Archive | July, 2011

Will the real Captain America please stand up?

30 Jul

Jack Kirby (& heirs) Vs. Marvel Comics

Yes, I am going there. But for all the right reasons. For a little while now, a court case has been under way to get back the rights or at least get royalties from Marvel Comics for the late Jack ‘King’ Kirby and his heirs from the 100s of millions made from creations which without Kirby would not exist, such as Hulk, Fantastic Four, and oh, that money spinner, X-Men. Every comic fan/reader must know about Kirby for it goes without saying, that he is as important to American/Western comics as Leonardo Da Vinci is to modern art and as Anant Pai was to Indian comics.

 As you may or may not be aware of, this past week saw the final verdict given on the decades long struggle between the estate of Jack Kirby and Marvel Comics -which is owned by Disney.  The court ruled ‘legally’ in favor of Marvel Comics. And therefore all rights to Kirby’s work will remain in the hands of Marvel to do as they see fit and as with any powerhouse they have every right to. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool has been so cool as to place the entire ruling up for all fans and interested parties to read for themselves. So, I am not gonna try and explain the legal fine print here in this column, but do have a read for yourselves. It will give you a good understanding of how far things have come.

Capt. America #1

For years, to all of us who have/had been Marvel Comics fans due to the great ensemble of superhero and mutant books put out by the stable. The company for years helped various artists and writers to break into the medium in the USA. Having grown into a pop culture icon, Stan Lee has taken the characters Jack created in a whole new universe. Just look at the movies, toys and over the top branding of the recent Thor and now Captain America, both were also co-created by Kirby.
Loyalist and those who believe a person should get recognition for his creations and royalties paid, especially in this age of multi-million dollar lawsuits, and brands which could easily buy some countries around the globe, should at least step aside from the legal decision now that its over,  and look to rectify to the Kirby Heirs and to us, as consumers who indirectly allow an injustice to continue by allowing a man like Jack Kirby to continue (even after his passing), to be treated as a Coolie, carrying the bags of Marvel Comics while others reap of his work, slaving for a company, he felt, had for years mistreated him.

‘King’ Kirby

As both a writer and artist, not trying to say I am anything of any import among these giants, when I hear about someone who is unfairly treated by companies, I get angry, for lack of a better description. As part of my Bachelors Degree in Digital Filmmaking we discussed at length over ownership rights and work for hire and creations made and or, written whilst in the employ of a company, as the legals issues seem not to allow for creator rights in certain situations, (make sure you read the fine print). You see the law is always clear cut when it comes to who owns what, when and also how long for. But what it sometimes seems to ignore is the emotions, creative passions and angst which comes with trying to bring about something out of thin air.
In this case Marvel Comics have won, and also we must remember as has Disney. The losers are of course, Jack Kirby, who just doesn’t seem to catch a break and his heirs.

   Now I am not saying that the fault lies with Marvel Comics or the Kirby Heirs here, but its a done deal. A loser and a winner. But, I as a comic fan and creator feel something needs to be done here for Jack. Its time to let the world know that without him American Comics would not be the rich green pasture it is today and that those comic characters would not have the same appeal they did for fans before us and those who will follow.  But it would behove, Stan Lee to at least set the record straight and put the matter to rest as to who did what and when, now that the gavel has fallen. Lets have a clean slate. Jack Kirby will always be King.

(ARU), Aruneshwar has just finished his Bachelors Degree in Digital Media -Digital Film-making.
Having decided to become a teacher so he can see the world, he has just begun a
Diploma in Digital Media -Multimedia. On the creative side Aru,
is writing and illustrating a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery of
Indians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. He is a prolific script writer and writes in all comic
book genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,
Rising Sun Comics.

Batman: The Killing Joke Deluxe Edition Hardcover

30 Jul

Writer: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland (2nd story)
Artist: Brian Bolland
Collects: Batman: The Killing joke, with a short story by Brian Bolland from Batman: Black and White Vol 1

Apologies to all for axing my previously planned post concerning Shade, The Changing Man, Vol 2. The single issues of Shade are too hard to read….psychologically. They are almost one & done stories, but take too much effort, I’m halfway through the trade, and hopefully you will see a review next week. In the interim, I read through one of my recent buys this week, and it was a doozy!

