Review | Kick-Ass 2

Publisher/s: Clint

Genre: Super-hero

Author/s: Mark Millar

Artist/s: John Romita. Jr

format: Limited Series

No. of Issues: 7

Vintage: 2010 – 2012

The Plot | Sequel to the original comic-book series, Kick-Ass returns in full force as Mindy (Hit-Girl) secretly trains him as he attempts to put together a team of ‘super-heroes’ in order to fight crime all the while preparing for the return of Red Mist.

The Good | The original series was a huge hit, spawning an entire range of merchandise from t-shirts to action figures and even a live-action film adaptation, and since the original 6 issues left the story somewhat open-ended, it’s only natural that it would spawn a sequel (including a second film on the way too).  So Dave Lizewski continues to fight crime on the street as a costumed hero without the aid of Mindy McCready as she lives with her new guardian Marcus Williams – a cop who has forbidden her vigilante antics.  However, Mindy finds it hard to adjust to suburban life and routinely visits Dave in order to train him in secret.  Needless to say, there is a healthy dose of escalation in Kick-Ass 2 as it reaches the obvious conclusion point – super-hero teams.  Dave routinely joins another costumed hero – Doctor Gravity, for night patrols and is eventually introduced to (by Gravity himself) an entire ‘super-league’ called Justice Forever.  On the other side of the spectrum, Red Mist (whom has since adopted the moniker – Motherfucker) has been in Europe recruiting soldiers for his ‘super-villain’ team called the Toxic Mega-Cunts, who will aid him in his revenge against Kick-Ass.  With this sequel returns John Romita. Jr – responsible for the fantastic artwork, and he really does a wonderful job bringing the story to life with his attention to detail, neat lines and water-colour style.

The Bad | Mark Millar has upped the level of violence to the extreme as the antagonists go around raping and murdering innocent people (including children) which will certainly raise a few eyebrows and may even detract from the book’s popularity (highly doubt child-killing and rape will go over well with audiences in the forthcoming film, a film which Millar has been quoted in saying will have all the controversial scenes from the book…oh dear) and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were reading something that Garth Ennis (Chronicles of Wormwood anyone?) might have concocted.  The only other gripe I have with Kick-Ass 2 is that it is too short, I feel that the story was somewhat rushed and it would have been translated better over 12 issues instead of 7.

To Conclude | Kick-Ass 2 is a worthy sequel to the original story, I just feel that it was a little too short and lacked the energy and intrigue of the first series.  However, if you like your comic-books controversial and blood-soaked, you need not look further than Kick-Ass 2.

Grade | B

Free Comic Book Day | Cape Town Roundup

As usual, Free Comic Book Day took place on the first Saturday of May.  A global event, where participating comic book stores around the world give away comics for free to anyone who visits their establishments.  Once again, Readers Den in Claremont, Cape Town took part and enjoyed what must have been the largest turn out yet as the place was absolutely packed.  I’m not too sure how things went down last year as I did not attend, but this time things operated a little differently to 2010.  As per the norm, Readers Den had a plethora of merchandise in the courtyard area just outside the store, however entrance into the actual store was somewhat frustrating as patrons were forced to wait in a queue (my friends and I were waiting around three-quarters of an hour), single file as the owners only allowed 15 – 20 people in at a time, for security purposes no doubt, and that’s fine and all as long as you don’t leave the store when you eventually get to it as you’ll have to stand in line all over again…*sighs*.  So apart from the heightened security of closed-circuit surveillance and a policemen posted at the doors I look forward to next year when they will have  ED-209‘s or something to that effect…

Anyway, a nice addition this year was undoubtedly all the booths scattered around, with various local artists showing off their work, posing for pictures and selling merchandise.  There’s a lot of talent in Cape Town, and surprisingly a lot more local comics/graphic novels being produced then I realized, there was even a booth with custom-made sculptures/action-figures.   It has to be said though, that one of the best tables was undoubtedly the free coffee stand, free coffee…c’mon what more could you want?  Some other noteworthy things included marked down goods @ 10%, free goody bag to the first fifty customers to spend a hundred bucks (I got one, whahaha ^_^), free hardcover graphic novels for every R500 spent (got two of those…), screening room for movies and anime and as always various cosplayers in all shapes and forms.

