“Respect My Craft” – Aaron McGruder

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

Name: Aaron McGruder

Profession: Writer & Artist

Notable Work: The Boondocks

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.” – Aaron McGruder

Before he was the stone that the builder refused, Huey Freeman was just a figment of Aaron McGruder’s imagination. Similar to his characters in “The Boondocks,”  McGruder hailed from the South Side of Chicago and moved to a predominantly white town as a young boy. His stay in Columbia, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, gave him a good look at race relationships in America. A young McGruder found his identity through Hip-Hop, Star Wars and comic strips, inspiring him to draw comics. 

During his college career at the University of Maryland, McGruder was a cartoonist for a student-run newspaper called The Diamondback, which published the very first “Boondocks” strip in December 1996. Aaron was getting paid more than double what the other cartoonists were being compensated, a whopping $30/strip. The Boondocks began as a campus cartoon strip, and after only a couple issues, sky-rocketed to fame after it appeared in Hip-Hop based magazine, The Source. Soon after, the series was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate, joining the company of such legendary comics as “Garfield” and “Calvin & Hobbes,” in December of 1998. It was a quick rise to fame, as McGruder was only in his mid-twenties, and a well-deserved one.

McGruder used the characters in “The Boondocks” to create a sort of yin-yang in Black culture: Huey Freeman, the Afro-centric philosopher and freedom fighter (named appropriately after revolutionary Black Panther Huey Newton), as well as Riley Freeman, the radical wannabe-thug, and Grand-dad Freeman, who represents the old-school mentality. With them, McGruder wrote an ensemble cast with various cultural and political backgrounds. Using different relatable social situations, “The Boondocks” painted a hyperbolic, yet accurate, picture of what it’s like for many minorities living in white communities.

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McGruder began to publish trade-paperbacks of The Boondocks., the first of which was named Because I Know You Don’t Read the NewspaperMcGruder had begin to focus on writing, and hired artist Jennifer Seng to help with the art in 2003. The series became so popular that, by 2004, over 300 major newspapers nation-wide were publishing “The Boondocks”. One of the aspects that made the series so beloved was McGruder’s tendency to speak freely when it came to socio-political issues.

From 9/11 conspiracy theories that outwardly criticized President Bush to attacking BET (Black Entertainment Television), nobody was safe from being called out. And as “The Boondocks” garnered more and more attention, McGruder got more and more liberal with his messages. Not all agreed with McGruder’s approach to such touchy subjects, though, as many black and white critics felt that he was trying to provoke racial tension instead of commenting on it. It could be that those who were harsh against McGruder just couldn’t understand the satirical nature of his work, but whatever the issue, the controversy just kept getting louder and louder.

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After almost a decade of written features, Aaron McGruder began to pitch the idea of an animated television sitcom of The Boondocks. However, the shocking subject material made it difficult for the series to be picked up by network television.  Luckily for us, Cartoon Network picked it up in 2005 and put it in their Adult Swim time-slot. This would prove to be a match made in White Heaven, as it gave him the freedom he needed to tell even the most controversial of stories.

Throughout The Boondocks‘ initial three-season run from 2005-2010, McGruder wrote episodes that satirically ripped into everybody: R. Kelly, BET, and even Santa Claus weren’t safe from criticism. Taking up twenty plus minutes per show also allowed McGruder to include a much deeper cast, which consisted of some hilarious guest spots, and was bursting at the seams with social commentary. To boot, a lot of the show’s content was somewhat based off the strip, expanding on funny moments and making them funny episodes. The anime-inspired fight scenes were also amazing, as McGruder clearly had some Samurai Champloo inspiration. More over, what made the series so relatable is that it felt so natural. The character archetypes all interacted how you would expect, but was written so well that you never really knew what crazy thing would happen next.

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What I really loved about how McGruder wrote The Boondocks is how it never felt like it had an agenda; it just asked really good questions that made readers/viewers think. We could laugh at the stereotypes or see the sad satire of American culture for what it was – it really depended on how the consumer absorbed the material. To this day, “The Boondocks” comic strip remains the only comic series picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate that has a black creator or a mostly black cast. It’s an award-winning and fan-favorite television show that serves as a cracked mirror for lack & American culture that we know we want to do better than what is portrayed.

For better or worse, after the run of nearly ten years, McGruder’s “Boondocks” has pointed out a lot of the flaws in how mainstream media portrays African-Americans, while criticizing African-Americans for exploiting those flaws. In the same way Dwayne McDuffie used Milestone Media to build up the positive black image, Aaron McGruder used “The Boondocks” to tear down the negative black image. Thus, I can define Aaron McGruder in three words: “Maaaaaan, F*** BET”

Checked out his bibliography and still want more? Check these books out:

BIG news here everybody; it looks as though The Boondocks will be returning for a fourth season, debuting April 21st, 2014, after an almost four-year hiatus.

Birth of A Nation is a graphic novel about what it would be like if East St. Louis (dubbed Blackland) were to secede from the nation. This is “All Black Everything” in it’s truest incarnation. McGruder co-wrote this book along with Reginald Hudlin (Who is the Black Panther? review coming soon!).

McGruder also was on writing duties for Red Tails, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. It was a little too Hollywood for my taste, but it’s worth a shot if you’re interested.

How Much Does Hush Comics Love Aaron McGruder?

Aaron McGruder has a special place in my heart. A big part of my late-teens were spent watching and reading The Boondocks. McGruder’s work did more than entertain me; it educated me. His rise to stardom was so quick, the gravity of his accomplishments may slip by casual fans. More importantly, he shared his message with no filter – from the return of Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. to white privilege to fried chicken shortages, McGruder was never afraid to talk about the serious issues.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Static Shock: Trials By Fire

Graphic Novel Review: Static Shock – Trial By Fire

ALL BLACK EVERYTHING

CollectingStatic #1-4

Original Release Date: 1993 (collected edition released in 2000)

Publisher: Milestone Media (collected edition published by DC Comics)

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Characters: Static/Virgil Hawkins, Holocaust

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie (Milestone Media, Blood SyndicateJustice League: UnlimitedBen 10 TV series)

Artist: John Paul Leon (Earth X)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 9
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 8
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 7
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 9

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1993 was a spectacular year. Bill Clinton was in the WhiteHouse, Ice Cube could see his name on the Goodyear Blimp, Toni Morrison got a Nobel Prize and Milestone Media paired with DC Comics.

For those of you unfamiliar with Milestone, I want you to close your eyes, now picture a group of amazing comic book writers and artists,  can you see them? Now imagine they’re Black. Dwayne McDuffie, and Denys Cowan were tired of the minimal representation of African Americans in major comic books, but instead of complaining, they created their own. They immediately flooded the market with multiple titles.  I remember being excited to see so many black heroes on the shelves. To be completely honest, Hardware, Blood Syndicate and Static were the first DC titles I ever purchased.

I instantly loved Static and was thrilled when Sherif asked me to write a review about the first four issues in honor of Black History Month. As a kid, I couldn’t believe there was a character who looked like me in the comics. He wore Spike Lee’s Malcolm X cap, had thick lips and a street confidence Peter Parker just didn’t have.

A young John Soweto rockin' Spike Lee's Malcolm X hat

Pretty soon my brother Aaron began to steal my issues, and I’m sure became a bigger fan than I was. But Static’s popularity wasn’t limited to us. In 2000, the WB picked up the cartoon Static Shock, our hero made appearances in Teen Titans, and of course, add fanboy buzz over the years for Donald Glover to star in a full-length feature film, and you have the makings of legend.

But it all began with Trial By Fire, the first four issues of the series. Enter Virgil Ovid Hawkins, a teen given the power to wield electrostatic energy. He is a meta-human. This new race of super-powered street kids have X-Men like abilities. There are some obvious Marvel storyline similarities.  Static was written as a contemporary Spider-Man. Virgil is a witty do-gooder who is misunderstood and in need of an alter ego to cope with his own self-deprecation. Since Static was written in a single-issue format, the transition between issues feels a lot like watching episodes of a television show as opposed to reading through one, fluid story.

