Cyborg Santa says:

Merry Christmas to all!

Hey look I review The Amazing Spider-Man: SHED

Amazing Spider-Man #633
by Wells, Bachalo, Rios

In this issue:

Manhattan goes Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!

Aunt May is attacked by Kirby dots!

Spidey vomits on the Lizard's face!

But naw, I'm mostly playing with you. Issue 633 is part four of SHED in the Spider-Man title, and it closes the arc. In a single-sentence story summary: Curt Connors becomes a new, shed lizard that induces the reptilian brain over the mammalian brain across Manhattan -- dudes grab ladies to mate with them and people jump off buildings and such. It's a pretty odd premise that I think is treated too seriously by Wells, killing off poor ol' Billy Connors, resulting in a pretty tasteless story. In the last issue of SHED, Peter goes to May for some old-fashioned consoling, but she's still under the influence of Mr. Negative, and her internal conflict is portrayed as really graceless and tacky.

Which is to say: the writing is positively awful. Wells has done better work, like his Peter Parker, Spider-Man stuff from the past. The art, on the other hand, is positively brilliant. Chris Bachalo draws a frightful Lizard, a frenetic Spidey and some great paneling.

It's a shame that he needed a fill-in artist. It's also a shame that the issue came in late and had to ship with 634, the first issue of Joe Kelly's "Grim Hunt." It's another shame that the writing couldn't match the art. I gotta give it 2 Foam-Finger Freddies out of 5.

Spectacular art. Awful writing.

The menacing premiere of: the lil lizzies!

A new week means new comics! And what a week it is, bringing the return of Gail Simone with the Birds of Prey. It seems like only yesterday that Zinda Blake, Lady Blackhawk was showing us how to call a cab, and today she's showing us how to shoot terrorist kidnappers in Greenland.

Birds of Prey #1
by Gail Simone and Ed Benes

Gail writes the birds as they were meant to be written: head-on in the 11th gear, kickin' ass and makin' jokes. It's the perfect mix of action and humor that keeps me on my seat, and dude, in the middle of the issue, Huntress takes out a goon and then throws him at his pals approaching on motorcycles. Hardcore:

Which isn't to say that BoP was just an adrenalfest. The core birds, Oracle, Canary and Huntress have to deal with a mystery dude who apparently has files on all superheroes: where Oracle's dad goes to walk every morning, the addresses of every student that Huntress has ever taught in school. They ruminate over this before they're attacked by "the White Canary."

And that's not even the half of it! Gail for sure is making her money's worth, introducing Hawk -recently brought back from the dead in Blackest Night- and Dove, hinting at some character conflict there. With how they're working off the past, and bringing in new characters, I couldn't be happier that I got this big 'ol issue number one. It reads like a dream.

Amazing Spider-Man #631
by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo with fill-in pencilling by Emma Rios

Part number dos for "Shed," covering the return of the demon inside Curts Connors, THE LIZARD! It reads like every other return the Lizard's made, but with one exception: the stylish scribblings from Chris Bachalo. He is for sure an acquired taste; I disliked it at first, saying he made characters look way younger than they ought to, but it works, especially in the half-jokey, half-serious tone that overtakes Peter Parker and Spidey stories. Here, Bachalo blows the Lizard up as a giant bipedal croc with arms. I think he overdoes some panels of Lizzy's face, but check this out:

Yeah! That is one visceral, raw picture! I love it. I don't know if it was Zeb's idea, or Chris's, but they also introduce Lizzy's little iguana minions, "lil lizzies," who look totally menacing and adorable at the same time. Check it out, he's on top of the Lizard! Absolutely adorable.


Anyways, near the end of the issue, I think the Lizard eats his son, Billy Connors, who's been a plot point and a vestige of the Lizard's humanity ever since. . . Stan's run on Spidey, uh, thirty years ago. It's pretty ambiguous, but they seem to imply it with a really vague two-page spread that zooms in on the Liard's scales, then on the debris flying in the street. I definitely find it hard to swallow, so we'll just have to wait and see. All in all, the issue as a whole felt rushed and read too quickly. It doesn't help that Emma Rios pencils in some scenes, making the issue feel disjointed, and that she'll be doing some of next ish too.

Not as strong an issue as part one, but I think the Lizard's teeth have hooked me on this story. Bachalo's art is worth it, so I'll be finishing the arc.

rereading Vertigo's Sandman. . . absolutely!

