BREAKING INTO PRISON: A review of VELVET #3

Writer Ed Brubaker just announced that he’s signed a contract with Image to do whatever the fuck he wants. A lot of people have lashed out at him, because this means abandoning superheroes (for which he is mostly known, in particular his run on Captain America). For the rest of us, those of us who loved LOWLIFE and SCENE OF THE CRIME and all of his wonderful crime books, this is great news. Even though VELVET has been going on for three issues by now, it looks like this is his first foray into his Image contract.

It’s a little unusual for him, since it’s a Cold War-era spy story. (Well, maybe not so crazy, considering his efforts with Cap and the Winter Soldier. But still. This is straight spy work, not superheroes.) Velvet has been working a desk job for many years, but she used to be a British super-spy. When Agent X-14 dies under mysterious circumstances, the agency turns on Velvet because of her personal relationship with X-14. Now she’s on the run from her employers in addition to trying to find out who really killed X-14.

It sounds like a pretty ordinary story as far as the spy genre goes, but Brubaker isn’t your average writer. In this issue, Velvet has teamed up with Burke, who is trying to get her out of London. Things don’t go well, although they do manage to get away, but now they have to infiltrate a Yugoslavian general’s party in order to get answers from a woman who was last seen with X-14 on a previous mission. Too bad she’s been locked away, which is why Velvet has to break into prison in the first place.

Talk about a complicated whirlwind of action! Brubaker keeps ratcheting up the plot, making things more and more terrible for Velvet until the shocking scene in the end of this issue. He populates this story with great characters, from the cynical Burke to the beaten and broken woman Velvet rescues from prison. Even the scummy general is great, and he barely speaks in this issue. He’s almost a part of the background, and he still manages to dominate the story. How does Brubaker do it?

With a little help from artist Steve Epting, of course. Epting is the perfect guy for the job. Spy comics should look as realistic as possible, and he pulls it off effortlessly. He can project a character’s thoughts with mere facial features. In some scenes, the book even comes off like a spy movie, like when characters’ heads are circled and identified in mid-story. Ordinarily, something like that could take a reader out of the experience, but it only enhances things here.

This is a magical book. Thankfully, in the letters column, Brubaker says that we shouldn’t even be thinking about an ending yet, so we have many more issues in our future.

VELVET #3

Written by Ed Brubaker

Illustrated by Steve Epting

Published by Image

22 pages

$2.99

IS THAT A STARGATE?! A review of FBP #7

Quantum physics is batshit crazy. Ask anyone who has tried to make sense of it. No one really can, actually. One can only theorize, at least for now. However, someday there might be a time when all the lunacies scientists have been mulling over are a reality. And on that day, the world will need the Federal Bureau of Physics, or the FBP, a team of law enforcement (ha, ha, get it?) professionals trying their best to keep the batshit crazy things under control.

Over the past six issues, writer Simon Oliver has been getting us accustomed to a world that doesn’t make much sense, but makes perfect sense. (Very zen, no?) However, in recent times, the FBP has fallen from grace, barely held together by their leader, Cicero. For the most part, the star of this book is Adam, whose father may or may not have had something to do with unleashing the theories of quantum physics onto the real world. This issue, however, we get to explore his new partner, Agent Reyes.

Everyone thinks she’s weird, and they’re right. She’s been kidnapped by people who intend to use wormhole technology to commit crimes. First on the docket is to break into prison to free a colleague, and then they intend to rob some banks. However, they need Reyes to test the device, which looks suspiciously like a stargate without the chevrons. How do they get a federal agent to comply with these crimes? By picking a random child who shares her last name and threatening to kill her.

Too bad they don’t know how strange Reyes actually is. It would seem that when she was a little girl, she was kidnapped by aliens and returned to her father when she was grown up. She knows a thing or two about the nonsensical nature of the universe, and the way she manages to turn it around on these criminals is amazing. It brings to mind the first issue of SANDMAN, in which Morpheus punishes the guy who held him captive for so many years, except instead of magic, Reyes uses science.

