"Luke Cage Noir" was really, really good.

"Luke Cage Noir" #4 from Marvel Comics


I know this is very strange, but I'm going to do it: I'm not going to tell you anything specific about the last issue of this mini-series. Honestly, I feel that in my past posts I have already said too much. The twists in this last issue are very, very good and to describe why I loved this issue would be to ruin it for all of you.

I have had my copies of "Luke Cage Noir" #1, 2, 3, and 4 on the desk for a few weeks now, pondering the best way to do a retrospective post about the mini-series. The problem is that I've already written so much in my reviews of issue #2 and issue #3 that heaping on more would ruin the surprises that made this series wonderful. I considered doing a historical analysis of portrayals of black superheroes or something but that's really not the point of a review and I already wrote a paper that covered that when I was still in high school. (Plus "Luke Cage Noir"-artist Shawn Martinbrough is talking all over the net about an exhibit at the Studio Museum Harlem about the different incarnations of Luke Cage. It may or may not have already been held... There's nothing about it on their website.)

The last issue contains one awful moment of absurd, over-the-top, bloody hyper-violence.
Just to let you know.
The last issue has several fantastic twists.
The last issue has many wonderful emotional moments.
The last issue is as good as, if not better than, the others.

The series is entirely wrapped up and thus would probably read equally well as a mini or as a trade. Of course, you can find the individual issues right now and the trade isn't supposed to be out 'till March...

Go. Go buy them.


The exhibit I mentioned above eventually did occur and I covered it for the blog here.

A "Testament" to Art in the Face of Death

A few years ago, after the sudden lunge Marvel Comics made to capitalize on the upcoming Fox Studios X-Men movie "X-Men: Last Stand" and their soon to be announced prequels "X-Men Origins: Magneto" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (one of which got made and one of which didn't) a very special project was started.

It wasn't "Wolverine Origins" and it wasn't "X-Men: First Class" and it wasn't "X-Men: Origins". It was a five issue mini-series about one of their most central villain's origins.

I'll give you a few hints:

It was about the villain who appeared in the very first X-Men comic. (Pictured to the right.)

A character who never got his movie probably because Fox didn't want to do a movie about the Holocaust. Hitler's Final Solution. The genocide of six-million people. Whether Fox Studios (or Marvel Studios) may still someday make a film out of the shell of this project is yet to be determined.

It was written by Greg Pak, drawn by Italian comics artist Carmine Di Giandomenico, and edited by Marvel editor Warren Simons.

It was, of course, "X-Men: Magneto- Testament".

In 2008, almost as an aside from all those aforementioned "Origins" projects, both the comics and the films, Warren Simons began talking about the idea of a historical fiction project detailing the harrowing childhood of the character of Magneto before he became 'Magneto', even before he began calling himself Erik Lehnsherr. Greg Pak signed on as writer; he said: 'I knew from the start this was a project I had to do'. It seems that we should all be glad he did, since the book has earned a great deal of praise since its release.

I have, shamefully, yet to read all of "X-Men: Magneto- Testament". It was one of the rare occasions I chose to 'wait for the trade' and because I rarely pay attention to those releases, I never bought it. I now know a great deal about it because The Simon Wiesenthal Center (an organization devoted to keeping Holocaust studies alive) held a great event on December 8th at The Center For Tolerance here in NYC titled: "An Evening with the Author and Editor of X-Men: Magneto Testament". It was a fascinating presentation of the thought process, historical research, blood, sweat, ink, and tears, that went into the writing and production of "Magneto: Testament".

It was one of those really strange nights in which you just lean back and marvel at how two completely different spheres of interest can come together so perfectly. I didn't realize how little I knew about the Holocaust and about the character of Erik Magnus' involvement in it. I took World History II in high school and read Art Speigelman's "Maus" but it didn't cover the sonderkommando, prisoners drafted into helping the extermination process in return for better treatment for themselves and their families, or the deceptive signs convincing soon to be executed prisoners that they were about to take a shower. I'd read "X-Men" #1 and seen the X-Men films but I didn't know that Magneto had a child who died at a young age between his survival of the concentration camp at Auschwitz and the birth of his living twin children Wanda and Pietro or that it had been established years and years ago that the future supervillain was one of those sonderkommando at Auschwitz. Magneto (a.k.a. Magnus, a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Xorn?) is revealed in "Testament" to have began life as Max Eisenhardt. The new name was chosen because it was discovered by way of their historical consultant with the Simon Wiesenthal Center that neither of the names Magneto had gone under until that point were truly Jewish, nor were they popular names for boys in Germany at that time.

