Sep 30, 2011

The Comics Cube!'s Resident Kid Reviews the DCnU: FLASH #1

This week marks the only week in which I bought two DCnU "new 52" comics. I did SUPERMAN #1 in the post right below this one, and this one, at the request of The Comics Cube!'s Resident Kid (my nephew), is our review of FLASH #1.

Interestingly,  I was told by a friend that this was the only DCnU comic that one would feel comfortable giving to a kid. It's also still, like the rest of the DCnU books, rated T for teen. Well, the Resident Kid is 12 turning 13 soon, and this was the only title in the entire lineup of 52 comics that he was interested in. So it worked out! I plonked down the 135 pesos, put FLASH #1 in my bag, then took it home and handed it to my nephew. He read half of it, showered, then read the other half. Then he gave it back to me.

Personally, I think the issue was very decompressed, and could have used a supervillain. I breezed through it in a (pun intended) flash, and can't say that I was terribly excited. There is some nifty design work going on in the layouts, but in the end, the art was not for me. That's personal taste, though — I generally like big, thick ink lines.

But this wasn't for me. This was for the Kid. Although he can't really be classified as a "new" reader — he loves the Wally West stories THE RETURN OF BARRY ALLEN, TERMINAL VELOCITY, and ROGUE WAR, as well as the Barry Allen stories THE FLASH OF TWO WORLDS and CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS — he is still, theoretically, part of DC's target audience.

So here is a conversation we had last night, after I . Be warned — I am working from memory, as well as translating some sequences from Tagalog to English, so you can understand it. I am not changing anything for the sake of furthering any agenda, and am trying to retain the tone from the conversation.

Me: So, what did you think of the story?
Kid: It was okay. Just okay. It could have been better. It was a little bland.
Me: What about the art?
Kid: I didn't like it.
Me: Why not?
Kid: I don't think it was great. It wasn't bad, but I just don't think it was great.
Me: You didn't think this (pointing to the double-page spread below) was great?

Kid: That's okay. But it's when he draws faces. They're inconsistent, and I don't like them.
Me: Is the art clear, at least? The storytelling, I mean.
Kid: I guess. There's this one page where Barry hears a door close from the left in one panel, and then he runs to the right in the next panel. I wouldn't have done it that way. But that's it.
Me: So how would you describe the art?
Kid: Bland.
Me: What about Barry Allen? How would you describe him?
Kid: You know, why couldn't they use Wally? Wally is fun. Wally is funny. I'd love to read about Wally.
Me: Well, what's wrong with this version of Barry Allen? You've liked some Barry stories before.
Kid: This Barry is... hmm....
Me: Bland?
Kid: Yes. Bland.
Me: Would you want the second issue?
Kid: Depends. How much is it?
Me: 135 pesos.
Kid: This was 135 pesos? Then no.
Me: Why, how much did you think it was?
Kid: I dunno. 50?
Me: If you were to ask me to buy a 135-peso comic, how long do you think you should spend reading it?
Kid: Around 10 minutes. Then I'd go back to it throughout the day and enjoy some parts.
Me: And how long did it take you to read this?
Kid: Not counting my shower, about a total of three minutes. And now I'm going to give it back to you, and I don't care if I ever see it again.
Me:You know, according to my friend, who's read most of the new DC books, this is the only comic he wouldn't really mind giving to a kid.
Kid: What? What does DC think of kids? Do they think we want bland?
Me: Look at the rating on the book.
Kid: T for teen. What? What do they think of teens?
Me: Well, you tell me. As someone who is about to become a teenager, what should they put into these comics that will hook you?
Kid: Fight scenes. And humor. Make it fun. And put in some funny parts.
Me: All right. I'll type all that up for The Comics Cube.
Kid (as he was leaving my room): I wish they did something better.

Well... there you go. In a word: "bland."

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: SUPERMAN #1

This week's sampling of the DCnU's "new 52" is SUPERMAN #1 by George Perez and Jesus Merino.