Anyone familiar with Oliver’s work shouldn’t be surprised by the games he plays with reality, if reality even exists. Take a look at THE EXTERMINATORS for a good example. With FBP, he takes it to the next level. No one else in comics is doing this right now, except maybe THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, but Hickman’s book, while awesome in its own way, doesn’t match up to FBP. The sheer insanity has infinite possibilities in this book.

Artist Robbi Rodriguez’s work is a bit off, though. In many ways, he’s the perfect guy for this book, but in other ways he doesn’t live up to it. (Which maybe makes him the perfect guy to tackle comic book quantum physics.) In some scenes, he gets it perfectly, but in others it’s like he’s slacking off a bit, getting lazy.

There is one further problem: a comic book, COLLIDER. For those who don’t know, FBP was originally titled COLLIDER, until an Irish comic with the same name threatened to sue. Let’s be honest, FBP is kind of a boring title. COLLIDER is much better. Oh well.

FBP #7

Written by Simon Oliver

Illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez

Published by DC/Vertigo

20 pages

$2.99

AS VAST AS SPACE AND AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: A review of THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1

Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE is fucking unkillable. When all of us are dead, people will still be introducing new chapters of this landmark television series. After three TV runs, a radio series, a magazine title and several comic book iterations, TZ is back again, this time from Dynamite and written by J. Michael Straczynski.

Despite the countless comebacks, very few of them come even close to matching the original series, much less top it. The Gold Key comic book series did pretty decently, but it just couldn’t get in the same league. How does this new version fare?

Surprisingly well. It’s good to see that they decided not to use Serling’s image for the introduction to the story. It worked very well for the original series, but not so much for everything else. They retain a narrator separate from the story, of course, and the monologue eventually leads to “etc.etc.etc, the Twilight Zone.” But they make no attempt to even try to live up to Serling.

Heavens. They’re actually trying to do their own thing.

“The Way Out” is the first story in this ambitious new series, and the first issue is only part one. Meet Trevor Richmond. He’s a financial shark, conning people left and right and hiding his tracks using in his boss’s company … except the SEC is onto him. He’s about to get busted when he goes to Mr. Wylde, a man who specializes in new identities. All it will cost him is everything. Don’t worry, they’ll take care of him. He will be taken care of financially, just so long as he doesn’t get crazy with it.

Sure enough, Mr. Wylde lives up to expectations. Before long, Trevor has a completely new look and a new life, where he spends time hanging out and doing whatever. He also watches the news and sees that the world is looking for him … until the moment he turns himself in. Huh? Wait a minute. Is someone else masquerading as his old self?

One of the great themes of the original TZ was identity, and this story charges down the Identity Highway at full speed. Now that Trevor is confronted with this other person who is standing in for him, he doesn’t know what to do, if he can do anything. Would he risk revealing himself, even if it would mean the preservation of his own identity?

Serling would be proud of a story like this, and he would probably appreciate artist Guiu Vilanova’s work as well. It doesn’t try to be old-fashioned just to fit in with the TZ. It shows cell phones and hints very closely at nudity, yet at the same time, Mr. Wylde himself looks like he could have come from a hundred years ago. The only thing that doesn’t fit in is the awful cover by Francesco Francavilla. Sure, the doors clearly lead into the TZ, but they’d look more at home in THE NIGHT GALLERY.

This book is going good places. Better get on board now.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE #1

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Illustrated by Guiu Vilanova

Published by Dynamite

22 pages

$3.99

 

[P.S. There is one highly irregular thing about this book. Serling’s name is nowhere to be found in this book. It’s probable that he didn’t own the TZ when all’s said and done, but you’d think they’d throw him some kind of bone.]

CAN YOU DIG IT? A review of BLACK DYNAMITE #1

If you’ve seen the movie and the Adult Swim cartoon, then you can stop reading right now. You’re going to buy this book no matter what is said here. While it is written by Brian Ash, the concept came into existence thanks to Black Dynamite creators Michael Jai White, Byron Minns, and Scott Sanders. So you know there’s no way this can get fucked up.

