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Tag Archive: Brian Azzarello


Wil Wheaton standing room only crowd at Planet Comicon 2013

This weekend Planet Comicon Kansas City is featuring a pantheon of nationally recognized comic book writers and artists at its sixth year in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.  The show begins tomorrow at Bartle Hall, and continues through Sunday.  Bring your stacks of comics for autographs from your favorite creators, including Frank Cho, Jill Thompson, Dave Dorman, Mark Brooks, Brian Azzarello, Jae Lee, Dan Jurgens, Chris Stevens, Peter Stiegerwald, Amy Chu, Ashley Witter, Greg Capullo, Stephane Roux, Christopher Priest, and Scott Snyder.

Back again are PCKC regulars Freddie Williams, Tony Moore, Jason Aaron, Phil Hester, Jai Nitz, Ande Parks, Ant Lucia, Skottie Young, Megan Levens, Neal Adams, Greg Horn, Seth Peck, Rob Davis, Darryl Woods, Jason Arnett, Bryan Fyffe, Bryan Timmins, C.W. Cooke, Damont Jordan, and Darren Neely.

Planet Comicon 2014

Make sure you visit the Elite Comics flight crew at the “Party on the Pillar” and pick up some great deals on what the Con is all about–comics–including Elite Comics and Planet Comicon exclusive cover variants of special issues available only at the show.

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Kubert main cover DKIII     DK II The Master Race alt cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

I am truly hoping Frank Miller’s eight issue The Dark Knight III: The Master Race does what I hope J.J. Abrams will be successful at with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  If the first issue is any indication, the series might be better than The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the sequel to the seminal work Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

Why the comparison to Abrams?  Unlike DKI and DKII, which was written and illustrated by Miller with colors by Lynn Varley, DKIII is “co-written” by Brian Azzarello, and illustrated by Andy Kubert with inks by Klaus Janson (who also inked the original Miller pencils on DKI).  It’s this concept of expanding an original story to new creators that may allow this Dark Knight Elseworlds story to regain some steam.

Dark-Knight-III-The-Master-Race-12     Jock DKIII cover

With Issue #1, Kubert has drawn the beginning of a continuation story that looks like it was drawn by Miller.  Miller’s original four-issue series included many unique design concepts, including frenetically rendered heroes as well as psychedelic street thugs, TV screens delivering the backstory of the world view as the plotline moved forward, and plenty of grim, dystopian future-Gotham characterizations.  All of these are back, yet in an updated style, including the attention to current technologies that weren’t around in the 1980s like texting to deliver the view of the state of Gotham as part of its world building.

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Frank Miller The Master Race DK 3

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  Comic book readers all remember first reading Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.  Most of the world would acknowledge it is one of the top 20 most influential graphic novels of all time and belongs on many a top 10 list for any kind of novel.  We all look ahead each week to the next good read, and can’t wait to read the next DKR.

We just don’t mean that literally.  We once thought that is exactly what we wanted, once upon a time.  Then Frank Miller delivered what we thought we wanted with his sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, or DK2.  It was pretty much unreadable, made worse because it was released on Miller’s trademark staggered “I’ll release it when I feel like it” schedule (remember All-Star Batman and Robin?).

So DC Entertainment just issued a press release late Friday announcing The Dark Knight III:  The Master Race.  Really?  The Master Race?  From the guy that wrote the offensive, bigotted Holy Terror?  What is DC Comics thinking?

DKR 2

The Dark Knight Strikes Again, DK2. Be careful what you wish for.

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BF Manhattan nite owl

Before Watchmen is a series of titles that was beset with controversy from its inception.  Years before the launch of the series last year, DC Comics had looked at a prequel concept for the much-ballyhooed Watchmen mini-series turned graphic novel, but squelched it before anything came of it.  Watchmen, continually one of the biggest selling graphic novels, has a sort of sacred status to many.  And loyalists believed that if Alan Moore didn’t write it or at least endorse it, then it wasn’t for them.  Still, whether you hate or love the original Watchmen, how do you pass up a series of titles from the likes of J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Azzarello, Len Wein, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, Joe Kubert, Lee Bermejo, and Jae Lee?  See our early review of the first issues of the series here and here.

In an era where you can either read single issues or wait out the run—especially with a mini-series—and get the graphic novel in hardcover or trade version, as consumer you have decisions to make.  You could read the monthly and then you don’t necessary “need” the trade edition.  If you love the monthly you may just want the trade version on your shelf for future reading.  With ordinary monthly series waiting for the trade editions actually can hurt the ability to ensure series and creators you love continue, since publishers bank on weekly circulation numbers.  If everyone waits for the trades, the publishers may cancel a series based on low sales.  That doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case for mini-series, which publishers only plan for a few issues.

