Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Read This!!! Punk Rock Jesus

Welcome back readers.  I tried a different formula for what I chose to read this time around.  I asked my wonderful wife to pick something out that she thought sounded interesting for me to read.  I did this because I know that I have certain tastes, and I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on some good reads because of those tastes.  What she picked was a book I have heard about but never really gave it a second look.  Why? I don’t really know.  So on to my review.

Punk Rock Jesus
Written and Drawn by Sean Murphy
Released by Vertigo

Punk Rock Jesus is a pretty complex book that tackles some really heavy themes.  It’s about a corporation in the near future that decides to make a clone from DNA found on the Shroud of Turin, which they place into the womb of a teenage virgin named Gwen so that they can film the life of “The Second Coming of Christ” everyday from the day he is born.  It is pretty clear right out the gate that the exec in charge of the day to day of the show could care less what happens to Gwen as long as his ratings and Chris, the clone, are controlled the way he believes they should be.

Chris and anyone else to do with the show are kept locked away on a island “for their safety”, and not allowed to have contact with anybody off of the island.  Well except the scientist that performed the cloning procedure.  Who has the right to go home every night.  As could be expected the stress of being the mother of Chris starts to take it’s toll on Gwen causing her to fall into extreme fits of depression and turn to alcohol and substance abuse.  Leaving the scientist and her daughter who is the same age as Chris to help him cope with the life he was born into.  But as time goes on and Chris learns more and more of who and what he is supposed to be Gwen just keeps getting further and further over the edge.

Eventually Gwen goes so far over the edge that she is removed from the show and Chris’s life.  But on her way out she asks Thomas the ex IRA member who is head of security.  Finally Chris hits his breaking point and starts rebelling against the corporation behind the show.  He learns to hack the holographic teaching system and gains access to all of the knowledge they had kept from him.  He discovers punk and rock music through vinyls that belong to Thomas.  All of his rebellions lead to Chris to questioning the existence of god and even the DNA used to make him.

Chris gets free of his captors and becomes the frontman of a punk band that he had been listening to called the Flack Jackets.  He uses his new found voice to spread his message about his questions of faith and the governments corruption of the system.  

Thomas is a very interesting character to this series.  His backstory ends up as the perfect counterbalance to Chris.  He spent time with the IRA until a simple bomb to send a message takes the life of a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time.  An event that leads him to make a vow to never take another life.

Sean Murphy really tackles some heavy subject matter in Punk Rock Jesus.  HE touches on the ethics of cloning.  The way that television can use reality shows to exploit and control the participants of the shows.  He even throws in a commentary on the religious groups who manipulate the bible to make it a weapon against whoever and whatever they want.But the best part is the fact that even that Sean Murphy unfolds the story so that the reader can interpret the messages of the story their own way.

It should be no surprise that the art in Punk Rock Jesus is breathtaking.  What was amazing though is that the lack of color in the art makes it even more beautiful than all of the other books I have read with Sean Murphy on art.  And Murphy really knows how to make the reader feel an emotion at any moment.  Whether it be sadness, anger, confusion, etc.  The layouts Murphy uses are complex, but easy to follow.  Another amazing thing about Sean Murphy’s art is his ability to properly use the splash page.  Which is often times abused in modern comics.

Rating: 5 Out Of 5

This was a real treat to me.  I am really glad I asked my wife to choose a book for me to read.  Because I may have never got around to picking this one up if I hadn’t.  I wouldn’t suggest this title to just anyone.  I feel it is a lot like Preacher in the fact that the religious context could offend somebody who is not open to having their beliefs questioned.

Thanks again to all of my readers.  If you have any questions or comments or suggestions of more books to checkout, please post them in the comments section.  And as always, keep reading comics fans.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Review of The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Vol. 1

This week I finally wade deep into the waters of a Marvel character I know very little about.  I have heard really good things about this particular run however.  Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker team-up with a long list of artists to bring back a very under utilized character.

The Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Vol. 1
Written By Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker
Art By David Aja, Tonci Zonjic, Travel Foreman, Howard Chaykin, Mike Allred, and Nick Dragotta.
Released By Marvel Comics

As I mentioned before, other than a couple of reprint issues of Heroes For Hire from the 70’s, I have very little experience with the character of Iron Fist.  But being a really big fan of what both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction have done for struggling characters.  And having been told on many occasions that this run was a must read I decided to pick up the first volume of the complete collection that Marvel released in 2013.  

Danny Rand is the Immortal Iron Fist, the protector of the ancient city of K’un Lun.  But what does that really mean for Danny Rand?  That is the focus of this series.  Even Danny doesn’t doesn’t fully understand who and what being Iron Fist truly means in the grand scheme.  That is until he meets Orson Randall, the previous Iron Fist who actually has a tie to Wendell Rand, Danny’s Father.  Orson has been the Iron Fist for decades, but abandoned his role after fighting too many battles in the name of both Earth and K’un Lun.  The final straw being his obligation to fight in a tournament against the champions of the other six heavenly cities, known as The Immortal Weapons.  Orson comes out of hiding to teach Danny what the legacy of the Iron Fist really is through a book with the stories of every Iron Fist before him.  