Probably the most remarkable moment of the presentation came during the question and answer session at the end, when an older woman who hailed originally from Pak's native Texas told us that when she moved to New York City after high school (possibly it was even after college, I can't remember) she had never been told about the Holocaust at all. She personally thanked the writer and editor for creating a work of art that tells the story of what the average Jewish person underwent during WWII in a visual medium that often grabs the attention of children. To this Pak responded that it has been proven that different people learn best through different media and that is why it is worthwhile and important 'to tell these stories again and again'.

So these are some of the things I learned last week. Warren Simons (the editor; pictured to the left), Greg Pak (the writer; pictured to the right), and Mark Weitzman (the historical consultant; not pictured) gave us a wonderful conversation about the careful balancing act that had to be played between aggravating old-school Magneto fans and accidentally feeding the fires of the Holocaust deniers with any inaccuracies. The nightmare of scheduling something with subject matter requiring this delicate accuracy on a printing schedule for a major comic-book publisher sounds as if it would have tried the nerves of anybody. According to the two men, it was artist di Giandomenico (unfortunately not present at the talk) who most kept them on track, in the words of Simons: 'He never missed a day'.

December 8th was an eye-opening and fascinating evening and I wouldn't be surprised if the Wiesenthal Center's other programming is equally interesting.

P.S. ~
There is, by the way, an excellent essay available online here detailing Magneto's life as seen in the comics published up to that time and classifying him as a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Think about that.

P.P.S. ~
I was told about the event at the Wiesenthal Center by my good friend and fellow member of the blogosphere (and consummate Jew!) Matt Rosza. (He blogs about things that cross his brain at: Risking Hemlock. Although comics are not the driving force of his interests, they do intersect with the world of history/politics in surprising ways, like in this post about the photoshopped image super-imposing the scars and make-up from "The Dark Knight" version of the Joker over the face of Barack Obama. Check the blog out.)

Already Tired of Tuesday... Late Edition

I know its Wednesday folks, sorry about that. I'm in the midst of Finals, so I'm afraid blogging gets short shrift, but in return for my being unable to fall asleep, you get new posts.

Which I guess is a fair trade.

This week's featured issue is Fables #91, the conclusion to the Witches storyline. Witches, on the whole, has been pretty unbelievably cool, with just the right level of intrigue, adventure and butt-kicking flying monkey. That's right, Bufkin, the flying monkey, has been playing a major role in Fables for the past five months and, in my humble opinion, it's one of the most satisfying character arcs that Bill Willingham has ever written. Furthermore, in between Frau Totenkinder's quest to discover the origin of Mr. Dark, Ozma's take over of the Fable spellcasters and Gepetto's quest to regain a little power, there's a lot going on here- and it's all building up to something huge. If you haven't been reading Fables, this is not a very good place to jump on- but, as the book is by far one of the best currently on the stands, you really should wait until next month, when a brand new storyline starts.

Also on the pull list for this week is Captain America Reborn #5, which may or may not be the last issue of a mini that I had high hopes for, but has been incredibly inconsistent, as well as Daredevil #503 and possibly Brave and the Bold #30. Daredevil is, I think, one of the most underrated comics on the stands these days, and if you aren't picking it up you should at least take a flip through. I haven't heard great things about JMS' Brave and the Bold run, however, the cover caught my eye, so maybe Dr. Fate is enough to bring me on, if for just one issue. We'll have to see, I guess.

"Ghoul"ish Pictography

"The Ghoul" #1 from IDW Publishing

Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson are an unexpected team-up to my mind, despite the fact they both work mainly in horror comics. The whole project is unexpected, really. Is it horror? Adventure? Fantasy? Superhero?

The story concerns a monstrously huge guy who goes by the codename The Ghoul with the features of Frankenstein's Creature and the attitude of Hellboy as he lands in Los Angeles to assist a Detective in a very strange case involving Hollywood royalty.

Wrightson's art is gorgeous. The man who earned his chops designing and drawing "Swamp Thing" (the original straight-horror version, before Alan Moore worked on it) and a billion little projects of his own as well as other horror work for the Big Two (DC and Marvel) does not disappoint and I'm sure Steve Niles is thrilled to be working with him.

Steve Niles is a very talented character-writer. Being among the few writers in the comics world to have published a work outside of superheroes and outside of the Big Two that got big-budget Hollywood treatment (his "30 Days of Night") has established him in the business.

