One Mad Dog

[Zombo: Can I Eat You Please?] – (Al Ewing, Henry Flint)
April 21, 2011, 4:44 pm
Filed under: 2000AD, 7 stars, Al Ewing, Henry Flint

“Zombo; Can I eat you please ?” is writen by Al Ewing and illustrated by Henry Flint. It collects :

  • “Zombo” originally published in 2000AD Progs #1632-1639
  • “Merry Christmas Mr. Zombo”  originally published in 2000AD Prog #2010
  • “Zombo’s Eleven” originally published in 2000AD Progs #1678-1684.

Zombo is a half human half zombie prototype developed by the government to fight off another weapon that they developed to fix the aggressive sentient planets problem. Zombo is a polite zombie hybrid who asks first before he eats someone.

Zombo is classic 2000AD in as much as it is has a warped and sick sense of humor that is nicely garnished with a satirical poke in the eye of authority.  There is violence a plenty, as you would expect in a Zombie comic, but it is much lighter hearted than something like “The Walking Dead. It also has a much more Sci-Fi setting than your average Hack/Slash Zombie comics.

“Zombo”  is a “Lost” style story involving a Spaceship crash landing on a planet where everything is out to kill the survivors. As if the planet itself was not bad enough, the few people that do stay alive end up encountering a “Deliverance” inspired bunch of hillbilly cannibals. “Twister” will never be the same again.

“Zombo’s Eleven” is a send up of modern talent shows, Disney and Youtube with a humungous dose of Zombie gore thrown in for good measure.  It is even less serious than the first story but just as over the top in the violence department.  The strange bunch of EMO suicide freaks that Zombo met in the Christmas one shot play center stage in this tale.

Henry Flints artwork suits the story well and is brimming with ridiculous amounts over the top gore and violence.  His art in the main strips is pretty good but his cover art, which is included in the Bonus material, is excellent. I especially enjoyed the cover of issue#1675. Henry also draws some inventive supporting cast in the shape of the Zombies, inbred cannibal hillbillies and the sentient planets themselves. I really like his art on Zombo himself and Zombee is pretty impressive too.  He doesn’t seem to lavish the same amount of detail on the human extras but the over all affect is still pleasing (or do I mean sickening ?) to the eye.

This should appeal to 2000AD fans and people who are fans of stuff like Chew or the Goon. [ISBN-13: 978-1906735968]. 7/10

[Tom Strong Book 3] – (Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Leah Moore, Howard Chaykin, Shawn McManus)

Tom Strong Book 3 collects issues issues #15-19 which include:

  • Tom Strong #15 – “Ring Of Fire!” –  Tesla Strong is kidnapped by one of the mysterious Salamander people that first appeared in Tom Strong #8 and it is up to the Strong’s s to rescue her. What they find doesn’t please Tom at all.
  • Tom Strong #16 – “Some Call Him The Space Cowboy”  – Part One: While Tom Strong is a bit stressed out trying to come to terms with his daughter’s new boyfriend, a mysterious three-eyed stranger arrives in Millennium City with a warning for Tom Strong.  Tom is in no mood to entertain strangers and behaves in an uncharacteristically un-gentlemanly way . #16 also sees the welcome return of ex Tom Strong adversary Temple Baldry and gives a back story on the Weird Rider.
  • Tom Strong #17 – “Ant Fugue!”  – Part Two: Tom Strong and the Weird Rider attempt to prepare a force to tackle the impending invasion of Earth by calling upon friends and past adversaries. Unfortunately the strongmen decide to tag along which has dramatic consequences.
  • Tom Strong #18 – “The Last Roundup” – Part Three: Tom Strong and company defend Earth against the alien ant menace and attempt to rescue the strongmen. This is the final part of this 3 episode story arc.
  • Tom Strong #19 – This issue contains three short stories :  1) “Electric Ladyland!” with art by Howard Chaykin where Dhalua is kidnapped by a secret society of women. 2) “Bad To The Bone” which is written by Leah Moore with art by “Shawn McManus”  where the details of Paul Saveen’s death are revealed as he searches for the Temple of Everlasting Life. 3) “The Hero-Hoard Of Horatio Hogg!” with art by Chris Spouse where Tom and Tesla are trapped inside a booby-trapped comic-book by crazed collector Horatio Hogg.

