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Past Glories

Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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by Brian Domingos

The Ghost Of You

January 26, 2005

Cape Cod just got slammed with 24 plus inches (and five foot snow drifts,) so I’ve been snow bound for a while. It was so bad that my office was closed for three days. Not that I’m complaining, mind you – I love the five day weekends. The guy with the snow blower just did our driveway yesterday and we're looking at another 7-10 inches.

So anyway, I’ve had a lot of time to read some stuff and now I’m turning my comments on to you. Three of these books shipped last week, so keep your eyes peeled.

EX MACHINA: The First Hundred Days, vol. 1 TPB

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artists: Tony Harris (p) & Tom Feister (i)
Colors: JD Mettler
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Wildstorm Signature/DC Comics

When I first read about EX MACHINA, I thought it would be good, but I really couldn’t have predicted how much I would like it. I mean, sure, it’s drawn by Tony Harris – co-creator of STARMAN and one of the “Must Read” artists that I have. And then it’s aptly written by Brian K. Vaughan, who’s really setting up quite the catalogue of work.

EX MACHINA spans the time from early 2001 to 2005 detailing the story of Mitchell Hundred and his time as the World’s First Superhero to his years as the Mayor or New York.

Hundred found a device (or a bomb or something) that granted him the ability to talk to machines. He can control anything with moveable parts, causing guns to jam, subway trains to halt and toasters to not burn his toast. It’s told in simultaneous flashbacks and switches from his time as The Great Machine to the days in office. At one end, we see the trails and tribulations of becoming a super-person (the test runs, the secrets) and at the other, we see the press conferences and the dealing with a controversial, publicly funded painting and a killer who is targeting plow drivers in the peak of a snow crisis.

Vaughan keeps a firm balance of the two periods and uses the flashbacks to foreshadow the present. That, added to the quick dialogue and likeable characters, makes the seemingly boring topics highly entertaining.

It doesn’t hurt that Harris, inker Tom Feister and colorist JD Mettler are doing some great artwork. Harris gives a sneak-peak at his method in the back of the book, showing just how realistic the artwork is. He uses actors to model his scenes, and it makes for some interesting scenes.

EX MACHINA was one of the best new books of 2004 and is shaping up to be one of the best ongoing books of 2005. The first five issues are collected here for a simple price tag of $9.95 and I can’t really think of a better way to spend ten bucks. Plus, if you hunt around, you can get it for less. My copy was $4.97. That’s a steal.

MYSTIQUE: Unnatural, vol. 3 TPB

Writer: Sean McKeever
Artists: Manuel Garcia (p); Raul Fernandez (i), Jay Leister (i)
Colors: Matt Milla
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Russ Wooton with Chris Eliopoulis
Marvel Comics

When the MYSTIQUE ongoing series was announced, I didn’t think it would last. It part of the ‘Tsunami’ line of books and the only thing it had going for it was Brian K. Vaughan.

I gave the first book a shot – not too bad; lots of potential. Essentially, Professor Charles “Prof. X” Xavier blackmails Mystique into doing some undercover black ops work for him. She can use her morphing powers to get where his agents can’t. Not to mention that she’s done enough bad things that he had filing cabinets of stuff on her.

The second book showed a bit more promise and it gave us a new artist in Manuel Garcia. Garcia’s work is a mix of many recognizable styles, yet it’s hard to pin point just who. The result is a slick look that’s perfect for a femme-fatale action book.

So Vaughan leaves and Garcia is joined in the third book, “Unnatural”, by Sean McKeever. He’s been kicking around Marvel for a while with some pretty sad results. His biggest hit has been the MARY JANE manga series and, oh god, MARY JANE manga.

But his MYSTIQUE is actually pretty good. A European cosmetics company is violently using mutants to test its products. Mystique investigates and it turns out that the company is using her genetic make up to “make humans pretty”. This, obviously, rubs her the wrong way and she takes the battle to their door, saving mutant lives and crushing her enemies.

Mystique is written well, focusing on her obsessive and untrusting personality. The Xavier imposed “no killing” boundaries and constant monitoring by her keeper, the pint-sized Shortpack, forces McKeever to come up with new and interesting ways to use her powers.

One of the things that are good about the stories is that in any given time, it’s hard to tell who Mystique is at the moment. Most times you’ll assume that she’s ‘acting’ as one character and the next thing you know, you were wrong and there she is kicking someone in the face. It keeps you on the edge of your seat.

McKeever barely touched Vaughan’s dangling plot threads but the focus of his (and the book’s last story arc) will wrap it up. These plots added some extra twists and I haven’t yet decided if they were necessary. I hope to see McKeever use them to the full effect.

MYSTIQUE: Unnatural isn’t the best thing on the shelf, but it’s a pretty good read and something that you might not look to first, second or even fifth. Start with book two and make your way though. You’ll enjoy the ride.