To get right down to it...
My problems with "The Ghoul" #1 are few, but somewhat grave:

(1) The story, in this first issue, lacks energy. Its scant sixteen pages hardly contains anything exciting or scary, although it does build a fairly firm character base. Maybe it's all an intentional effort to tease us and make us wait for the insanity on the streets of L.A. to come, but it didn't make issue one very fun. The Ghoul becomes a distinct character over these pages, as does Detective Klimpt and that's very welcome in a medium that has often gotten by on 2-dimensional bland characters in the past. The tease at the end of the story implies that the next issue will be goddamn full of The Ghoul killing hellspawned demons all over Los Angeles, a concept I fear will be too much of a one-trick-pony to carry another sixteen pages.

(2) Did I mention it was $3.99 for 16 pages? Since most comics clock in at 22 pages, the nominal industry standard, and a lot of comics from the Big Two have been extending and extending that to try to give us something worth our $3.99, that was a bit disappointing.

This feeling was assuaged a bit by the five pages of prose story featuring The Ghoul to be found at the end. They were a GREAT five pages that deepened our understanding of who The Ghoul is GREATLY. But it shows him to be really a bit of a Hellboy-clone...

(3) Well, The Ghoul is a huge monster with a gruff attitude but a heart of gold who works for the government as a paranormal investigator. The main difference is that The Ghoul looks like Frankenstein's Creature, while Hellboy looks like Satan. I've said it before: I'm not the first person to call people out on 'copying other people's work' but the similarities are shocking. So far, The Ghoul as a character is off to a much better start than Hellboy was. The first Hellboy story was not very good at all and the character only became endearing to me after things loosened and the character appeared in some lighter comedic stories.

(4) We really don't get a feel for the location the story takes place. The story opens on the airstrip where the climactic scene of "Casablanca" was filmed. Okay. Awesome. But other than one wonderful-but-splashy nod to L.A. all we see are highways and the inside of a garage.

I really did enjoy parts of "The Ghoul" #1 very much, but I'm wary as to whether I will pick up #2 when it hits the street.

"The Ghoul" is a cool idea that is, so far, not being executed very well. I'm not so sure the project amounts "to a hill of beans in this crazy world." "You're getting on that plane... you've got to listen to me! ... If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

Sorry. "Casablanca". Really good movie.

To sum up. Wrightson's art is liquid light gorgeousity. Tom Smith's colors make the line-work shine. Niles' character's are wonderful, unique, and fallible. But the pace and content of Niles' plot are a mess.

You may or may not see a review of "The Ghoul" #2 from me in the future.

Gorga's Looking Forward to Wednesday 12/16/2oo9

I'ma lookin' forward tah:

"Amazing Spider-Man" #615 (definitely)
Well... someday I'll read this series instead of just buy them and plan to read them. I still need to read #602.

"Ex Machina" #47 (definitely)
I'm not going to NOT read this. The last issues of this series (we're leading up to the final one, #50) have to go out with a bang.

"Cowboy Ninja Viking" #3 (probably)
Jeez read that solicit. How can I not buy this? It is my intention to re-read the first issue with the understanding that it is a comedy and then review it for this site. Then buy and read #2.


"X-Factor" #200 (maybe)
THIS looks interesting.

"Cable" #21 (maybe)
I must admit the idea that Marvel is doing an X-Men crossover event named "Second Coming" about the red-haired baby-girl who was the first mutant born since the events of the "House of M" crossover returning to the present after escaping to the future and becoming a fully-grown lady is... remarkable. For many reasons.

Hey, I'm a sucker for alternate past world stories. Read the preview pages. See what I mean. So cool!

NOTE: The collected paperback edition of "The Life and Times of Savior 28" is solicited to come out this week (earlier than we'd gotten word previously). Although I almost certainly won't be buying this since I have all five issues of the mini-series, I highly recommend the series to all fans of superhero comics. If you 'waited for trade' on this one, you really, really should stick to your guns now.

Well, that's all he wrote.... for now! Be sure to check back in this space to see what I buy!

UPDATE: 12/20/2oo9

Once AGAIN this week some comics could simply not be located: "Chimichanga" #1 and "Cowboy Ninja Viking" #3 are either delayed or got lost in a shipment or something.

Cap Reborn #4 didn't look very good. The preview pages are kind of misleading and... dammit, I don't care about this series anymore. We'll have to see how the last issue is.

"X-Factor" #200 turned out to be an expensive book with a lot of reprints in the back. Short story, bunch of pages of reprints, 5 bucks. Does not compute.