Book #3  keeps up with the excellent story telling and art that have characterized this series. I enjoyed this book as much as book 1 and more than the slightly weaker book 2.  I think it is important that this series is read in order and would not consider this 3rd volume to be a jumping on point. The two main stories and three short stories are all of a high standard but it is the story of the Space cowboy that stands out the most.

Chris Spouses’s art is excellent and his work really defines the Tom Strong universe.  Shawn McManus also does a really good job of capturing the correct look and feel in the excellent “Bad to the Bone” short story. I am sorry to say that the only real let down in the art department in my opinion was the work of Howard Chaykin in the short story “Electric Ladyland”.  Its not that his work is bad but just that it appears dated and lacking in detail when put next to Sprouse and McManus.

Buying this should be a safe bet for fans of Tom strong and the stories and artwork should appeal to a wide audience. [ISBN-13: 978-1401202859]. 8/10

[War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle -HC] – (Garth Ennis, Howard Chaykin]
April 18, 2011, 4:44 pm
Filed under: 7 stars, Garth Ennis, Howard Chaykin

This book collects Garth Ennis’s “War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle” #1-5.  It is the story of a mysterious American pilot who arrives at a British airbase with dubious papers and his own gaudily painted plane to join in the fight against the Hun.   After an unfortunate mishap he bluffs his way into the squadron and quickly discovers the horrors of war and the high jinks of his fellow pilots.

The story follows a familiar formula to the one used by many British war comics (e.g. Commando) where a new recruit has to prove himself to his peers, becomes horrified with the reality of actually killing his fellow man and ends up being a bit of hero.  It also follows on from great war comic pioneers such as Pat Mills in that it takes a real stab at authority and the Generals of the time.

It is a pretty violent book but generally seems to be toned a notch down from the horrors of Ennis’s other work . It’s actually pretty light hearted at times and seems to be historically sound too.   My only real complaint is that it doesn’t really add anything fresh to the genre but it is still worth a read.

“War is Hell” has great art and the coloring of the scenes really captures the WW1 theme well.  The art also jumps off the page thanks to the good quality glossy paper stock.  Chaykin does a really good job of portraying action and the backdrops and weaponry are also very impressively rendered.  Although the art is really nice to look at, I don’t really like the way Chaykin draws faces. His faces have an odd appearance and contain lots of scratchy lines and blotches that look quite strange next to the bold inking on the face outline.  Sometimes it looks as if someone has shook an ink pen on the page. Despite this, the coloring and overall impact of the artwork is still great and the highlight of the book. There are some first rate splash pages.

I don’t think these Marvel Max 120 page hardcover books represent good value at $25 and would struggle to recommend it at this price.  With a bit of searching you should be able to find the book at a much better price and then the book is worth a try for the glorious looking art and solid story.   ISBN-13: 978-0785116431. 7/10

[The Secret History Omnibus – Volume 1] – (Jean-Pierre Pecau, Igor Kordey, Goran Sudzuka, Geto, Leo Pilipovic)
April 16, 2011, 8:49 am
Filed under: 7 stars, Geto, Goran Sudzuka, Igor Kordey, Jean-Pierre Pecau, Leo Pilipovic

This omnibus collects books 1 to 7 of the occult alternate history themed series “The Secret History” written by French author Jean-Pierre Pecau:

  • Book 1 – Genesis (illustrated by Igor Kordey)
  • Book 2 – Castle of the Djinns (illustrated by Igor Kordey)
  • Book 3 – The Grail of Montsegure (Goran Sudzuka & Geto)
  • Book 4 – The Keys of St. Peter (Illustrated by Leo Pilipovic)
  • Book 5 – 1666 (Illustrated by Leo Pilipovic)
  • Book 6 – The Eagle and The Sphinx (illustrated by Igor Kordey)
  • Book 7 – Our Lady of the Shadows (illustrated by Igor Kordey)

The book starts with Four siblings being entrusted with 4 runes by a dying shaman. The runes represent the houses of the Sword, Shield, Chalice and Lance. They are told never to use the runes at the same time or else they will bring about a huge cataclysm which is of course the first thing they do.  The runes give each person special powers and grants them immortality (or at least very long life) and the four siblings (Known as the Archons) are instantly corrupted by these runes and so begins a struggle for power throughout the ages of man.

