The End Times of Bram and Ben #1 Published by Image Comics Written by James Asmus & Jim Festante Illustrated by Rem Broo $2.99, 36 Pages
The end of the world is once again upon us. This is a weekly event in comics. This time, it's the Rapture. God whisks all of the good people up to heaven and leaves all of the sinners on Earth with their souls in the balance as good and evil duke it out. That's how The End Times of Bram and Ben starts out, but instead of jumping right into angels and demons, it deals with the people that are left over, specifically the title characters, and how they react to being left behind.
Bram and Ben are your basic screw-up twenty-somethings. They're essentially white guy versions of Harold and Kumar. Ben is a neurotic high school teacher that can't talk to girls and Bram is a laid-back idiot. What sets them apart is that Bram actually took a trip up to heaven when everyone started disappearing. Unfortunately for him, there was a bit of a clerical error and he got sent back to earth. He's the only guy that's actually seen what it's like up there and came back.
Authors James Asmus and Jim Festante bring up a lot of interesting points about the Rapture in this comic. First off, heaven is going to be a boring place filled with old, fat, or old and fat people. Most kids should be up there and all of the loose women should still be down here. They're poking fun at religion but not to the extent that the comic will be burned in effigy.
Rem Broo's artwork is light and cartoony, reminding me a bit of Rob Guillory from Chew. His style could easily translate into an animated Television show. Broo balances what's left of the normal everyday lives of the main characters with the destruction that was caused in the wake of thousands of people abruptly disappearing. Planes crashed into the ground. Cars ran into trees. You know, the kinds of things that would happen when people up and vanish into thin air.
The End Times of Bram and Ben has an interesting premise. There are several questions brought up, but they're included with a bunch of lame jokes and average characters. I'm interested to see where the creators take the story though.
B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - The Abyss of Time #1 (B.P.R.D. #103) Published by Dark Horse Comics Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie Illustrated by James Harren $3.50, 24 Pages
After the events of The Return of the Master, we take a step back to another tale that takes places before the previous arc. Here we have a group of B.P.R.D. agents exploring an abandoned building in Chicago filled with mystical artifacts. When one of them touches a strange blade, he's warped to a far away land in a different time. It's here that he learns of the legend of this sword and the power it possesses to repel darkness. Could this be the glimmer of hope that the Bureau needs when facing Hell on Earth?
Although The Abyss of Time starts up with an interesting enough story, it doesn't jive with the overall B.P.R.D. storyline as of late. There's so much going on right now with all of the main characters that this feels like a step backward, or at least sideways. Actually, it's literally going back as this story takes place before the Return of the Master arc. I could be forced to eat my hat next month if writers Mike Mignola and Scott Allie turn around and tie this into the Hell on Earth storyline in some miraculous way.
I do have a prediction based on what we see in this issue. The aborigine-like tribe that's seen in the wilderness of some strange time is going to be in the future. The events in the present day B.P.R.D. comic happened years ago and these warriors are some of the last on the planet, roaming the lands battling the "cold people" with a magic sword.
James Harren balances the two time periods well. When the comic starts, the panels are small and restrictive. When the agent is transported to the new world, the art gets larger, like it's given more room to breath. The panels are much bigger and show a wide angle view of the battles that these people have been through. It's a nice effect.
Jinnrise #1 Published by IDW Publishing Written by Sohaib Awan Illustrated by Tony Vassallo $3.99, 26 Pages
An ignorant grad student is working on his dissertation in the Middle East when the small town he's staying in is attacked by aliens. Fortunately, a young boy releases a genie to do battle with the invaders in Jinnrise.
This first issue plops you right into the action. No time is wasted getting to know the characters or the aliens. Shit starts to hit the fan almost immediately. Stuff gets blown up. People die. Throughout it all, this unnamed student learns a valuable lesson about stereotypes. He was walking around this town like he was better than everyone that lived there because he came from the west, essentially personifying the reason that the rest of the world hates Americans. When one of these people show him kindness in the face of danger, he's suddenly turned around.
Anyway, a genie! If you've seen Aladdin, it's practically the same thing as the genie there, but a lot more deadly. This guy takes out a bunch of alien fighters and doesn't blink an eye. Somehow I don't think he'll be singing or dancing any time soon.