Issue one: “Burning Sensation” gives us a clear idea of who he is and what he stands for, and it certainly doesn’t waste anytime getting to the action. Our electric hero makes short work of goons who plan to kidnap Frieda Goren, a girl he is madly crushing on. At the end of the issue he is confronted by Hotstreak, a street thug with the ability to control fire. He loses the fight and his secret identity is revealed to Frieda. What was, and is, so refreshing about Static is that the dialog doesn’t feel forced. It’s not trying to be cool, because it IS cool.

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Issue two: “Everything But the Girl,” gives us the back-story we were waiting for. Virgil is bullied by a Flash Thompson doppelganger named Biz Money B. After being beaten and publicly humiliated he decides to get a gun to settle the score. He tracks Biz to a Warriors style gang meeting and before he has an opportunity to pull the trigger they are attacked by the authorities with a mysterious toxin. Virgil and others are transformed into meta-humans, capable of performing amazing super-powered feats. He uses his abilities to escape the raid and begins training to master his powers. We learn that Hotstreak is actually Biz Money B and Virgil lost the fight because he is still scared of the hallway bully. By the end of the issue he is able to confront him and gain the attention of a mysterious super villain.

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Issue Three: “Pounding The Pavement” starts with a bang. Static has earned some cred in tha hood and now a bad guy named Tarmack is looking for him.  They have an epic showdown in a parking lot and Static proves that he can overpower and out-wit his adversaries. The issue ends with a crossover cliffhanger and we are introduced to Holocaust from The Blood Syndicate.

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Issue Four: “Playing With Fire” starts by teaming our hero up with the vigilante Holocaust. Static plays flunky and  roughs up some gangsters for the villain. When he goes to see Frieda afterward he finds her with his best friend Larry. He is crushed. Filled with anger he decides to help Holocaust rip off the mafia to help his mom pay bills. When Holocaust takes the heist to a deadly level, Static steps in to protect a small child. This dissolves their partnership in crime but we get the feeling that their relationship has only just begun.

Static is well written and as the story develops, the art improves. If you are in the mood for 90’s nostalgia you will find plenty of references from Arsenio Hall to Star Trek: The Next Generation.  This comic led a comic book revolution and captured the imagination of every black comic-book head who searched for a hero that looked and sounded like them.

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Written by John Soweto

Comic Book Reviews 01-15-13

Review Scale:

The mythical A+: Classic comic book material. Belongs next to your copy of The Notebook and The Joy of Cooking.

A: Would definitely recommend to all comic book readers. Even more so to fans of the genre or characters

B: Enjoyable read. Fans of the genre or characters will especially like.

C: Non-essential read. Can be enjoyable for fans of the genre or characters, but likely for only one or two events in the books.

D: Unenjoyable book. Read at your own risk. Might find satisfaction if major flaws are overlooked.

F: Please don’t buy this book. Donate your money to a local comic book writer’s workshop instead to inspire future generations to write something better than this trash.

Pick of the Week:

Uncanny X-Men #16 – A

If you’ve been reading any X-title post- AvX, then you would think Magneto had turned into an impotent, outdated vigilante with a change of heart. You (and I) would be sorely mistaken. Since the Phoenix entity was defeated, leaving Magneto, Emma Frost and Cyclops allwith clipped wings in terms of power, Magneto has had a difficult time adjusting to his new sage-like role. As Erik takes some time off from the other Uncannys, he is led to a Genosha-like island where all the children are being pumped with growth hormones. Looking somewhere between Max Payne and Master Roshi, Magneto absolutely loses his mind. Has he become unhinged? Was he faking his power loss all along? All I know is that Magneto is back, and not in a good way. Well, that is, not in a good way for anybody but the reader. – S

Other Reviews:

Dark Horse Comics

Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Cry of Shadows #2 – D

I wonder if the news about Marvel taking over the comic book rights to all Star Wars comics is getting Dark Horse writers down.  If so, is showed in this issue of Cry of Shadows.  We pick up right where we left off in issue #1.  CT-5539 who, during his hiatus in the dessert after being abandoned by his Jedi generals, has decided to name himself Hock rejoins civilization and signs up for service in the new Galactic Empire as a Stormtrooper.  We are also regaled with additional background from Hock’s training and service to the Jedi, prior to Order 66.  As a whole, this issue was very disjointed.  I’m confused in the direction Tim Siedell (author) is moving this story.  Nothing of any notable significance occurred in the 25 pages of Cry of Shadows #2.  While I do appreciate the story telling perspective – through the eyes and thoughts of Hock – the tales are about as exciting as listening to my brother describe the sandwich he just made… It was ham… I had high hopes (and somewhat still do) for this series.  I hope issue #3 provides some direction and I really hope we get to experience more exciting themes through Hock’s eyes as the story continues.  And for any Dark Horse writers out there that might be reading this – cheer up!  I’m sure Marvel has a spot lined up for you in 2015.  You all know as well as I do that The Force works in mysterious ways. – T

DC/Vertigo:

Superman/Wonder Woman #4 – B+

Kneel before Zod!! While nothing too crazy happens in this issue, it does take the lull as an opportunity to touch on some interesting aspects of superhero relationships as well as the potential consequences for regular humans. It also starts to take a closer look at the deeper differences between Clark and Diana in regards to their upbringing and how that will affect their future together. Zod, unfortunately, didn’t play as major of a part as I was hoping/anticipating. That’s not to say that he won’t play a major part in the future, it just feels as though they may have showed their hand a little too early.  Only time will tell how this pans out, but even if they don’t do anything major with Zod, the threat of Doomsday still lurks on the horizon. – R

Batgirl #27 – B

We got a tidbit of a preview of the Gothtopia arc in last week’s Detective Comics #27, where all our heroes are dressed in white as they patrol the shiny, crime-free streets of Gotham. This issue sees Batgirl, or Blue-Belle, is trying to save a group of children from a woman gone mad at the Joker Ice Cream Company – so you already know something isn’t right. It’s a great introduction into the story arc, as the Pleasantville-esque setting is as entertaining as it is eerie. The only thing really lacking from a phenomenally-written Batgirl (kudos to Gail Simone) is a consistent artist. The art in #27 is choppy at best, to the point where it detracts from my focus on the words and a far cry from the gorgeous cover art we see each month. That aside, Batgirl continues to be a silent juggernaut in the DC Universe. -S

Batman: Li’l Gotham #10 – B

What amazing artwork!  I am a fan of all the “Li’l” artwork anyway, but this was beyond expectation.  We open with Poison Ivy taking us through the seasons.  When she reaches Autumn, her least favorite she becomes catatonic.  Throughout these panels, she seems fairy-like and almost ethereal, especially because of the color-scheme.  The story here is pretty great, too.  Selena, Harley and Mr. J all think of creative ways to try to cheer their friend up.  Is it weird that I think all kids should read this to learn about friendship?  The second half of the story focuses on Damian who is suspicious of Alfred.  After convincing his friends that Alfred is a murderer, they all find out he was just cleaning up around Wayne Manor.  This section was notably darker than the first.  While it was cutesy and nice to see Damian in comics, it would be nice if Damian did a bit of growing up in future issues. -A

Justice League 3000 #2 – B-

Welcome back to the year 3000 again in the newest issue of Justice League 3000.  The genetically recreated five member team (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, and The Green Lantern) is sent on a mission by their creators – The Wonder Twins – to take out a Garrison of the mysterious “The Five.”  Things go very astray once the dysfunctional group encounter Locus – a super charged, teenage, alien girl that has can alter any and all aspects of reality.  As a reading I’m developing a love-hate relationship with this series.  What I love about the story is the way Keith Giffen (author) subtly develops plot and reveals how and why The Wonder Twins have decided to recreate the original Justice League.  I also love the nuances in character personality and team interaction from the JL of the prior millennium.  Flash is a bit too nancy, Batman is slightly more introspective (but still the coolest), Green Lantern is missing pep from his step, Wonder Woman needs a double dose of chill pills and Superman is way more of an ass-hat than usual.  What I’m having difficulty appreciating is the almost annoying omission of a greater conflict.  Referring to “The Five” incessantly isn’t providing any additional suspense.  Before too long I need to know why it is The Five are to be feared across all galaxies and how our heroes plan on taking them down.  I’m banking on major development in issue #3 to keep me engaged. – T

