maandag 17 december 2012

Ultimate Spiderman Vol 14: Warriors (#79-#85)

Ultimate Spiderman Vol 14: Warriors (#79-#85)

I don’t think I need to recap much about the Ultimate Line. In 2000 Marvel decided to refresh their characters by recreating them in the Ultimate world, giving them a modern origin-story and more realistic versions of previous plots. Ultimate Spider-man was the first (Micheal Brain Bendis and Mark Bagley) and with the success of the series followed as acclaimed long-term serials like Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-men and the summer blockbuster comics The Ultimates vol 1 to 3. But let’s first focus on Ultimate Spider-man Vol 14, the Warriors arc.
Why this specifically? Well I feel this being one of the weaker arcs (not the strongest, but there are definitely so weak arcs in USM) where we go in-depth on Peter Parker, his relationship (or the rather the lack of) with Mary-Jane and the introduction of Ultimatized (heheh) characters like Iron Fist, Shang-Shi, Hammerhead and of course Moon Knight (who wears white to a superhero fight? – Spidey). I feel that this arc had a lot of potential and was certainly epic, but stripped down to characters and plot something lacking and juggling. So lets get to it.

Peter and Mary-Jane broke up, because Peter believes MJ brings herself unnecessary into danger during his superheroing. In an annual issue, Peter meets Kitty Pride of the X-men and the two start dating. Kitty doesn’t appear during this arc though, she seems to be grounded. Meanwhile because of Spidey’s previous actions, the Kingpin had been forced to lay low for a while and the mafia-head Hammerhead (hehe, I’m cracking it up today) aspires to take Fisk’s place as the new Kingpin.
We meet the big baddy Hammerhead while he converts the Kingpin’s old crew – the Enforcers – to his own, and then orders the building to be burned. All about sending a message. Spidey sees the fire and goes to help potential people trapped inside, but he is suddenly assaulted by Moon Knight who suspects him of working with Hammerhead. After a bit of fighting and mocking (who wears white at a superhero fight??) The two split as police enters the scene.
So then we start at Peter in class while he’s contemplating why he broke up with MJ. After getting sick of the teacher, he insults him and walks away to do some Spidey work. He proclaims that as Peter he feels useless but as Spider-Man he is actually doing something for the city, and would rather crawl in his Spider world for good.
Meanwhile, Shang-Shi and Iron Fist meet in a Chinese restaurant, the latter just released from prison. But their conversation is stopped when Hammerhead and his crew comes in the restaurant and claims it as his territory, seizing protection money. SS and IF fight through the crew, and even Spidey shows up to knock Hammerhead down….with a broken hand instantly realizing why he’s called Hammerhead.  But then Black Cat shows up and a very annoyed Hammerhead throws a grenade. Black Cat saved Spidey from the grenade and fled to a rooftop. After a bit of talking (Felicia’s father was murdered by William Fisk the Kingpin, and vowed revenge under the name Black Cat) BC makes out with Spidey by only opening up the mouth part of his mask.
Later on, Spidey investigates Fisk’s building but is greeted by Elektra who invites him in. Surprisingly Spidey follows and after a funny scene in the elevator he is brought to Fisk. The Kingpin gives him the address of Hammerhead’s lair and asks him to take him out. Because Hammerhead is much much crueler than Fisk, and should rather be stopped now than when becomes the new Kingpin. Even Spidey’s ally, the police detective Jeanne DeWolfe encourages him to follow Fisk’s advice.

-insert montage scene of Shang-Shi and Iron fist getting into costumed and pumped up, while playboy billionaire Marc Spector (Wait a darn sec-) sees the sun going down and gets in costume – 

Spidey visits the address the Kingpin gave him, but catches Black Cat sneaking around. She says she wants to help Hammerhead rise to power so he can overthrow Fisk and she can have her revenge. Afterwards she’ll help Spidey bring down Hammerhead too, she promises. After another kiss, they hear noises in the building and barge in.