It is through this book that the story really develops.  Often starting an issue with a tale of one of the many Iron Fists of the past.  The book also helps danny to learn new techniques that the power of the Iron Fist allows him to do.  Such as the ability to quickly heal himself through a type of meditation.  

Before long Rand is neck deep in a war that has been brewing since the early days of Orson Randall’s turn as the Iron Fist.  A war that forces Danny to return to K’un Lun to fight in the ancient tournament.  But it also puts all of his friends at risk.  Including the man that fronts Rand Industries day to day for Danny.  Once Danny returns to the ancient city he finds that there are events set in motion that will change all of the seven cities of heaven.  Events that lead Danny to the truth of what happened between Orson and his father.  As well as why his father never took the mantle of Iron Fist.  All of this is only the beginning of everything that takes place in this series.  There are even some great cameos by Misty Knight and Luke Cage.

Each of the writers brings something to the mix.  Matt Fraction brings in the humor that he has become known for with Hawkeye.  And Ed Brubaker brings his knack for noir and intrigue.  But at the same time the two work really well together.  Never did it feel that the writers were competing to express their visions of where the story should go.  

As for art.  Aja carries a majority of the weight.  But all of the artists get a chance to shine.  Aja gets all of the main story pages, and he carries it well.  Aja brings in some great panel layouts and concepts to show the passage of time.  There were a couple of concepts for layouts that he uses again in Hawkeye.  Most of the other artists are used for the stories of the other Iron Fists.  Except for Howard Chaykin, who was the only artist on the Iron Fist Annual.  A true credit to the artists is that with all of the art changes it never really suffers.  Each artist brings their own flavor to their part and it all adds up to a beautiful bigger picture.

Ratings: 4.5 Out Of 5.
I highly suggest this book to anyone who hasn’t already read it.  It mixes the best of kung fu flicks and spy movies, with a very unique sense of humor.

Thanks for reading my review.  If you have any comments on the review or suggestions of other books to read, please leave them in the comments section.  And as always.  Keep reading comics fans.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review of Green Arrow: Year One

Welcome back fellow readers.  This week I have a series I have been meaning to read for a while now.  It is in my eyes the basis for the version of Oliver Queen from Arrow, as well as the newest origin for the Green Arrow character.

Green Arrow: Year One
Written By Andy Diggle
Art By Jock
Released By DC Comics

It begins with Oliver Queen and an associate Hackett, who is helping him to find his next big thrill in the frozen tundra.  It is obvious from the first panel that Oliver is nothing more than a spoiled orphan running from all responsibility and pain in his life.  Oliver is reckless and almost gets himself killed by rushing across an ice bridge that can’t handle his weight.  Within the first three pages you get all the backstory you need about Oliver and Hackett’s relationship and where Oliver is in his life.  

But Oliver’s spoiled rich kid antics don’t end there.  While Oliver and Hackett are attending a charity event for Star City Drug Rehabilitation Center, Oliver has a little too much to drink and bids one hundred thousand dollars for an archery set that belonged to the archery double for Errol Flynn.  After such a generous bid, Oliver is asked to give a speech.  But in his drunken state he makes a fool of himself and insults most of the local socialites.  When he sobers up and realizes the mistakes he made Oliver decides to take a trip with Hackett to make an illegal business real estate investment that Hackett was going to handle for him.  What Oliver doesn’t know is that Hackett was going to run away with his money with no plans on returning.  By being on the trip, Hackett now has to get him “out of the way”.  So Hackett knocks him out and dumps him overboard figuring that he would drown or a shark would get him, since he couldn’t bring himself to kill Oliver like he was supposed to.

When Oliver comes to, he is alone on a island with nothing but the clothes on his back.  He moves inland in hopes of finding fresh water and shelter, but only finds a burned out fishing village.  But in the wreckage of the village he finds the parts neccesary for making a crudely made bow and arrow.  He teaches himself to hunt and make fires so he can eat and boil water.  It doesn’t express how long Oliver is on the island before it happens, but after sometime Oliver spots a plane over the island.  When he attempts to signal the plane it circles back around and attempts to kill him.  But he manages to shoot it down, which leads him to find an opium farm at the center of the island.  A opium farm run by the infamous China White and Oliver’s old friend Hackett.  Oliver gets injured in the following battle, leaving him with a broken arm and a few bullet wounds.  He is once again left unconscious.  

