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Thoughts From The Land of Frost:
Review Mania By Alexander Ness
Welcome to my column. This edition features features reviews and commentary. I also would like to welcome MOONSTONE BOOKS to my review process. I have enjoyed their product and have long wished for them to submit product herein.
The movie DAREDEVIL is out and doing well in theaters. I haven't seen it yet, and I am not writing here to comment upon the movie directly, but there is a trend that I have experienced that does not bode well for comics. Upon leaving the theater from watching another film I heard a 10 or 11 year old boy say to the adult with him in regards to DAREDEVIL, "that was cool." The adult said "well the comic is pretty OK too." The boy then said "what is a comic?"
This is similar to Christmas 1994 when I gave two years worth of three X-Men titles to a 10 year-old boy cousin. He'd talked about loving the X-Men cartoon so I thought it'd be a good idea. His response "I don't read comics, ... they suck." He hadn't even noticed that the subject was the same as the cartoon.
I am not saying that Marvel should do something differently with Daredevil, or the cartoons or video games. But how is it that Spider-Man, Road to Perdition and Daredevil can bring tons of dollars to Hollywood and comics still seem to people to be in its own ghetto?
BAD SIGNAL Essays by Warren Ellis, art by Jacen Burrows. $6.95, Duotone.
Similar to the previous volumes From the Desk of Warren Ellis: BAD SIGNAL is collection of the comic writer's thoughts, that were sent out vis-a-vis e-mail to his message boards and news groups. At no point does he intend the essays to be a series or more than musings. They are devoid of posturing and seem very much like a personal communique to the reader.
Now do not think for a moment that the words he writes are free of ego or personal ambitions. But it seems very much that his writings capture his essence, devoid of an intentional impact upon those who read it. In some ways these monologues are spoken without audience as he doesn't seem to be moved by his readers. Again this is not a criticism, just that these words are clearly placed before us without an expectative result. He isn't urging his readers to do anything, really, just to read his thoughts of that moment.
I recommend this to any faithful reader of Warren Ellis, as well as to any who might enjoy a look into a writer's mind. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Adult language and content warnings but hey, it is Warren friggin' Ellis.
ROUTE 666 #6-8 Story by Tony Bedard, art by Karl Moline, John Dell and Nick Bell. $2.95, Color.
Route 666 is the story of a young woman with extraordinary powers involving the spirit realm, evil folks chasing her and various people being drawn into her web of contact. Previous issues follow her escape from a hideous place and the trail of blood following her.
Issues 6 and 7 offer more intrigue and great writing, but unfortunately no real sense of moving forward. That is, while interesting and and well written I began to sense a feeling of the TV show The Fugitive or even worse Gilligan's Island wherein the moments spent watching aren't wasted necessarily but you feel as though the end is nowhere in sight. Issue 8 offers an end of this story arc in sight as well as an exciting climax to the chase.
The art continues to be good but not great, but the writing improves with each issue. I am easily drawn into the characters and I have developed a great affection towards the main protagonists.
CrossGen deserves credit also for presenting a horrifying tale without excess gore or subject matter that offends the reader.
*** & 1/2
KOLCHAK: The Night Stalker -- Get of Belial Story by Joe Gentile, art by Art Nichols. $6.95, Color.
Carl Kolcak is an investigative reporter who often finds himself in the midst of supernatural events, and horrors that defy description. In a mining town a labor strike turns acrimonious. The owner of the mine is slaughtered and the strikers are thought to have committed the crime. But a religious family knows or suspects differently, and the beast that they fear is loose is beyond normal, and Kolchak's intervention is needed.
This book is prime time TV like I watched. I loved KOLCHAK The Night Stalker when I was young (and not supposed to watch it.) As an adult this book hit on all the right cylinders for me.
Now the art wasn't perfect, but the cover was, and this book felt like I had just watched an episode. I try to be objective, so I will say that this work might be an expensive buy for some people, and it struck particularly right chords for me because I am the target audience. Should you never have seen the TV show it is based upon and are not a fan of horror, this might not work for you. But I cannot see why it would not work.
KOLCHAK: The Night Stalker -- Fever Pitch Story by Stuart Kaminsky, art by Christopher Jones & Barbara Schulz. $6.95, color.
Kolchak is stricken with a flu bug, but it is nothing like the fever infecting a string of folks who in the last moments of the fever bug explode in a horrible red goo. Kolchak follows leads and struggles to get the story into print.
There was little I did not like a lot about this work. The art looked like the show very much, the writing had all the touches that made the show so good.
I am unable to to find fault in the work itself, and would give it a full four stars but for its genre. My grades reflect, I hope, a grade for the general audience. As such, while it is a great work I must give warning that this book is filled with gore. Not everyone would enjoy it. But I did, a lot.
*** & 1/2
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NIGHTMARES & Fairy Tales #1-4 Story by Serena Valentino, art by Foo SweeChin (FSc). $2.95, Black & White.
This series is a companion work in some ways to GLOOMCOOKIE. Both are written by Serena Valentino and each reflect a journey into the dark. Gloom Cookie solidly delivers a tale that investigates Goth culture and loves and losses within it. N&FT on the other hand takes a couple issues to tell the first tale of a strange murder mystery, the next issue a side prequel tale involving a pivotal character from the previous two issues. Finally issue four investigates a wild twist upon the tale of Snow White.
The type of stories these issues contain are diminished by over description. This isn't to say that I haven't read them, just, well anything I say will reveal key points that the reader ought to experience. The writing is excellent, being amply dark while not being at all perverse. However, the art is not as excellent. Characters are somewhat drawn confusingly similar in appearance and frankly, in a mystery confused identities deeply distract from the story. The mystery should never be just who is this or who said that. I enjoy the overall look of the art, and think that it is improving, but... I still do not think it is good enough.
This is the kind of book I struggle to grade. It deserves an audience and has many aspects about it that I enjoy. However, since comics are so visual, how can I give it more than an average grade? Well, here is how... I read for story far more than art. Therefore I give this...
VERTIGO X Preview Various talents contributed. Color, 99˘.
I try to avoid reviewing works that I have to buy myself. There are so many books deserving reviews that are submitted to me I feel like I am cheating the contributors to my column. However, I read many Vertigo books and I believe that this is an important comic for any reader of the horror genre who may have an interest in such comics to buy.
It is stuffed full of interesting content, interested me in titles I had not yet read, and is 99˘, that is less than a dollar you know. I found myself getting a load of entertainment with a small hit upon my wallet.
Pick this comic up.
All comic book publishers are welcome to submit comics for review.
Send them to: Alexander Ness Land of Frost Box 142 Rockford MN 55373-0142
When you buy your comics books or games for the week, try something new, and, or, buy something for a friend and share your tastes. The industries this column addresses can only improve with greater readership.