Cue the most epic thing you’ll ever see in a comic gang war.
We have Hammerhead with his goons pulling their guns on Iron Fist and Shang-Shi while Elektra has her weapons raised against Hammerhead and Moonknight lurking on the ceiling. And Spidey and BC just jumped in the middle of this all.

favorite quote:
- Hammerhead

So the next issue starts off with Hammerhead calling a pause to the situation. He immediately buys Elektra from Fisk, and then even Black Cat volunteers to work for him – much to Spidey’s dismay. So then the fight starts and literally everyone throws a punch or kick to everyone, seeing how no one knew each other’s motivation or side. But after some spectacular but jumbled pages, Spidey gets sick of this all and rage-webs everyone tight to their place. The fight is just frozen as everyone is stuck in the webs, and Spidey casually picks up a phone to call the police to sort this all out. This is definitely the one of the funniest thing’s I’ve read. All of the characters are in some way insulting or scolding Spidey and we see him just getting annoyed by this all. But while the police is underway, Elektra manages to get herself free and throws her Sai to spidey, scarcely missing him. More characters use their knives and sharp claws to get free, and Hammerhead finds his gun empty. As the fight continues Elektra smashes Spidey through the window and he’s dropped on an arriving police car. Moon Knight is stabbed by Elektra and after Hammerhead blurs he won’t be able to pay her, she beats him up and throws him out of the window too. Black Cat and her battle, but before she can kill Black Cat, a moon-shaped boomerang (Moonerang?) is thrown in the back of her head.
Well, in the end all the heroes escape and BC and Spidey flee to another rooftop. BC claims she was stupid to use Hammerheads as a means to get to Fisk, and promises Spidey to be more responsible. And then, with the promise of sex, the about 25 year old Black Cat removes Spidey’s mask to see a fifteen year old face.

She barfs on his costume and flees.

So what did I think of this arc? Well its not bad in my eyes, and one of my favorites. Especially because it has some epically comical scenes, and Moon Knight. From all the Ultimate supporting characters, Moon Knight was fleshed out the most – though its not much. We see he has four personalities inside him, two grown men, a little girl and Moon Knight himself. We know that Iron Fist was a prisoner once who couldn’t control his rage but is all right now, and Shiang-Shi…owns a restaurant or something. So the characters are not what really drive this story. Plot wise it seemed okay aside from Fisk asking Spidey to take care of Hammerhead while he knows Spidey doesn’t do this kind of stuff, and then also sending Elektra to kill him off.  Also, during the last chapter when Moon Knight is wounded, Hammerhead manages to pull off his mask and make a picture of his face, mumbling with still his mouth webbed, “I own you!” but this plot point gets no where as HH is thrown out of a window later. Second, there is a difference between a 25 year old body and a 15 year old. How did BC not notice that? She kissed him without mask, wouldn’t she notice something? Even in the new Spider-man movie you can’t really believe that’s a 17 year old playing spidey, but rather a 19 year old at most (the actor is in his twenties). But aside from this the comic had some great gags and epic moments. I like to see a Spider-man movie that associates with the mob just like TDK did; I think the realism would do a grounded character like Spidey good. Less of a CGI villain at the end and more a moral dilemma.
The art is classic Bagley and does very well to convey emotion while also having some pretty rad action scenes.
Check it out for yourself.

Three out of Five stars

zondag 2 december 2012

Spawn Blood Feud

Today we look at a Spawn comic, one written by Alan Moore and drawn & inked by Tony Daniel & Kevin Conrad respectively. Alan Moore we must all already know (if you don't, no shame, just pick up some of his books) the famous English writer/anarchist/magician responsible for some of the most revolutionary comics in times (Watchmen, The Killing Joke, Promethea, Supreme and oh goddess too much to sum up). Tony Daniel gave us the art of Grant Morrison acclaimed run on Batman, several Image comics I dont give a crap about, and has written some Batman and Detective Comics. He should stick with penciling. Really. And then we have Kevin Conrad...whom I don't have much information of. He did some spawn and DC work so far as I can, and isn't half bad. It does seem he like he does alot of the 90's comic art.

