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Jason Schachat spent time in prison for "Schachating the Monkey."
Jason Schachat's Independent Breakdown
December 9, 2004

Each week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction feeds you.

A Bat-suit without nipples? I… I almost feel like the taint of Catwoman has been washed from my mouth…

Deady the Terrible Teddy #2 is one weird little collection of shorts. Imagine if Venom bonded with a cute little plush toy; that’s about what you get with Deady. Creator Voltaire uses his abomination’s second outing to muse on what would happen if Deady’s plans of world domination ever came to fruition, where he would fit in the Star Wars Universe, the inevitable meeting of Deady and The Crow, and what happens when Deady uses some more literal crows to act out a favorite nursery rhyme.

Yes, this little graphic novel slanders and stars not just Star Wars and The Crow but Roman Dirge, Maakies, Voltaire’s own Oh My Goth!, and just about everything else you can wedge between his love for geekiness and gothness. It’s a fun little rampage with the malevolent stuffed animal, but it definitely caters to a certain crowd. Not just goths or Hot Topic drones, necessarily, but this easily works for the same bunch that follow Jhonen Vasquez religiously.

Ultimately, it’s a question of whether you want to shell out the six bucks for this roughly fifty page collection of shorts. I’m a little wary of giving this an outright recommendation because short collections tend to tire me out, and, despite some very entertaining entrees, there are a few that try to be weird for weirdness sake rather than sticking to the disjointed humor.

The guest star characters and artists give Deady enough variety to appeal to the masses (something you wouldn’t think possible), but he’s still a damn odd little bastard. I usually get enough violence and teddy bears in Bear, but Deady appeals more to geek culture. And, hey, when you get Neil Gaiman to write a story for the next collection, you know you must be doing something right.

Nothing more exciting than superheroes playing videogames...
The theory behind The Intimates was, with all the “Ultimate” superhero comics out there, wouldn’t it be nifty to explore the opposite kind of storytelling? To go not for broad characters and big action, but the intimate details of superhero lives? Works in theory, but, as of The Intimates #2, it still has yet to be proven.

This month, our rebellious superteens sleep through a pep-talk assembly from Mr. Majestic’s former sidekick Desmond. Destra and Empty Vee then bellyache about him in the lady’s room while Punchy and Duke do the same on the basketball court. Duke gets a little testy at Punchy’s lack of respect for Desmond (and starts to undergo some crippling constipation), but Punchy gets back on his good side by promising to sneak him out of the school so they can visit Mr. Majestic’s Mt. Rushmore Sanctuary.

I have to say there’s a reason why the widscreen style works so well, and it’s the missing component that makes The Intimates so slow-going: it’s all about plot. Characterization is fine and dandy, but, when you’ve got a visual medium like comics, there’s just a lot more excitement in a plot motivated story than a collection of talking heads spouting out lots of dialogue. I think only Bendis has made talking heads work really well in the last few years, but, hey, that’s BENDIS.

And, let’s face it, Ultimate books are not synonymous with widescreen comics. They try to be, and some mini/maxi-series are definitive widescreen, but Ultimate Spider-Man certainly isn’t. Neither is Ultimate X-Men nor Ultimate Fantastic Four. Heck, I don’t think we could even call them archetypal, what with the mad rush to shoehorn in as much history as possible in a limited amount of time.

However, I WILL say that those books do mix a lot of characterization in with the action. So, how’s The Intimates that different? Because they insert info bubbles that yank us out of the story’s flow? Not buying it. The first issue was different enough to get my attention, but this second one doesn’t develop the characters beyond the broad stereotypes we met in the first issue.

We get some drama, conflict, and humor, but it isn’t anything special—aside from the fact that some of these kids are downright loathsome. Even the Jim Lee cover art is less than stellar. Not Recommended.

There’s a very common storytelling strategy in anime and manga wherein the creators give us a puzzle with missing pieces and audiences are hooked trying to figure out what it all means. Of course, this all falls apart if you don’t solve the mystery (fans of the highly addictive Neon Genesis Evangelion reportedly rioted and threatened to burn down the studio when the last episode failed to answer any questions), but it usually works out enough to be worth the gamble. I think that’s what’s going on in Karas #1.

The issue begins simply enough with a young and old detective talking about how tough it as working the streets of Tokyo. Then we segue to a bespectacled chicken and a giant, living saki bottle-man in rain ponchos digging through the trash for food (no, I’m not making this up).

