One Mad Dog

[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

[Hitman Vol. 5: Who Dares Wins] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)
January 31, 2011, 8:28 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Garth Ennis, Hitman, John McCrea

Volume 5 “Who Dares Wins” collects #23 to #28 of the DC Hitman series written by Garth Ennis and Illustrated by John McCrea.  “Who Dares Wins” has Tommy Monaghan as the subject of two hits, one by the British SAS  as retaliation for a friendly fire incident and one by Mafia don “Men’s Room Louie”.  There are no demons or guest superheroes in this book but that doesn’t mean it is any less violent.  This is a very focussed story that concentrates on the four SAS guys trying to kill Tommy and everyone else who gets in their way. Ennis tries to flesh out the character of the SAS guys by the use of slang and accents but it doesn’t work well. I found that the slang and accents  made the story hard to read at times which spoiled the flow a little.

The art is in the same style as the other books in the series and as such it is nothing special.  I Found some of the gunfight scenes to be a little confusing and had to reread them a few times before I finally figured out who was killing who.  I also found that a lot of the characters looked very similar to each other which had me flicking back through the pages a few times. The paper stock is typical cheap comic book fare and a doesn’t really do the presentation any favors but it suits the art style.

I really enjoyed the story and it tears along at an action filled pace but the art and paper stock hold this book back from a higher score. I also thought the epilogue was a bit out of character with the rest of the “Hitman” series.  A solid read that may not appeal to all “Hitman” fans due to its focus on the SAS guys rather than Tommy. [ISBN-13: 978-1563897184]. 8/10

[Hitman Vol. 4: The Ace of Killers] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)
January 28, 2011, 9:28 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Garth Ennis, Hitman, John McCrea

This 4th trade in Garth Ennis’s “Hitman” series collects  issues #15 through #22 of Hitman. It sees a return to its demonic beginnings with Tommy Monaghann fighting a hit put on him by his old adversaries the Lords of the Gun. It also features a rather voluptuous Catwoman and the most insane group of superhero misfits ever “Section Eight”. This is a great story and my favorite book in the series so far. It is action packed and full of satire and comedic elements most of which are aimed at the regular superhero universe.  From the well written and well paced fight with the demon Mawzir to the funny hit on Santa Clause this was a book I found hard to put down.

The art is very much in the same style as the other books in the series and fits the story well. Either I am getting more used to McCrea ‘s art style or he is getting better as the series progresses. The paper stock is typical cheap comic book fare but the page count is healthy at close to 190 pages and as such it represents pretty good value.

If you liked the other Hitman books or Ennis’s run on “The Punisher” you should enjoy this book.  [ISBN-13: 978-1563896149]. 8/10

[Hitman Vol 3. : Local Heroes] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)
January 11, 2011, 5:32 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Garth Ennis, Hitman, John McCrea

“Local Heroes” is the third trade paperback in the Hitman series and it collects issues #9-14. There are two main story arcs contained within the book, “Local Heroes”  and “Zombie Night at the Gotham Aquarium”. Both stories follow the same format as the second Hitman trade, being a sort of a cross between “The Boys” and “The Punisher” , but leaning more towards the comedic elements of  “The Boys”.  There is violence a plenty but it doesn’t have the profanity or nudity of Ennis’s other work and definitely doesnt need a “MAX” label.

Out of the two stories I enjoyed “Local Heroes” the most and it  really progressed the Hitman story and supporting character development forward.  “Local Heroes” deals with corruption in both the police force and the government and features an appearance of the Green Lantern as a rather bumbling unwilling team up.  I have never read a “Green Lantern” story so I dont know if his inclusion would upset fans of that series or not.

“Zombie Night” is a much less serious story that draws upon cult movies for its inspiration. There are elements of  the Living Dead, Jaws, Army of Darkness and other classics a plenty.  It isn’t very Greenpeace friendly and doesn’t do anything to progress the story but it is an enjoyable romp.

John McCrea’s artwork is good but quite simplistic which fits nicely with the pulp fiction style of this series. It uses a standard “four color” comic palette and is printed on standard comic paper stock so it is nothing special in the presentation department.

If you enjoy Garth Ennis’s other work you should also enjoy this book. [ISBN-13: 978-1401228934]. 8/10

[Dicks] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)
September 28, 2010, 7:55 pm
Filed under: 5 stars, Garth Ennis, John McCrea

People who have read the UK comic “VIZ” should feel right at home with “Dicks”. It features the same profanity, nudity, gore, questionable subject matter and simplistic comic style B/W artwork. It does have its funny moments and the main story isnt half bad but I think Garth tries too hard to be shocking and gross.