Each book is set in a particular significant historic time and loosely ties in dramatic events from the period to the power struggle of the 4 Archons.  The idea is a good one but it suffers from an oversaturation of supporting characters that change from book to book.  Although some of the supporting characters are well known (e.g. Moses, Nostradamus etc)  I found myself quite overwhelmed in the first two books and didn’t really develop any sort of empathy for the main characters.   Around the end of book 2 I started to get hooked and the 4 archons finally seemed to be standing out from the noise. From book 3 onwards the main story also started to fall into place and the bewildering number of locations and characters became much less of a distraction.  Although the time periods are historically quite accurate the story itself is far from tied to any sort of reality (For example Moses using one of the Runes to part the sea).  This was not an issue at all for me and I enjoyed it as a good fantasy romp with some elements of the real world thrown in for good measure.

The artwork is functional and depicts the historical periods well by using realistic apparel, weapons, and backdrops which are intertwined with a large dose of the supernatural. There were a few pages in Book 3 that were clearly drawn by a different artist that really stood out.  It can still be quite difficult to identify the 4 main protagonists by their art alone but this is because their dress changes to reflect the historical period. There is some nudity, which is to be expected in a French Graphic novel,  and it is pretty violent too.

I enjoyed  this collection and look forward to reading the second omnibus. Chapters 3 to 6 really stood out for me but I found 1,2, 6 and 7 to be a bit of a challenging read and hence a score of 7 rather than 8. ISBN-13: 978-1932386783. 7/10

[Umbrella Academy Vol.2 : Dallas) – (Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba)
April 11, 2011, 8:21 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Gabriel Ba, Gerard Way, Umbrella Academy

“Dallas” collects the second 6 issue mini series written by Gerard Way (from the band My Chemical Romance) and illustrated by Gabriel Ba. I really enjoyed the first book and thought it would be a pretty hard act to follow but I am pleased to report that this book builds upon it in every way. After the climatic conclusion of the first TPB we find our disfunctional superheros trying to sift through the wreckage only to find out that number 5’s sordid past is catching up with him and the Umbrella Academy are called to battle once again. “Dallas” is a cleverly scripted story centered around number 5’s role as a time travelling super assassin and the Umbrella academies attempts to prevent a certain famous assassination in Dallas and perhaps save the world.

“Dallas” develops the volatile interelationships between the siblings and is action packed with all manner of unusual foes. The story is engaging from start to finish and numbers 5’s backstory is particularily inventive. Things started to get a little complicated in the last two chapters but it all falls into place by the end.

Gabriel Ba’s artwork and over the top comic violence are real eye candy and they complement the increasingly strange story rather well. I still find it funny how many apes appear in the stories but they don’t seem out of place (Homage to Tom Strong perhaps?).  If you enjoyed the first book you should enjoy this one as well, especially as this one has some nice bonus material too. [ISBN-13: 978-1595823458]. 8/10

[The Umbrella Academy V.1: Apocalypse Suite] – (Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba)
April 4, 2011, 2:14 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Gabriel Ba, Gerard Way, Umbrella Academy

The APOCALYPSE SUITE collects the 6 issue mini series written by  Gerard Way (from the band My Chemical Romance) and illustrated by Gabriel Ba. It is a very different kind of superhero book featuring 7 dysfunctional children and their adopted alien father in a setting that has a bit of a steam punk feel to it. The main story centers around the death of their father “Sir Reginald Hargreeves” and the reformation of their group, the Umbrella Academy,  to save the world from an unspecified future cataclysmn.

It was the art that drew me to the Umbrella Academy. The drawings and coloring have a richness to them that capture a strange Victorian SCi-FI style world in a way that is extremely pleasing to the eye. The story is good too, with some very strange and quirky characters and an engaging main plot. The interpersonal relationships between the Umbrella Academy are volatile to say the least and this results in some intriuging and often very violent interractions.

Apocalypse suite has elements from several genres (Tom Strong and The League of extraordinary Gentlemen spring to mind) but it somehow manages to have a unique and fresh feel. [ISBN-13: 978-1593079789.] 8/10

[The Complete Bad Company] – (Peter Milligan, Brett Ewins, Jim McCarthy, Steve Dillon)

“Bad Company is the story of the human race at war with a strange alien species known as the Krool. Raw recruit Danny Franks is fighting on the planet Ararat where he is assimilated by a rogue platoon known as the Bad Company. Bad Company are no ordinary group of soldiers but instead they are a sadistic collection of freaks and maniacs led by Kano. Kano is part man, part Krool and bears more than a passing resemblance to Frankenstein’s Monster. Bad Company is “Saving Private Ryan” meets “Starship Troopers” meets “Kelly’s heroes”.

