Archive for July, 2004

Brian Azzarello interview (July 2004)

July 26, 2004 | Interviews

Brian Azzarello is one of the top writers in comics today. He’s also nearly impossible to rattle. “I suppose if I paid attention to the outside world, I would feel pressure, but I don’t,” the new writer of Superman said at a recent autograph signing at Comics and More on Danforth Ave. In the three months since he took over the Man Of Steel’s namesake monthly, Azzarello has seen the title become a top-2 book on the sales charts, with his debut issue, No. 204, selling 230,000 copies to make it the bestselling single book of 2004. His critically acclaimed modern crime-noir series 100 Bullets just passed its 50th issue and the halfway mark to Azzarello’s planned finale, his run on Hellblazer is widely regarded as one of the best in the character’s 20-year history and his recent six-issue stint on Batman was a remarkable success. But in spite of all his accomplishments and the fact that almost all comic fans’ eyes are turned to this Superman collaboration with superstar artist Jim Lee, Azzarello isn’t worried one bit about what a piece of work like this means to his career. “I know there are a lot of people in this industry that have a real love and affection for this character — I’m not one of those people. I get a lot more satisfaction writing my own stuff. “It’s a thrill to write 100 Bullets — it’s not really a thrill to write Superman.” Azzarello, who acknowledged it is an honour to take on DC Comics’ big guns by describing working on Batman then Superman as “going from the Ferrari straight to the Lamborghini,” said the initial reason he got involved in this project is simply that Lee asked him to. However he noted: “If I didn’t feel passionate about what I’m doing with Superman, I wouldn’t be doing it.” And he has risen to the challenge with a somewhat unusual approach to the Man Of Steel. “We’re exploring a side of Superman that I don’t think has really been touched on enough — the separation of super and man,” Azzarello said. “We’re exploring the humanity of Superman, not Clark Kent.” Early reviews of Azzarello and Lee’s Superman have been mostly positive, tempered with a wait-and-see approach. “Some people love it, some people hate it. That’s great. If everybody liked it, I’m doing something wrong,” the writer said. The increased scrutiny that will come as the 12-part story continues doesn’t scare Azzarello either. “I hope there is,” he says. “We’ll live up to it.”

Bone Vol. 9: Crown Of Horns

July 26, 2004 | Trades

Bone Vol. 9: Crown Of Horns Jeff Smith Cartoon Books $26 (paperback) ***** (out of five) Bone started out over a decade ago as a cute, funny little independent fantasy comic. But as the series now comes to a close, it is fair to say Bone is an epic in the scale of The Lord Of The Rings, destined to be remembered as one of the high points of visual storytelling. Creator Jeff Smith’s adventures of the three Bone cousins — dough-white little people that look like a cross between Smurfs and Casper The Friendly Ghost — have been a roller-coaster ride. From The Great Cow Race (an old woman racing against a herd of cattle — no seriously!) to battling an army of monsters to save a kingdom, this series has had it all. Crown Of Horns, the ninth and final collection of Bone, ties up all the loose ends of the series with a titanic battle, daring heroics and a noble sacrifice. It is bittersweet to see Bone come to an end, but it is a conclusion that doesn’t disappoint.

Sleeper Vol. 2: All False Moves

July 26, 2004 | Trades

Sleeper Vol. 2: All False Moves Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips Wildstorm/DC Comics $27.95/$17.99 US (Paperback) **** 1/2 (out of five) Sleeper could more aptly be called The Spy Who Couldn’t Come In From The Cold. Holden Carver is a deep-cover, super-powered operative for the U.S. government. He was sent in to work his way up the ladder of a criminal organization full of, and led by, more super-humans and to learn their agenda. Only one man, John Lynch, knew Carver was a double agent, but Lynch is in a coma and there may never be a way for Carver to ever ‘come in’ again. As time passes, the Sleeper is forced to commit more and more brutal acts to prove his loyalty to the criminals he works with, while his former agency steps up its effort to hunt him down for his ‘betrayal’. But what makes this book so utterly compelling is that instead of constantly fighting against having to do these evil things, Carver is slowly starting to accept that this is who he is. These criminals are his now his friends, one of the most vicious killers he’s ever met is his now his lover and he’s not sure that he cares one way or another. All False Moves completes the first season of Sleeper and wraps up one of the most underrated and cutting edge series of 2003 with a great big question mark. Will Carver take a possible chance at returning to his old life? Or has he gotten in too far? Will fear or even love keep him from the side of angels? This book is the perfect set up to Sleeper Season Two, another 12-parter, hitting the racks with issue No. 1 from Wildstorm this month.