Alan Moore made his DC debut long before this story, scripting the adventures of Swamp Thing. He did do fill in stuff from time to time, also doing pivotal stories like a Clayface story from Batman Annual 11 (1987) , and also scripted the last story of the Golden Age Superman in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”. However, it was not until Watchmen that he earned the reputation of the thinking man’s writer. Soon after, he blew all socks on a prestige format book titled Batman: The Killing Joke, which shook up status quo a lot. In a recent interview, editor Dennis O’Neil, erstwhile writer on Batman, and responsible for the 70s version of the character, having created Ra’s Al Ghul, said after reading the script, to his editor, “Either we run it as it is, or we give him a kill fee.” In other words, we won’t edit the content; it either goes to print, or we pay the writer for his time. Dennis says that he thought the high price point would keep it out of the hands of children, but admittedly, he was wrong.

The Killing Joke begins with the Batman trying to work out his relation with the Joker, in a cell in Arkham; when he discovers that the clown has made his escape. Meanwhile, the Joker makes an exciting purchase – a carnival fairground. Soon, the Joker makes his way to Commissioner Gordon’s house, shoots his daughter Barbara Gordon (Batgirl), rapes her, and makes her father watch.

Batman visits Barbara in the hospital, while a kidnapped Commissioner Gordon is forced to watch the pictures, via a roller coaster ride on the said fairground, after which Batman intervenes.

In the final confrontation, Batman stops himself from killing the Joker, and still proposes a truce, to which the Joker, of all things tells him a joke at the end, and it all begins to make sense. Between panels, we see what appears to be the origin of the Joker.

Whew! That was an exhausting read, but worthwhile. It’s not the story per se, but the implications therein, which make it the definitive Joker story (open to debate). Consider this: Batman is making the Joker an offer in the beginning, of a truce, and even after all the events of the story, he still makes the offer. after raping his daughter, Commissioner Gordon still shouts to Batman, “We have to do this by the book. We have to show him that our way works.” Joker maintains that it took one bad day to make him what he is today, and tries to drive Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Barbara to the edge, subjecting them to events unimaginable. But he loses. Gordon & Batman decide to bring in the Joker, and Barbara metamorphoses into something the Joker could never have imagined. The Joke in the end is the kicker. And I’m not spoiling that….I would like to share one of the last images of the book though, the green one with the Batman, and Joker, that is embossed on the cover.

The Joker’s origin is a bit stereotyped, but works well – an ordinary guy needs money, enters a gang, is shattered by a family tragedy, still goes along with the plans, and turns into a freak. The second story, included only for Bolland’s art is standard. It features a guy who is otherwise simple, but just wants to kill the Batman. Meant more to showcase Bolland’s art than anything else.

Alan Moore’s writing is layered, and works here, while Bolland’s art is , as his covers are, spectacular. One thing to note though – this edition features a recolouring of the original work by Brian Bolland. The original colouring by Tom Higgins can be found in a version of this story included in DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore. As good as the classic version is, I prefer this edition which features muted tones, rather than the garish colouring of the 80s.

This story was subject to angry fans when it released. then, Ostrander wrote Barbara Gordon as Oracle, and people are cool with that, to that extent that they hate the DCnU reboot purporting to bring back Barbara as Batgirl. Shows two things: 1- People hate change (also proven by the cancellation of the 25 paise coin in India) and 2 – You can’t win ’em all!

My rating: 9 on 10
17.99 US$

Raj Comics Exclusive Preview: 72 Ghante

26 Jul

Comic Addicts is proud to present yet another exclusive preview of the upcoming spectacular from Raj Comics72 Ghantre, featuring Raat Ka Rakshak DOGA!

The upcoming set includes a thrilling and spine chilling script, with none other than Mr. Sanjay Gupta featuring as the co-writer along with inimitable Tarun Kumar Vahi!

Imagination Vivek Mohan and Anuragh
Script Sanjay Gupta and Tarun Kumar Vahi
Art Image Studios
Inking Sagar Thapa
Calligraphy Harish Sharma
Effects Shadab
Editor Manish Gupta

Here are 5 preview pages for your viewing pleasure!

72 Ghante – Opening Page with Credits
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Kali Chacha in the hospital – 
with his well wishers getting antsy
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Adrak Chacha being arrested as Doga watches!!!
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Doga and his Kutta Fauj comes to the rescue
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Doga interrogates the police!!!
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Hungry for more?? Who can blame you?
Rush to your comic book dealer or the Raj Comics’ Online Store to buy 72 ghante – NOW!!!