The Complete* Bad Company contains:

  • “Bad Company” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy (2000 AD #500-519, 1986–1987)
  • Bad Company II “The Bewilderness” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy( 2000 AD #548-557, 1987–1988)
  • BAD Company II “The Krool Heart” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy ( 2000 AD #576-585, 1988)
  • “Young Men Marching” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy (2000AD Annual 1989)
  • “Simply” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Steve Dillon(2000 AD #601, 1988)
  • “Kano” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy (2000 AD #828-837, 1993)
  • “Down Among the Dead Men” written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy(2000AD Annual 2001)
  • “Bad Company 2002”  written by Peter Milligan with art by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy (2000 AD prog 2002 and #1273-1277, 2001–2002)
  • “B.A.D. Company” written by Alan Grant and John Wagner with art by Carlos Ezquerra

* According to wikipedia there is a story missing from this collection called “Ararat”  that originally appeared in the 1990 2000AD Annual.

“Bad Company” is classic 2000AD and it contains all the key elements that made 2000AD popular in the 80’s including side swipes at authority,dark humor and great B/W art.  I don’t remember reading Bad Company in the weekly issues but I think it is a match for such greats as “Strontium Dog” and “Rogue Trooper”.  The two main characters “Kano” and “Danny Franks” couldn’t be more different but they really hold the plot together. Kano is the Frankenstein’s monster like killing machine and leader of the troops and Danny is the raw recruit who becomes a war hardened veteran. The tale is told through the perspective of Danny’s diary. The story is well paced and interesting and it has a “Saving Private Ryan” type of feel to it but with Alien Krool rather than Nazis.  Brett Ewins Pencils and Jim McCarthy’s inking are great and give the story some real weight.

Bad Company II “The Bewilderness”  carries on from the the first story with Danny forming a new company of misfits in search of a monster that is plaguing a planet. This is a good follow on to the first story and it starts to take on more of science fiction feel as the strange nature of the Krool is explored.

BAD Company II “The Krool Heart” follows on the story of the new Bad Company with Kano back in charge, but going out of his mind, and their quest to destroy the festering Krool heart. This is another great story that becomes even more spaced out and strange but still packs a punch. I particularily enjoyed the way they ended this story arc.

“Young Men Marching” is a short story that appeared in the 1989 2000AD annual and although the story is OK the coloring of the art is horrendous. it looks like it was colored by someone on mind altering drugs and is painful to the eye. The art itslelf also looks bad and lacks the punch and detail of the original B/W stuff.

“Simply” is a short morality tale with inking done by Steve Dillon rather than Jim McCarthy and  in my personal opinion the art suffers as a result. The images lack the detail and depth that Brett Ewins usually does so well.

“Kano” is another move to color for the series but this time done much better.  I still think the art works much better in Black and white. The story fits into the continuity of Bad Company but has a departure in the way the narrative is presented in that it is presented through Kano’s point of view. “Kano” is the story of  Kano’s attempts to settle down with a wife and kid on a strange world where ghosts manifest and time runs backwards for one hour every day. I can see how this story could alienate “Bad Company” fans as it attempts to humanize Kano the insane killing machine but I still found it to be an enjoyable story.

“Down Among the Dead Men”  is a good setup issue for the next Bad Company story arc where Kano attempts to get back to the Krool heart. The inking was little heavy handed in places in this story but the art was OK.

“Bad Company 2002” wraps up Bad Company and is a pretty good story but it suffers a little from a lack of character development in the new “Bad Company III” members and also for not being particularly inventive. There is a pretty strange ending too but it is worth a read.

The Pilot episode included at the end was a real treat for me as I am a big fan of Carlos Ezquerra’s artwork.  I have to say that the art did look a lot like that found in  “Strontium Dog” so it was probably a good thing that the actual series was drawn by Brett Ewins.

A nice change for rebellion as this one is printed on great quality glossy paper that really makes the art work jump off the page. It also has color sections too.  This book deserves a place in any 2000AD fans collection. [ISBN-10: 9781907519468]. 8/10