Since y'all are probably tired of hearing about Ex Machina, I figured I'd mix it up and look at some other stuff. There are some books that deserve the "Absolute" treatment, as DC would put it, or the "Omnibus" treatment on Marvel's end. I myself have one fancy shmancy book in this style, and that's my Howard the Duck Omni, but I've put stuff up on the blog before, such as DC's Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween.

It really does deserve the Absolute treatment, but when it comes down to it, NO book deserves it more than Neil Gaiman's Sandman stuff. That's why we're gonna take a look at some moments in the edition, as we go all the way up to volume 4! Join me!

#2: This is the debut of probably the most adorable recurring character ever. Irving is later renamed Goldie in the issue and brought a lot of heartwarming moments to otherwise grim situations!

#4: In the Sandman's quest for his items of power, they bust out with a epic poetry slam OF HELL on you! The King of Dreams takes on a duke of Hell, Choronzon, in a battle of words in order to retake his helm. This would be only a hint of the imagination to come.

#5: Dr. Destiny breaks out of Arkham to claim the ruby that his dead mother passed on to him, from storage. Turns out, that ruby belongs to the Sandman! It was one of many items that the Sandman made to help him in his managing of the Realm of Dreams, and it has some of the Sandman's power in it. As Dr. Dee races to Mayhew storage with a hostage, Morpheus hops along by our dreams. We had a passenger and we never knew it.

We'll be back with more! Hang tight!

Reading Ex Machina Volumes 3 and 4

I've never done this before, but I'll be reviewing TWO trades today. Twice the action! Twice the drama! Twice the romance!

You can pay me in food.

Ex Machina vols. 3 (Fact v. Fiction) and 4 (March to War)
by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris and Chris Sprouse

WHAT THEY'RE ABOUT: BKV keeps on pumping out different arcs one by one! In the first one, Mayor Hundred must face the greatest challenge of his life -- jury duty, while a knock-off called "Automaton" tries to fill in the void he left when he was the Great Machine. Then, we explore his history as he meets his baby boomer mom. In the next volume, America declares war on Iraq, and Mayor Hundred has to deal with his own staff participating in protests! Thereafter, we explore a special flashback story to learn more about the Great Machine's archnemesis!

WHAT I LIKED: BKV plays with the stories and mixes fantasy and reality excellently. It's such a unique and candid take on the life of a mayor who happened to be a superhero some odd years ago. Wanna see a mayor give a speech on gay marriage to the public in one page, and then totally use his powers to trace a phone call the next? Then BAM, you're covered!

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I think these two trades were really solid, but some people might think that it's cheesy that the Great Machine's archnemesis basically talks to animals. I think it's pretty inspired, because, when you're a superhero who relies on technology and machinery, the opposite of that would either be Poison Ivy, or a dude who can talk to animals! He even brings up animal rights too!

EXTRAS?: None, for either of them.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Ex Machina is a solid series grounded in reality, drawing off of national news and politics, but freshening things up with superheroics. If you're looking for a title that's fresher than spandex superheroes, it's right here.

probably the most crotch references I've made in a single post

Hey don't you just hate it when a guy makes a blog and neglects it for a week? Boy, whattabum!

The Amazing Spider-Man #620
by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin with Javier Pulido

This is the end of the "Mysterioso" three-part-er, bringing back Mysterio and throwing in Mr. Negative and New York gang wars. Slott really plays up Mysterio here as a slapstick guy who really loves putting on a show until he takes it too far. In fact, he isn't really the threat this time around so much as Mr. Negative is.

The art is as great as ever, with creative panelling and sound effects. This issue is heavy on the action, and the arc overall was a great way to bring back Mysterio. Between Mr. Negative performing highly invasive surfery on Hammerhead or a genius sequence of Peter taking a big gulp of air before Mr. Negative's Devil's Breath gas hits him, my favorite part is probably Spidey's crotch vibrating.


I'll give the issue TWO out of FIVE foam-finger freddies, but I think the three issues together deserve ONE. The middle issue was the best in terms of the affection for past stories, and the last ish dragged them down by getting a back-up artist.

A poor blogger's ploy to the FCBD winds

Do you know what year it is? Apparently, FCBD doesn't. Like, any other friendly neighborhood blogger, I go to FCBD's site and look for their new '10 banner, except all it has is their '09 banner!

This is pretty ridiculous guys. Even the link says "FCBD10_banner," yet the image promotes "May 2, 2009." That is just incompetent web design. Here is a copy of the vehement e-mail I sent:

Are you catching this, FCBD? I AM CALLIN' YOU OUT. YOU BETTER OWN UP TO YOURSELVES, OR I WILL KEEP PESTERING YOU with. . . . strongly worded e-mails.

sketches on the back of my physics homework:

Sometimes it's nice to remember that I am not made of money, and actually need food. This week is one of those times, as there are a few titles I could be getting, but choosing not to.

In lieu of actual material, please see these awful facsimiles of Tony Harris's art that I've tried to recreate. I apologize in advance.

These were actually done in pencil, not pen. I just made the filter on my scanner way too sharp.

To be honest with you, I actually dig some of those. Particularly the ones on the top left and bottom left corner. It's fun to draw pretty girls and wild facial hair, although maybe not at the same time.

This is what happens when kids have too much time to themselves, people. You have been warned!

Ex Machina Vol. 2: Tag

Big wheels keep on turnin', and little blogs keep on bloggin'!

In hot anticipation of the convention season, ItsJustSomeRandomGuy of youtube fame has made a couple videos promoting C2E2, the new Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo! Check 'em out:

To see more videos, check out his channel, but for now, I suggest you stick around for a while as we take a gander at

Ex Machina vol. 2: Tag
by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Gay marriage and alien graffiti start mucking up NYC Mayor Mitchell Hundred's office! See the first volume here. The second volume is named "Tag," because numerous tags show up in the city that bear a strong resemblance to the artifact that gave the Mayor his powers.

WHAT I LIKED: I love how the Mayor officiates gay marriage in the trade, since it's done in a humorous and personal yet serious and professional way. Top-notch, BKV. Now that he's established a real-world setting, he can run amuck with the kinda stuff that we read about in the newspaper.

I also love that another assassination attempt is taken on the Mayor, this time with an old-school bow and arrow. It's too much!

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The trade ends up being a murder mystery that delves into a few characters of Mitch's past. I don't really like it, because it ends up being really contrived, and unbelievable, especially in the tone that BKV's established. I came on the trade really strong, but finished really weakly, I'm sorry to say.

EXTRAS?: A few sketches from Tony Harris, and an introduction from the Wachowski Bros. Nothing really noteworthy.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I really wish the trade ended better, 'cause if it did, I'd be able to praise it. Solid dialogue, solid plotting, solid art. It's just that the murderer reveal mucks it all up, and makes everything else tougher to chew.

I'm giving it THREE Foam-Finger Freddies out of FIVE.

The Marvel Age in a fridge magnet

Y'know what that is? It's a refrigerator magnet, dudes. It's a magnet with the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #1. And it's freakin' mine. University had a presentation on their archive of comic books (mostly silver age, some golden, some underground comix), and they had goodies to give away! I was maybe one student of 2 who attended, most of the attendees being library nerds. It was all good, and I'm very glad I went.

I love this thing way too much. I kept taking it out of my pocket on the way home, looking at it just to make sure it existed. Feeling it in my hands. Thinking of the artist, and how the title might never have been, if Stan hadn't taken that chance in Amazing Fantasy #15. The magnet's a little memento, a post-it note. It reminds me why I got into comics in the first place, and it's like I'm reading my first comic book again, even if I wasn't even born until 30 years later.

A lot of times, we lose sight of why we read comics. We get bogged in the regular tedium of weekly titles, and we start to berate the industry. We say that we're tired of the revolving door of death, and the impermanence of stories. We complain about the price jumps and the solicitation reneges and the editorial decisions. That stuff's the easy stuff.

The hard stuff is remembering to appreciate the comics. To remember the history and where it all came from. To regain the perspective that comics are an evolving form of media, and have been for quite a while. I'm glad I have this magnet to help me, and a little ashamed that I need it just to appreciate comics. Yes, I'm tired of picking up titles that never go anywhere. Yes, I'm appalled at the 3.99 price jump. Yes, I'm always thinking about how every other medium has a much higher value per dollar than comic books. But man, that Amazing Spider-Man comic sure is a hell of a comic.

So that's why I'd like to ask you guys: do you have any memorabilia/merchandise that reminds you why you love comics? That gets you feeling all warm and nostalgic? It doesn't have to be as offbeat as a fridge magnet. Feel free to put it up in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you, and have a good weekend!

Amazing Spider-Man #'s 618 and 619: my common sense is tingling

What a week! We had the unveiling of the iPad, President Obama's State of the Union Address, and the cancellation of a Chicago fireworks tradition -- only to split it up into three fireworks shows! It's been such an exciting time for news, and it's been an equally exciting time for my life.

I purchased and read two comic books this week.