26 Jul

xxxHolic: Review by Seema Kakade

There are some Manga that are so popular, that they don’t even need an introduction, let alone a review. Yet, I’ve seen a lot of people shunning away from these amazing pieces of works either due to a misleading title or a shoujo-ish outer appearance. Case in point – xxxHolic.
So for all those who are lingering around this manga without enough confidence to start reading it, I’m here to give you a brief overview of this cult classic.

xxxHolic, also simply known as Holic, is a fantasy, psychological and philosophical story by the famous group of manga artists CLAMP. Since the story happens to be a crossover series of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle and Card Captor Sakura, many incidents in the story might throw you off the course, but I assure you, that you can totally understand the story even if you don’t know squat about the aforementioned stories. So, without further ado, let me give you a brief introduction of the story.
Plot – The story opens with a young high school boy, Watanuki Kimihiro, who has supernatural powers to see demons and spirits (no, it’s not the usual cliché story of saving the world; there’s much more to it in this one!) being, as usual, followed, trapped and tormented by a bunch of spirits, while he does everything in is power, which is next to nothing, to get rid of them. While he is busy performing this feat, he ends up landing in front of a strange, old styled building that is squeezed between two modern sky scrapers.
xxxHolic 1 Cover

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While he is contemplating what the building is doing in such a strange place, he is involuntarily dragged inside the building, where he meets a strange woman, who calls herself a fortune teller and the owner of the fortune telling shop, which is what the strange building happens to be. This woman, who introduces herself as Ichihara Yuuko, a wish granter, strikes a deal with Watanuki that she’ll help him get rid of his power for a certain price. Before Watanuki can contemplate what is happening to him, the deal is sealed and as a price, Watanuki becomes Yuuko’s servant.  

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Story – That’s just the beginning of the story as it takes you into a rollercoaster ride of strange events that slowly change Watanuki’s life as well as his personality, as he begins to understand and discover little truths of his life and finally realize where he really stands.
So what is so philosophical about the story, I hear thee ask? The philosophical part about the story is the fact that you can clearly see Watanuki growing as a person from a nagging and slightly self-centered person to a truly responsible, mature and an understanding individual. Since anything more than this is going to give away a lot of spoilers, let’s just say this series is a feast for those with an appetite for intellectual stories and you would definitely not want to miss it! 

The story manages to remain on track and does a surprisingly good job at blending itself with the story of Tsubasa Chronicle and not to mention, maintain the right timeline without giving away the spoiler for the latter series and what’s more, everything makes sense in the end! Now that’s what I call a planned story! I’d give it for the sheer lack of possibility of being able to predict absolutely anything in the story. Heck, it doesn’t even give you enough time to get over one shock and it drops the next bomb! 
Center Spread – Watanuki spots Yūko for the first time

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The story does go off track now and then, which I feel was necessary to make sure the story isn’t too heavy to digest. It’s like a light breeze that blows in once in a while that pulls you out of all the tension before pushing you into another crazy rollercoaster ride.

The story also gives you little tidbits on the values of life now and then, which is a perfect addition for those who love a bit of intellectual essence in the story, which is why I put this in the philosophical genre.

Characters – Characters are undoubtedly mature and not your usual moe or tsundere characters seen everywhere these days. So, this one’s a safe haven for those who are sick of them – yes that includes me too. So how are the characters so unique? For starters, you have a character like Watanuki who explodes like a fire cracker at every little thing and is yet, extremely understanding and happens to be an excellent listener. He just does not tolerates anything that doesn’t make sense, which is why he explodes!
Watanuki meets Yūko with Maru & Moro 
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And there are characters like Yuuko, who is all-knowing and extremely intellectual, yet, fun loving and bullying Watanuki happens to be her favorite hobby. Apart from these two main characters, there’s Himawari -Watanuki worships the ground she walks on, who is an extremely strong girl with a strong will to continue to keep utmost faith in herself and keep moving forward no matter what life throws in her way. Her outwardly cute personality if effective in hiding the strong person that she is, on the inside, which Watanuki begins to adore even more.

There are loads of other supporting characters like Doumeki , Mokona and Doumeki’s grandfather who continues to support Watanuki from the sidelines and several characters from Tsubasa Chronicle that make occasional appearance in this manga. I’d give it an 7 on 10 for the uniqueness of the characters alone.

Art – Character design, as expected from CLAMP, is unique and exceptional. Well, this might not exactly be a treat for gory lovers, but the delicate and elegant appearances of the characters fits the feel of the story perfectly. It’s also quite evident that the manga artists have adopted a slightly Indian feel to the characters, at least on the covers that just makes it so much more enthralling.

 The overall art has a very enchanting and fantasy feel to it and occasionally, you might come across art work that seems to be inspired by the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e wood prints style of art and a little bit of traditional Japanese and Chinese art style thrown into the mix that mokona, the character designer of CLAMP, churned into the unique art style that you get to savor in the story. Apparently, art was also inspired by Alphonse Mucha, who Mokona is a huge fan of. Apart from that, you can also notice that the art style is very similar to the one that is incorporated in CLAMP’s previous work RG Veda, but this is one unique style that you would fall in love with. Everything from the enchanting smokes that is so ukiyo-e, to the gorgeous detailing of the outfits and the alluring waves in which the hair flows has a way to pull you into the world of ancient Japanese fantasy. 

All-in-all I’d give it 9 on 10 for everything ranging from the originality of the story to the character design and the overall enjoyment factor. I’ll have to take away the one point for the fact that the story kind of drifts away from the main story once in a while, which never made me complain though.

xxxHolic 2: Cover
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Monday Manga Madness: The Bare Neccesities – II

25 Jul

All hail the Samurai, for his sword is swift and true. Countless tales have been written about the precision of the way of the sword. Countless romantic sagas, recording the brave deeds and the ideals of the Samurai. Tales abound of Bushido, the warrior’s way. The code of conduct and chivalry by which ancient Japanese swordsmen lived, and died. But they are all tales, stories, fables…untrue.

Pick up any one of them, give it a long hard stare with a questioning eye and you will see it as a story and little more. Fitting and perhaps even grand to read, but in no way possible in the realities of life. And then there is Shigurui. Literal meaning Death throes. This aptly titled manga is truly one of the most underrated works out there. Not many know of it, even amongst those who do know of it, not many have managed to finish it. It takes a strong stomach to read through this manga. Surely not for the faint of heart.

There is despair in this manga. Despair so thick, it will cloud your senses. Despair and honor and horror aplenty. Not the supernatural horror, no, but a purer psychological horror that can only be wrought by man, glorious in all his failings. For sure, it is the more terrifying horror of the two. How far will two men go to realize their obsessions? What is a Samurai, but a tool in the hands of his master? Just as a sword is a tool in the hands of the Samurai. To what lengths does devotion run? To what limits must a man obey his master’s wishes? The way of the warrior is narrow and the darkness that surrounds him is thick. When does he know he has strayed from the path?

These are the questions that are asked by this compelling manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Hard questions, and not all of them are answered. Visually this manga is a treat. The artwork is beautiful and almost Hellenistic in it’s attention to proportion and details. The homoerotic nudges notwithstanding, the artist shows a remarkable eye for the human body and for all the muscles that allow us our daily activities. The story is first rate with an ending that has the power to move you to tears, if you are the sort to be moved by such things.

Shigurui is second on my list of most wanted manga that you as an avid manga reader can absolutely not do without.

It is a true Samurai story, one you can easily imagine to have occurred in the era depicted. Truly if a society existed where the art of the warrior was given such paramount importance then it would have been thus, as presented in these pages. It made a believer out of me. There is a tragic beauty to this manga. I was smitten by a sense of loss and waste, for there is no hero and no villain. Hardly any rights, and few punishable wrongs. Besides, heroes and villains belong in the world of storybooks. And whatever this manga is, it is no storybook.

Red is their favorite color
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Captain America: The First Avenger Review

25 Jul
What can be said about the latest addition to the Avengers team and the most recent incarnation of Captain America? How about… AWESOME! 

Don’t worry, we here at Comic Addicts understand your concern. Right about now you’re probably asking yourselves questions like, “How do we know this isn’t a re-hash of everything that’s been done before?” or “Does Chris Evans really make a good Captain America?” or “Did they cop out and make it a superhero love story?” The quick short answers to those questions are, “Trust us it’s not. Yes he really does. And no, they did not.”
Chris Evans as The Cap
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So what makes this Captain America different? Well there are three things done in Captain America: First Avenger that help to make the story more concrete and real. Steve Rogers wasn’t picked for the experiment simply because he was willing and because he was weak. Rogers was chosen for his heart, mind, and the drive to do good. The next element is that after Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) was killed it was Colonel Chester Phillips’ (Tommy Lee Jones) inclination to send Rogers to the lab to be studied so that perhaps the process and formula could be recreated. It wasn’t the same old, “Well we at least got you, so we’ll put you out on the front lines!” No, Rogers had to earn his due. The other element is that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) isn’t the plucky Robin-esque sidekick this time. He is Rogers’ friend and the same age. They grew up together and in fact Bucky was the one who bailed Rogers out of fights in back-alleys.

Does Chris Evans make a good Captain America? Yes, he does. What makes him different? Evans’ approach to Cap is that he’s still unsure of himself, but very willing to just jump in as well as disobey orders to do what is right. Evans also plays Cap with a level of intelligence. He’s not some spandex clad monkey simply taking orders. Well, not after the USO shows anyway! As for the love story, well it’s very subtle. There are hints and flirts throughout the film, but the story doesn’t revolve around it. So breathe easy knowing that it’s not a smooch-fest in costume.

Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, now was there ever any doubt he couldn’t do it? After parts such as V in V for Vendetta and Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy he was an excellent choice for the part. Weaving’s Red Skull is brilliant but greedy, with his own vision of the world and the drive to make that vision come true. So in other words, he’s pretty spot on to the comics.
Agent Red Skull
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As for some of the supporting characters, they were cast and played wonderfully as well. Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) makes it easy to see that Tony a.k.a. Iron Man didn’t fall far from the tree. The Howling Commandos: Dum Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough), Jones (Derek Luke), Morita (Kenneth Choi), Falsworth (JJ Field), and Dernier (Bruno Ricci) were every bit as rambunctious and calculating as they were in the comics. Although you don’t see Nick Fury until the end of the film.There are little things to keep your eye out for throughout the film. For example, at the World’s Fair, you get a brief shot of a man in a glass tube labeled “The Synthetic Man”. It’s the original human torch, though you never get to see him flame up.
There is also a nod to the 1970’s series Captain America starring Reb Brown who was the Captain America that rode the motorcycle and was an artist. There are other such little things tucked away in the film that undoubtedly you’ll all pick up on. Although we’re sure it goes without saying, we’re still going to say it – don’t leave until after the credits.
Avengers Assemble!!!
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Overall a fantastic film that makes Captain America seem much more plausible than past incarnations. Much better than the Roger Corman flick (not that it takes much). Watch it for yourselves and tell us what you think.
The Shield – No, not Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap’s Weapon + Armor
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The Adventures of Karen Ross (Part 10)

25 Jul
Something told me to move very quickly because my life depended on it. Without thinking I rolled off the stone table onto the ground. There was adrenaline pumping through my system as I heard the clang of metal on stone just behind my head. Still trying to catch my breath I peered over the top of the table. There stood Ares with his blade resting where I had been not two seconds before. Ares smiled as he pulled his sword back and I got to my feet.
“I would ask what is wrong with you, but all I need to tell myself is that you’re the God of War and that pretty much sums it up.” I said angry and scared.
“Your instincts and reflexes seem to be working fine.” he said flatly.
“Here’s a tip for you: mortals are accustomed to a greeting other than trying to be killed first thing in the morning.” I said leaning on the table.
“Well you aren’t mortal anymore.” he leaned in towards me with a mischievous grin.

“A fact that I’m still getting used to, sorry I haven’t had time to read the manual yet.”

“Your training starts now.” he said sheathing his sword.

“Really? Cause I thought it started about thirty seconds ago.” I said still miffed.

“Hey Karen!” James said, suddenly coming up the hill with Jeff beside him.
“I was beginning to wonder where you disappeared to,” I said looking at James.

“I’ve been at the heart of Mount Vulcan with Hephestus. Man can that God work metal!” James said with admiration in his voice.

“I should have guessed as much.” I chuckled.

“Anyway, I’ve got some chain mail for you that we designed. It’s super light, but super strong.” he said holding up the metal-weave.

“That’s cool, but I can’t help to notice that it’s a little on the see through side.” I said looking from the chain mail to James.

“Well Artemis was able to get some donations from the Amazons. So now we’ve got some armor, weapons, and clothing a bit more suitable than the tunic you’re currently wearing,” James said holding up a large bag with his other hand.

“I’m going to need about five to ten minutes to change,” I turned to Ares.

“I’ll give you two,” he growled.

“You’ve all waited for me for centuries, what’s a couple of minutes more?” I asked as I went over to James.

Going into the cabin with the bag and chain mail I starting sorting through the clothes to see what might fit and what would be suitable. I decided on an animal skinned body suit. I put it on and the chain mail over it. James was right, this was super light. In fact the body suit seemed to have more weight than the armor did. Looking over the weapons I chose a sword, shield, and staff. I was afraid in all honesty. I was about to go against the God of War when only days ago I was having a hard time keeping my balance on crutches with my backpack. I took a deep breath before going out the door and back up that hill.

There wasn’t anyone on the hill. As I looked around I saw that down the left side there was a large dirt ring that was surrounded by a low wooden wall. Why hadn’t I seen this before? I had the sneaky suspicion that this island changed to suit the needs of those inhabiting it. I walked down the other side of the hill to the ring. Ares was waiting for me at the far end. His sword was drawn and he had removed his cape. James and Jeff sat on the wall to my right. I set the staff down deciding to use the sword and shield. I was quite positive that I was going to get my butt kicked. There was no doubt in my mind about that. I had no idea what I was doing and there didn’t seem to be any kind of starter level to any of this.

“Are you ready?” Ares asked with a smirk.

“As ready as I’m going to be.” I said.

“Don’t say it like that. Say with confidence, ‘YES I AM READY!'” he roared.

Was he actually being helpful all of a sudden? I nodded as I brought up my sword and shield. Ares and I walked to the middle of the ring to meet each other. James played referee by saying the ground rules were no killing and no hitting below the belt. After that, I was on my own. Ares swung high and I blocked with the shield. I attacked around the other side of the shield, but Ares blocked my advance. I was desperately trying to remember anything and everything I had seen on TV or in the movies that would help. My only frame of reference was Xena: Warrior Princess. The only advice I had for myself was the same mantra I had been saying for years; never back down from a problem no matter how big or impossible it may seem. Of course I had always applied that to school, my step-mother, and my physical defects. Fighting like this had never even entered into it. Wait, was Ares actually going easy on me. No, it would be too much unlike him, but at the same time I got the distinct impression that he was holding back. He wasn’t going to let me get a hit in; I had to genuinely earn that. I was scared, but I needed to learn, so I made a decision. Whether that decision was bold or stupid I’m not sure, but I tossed aside the shield. I had been hiding behind it up until this point. Jeff and James gasped from their spots. Ares gave me an approving smile and nod. I was quivering on the inside, but I didn’t want it to show. Ares came at me in a full attack. I rolled out of the way hearing the sword clang on the ground. I got to my feet quickly turning to brace for the next assault. He came at me high again. Ares wanted to make sure I could protect my vital organs. I blocked his blow with my sword reaching out with my other hand punching him just below the ribs. Ares coughed, but smiled. He went for my knees, but I flipped out of the way. Wait, I flipped? Indeed I had, without much thought and incredible ease at that. That was a rush. Suddenly something occurred to me. I took a good look at Ares. He had a very sturdy stance that allowed him quick movement, but stability to withstand an attack. I needed to upset his base to win this. I went for the direct approach of head-on combat. Ares and I clanged swords back and forth while Jeff and James watched. This was intense and while I was surprised I was doing as well as I was, I kept my mind on the goal. Ares went to adjust his stance and I took hold of that opportunity. I went down quick taking his feet out from under him. As he fell I knocked his sword out of his hand, disarming him. Ares hit the ground hard. I stood over him with my sword pointed at his throat. I had seen it in so many movies I figured there must be something to it. Ares looked up at me first with shock and anger burning in his eyes, but that melted away as pride and laughter came to his face.

“Well done!” he said looking up at me.

“Now if I move from this position are you going to retaliate?” I asked holding steady.

“Would you trust me if I said yes?”

“No, I wouldn’t.” I shook my head.

“Good girl.” he nodded.

Minding all of Ares’ appendages I stepped off from him and allowed him to get up. It was so strange. Ares had suddenly gone from being a big bully to being almost father like in his mannerisms. What was going on? The rest of the day was spent working on my advances and seeking out an enemy’s weak spot. Jeff and James supplied fluids and food. During one lesson – using an opponents force against them – I got flung across the arena pretty hard. I hit the wall knocking a rib out of joint as well as sustaining a few scrapes that bled. Jeff and James wanted to rush to my aid, but I told them not to help. Ares wanted to see how well I played through the pain. For me this was an old game, but these were different circumstances now. I made myself get up and continue the lesson.

Shade, The Changing Man Vol 1: The American Scream

23 Jul

Writer: Peter Milligan /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Artist: Chris Bachalo

Collects: Shade, the Changing Man issues 1-6

Review by Aalok Joshi

Welcome back to another edition of Deciphering DC. Right now, we’re moving out to the fringes of the DC Universe. In the late 80s/early 90s, there were a lot of experimental titles, most of them treading new genres (remember, Vertigo as an imprint wasn’t around back then) like The Question, Suicide Squad, The Spectre, Green Arrow, Skreemer, Time Masters, Doc Savage, Sandman, Hellblazer, The Books of Magic among others.