IDW Comics:

Black Dynamite #1 – B-

If you are a fan of Black Dynamite and his authentic Chinese Kung Fu, then chances are you will enjoy this book. I like that fact that with this issue, the fans get the sense that this arc is going to be more than just a comical story about our beloved hero. There is definitely something deeper at play right from the get go. And I also appreciate the way the story was told: we begin with a mystery, the middle portrays background relevant to the current story, and the end goes back to the present and revealing more about the mystery along with a little twist. One reason I liked this book is because it has classic Black Dynamite quotes that are both hilarious and awesome. It makes you think, “Man, I wish I was cool enough to say that.” The art was cartoony, but not in a bad way. It really reminded me of the old Fat Albert cartoons which makes sense for both the genre and time period. The only reason I didn’t give this comic a higher grade was because there wasn’t anything truly grasping me into the story. Yes, it was fun and cool, but noting made me excited, nothing made me truly invested in the actual story. A much as I love Black Dynamite, I’m not too sure I would pick this comic over others out this week, but if you do have time, it has its funny moments. – E

Marvel:

Amazing X-Men #3 – B+

Feels like just yesterday that Kurt Vagner.graced us with his presence, his devilish, blue tail BAMFing around in Heaven. Three issues in and his return isn’t any less shocking. One of the best characters in X-Men history is back, and sees to have brought a hell of a villain with him. Ed McGuinness and Jason Aaron are a comic book making machine, as the art and story complement each other perfectly. This issue focuses on Beast, as he is BAMFed into a fight with Azazel aboard his ghoulish pirate ship. Beast battles with grace, as well as sass, while Nightcrawler and Storm reunite once more for some more-than-friendly interactions. I was so enthralled that I was sad to have it end at all. Great job by this team; this is beginning to form into a great story, and at only three issues in, you need to jump on board. Get it? Pirate Ship? On Board? Whoo… – S

Daredevil #35 – B+

This run of Daredevil has been one of the best runs of any comic book out recently. This “everyday hero” aspect given to Matt Murdock is what makes him so easy to relate to. After putting The Sons of the Serpent, an underground white supremacy group with reach throughout the justice system, on blast last episode, they seem to have an ace in the hole against Matt: his best friend Foggy and his secret identity. Dardevil spends the issue debating the right thing to do – whether he “the right thing for the wrong reason [or] the wrong thing for the right reason.” Issue #35 is a very introspective issue and embodies the character as a whole. I can’t say enough about Mark Waid as he has re-crafted a character thought to only exist in the darkness of Frank Miller’s world. – S

Miracleman #1 – B+

The return of Miracleman is finally here!  OK, I’ll be honest.  I don’t know that much about him, but this issue explains a lot.  Mircleman was originally called Marvelman.  There were some legal issues regarding the character and he became Miracleman, who is science based.  He has been written and rewritten several times over.  The newest reprisal is actually a reprint of Alan Moore’s 1980’s reboot, which is the only reason Miracleman #1 gets a B+ this week.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the 1950’s story and then the updated 1892 story.  The story is clearly classic and Alan Moore’s reworking of it brings it to the more serious side.  The artwork from both eras is pretty incredible.  I am looking forward with what a 2014 take on Miracleman will look like for the future, and I am honestly glad this issue was more of history lesson before we delve into the modern update.  – A

Seekers of the Weird #1 – B

Seekers of the Weird is based off a concept from Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump.  Years ago, his idea for the Museum of Weird was supposed to be its own attraction at Disneyland, but never came to fruition.  Now, it is coming alive through the comic book.  We are introduced to Max and Melody Keep who have normal teenage problems.  They go to the family curio shop called “Keep It Weird” and things certainly do get weird.  Their parents are kidnapped by demons and their never before seen Uncle Roland leads them to the Museum of the Weird to find their kidnapped parents.  Max and Melody will have to explore the museum to figure out what happened to their parents and find out what weird things they have been getting into.  I enjoyed this comic, but everything seemed to happen so fast, that it was hard to find something relatable about the characters.  It did have a modern Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego vibe, which was one of my favorite shows growing up.  I am looking forward to delving into the Museum of the Weird and what adventures we will go on with Max and Melody. -A

Marvel Knights: Hulk #2 – B-

With the second installment of Marvel Knights: Hulk, I came in still not knowing what to expect after reading the first issue; however, at the end of the issue, I was pleased, but I had to wait until the end to reach that feeling. For the beginning and middle of the book you begin to see a little bit more of a glimpse as to what is happening, yet they still have a ton of information left in the bank – hopefully for later issues. The writing can be stale at times, seeming like a dull point in an action film, so I wasn’t too excited about the progression that was happening. However, the ending saved it all for me. The design and flow of panels, the art work (by the talented Piotr Kowalski of image Comics’ Sex), and the evolution of the last few pages hit me and all of the sudden I was excited and intrigued again. I got to see the Hulk I know and love, but it is obvious that there is a little something different this time around.  There are still a ton of questions I have, that I’m sure can’t be left out for future issues, but nevertheless I am excited and interested to see where they take it from it. It can either turn out to be something really unique and entertaining, or it can be a complete flop; it truly has the potential to fall any which way at this point. – E

Superior Spiderman #25 – B-

We’ve been putting up with Otto Octavius as Spiderman for an entire year now, and the pompous super-genius is really starting to wear out his welcome. He’s tossed Mary Jane to the side, used his Avengers’ status selfishly, and even managed to take his anger out on poor Aunt May. It’s been unsettling, but for the sake of story-telling, we went with it. As Spidey is consumed by the Venom symbiote, he’s letting all his feelings out. The Avengers need to be called in to subdue Spiderman, and a huge reveal is made along the way. This reveal, which is so big I have to SPOIL, is that Peter Parker is not dead and gone. He is in fact returning to comics in April. That was a saving grace in a book that has been plauged by Otto’s obnoxious attitude. We want Parker back! – S

Night of the Living Deadpool #1 – C

Sporting a clever name like Night of the Living Deadpool and plenty of puns and potty humor, this book pits Deadpool against an army of the undead. Basically, if you’ve been waiting on a Deadpool zombie book not titled Marvel Zombies, this is for you. However, you probably haven’t been waiting for said title, so let’s disect the book for what it really is. As interesting as it is to watch Deadpool chop hordes of zombies apart, I got the sense that I’ve read something like this before. As a fan of the Merc With A Mouth, I will likely keep reading the series, but to call this a great series in the making is just too far of a stretch. – S

All-New X-Men #21 – D+

It wasn’t too long ago that Jean Grey and friends burst onto the scene as literal blasts from the past. The emotional shock of Cyclops turning into a felon and the physical shock that Iceman and Beast had when learning of their physical transformation was enough to keep me completely hooked. However, now that the novelty has worn off a bit, the All-New team seems, well, stuck. Battling a group of religious zealots called the Purifiers is just as mundane as it sounds. The potential for good things to happen later will be the sole reason I keep reading, but this arc isn’t doing All-New any favors. – S

GPA by Publisher:

DC Comics: 4 B’s, averaging out to a 3.00

Marvel Comics: 1 A, 6 B’s, 1 C and 1 D, averaging out to a 2.77

Independents: 1 D and 1 B, averaging out to a 2.00

Funniest Panel of the Week:

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Epic Panel of the Week:

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Cover Art of the Week:

Batgirl #27
Batgirl #27

That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!

All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to IDW Comics, image Comics, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment, DC and Marvel for putting out great books.