For the rest of you, Black Dynamite is a bad motherfucker. Badder than Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson and Rudy Ray Moore combined. He takes on all kinds of over-the-top blaxploitation villains, up to and including Richard M. Nixon. His kung-fu is impeccable, and his ability to fuck is superb.

In this issue, our hero is contacted by Alex Haley (yes, of ROOTS fame) to take down a theme resort called Slave Island, a place where white people go to experience “a simpler time, when the world made sense … when tradition was appreciated! And when there was a place for everybody, and everybody knew their place.” Unfortunately, when he arrives (after he beats the shit out of a shark with its own ripped-off fin), he is assaulted by two rednecks and forced into slavery himself.

That’s not enough to deter Black Dynamite. He is prepared to “burn this motherfucker down” from the inside. He starts a slave revolt, and all the vacationing white people are suddenly terrified (except for the one who purchased Black Dynamite on the slave block for … sexual purposes).

There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how awesomely hilarious this book is. There isn’t a single frame in this book that won’t elicit a laugh from you. Even the violent scenes, like when Black Dynamite whips the balls of one of the guards of SlaveIsland, are designed to make yourself laugh hard enough to shit. And when Black Dynamite discovers that SlaveIsland is a FRANCHISE?! That can only lead to more insanity in the next issue. (It says it’s a one-shot, but come on. We know the public needs more Black Dynamite.)

Jun Lofamia’s artwork is, unsurprisingly, old fashioned. Since Black Dynamite takes place back in the ‘Seventies, it only makes sense to make it look like a book from back then. Not one of those cardboard posture superhero books. No, something more gritty, like maybe old Jonah Hex.

The cover says the book is worth 595-cents. It’s worth so much more than that. Be sure to keep an eye out for one of the funniest phony comic book ads of all time: HOW SKINNY-ASS JACK BECAME A BAD-ASS MACK! If you ever wanted to be a bad motherfucker like Farrante Jones, now’s your chance to get his gun and muscle-building booklet, which will teach you many lessons, the best of which is probably “Bullets Cost Money: Pistol-Whipping Your Way to Savings!” If only it were for real …

P.S. It should be noted that the cover also says the book is approved by the Comics Code Authority. DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT. The CCA would NEVER have allowed this book to come out. One has to wonder if someone can get sued over this, even though the code means nothing now.

BLACK DYNAMITE #1

Written by Brian Ash

Illustrated by Jun Lofamia

Published by Ars Nova and Ape Entertainment

44 pages

$5.95

TRY READING *THIS* ON YOUR FUCKING iPAD: A review of SVK

Meet Thomas Woodwind.  He’s the kind of bloke to get things done.  Whatever you need, he can get it for you, or get it done for you.  He goes everywhere with two Bluetooths (Blueteeth?) in his ears because they emit infrared LEDs to prevent any surveillance cameras from capturing his face (so it looks like his head is a blank, white circle as seen above).  He has just been hired by an old acquaintance to retrieve a small case marked SVK from a former employee who made off with it.  (Incidentally, retrieving the employee is not quite as important.  It’s implied that Woodwind should feel free to off the fucker, if he wants.)  Marley doesn’t describe what’s inside—and Woodwind is forbidden to open it—but that doesn’t matter much.  Woodwind hits the road in search of the mysterious box, and when he finds it … his life will change forever.

You see, the SVK box contains a set of contact lenses that allows the wearer to read people’s thoughts.  Not like they can LISTEN to those thoughts.  No, people’s thoughts can be read like thought balloons hovering above their heads.  A very useful tool for a guy in Woodwind’s line of work, no?

The most interesting part, though, is how this book is printed.  You, too, can read people’s thoughts with the use of an SVK UV device that comes with the book.  Everyone’s thoughts are printed in invisible ink, so you have to run the light over every panel, just in case you miss something.  How fucking cool is that?