They complain and argue about how hard things are in the city and how good life was in the country. Then an anthropomorphic rabbit falls on top of them: surely a bad omen. After a brief speech from a girly looking guy in black armor who must be the villain, we end up at a hospital for monsters like the chicken, bottle, and rabbit.

It’s run by another pretty boy with a magical suit of armor, and, in his discussions with an anthropomorphic frogman, we learn that the monsters are of ancient legend in Japan, but their days are coming to a close, and a new evil force seeks to use them to make his armies. The end of the world is coming.

So, yes, Karas kicks off with a resounding “wha?!”

While the mystery of having absolutely no clue of what’s going on does have a certain appeal, I was just too lost to enjoy this book. I had to keep flipping back and forth to try and figure out what the detectives had to do with anything, what the obligatory cute girl making a fashion statement was up to, and whether or not two pages had gotten stuck together.

Nuria Peris’ backgrounds and less realistic characters are enjoyable, but the moment something has to look human, we run into all sorts of problems with proportion and perspective. The Karas armor looks appropriately lethal, but the action scenes toward the end didn’t have enough energy to keep the book afloat. Of course, this could end up being brilliant in four or five issues, but I can’t think of any reason to buy it yet.

Most people know about Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and the gaggle of goth comics that have emerged in it’s wake. To be fair, not all of them are copies and some (like Lenore and the not-goth-but-lumped-in-with-them-anyway Bear) have been pretty enjoyable. But they usually follow the same formula of creepiness mixed with dark humor. So, you can imagine my surprise when I first discovered Kindergoth (which, in an alternate universe, would probably be titled “Goth Babies”).

In hindsight, though, didn't you always suspect it?
This comic takes the all-too-overused concept of goth children vs. the world and lets it be the cartoony battle against all things sacred you always wanted. Kindergoth #4 continues the romp with our gang of elementary school punks who commandeer an alien spacecraft in order to rescue a seventeen year old first grader (yes, he’s that dumb) and prevent humanity from being destroyed when he fails the aliens’ aptitude test.

The little tykes start making Star Wars quips as soon as they crash on the landing deck. The nerd they brought along to take the alien test nearly has an orgasm when they touch down, but the ever violent cute little girl Alise ends that by threatening to wring the life out of him.

An alien cook and mini grim reaper (apparently, the kids leave a trail of death in their wake) accompany them on their crusade through giant interstellar video stores and intergalactic hall monitors, but will they make it through their reference-heavy adventure in time to save the Earth?

Re-reading the last issue, I have to say this one doesn’t deliver as many laughs, but it still entertains, horrifies, and, occasionally, delights (nothing can top the all encompassing explanation for cattle mutilations, crop circles, and Roswell that happened last time around, though). There are some moments that are a touch too surprising, but it’s to be expected, what with the massive cast of kids running all over the place.

Kindergoth’s greatest contribution, however, is making goth kids that are goth KIDS and not just shrunken down versions of depressed or angry teenagers. While I doubt you’d ever find a mob of urchins like this in any real elementary school (and their knowledge of pop trivia from twenty years before they were born is ASTOUNDING), this bunch makes a welcome diversion from all the other attempts to win over the Hot Topic crowd. Recommended.

The first seven pages of Mu #1 hooked me instantly. The dirtied-up Boris Vallejo art style and broad high fantasy storytelling awoke the jumpy little fanboy in me that drools uncontrollably when a new issue of Conan is about to hit the racks… but then it had to change.

Our story turns from a flashback to the time when two wizards formed an uneasy alliance against a dark god to the story of a sagely historian one thousand years later. Despite the fact that he has a bizarrely buxom hottie elf-chick working for him, the story loses its appeal as the more interesting legend that began the issue fades into the background.

A new warlord rides into town, there’s a big party, lots of exposition, another hot chick with magic floating silks that keep her clothed, and the historian translates a chronical that promises the end of the world. Frankly, I just wanted to hear more about those two wizards beating up cyclops and tearing through the enemy stronghold.

In a way, it’s like beginning Lord of the Rings with a combination of the battle in Moria and Sam and Frodo’s march up Mount Doom. Once you’ve given us the grand magic and the desperate emotion, who really wants to go back and spend a week in Hobbiton? However, I’d also say this book more strongly resembles the anime/manga Berserk than any works of Tolkien. It’s far more concerned with rippling muscles and ancient prophesies than magic and metaphor.