Written by Sherif ElkhatibTaylor LoweEvan Lowe, Adrian Puryear and Robert Michael

The Walking Dead Review “Dead Weight” S4E7

We open with chess pieces. The Governor is playing the strategy game with Megan again. They are in a new camp with a new group of survivors led by Martinez. Megan studies the board. Phillip Blake, still acting out the part of Brian Heriot, calls Megan “Pumpkin”.  We cut away to where “Live Bait” left off with Martinez pulling Brian and Megan out of the zombie pit. Martinez allows The Governor back to the camp with his brood, under several conditions, “One, I’m in charge. Two, no dead weight. That goes for everyone.”  The scene cuts back to the game. The Governor tells Megan that letting her win wouldn’t be winning – his daddy used to say so.  He also says that his daddy used to beat him in everything, including fisticuffs. Because of his tone, we are led to believe that Philip was an abused child.

We are introduced to a new crew of zombie killing roughnecks, Mitch, Pete, and Alisha. Alisha is  played by actress Juliana Harkavy of Graceland. Mitch is played by actor Kirk Acevedo, best known for his work on HBO’s OZ as Miguel Alvarez. Pete is played by Enver Gjokaj, known for his role as Victor on Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse series. It was exciting to see TV junkie fan favorites in this episode.  I tend to give a series more credibility with known actors, especially  if they come from The Wire! (Dear Tyresse and Bob, please come back into our lives.)  Our new group is scouting the woods with “Brian” in the opening scenes. Sidenote: there’s some history in the book The Rise of the Governor that explains this more thoroughly, but we think that he changes his name because Brian only has one I…. get it?? One EYE! The exchange between Martinez and Philip is tense. Martinez immediately catches on to The Governor’s identity theft scam and plays along. We cut back to The Governor and Megan. The frame widens and just behind Brian is an army tank. Fans of the comic appreciate its significance.  It remains to be seen whether or not that tank will be used to its full capacity.

Well... FUCK.
Well… FUCK.

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead is titled “Dead Weight.”   We find Philip and Lilly clearly in a relationship. Their interaction reminds us of his relationship with Andrea. He deceived both of them. We are made to feel sorry for these women. If only they knew! Brian’s new family of Tara, Megan, and Lilly is dependent on Martinez concealing Brian’s true identity, the diabolical sociopath known as The Governor.

Martinez, Mitch, Pete and Brian go on patrol in the woods, and Mitch clearly doesn’t respect The Governor. He throws a jab at him. “Hey one eye, what you doing?” Brian is focused. We come upon a beheaded body strapped to a tree. The word LIAR is written on a sign and nailed to its torso. Back at camp Tara and Alicia have a flirtatious exchange.  Grrh.  The group finds another body, this time the word RAPIST is nailed to its cadaver. These bodies have led Martinez, Brian, Pete and Mitch to a cabin. MURDERER is nailed to the last body on the porch. They enter the cabin cautiously.  They investigate and are attacked by biters. Brian shows his prowess by saving Pete’s life and reasserting his dominance. The scene is horrid. The severed heads of the bound corpses are rolling about on the cabin floor. We are given no explanation as to why, and it adds to the loss of humanity in this ghoulish nightmare.

And you thought your exes were bad...
And you thought your exes were bad…

Martinez is clearly in charge. He tells The Governor that  he wouldn’t have saved him from the pit if he had been alone. Martinez has lost complete respect for him. He isn’t The Governor’s subordinate anymore. Martinez has made a place for himself now.  The four men spend the night in the cabin. Mitch finds beer and The Governor gives an disapproving  look. One of the funniest lines of the season comes at this point, “I can never tell if he’s winkin’ or blinkin’.” Said in a Southern accent by the gruff Mitch makes for some of the best comedic timing and delivery in the show.  In a tender moment, Mitch reveals that he was an ice cream truck driver turned army tank operator. Pete was at Fort Benning before the turn.  Hooah.

We return back to the camp with the girls. The Governor doesn’t like the conversation between Martinez and Lilly. He is visibly upset when Martinez hints to their past community at Woodbury. Martinez and The Governor clearly are in a pissing match. They are both the alphas. At some point they will have to lock horns.

If you were looking for Bromance, watch Big Bang Theory
If you were looking for Bromance, watch Big Bang Theory

Martinez invites The Governor to his camper.  Drunken, he shoots golf balls from the roof of his RV into the zombie pits. He reveals that Shumpert is dead  and it was Martinez who ended up having to put the bullet in him. Martinez hits the ball into the great beyond, and tells The Governor to grab him another. My how the tables have turned! In my head, all I could think was “Who’s the bitch nooow?” Martinez suggests that they share the crown, and that’s when the fun begins! The Governor clubs him with a 5 iron. It was a swing Elin Nordegren would appreciate. The Governor kicks him over the side of the camper. Once down, he drags Martinez, like dead weight towards the biter pits as The Governor blubbers, “I don’t want it,” The biters pull Martinez into the pit. Martinez is a sacrifice, and the image is almost Christ-like. His arms are spread, as if some macabre stage dive at a concert. The hungry mass pulls him in.

Oh man! Martinez is goin like big-screen TVs on Black Friday!
Oh man! Martinez is goin like big-screen TVs on Black Friday!

The Governor is upset about murdering Martinez. Lilly tries to comfort him, not knowing what he has done. He is conflicted. Pete now wants to control the camp, but is met with discord by the other camp members.  Why on Earth would he want that shit job? One thing that we can rely on in this world is that with enough time, heroes and loose ends meet their maker. Most of the camp look like extras from Duck Dynasty anyway.  Pete seeks Brian for help. They find another camp while on patrol. The three of them, Brian, Pete and Mitch, contemplate robbing the camp. Mitch wants to, but Pete still has morals and shit, and is not prepared to make the hard decisions. The Governor watches and plots. They return back to camp.

The Governor wants to leave . He feels like it isn’t safe. He doesn’t think the interim regime will last. He convinces the girls to leave. Alicia tags along because she and Tara have started a serious relationship, like a day ago.  They leave camp in the night and don’t get far. The road is blocked by biters in quick sand. Stuck in the mud, gruesome and alone, The Governor stands in the car’s  high-beams looking back at the RV of scared women with the biters behind him stuck waist-deep all vying to eat him; the scene is like a comic book  panel or one of those lame “Choose Your Own Adventure” Goosebumps books. They have no choice but to turn back.

Back at camp, The Governor wastes no time and kills Pete by literally stabbing him in the back.  How poetic.  Brian puts on his leather jacket and embraces his true self. He has his Mojo back!  Except that he forgot to pop his collar.  Oh, well.  He immediately goes to Mitch, gun drawn.  He offers a smoke and an opportunity. The nerve! He kills the guy’s brother and then cons him into believing that it was necessary because Pete was weak. The Governor talks about his own brother, a weakling, his first mention in the series. Easter Eggs, galore!!! The Governor tells Mitch a story about stealing his dad’s cigarettes. He and his brother smoked the Lucky Strikes, a clear shout out to Mad Men and Don Draper; plus we see what seems to be a Fleetwood Bounder RV in this episode, a subtle nod to Breaking Bad and Walter White.  Awww, look at AMC sticking together. He tells Mitch, that he won’t need to worry about doing the right thing or wrong thing, because they will do The Only Thing. This implies that morality is Dead Weight in our world and has no place. The two coldly craft a story about Pete’s death. The Governor intentionally doesn’t crack Pete’s skull to keep him “alive” as a biter. He dumps his chained body into a nearby lake. As Pete is reanimated, we see The Governor, standing above his submerged body. He is staring into the water as Pete the Biter tries to reach out of the water for him, much like he did with his heads in the fish tank. Fans of the books know that Phillip did this to keep strong – to erase any fear or doubt. Pete serves the same purpose; he will undoubtedly be visiting him often. Pete has now literally become Dead Weight.