Shade, as such wasn’t a new title – neither was Sandman. But like Neil Gaiman, up & coming writer Peter Milligan chucked the original character created by Steve Ditko out of the window, and created something…..else. He did keep the original character history in an……innovative way, but all of what he created didn’t depend on that in any way. However, Shade, while a very critically acclaimed title never got the sales it deserved, and fell below the radar for most of it’s run (70 issues, not very less than Sandman which was 75 issues plus Specials. This run, never before collected in paperback beyond the 1st six issues, suddenly becomes significant, as we see Shade appear in recent issues of Hellblazer, and is currently appearing in Secret Seven, slated to appear in Justice League Dark, all written by Peter Milligan.

The story opens with a mentally “disturbed” girl, Kathy entertaining thoughts of killing the man in her hotel room, but not without having a drink first. The man in her room appears to be her parents’, as well as her husband’s murderer. Troy Grenzer is as sick as they come. Brilliantly epitomised by the line “I’m not mad. I get mad, but I’m not mad.” This guy is a perpetually talking nutcase who is actually looking forward to the electric chair. Waiting outside the penitentiary, where he was supposed to be executed Kathy starts seeing weird things, like a walking electric chair with the hood actually smiling at her.

Meanwhile, through a disturbance in the fabric of reality, an entity possesses Troy’s body, making it levitate and find it’s way out to Kathy’s car, whereupon it urges her to drive away. Kathy wants her revenge on Troy, and so plays along. The entity claims to have possessed Grenzer’s body through the electric current, and is from the planet Meta, having come here through the power of something called the M-vest or Madness vest, or so he claims. The real Troy is gone…well, almost.

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Further, Shade elaborates of his life on the planet Meta, establishing himself as a hopeless romantic, and we see as Shade is trained in astral projection to go to Earth to combat the madness by Wizor & the Changemasters (it’ll all make sense when you read it) who have devised how to keep an agent indefinitely (earlier they could do it only for 3 hours) on Earth.

The entity of the Zone of Madness, the American Scream, is the personification of the madness who claims that Wizor has betrayed Shade, his original body is dead in the zone of madness and there’s no way back to Meta. Slowly but surely, Shade settles himself to life on earth.

On the way, Shade and Kathy encounter the Kennedy Sphinx who threatens to eat all of America until it’s question, “Who killed J.F.K.?” is answered and a movie camera, which is possessed by the Madness. These stories are too weird and trippy to elaborate further. Suffice to say, they read very well on multiple readings.

Peter Milligan writes weird, maybe on the same level of Grant Morrison, but with Milligan I feel that it’s just not ‘weird for the sake of weird’ which unfortunately Grant falls prey to sometimes. Milligan is weaving a wonderful story around, which does make sense, and it’s all before the collected editions era,so it doesn’t read like it’s written for the trade, rather reads like single issues. Chris Bachalo’s artwork is wonderful, and though it isn’t his signature style (yet) Bachalo is well suited to drawing a lot of detail, as well as experimenting with different styles. The covers by Brendan McCarthy are just too good for words, which is why I include all the six covers (TPB cover is the original cover to issue 5), also the original cover to the 1st collection in this article. It’s printed on non glossy paper, which I just love and adore.

My Rating: 8.5 on 10. It’s a good story….too good, but it’s getting there. I feel the best is yet to come.

Full covers, 17.99 US$

Next Week:



22 Jul

MARVEL CATCH UP – SECRRET AVENGERS Volume 1: MISSION TO MARS premier edition hardback

Collects Secret Avengers #1-5

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Art: Mike Deodato, Will Conrad, David Aja, Michael Lark and Stefano Guadiano

Published by Marvel Worldwide

Review by Stewart Loud

Okey Dokey! With Fear Itself in full swing now, I’m going to be collecting together and writing about some complete runs of Marvel comics released between the end of the Siege and now to recap on what’s been going on in the Marvel 616 Universe in an effort to bring you all up to date and maybe give you some ideas of what you might want to read before I write about the Fear Itself storyline (all spoiler free I promise). Not going to be scoring any of them, just saying weather or not I enjoyed them and giving you a brief idea of what to expect.

Set after the end of the Marvel Siege, Steve Rogers has put together a covert strike team of heroes to operate behind the scenes and tackle threats to the planet, best kept secret from the public. Equipped with state of the art S.H.I.E.L.D. air craft and technology, Steve’s dream team of War Machine, Black Widow, Moon Knight, Valkyrie, Beast, Nova, Ant Man and Sharon Carter are there to carry out missions involving everything from industrial espionage to travelling to other planets.