But back to Spawn. Spawn was of course created by Tod McFarlane as one of the first series of Image Comics. It outlived Young Blood, and all the other thinly veiled DC/Marvel ripoff books his friends were producing at that time alongside Savage Dragon, and are thus the ONLY two Image runs I can recommend. Of course Spawn is also a rip off. But instead of just taking a Marvel/DC character, changing the colour of costume and sticking lots a guns on it, McFarlane simply took the thematic value of Batman and Spider-man and give the character some damn development. He also used supernatural elements to make stuff possible, but kept the character grounded from becoming an unstoppable magician supreme. Aside from that, he made us actually relate to the character and feel emotion for him. We don't feel sorry if Wolverine-rip-off-no 124 gets a katana in the gut, but we feel genuinely sad to see Al Simmons, family guy, getting gunned down and resurrected as a hellspawn, with holes in his memory. We want to see that character get better, we want to see him kick the asses of the ones who killed him, and yet we also want to see him brood around graveyards or rooftops just as much.

But back to Blood Feud. McFarlane, probable realizing he's a good writer but not good enough, contracted several people to write his Spawn and maybe fill in some holes or something. So Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Alan Moore among some contributed something to the comic. And during 1995 we got this gem: Blood Feud.

Blood Feud #1
This story opens up with a horrible sequence where something is going on a bloodthirsty rampage through the city. We never get to see what's attacking the people, since it's behind the camera. We have broad horizontal panels of people looking at us and screaming while with thick red letters "WUBUB" is given as sound-effect (Dubstep is evil?) and after 3 pages of adults and kids being ripped apart unmercifully we get a vision of Spawn's uniform being a sentient vicious creature. Spawn wakes up, implying that everything we saw was just a dream. But he does keep lamenting about his costume, even suggesting that the spikes on his arms might be the creature's teeth. (Note here, that Spawn lives in an ally way with his hobo friends). Meanwhile, a certain Mr John Sansker is introduced in the story as a paranormal investigator. He's researching the killings and has come to the conclusion that Spawn is a vampire. He hands out leaflets and instructions how to kill a vampire. When Spawn hears that he's furious ofcourse. But he inexplicable collapse.
Another massacre sequence comes up, spanning 4 pages and a few more splash pages of the costume taking a sentient and gruesome pose. And finally on the last page of the comic we see Spawn has woken up, surrounded by police...with blood on his hand and dead people around him.


Also, this comic has some extra stuff like lay-out pencils by Alan Moore which McFarlane encourages us to compare to Daniel's finished work. I really like this kind of stuff in my comics.

Blood Feud #2
In this issue Spawn evades the police, but is now hunted down all of New York.He sees himself being ratted out by most of his friends, as everyone is afraid of him as a vampire.Man while our favorite detectives Sam and Twitch see something fishy about the whole case. While visiting a friend who ratted him out, Spawn is attacked by Sansker who doesn't appear to be quite human himself. He seemingly kills the paranormal investigator in an uncontrollable rage, and is now genuinely afraid of himself. He decides to get rid of his costume, ripping it off and locking it up in a chest which he throws in the river. When he goes to his ally way to sleep, he is still haunted by disturbing dreams, but then he wakes to see his hobo friends, and a big giant stake in his chest.

Not as good as the first issue, but it still keeps up. This comic is really fast pace and frentic, and I accuse the art of doing so. Plain 90's art looks pretty ugly, even by Tony Daniel. But I've seen worse, so I can't call it bad art either. sigh.

Blood Feud #3
I don't have the physical copy of this comic, though I did read it. In this issue we see a Spawn who is now alone in the world. All of his friends fear him and betrayed him, and he isn't even with his powerful costume anymore. Sam and Twitch decide that something isn't right with Sansker, but when Twitch is confronted with him alone Sansker turns into some demon thingy and we cut away, making us fear that the famous Twitch has undergone an Alan Moore fate. Meanwhile, Spawn is helped by his old enemy Violator (surprising) and the ugly clown reveals him some things about the costume (it feeds on souls, not blood, and is apparently female). More so, Spawn can't live without his costume, so he has to retrieve it. Hot-wiring a car he tries to drive to the docks, but is attacked by Sansker - who reveals he framed him -. and the car crashes into the river.

Artwork here is less clear than the first, and very hard to make out. What I do like here is the back up info about the costume. Neil Gaiman added some characters to increase the historical scope of the series, and Alan Moore explains a bit about the costume. It;s also fun to see Spawn hijack a car.