That's cool AMC. Introduce on of our favorite actors from Dollhouse and then kill him. No hard feelings...
That’s cool AMC. Introduce on of our favorite actors from Dollhouse and then kill him. This scene will have him casted for Lady Gaga’s new video in no time.

The Governor is running the show with a  leather jacket and a swag in his step. He gives orders and people willingly follow.  He once again proves his badassery after a Walker wanders into camp and attacks Megan. While the others are unaware of what to do, he blows its head off, with his shirt open, blowing in the wind. It was a defining moment for the camp. He proved that he is the right man in charge. He won’t hesitate when threatened and they can trust him. He is back. With a new confidence The Governor drives his truck out to the prison. He watches Rick and Carl, once again plotting. He walks the perimeter and sees Michonne with Herschel. He raises his gun and…

governor shooter

Hush Comics gives “Dead Weight” a B for its awesome yet predictable portrayal of The Governor’s fall back into crazy. The next episode is the mid season finale entitled “Too Far Gone,” a title shared with the trade paperback of The Walking Dead Volume 13 in the comic series! The comics are far evolved from this point in the storyline that the show parallels, so we’ll see if there’s any connection to it on the mid-season finale. It’s been a wild ride so far.  Come back next week for our recap and review! 

written by John Soweto, Adrian Puryear and Sherif Elkhatib

All images credited to AMC Television

The Walking Dead Review “Live Bait” S4E6

Last week we got to see a side of Herschel that Chuck Norris would be proud of. This week’s The Walking Dead continues with the individual character study and it does not disappoint. Welcome back, Governor! We open on the tail end of Phillip Blake’s bat-shit crazy assassination of his army.  He is tormented. He is defeated and alone. We see him burn Woodbury. He wanders the badlands like a Grateful Dead fan. He looks like a cross between McGuber and Forest Gump on his cross-country jog.  David Morrissey plays the nomadic drifter to perfection, although the 80’s Kurt Russell look doesn’t quite fit him. It is clearly No Shave November. As he walks, we hear a conversation as a voiceover. He is talking to a woman, and the voice sounds eerily like Carol, but we find out later that it may not be. He tells the voice, “I barely got out alive.”  All of this plays out over, The Last Pale Light in the West, by Ben Nichols.

Dodge-A-Walker champion goes to The Governor.
Dodge-A-Walker of the year champion goes to The Governor.

He is in a daze; he appears to not be aware of his surroundings. He comically sidesteps a walker, and it falls to ground. He had the grace of a Summer League Rucker player and continues on his sleepwalker roam until he sees a little girl in the window of a building.

This week’s episode is titled, “Live Bait.”

The Governor walks into the ransacked building and is greeted by a Smith and Wesson and a baseball bat. Completely alert and threatening are two women standing in a doorway, one with a gun aimed at his head, the other in a Jackie Robinson stance. There is a silent exchange; he hands over his bag and weapon. He is allowed to enter their home. We are introduced to Tara, Megan, Lilly and their father. For the true Fanboys these names will have meaning from The Rise of the Governor novel by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga.  Finally, we have comic book, novel and TV crossover all wrapped up into one neat little rotting flesh package. The immediate reaction in the room as we watched was one of shock. The Rise of The Governor is essential to The Walking Dead folklore and we recommend that you pick it up or download it from iBooks.  There are three books in the Governor story arc and they are crucial for understanding Wizard Magazine’s villain of the year 2010. Even more compelling is the fact that he tells them that his name is Brian Heriot, a name that was on a barn he passed while on the road. The use of the name Brian is very significant in the novel and could be seen as forewarning for future events. He is allowed to stay by promising by “pounding it up,” with Tara. We are sure the Obamas would be proud.

The girl’s dad is elderly and on oxygen. Miraculously, his tank is still full. Before the turn he drove for the Gorbelli food company and his truck is parked in the front of the building. This has been their primary food source.

They feed The Governor Spaghettios, and he throws them out in disgust. I guess Herschel’s Spaghetti Tuesday gets one less vote.

After a talk with the father about a game of Backgammon he goes upstairs to retrieve the game, he finds an immobile zombie in a tub, he puts #BathSaltZombie down and takes a gun that was by its side.

Lilly explains to Phillip that her father has Stage 4 lung cancer and he needs oxygen to live. He is nearly out and is dire need. She asks Phillip if he could go on the equivalent of a Taco Bell run and grab some tanks at the near-by retirement home.

He accepts. This benevolent Governor is puzzling.  Why is he doing this for these strangers? What will this ultimately benefit? Doesn’t he have a Michonne to torture and a Rick to kill?

The clinic is filled with zombies in wheelchairs, id-bracelets, and hospital gowns. Ironically they don’t look much different from what you would expect in a hospice. Once again he avoids them like some grotesque game of tag. Terrell Davis had nothing on this guy! Go Broncos!!!

He dodges and closes doors behind him; he has obviously found a way to manage avoiding them with little effort.  He is fearless, but his heroics seem misplaced. Why isn’t he killing zombies? After stirring up the Bingo room he can’t get all of the oxygen tanks out and brings back what he can carry.

He returns to the apartment with two full tanks and goes to his room. Lilly takes care of him and it is clear that they are forming a relationship.

The blonde haired, blued eyed girl seems to be the metaphor for innocence, or salvation in our world. It’s either that or an omen for really bad shit to happen. Megan is a cute little girl who resembles Penny, Sophia and especially Teddy Bear Walker from the very first episode of The Walking Dead Series. She thought the governor was her dad; that’s why she watched him from the building, which ultimately led him to this group of women. Megan’s real father left for a couple of beers and a Powerball ticket before the turn, and we’re guessing he didn’t win.

The Governor has alone time with Megan in the bathroom, but not that kind. She asks what happened to his eye, and he speaks freely to her, more so than any of the others. He says that he was trying to help people and got hurt as a result.

They Pinky Swear to keep the secret about his eye and she “crossed her heart and hoped to die,” but left out the “stick a needle in her eye” part because she probably didn’t want to seem insensitive.

He tells her that he is a pirate with a smile on his face. He laughs, almost in a jovial way and shows the first bit of emotion since the episode began. This tender moment shows us another side of Phillip Blake. He is the governor no more, at least not now.

He is working backwards. He teaches Megan to play chess, now clean-shaven; it seems as if Megan has brought him back to life. As he is explaining the basics it is apparent that he is talking about the events at Woodbury.

The Governor teaches us about the game, too.
The Governor teaches us about the game, too.

“You can lose a lot of soldiers and still win the game,” It’s the king; it’s the guy you want to capture. Megan takes a marker and puts an eye patch on the white king piece. “We start with the pawns.”

AMC does love their White Kings.... when will Don Draper get one?
AMC does love their White Kings…. when will Don Draper get one?

So who do you think is creepier with kids, Carol or Phillip? Phillip is bonding. He gives a jealous look to Lilly when she comes to get Megan as their dad is dying. This brief moment is strange enough to fill our thoughts will all kinds of devious acts that The Governor could be plotting.

As their dad dies and turns, in his reanimated state he grabs for Tara and Phillip smashes his face into the bed with his own oxygen tank. Splat!

Did anyone else notice that Lilly is like a less hot Maggie?

The next scene we find Phillip burying dad in the back. Megan is now fearful of the Governor and hides behind the couch when he comes back inside. Tara pounds him up for saving her life, but he is not concerned with her. Alone he burns the picture of his old family, they are now dead to him, he has found a new family, or has given up on the idea.  He threatens to leave them, but they stay together, taking to the road in the Gorbelli truck like a National Lampoon’s Vacation sequel set in hell.

Tara apologies to Phillip for lying to him about her occupation before the turn.  She asks if Phillip is lying to her, and he says no. His con-game is working; he has earned their trust and can manipulate the situation to suit his needs.

Megan is still afraid of Phillip. This is clearly upsetting him; he has to make things right with his pseudo-daughter.