This is a completely new way to read a comic.  Will it revolutionize the industry?  Eh … no.  For any other book, this would just be a gimmick (although I think it would have been interesting to see Mark Z. Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES use this technique).  SVK works because the process is actually a part of the story, much like the 3D portion of LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN:  THE BLACK DOSSIER.

And it’s not without glitches.  For instance, some thoughts are very, very hard to read thanks to the background.  Also, sometimes you can see the invisible ink from the other side of the page, and that muddles things up.  Lastly, what will you do when your SVK device burns out?  You could get a black light, but it’s just not the same thing.  Even the device bears a warning that brings you into the story:  WARNING:  THIS PRODUCT IS THE PROPERTY OF HEIMDALL SECURITY SOLUTIONS.  THIS PRODUCT SHOULD NOT LEAVE THE PERIMETER OF THE HEIMDALL SECURITY SOLUTIONS MAIN OFFICES IN CENTRAL LONDON, UNLESS YOU HOLD A “DEGREE 33” CLEARANCE COUNTERSIGNED BY THE CTO OR COO YOU MUST NOT HANDLE OR OBSERVE THE PRODUCT.  DO NOT SEEK TO ACTIVATE THE PRODUCT.  READING THIS DESCRIPTION CONSTITUTES CORPORATE ESPIONAGE.  DO NOT MOVE.  ARMED SECURITY AGENTS ARE EN ROUTE.

Writer Warren Ellis and artist D’Israeli have really outdone themselves this time.  This is a comic book experience you MUST HAVE.  Those of you in the UK probably already have, but for my fellow Americans, you can get it here.  There.  Now you have no excuse.  (ALERT!  If you are interested in getting this book, you must do so IMMEDIATELY.  They’re going to stop selling them as of Oct. 31.)

SVK

Written by Warren Ellis

Illustrated by D’Israeli

Published by Berg

40 pages

£5 (on sale)

THE OLD GODS RETURN: A review of GOD IS DEAD #1

It’s a pithy title, but there is no truth in it whatsoever.  This book is nothing if not the resurrection of all the old gods.  We’re not just talking one culture here, either.  They’re all here.  Horus, Zeus, Vishnu, Thor, you name the god, and it’s here.  And they all want nothing more than to rule the world again.  It’s a new kind of religious war, and humanity is stuck in the middle of it.

Not all is hopeless for the mortals, though.  There is the Collective, a group of the smartest human beings in the world, who are intent on “kill[ing] the fuck out of the gods.”  And then there’s the U.S. military, who are all grateful that the weasel-like president has just committed suicide so real shit can get done.

There’s a lot going on here, folks, and writers Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa seem up to the task of straightening it all out.  At first, they waste a lot of time with the natural disasters that herald the return of the old gods, rather than actually beginning the story, but once things get rolling, it’s hard to look away from the pages.

For the most part, artist Di Amorim is a perfect match.  There is a great layout he does juxtaposing a newscaster with an old god that is a wonder to behold.  However, he has a habit of depicting the characters in superhero poses, which is kind of annoying.

There is a lot here that brings to mind Douglas Rushkoff’s old Vertigo series, TESTAMENT, but the gods here are not hanging out behind the scenes.  No, they’re center stage, and they’re going to do a lot of interesting things.  Get in on the ground floor.

GOD IS DEAD #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Costa

Illustrated by Di Amorim

Published by Avatar Press

22 pages

$3.99

INVITATION ACCEPTED: A review of the AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY

“Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque cordially invite you to a party to die for, along with special guests.”  And then the cover lists the writers and artists who took part in this anthology of AMERICAN VAMPIRE stories.  It’s amazing to see all the people Snyder and Albuquerque invited to play in the AV sandbox.  And that’s a hell of a wonderful cover.  But is it worth the price of admission?

It’s hard to say.  Let’s take a look at the stories one by one.