Longtime Cubers know that I am and have always been a fan of George Perez. From the time I was four, he was my favorite artist.  So when he was rumored as working on Superman for the DCnU relaunch, I was very excited. However, my excitement floundered when it was announced that he would be doing only the cover and the layouts, for Jesus Merino to finish. It floundered more when I saw the preview pages, featuring a mopey, miserable Clark Kent walking away as he overhears Lois Lane about to have sex. It floundered even more when I saw George drawing Superman in armor. Why in the world is Superman in armor? I still don't get it. It's like putting the Flash on a bike.

Oh. Uh... scratch that.

ANYWAY, to the point, I got the comic anyway, because if there are any two creators I will always give the benefit of the doubt, it's Alan Moore and George Perez. So yes, be warned. There will be MINOR SPOILERS in this review.

So, the comic tells two stories at once. Morgan Edge has just bought the Daily Planet and is converting it into the publishing wing of his media company, promoting Lois Lane to vice-president in charge of the news. The one Planet staffer not there is Clark Kent, who is vehemently opposed to the move and is also out patrolling the city as Superman. He then gets into a fight with a big fire-monster.

First, I want to talk about the art. Look, here's the thing. The art isn't bad. It doesn't suck. It's not horrible. It's just ... look. If you saw that cover above, and you saw two names, "George Perez" and "Jesus Merino." You see the George Perez cover, and if you're not the type to follow the comics news slavishly, who would you think drew it? And it's depressing, because you can see the Perez in the layouts. You can see it in the way he puts panels together, in the way they are interspersed, in the way that the story is told. It is so obvious, so blatant, that as a George Perez fan, I could not help but HATE (in capital letters) the finished artwork, as I could not help but see what could have been. To worsen matters, George is inking Dan Jurgens over on GREEN ARROW, so I don't quite understand why they didn't just put him full-time on this book.

One thing about it though is that there is no way I can possibly call this book decompressed! There are three stories going on simultaneously: the sale of the Daily Planet, Superman fighting the fire-monster, and Lois covering the news. I think this issue took me 20 minutes to read, which is nice and goes a long way to making me feel like my money was worth it.

The dynamic between Lois and Clark is intriguing as well, and is new, because I think this is the first time the two of them are clashing head-on. This is not the bumbling Clark Kent, nor is it the Clark Kent like in the Byrne version who, while competent, still goes out of his way to be nice and diplomatic. Not here. In this version, Clark speaks his mind and isn't afraid to be heard. Unfortunately, this characterization is carried over to Superman, and it seems that in Perez's attempt to make Superman "new" and "badass," Superman is now a brooding, scowling figure who flies over Metropolis, literally looking down on its citizens. It's, again, a valid interpretation of Superman, but it's not mine.

The weakest part of the entire issue is the dialogue. Not only does Superman spout off really hokey lines (to the point of lameness, not awesomeness) like "Enough is enough! Time you got snuffed!" and unbelievably redundant lines like "a Tower of Babel of indecipherability," but Perez does something that I never thought he would do: he goes off and tells instead of shows. The characters spout off the explanations of what is going on in the scenes. That's not just outdated. It's hokey and lame. It's odd that Perez, an artist who always showed and never told, doesn't seem to have the faith in his artist to convey the action.

In contrast to the other DCnU books like CATWOMAN and RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS, there is only one small reference to sex in this issue, and it's relatively subtle. I still think that it's unnecessary, because I still think I should be able to give SUPERMAN to an eight-year-old. Issues of appropriateness aside, the thing is it's used as the ending for the book, and I can't see anyone thinking that this is an exciting ending for a Superman comic that would make them buy the next issue. But that may just be me.

Overall, I'd have to say I'd give the book a passing grade, but just that. I wasn't blown away, and I'm in absolutely no hurry for the second issue, and frankly, I doubt if I'll get it. But in terms of being a good comic, I'd have to say it's passable. And some people may love it.

50/50 on this one, folks.