They travel through the day and stop to rest.  In the back of the truck Lilly allows him to cuddle with her. They kiss, oddly, and seemingly make love. Yuk!

The next morning the truck breaks down and they end up walking. There is a small herd of walkers around the bend in the road, they swarm in hunger as Tara falls and injures her leg. Megan freezes and Phillip calls out to her, she runs to him, and he carries her away from the herd. We made note that he called to her instead of just picking her up because we feel like he wanted her loyalty. This is the long con.

While running they fall into one of his walker traps (Remember those huge pits he was using to build a zombie army?).  He immediately springs into action with the walkers in the pit and pulls a walker’s throat out in a completely badass move. Fatality!

Um. Ouch.
Um. Ouch.

He grabs a femur and uses that to pry the jaw off another walker.  This primal survival tactic seemed to be for Megan’s benefit. Remember, he got really good at avoiding the dead without using force. As he fights Spartacus style in the pit we hear gun fire in the distance. Martinez shows up with his machine gun at the end of the episode and now things should get really interesting. Upon Martinez arrival, he will have to maintain his Brian Heriot persona with Tara and Lilly. He will ultimately have to kill anyone who threatens his identity bluff or continue the deception indefinitely.  

Hush Comics gives “Live Bait” a B+. This episode pulled us deeper into The Walking Dead mythology but left us with more questions. There were epic kills and border-line restraining order behavior with minors. My vote for Governor goes to Brian Heriot.

Stay tuned next week when we recap Dead Weight, and don’t forget to visit our website! This week we have a special message from comic book legend Todd McFarlane!

written by John Soweto

Todd McFarlane said what?!

Hush Comics got the amazing honor of meeting one our all-time heroes yesterday, Todd McFarlane.  Writer John Soweto will say more about that later, but here is what Todd had to say:

Graphic Novel Review – Daredevil: Volume One

Graphic Novel Review: Daredevil: Volume One

CollectingDaredevil #1-13

Original Release Date: 2011-2012

Publisher: Marvel Comics

cries for help

Characters: Daredevil

Writer: Mark Waid (Indestructible HulkKingdom Come)

Artist: Paolo Rivera for issues #1-3 (Marvel’s Mythos) and Marcos Martin for issues #4-6 (Batgirl: Year One, )

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7

Art – 9

Captivity and Length – 9

Identity – 9

Use of Medium – 10

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 10

Intrigue/Originality – 8

The Little Things – 10

Overall awesomeness – 8

hush_rating_87

In the heyday of Marvel Comics, comic books were just plain fun to read. Fans were immersed in new, fun subject content. It was less about making money and more about sharing fantastical ideas with the rest of the world. After a long stagnancy in the market due to super-saturation of content, Marvel looked  to renew interest and create a buzz by rebranding itself with Marvel: NOW! However, the reason for a Daredevil reboot was under quite different circumstances. Coming almost a year earlier, the Daredevil reboot shows our hero coming out of retirement.  We start off with Daredevil about to crash a wedding of a crime lord’s younger daughter, who is in danger of being kidnapped by The Spot, one of Marvel’s more obscure villains. The rest of the story is riddled with undistinguished bad guys and it’s not really quite clear who he’s fighting until several issues in. It’s an interesting choice, but they’re really just there to serve the purpose of Daredevil’s comeback.

Cockblock - Daredevil style.
Cockblockin’ – Daredevil style.

Where Daredevil succeeds is in its consistency in writing and detail. While not the most mind-blowing series debut, Daredevil: Volume One is humorous and filled with action and reflection. Mark Waid does a phenomenal job of keeping readers engaged with clever dialogue and suspenseful action scenes that have you always worried just who is going to make it out alive. Another great choice that Waid made is to focus more on Matt Murdock, the person. Murdock has been “outed” as The Daredevil multiple times throughout the writing history, and Waid deals with it in brilliantly original manner by making it a running joke throughout the book. When you think about it, how could it not be? A blind lawyer is the masked superhero, Daredevil. It’d be like saying Christopher Reeves really was Superman (RIP Christopher Reeves). Murdock definitely shines through as a lawyer, although his outed identity has made it increasingly difficult to use his skills in the courtroom. Without giving away too much detail, Volume One has Murdock spending just as much time in a suit as in one suit as another and it definitely pays off.

secret identities

Of course, there are plenty of moments in the book that remind you that this is Daredevil. You’ll frequently see Murdock jump off of buildings, save children from fires, and take on hoards of bad guys without flinching. One of my favorite scenes is a confrontation that he has with Captain America. Not only does Murdock hold his own against the Super Soldier, but he schools him in the process, taking a ride on his shield to show Rogers just how bad-ass he can be. It doesn’t even take three issues for readers to understand just what kind of man Matt Murdock is, making hardcore fans and newbies alike fall right into the story without trying to figure out who they’re reading about.

Surf's up, Cap.
Surf’s up, Cap.

What really sets Daredevil apart from other books is it’s particular detail to everything. The manner in which his super-skills (I call them skills, not powers, because I consider him a human still, as opposed to characters like Captain America who have been genetically altered and are less “human;” it’s definitely a compliment to Daredevil) are portrayed on page is unlike I’ve ever seen. Not even the great Ben Affleck could depict super-sight as well as Rivera and Martin do. Murdock constantly comments on the things people eat, smell and sound like, using it to help his career as both a lawyer and a masked vigilante. One of the coolest things I’ve seen in comics, though, is how everything he hears is a resounding onomatopoeia. It’s detail like that found in the picture below that makes you really understand the sensory overload Daredevil has to go through constantly.

noises

While seasoned fans will appreciate the continuity of all the events that had Murdock disappearing at the end of “Shadowland” and poising a comeback in 2011’s Daredevil: Rebirth. the events of Volume One can, at times, be lost on the casual reader. While Waid does try to bring readers up to speed with short back-stories and off-hand insight, it doesn’t quite feel like a fresh start. It’s going to be a struggle with any character that’s been written for almost fifty years, but Waid does a pretty good job of keeping the focus off the big villains and plot twists, and instead focuses on immersing the reader in character insight and building the foundation of a more enveloped story to come. It’s a thoroughly entertaining book and I would recommend it to anybody who isn’t afraid to jump into the deep end with a character they might not know to well.

no fear

General Reception: Daredevil is regarded as one of the most consistently good books Marvel has in their line-up. Along with HawkeyeDaredevil does a very good job of balancing super-hero time with secret identity depth. It’s a unique quality seldom found in superhero books and it does the subject matter justice.

Related Books: If you like Daredevil, a great place to start is Daredevil: Yellow by Jeph Loeb and Daredevil: Visionaries by Frank Miller

More by the writer: Mark Waid has been around for a while and done some great work, but it wasn’t recently with Marvel that he’s gotten the proper respect he deserves. And now he’s pumping out great issue after issue with Daredevil (one of the few series that was not canceled with the Marvel NOW! reboot), and Indestructible Hulk. For some of his back-catalog, he and Alex Ross wrote the legendary Kingdom Come, an epic tale about DC’s heroes coming out of retirement to put the new generation of super-heroes in their place. He also had his hand in pretty much anything with the Flash’s name on it during the 1990’s and wrote the DC series 52, specializing in obscure characters and their emergence after the Trinity (Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) disappeared. The list goes on from there, but it needs to be said that this guy is a comic book legend and his whole catalog is worth exploring.

More by the artist:

Paolo Rivera actually won an Eisner Award for his work on issue #7 in Daredevil and has done covers for over twenty different Marvel titles in the past five years. His most accomplished work was the Marvel Mythos six-issue mini-series, in which Rivera hand-painted the entire run. Mythos is considered a great starting point for its subjects (which include Hulk, Ghost Rider, Spiderman, X-Men, Captain America and the Fantastic Four), and are no doubt a must-have for any new fans searching for origin stories.