All-in-all, it was a fun day, got some really cool stuff – such as the X-23 statue (pictured below), and I look forward to seeing what next year brings.  I managed to put aside some time (between shopping and coffee-drinking) to take some pictures of the day’s festivities, enjoy 🙂

A pricey, but very nice PVC statue of X-Men character X-23, cloned from a copy of Wolverine’s damaged genome.

~ Gallery ~

Nameless Sith Lord.

Proud owner of Readers Den.

A deer in headlights…

First of the local talent I encountered, promoting ‘Juvies’.

‘The end is nigh’, this man was wondering all over the place promoting ‘The Passengers’.

Reminds me of lowbrow art, very cool.

Presumably the creators of ‘Apocalypse Chef’…

…and some of their work, very impressive.

A custom-made statue.

Another custom job, a rendition of Bane from the upcoming ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.

A few more custom statues as well as some Super Sculpey (gray block in the background) which is used to make all the figures.

The sculptor of note.

More cosplayers, pictured from left-to-right – Pirate Deadpool, Jin (Samurai Champloo) & The Goon.

Iron Man, Mark I.

Wallpapers | Marvel Comics

Resolution – 1920 x 1080 | Aspect Ratio – 16:9

Before Watchmen Announcement Covers

Before Watchmen, After Moore

In a bold move, DC Comics have chosen to revive the Watchmen franchise, Watchmen being regarded as the pinnacle of what the media has to offer, after more than 25 years (and still in print), in the form of a 7-part prequel series.  Needless to say, the decision to add new content to Alan Moore‘s epic will [has] divide comic-book fans into two camps, while some will relish the chance to get a hold of new Watchmen material, other, more die-hard fans will see this as an affront to the [note] completed vision of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, oh, and it’s a given that Mr. Moore will not go anywhere near this new project, having told the New York Times, that DC Comics prequelization is – “Completely shameless.”

As DC Comics stated, the idea is to release a series of inter-locking and inter-connecting stories, each of which will focus on a particular character.  Set in the [then] contemporary world (1986 – 1987) as envisioned by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons and aptly named Before Watchmen.  The intention of Before Watchmen is to bring the beloved characters into the 21st century, while expanding on the Watchmen mythos and making it relevant to 2012.  In response to Moore’s distaste for the project, J. Michael Straczynski (set to pen the Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl books), noted that while Moore does not approve of adaptations of his work, he has however (and ironically) spent the last decade or so writing some brilliant stories about characters created by other writers including – Alice (from Wonderland), Dorothy (from Oz), Wendy (from Peter Pan), as well as Captain Nemo, the Invisible Man, Jekyll and Hyde and Professor Moriarty.  Straczynski made a good point by saying;

“I think one loses a little of the moral high ground to say, ‘I can write characters created by Jules Verne, HG Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and Frank Baum, but it’s wrong for anyone else to write my characters’.”

As many will know, after a lengthy owner dispute, Alan Moore severed all connections to DC Comics, resulting in Moore vowing to never work for DC again.  Moore believes that Watchmen was only meant to be portrayed in the comic-book medium, so you will never find his name on anything like for example, the live action film adaptation. Back in 1985, Moore actually said that if their 12-issue series was well-received, they’d actually consider doing a follow-up, in the form of a prequel entitled Minutemen, circled around the 1940s progenitors of the ’80s heroes.  In 2010, DC Comics offered the Watchmen property back to Moore but only if he’d agree to do a series of prequel and side-projects, but Moore responded with;

“If they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked … But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”

Well, like it or not, Watchmen will be making a return, even though die-hards may cringe [rage & cry heresy] at the thought of a Watchmen story devoid of Moore and Gibbons, DC’s prequel project is clearly not aimed at the Watchmen zealots.  Before Watchmen is DC’s way of staying fresh, interesting…and perhaps controversial, and what better way to do that then by dusting off an old classic, revered as the greatest graphic novel of all time?

Of course, if one were to so choose, they needn’t read Before Watchmen, thus saving everyone the needless grief of fanboy fanny wobbles, but I’d wager that whether you’re a casual reader or die-hard fan,  you will check out Before Watchmen, just to see how it turns out, because in the back of your mind you’ll always know that it’s there…waiting.