Amazing Spider-Man #'s 618 and 619
by Dan Slott and Marcos Martin

Apparently, Slott's been wanting to take a crack at Mysterio since day one. It was only junk like New Ways to Die and Brand New Day that got in the way and quite frankly, I don't blame the guy. Slott really does manage to put his heart into the issues, and the result is one heck of a Spidey issue.

Issue 618 brings us back to a wider scope in spider-comics. We're reminded of Mr. Negative and the gang wars in NYC. Then we quickly escalate into a mystery of who really died and who didn't, dragging in Carlie Cooper, a Brand New Day extra and a forensic cop, into the fray.

Anyways, that sounds like a bunch of jumbo. That's probably because it is. This story is for people who've read Spider-Man. People who read Hammerhead's transition into work for Mr. Negative, people who read about Police Cpt. George Stacy and mob boss Silvermane back when Spidey wasn't even issue 200. Slott packs the story with loving nods to other plot points or past stories, and as a webhead, it's a wild ride to read.

You can really tell when the writer is a fan of the title. He brings in reverence for the past stories, and tells new ones in an exciting way. It may not be too reader-friendly, but the art is worth the price of admission alone. Marcos Martin packs each page with so much material, but it goes by smoothly and masterfully. Anyone who appreciates comic art, and anyone who appreciates a good, smart Spidey story should get in on this action.

"The X-Men were devastated when Kitty Pryde died. . ."

". . . but they were honored to, at last, see her head blown up and made into a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float."

Marvel PR in Spidey #617

If you didn't get a chance to read my accolades for Amazing Spider-Man #617, well, here they are.

And here are some more! The oversized issue had a lot of great PR, making some extra page space for conventions and costume contests and even a few individuals and the like. So much so that I think it deserves a few props.
There's a double-page spread for "Kid's Day" at the New York Stock Exchange! Kids got to take their pictures and play video games and get their face painted.And then there's a whole page for the Costume Contest Winnter, David Santiago. That is a sexy, sexy shield.

Aside from that, there's the normal house ads, such as "Fall of the Hulks" or "X-Necrosha" or "that one issue of Deadpool where Spidey guest-stars." All in all, I really enjoyed Marvel's coverage in the comic. I think it's a great way for publishers to reach out to communities, and a great way for fans to express their love for the comics. Kudos to you, Marvel. Kudos. You did a great job here, but I gotta admit, my best ad from Spidey #617 has got to be this one:

Truly, nothing can stop the mystical monolith that is Rambo the Rabbit.

Reading Ex Machina vol. 1

We all know that I like to take the Monday every week to review a trade, mostly from the library, but I don't usually tell people how many trades I've read. Sometimes I'll read a bunch of trades and not bother to review them, either because they don't need any reviewing (Watchmen) or I'm just so lazy. Recently, I've gone through Asterios Polyp and Parker: the Hunter. The former is a visual masterpiece, and every line means as much as the word bubbles. The latter, not so much. I'm not so accustomed to the murky colors, so it was harder to get through.

Anyways, now that my library's out of The Goon trades, I'm moving on to another series.

Ex Machina vol. 1: The First Hundred Days
by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Collecting the first five issues of Wildstorm's Ex Machina, the trade centers on Mitchell Hundred's "first hundred days" as the Mayor of New York City. Sweet. During a wild snowstorm, a string of murders plagues snow plowers, and a controversial art piece opens at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. At the same time, Mitchell has to deal with his past as "The Great Machine," NYC's first superhero, and one who can talk to machines at that.

WHAT I LIKED: The pacing is positively excellent here. Scenes shift from flashbacks (The Great Machine performing superheroics) to political sidewinding really well, and running through the five issues is a breeze. You really get a sense of all the crap that Mayor Hundred has to go through. Tony Harris plays a huge part in this: his linework is really sharp and defined, and everyone has a clear expression.
There are a lot of political tidbits in here too. I especially like the fact that the Mayor's bedroom in Gracie Mansion used to be a toilet. Ex Machina is a book that's tied to reality, which is a nice getaway from the fantasy of superhero comics.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Well, there's a lot of adult language here, so Ex Machina probably isn't appropriate for kids.

EXTRAS?: Oh man, at the end there's a small gallery of Tony Harris's process and sketches. He shows his photo reference, the pencils, then the inks and then the colors! Guy is a total pro.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This'd make a great gateway comic for anyone. Especially if you're into New York Politics, and hey, even if you're not, you'll learn something new. I know I did.

The Gotham City Sirens in: ENTER THE CARPENTER

I originally planned on getting Amazing Spider-Man #618 this week, but by the time I got to the shop, they were all sold out. Okay, not ALL sold out. They had the Joe Quinones variant cover, but who's gonna pay double for just a different cover? Schmucks, that's who.