Sep 28, 2011

WHODUNNIT 3: Who Offed Henry Croft?

So over a year ago, I wrote this. Go ahead. Read it. It's short.

I now have the entire run of WHODUNNIT? by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle. That's right! All three issues! So now I know Who Shot Danny Scott, and I also now know Who Slew Kangaroo! But of course, since the fourth issue never came out, I have no way of knowing (short of asking Mark Evanier, which I did for the first issue last year, but never got a response, unfortunately) Who Offed Henry Croft!

So against one of my big rules on The Comics Cube!, I have chosen to scan in the entire issue, along with the rules at the end, so you — yes, YOU — can tell me who you think offed Henry Croft! Answer all the questions posed at the end, and don't just say who did it. Say how and why!

WHODUNNIT is copyright Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle, and is a great back issue find anywhere! The entire issue is after the jump! Click the images to see them in full size.

Sep 26, 2011

Michael Chabon 2004 Keynote Speech

In 2004, Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, was asked to deliver the keynote speech at the Eisner Awards, one of the two most prestigious awards in comics. In it, Chabon tackles the problems of creating comics for kids, as well as the quest for comics and its culture to be accepted as "serious" and "mainstream. This seems so appropriate to today's situation, especially given the DCnU and its attempts to look more "real."

This photo comes from here.

For my part, I think it's much, much harder — and more fulfilling and sustainable — to write stories for all ages rather than aiming it towards a group of teenagers, who will eventually grow out of it in a very small number of years.

Anyway, here we go, after the jump. The entire speech comes from here.

Sep 23, 2011

Back Issue Ben: Stuff I Read, and You Should Too!

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

by Ben Smith

In my 33 years on this Earth, I have discovered there are 3 simple truths in life:

1. Cats are flammable

2. Puppies cannot breath underwater

3. There are millions of comic books out there that I have never read before

All these things led me to believe that there is something very wrong with me. But the voices in my head told me not to believe such nonsense.

You ever get an itch deep inside your ear that is impossible to scratch?

Do you ever worry that it's parasites?

If woman gives birth to man, and man impregnates woman, where did the chicken come from?

If you blow on the dirt long enough, will it blow back? Or will you just have to take a shower? And if so, why is there a cow in your garage?

What does all this have to do with comic books? Absolutely nothing, but I tricked you into reading it anyway. In the interest of staying on topic though, I present to you, free of charge and with limited commercial interruption, my list of comics you may not have read, that you definitely should read.

Sep 21, 2011

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: NIGHTWING #1

This week's sampling of the DCnU's "new 52" is, at the request of my brother, NIGHTWING #1 by Kyle Higgins, Eddy Barrows, and J.P. Mayer.

As longtime Cubers might know, I've got a bit of investment in this character, and this is one title that, by virtue of the title character, I'd want to see not only succeed, but be one of the pack leaders. So before you go on MINOR SPOILERS abound.

In the DCnU, the Batman pocket of the universe is mostly unaffected. Meaning, where everyone else gets a restart, Batman and his crew (as well as the Green Lanterns) just go on with business as usual. So right off the bat (no pun intended), we're dealing with recent Bat-history, as Dick Grayson references his time as Batman and, while fighting a bulky but small-time criminal, goes on a rather lengthy monologue about how being Batman has changed him and made it so he's unafraid of anything Gotham can throw at him. Right after that, we're shown that Haly's Circus, the circus where Dick Grayson spent his youth, has come to Gotham, and Dick is hesitant to go.

These developments confuse me as a longtime (if inconsistent) reader, because Dick Grayson in his insanely long career has faced down the Joker and Trigon the Terrible, lived in Bludhaven (which they continually said was worse than Gotham), and been the leader of a team that faced many a crisis. He's never really been "afraid" of anything other than living up to Batman's legacy, so when did all this "fear" he was speaking of happen? More to the point, since when was he afraid of going to Haly's Circus? There are several stories of him going to Haly's Circus, and it was never a part of his past that he ran away from.