When he wakes up this time he is being nursed by one of the slaves of the opium farm.  She resets his arm and gives him opium for the pain then leaves him promising to come back the next day if she can slip away from the fields unnoticed.  Through repeated visits Oliver becomes hooked on the opium, and learns that the slaves believe he is the savior they have been waiting for. The “Auu Lanu Lau’ava”  or Green Arrow.  I won’t ruin the rest of the story, but it really builds a backstory that would explain why Oliver becomes the man that he becomes.  

Diggle really brings out the heart of the character of Oliver Queen.  He takes a character that was created as a Batman rip-off and gives him a fresh origin that makes him completely unique.  He makes the transition of Oliver from a spoiled rich kid to a selfless hero of the people relatable and compelling.  Even though it is pretty well known how the story of Oliver Queen goes, Diggle makes the journey  interesting.  

As for the art.  Jock brings his top game.  It isn’t the dark style that Jock is known for.  But that style wouldn’t work for this book in my opinion.  He composes some pretty dynamic panel layouts, and when the action picks up his art really brings a frenetic pace to the pages.  

Rating:  5 out of 5
This arc has to be one of the best Green Arrow stories I have ever read.  Second only to Longbow Hunters in my eyes.  Diggle and Jock made such a good team and really remade the character well.  I want to try something different this time around and throw in some suggestions for other stories to read.

If you liked this arc or are just interested in reading some good stories of Green Arrow these are the books I would suggest.
Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters by Mike Grell
Oliver and Dina move to Seattle to open a florist shop.  And are drawn into an investigation into a murderer.  This arc was the first series to show Oliver abandoning the trick arrows for plain old steel tipped arrows.
Green Arrow: Quiver By Kevin Smith and Phil Hester
Oliver is returned from the dead, but he doesn’t realize that he ever died.  And when he reconnects with the JLA they find that his memory is missing some key events from his life.
And if you are interested in reading another great book by Andy Diggle I would highly suggest
Silent Dragon By Andy Diggle and Francis Lenil Yu
A futuristic Yakuza tale about a high ranking lieutenant in the Yakuza organization who is killed for loving the bosses girl.  But he is given a second chance through a robotic body to go back into the Yakuza and exact his revenge.

As always.  Thank you for reading my review.  If you have any comments or recommendations for books you would like to see me review please leave a comment.  And as always, keep reading comics fans.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: Manhattan Projects Volume 1

Hello readers.  It’s been awhile since I have posted due to the busy holiday season.  But I am back with a special review.

From the moment I heard reviews of the first issue of Manhattan Projects I swore I would never read it.  I couldn’t tell you why.  But it rubbed me wrong how everybody raved about how amazingly genius it was.  I admit that my logic seems flawed and that I come across very hipster in this decision.  But in my defense I am also not a huge fan of most of Hickman’s books.  They are all a little too high concept for me.

Manhattan Projects Vol. 1
Written By Jonathan Hickman
Art By Nick Pitarra
Released By Image Comics

Manhattan Projects is a lot more interesting than I ever expected.  Taking the basics of the true story of it’s namesake and rewriting it with a much more fantasy twist.  In the version the book shows the atomic bomb was just a cover project for bigger things.  Such as alternate realities, alien empires, Artificial Intelligences and Stargate-esque teleportation.  

The players in the grand game of the series are a superteam of scientific genius’ from all over the world.  You have Oppenheimer, who is actually the evil twin of the Oppenheimer that history remembers.  And he eats the brains of other beings to gain their knowledge.  Albert Einstein, who is revealed to be an alternate reality version.  Von Braun the Nazi scientist, but with a robotic arm.  Who defects to America to save himself and with the hope of getting to move his science forward under the Manhattan Projects.  Among others.

The story is only getting started in this first volume, much like most of Hickmans books, so I really don’t know where the series is headed in the big picture.  But what little bit is revealed in this volume has some real potential.  Hickman puts together a deep world of some pretty dark science, and it’s effects on life and war.  I get the feeling that he is setting up a deeper message of whether we should do something just because we can.  But that could be me projecting my feelings on how science moves forward sometimes with little thought of the repercussions.

The art of Nick Pitarra is a real treat.  It is rough around the edges in a beautiful way.  Pitarra makes it really easy to follow even when the craziest of situations is being portrayed.  And with the help of Jordie Bellaire’s color work, the multiple pathways and personalities of characters are brought out perfectly into a clear story.

Rating:  4 Out Of 5

I was pleasantly surprised by Manhattan Projects.  It took concepts that I have very little prior knowledge or interest in and made me interested for the time I was reading it.  That said though I probably won’t be rushing out to read the next volume.  Maybe next time my local comic shop has a sale I will pick up more, but it’s just not a huge priority.  

This year I want to really devote more time to making Once Upon A Longbox a bigger outlet.  So I am really welcoming on recommendations for me to read and review.  If anyone has anything that they think I might enjoy, or even if it is just a book you are really enjoying but it doesn’t get the credit you feel it deserves send it my way.  As always thanks for reading my review.  And keep reading fellow comic fans.