That's why instead we review three issues from a series that are two months old or so.

Gotham City Sirens #5-6
by Paul Dini and Guillem March

These two consist of the last two-thirds of an arc that began with issue 4. I review issue 4 here.

Issue 5 gets even more ridiculous. There's an unecessary double-page spread devoted to Ivy busting up one of her cacti to douse a room fire. And then there's an unecessary two pages for the three girls to resolve to kill the Joker. That isn't going to happen. We all know that isn't gonna happen. I don't wanna read about this.

The big reveal is that some z-level sidekick of the Joker's, Gagsworth A. Gagsworthy, from 40 years ago was impersonating him. It would've been nice if I read comics 40 years ago -- which I didn't. They take him down, with the requisite open ending for Gaggy to return. Dini hands in a fairly bland story, even though he adds in as many gags as he can. Gaggy isn't a threat; the action isn't exciting, and character beats are scarce. The art from Guillem March is more than competent, turning in some great sequencing and paneling, but certainly not enough to compensate for the writing. Two items of interest: Ivy suddenly has the power to grow vines from her wrists/hands??? And Dini brought back one of his characters, Jenna Duffy, The Carpenter: Character find of 2009???

Cover to Cover: Hook me up with a plane ticket to Slovakia

New year means new banner! Swing up top and check it out. It's a panel from some issue of Peter Parker: Spider-Man. New year also means tons of new comics news, so let's go over what's already happened in. . . 13 days of January!

The Birds are back! Hawkaaaaa! Us here at the blog - me - have a longtime affection for the title, especially riproarin' pilot Zinda Blake.

Marvel pwns DC. I am really impressed at Marvel's strategy here. Previously, I figured DC's marketing for the Blackest Night rings was brilliant, because it was a great way to sell some stragglers on the top 100 charts, but Marvel's offer 1-ups them! I think it's completely appropriate in a capitalist society like America, and I think it'd be amazing if it really did work out.

It really is an exciting year to be in comics. Let's look at what I got this week.

by Chad Lambert and David Miller

Every time I pick up a Bloodrayne comic, I feel the need to get the video game. For this one-shot, I really should have, because it draws on a lot of plot points there! The first few pages have no context and are hard to get into. Within panels, Rayne gets a random urge to go to Slovakia! It eventually turns out to be a quest for her memories, an infiltration into a former Nazi base, and then a confrontation with a busty surgeon who totally bathes in the blood of virgins and wields hacksaws made of bone.

Video games and comic books have moments where they crash into each other to make a perfect skidmark of insanity. Bloodrayne is that skidmark. It's just a shame that the artwork is awful. David Miller is another one of those dudes who was way too influenced by Marc Silvestri, and does his own inking. The result is a messy, over-drawn affair. The coloring needs work too, since the only reason I knew about the bone hacksaw was that the commentary said so.

Ultimately, in Slovakia, Rayne is shaken into her darker self, "Darkrayne," blows up the Nazi base, and a horde of zombie Nazi bodies is seen thummp!ing from the sky into the forest. That is the purest definition of a comic book right there guys.

by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara

Wow. The story is centered around a reformed Rhino, Aleksei Sytsevich, trying to earn an honest living after prison. Add Norah Winters, ace reporter and her photo monkey, Peter Parker, then a Rhino 2.0 out to kill Aleksei, and drama ensues! This is the kinda stuff I read Spidey for. The emotional hits from Kelly are strong, and the action is big. Dude freakin' busts a horse open on Aleksei's head.

Even better, I can't stop looking at the art. Inking is thick when it needs to be and thin when it should. I'm typaing andd it's ahard fori me to just look away! There is no misplaced line, no stroke without purpose! Fiumara does a great job of capturing Aleksei's solemnness. There's a sense of tragedy to this guy now. He's found love, and all he wants is to live his life in peace!

The action scenes are just as impressive. His anatomy is wild and crazy and fresh and just what Spidey needs. Each panel is so kinetic and paced excellently with the dialogue, that reading through them is a breeze. Kelly brings a lot of heart and humor to Aleksei and Peter Parker and makes it fresh. The only problem with the issue is that it ends. I don't want it to end. I wanna see Spidey kick Rhino 2.0's butt right now. I wanna see Aleksei happy right now. This issue is definitely a high point in the New Day stuff. This issue made me remember why I read weekly comics. Wednesday can't come soon enough!

So if you'll excuse me, I think I'll take my leave now. I need to go to Slovakia.
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