Writer: Larry Young
Artists: Various
Letters: Ryan Yount
AiT/Planet Lar

The first time I talked about PROOF OF CONCEPT, I said:
PROOF OF CONCEPT is a combination of short stories all written by Larry Young and drawn by a variety of untapped talents. The project started as part of Young’s same-titled column at Comic World News where every couple of weeks he’d throw a new eight page script out to the masses. Then he’d pick the best entry of each script and set them up for publication. Well, now it’s time.

Now, I’ve seen the result and it’s better than I imaged. The stories are framed by a couple pages of Young talking to his “Superstar Entertainment Lawyer” Ken F. Levin. The pieces are drawn by Kieron Dwyer and Young telling Levin about the concepts. Then we see the actual stories written by Young and drawn by various looking-to-breakout talents.

“Hemogoblin” is the first story and it’s skillfully drawn by Damian Couceiro. It’s set in the future and focuses on the world’s last vampire. He’s returned and it’s a likely candidate for an on-the-run sort of monthly serial. Like THE FUGITIVE or THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Or something.

The second story, is “Zombie Dinosaur” which is aching to hit the big screen. A T-Rex has risen from the dead and it’s seen better days. A squad is sent to explode it and then, uh oh, another fossil awakens. It’s penciled by Steven (FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE) Sanders and inked by Jeff (MOONSHINE) Johns. Johns is an interesting fit for Sanders, adding texture to the work.

Next up is a short called “The Camera.” Paul Tucker draws a group of young kids who find a little hole in time/space. They experiment with it and it’s cute, but I don’t really need to see more of it. It works well as a short, but that’s about it.

“For The Time Being” is Jeff Johns’ time traveling space opera. The captain of the US Timeship H. G. Wells gains god-like powers and double-dog dares his crew to come find him... in time. I liked the artwork a lot and the idea is sound.

My favorite story was “Emancipating Lincoln.” It’s the future and the world is inhabited by a race of Lincoln clones. Everything is fine and dandy like ribbon candy until one of them enlists the help of a private eye. It seems that the clone found an old five dollar bill – that has everyone’s face on it. It’s a worthy case and the PI jumps right on it. I like this story for a couple reasons. First, the artwork by John Flynn is really good, in a Becky Cloonan way. Secondly, I love a good PI story. This was my vote for “should be a full length OGN”.

The last story is the collection of Young and John Heebink’s “The Bod”, which you might remember from a couple of years ago. It shared a couple issues of DOUBLE IMAGE with Joe Casey’s CODEFLESH. The color’s been stripped away, but the tones look nice. It’s a more traditional comic about a young girl who wants to be an actress who gets doused with a chemical that turns her invisible. The Bod becomes very popular, but her live slips out of her hands and she ends up on Jerry Springer and (one of my personal favorites) Judge Judy.

PROOF OF CONCEPT is a high quality book (check out that glossy paper!) and it has something for everyone. It’s an 'Give it a look and see what you want more of'. If you can’t decide, toss out another vote for “Emancipating Lincoln” because, Christ, doesn’t the world need more Lincoln clones?


Writer: Phil Hester
Artist/Letters: Andy Kuhn
Colors: Bill Crabtree
Image Comics

I’m not sure if this counts as an “Original Graphic Novel”. It’s a self-contained, square-bound book, so, yeah, I guess it does. It’s prestige format at the very least.

Anyway, FIREBREATHER was one of those new hero Image books (from the same line that gave us INVINCIBLE) and it instantly caught my eye. Duncan is the son of a human woman and the King of the Monsters (a giant dragon-type Fing Fang Foom creature). The book follows him in his daily life, struggling with being different and his heritage. The concept is awesome and the results are just as good. Phil Hester has a solid idea of what Duncan is and who he is and Andy Kuhn is the perfect artist to depict it.

The first mini series is just great, and I covered it a couple of months ago in this very column. The new book, “The Iron Saint” works a bit of folk lore into the back story. Duncan’s class is taken abroad by “Mr. M” the Spanish teacher, who shows them the sights of London, before making their way to Spain. While in London, the group hears the story of “The Iron Saint,” a long forgotten being that was created to fight, and survive, the King of the Monsters. The suit of armor has been passed down for generations and generations, and now it’s just a museum piece.

Duncan learns of its history, and its connection to him, and can’t help but be curious. When he and his friend investigate they find that the suit has been brought back to life and it’s out to get Duncan. A fight breaks out and they have to use brains and brawn to best the armor.

When the villain is revealed, it’s a pretty good twist and the motivations are touching. The ending seems a bit too easy, but it’s a resolution I can deal with. It took quite a while for this to arrive (as it’s a couple of months late) and I’d be interested in seeing more. The character has a lot of potential, and Hester and Kuhn work really well together.


Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Leonardo Manco
Colors: Lee Loughridge with Zylonol Studios
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Vertigo/DC Comics

Mike Carey’s been writing HELLBLAZER for a little over two years now, and I can't help but notice that there haven’t been any collections of his work. I figure it’s just a matter of time, but I’ve enjoyed his work on LUCIFER and I loved MY FAITH IN FRANKIE so I’m looking at my calendar and waiting. Because I like John Constantine – I like him a lot. He’s a hideously flawed character (most of which we saw in this month’s HELLBLAZER: Rare Cuts tpb) with almost an unlimited range of stories.

From Alan Moore’s playfully vague mystic to Warren Ellis’ observer of the Weird, he works just about any way you can imagine. Garth Ennis kicked his ass around England, dragging him from the depths of loneliness and despair perfectly paired with Steve Dillon’s storytelling. Brian Azzarello focused on the con man with something to gain and Marcelo Frusin’s grinning Constantine is quite memorable. But what they all remembered – and what Carey knows – is that as smart as he is, Constantine is never smart enough – At first.

In HELLBLAZER: All His Engines, a plague has been unleashed on the planet, leaving its victims in a coma. It was caused by a new evil who has plans to create Hell on earth by using the souls of living humans. One of the victims is the granddaughter of Constantine’s best mate Chas. So he gets involved and the story takes him across the pond to Los Angelos, to face off against the ghoul. Constantine has to rely on one of his old ghosts to deal with the new threat.

The five chapter OGN is drawn by current HB artist Leonardo Manco and, it’s the best work that I’ve ever seen by him. His work tends to be a bit more on the ‘sketchy’ side but here the line work is slick and well defined. There are even a few honest-to-god “Constantine” pictures – well-defined examples of that bastard Constantine.

There’s a little bit of character build up as Constantine deals with yet another of his long time ghosts and even Chas gets fleshed out a bit. The dialogue is concise and charming. The script is easy to swallow with some really nice plot points.

On a whole, it’s a very enjoyable story. It’s a completely self-contained story and a gorgeous package. The $24.95 price tag might scare people away, but I got mine half price and it was worth every penny.


NOV040237 BATMAN #636
DC Comics

Judd Winick surprised the hell out of me last issue. It was an issue that entertained from beginning to end. I think everyone out there ‘knows’ who the new Red Hood is, but I’m really interested to see how it plays out. Doug Mahnke never looked this good on JLA, and I’m anxious to see more.

NOV040270 THE FLASH #218
DC Comics

It’s time for another of Geoff Johns’ “Rogue Profile” issues. This time it’s a focus on Heatwave and it’s drawn by, one of my favorites, Peter Snejbjerg. These are “secret origin” issues and give some character insight. I realized that I seem to know the least about Heatwave, (and the first Trickster) so I’m looking forward to this.

DC Comics

Morrison’s last JLA issue. I’m interested to see how they get out of this. Batman got taken down too easily and I can’t help but notice that he didn’t use a Wonder Woman robot. Hmm…

DC Comics

I have no emotional attachment to the Legion (other than Star Boy, but only because of his STARMAN ties). Not to mention, I’ve only read maybe 10 issues of LEGION in my twelve years reading comics. So I tried Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s new book and it’s pretty good. It’s not heavy on the continuity, but at the same time, it’s not lacking it. It’s acting like a Legion 102 and it’s easy to get into.

NOV040351 THE LOSERS #20 (MR)
Vertigo/DC Comics

This issue picks up on Clay and Aisha’s conversation on the plane. It’s also drawn by the awesome Ben (AUTHORITY: Human On the Inside) Oliver. He’s awesome.

Wildstorm/DC Comics

Three months already? Jeez… Well, I don’t even care what happens in this issue. I love this book and it could be 22 pages of Elijah Snow reading the paper, drinking Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee and I’d still read it. As long as it was by John Cassaday and Laura Martin (or even David Baron, let’s be honest.) I think the solicitation said this was “the torture of William Leather” and, a-hahaha that sounds like fun.

NOV040325 SLEEPER, SEASON TWO #8 (OF 12) (MR) $2.95

NOV040358 WE 3 #3 (OF 3) (MR)
Vertigo/DC Comics

This is such a great mini series. We NEED to see an over-sized addition because the artwork is just, so, gorgeous. Story-wise, I’m afraid for the WE3 crew.


Marvel Comics

Is this the best thing Ellis has written for Marvel in… forever? I think so. Three more issues and I can stop, too. Yeah!

Okay, that’s it for this week. I’ll be back next week with a look at the April PREVIEWS with a special guest reviewer. If I play my cards right, he might even stick around. Yeah, I’m excited, too.


Brian Domingos is the Columns Editor at PopImage. He'd be happy to never see another snow flake. Ever.

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