The first complete tale is “Lost Colony,” written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Declan Shalvey.  This is the earliest in the AV timeline we’ve ever been.  In 1588, a group of Native Americans make a horrifying discovery about the white settlers who have just showed up:  they have a charnel house, where they drain blood from the natives.  Yeah, it turns out that the Europeans are vampires, and they have brought their nasty proclivities to the New World.  Of course, the significance of the title should not be lost on readers.  Is this Roanoke?  Eh … no.  But the parallel stands out a lot, as you’ll see when you reach the ending.  It’s a good story.  Not great, but it helps get the juices flowing.  Shalvey is definitely the star of this one.  His art outshines the writing by far.

Next we have “Bleeding Kansas,” written by regular AV artist Rafael Albuquerque and illustrated by Ivo Milazzo.  How does Albuquerque fare on this side of the drawing board?  Sadly, not that well.  Gil and Marie travel to Kansas in order to argue for slaves’ rights, and a vampire interrupts their plans for the future.  The characters aren’t fleshed out enough for anyone to care about what happens to them, although the scene where Gil argues with the townsfolk about how slaves are human beings like everyone else is pretty cool.  Again, the art outshines the writing.  Milazzo’s style is reminiscent of some silver age western books, and when the vampire bites out the throat of one of the characters, it is sheer brutal beauty.

“Canadian Vampire” probably has the most amusing title, and it is written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Ray Fawkes.  Jack Warnhammer is hired to wipe out a tribe of Native Americans in Canada so that a bunch of German businessmen can set up shop in the wilderness.  Instead, Warnhammer finds that the Germans are actually vampires, and they have already wiped out the Cree in the area.  It’s a neat little story, even though it doesn’t have a Canadian vampire in it.  Here, the story works better than the art, which is a little slipshod and hard to decipher at points.

“Greed” is written and illustrated by Becky Cloonan, and it finally brings Skinner Sweet to the forefront.  It shows how he decided to head out to Hollywood and get involved in the main story of the series.  One day in the desert, he sees people filming a movie, and he somehow winds up getting cast to fill in for the ill star in a fight scene.  There’s not a lot to this one, but Sweet’s charm just sucks you in.  It’s a fun tale, and it looks pretty as all hell.

“The Producers” is next, and it is written and illustrated by Francesco Francavilla.  As the title would imply, it involves the vampire producers who are the first villains of the series.  Before they met Pearl, they made a deal with Chase Hamilton, who promises to set them up with nubile starlets to drain of blood if they promise to make him a star.  This is the story of how that happened.  Again, there isn’t much to this story, but it’s nice to see this little hole filled in.  The producers also look so intimidating they radiate off the page.

Next is “Essence of Life,” written by Gail Simone and illustrated by Tula Lotay.  This is yet another story that fills in a gap in the series.  This one shows how Hattie got involved in pictures in the first place, and how she exacted revenge after she is turned into a vampire.  Lotay also shows no fear, especially in depicting the fate of a certain Hollywood bastard.  The guy’s head is chopped off, and it is placed in such a way that his cock can fit into his mouth.  That last panel will make your balls shrivel.  (Or your ovaries whine, if you don’t have balls.)

“Last Night” is written by Gabriel Ba and illustrated by Fabio Moon.  This one depicts how a group of vampires decimates a New York nightclub in 1940.  This is probably the weakest of the stories here, as it is a complete throwaway tale.  The art stands a head and shoulders (and more) above the story.  It almost seems like an old issue of CREEPY (but in color).

And then there is “Portland 1940,” written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by J.P. Leon.  It’s another throwaway story, but this one has a bit more to it.  A stranger shows up in Portland, OR, with a bullet in his guts, and some less-than-savory fellows decide to shanghai him in the classic sense.  It turns out that this poor gut shot bastard has a surprise in store for these guys.  The art is downright filthy, which is the perfect match for the setting, although it’s a bit murky when it comes to the identity of the stranger.  You wouldn’t recognize him if not for that bullet … .