Seeing "The Brave and the Bold" #30 on Josh's pull-list made me curious and when I flipped though it I decided it looked awesome and so I picked it up. It is wonderful.

"Cable" #21 was surprisingly good and you will probably see a review of it from me in the coming weeks.

You will definitely see a review of "Ex Machina" #47 from me soon.

And I picked up Amazing Spidey #615. No surprise there.

From DC's Source blog, check out the cover to Batman and Robin #10.
Why is Frank Quitely so damn good at his job?

The Mighty Matt

Today it was announced that, after Kieron Gillen's six issue run on the title, Matt Fraction will take over the writing of Thor, and will be joined by John Romita Jr. on art.

This is great news.

Although I'm in a bad mood because I am in the midst of finals, reading this article totally made my day. If you're interested either in Fraction or the God of Thunder, take a peek.

For Asgard!

UPDATE: This Fraction interview over at CBR indicates that Romita may not be doing the Thor ongoing, just the Free Comic Book Day book. We'll just have to see about that, I guess.


Twice in the month of November, Marvel revamped the Punisher. Twice.

Now, that sounds absurd- and it is (although, you could see it happening, the way things turn around at the Big Two), but when you realize that it was in two totally different books with two totally different continuities, well, then I suppose it makes a little more sense.

What's so interesting about these books (Punishermax #1 and Punisher #11) is that they take the character in such totally different directions- stylistically, thematically, artistically, etc. The first is a revamp of Marvel's long-running Punisher ongoing published through their adult MAX imprint, starting with a new number one. Having never followed the book before, I can't tell you what has changed besides the title, but I can tell you there's a damn good reason its published under the MAX banner. This book is violent as all hell, which I suppose plays to Steve Dillon's strengths, but there you go.

Dillon's art is, I think, a good place to start: has there ever been a more perfect artist to draw the Punisher? It's been said that his art is a little too goofy for this incredibly serious sort of book, but I wonder if that may be the point- you take this absurd level of violence (and, just think about this for a second, at one point in this issue Wilson Fisk pops a guys eyeballs out by squeezing the dude's head) and you combine with this grim n' gritty anti-hero and you can either take yourself too seriously and end up doing a bad Garth Ennis impersonation (which, I imagine, is why no one has done particularly well with the character in the last few years) or you can make it seem just as ridiculous as it is- not playfully ridiculous, mind you, just flat out ridiculous. Dillon's art walks this line perfectly, I think- it's just absurd enough to make the reader knows that it's absurd, but realistic enough that I actually cringed about a dozen times throughout the course of the issue. This makes sense, since the only other book that did that to me on a regular basis was, well, Preacher.

Jason Aaron, too, seems to be just the right guy for this character. He seems to get what makes him compelling and what makes him dangerous, and he gets the moral ambiguity that this book should have just right- the Punisher, ostensibly the good guy, is out for revenge- killing, murdering, torturing, doing not good things to not good people. Wilson Fisk, soon to be a paper Kingpin and nominally a bad guy, doing what he does so that he can make a life for his wife and son. Aaron's a smart guy, and he's writing a smart book- again, which is just what this book needs to be. Otherwise, the violence would go from senseless to gratutiously so, and what is a fantastic book would cease to hold any interest for me.

Rick Remender's revamp, on the other hand, is pretty much just silly (something that Jon predicated way back when). The plot goes something like this- bug eyed yellow guys save the remnants of Frank Castle from H.A.M.M.E.R, Man-Thing beats up on some Osborn cronies, Morbius puts the Punisher back together, Punisher throws a series of tantrums.

OK, it's more complicated than that, but where Jason Aaron impressed me with nuance and grace, Remender reveals that he has no concepts of the terms.

Which isn't to say that the book is bad- it's not. In fact, it's actually a lot of fun. It's not a high-concept story, and it knows it's not high-concept. I get the distinct feeling that someone said to someone else, "wouldn't it be cool if we took the Punisher and turned him into Frankenstein?" and that the idea just snowballed from there. It also happens that it's kind of like candy- nice, but sugary sweet and when it's gone, it's gone.

That the art is so unabashadly goofy doesn't help either. I think Marvel may have overcompensated here a little bit- I mean, really this art is often just silly. Frank Castle's Frankenexpressions are good for a laugh, but even those just help enforce the seemingly throw away nature of the story. Clearly, there's something at stake for the monsters who bring Castle back to life, but there's not really anything at stake for me.

Still, if you're looking for some fun with a bizarre idea, Punisher #11 should be right up your alley. If you're looking for really good comics, though? Check out Punishermax #1- you can't go wrong.