Dicks is set in Northern Ireland and is supposed to be the story of a couple of dead beat Private Investigators.  All the characters feature strong accents that might confuse some readers and bewilder others. Fortunately Avatar included a dictionary in the back to help people understand what they are saying.  The artwork is quite grotesque and we can be thankful that it isnt in full color. It portrays many body parts and functions that are better left up to the imagination and acts of extreme violence and depravity. It is definitely not a book to read in a public place.

There is something in this TPB to offend everybody and it most certainly isn’t for kids. There were certain sections where I laughed out loud and others where I thought “I cant believe they just put that in print”. It is Definitely not one of Garth’s best peices of work but it isnt actually a bad read. If you liked early VIZ comics and you have a sick and twisted sense of humor you might well like this.  [ISBN-1-59291-004-1]. 5/10

[The Complete Battlefields Vol 1.(HC)] – (Garth Ennis, Russ Braun, Peter Snejbjerg, Carlos Ezquerra)
September 17, 2010, 9:41 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Carlos Ezquerra, Garth Ennis, John Cassaday, Peter Snejbjerg, Russ Braun

This hardcover collects “Night Witches” , “Dear Billy” and “The Tankies” from Garth Ennis’s new war story series “Battlefields”.

“Night Witches” is a story set in World War II on the Russian front. It is the story of women bomber pilots flying night missions for the Russian’s in outdated planes. It is also the story from the point of view of the German Infantry that the Night Witches are trying to bomb.  Garth Ennis is on top form in this story and the way he entwines the stories of both the hunter and the hunted  is excellent. Garth doesn’t pull any punches in “Night Witches” and the stark brutality of both sides is shocking and yet believable in the context of a brutal battlefront.  The consequences of being caught by the enemy are shocking and add a great deal of bite to the narrative. This is amongst some of  Ennis’s best writing and it is backed up great art work by Russ Braun and some pretty good John Cassaday covers.

“Dear Billy” is unusual for a graphic novel in that it is written in the form of a letter to a lover by a woman involved in the Pacific conflict. As a result of this, it is quite text heavy and took me  a few pages to adapt to the style. Peter Snejbjerg’s  art work in Dear Billy is pretty simplistic but it does work well with this type of story telling.  Garth has managed to pull off yet another gut wrenching tale of the brutality of war and this story really packs a punch.  He manages to achieve a impressive sense of realism in his WW II writing and it just goes to show that he doesn’t need tons of gore and profanity to capture the reader. I didn’t enjoy this as quite as much as Night Witches but it is still a great thought provoking story.

“Tankies”  is a story set in the aftermath of the D-Day landings, featuring the Allied tank Crews and their desperate battle against superior German tanks. Out of the stories included in this collection this is by far the most light hearted but it still amply hammer home the absolute horror of being in a tank on a Battlefield. It is probably the weakest story of the three but is blessed with the best artwork. Carlos Ezquerra’s art is absolutely gorgeous, intricately detailed and colored to perfection.  I think one thing that spoils “Tankies” is Garth’s attempt at portraying a Geordie character. It just comes across as a bit silly and must confuse the heck out of non UK readers. Tankies is an enjoyable read with first class art.

“Battlefields” also has some great extras including an article explaining the facts behind the fiction and some artist pencils and character designs. [ISBN-13: 978-1606900796].  8/10

[Back To Brooklyn Volume 1] – (Garth Ennis, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mihailo Vukelic)
July 26, 2010, 10:27 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Garth Ennis, Jimmy Palmiotti, Mihailo Vukelic

“Back to Brooklyn” is a mob style crime drama featuring the talents of  Garth Ennis and Jimmy Palmiotti. This is a much better effort than their previous project “the Pro”.  Although the story is based on a pretty familiar theme of a family member turning evidence against the mob,  the execution is inventively  crafted  and it keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the very end.  The book is very violent but in a realistic way (not like the Punisher) which makes it all the more shocking .  The artwork is soft focussed with an almost sepia tone palette and I found it to be a bit drab. This TPB has plenty of shock value and reads like watching a good R rated movie.  Jimmy Palmiotti’s background articles are also a nice touch and well worth a read.    [ISBN-13: 978-1607060604]. 8/10

[Hitman Vol. 2: Ten Thousand Bullets] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea, Carlos Ezquerra, Steve Pugh)
July 20, 2010, 10:44 pm
Filed under: 7 stars, Carlos Ezquerra, Garth Ennis, Hitman, John McCrea, Steve Pugh

This collected edition contains Hitman#4 to #8 and Hitman Annual 1. Garth Ennis’s second DC  Hitman collection has two stories “Ten Thousand Bullets” illustrated by John McCrea and “A Coffin Full Of Dollars” illustrated by Carlos Ezquerra and Steve Pugh. It also has a short bonus story called  “The Final Night ” which also features the artwork of John McCrea.  10,000 bullets continues on from Hitman Volume 1  and the fight with bizarre gangster Mr Dublez. Tommy has his work cut out with an over the top dishonest super hero, a host of would be assassins  and one other hit man that seems to be more than a match for out hero.  It is a good “Punisher” type story with no strange demons or aliens that made the first volume so unusual.  A coffin full of dollars pits Tommy against the inhabitants of Tiburon when he is hired to make a hit for a bent Sheriff against a Mexican gang. There is definitely a hint of “The Preacher”  in this one. Out of the two stories I think I enjoyed  the second one the most. This is another solid effort from Ennis but lacks a few touches to make it stand out from the crowd.

The artwork throughout the collection is classic limited color palette comic book style and it fits pulp fiction nature of the story well. It looks like Carlos Ezquerra only illustrated part 3 of the final story but it still probably my favorite art in the book.  [ISBN-13: 978-1401218423]. 7/10

[Hitman : Volume 1 : A Rage In Arkham] – (Garth Ennis, John McCrea)
July 20, 2010, 10:38 am
Filed under: 8 Stars, Garth Ennis, Hitman, John McCrea

This collected edition contains Hitman #1-3, Demon annual #2 and Batman Chronicles #4.  This isn’t just another Punisher variant by Garth Ennis, this book is an all together lighter and more bizarre read.  It is a bit like the love child of Spawn, The Punisher and the Boys.  The “Hitman” is a hired killer with a strong morale code that doesn’t allow him to kill good guys. After an encounter with a Demon he ends up with X-Ray vision and the ability to read minds which improves his hit man abilities to the point where he can take on supervillains and the like. Hitman is set in Gotham city but it isnt your fathers Gotham.  It features classic Batman locations and crime lord style action but mixes in grotesque and at times comical demons .  It took me a little while to warm to the over the top style action but Garth’s witty writing won me over and by the final story, about a hit on the Joker,  I was hooked. John McCea’s comic book style artwork is appropraite and actually gets better as the series progresses. It culminates in some satisfying artwork  in the Arkham story which is also the high point of the book.  Rage In Arkham is printed on standard comic book stock paper so it is nothing special in the presentation department  but the content more than makes up for that.  [ISBN-13: 978-1563893148]. 8/10

[Crossed Volume 1 Hardcover] – (Garth Ennis, Jacen Burrows)
May 26, 2010, 11:44 pm
Filed under: 8 Stars, Crossed, Garth Ennis, Jacen Burrows

Garth Ennis takes on the survival horror genre and brings artist Jacen Burrows along for the ride.  Garth Ennis is my favorite comic book author and Jacen Burrows is probably my favorite artist, so I had high hopes for this deluxe hardcover collecting “Crossed” issues1 to 10. This book definitely isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended. It has violence and gore off the scale and portrays acts of intense human depravity. Its probably Ennis’s most shocking work which is really saying something for him (Just look at the punisher or Wormwood for instance). I do wonder if he might have gone a little too far in this book to shock his readers and might suffer a backlash as a result.

Jacen Burrow’s artwork is absolutely fantastic and even if you didn’t like the story it is an absolute joy to behold. The artwork and colors jump of the page and the “Crossed” are very inventively crafted to repulse. The poster panels, Splash pages and covers are truly top rate. Fortunately I think the story is pretty good  and although it follows the familiar formula of “bunch of people running from Zombies and trying to survive” it has a nice little twist in that the “Crossed” seem to have some sort of evil intelligence behind them.

I imagine this book will really polarize people and reading the reviews on Amazon this seems to be the case. Personally I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it and I found it a very entertaining read. It is not a very original idea and it lacks some of Ennis’s usual sick sense of humor but I can recommend it if you are into stuff like “The Walking Dead” or “30 days of Night”. [ISBN-13: 978-1592910915]. 8/10