Blood Feud #4

The Last issue starts with Spawn and Sansker battling it down there, but Sansker for some reason goes up to the docks again. There the police arrives lead by Sam. Via radio we hear that Twitch is alive, but barely, and Sam vows to take Sansker in. Sansker however fights back, killing almost everyone there. He also quips that he has no real motivation for this crime, and is simply doing an exercise to prepare himself for Hong Kong 2070 (how does he know a Hellspawn will appear at that time in Hong Kong??). Meanwhile Spawn reunites with his costume and goes back up to kick Sansker's ass. Though the ass turns into a snake-like being and after a short fight, Sansker flees and disappears. Sam says that he can clear Spawn's name, but Spawn decides to embrace the darkness and dives back into the water.

Well....that was disappointing. It wasn't a bad comic, for one, but it wasn't something to stand out either. Why is this a miniseries? Why does it need "Blood Feud" written on the covers so prominently? The comic tries to seal some holes that McFarlane left open, but it didn't feel pretty satisfying. The villain is lackluster and apparent since issue 1, and nothing extraordinary happens with him either. It ends very anti-climatic. What I do like about Blood Feud is the relationship of Spawn with his suits and humans. The paranoia was well done, the dream sequences as well. I think the dream sequences were the only sequences the art really suited. Everything else seems too rushed and dirty. Not one of Moore's best works, but a good effort nonetheless.

3 out of 5 stars (Weakest I've given to an Alan Moore story).

donderdag 22 november 2012


Welcome to AMERICA'S GOT POWERS! It's the biggest TV show on Earth, where the chance to win fame, fortune and get laid are dangled in front of a generation of super-powered teens. All they have to do is WIN. Who is the fastest, the strongest or the greatest? Who survives? Young Tommy Watt's dreams of being the greatest hero of them all might just be shattered when the greatest show on the planet begins to reveal its dark heart.
 Jonathan Ross/ Bryan Hitch

Allrighty then, to start off this book has surprising fresh twists around every page. At first glance you'll be tempted to call it a generic Superhero book - not even a good one, but something akin you'd see in PG-13 action/fantasy movie. There are supernatural gifted people present, and their powers are described yet not explained. Then we have the typical boy who despite being one of them, has zero powers until one day he unlocks hidden abilities to save lives. Cutting the cheese cake huh? (though I like cake, so no complaint from there) But what gripped me from this book (aside its art, I'll have a whole section about that) is how intelligent it's written, before - in the last few pages - just exploding your head with an unexpected turn. Spoiler alert, though I won't be spoiling the REALLY big things for you.

#1 Fair enough. We see the world, which reminds me of a 2000s near-future movie. No weird or futuristic stuff yet, just that weird glow that surrounds modern stuff (Like it's set in an Apple commercial). Bright colours everywhere, and dynamic shots with cool scenery. We are explained the origins of the super-powered teens: a sudden explosion of blue energy. This is very reminiscent of the origins of heroes in JMS Rising Stars. Lets hope this comic doesn't turn as bleak as that. Well...too late. Apparently a riot couple of years ago caused the government to imprison all super-powered teens into camps where they'd live and go to school...and fight in a "hunger games" styled arena for TV-ratings. Of course that's just optional - though the participants face life-threatening dangers inside. Though, good TV. Tommy, our main character, is a zero powered teen who has several jobs - one of them being a mascot.  During a battle against killer robots the force field around the arena get's damaged and a kid falls in. Tommy dives in for the rescue, and before a robot can squash them, a blue force suddenly explodes around Tommy and all the robots are disabled. 
Mind blown.

#2 This issue deals with the fallout of the explosion. Tommy becomes a star, nicknamed Zero and the elite people in power (no pun) want another fight out of him. He's reluctant though because he had a brother who was killed in the arena, and he promised his mother he would never fight. Though at the end of the issue its the mother who pleads him to fight. Why? Because she was shown something you'd never expect. Read the comic, find out.
Mind blown 2.

#3 is more character development, while also Tommy's experience in the arena. He's immediately targeted by the main bully of the story, all while the elite military people are eagerly awaiting another spectacle out of him. Their pet psychic can simply detect a slight energy spike out of Tommy when he gets a hard hit on the face. Many people are thoroughly disappointed. We also briefly cut away to see a band of super-powered teens  outside the camp, having escaped the governments claws. They're planning something big, but Tommy (who used to be familiar with them) sudden power surprised them. They decide to free him. At the other time, the main scientist suddenly gets an idea which is proven true when we cut back to the little boy Tommy saved in issue 1. The whole stereotypical destined hero cliche gets turned aside with a single page.
Mind THOROUGHLY blown.

Thats pretty much about the art. Lets talk about Bryan Hitch art.
Beautiful beautiful cinematic realistic art. We see large panels with beautiful rendered buildings and colourful people...from suprising angles and dynamic layouts. The first three pages of the first issue are "wow" already. Panels that run through two pages with a big background. No unnecessary spaces, no splash pages of characters just posing, the splash pages are meant for the background with the highly detailed buildings, and there are always panels presents that tell a part of the story. This is gold story telling.

If I have to nitpick, then I have 2 issues.
First, I find that the art in Hitch earlier work like Ultimates and New Avengers is a bit cleaner than here. And I primarily mean inking. Especially in ultimates the inking was superb. Here, the lines are thick and in my opinion not as fine as in his previous work.
Second is a nitpick to the covers. They say that all a good cover hints the readers at the story inside, seduces them that there is a good story inside worth spending their money on. Of course, America's Got Powers IS worth it. But the covers just aren't that great in my opinion. We have so far 3 covers of Tommy just posing in generic superhero poses. Sometimes there are background characters flying around in the back, but as a new reader we just see people in athlete outfits. There is nothing truly that makes it all stand out. And with the big reveal in issue 3 I realized that all the cover's where Tommy is punching through walls or the ground are essentially a lie.
Or perhaps its clever satire at television and how they elevate their stars?

Your pick.

So that was America's Got Powers. Definitely worth the money, so go pick it up. 4 out of 5 stars.

Z. v. M.

woensdag 21 november 2012

My introduction

Hello there, and thank you for taking the time to glance at my new blog.

This is not the first blog I've made, but hopefully this will be the one to last. I had been thinking about why my other blogs failed, and I've come to the conclusion that perhaps its my goal that played a roll. What is my goal? To inform, to enlighten. So that's why in my earlier blogs I invited people to take a seat, make your pillow comfortable and sip from their hot tea or coffee while I lecture about the stuff I love. ?

And that's where I choked.

I guess I'm not much of a lecturer - yes I can go on for hours and hours talking about these stuff, comics and proses especially, but at some point this is not really enlightening. Learning stuff isn't just sitting and hearing stuff being said to you, or saying stuff to people the whole time. You learn by communicating. I can plead my case, but I'll choke if I don't have someone who asks the questions "why", "how so" and or "explain..?" etc.

So here we are. A new blog, a new approach.

No lavish reviews, or deep analytic stuff right on the main page. I have been notified by minions that there is an "edit" button to the blog. So instead I'll work like this: I'll post my review or my thoughts about a subject briefly here (though there is a possibility I'll publish longer works) and I'll spread the information generally but still with my flair of opinion. If there are any questions, I'll answer those in comments, and incorporate that in the article. So when you visit old works, you might see new stuff right off the bat, rather than strolling through comments. Otherwise, if there are no in depth question's, I'll still add extra stuff over time. Dont worry though: I'll make a weekly update about stuff being added in blogs, and schedules for coming weeks too.

So, I've been talking alot about my intentions and all, lets now go to my subjects. What shall this blog be about?

Well comics, duhh.

Ofcourse not only comics. Here's a list of possible subjects:
- Comics
- Prose novels/novella's/short stories
- Art
- Story telling tips
- Recent Events
- Controversial topics like: Racism, feminism, anarchism,  etc.
- Philosophy

Well, keep in mind that comics are the main focus of this blog. I read TONS of comics, so there is no excuse for me not to publish something atleast once per week. Whether its a one issue review or a whole story arc. The other stuff are going to be sporadic and things that are at that moment, bugging my mind.

I support discussion and questions, and do my best to address them. As long as you, the reader and commenter, do your best to stay polite and open minded.

*steps off soapbox*
Thank you for your time, and may this blog fare well.

~ Zerachiel van Mark