Tony Vassallo's human characters look ordinary and family friendly. Where he excels is in the designs for the various creatures that pop up throughout the issue. The aliens all look different, often mimicking the look of different animals such as giant lizards. The genie is pretty badass and I have to give credit to Vassallo for that. It's got to be tough to make a character like that seem intimidating after Aladdin, but he pulled it off. Now I wonder what the other two wishes will be.
Repossessed #1 Published by Image Comics Written and Illustrated by JM Ringuet $2.99, 32 Pages
When your friend or loved one gets possessed by a big stinking demon, your best bet is to call in the Dee Agency to exorcise that thing post haste. These professionals are expertly trained in the art of sending demons back to hell. When a new case from a high profile client sends them to Las Vegas, they're attacked by a hellspawn that comes right out in the open. It's safe to say that this case isn't what it seemed at first.
This is a great starter issue for Repossessed, jumping right into the story of the Dee Agency and their day-to-day world. The characters can be a bit basic. They're no Winchesters, but at least they get paid for what they do. The two guys in the group are busy having pissing contests and deciding who has the most testosterone while the girl just kind of stays in the background. I'm hoping she has some super power or something that really sets her apart because as it stands, she doesn't add anything to the team.
JM Ringuet wrote and illustrated the comic. He has a great artistic style with some really awesome looking demons. The book opens with a preacher getting exorcised of a huge red bulldog creature with wings, and a giant chain the likes of which you'd see around the neck of Mr. T. It's clear right away that this thing is bad news. Similarly, the demon that attacks the agency while they're in Las Vegas has a cool design. It's like the patron saint of bikers with a big beard, four arms, and bat-like wings.
Artifacts #24 Published by Top Cow Productions Written by Ron Marz Illustrated by Stjepan Sejic $3.99, 32 Pages
Our regularly scheduled programming has a brief interruption of Artifacts turns its focus to the Angelus. In this new world, the artifact is held by the single-named Finch who is now seeing Detective Danielle Baptiste, the former wielder of the Angelus. Here the holy power is fractured, spread amongst many different soldiers, with Finch assuming the role of leader. Unfortunately, the palace where her host lives was attacked by a fierce and monstrous beast while Finch and Dani were getting intimate. Many of the soldiers were killed. It's clear that the forces of The Darkness were behind this.
Artifacts has danced around Jackie Estacado and The Darkness for a bit but it's been awhile since it was confronted head on. Tom Judge is the only person that knows that the world is not right anymore and he's been trying to gather forces to take down Jackie once and for all. The Darkness sits as a polar opposite to the Angelus and an attack like this can be seen as a way to neutralize its foe.
I've said it with every issue of this series, but Stjepan Sejic is incredibly talented. He can draw anything and do it so well. There's a big range with this chapter. The book starts out with a juxtaposition of Dani and Finch in bed while the palace is under attack. There's a soft moment put up against one of fear, terror, and death. A love scene between two lesbians could have easily been played up for cheesecake factor but Sejic handles it tastefully. It doesn't come across as erotic so much as loving.
On the other end of the spectrum, the beast that attacks the Angelus palace is like something out of a nightmare. Picture a bigger version of the worms from Tremors with a dozen glowing red eyes on a head shaped like the Predator. Oh, and there are tentacles. Many tentacles.
What really stands out with this issue is the panel design. Sejic starts the book with your basic panels, albeit ones that are in unique shapes. You're not getting your basic nine-panel square grid here. As the comic goes on and things get more and more intense, the panels themselves start to break up. There are broken shards on the sides which get bigger and bigger as the story progresses. It's a nice effect that subtly underlines the severity of the situation.
This issue of Artifacts leads directly into the first crossover of Top Cow Rebirth between this title, Witchblade, and The Darkness. Sara Pezzini is going to find out that she once had a daughter and things are sure to get messy. I cannot wait.
The Strain #10 Published by Dark Horse Comics Written by David Lapham Illustrated by Mike Huddleston $3.50, 26 Pages
The penultimate issue of The Strain has arrived. Dark Horse is wrapping up its adaptation of the first novel in the trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. New York City has been ravaged by the vampire virus but what it is exactly is not yet common knowledge. People are either staying inside or in the middle of riots throughout the area. Eph is ready to take the battle right to the master himself thanks to the help of a badass exterminator that figured out where the vampires are hiding out. Armed with nothing more than a nail gun and a thirst for vengeance, he's ready for action.