The Flash: Blitz

July 26, 2004 | Trades

The Flash: Blitz Geoff Johns, Scott Kollins, Doug Hazlewood, Phil Winslade DC Comics $30.95/$19.95 US (Paperback) **** (out of five) It has been said that a hero is only as good as his enemies and if that’s the case then The Flash has just hit the big time. Blitz, the fourth collection of writer Geoff Johns’ and artists Scott Kollins’ and Doug Hazlewood’s work on the Scarlet Speedster, features the return of the character’s most fearsome nemeses and the creation of a new one — perhaps the worst yet. First up, Flash — AKA Wally West — faces Grodd, a ferocious, yet highly intelligent giant ape, bent on getting revenge on Wally for locking him in prison after their last conflict. Their sprawling battle across Iron Heights prison frees dozens of the Flash’s worst enemies and leaves one of his best friends, super-villain profiler Hunter Zolomon, paralyzed from the waist down. After eventually besting Grodd, Wally is confronted by Hunter, who wants the hero’s help to travel back in time to prevent the worst day of his life from taking place. When spurned by Wally, Hunter takes matters into his own hands and ends up in an explosion that transforms him into Zoom, the reverse Flash. In a haze of psychosis, Zoom believes it is his duty as Flash’s opposite to make him a better hero. To toughen Flash up, Zoom believes he must know sacrifice. The three-issue battle of the titans spans the globe as Zoom goes after Flash’s wife, Linda, in a tragic twist that will shock readers and change Wally forever. Flash is easily one of the most identifiable heroes in the DC Universe. He lives in the blue-collar heart of America, has a wife, a loving family and unlike most super-heroes, keeps his feet firmly on the ground. He’s a hero for the everyman. To watch him suffer so deeply that you can’t help but empathize with his pain is a testament to the great characterization and storytelling of Johns, who by making Zoom a most methodical and brutal villain has made the Flash seem a better hero.

100 Bullets Vol. 7: Samurai

July 26, 2004 | Trades

100 Bullets Vol. 7: Samurai Brian Azzarello, Eduaro Risso Vertigo/DC Comics $12.95 US (paperback) **** (out of five) What you see is rarely what you get when it comes to 100 Bullets. On the surface, Samurai, the seventh collection of this hard-edged, modern crime-noir comic, would appear to collect two very different and distinct storylines. The first is clearly related to the overall plot and the other just another story of the choices people make when they are given a briefcase containing an untraceable gun, 100 bullets, the whole truth about why their lives are as messed up as they are and the name of who’s responsible. But one thing you can expect after over four years and 50 issues of 100 Bullets is more twists and turns than a corkscrew. A brief and woefully meager recap: mysterious Agents Graves and Shepherd are travelling around America as the former hands out the sinister briefcases in what seems to be an attempt to right wrongs, and the latter gathers up members of their former secret organization, The Minutemen, who have had their memories wiped. Often these missions overlap and mayhem ensues. The first arc in Samurai revisits a previously introduced character, Loop Hughes, and finds him behind bars, trying to keep from being murdered by the leader of a gang. But when a former Minuteman turns up in the same lockup as Hughes, things really begin to heat up. In Stinked, the second part of this collection, sees series writer Brian Azzarello change the rules of Graves’ game, as he gives a briefcase to a man named Jack Daw and explains that Jack is the cause of his own misfortune. Does it take 100 bullets to commit suicide? Another classic twisted tale from Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso, a duo that are quickly becoming the go-to guys for that, In Stinked brings together the Mafia, a corrupt cop, a couple of heroin addicts and man-eating tigers in a tale that has to be read to be explained. Samurai is brilliant and a terrific example of how Azzarello and Risso have done a masterful job of building a series that is both instantly gratifying and yet continues to build on a foundation of riddles and intrigue that will keep you coming back month after month — or collection after collection if you prefer.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Highwater

July 26, 2004 | Trades

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Highwater Brian Azzarello, Marcelo Frusin, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cameron Stewart Vertigo/DC Comics $30.95/$19.99 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) John Constantine’s American adventure is almost over. Constantine, Britain’s most infamous occult investigator, was sent to jail in the U.S. for a murder he didn’t commit. But he’s back on the outside and on the trail of the man who set him up — with a little help from the crime victim’s ghost. After working his way through some of the darker patches of the ‘States, Constantine reaches the widow of the man he ‘killed’ in Highwater, Mon., only to discover her mixed up with white supremacists. Once our hero manipulates his way in and back out of that mess, the ghost points Constantine to Los Angeles and the true villain. In one of the most breathtakingly bizarre story arcs in the Hellblazer series in years, the second story arc in this collection, Ashes & Dust, follows the investigation into the death of … Constantine?! The L.A. police, along with the help of an F.B.I. agent have a charred corpse they believe is Constantine that was discovered in an S&M club and they’ve got a waiting room full of bondage fetishists and transvestites to question to get to the truth. What unfolds is a perfect example of why it’s never a good idea to get on the bad side of somebody called Hellblazer. Taking an already disreputable character and making him even more loathsome, all you need to know about Constantine and Highwater can be summed up by writer Brian Azzarello: “I don’t like John Constantine. And I don’t think anyone should.” After three stunning collections of Azzarello’s run on Hellblazer, Highwater closes things off with a bang. Strangely, after absolutely compelling collections with: Hard Time, Good Intentions and Freezes Over, Highwater actually ends up as the least memorable compilation of Azzarello’s run on the series, but it’s still very good.