Been far too long since I caught up on current events in the Marvel Universe and this book seemed like as good a place as any to start. I’ve been a big fan of former Captain America, Steve Rogers since the Marvel Civil War and I’m very interested to see what he’s been doing in his new role as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Super Human Affairs after he replaced Norman Osborn once everyone realised he was completely barking mad and it had been a terrible mistake to put him in charge in the first place which is the main reason I chose this series as one of the runs between Siege and Fear Itself to collect.

It’s a staggeringly cool line up of heroes to cram into one team and the first five issues are fairly action heavy throughout with a story involving some sort of clandestine mining operation on Mars. Nice to see the new Ant Man in a more mainstream group after he provided a lot of the comic relief in Avengers: The Initiative for a while before joining the Thunder Bolts. Always liked his character. Fans of all the other characters can expect a decent amount of ass kickery as they discover more about the mysterious new threat to life as they know it involving ancient alien artefacts and shadowy secret societies. Plenty of action and intrigue and what the hell is Nick Fury doing with that black clad bunch of reprobates?!

I enjoyed all five parts from start to finish. Not mind blowing stuff but definitely worth a look if you like any of the characters involved.

SCORE 7/10

A Hell(Blazer) of a week.

22 Jul

I have been reading comics as mentioned the other week for close to 30yrs. And a small portion of that time I have spent a small fortune buying, selling and re-collecting, after my first collection was burnt in a fire. Amongst those were the Uncanny X-men run from #180-295. Some of the greatest X-Men stories told were written during those years. But I am digressing. Anyway, I restarting collecting 10yrs ago and haven’t stopped since. As well as you know writing and creating my own. 

Hellblazer Pandemonium Jami Delano is a Must Read.

One of my top 3 fave non-super-powered is John Constantine, Hellblazer from Vertigo, (Batman and Punisher are the other two). John was created by Alan Moore back in issue #37 in Saga of the Swamp Thing. That character has is the longest running non-hero comic book. I had a couple opportunities over the past few years to get my hands on #37, but due to lack of funds or having already committed myself to other books, I missed out.

Hellblazer: Rare Cuts is a good starting point.

   The character of Constantine is so rich with lore and mysticism that there is so much that you can do with him with ruining the history as long as you stick to the archetype. John is the Trickster, the Court Jester and The Magi all in one.  It was this that after setting myself to reading from Hellblazer #1 to the lastest that was available in October last year that led me to write Black Waters, my own take on John Constantine,

Intro to Black Waters©, by Aru Singh. 2011

 Writing a 148+ page Hellblazer standalone graphic novel based in the Fiji was not something I gave much thought to. I was waiting for my plane ride back to Auckland from Nadi Airport, after a stressful trip back from my ex’s father’s funeral and I guess I needed to clear my head and so I just started writing. It was messy but after some rewriting it came together. I have no idea what I am going to do with it. I did have a guy consider working on it, to see if we can get DC Vertigo to look at it, but after discussing it I thought to let it rest for a bit. And who knows, I might illustrate it myself after I get Zero completed.

Thats the background to how much I like the John Constantine Archetype. The following is 3 amazing events which took place in the last 6 days.

Event 1.
  Last weekend while at Zinefest I stopped by a comic shop and bought the DC Direct Collectible Figure of John in his Hellblazer set-up. It wasn’t in the store but they would have it the following week. This  was an out-of-the-blue purchase.

Event 2.
  Having gotten home and still feeling unwell I had stayed up and was browsing comic on an online auction site and came across Saga of Swamp Thing #37 from June 1985. It was on Buy Now for $5 + $3 for Delivery. I actually have my comic shop guy, Jeremy at Gotham Comics here in New Zealand looking out for one. I better tell him I got a copy now. This comic goes for around US$30+ and around US$90 on milehighcomics So, I was quite excited about this. 

Event 2.
   If you look in the letters section of this months Hellblazer #281 you will see at top right hand side my very own letter. I have never written a letter, that I can remember to a comic company about one of their comics, so when I heard talk that they might be bringing Hellblazer in to the main DC Universe with Superman and Batman etc. I thought I better send a message. So, I can’t remember when but a couple weeks back I got on the Vertigo site and left a message. 

Hellblazer #281

Now, you are probably wondering why I shared this with you guys? Well, I thought you guys might like to share in my hell of a week. 

Further info John Constantine, Also, Straight to Hell. Both sites were helpful when I was writing the graphic novel.