Lastly, there is a wraparound story written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Albuquerque.  “The Man Comes Around” is unsurprisingly the strongest story in the batch.  Sadly, there isn’t a lot to it.  Skinner Sweet stops by his favorite diner in the middle of nowhere to pick up a liquorish cake, and it turns out to be a trap.  Yeah, it’s kind of a dumb story, but Sweet’s inner musings are what really sell this one.  He thinks about his past, about how all he ever wanted as a kid was to have people tell stories about him.  And then he hints at a few things to come.  It’s a primer to get you ready for when AV comes back from hiatus.

All told, these stories don’t figure into the AV mythology much.  They’re either throwaway stories, or they’re something to fill in an inconsequential gap.  It’s a bit of fun, but it’s not integral to the AV experience.  If you have the dough, it’s not a bad way to spend some time, but don’t expect too much.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE ANTHOLOGY

Written and illustrated by various artists

Published by Vertigo/DC

72 pages

$7.99

THE CURSE OF LONO: A review of BROTHER LONO #3

100 BULLETS is one of the greatest comic books ever written, and it is an absolute treat to see this spin-off miniseries. Best of all, the protagonist is super-violent, terrifying Lono.  But where can writer Brian Azzarello take him from his ambiguous “end” in the last issue of 100 BULLETS?

Some very interesting places, of course.  Lono finds himself south of the border living at a monastery, trying to atone for his life of crime and sin.  Has he gone all religious on us?  Not necessarily.  It seems that he is trying to walk on the Lord’s good side, but it isn’t very clear if he respects God.

But nothing can ever be easy for Lono.  Gang violence has arrived at the monastery’s doorstep, and he might have to rely on his old skill set to protect Father Manny and the orphans and maybe earn some redemption.

As violent and crazy as 100 BULLETS was, BROTHER LONO ups the ante.  There are beheadings, dismemberments, and what one gang member does to a dog is sure to make a reader’s blood curdle.  Yet at the same time, Azzarello works the story to a slow simmer, keeping the pacing at a slow, deliberate rate.  Rather than thrilling the readers, he fills them with a sense of dread, and it keeps building and building as the issue goes along.

But of course, Lono is the main attraction, as always.  Last issue saw him struggling with his new way of life, trying to keep the beast within him at bay.  This issue, he slips even farther down the spiral to the Bad Old Days, as exemplified in the scene where he finds a gang member threatening Father Manny.  Lono grabs the guy and starts working toward breaking his neck.  Behind him, Father Manny says, “Don’t … you’re better than that.”  And all Lono can think is, “No, you’re not!  You’re the best at this, though.”  Very chilling stuff.

As always, Eduardo Risso brings his A-game.  The guy works so well with Azzarello that sometimes it’s hard to think they’re not the same person.  When one sees Risso’s non-Azzarello work, it’s hard to believe that it had been written by someone else.  Risso works best with darkness and intimidation.  But he can get pretty creepy, too.  Check out Lono’s zombie dream as he comes face to face with his own walking corpse.

Hands down, Azzarello and Risso are the best team in comics, and they work best when they spin stories from the world of 100 BULLETS.  Don’t wait for the trade.  You won’t be able to wait that long, anyway, since there are five more issues.  Get ‘em monthly, and do it now.  That’s an order.

BROTHER LONO #3

Written by Brian Azzarello

Illustrated by Eduardo Risso

Published by DC/Vertigo

22 pages

$2.99

HONEST ABE AND JFK ARE HERE TO CHEW BUBBLE GUM AND KICK ASS … AND THEY’RE ALL OUT OF BUBBLE GUM: A review of MISERABLE AMERICANS #1

Take a look at that wonderful cover.  No one can walk by this thing and ignore it.  It demands to be noticed.  Two of the greatest American presidents holding up guns like b-movie heavies?  You simply can’t go wrong with that.