Review | Kingdom Come

Publisher/s: DC Comics

Genre: Super-hero, alternative

Author/s: Alex Ross, Mark Waid

Artist/s: Alex Ross

Format: Mini-series

No. of Issues: 4

Vintage: August 2003 – May 1996 – August 1996

The Plot | Set in the year 2020, where Superman and his ilk have been succeeded by an amoral, nihilistic and reckless class of super-hero.  The new generation of metahuman has a faint regard for human life often resulting in mass casualties and collateral damage during battles, spending more time fighting amongst themselves as opposed to serving the public trust.  When a terrible disaster gains the attention of the recluse Superman, he sets off to stop the new generation of hero, giving them the option to either follow his ideals of Truth, Justice and the American way, or be placed into a prison nicknamed ‘The Gulag‘ in order to be reformed.

The Good | Kingdom Come falls under the Elseworlds imprint, and as such it falls outside the company’s canon much like the Marvel Comics counterpart – What If…?, the difference being that Elseworlds tales have completely self-contained continuities, having no bearing on the canon, merely using the familiar characters of the DC universe.  I’ve always liked alternative story-lines and what if scenarios (Superman: Red Son being one of my all-time favourites) and Kingdom Come doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.

The artwork is simply amazing.

Written by Alex Ross and Mark Waid, Ross independently pitched the idea of Kingdom Come to writer James Robinson with the idea that the project would be of similar scope to Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but ultimately teamed up with fellow writer Mark Waid.  To top it all off, Kingdom Come is beautifully illustrated by Ross himself, with each and every panel painted in gouache.  The trademark style of Alex Ross, wonderfully accentuates the subject matter, and with around 230 pages, the quality and attention to detail of the artwork is mesmerizing.  Needless to say, the storyline is intricate and therefore approached from multiple angles that eventually intertwine as the story progresses.  It’s interesting to see how the character of Superman is tested as he struggles to uphold his ideals in a world where the modern super-hero is just as dangerous to the public as the villains are.  Superman’s plight becomes compounded when his closest allies are willing to do anything in order to stop their foes, even if it means killing. 

The Bad | Kingdom Come is quite a masterpiece of super-hero fiction, so there isn’t anything negative to say about Ross and Waid’s work. Bringing all the heroes together never seems contrived, as each character has a role to play in this masterfully crafted story. 

To Conclude | Alex Ross has been one of my favourite artists for a long time now, and Kingdom Come reasserts that, with beautiful artwork and a brilliant storyline I’d highly recommend tracking down a copy if you like your comics with an alternative spin.  An Absolute Edition of Kingdom Come will be made available on Amazon as from January 31, 2012.  Highly recommended.

Grade | A

Review | The Losers

Publisher/s: Vertigo

Genre: Techno-thriller

Author/s: Andy Diggle

Artist/s: Various

Format: Maxi-series

No. of Issues: 32

Vintage: August 2003 – March 2006

The Plot | An elite special forces unit gets betrayed by their mysterious handler – codename Max, as a result the unit (self-proclaimed ‘Losers’) teams up with the ruthless Aisha who shares a common interest with the gang – kill Max.

The Good | The Losers has been on my ‘to-read-list’ for sometime now due to its A-Team-like comparisons.  A specialized joint military-CIA unit is betrayed and out for revenge.  Much like the A-Team, The Losers consist of a bunch of stereotype characters all fulfilling a particular role.  Clay is the leader/brain of the operation, Roque is the cold-hearted money-driven second in charge, Jensen is the tech wizard/hacker and comic relief, Cougar is the expert marksman, Pooch is the pilot (able to pilot any vehicle) much like Murdock (see A-Team) and finally you have Aisha – the loose-cannon, bad-ass chick out for revenge.  While these character types are no where near original they serve their purpose perfectly for the story and are hugely entertaining.

Because The Losers is published by Vertigo, this comic is in no way shy about the amount of violence and swearing splashed upon its pages, it’s fitting since the comic is focused on a military unit out for revenge so naturally there is a myriad of obstacles (people they get to kill) between The Losers and their target – Max.  The comic is split into smaller story arcs that act as chapters, with the central plot ever-present, The Losers never deviates into unnecessary sub-plots that have no bearing on the main story (which I’m thankful for as I detest filler-plots).  The amount of ‘chapters’ mirrors the amount of artists involved with the comic so the odds of one becoming bored with the artwork is little to none.