Wonder Woman: Down To Earth

July 26, 2004 | Trades

Wonder Woman: Down To Earth Greg Rucka, Drew Johnson, Ray Snyder, Eric Shanower, Brian Stelfreeze, Steve Rude, Stuart Immonen, Eduardo Risso DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) *** 1/2 (out of five) It’s the tell-all to end all tell-alls — an instant bestseller. Ambassador Diana of Themyscira, known to the world at large as Wonder Woman, has the hottest new book on the charts, but this isn’t the behind the scenes look at any risqué goings on with her fellow super-pals, this is the Amazon princess telling the world how — with a lot of hard work — it could become a utopia. While many are quick to laud the super-hero for her bold stances on many controversial subjects, such as traditional family roles, prison reform and the damage humans are doing to the environment, Wonder Woman is quickly facing attacks from several sides by those who disagree — and some of those attacks are more than just verbal. Collecting the first six issues of writer Greg Rucka, penciller Drew Johnson and inker Ray Snyder’s continuing run on Wonder Woman, Down To Earth is packed with great dialogue, sharp art, terrific tussles and the development of a ton of great supporting characters plants some fertile seeds for the series grow with.

The Possessed

July 26, 2004 | Trades

The Possessed Geoff Johns, Kris Grimminger Wildstorm/DC Comics $22.95/$14.95 US (Paperback) *** (out of five) It seems like everybody’s doing a horror comic these days, so why not let one of the comic book industry’s best and brightest take a — pardon the pun — stab. DC Comics writer extraordinaire, Geoff Johns (Flash, JSA, Teen Titans), gets off the superhero beat for a while with The Possessed, the story of a group of recovered former Linda Blairs who were either so shaken or angered by the experience that they’ve banded together to keep the hordes of hell from doing it to anyone else. This book is part — obviously — The Exorcist, part Aliens and you can even catch a little whiff of The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the brilliant book, not the vapid film). Some truly disturbing demonic interpretations by artist Liam Sharpe, mixed with a little cat eating and projectile vomiting show us a much darker place than Johns has ever taken his readers before. A tad preachy at times (what else can one expect from a title with such deep religious overtones) The Possessed is an interesting allegory about the place of faith and sacrifice in the modern age. Oh, and it’s a demon-stomping good time.

Sebastian O

July 26, 2004 | Trades

Sebastian O Grant Morrison, Steve Yeowell Vertigo/DC Comics $15.25/$9.95 US (Paperback) * (out of five) There’s no denying the impact writer Grant Morrison has had on comics in the past 15 years. His surreal take on super-heroes in Animal Man and Doom Patrol were sublime. His re-uniting of the ‘big seven’ super-heroes in JLA (Justice League of America) was a stroke of genius and his off-the-wall New X-Men tales have quickly become the stuff of legend. But with great success come great accolades from critics and fans and the desire to label everything a creator has done as genius. Well that’s simply not the case and Sebastian O is the proof. The obvious joke is that this book’s title should have been Sebastian Y because the first question that will pop into your mind upon reading it is ‘why did they collect this?’ An extremely obscure three-issue mini-series from 1993, Sebastian O is a convoluted tale of a quasi-futuristic 1890s, featuring a well-dressed sociopath and his adventure to violently exact revenge for being wrongfully imprisoned. One can only assume this series was compiled as a clause in Morrison’s contract, because there is no other explanation that fits. What makes reading this car-accident of a book more frustrating is knowing there is a much-better Morrison mini-series by the name of Flex Mentallo that has never been reprinted and is surely more deserving after receiving rave reviews over the years. Let’s hope there’s a clause that will see that one in stores soon, too.

Identity Crisis #2 (of 7)

July 26, 2004 | Comics

Identity Crisis #2 (of 7) Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, Mike Bair DC Comics $6/$3.95 US **** 1/2 (out of five) It’s confession time as the comic book event of 2004 continues. After the shocking murder of the Elongated Man’s wife in issue #1, several members of the old Justice League of America join forces to track down the killer. But when confronted about whom they suspect, the shocking truth behind Identity Crisis finally comes to light. While some may argue this issue is light on action, plot exposition does play an integral role in any series like this and having a fight just for the sake of having one is just plain silly — even in comic books. IC was hyped as the premier series of the year and it hasn’t disappointed so far. Writer Brad Meltzer is taking his readers on a brilliant trip as the anticipation for what is expected to be a super-hero cull reaches a fevered pitch.