Having said that, that's me as a lifetime Dick Grayson fan. These foibles and flaws seem to be built in by Higgins to introduce some type of insecurity to the otherwise too-confident Nightwing, perhaps as a way to ground him and make him more relatable, and may just provide the emotional hook that would make Nightwing distinct from so many other superheroes. It's too early to tell if it'll work — we'll have to see further issues, but what I can say about it is that a new reader may just find the character well-rounded, flaws and all. After much introspection, there's a panel where Dick Grayson just looks at the old trapezes and smiles a knowing smile, which I thought was a nice touch.

Eddy Barrows is a good artist for this title, as he's able to convey movement fluidly, something essential to the acrobatic nature of Nightwing. I see a few anatomy and perspective problems, but the bottom line is that he draws Nightwing well and the movements are seamless. You can see it from the preview pages. I particularly like the diagonal layouts, as it accentuates motion and speed.

Unfortunately, when the issue hits its narrative peak (i.e., the villain arrives), it's a little generic. The villain in particular is pretty uninspired, with the only real distinct thing about him being that he will remind you of Wolverine, which isn't particularly a compliment. I would imagine that a new villain should have an immediate impact on you, but all this guy does is unnecessary violence and resemble Wolverine and Snake-Eyes to some degree. He's so nondescript that I hope he does something big in the next issue to really stand out. The cliffhanger is also pretty generic. Let's just say that it's the type that really has no suspense built into it whatsoever. Having said that, there's a pretty intriguing twist as to the villain's motivations, and it would probably have been better if Higgins had made that the cliffhanger instead of what was actually used as a cliffhanger.

At the end of the day, NIGHTWING #1 has a pretty standard story that introduces old and new readers alike to this particular iteration of Richard "Dick" Grayson. It highlights his past just as it moves toward the future. I wasn't blown away, but the art is good and the narrative shows promise. It could stand to be more exciting, and I hope, of course, that future issues are. We will see.

On a minor note, I still don't understand why they went with the red suit. The blue is so much cooler.

I have no idea who did this Photoshop job. But whoever it is, good job.

Sep 17, 2011

The Comics Cube!'s Favorite Artist in Comics Today

Ever since I was a little Cubie, I was well aware of the "artist" in the comic books. That is, I was always aware that someone had to draw these things. I know that sounds odd now, but a lot of kids aren't really aware of that when they read these. It's like not being aware that someone had to produce a cartoon, for example. But I had a big brother who was into drawing and so I knew artist's names from the very beginning.

My original favorite artist was none other than John Byrne. No matter what I said about his SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL, I thought his art was amazing. Superman looked like Superman should. At the time, he was my favorite character, and Byrne was my favorite artist.

That didn't last long though, because I soon discovered George Perez. My brother had WONDER WOMAN #15 lying around the house, so I read it and I remember at that very young age just being completely amazed by the opening sequence.

Sure, Wonder Woman's face looks weird in that lower left panel on page 1, but look at the amount of detail there. And here's the thing: Perez drew Superman better. Nothing Byrne did (and we had more of his comics than anyone else's) came close to having that impact.

Sep 14, 2011

The Comics Cube! Reviews the DCnU: BATWOMAN #1

Well, it has come out! I have been waiting for this comic for a year, and my appetite was completely whetted by BATWOMAN #0, a story that would serve as a primer for Batwoman, getting everyone to catch up on her adventures in the DETECTIVE COMICS run written by Greg Rucka, and also preparing everyone for the art by J.H. Williams III and Amy Reeder. The series, following the adventures of Kate Kane as Batwoman, successfully managed to be marketed successfully with enough hype without resorting to the cheap and obvious marketing tactic of capitalizing on Batwoman being a lesbian. Even without resorting to such an obvious marketing ploy (*ahemARCHIEahem*), BATWOMAN #0 was the 27th best-selling comic of November 2010.