The Bad | If I were to nitpick I’d say that the storyline isn’t the most original and the characters are all stereotypes but these are only minor aspects as The Losers is an entertaining read.

To Conclude | If you enjoy A-Team style adventure plots and military action, The Losers has enough suspense, twists ‘n turns and carnage to keep anyone entertained.  On a final note, do yourself a favour and ensure that you read the comic before you watch the film, I think you’d be quite horrified at how Hollywood butchered the source material.

Grade | B+


Publisher/s: Boom! Studios

Genre: Revenge, action

Author/s: Chris Gorak

Artist/s: Damian Couceiro

Format: Limited Series

No. of Issues: 4

Vintage: November 2009 – February 2010

The Plot: When Nola Thomas is left for dead in a car wreck, she awakens in hospital only to find her room knee-deep in water after Hurricane Katrina has decimated New Orleans.

The Good? Nola is a straight-forward story of revenge, with a little bit of mystery thrown in as Nola desperately tries to unravel the past which has been hidden from her for reasons unknown.  After a man named Chevis leaves her for dead in an overturned car, the resulting explosion (Chevis lights the leaking fuel aflame as opposed to typical Hollywood style of random vehicular-explosion-for-no-reason) leaves Nola disfigured but not dead as she awakens bandaged in an empty hospital.  As everyone in town believes her to be dead, she takes the opportunity to right old wrongs in typical Wild West fashion – guns ablaze.  Though it isn’t the most cerebral of stories I did enjoy it nonetheless as Nola makes for a strong female heroine in the vacant city of post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.

The Bad? Well as I stated before, the story isn’t that cerebral or original in actuality – using a straight-forward revenge plot formula.  I think the only thing that makes the comic worth your time is Nola herself as she’s a sassy, bad-ass woman and hey, what guy doesn’t like that?  The artwork isn’t the greatest I’ve seen and found it to be somewhat underwhelming and even boring in places due to a lack of inventive/interesting camera angles that could’ve been used.

To Conclude: Boom! Studios, founded in June 2005, is a new kid on the comic publisher block and I’ve been quite impressed with the comics they’ve released in general as they seem to go beyond the typical spandex-clad superhero archetype in favour of genres like – super-natural, science-fiction, crime and more.  Nola is no exception as Gorak has created a realistic character in a realistic world (having taken elements from the real-life Hurricane Katrina disaster).  Though not the best the industry has to offer, Nola is worth your time nonetheless.

Grade: B

Wallpapers – The Walking Dead

Resolution – 1024 x 768

Review – 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice

Publisher/s: Dark Horse Comics

Genre: Action

Author/s: J.P. Kalonji

Artist/s: J.P. Kalonji

Format: Graphic Novel

Vintage: 2009

The Plot: After Ningen leaves his dojo and discovers that his master has been murdered he makes a vow to defeat three-hundred-and-sixty-five samurai so that he may come face to face with his master’s killer.

The Good? This graphic novel is an extremely fast-paced read as there is very little in the way of dialogue and as a result your eyes blaze through the pages from panel-to-panel.  This fast-paced design gives the story an almost animated feel to it as you literally only spend a few seconds reading per page.  If I’m not mistaken this is the first English entry from the Swedish author/artist J.P. Kalonji and it’s very clear that he has been heavily influenced by Asian cinema and manga.  What would a tale of revenge be without a decent amount of carnage? – 365 Samurai thankfully has bucket-loads of the red stuff as Ningen cuts, stabs and bludgeons his way through all who oppose him.  Throughout his arduous journey, the seasons change and with it different challenges and encounters (friend and foe alike) are presented to him.  The entire story is basically a metaphor of the cycle of life and 365 Samurai will have you hooked from beginning to end.

The Bad? While I’m sure a lot of work and effort was put into this graphic novel, I found J.P. Kalonji’s artwork to be underwhelming and due to its rushed art-style oftentimes it can be a bit difficult to see what’s going on.  Apart from the aforementioned, no other complaints come to mind.

To Conclude: 365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice is an enjoyable read and one that I stumbled upon completely by accident.  If you’re looking for a fast-paced action epic, you can’t go wrong with this one, just don’t expect Alex Ross levels of artwork, then again maybe that’s because 365 Samurai is 392 pages long.

Grade: B