Mu is the second book by Ice Studios that I’ve reviewed and it suffers from many of the same problems the other did: interesting backstory leading into a less exciting plotline, main characters that are just barely worth watching, and pretty art that quickly becomes disproportionate and strange. Like Megacity 909, I want to like it, but there are just too many flaws for me to make a recommendation.

With growing horror, the kids stared at the wreckage of
Eddie Murphy's career...
New X-Men: Academy X #7 is a pretty disturbing sign of where the book is going. It had been a drama for a long time, but the move to the new Xavier’s cast things in a different mold. Essentially, it’s become an out and out high school drama, and that was okay for one arc, but it looks like the creators may be running out of steam. Why do I say that? Two words: haunted mansion.

Yes, this issue not only brings team leader David’s sister in for a visit but also tosses in a pesky poltergeist. Little sis is introduced around and we get another one of those threads where everything at Xavier’s is surprising and new through the eyes of a stranger. Then Jay Guthrie notices objects seem to be moving around his room when he’s not looking.

In Science Lab, Josh macks on TA and would-be girlfriend Rahne Sinclair while Laurie is partnered with the other romantic possibility of Kevin (though, of course, his power prevents him from touching anyone without killing them). Noriko notices Jay perched atop a basketball hoop during lunch and learns of his attempted suicide, wondering how he could feel THAT alone when he has so many loving friends and family.

She calls up her own family in Japan, just hoping to talk with her brother, but is shut down when her father grabs the phone from her mother and tells Noriko how much shame she’s brought to the family before hanging up. Laurie and Kevin run into some more ghostly warnings, Julian tries to pick a fight with David, and Jay seems to get closer to Noriko for a moment. Then they notice her room has been mysteriously trashed while she wasn’t looking.

On the one hand, you could say New X-Men gives you a lot of bang for your buck plotwise. Only about three scenes last for more than three pages, and a large number fit snugly into one page. Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir pack a lot of interaction and character development on these pages… but a haunted mansion story? I know we were probably ripe for one, but this just comes off as trite and uninteresting.

I also have to lob some blame towards artist Michael Ryan, but maybe a bit more to the Marvel editors who put him on this book. I wouldn’t call him a bad artist, but his subtle style isn’t well-suited to this quiet comic. I’ve seen far worse artists handle these characters, but the layouts and bold art added some excitement to the story. Ryan’s work isn’t strong enough to carry the book, and I’m afraid that’s what it needs to do when our underlying mystery is a haunting. Pass on this one.

After gobbling five Missile Pops, I once vomited this exact same image.
My big question for the makers of The Question? How the hell am I supposed to summarize The Question #2? The first outing of this miniseries was delightfully surreal, but this one, while charming and not too terribly painful to describe, is hard to compartmentalize.

Here goes: Vic Sage, celebrity investigative reporter by day/creepy, otherworldly hero by night, wanders out into the streets of Metropolis instead of covering the press conference where Lex Luthor announces the construction of a massive edifice in the center of Metropolis. While Lois Lane pesters the billionaire tyrant about the missing deeds that allowed Lex to bulldoze one hundred city blocks, he instead pushes the press’ attention toward the Feng Shui master who’s found the world’s most powerful focused chi in Metropolis. Right where Lex’s new toy’s being built.

In parallel plotting, The Question walks the city and the “other” world, asking what is hurting Metropolis so. The city responds through snippets of pedestrian conversations The Question picks up, saying it’s in danger; being ripped apart to give birth to an abomination. Three guesses what the city’s referring to.

You know, I take back what I said earlier: this IS terribly painful to describe. Very hard to do justice to. Throw in a few “zips” and “booms” and this synopsis could read like another cheap superhero adventure, which it most assuredly is not. Even though Superman does make a brief appearance towards the end, this is about the quiet battles that go on. About the bank robbery happening while men of steel are fighting the interstellar death rays that serve as a distraction.

The Question deftly manages to walk the fine line of otherwordly adventure without stepping into farce or trite melodrama. Rick Veitch gives the story a sly eeriness that smacks of his days on Swamp Thing but is decidedly a different animal. Major credit has to go to artist Tommy Lee Edwards for making such a solid book from photo referencing, photo portraiture, traditional lineart and 3D models. The integration is wonderfully messy, giving it a less computerized look than The Red Star without being another gritty city a la Gotham Central. Recommended.

Hot Predictions for This Week: Fables #32, Gotham Central #26, Marvel Knights Spider-Man #9, Powers #7, and She-Hulk #10.

Want us to review a book you’ve been wonderin’ about? Head to the forums and tell us so!

Jason Schachat

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