Marcos Martin gained a lot of popularity for the beautiful art in the Batgirl: Year One story, using a dark and edgy style that portrayed Batgirl as a capable character and no longer Jim Gordon’s daughter. Martin also drew for Doctor Strange: The Oath, in which he has to solve the mystery of his own murder from beyond the grave. Pretty heavy stuff. On the creative side, Martin also helped create Breach, a Dr. Manhattan/Captain Atom ripoff that was canceled after eleven issues… so there’s that.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to Marvel Comics for the images.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant

Graphic Novel Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (new) Volume 1: Change is Constant

Collecting: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1-4

Original Release Date: 2012

Publisher: IDW Comics

Reboot? Naw... Re-imagining!
Reboot? Naw… Re-imagining!

Characters: the heroes in a halfshell! Donatello, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Splinter, Old Hob, April O’Neil, Chet Allen, Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones

Writer(s): Kevin Eastman (original TMNT co-creator), Tom Waltz

Artist(s): Kevin Eastman, Dan Duncan

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 9
Art – 9
Captivity and Length – 9
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 10
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 10

hush_rating_92

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s like we did, you grew up loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While everybody might have a favorite picked out, No turtle was better than the other. And with a new animated series that’s actually worth something and a video-game to accompany it (review on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows by the end of September!), the heroes in a half-shell look to be making a full comeback, giving older and younger generations a subject to bridge them together. Change is Constant is both a love letter to original comic book series that started with two friends and $1,000 – co-creator Kevin Eastman was actually asked to come back to help launch the series. While older fans can relish in nostalgia, there’s enough surprise to keep even the most well-read fans wondering what is going on. It’s a growing trend in the industry right now that I love: re-imagining popular concepts in different mediums instead of just adding a modern and unrealistic spin on an already polished idea (ie – the opposite of Total Recall).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant

The new TMNT series has a distinctively science-fiction vibe, with the turtles’ transformation not being due to a freak accident, but rather a laboratory experiment. April O’Neil is a lab intern who actually gets the credits for naming the four turtles. The mutagen is being tested by none other than Baxter Stockman, the bitter black nerd with a chip on his shoulder. He’s employed by another legendary TMNT villain, but I won’t spoil that. You also get to meet Casey Jones, who along with April, are both high school students at this point. While their backgrounds differ from the origin story of the movie and the comics, their personalities feel very familiar to the past 20 years.

meet the turtlesoh the feisty one

Readers jump right into a gang fight between the turtles and Old Hob, a newly created character that has some personal hatred invested in the turtles and Splinter. A fight scene is always the best way to introduce a bunch of ninjas. Old Hob is a dirty player and a goon, but there’s more to his story than the writers let on to. As the main villain of Change is Certain, Old Hob is an important catalyst in the turtles’ development. He’s had a hard life, and he wants the turtles to pay for it both physically and emotionally. As his name leads on (Old Hob is a Middle English reference for a goblin or demon), Hob plays Devil’s Advocate between the humans and the mutants for his own benefit, or just to watch the destruction of others. He’s a great character in the making, and you can tell by the end of the story that his role is far from complete.

Pot Meet Kettle

My favorite thing about the new TMNT series is how it can feel like an adult book and a pre-teen book at the same time. The spot-on art of Dan Duncan pays tribute to the dark, Frank Miller-inspired days of the past, but the writing  can be hilarious and witty. I feel that this is a quality that makes all iterations of the Turtles accessible and why it can make a comeback in any generation. To expand on the art, this artist is pretty much brand new, being a TMNT fanboy all his life. Passion bleeds from Duncan’s work on every panel, and although it might not be the most beautiful artwork in the industry, you can definitely tell that Duncan channeled his inner-Eastman, conveying grit and emotion perfectly.

baby gangsters

One key element of the story is that the turtles do not start four-strong. From the very beginning, Raphael is alone, angry and afraid. But mostly angry. For a majority of the book, the other three brothers have to fight through old Hob and the rest of the city to find their lost brother. It’s a twist that tugs at the heart strings so hard, seeing the turtles missing their brother. There is some good that comes of it though; Raphael finds his own path, but it eventually crosses with that of a hockey enthusiast. The bond that Raph and Casey form in this world is much more friendship than it is hardcore rivalry.

It's party time.
It’s party time.

Long story short, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume 1: Change is Constant is more than just a tribute, and more than just a reboot. The new TMNT series is all heart, and it has a brand new story to tell. Nostalgia runs deep, as does the passion of bringing back a franchise that had been buried deep in the closets of Hot Topic for over a decade. The art is crisp and fitting of the dark origins of the turtles. The personalities of all the characters shine through the pages, as even characters you’ve never seen before come to life. The turtles are back, y’all! Go, Ninja, go!

change is the only constant

Related Books: The original TMNT series is a great place to start, but if you loved this re-imagination as much as I did, check out Volume 2: Enemies Old, Enemies New

More by the writer: Kevin Eastman is the man who co-created TMNT, he also had a run with Heavy Metal Magazine. He split with co-founder Peter Laird and sold out, but was invited back to help re-introduce the franchise to a new generation. Tom Waltz is a senior editor at IDW that has worked on titles from GhostbustersSilent Hill, etc.

More by the artist: Dan Duncan is a brand new artist that started his career because of the turtles; what a dream to work beside the legendary Kevin Eastman. After drawing the first two books, he is currently an animator for Marvel’s new Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H. television series.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

Graphic Novel Review: Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

CollectingDeadpool: Merc With A Mouth #1-13

Original Release Date: 2009-2010

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth

Characters: Deadpool, Headpool

Writer: Victor Gischler (Gun Monkeys)

Artist: Bong Dazo

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 10
Intrigue/Originality – 7
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 8

hush_rating_80

For one second, let’s forget that X:Men Origins ever existed. Let’s pretend you have no idea who Deadpool is. He doesn’t have saber-arms like Baraka from Mortal Kombat, he doesn’t shoot frickin’ lasers out of his face. And above all, his mouth is definitely not sewn shut. Deadpool the comic book character is something very different. He’s an immature adrenaline junkie that hires out his mercenary services out to the highest bidder and talks a lot in the process. This can be an endearing quality, but it can also come off as juvenile and annoying. For better or worse, though, Merc With A Mouth is a Deadpool book the whole way through.

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Merc With A Mouth starts off with Deadpool taking a mercenary job to bring back a package to A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), which Wolverine has described as “an organized group of international science-terrorists. You know, like one of those Japanese techno-apocalypse cults? They recruit the kinda brilliant geeks and brainy outsiders who want revenge for not getting any booty (New X-Men #143).” Deadpool heads off to the prehistoric Savage Land to retrieve the package, discovering along the way that the package is (don’t laugh) his own zombified head from an alternate universe. It’s a story that makes absolutely no sense, and it doesn’t have to. Deadpool has garnered a cult following and it’s not because of his cerebral storylines. He’s a loyal and simple fellow who loves random junk food (Fresca is choice in this book), but can still kick butt when needed. Deadpool is also a big fan of the ladies and violence, stealing the hearts of the inner sixteen-year olds in men and the women that find sixteen year-olds attractive in a horny dog kind of way

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Spanning thirteen issues, Merc With A Mouth is a high-octane ride full of violence and wiener jokes at the surface. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find lots of boob jokes. Dig even deeper though, and you will find clever writing that uses pop culture references to carry the bulk of its transitions and comebacks. It’s these little nuances that really break up the story. The satirical approach to everything from The Walking Dead to Star Wars makes it seem like Deadpool has a genuinely good time throughout the story, which is refreshing after reading so many books about internal struggle and the torment of having powers. In fact, each issue’s cover in the arc is parodied from an iconic film poster and references are made throughout the book. Still today, Deadpool pokes fun at iconic ideas and pop culture references by showing up on random Marvel Comics’ variant covers. Really, Deadpool is just around to have a good time. Along those lines, one should align expectations with that concept when reading the book.

