Up. Crossover. Yadda yadda yadda. You can pretty much run the playbook on the story in this issue without any help from me; though if you're curious, the setup involves mind control, bloodthirst, and Tony Stark running into an inventor that appears to be several leaps ahead of him. There's extra bad guys, tech suits, car chases, snappy patter… perfectly decent superhero crossover.

What makes it more or less worth your time is Clayton Crain's art. The fact that the guy pretty much defines the modern version of Ghost Rider makes it easy to overlook the twisted fun he can bring to spandex shenanigans. His Tony Stark looks disquietingly satanic out of his armor, and inhumanly powerful in it, while Spider-Man is all spindly limbs that give off an amazingly realistic sense of texture and movement. And in a Carnage book, you expect some monstrous stuff as well, and Crain certainly doesn't disappoint, with tendrils and fangs and spidery arms everywhere (the fact that the Carnage symbiote no longer appears to be linked to Cletus Kasady might be part of the storyline, or a development that I missed during the time I wasn't interested in Carnage, which is, like, from day one). The perspectives are always eye-catching, and there's a few great visual jokes (watch for Spidey's encounter with breakfast food).

In the end, I don't care about Carnage, and don't find anything particularly compelling in the story being told here, particularly at four dollars a pop. But man that art is just lip-smackingly demented.

 

 

THIS WEEK'S TALKING POINTS:

How awesome are the Pet Avengers? (I'll give you the answer to that one. HIGHLY AWESOME is the answer.)

Horror comics. Do they work? Can horror be effectively conveyed in the comics medium?


Source: JoBlo.com

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