The first issue was supposed to hit in February 2011, but you know, big marketing and corporate moves happened, and they decided to push this book back to September 2011 to go with the DCnU "new 52" campaign.

So after multiple delays and creative team shifts, BATWOMAN #1 is finally out. How is it? Was it worth the wait? Will it go over well with new readers?

There's no way for me to do this review without any SPOILERS, however minor they are, so the rest of it is after the jump. You've been warned!

Sep 12, 2011

It Came From Comics: Happy Hooligans

Welcome to another installment of It Came From Comics, a new series of indefinite length exploring everyday terms that were popularized by comics. Click here for the archive!

So here's something I learned recently. The 119th Wing of the US Air Force, an Air National Guard unit based in North Dakota, is affectionately called "The Happy Hooligans."

Photo cropped from here

Now, for those of you who may know your comics history, you might think this one is obvious. Clearly, these guys are named after Happy Hooligan, Frederick Burr Oper's newspaper comic character from the early 1900s, who was a lovable and optimistic Irish hobo who always ran into bad luck and misunderstandings with the law. Art Spiegelman used him to great effect in IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS.

From here

But that's not where the name came from! According to the official website, Brigadier General Duane S. Larson, the North Dakota Air National Guard's 178th Fighter Squadron commander in the mid-1950s, was affectionately called "Pappy," and his men, because of their antics, were called "The Hooligans." This was then changed to "Happy and his Hooligans," which was then shortened, in around 1958, to "Happy Hooligans."

But why was it changed from "Pappy" to "Happy"? Because supposedly, General Larson had a resemblance to Happy Easter, a character from Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon!

That's awesome!

Sep 9, 2011

Five Things the Siegels and Shusters Can Do with a Different Superman

In my last post, I said I wouldn't talk about the Siegel and Shuster case, and anything Grant Morrison says or does for a while, not counting previous work.

But then I wanted to figure out how the Siegels and Shusters can put out a Superman product based on the original Superman from ACTION COMICS #1 and still make it a viable product, one that can be licensed to other media and be able to compete with the new Grant Morrison–written version.

Are you ready for this? Here's five things the Siegels and Shusters can do with their version of Superman and compete with DC's version, should they choose to not settle with DC. These aren't meant to be taken as a package, but taking them as a whole would make each suggestion work better. Ready? GO!

Sep 7, 2011

Why I Am Not Buying ACTION COMICS #1

Let me preface this by saying that until today, I was going to buy this comic book. This has nothing to do with it not being "my" Superman, as I've spent most of my life having a Superman who isn't "my" Superman, as shown here, and as I've said here before, Superman is open to many interpretations, and just because one doesn't work for me — the previews pretty much said this one wouldn't — doesn't mean that it's an invalid interpretation.

But I was going to buy this one anyway, because I had to know. You see, for the past three months, ever since a conversation with fellow comic fan Rick Diehl, I've been convinced that the Superman reboot — not the rest of the DC reboot — was being done in an attempt to subvert the Siegel and Shuster estates' abilities to create their own Superman comic based on ACTION COMICS #1, and Grant Morrison's disingenuous comments about the whole affair pretty much confirmed it for me. So I said that the new Superman books have one issue to grab me, because I was hoping against hope that this wasn't the case.

From the preview that CBR gave me, it looks like my suspicions were confirmed. The first scene is pretty much a page out of ACTION COMICS #1, with Superman taking the law into his own hands. Strongarming a corrupt businessman and torturing him into giving a confession is pretty much straight out of the initial Golden Age appearance of the Man of Steel.

Top Panel: Original ACTION COMICS #1, circa 1938
Rest of the image: New ACTION COMICS #1, circa 2011

The difference between the two versions of Superman is that the original is a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands and zips away, while this one clearly loves what he's doing, and he's cocky and annoying about it.

This scene is followed by Superman gleefully asking the police to chase him, and then smiling as he's chased and fired upon. There's a dangerously fascistic undertone to this version of Superman. Now, don't get me wrong — there's been a dangerously fascistic undertone in all versions of Superman since the very beginning, and it's been very subtle or always kept as subtext. With Morrison though, as Morrison is wont to do because Grant Morrison is a really a great idea man and a technically bad writer (but since we are in the age of the superstar creator, he's allowed to do whatever he wants), we're subjected to this theme with a gigantic sledgehammer.

I won't lie. This gets my goat. In all the incarnations of Superman, he has never been this arrogant, this... well... dickish, except for some Silver Age stories that are obviously panned today. Superman has been, through all his incarnations, a man who was raised to be good and to do good — he was raised right and he did the right thing for no other reason than it's the right thing to do. Before anyone writes that off as "boring" or "unsophisticated," I humbly refer you to Greg Rucka's article here about the difference between "smart" and "realistic."(Does anyone want to check how Captain America did at the box office?)

To be honest, I see this title clicking with fans. It's generic enough to appeal to cynical masses, and obviously there are people who will be reacting with "Oh my God, Superman's a badass now!", as if having all these powers and using excessive force is being a badass rather than a bully. This kind of thing is easy. It's the kind of thing that would classify as "cool," if you're one of those people who think cynicism means being grown-up. Personally, I think this version of Superman is unlikable. And why would I want to read about that? It's possible Morrison's making some sort of poignant point here, but given that the man completely missed the point of MIRACLEMAN, I doubt it. And sure, obviously, this will all lead to Superman being more responsible, more heroic. But that's not Superman either. You know who it is. Superman doesn't have to learn that with great power comes great responsibility. Superman knows that with great power comes great responsibility.

In the end though, that has nothing to do with me not buying the book. In fact, for all intents and purposes, under any other circumstances, I'd give it a shot. I did say that these stories have one issue to grab me. But then I read this interview, where Morrison flat-out makes it clear that this new "social justice" Superman is taking its cues from the original appearance of Superman.

But as you know, I'm only taking that aspect of it from the original 1938 version, which was the original Superman....It's not just the establishment. He's against everything he sees that's wrong. He's against crime. He's against wife-beaters. He's against people who kick dogs and cats, as much as he's against the evil Congressman or big business.  

So let's get this straight. The rights to the original ACTION COMICS #1 and therefore the original Superman were handed to the Siegel heirs back in 2009, with the Shusters' shares to be fully dispensed to them (though definitely with some legal contest) in 2013. Because stuff has been added to Superman over time, DC will retain ownership over anything created after ACTION COMICS #1, but the heirs will get ownership for ACTION COMICS #1 and the elements in it. So really, the Siegels and Shusters have two ways to finally make money off of Jerry and Joe's most famous creations, in a way that Jerry and Joe themselves never did. Either (1) they settle with DC, or (2) they come up with their own product involving the guy in ACTION COMICS #1. That's a depowered Superman who crusades for social justice.

Whoops! Too late! DC beat them to it again! Unless they can get someone like Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman to write their stuff (this being the age of the superstar writer, after all), So now they have no choice but to settle with DC. And considering how many times DC has tried to settle with these guys since 1999 with lowball offers and small deals, well... let's just say it's ironic that this Superman is explicitly classified as one who fights for social justice.

Nothing peeves me off more than the knowledge that this effectively neuters the estates of Siegel and Shuster — again, 73 years later. I'm certainly not calling for a boycott or anything; that's your decision and it's up to where you stand, and of course, the vagaries of the law are complex. But I've been advocating for creators' rights, including retroactive ones, for a very long time, and I just can't do it. I can't buy this book. I feel dirty even thinking about it.

Maybe this Superman will be a big hit with this generation of fans, and maybe that'll be a good thing for the comic book industry. But you can keep this particular Superman — and Grant Morrison — away from me, because all I can see is a middle finger to Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and theirs, unless someone can convince me otherwise.

And that is the last I am saying about this, the Siegel and Shuster case, and anything Grant Morrison says or does for a while, not counting previous work, for a while.

I'm hoping that the other SUPERMAN book will be a different story. In other words — it's your turn, Mr. Perez.

Sep 6, 2011

RIP Dave Hoover

I've just read on the Comics Art Community that Dave Hoover has died.

Dave was never a superstar artist, but I thought he was one hell of an artist. And I'll always thank him for introducing me to one of my favorite characters, Will Payton, one of DC's many heroes to claim the name "Starman."

Fittingly enough, this issue of Starman that I bought back in the day featured David Knight, the older son of the original Starman, Ted Knight. This is the one issue of Will Payton's STARMAN series (written by Roger Stern) that plays on the Starman legacy. It would therefore be the sole issue that played into James Robinson's STARMAN series, which itself would become my favorite mainstream series ever.

I'm also going to credit Dave Hoover for the work he did on the Roy Thomas–penned INVADERS series in 1994.

I was already a big fan of the Marvel Golden Age heroes, from Captain America to the Blue Diamond, but in this series, they used some Golden Age public domain characters. I wasn't aware of it myself, but serendipitiously, I found a book in the school library at around the same time, indexing some Golden Age superheroes! The whole experience opened up the Golden Age to me. It was no longer limited to DC and Marvel/Timely, and it also introduced me to the concept of public domain. It was an eye-opener.

Additionally, Dave Hoover was just a talented artist, one who could make Captain America's horrible FIGHTING CHANCE story worth looking at, at the very least.

Rest in peace, Dave Hoover.

You may view his Comic Art Community folder here, or send his wife and family your condolences here.

Sep 5, 2011

Comics Cube! Reviews: Zombie Outlaw #1

I recently had the pleasure to read ZOMBIE OUTLAW #1, but Brian Apodaca and B. Paul Jordan. The series basically follows Matt Naismith and his college resident advisor, Will Simers, as Will tries to help Matt get together with KT, his lab partner. But along the way, they have to unearth the tomb of the Zombie Outlaw, who was buried in Irvine State University back in 1972.

As you can see from the cover, there is a lighthearted feel to this particular zombie story. It's almost a parody, I think, but I confess to not having bought into the zombie craze of the last few years (I have yet to read a single issue of THE WALKING DEAD), and the art is indicative of that. Everyone has exaggerated proportions and expressions, to the point that portraying the girls with huge breasts and tiny waists isn't offensive (I think).  There's also a lot of personality in each character that's conveyed by the art, and that's a real asset. Everyone just kind of pops out of the page. You know what they're supposed to be like just upon seeing them. Everything from their character designs to facial expressions is just tells you who they are. Seriously, just look at that cover. The personality embedded in each character is evident in the storytelling as well, with a lot of instances in which the characters break out of the confines of their panels. It's really just a fun, energetic book. The three-page sequence detailing the history of the Zombie Outlaw is particularly inspired.

The book is not without its flaws. There's an average of about three panels a page, so it feels a little too quick and decompressed, and unfortunately, it feels as if there's too much dead space. For the most part, the layouts are straightforward, but there are some cases where the pacing is questionable. Sometimes a panel is given a larger space (subtly emphasizing its importance) for no discernible reason, which kind of gives off the feeling of emphasizing random words in a sentence for the sake of emphasis. There's a splash page near the end of the book when the Zombie Outlaw is about to come to life that comes right before a big dynamic moment. Why the calm before the storm was given the splash page instead of the storm itself, is beyond me. I'm assuming it has much to do with what Matt is standing in, but that wasn't particularly clear.

Still though, these problems are workable. If Jordan just remembers to emphasize the actually important moments and not be reluctant to place more information on each page, it would improve by leaps and bounds! The book is full of energy and enthusiasm, and to be honest, I wouldn't mind an animated series.

But don't take my word for it, folks. Check it out yourself! ZOMBIE OUTLAW can be bought through ComixPress. Also, visit the ZOMBIE OUTLAW website!

Check out more Comics Cube! reviews here!