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In terms of continuity, you’re kinda just gonna have to pick this stuff up as it goes. Unlike flagstaff characters in Marvel and DC, Deadpool’s continuity is all over the place. Basically, when reading Merc With A Mouth, if you feel like you missed something, it’s probably just because you did. The series that ties the closest into Merc With A Mouth is Marvel Zombies, but you don’t need it to understand the concept of this book, but rather to accept the ludicrous notion that somehow, Deadpool’s severed head is out there running amok. Notably, Merc With A Mouth also introduces some of the more memorable alternate universe Deadpools, Headpool and Lady Deadpool, as well as the Deadpool Kid (not to be confused with the kid Deadpool, Kidpool) and Major Wilson. One of my favorite things that Merc With A Mouth does with its presentation is that, on each issue, there is a one-page recap that is both informative and hilarious, helping readers kind of get an idea of what just happened in previous issues.

The main thing to take away from Merc With A Mouth is that not every comic book needs ground-breaking art or, hell, even a cohesive story. Sometimes all you need is an infallible character and a heap of charisma to make a story work. It’s a fun, thrilling ride of fourth-wall-breaking goodness. While the banter between himself (and the voices in his head) and the other characters can feel repetitive and forced, the book relies on its story’s frequent change of scenery and need to make fun of itself to really carry the story. You won’t be blown away by it’s storyline or art, but you will be thoroughly amused and entertained.

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General Reception: Merc With A Mouth is generally considered a good place to start for fans who would like to get to know more about Deadpool as a comic book character. While the Marvel: NOW! reboot is kinda of floating around with no real direction, this book has a definitive storyline that at least holds up true to the Deadpool character. However, a seasoned comic book fan can still pick up on the subtle references that newbies may not understand. I would recommend this book to anybody who would like to get into Deadpool or anybody who can read a comic book casually without the expectations of our  anything too great.

Related Books: Right after Merc With A Mouth ends, the Deadpool Corps storyline begins, comprised up of multiple Deadpools to save the word from Skrulls and other ridiculous baddies.

More by the writer: Victor Gischler returns to write the first two Deadpool Corps’ collected editions. He also writes the first 26 issues of the 2010 X-Men series.

More by the artist: There’s not too much out there by Bong Dazo, but his two favorite subjects to draw are Star Wars and Deadpool,

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Batman: Hush

Graphic Novel Review: Batman: Hush

CollectingBatman #608-619

Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: DC Comics

Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.
Batman: Hush brings in the whole cavalry.

Characters: Batman, Hush, Catwoman

Writer: Jeph Loeb (Batman: Dark VictorySuperman/Batman #1-26, Spiderman: BlueHulk: GrayDaredevil: Yellow)

Artist(s): Jim Lee (X-MenSuperman: UnchainedWildC.A.T.S.), Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair (inker and colorist, respectively, that work with Lee)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 10
Art – 10
Captivity and Length – 10
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 10
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 10
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 10

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DISCLAIMER: I will start this by saying that Batman: Hush is hands-down my favorite graphic novel ever. It’s the second graphic novel I ever read and, ultimately, what inspired me to delve deeply into the world of comics. I have two tattoos dedicated to what this book means to me and it’s part of the inspiration behind our name, Hush Comics. That being said, I will try not to blow too much smoke up your butts, because if you haven’t read it for yourself, I don’t want to ruin the experience.

Batman: Hush uses the entire spectrum of the Batverse to tell a sophisticated story about the emergence of a new cerebral villain into the Rogues Gallery and explores the quasi-romantic relationship between Batman and Catwoman. Hush also marks the return of one of Bruce Wayne’s wards, whose previous death marked his greatest failure as the Batman. It spans the length of twelve issues to tell its story, twice as long as traditional six-issue story arcs; with a plot as involved as this one, this allows Loeb space to create a non-formulaic, dynamic graphic novel. This is also a book that both seasoned comic nerds and people new to comics can be receptive to. Hush does a great job of not making you feel like an idiot because every scene portrays the adequate background information to understand what is going on – something that is the exception more than the rule in comics nowadays.

I always feel that writers of Batman books have an automatic leg up because the Batman of the last twenty years always has the answers, always knows what to do, and the writer usually coasts on it. Jeph Loeb takes the task one step further and helps you identify with the man behind the mask. You realize that Batman has been through a lot of trauma and stress, and although he’s the most badass superhero on the planet on the outside, he still struggles with the same things we do: who to love, who to trust, etc. This vulnerability is accomplished by a steady flow of personal monologue that narrates each panel with Bruce’s (sorry, spoiler?) inner thoughts. Each character, and there are a lot of them, has a distinct voice and personality. Long-time fans will also take note that the cast is scripted quite well. Nothing seems out of place or character in the writing and there is enough suspense to keep the reader from knowing what will happen next. The new villain is cunning and knows just where to hit Batman to make it hurt. This type of strategical villain with a large cast hasn’t been portrayed this well since Bane in Batman: Knightfall.

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The artwork from the legendary Jim Lee is what really won me over here. Jim Lee, now co-publisher of DC Comics, constructs vividly detailed panels that range from small transitional fight scenes to full-page beauties like the one below (Kissing the Knight). Lee’s team, Alex Sinclair, color, and Scott Williams, ink, add to the already beautiful pencilwork. The team switches up colors and even mediums throughout the book when it suits the mood, helping the reader transition between scenes. All of Lee’s drawings are crisp and have an edgy yet realistic appearance. With so much detail spent on each panel, Jim Lee and his team guide the reader through a completely immersive environment.

DC Comics Batman Hush Kissing the Knight B&W

Batman: Hush can be viewed as a stand-alone story, but fits in the old Batman continuity pretty nicely. Since launching The New 52 in 2011, DC has pretty much abandoned any continuation of the Batman-Catwoman romance (except for two awful smut-filled issues of The New 52 Catwoman) and there hasn’t been an appearance of Hush in any titles yet. Don’t let this discourage you from reading though, as there is tons of dialogue and events that coincide with other milestones in past Batman publications. There are a few different books written with Hush as the main villain, most notably Hush Returns and Heart of Hush, but these do not boast the big time writers or artists that this book does, and the story feels a little forced in the romance department, but it’s still a decent read. Overall I’d say that while it reads best as a stand-alone story, there are enough bat-nuances to make you want to get deeper into the Batman lore.

General Reception: You will find Batman: Hush on DC Entertainment’s Essential Graphic Novels list and it’s for good reason. An all-encompassing story that spans all of your favorite Batman villains, sidekicks and introduces enough new elements to tell a tale that both seasoned veterans and comic book rookies can all the same. The characters’ dialogue and actions seem familiar without giving away any of the plot twists throughout the book. There are a ton of different transitions in Hush, giving each scene a distinct ambiance by Jim Lee and his brilliant art team.

Related Books: Hush ReturnsHeart of HushFaces of Evil/Hush Money and Batman Beyond: Hush Beyond (kinda). Hush also makes appearances in videogames LEGO Batman 2 and Arkham CityBatman: Hush has recently been repackaged in Batman: Hush Unwrapped, featuring the sketch-work of Jim Lee. I wouldn’t recommend buying this version first, but if you read Hush the first time through and fall in love with Jim Lee’s art like I did, it’s a sensible purchase. Published in 2011, Absolute Batman: Hush is a completely over-sized version of the original with all its glory. It’s loaded with extras but it’s pretty pricey, so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you are a big-time collector or really love the story.

More by the writer: In terms of Batman books, Loeb has written acclaimed mystery crime graphic novels Batman: The Long Halloween and its sequel, Batman: Dark Victory. Loeb has also written Marvel books in the color-themed Daredevil: YellowSpiderman: BlueHulk: Grey and Captain America: White. He’s also worked on Superman/BatmanHulk and Cable series.

More by the artist: If you’re looking for more recent Jim Lee work, look to the first two New 52 Justice League story arc and the ongoing Superman: Unchained. His most distinguished works are X-Men: Mutant GenesisAlpha Flight and WildC.A.T.S., the latter being a series that he created when he left Marvel to help create Image Comics with the likes of Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, and others.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib