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Community Nooch's Comic Reviews

One last column to close out 2009

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

This edition of Nooch's Comic Reviews is coming to you from Pinole, CA, in the Bay Area. I drove out herr to hang with my wife's side of the family for New Year's. For anyone who has driven from So Cal to Nor Cal or vice versa, you know that much of this great state is used for agriculture. Whether you use the 5 or the 101, you've seen acres and acres of vegetation, with the occasional field of cows every 40 miles or so. For most of it, you be all like, "Hmm, I wonder what they're growing there." Thus, I was grateful as I drove past a stretch where they had signs posted. LEMONS. About a minute later - APPLES. Then - CHERRIES. That type of sign is informative, but not really necessary in the grand scheme of California agriculture. That got me to thinking, if I owned a stretch of land along a heavily traveled highway, I would put up signs that had some type of witty message on them. So you'd be driving along this stretch of road, when you suddenly see a sign over the rise: MAYBE. A little further along - YOU. SHOULD. PULL. OVER. AT. THE. NEXT. EXIT. BEFORE. YOU. HERSHEY. SQUIRT.

Once you hit that last sign, you'd be laughing, and prolly go and tell your friends about it later. Every few months I'd go and change it to something else. LOOK. OUT. BEHIND. YOU. THERE'S. AN. ALIEN. SPACECRAFT. Pretty soon, that stretch of road would become known for my sayings. I'd be totally famous, but in a way that no one knows. So like, not famous.


Incorruptible #1
by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz
Published by Boom Studios

Incorruptible is a companion title to Mark Waid's Irredeemable, also published by Boom, of which he is Editor-In-Chief. It must be nice to be in a position where you can have any of your titles go to print. In other situations, that could be a very bad thing. Luckily, we're talking about Mark Waid here, and at his worst, his work is still better than a lot of crap that somehow makes it way to publication. Plus, I've been loving the stuff that he's doing through Boom. It's all his original ideas, so he's not tied down to a bunch of continuity that other writers have come up with. This is all him, creating entirely new universes from the ground up.

While Waid is excellent at crafting exciting plots with what seem like traditional superheroes/villains, I think his greatest strength is really building the characters behind the powers. They're not just the archetypes that many readers are used to. These are fleshed out personalities, with new motivations for their actions. Waid keeps that up here with a villain-good-guy. This is pretty much the reverse of Irredeemable, which was a Superman-type guy flipping out and killing a bunch of people. Of course, both of those are over-simplified synopses of what's really going on, as they're both far more complex titles.

You don't have to have read Irredeemable to get in on this, as it stands well on its own. I do, however, still strongly recommend picking that up, as it is just as awesome. There's plenty going on in this book, though, with a solid enough cast, including an underaged seductress, appropriately named Jailbait. We start off with the return of Max Damage, the FBI's Most Wanted Number One Fugitive, who has been missing from the crime world for about a month. He returns in a stunning fashion, saving civilians and cops alike from his former compatriots. From there, we see him starting to show why his turning of a new leaf, and the beginnings of why, with an exciting last page. Good, clean (well, at times dirty) fun for readers of all mature ages!

I wanted to add a little something about Boom Studios. On their indicia, where most other companies throw down all their legal copyright jargon, they put this: The characters and events depicted herein are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, demons, anti-Christs, aliens, vampires, face-suckers, or political figures, whether living, dead or undead, or to any actual or supernatural events is coincidental. So don't come whining to us.

Who should read this book:
People who want to have a new lease on life.
People who are fans of the anti-hero.
People who can catch bullets with chopsticks, but only when the bullets are thrown, not fired.


Murderer #1
by Robert Kirkman, Marc Silvestri and Nelson Blake II
Published by Top Cow Productions, Inc. through Image Comics

Murderer comes from Top Cow as part of their "Pilot Season" program. From a marketing/publishing standpoint, it's a solid idea. Much like the pilot season season used in the TV industry, the idea is to publish one issue of a concept series. If the public responds well to it, you publish more. Top Cow started this in 2007, with what were basically spin-off books from Marc Silvestri's Cyberforce. For the noobs, Silvestri is the head of Top Cow, which is an independent studio under the Image umbrella.

While solid in execution, the Pilot Season program has suffered from something that Top Cow is notorious for: publishing delays. The first round had two winners, Cyblade and Velocity. While Cyblade made it to print, Velocity never did because of what I see as backroom shenanigans over at Top Cow. From what I'm able to tell, the 2008 season worked out a little better, but I didn't follow any of those projects. If you check out their ads, though, you should be able to get more info at myspace.com/pilotseason. Really? Myspace? I intentionally did not make that an active link, as that page isn't even updated with the 2009 stuff.

The 2009 batch, though, definitely has my attention; specifically because of the involvement of Robert Kirkman. Regular readers of my column know how I feel about that tubby bastard. He has put out some of the best original (and even existing) titles over the past 5-6 years, including Walking Dead and Invincible. He is scripting each of the five titles so that bodes well for all of them.

The premise of this first entry into the program is of a dude who can read people's minds, which compels him to find people deserving to be murdered, and does just that. I mean, check out that cover by Silvestri. That's pretty damn badass, especially since our main character, Jason, has ZERO expression on his face. Reading this, I totally got a "Dexter" vibe, which I consider a good thing. I started watching that show on recommendations from my buddy, Archie, and Superfly. Much like Dexter, Jason has homicidal tendencies, but only unleashes them on people deserving of it. The way this issue ends, though, leaves it open for so much more. As of now, I'm rooting for this book to be picked up, but that may change as more titles are released. For now, though, this is definitely a solid buy at $2.99 cover. If they don't come out with anymore, then you're only out 3 bucks. If they do decide to continue it, though, buckle down for a long-term investment.

Oh, my one complaint - I think they need to improve the lettering. I couldn't immediately tell that certain caption boxes were mind-reading. Once I figured that out, I had to go back a few pages and reread.

Who should read this book:
People who have compulsions to be heroic.
People who watch Dexter.
People who discover ancient artifacts that are life-changing if you can just find the right buyer.


Punisher Max #1 & #2
by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon
Published by Marvel

The Punisher has always been a dude that I was into on principle, but I haven't been reading his books the past few years because I think Marvel doesn't always use him properly. He's basically this badass dude who goes around killing criminals. (Have you noticed the whole bad boy theme I have going in this column?) His whole thing is that he goes after scummy guys, but guys that are for the most part realistic. They don't have crazy powers, or superior intellect. They're not trying to be world conquerors, or poison the city water supply. They're trying to traffic guns, drugs, and humans. You know, like real bad guys do. That's what the Punisher should be doing all the time. And yet, because, he has been established as part of the greater Marvel universe, they feel the need to have him interact with the more cosmic megalomaniac types. When he's put up against guys like that, you aren't getting the kinds of stories which he works best in, which are gritty, crime-centered, noir-inspired stories.

So when they announced that a new Punisher series would be coming out under the MAX imprint, I was excited. MAX is the "explicit content" imprint of Marvel. It's intended for an adult audience, so they don't have to pull any punches. With the Punisher, you know there's bound to be some violence, and we get that in full graphic detail courtesy of Steve Dillon. If you checked out his work with Garth Ennis on the epic/legendary/groundbreaking/world-changing Preacher, you know that this dude can definitely depict scenes of violence. With Jason Aaron at the wheel, too, you know you're in for a ride. Aaron is doing some amazing work on his original title, Scalped, through Vertigo, as well as putting out the most awesome Ghost Rider in a decade.

With this title, we're getting an early Punisher, showing how the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, rose to power in the criminal Underworld. With MAX books, you can take them as in or out of regular continuity, so you don't have to know much about the Punisher or the Kingpin to just dive right into this story. Keep away if you're squeamish, though. This is a Punisher story at its best. There's no one in some crazy colorful costume meant to inspire the populace and win trust. No one's wearing a goblin suit to instill fear. Even Frank Castle's skull motif is just him wearing a T-Shirt. I'm partial to a different kind of skull shirt, but this one gets the job done. Within these first two issues, much blood has been spilled, and you know there's bound to be so much more before all is said and done. You might want to wear a coat or something; wouldn't want to stain your clothes with any stray splatter.

Who should read this book:
People who were into old-school Punisher.
People who hated all three Punisher movies.
People who develop iPhone and/or Blackberry apps for remote-controlling Androids of Mass Destruction.


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Nooch's Comic Reviews

More people should be reading comic books, dammit. As the resident comic book elitist, Nooch has made it his personal quest to get more noobs heading into their own dimly-lit comics dungeon every Wednesday to peruse the vastly under-rated world of sequential art.