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Uncanny Issue 1 Jock cover

Next Wednesday Dynamite Comics is releasing Issue #1 of a new crime series, called Uncanny.  Writer Andy Diggle and artist Aaron Campbell offer up a modern noir story about a flawed yet oddly powerful American named Weaver set in modern-day Singapore.  Uncanny is similar in many ways to many recent crime monthly comic book series.  It’s an edgy, action noir mixed with pulp spy novel crime story that will appeal to fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, and Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s Scalped.

The update of 1930s-1940s film noir to the modern city is intriguing.  Diggle’s Weaver seems capable of being a variant on James Bond–rugged, overconfident–yet instead of running after the bad guy by all accounts Weaver seems to have created his own problems leaving him to be the man on the run.  Campbell’s art deftly balances the bright lights of the city with the night-time dark tone of a man somehow caught up in the city’s underbelly.  And Campbell’s first issue of the story is heavily influenced by both the recent Bond films Casino Royale and Skyfall.  In fact, his characters, the style and setting are similar to Mike Grell’s James Bond: Permission to Die mini-series.

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Planet Comicon logo

Planet Comicon announced this weekend that advance tickets for Planet Comicon 2013 are now available for sale.  This year Planet Comicon is Saturday, April 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM – 7 PM and Sunday, April 7, 2013 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at downtown Kansas City’s giant Bartle Hall, a switch from the show’s home at Overland Park International Trade Center from past years.  The relocation was the result of the growing numbers at the event in the past two years requiring an expansion to this larger venue.

Use the below link to purchase a single day or weekend pass.  There is no limit to the quantities you may order.

ADVANCE TICKET PURCHASE

Advance tickets will be sold until midnight on Sunday, March 17, 2013.  After that time, they will only be available for sale at the event.

Weekend passes for adults are being sold at a discounted rate of $35.00.  All other prices will be identical to on-site pricing.

Advance tickets are available for sale only through Paypal, which accepts all major credit cards and bank debits.

Advance tickets will also be made available soon through the event facility and certain area retailers, including Elite Comics, located at 11842 Quivira in Overland Park, KS.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Whether or not you’d call yourself a fan of Watchmen, the graphic novel or film adaptation, or whether you’re interested in the new DC Comics’ prequel series, if you’ve seen anything about Edward Blake, the Comedian, you can tell he is a pretty complex character.  World War II hero, vigilante-turned-paramilitary agent, and sociopath.  In the parallel universe of Watchmen, we’re led to believe Blake was the sole gunman on the grassy knoll.  His character made to look like Burt Reynolds and his name a play on Blake Edwards, director of the Pink Panther comedies, the Comedian wore the famous smiley face as a badge, a symbol that has become synonymous with the Watchmen.  It was also the Comedian whose death sets off the mystery plot behind Alan Moore’s graphic novel, the question:  Who is killing all these superheroes?  Blake never appears in real-time in Watchmen, only in flashbacks, and ultimately we never get to know much about his motivations or the causes of his apparent psychotic state.  He’s billed as a hero, yet as he saves victims from the villain, he traumatizes the victims.  He alone saves the hostages in Iran, yet the hostages do not appear as joyous with the result as in our timeline.  He sometimes seems to know what is right and search out and be a superhero, yet something always gets in the way, he alters his own course heading, and everyone ultimately would be better off without him.

So writer Brian Azzarello and artist J.G. Jones have their shot here at expanding on the Comedian via his backstory in Before Watchmen–Comedian #1.  In Issue #1 we don’t yet have a clear picture of this character–maybe it’s too soon–but at least there is something minimally sympathetic about the guy who one day goes completely off the edge of the rational.  It is not he who is the schemer.  The evil mastermind in this issue is actually quite brilliant–it’s none other than the one and only Jackie Kennedy, angry at a husband wasting time with the other woman.  I’m curious whether older readers have the same reactions to this storyline as younger readers.  At one time the Kennedys were the American royal family, and JFK’s death the single worst event in the history of the nation.  To make the First Lady the person who instigates the murder of Marilyn Monroe?  Definitely some shocking stuff fleshed out here.

Blake begins his story, then, as a rube, maybe like Joaquin Phoenix in To Die For.  He maintains his respect for the Kennedy brothers, yet who really is pulling the strings?  The story begins with a not so friendly game of pickup football.  Jones’s art is not photo-real but he does enough to let you know Blake is a key element in the ultimate 1960s inner sanctum.  He is a superhero CIA assassin of sorts.  His missions?  To take out those who would make those in power look bad.  In Watchmen, this meant killing Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein before they dug their heels in to report on the ramifications of the Watergate break-in.  With all the oddities that have been said over the years about Watergate bit player G. Gordon Liddy, Edward Blake appears to be cut from the same cloth.  As Blake is about to erase another target, he learns of the events in Dallas of November 1963.  Which poses the question–Does Azzarello plan to alter or explain Alan Moore’s background on the Comedian?  As the Comedian sits on the bed of Marilyn Monroe after apparently drugging her to look like an overdose, he takes note of his surroundings.  Can this character ever be redeemable?  Is he any worse or better than someone like Hannibal Lecter?  Can someone like Nite Owl step in and at least try to fix him?  Does anyone ever try, or is he just another typical, hopeless villain?  More than any other single issue DC Comics has published this past year, Comedian #1 certainly has intrigue, and will leave readers coming back for more.

