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Title Sequence for Punisher 2099. “Jake Gallows must fight for the future, using the teachings of the past, and the tools of the present to ensure that the future doesn’t become lost in the flames of the past. Jake Gallows is the motherfucking Punisher 2099.”

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"Star Spangled War Stores #1" Not much of a war comic really, more of an government agency action story featuring an undercover zombie who happens to be a really nice guy. Think quirkier, hipper Bloodshot with more T&A. I enjoyed it, but I was hoping for more of a well… war comic. With "Men of War" and "G.I. Combat" both tanking before issue #8 I’ve come to accept that no one really reads war comics anymore, so I’m happy with what I got. De-so. 

Excellent Darwyn Cooke cover unfortunately has nothing to do with the book itself.

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"Death in the Long Grass" One of the very first chapter books I remember reading as a child in elementary school, I’ve probably been through this 15 times since my youth. Lots of people think this is a hunting book. Its not, its a gleeful collection of all of the different ways you can die in the bush in Africa.

Every year I appreciate it a little bit more. Peter Hathaway Capstick was the Quentin Tarantino of safari, every page is filled with intense bloody glory, hunters and natives being gored to death, stomped, poisoned, tossed, impaled, drowned, and fantastically intense descriptions of chasing very deadly animals into deep cover and meeting them face to face at close range.

Capstick sits above it all, gleefully cool, with self-deprecating gallows humor, chain smoking and tossing back Haig. A true master of the tangential adjective, the coffin nail metaphor, and pacing with a payoff, this is some of the best action adventure writing ever published, unfortunately unknown to many because of their inexperience or distaste for the carnage.

Essential if you love pulp writing, not for the weak of constitution or faint of heart.

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"Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1" What you’ve all been waiting for, Chuck Dixon, Carl Potts, and Larry Stroman, back together in comics. I’m going to tell you straight up, there’s no way I can give this an objective review, I’m starstruck at the title page. Gonna try.

Starts with some background on the characters, then we jump right in the middle of it.  Alien Legion is bascially the Foreign Legion on a galactic scale, and there’s a lot of backstory here. In fact I’d say its an intimidating amount of backstory. If you like depth you have it. Beautiful art. 

Lots of title specific vocabulary, nice glossary at the end. I’m going to leave this simple and give it a RAW. Must Need for Dixon and Potts fans.

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"Above the Dreamless Dead" One sitting book, nailed to the chair. Actual poetry from soldiers in WWI adopted into comics format. I’ve never read poetry illustrated before, but it serves two functions extremely well: is slows the reader and helps them pace and absorb the lines, and it opens the plot of some of the more archaic verse.

I’m not going to lie, some of this is hard to read. The heavyweights like Wildred Owen are included (illustrated by George Pratt you probably know from Enemy Ace: War Idyll), and several other poets I wasn’t as familiar with as well.

Tastefully most of these aren’t action focused, many are more interpretive. To point out a few highlights: “Channel Firing” by Thomas Hardy adapted by Luke Pearson highlights the not so peacefully resting, “War” by Francis Edward Lewidge adapted by S. Harkham features Snoopy in a much different WWI role than his Doghouse Baron, Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade’s adaptation of Siegfried Sassoon’s “The General” bites, “The Next War” by Osbert Sitwell adapted by Simon Gane, Hardy’s “I Looked Up From My Writing” with Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen… There’s not a dud in the mix.

Sombre, but excellent. Chris Duffy has really done it right here, highly recommended. 

Thanks to Duane Swierczynski for bringing this to my attention, Dane Lamont I hope you of all people take a look and tell me what you think.

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"The Goon: Occasion of Revenge #1" Eric Powell back in effect. I wanted to work in a DAS FX or Wreckx-n-Effect pun but I’m lazy. The magic of Goon, besides the brilliant art, is the world is so completely realized that it can swing back and forth from absurdist black comedy to dark drama in a page and no one even blinks.  This falls into the latter category, both in the main plot and the wraparound broken love story.  Curiously the coloring is extremely underplayed. Should you buy it?  Its The Goon so of course its RAW, dummy. Go gets it.

"The Goon: Occasion of Revenge #1" Eric Powell back in effect. I wanted to work in a DAS FX or Wreckx-n-Effect pun but I’m lazy. The magic of Goon, besides the brilliant art, is the world is so completely realized that it can swing back and forth from absurdist black comedy to dark drama in a page and no one even blinks.  This falls into the latter category, both in the main plot and the wraparound broken love story.  Curiously the coloring is extremely underplayed. Should you buy it?  Its The Goon so of course its RAW, dummy. Go gets it.