Writer and illustrator Evan Derian starts out pretty strongly, too.  The story begins with JFK and Lincoln being chased through the streets of Detroit by the Secret Service.  Just an old rust bucket Caddy being followed by a bunch of helicopters.  Lincoln looks like a tattooed thug (EMANCIPATOR down his right arm) while JFK looks, well, he looks kind of like Steve McQueen.  And, uh, did Lincoln just shoot down a Secret Service helicopter with a bazooka?!  How did they get in this situation, especially since they’re kind of dead?

Glad you asked.  Someone (it’s not clear who) has “revived” both of these men through science.  It is not explained if their bodies were treated with something to restore their lives, or if they are clones.  The important thing is, they’ve gone to great lengths to get both of these men to think that just a few days have passed since their respective assassination attempts.  They hire actors to dress up in period costumes to pretend to be doctors and nurses.  They put an illusion of old-time Washington, DC, outside of Lincoln’s hospital room.

But then, things get kind of weird when a nurse double-crosses her boss and sets JFK free to wander around.  It gets downright surreal as he discovers the whole thing has been a sham.  And then, absolute horror dawns upon him when he realizes that he’s not alone in this mess.

But why have they been brought back?  By whom?  There are so many questions, the readers must be frustrated at the end of the issue when very little is understood.  In fact, one of the few complaints about this book is that the pacing is just a little too slow.  Also, there is a scene where one of the doctors says this:  “So … explain to me again the objectives of our breakthrough?”  Ugh.  Come on.  Derian should be above such cheap exposition tricks.

The only other drawback is the art.  A lot of the time, it’s kind of sloppy, and the layouts are confusing.  But!  When Derian is on, he is FUCKING ON.  Halfway through the book, there is a wonderful splash page that must be seen to be believed.  It’s really beautiful.

The negatives are outweighed by the positives by far.  If you’re not reading this book, you’re a fool.  Be sure to keep an eye out for the second issue, which is titled FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, SCREW THE PEOPLE.  (And don’t forget to take the MISERABLE AMERICANS quiz on the inside back cover!)

MISERABLE AMERICANS #1:  WAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Written and illustrated by Evan Derian

Published by Evan Derian

30 pages

$3.50 (Not bad for 30 pages, eh?)

BY THE FINGERS OF CHARMING! A review of FAIREST #18

For those of you who are unfamiliar, FAIREST takes place in the world of the FABLES books.  Unlike the others, it is an anthology series.  There is no continuous story, just a collection of different stories, each one about a female Fable (hence the title).

This issue is part four of “Death & Dismemberment,” which brings us to the Eastern Fables, where Prince Charming has been living as a great Sahib, getting along not just by his good looks and, um, charm, but also because of his anachronistic gun, which the natives see as magic.

Now, he is on an adventure with Nalayani, but along the way he became infected with an odd grouping of boils on his hand.  And now, his fingers are rotting off.  It doesn’t hurt him, but it’s freaky as all fuck.  The splash page when it first starts happening is rather horrific and shocking.  To say nothing of the scene in which the both of them fight against a giant sentient crocodile armed only with an arrow and a knife … .

Writer Sean E. Williams has brought us a very interesting, magical love story with this story arc.  It’s interesting to see things develop between Charming and Nalayani, even though he’s starting to rot.  The only problem with it is the fact that it seems more like Charming’s story than Nalayani, and she’s supposed to be the protagonist.  She did an excellent job of this with the first part of the arc, but as soon as Charming appeared, he kind of took over the tale.  It’s not a bad thing, since it works so well, but it might not be the best story to tell in the FAIREST series.

Artist Stephen Sadowski’s work needs to be seen to be believed.  He is the perfect match for such a book.  His artwork looks very realistic, yet magical at the same time.  Even in the least dignified of the scenes—like when Charming’s fingers have all fallen off and he’s crawling toward a cave to hide away from Nalayani—his art retains a great deal of beauty.

This is not the strongest tale of the FABLES mythos, but it’s a damned fine story.  If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out.

FAIREST #18

Written by Sean E. Williams

Illustrated by Stephen Sadowski

Published by DC/Vertigo

22 pages

$2.99