Unfortunately the actual hero of the Watchmen story doesn’t get as exciting a debut in Before Watchmen–Nite Owl #1.  Legendary writer J. Michael Straczynski and popular artists Andy and Joe Kubert don’t do much to particularly evoke the early 1960s, where Nite Owl’s origin begins as a kid named Daniel Dreiberg.  Danny’s beginning is that of a slightly more bleak backgrounded Peter Parker.  He has an abusive father, and upon his death he is taken under the wing of the former Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, now ready to retire.  The training and mentoring is skipped over in this Issue #1, and Nite Owl becomes a member of the Crimebusters with the Comedian, Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, and Silk Spectre.  The single thing I think readers want to know about his past is just not there.  Hopefully the creators will come back to this in later issues of this mini-series.

How does a kid who would break into the original Nite Owl’s headquarters to learn his secrets become the conscientious superhero he later becomes–and remains–after the Keene Act’s ban on superheroes?  Character building and development is left aside here where readers could use an explanatory, novel, origin story.  Nite Owl doesn’t bring a lot of uniqueness as superheroes are concerned.  As influenced by Ted Kord’s Blue Beetle or Batman…  either he remains sort of bland as created by Moore, or Straczynski and team Kubert could really expand his story into new dimensions.  With a powerhouse creative team like these guys, I’m just left wishing for something more.

One place that could have been an opening for some creative freedom is the buddy relationship of Nite Owl and Rorschach.  We get to see a glimpse of that toward the end of this first issue, but perhaps an entire issue showing us why Nite Owl and Rorschach make the best team-up is worth pursuing.

The first four issues of Before Watchmen have certainly been interesting, with first issues of Azzarello’s Rorschach, Straczynski’s Dr. Manhattan, and Len Wein’s Ozymandias remaining to be published over the next few weeks.  With artists Adam Hughes, Lee Bermejo, and Jae Lee drawing those series, we’ve got a lot more to look forward to.

   

Review by C.J. Bunce

(with spoilers)

One of the most anticipated titles of DC Comics New 52 is Wonder Woman, and its tight writing by Brian Azzarello is only slightly eclipsed by the brilliant artistry of top artist Cliff Chiang.  Chiang’s style alone is enough to make the new Wonder Woman series a title to keep reading.  But Azzarello’s developing story steeped (if not fully submerged) in Greek mythology is enticing and leaves you looking for what’s next.

In Issue #1 we meet Wonder Woman in in her London apartment, sleeping naked, of course (she’s a woman superhero in the new DCU so what else would you expect?) shortly after Zola, the soon-to-be mother of an illegitimate daughter of Zeus is pursued by a pair of bow and arrow and mace-toting centaurs released in a Virginia barn by a peacock feathered Hera.  (Phew!)  The “release” itself is disturbing but that’s where the negative part of Issue #1 ends.  The rest is akin to a pretty rousing episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Not a bad thing at all.

Even if we don’t know what’s going on, Wonder Woman, or Diana, as she prefers to be called, is confident and comfortable as a determined and skillful warrior in the DCU.  Apollo, perched high atop his new temple in the tallest building in the world in Dubai, is a modern sleazy type, quick to expend three hanger-on-ers as oracles to catch a glimpse of what transpires as Diana saves Zola, who escapes the Virginia farm with the help of a magic key handed to her by Hermes.   Inexplicably Zola lands in the dark of Diana’s London apartment and we’re off on a Xena and Gabrielle-esque ride from then on.

Issue #2 picks up with Diana returning to Mount Olympus carrying the wounded Hermes, stricken by the centaurs before Diana eliminates them.  There Diana meets up with her mother, Queen Hippolyta and has a few nice panels of combat with another Amazonian princess in the tribe.  A rather punked-out looking daughter of Hera named Strife, sister to Ares the God of War, arrives with a surprising claim on our eponymous superheroine.

The story of Issue #2 may be short and sweet, but the fan is had with Chiang’s art again.  If you have seen Chiang’s original artwork before, you will know his work is pristine with not a lot of sketching, just bold lines.  Despite all the chatter in advance about Wonder Woman’s new costume, ultimately it does not matter as this Diana is drawn beautifully, as you’d expect a stunning Amazon princess to look in the comic pages.  Her characterization as bold, brash, outspoken and brassy is right where Wonder Woman should be.  Expect to see Chiang in the next few years emerge as the next Frank Cho.

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