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"GI Joe ARAH #205" Take a look at this cover. Its always a discovery to see how much of his personal experience Larry "been faking it all my life" Hama brings to the Joe titles. When I read them as a kid, they seemed so adult and serious, and I thought it was because I was a child. But then you read them as an adult, and you see scenes like this one on the cover along with a quote from Larry referencing his Vietnam experience: "Always found it difficult to convey the wind and noise and strange muscular tension inside a helicopter in flight."  Its not just a bunch of action figures going through the motions anymore. Its a real scene.

The overall issue is perfect and shows once again how, oddly, GI Joe is still by far the most tactically sound book on the market. RAW, recommended especially for fans of War Comics, put the action figures and 80s nostalgia aside and ARAH is still the best of the lot. 

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"Jennifer Blood Born Again #1" For those of you who missed the news the first few times around, this is Steven Grant’s take on the character Garth Ennis created a few years ago, the exact reverse of Ennis’s juggernaut Punisher Max continuation of Grant’s classic ‘86 introduction of the modern character.

Jennifer Blood is a house mother with a criminal family past, revenger in a catsuit by night wrecking havoc on those who did her wrong.  In this book she’s hiding out in a cult compound (which really is a genius place to hide when you think about it) while a new crime boss with an S&M girlfriend recreates Jennifer’s persona to use her reputation to intimidate her enemies. 

To be honest, Jennifer Blood fell off pretty quickly after Ennis left the original series, so Grant had a prime opportunity to breathe some life back in the franchise.  There is a lot of fucked up-ness going on from a character development perspective, as Jennifer continues to write her mental “war diary”(?) and makes the stay with the cult not as one dimensional as it could have been. Interestingly, all of the major characters have two diametrically opposed personas, the centered cult leader/wordly opportunist, Jennifer the housemom/vigilante, the crimelord/coward, and his dominatrix/fake Jennifer. Gives the story some depth without over-complicating things.  I have very good feelings on this one. 

Kewber Baal on the art is serviceable, it can get a little cartoony at times but he handles the complex action well.  That cover… ‘unfortunate’ is the kind word for it. “Never Judge a Book by Its Cover” will carry the day nicely here.

RAW.  Those of you who’ve been waiting for Grant to get back to the vigilante murder machine genre, here you have it. He does not disappoint.  Larry Jones check this out tell me what you think.

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"Punisher #9 Black Widow #9" FEATURE REVIEW - Nathan Edmondson is a goddamn genius. Period.  What we have here is the greatest Punisher crossover of all time, never before have we had a Punisher writer able to connect with another of his own books at the exact same point, and issue number.  Traditionally, we start a crossover arc in one book and end it in another. Here we get the same story from two distinct POV. Its interesting on its own, but when you start going through page by page, that’s when it you really appreciate the magnitude of the achievement.

Both Titles, Page 8: Splash page in each book of Frank coming across Widow and Crossbones. I suspect the script for each page was identical except for Frank and Widow’s short thought bubbles.  What we get here is The Art of Mitch Gerads and Phil Noto side by side for the first time. Page 9 continues with a panel by panel recreation of the exact same scene with two different artists…  

One of my favorite books from last year was Carl Potts’s “The DC Guide to Creating Comics”, which included side by side interpretations of the same script pages by celebrated artists. Here we see the same thing in live practice, and I can’t praise it enough, it is a damn dee-light.

Both Noto and Gerads have complete art duties, so each page is all theirs. Gerads goes with a more linear straight down the page progression, Noto’s work is slightly more fluid.  Interestingly, the third panel for each is IDENTICAL but reversed.  Coincidence? Did one finish first and peek at the other’s work?  I really want to know the story of these books, cause this is how comics are made the right way. 

The clock timer is used to more easily sync between to the two books the rest of the way out, and Edmondson weaves the stories together again in the last few pages, Frank’s thoughts crisscrossing with Widow’s. He thinks he pissed of the Avengers, while Widow is worried about SHIELD. The last lines are perfection in subtlety, Widow with “Sooner or later, someone is going to get the drop on you.” Frank having had the shit kicked out of him and captured every other issue since he started this run has that same thought in his mind as “Someone was going to get the drop on me. Again, I mean.”  

Read these books. Then open then side by side and read them again. This right here is how Punisher is done right, one of the single best Punisher events every published and a genuine classic. Even if you’re not a Punisher fan, even if you never plan to read another issue, if you love how comics are made grab these two and set them side by side. RAW!!!

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"Elektra #4" Bloody Lips is the best new Marvel Villain in quite some time. Experimental parallel storytelling by W. Haden Blackman pays off in spades, as does the wildly effective art style and character designs of Michael Del Mundo and Marco D’Alfonso. Its an art book, both in narrative and visuals. I love it, RAW.