This issue of The Strain gets personal for Eph. Up until now he was operating solely on the basis of protecting the city and everyone in it. He was essentially doing his job. Then the vampires went after his family. His ex-wife's boyfriend was turned and his wife taken. Fortunately, his son is unharmed, but this was too close to home. Eph is ready to fight.
We also get the first real glimpse of the master here. He looks like a cross between Voldemort and Skeletor but far more intimidating. There's great power in him and now that he's finally revealed himself, I'm interested to see what his next steps are.
Mike Huddleston's art is still uneven in The Strain. He can draw some great close-up shots that are filled with detail, but the moment he pulls back a bit, the anatomy gets thrown all out of whack. People have enormous bodies with tiny heads, hands, and feet. It looks silly. Huddleston nails the vampires though, with their long menacing tongues whipping about.
The Strain is amping up the tension heading into the final chapter. This is still just the beginning as Dark Horse will be adapting the rest of the trilogy beginning next year.
Mars Attacks KISS One-Shot Published by IDW Publishing Written by Chris Ryall Illustrated by Alan Robinson $3.99, 26 Pages
After going after Popeye, the Martians have moved on to their next logical target in KISS. She, the mystical naked chick who floats around in space, sends down the avatars for the Elder to help save the planet Earth. Instead of being picked up by the four band members, they're snatched by the Martians, giving them great power. They can breathe fire! They can shoot lasers out of their eyes! They can rock and roll!
This is great fun and looks awesome until She goes and ruins it by somehow powering up the spirits of the Four-Who-Are-One within the Martians, causing a battle on the astral plane. Things get more ridiculous from there, with the one-shot ending in such a weird and rather lame way that feels like a total cop out.
Mars Attacks KISS started with promise because it was pretty awesome to see Martians done up in the legendary makeup of the rock band. Then it kind of spirals out of control and loses any real meaning it might have had. Artist Alan Robinson delivered some great designed for the Martian KISS members. They look fun but also a little badass. It's like a more sci-fi version of the group.
ATTN IDW: I would read the shit out of a comic starring the Martian KISS. "Let's rock and roll and destroy all humans!"
Non-Humans #2 Published by Image Comics Written by Glen Brunswick Illustrated by Whilce Portacio $2.99, 32 Pages
A rogue Non-Human (or N.H. for short) is out killing people and no-nonsense Detective Aimes wants to put him down once and for all. This delayed issue of Non-Humans cements the idea that this comic is your average cop drama with the only twist being inanimate objects that have come to life. That plot point gets a bit more fleshed out this month. The setup is pretty interesting. A space probe brings back a fossil from Mars which spreads a disease amongst the entire human population. It has no real effects and doesn't show up in anyone except for teenagers. These kids can create a spark of life in a treasured personal object such as a teddy bear or a doll. It takes on the attributes of the child at that time so if they're terrified, the N.H. might come out scary.
I like the idea behind this, but the execution leaves much to be desired. It's hard to take the book seriously when the main threat is a robotic version of Pinocchio. The other characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes from your basic action movie. Aimes is a tough-as-nails cop with nothing to lose. Eden is the tough female on the force who's tired of taking crap from the other guys but secretly has a soft spot for the right guy. I don't care about them.
Whilce Portacio is a big name in the biz and is one of the founders of Image Comics, but I'm not impressed with his artwork. His pencils look sharp, like everything is pointed. The characters often appear stiff, like they're posed in every panel. It's like his style is stuck in the mid-'90s.
We also had the following horror titles out on comic shelves this week. I just didn't have a chance to review them for you. Get off my back, OK?
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Season 9) #17 (Dark Horse Comics)
Eerie Comics #2 (Dark Horse Comics)
Ghost #3 (Dark Horse Comics)
To Hell You Ride #2 (Dark Horse Comics)
Animal Man #16 (DC Comics)
Phantom Stranger #4 (DC Comics)
Swamp Thing #16 (DC Comics)
Army Of Darkness #8 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Ghoul Goblin #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Godzilla #8 (IDW Publishing)
Hollows #2 (IDW Publishing)
KISS #7 (IDW Publishing)
True Blood #8 (IDW Publishing)
Change #2 (Image Comics)
Clone #3 (Image Comics)
Hack Slash #22 (Image Comics)
Mind The Gap #7 (Image Comics)
Perhapanauts Danger Down Under #3 (Image Comics)
Walking Dead #106 (Image Comics)
Spawn #226 (Image Comics)
Dark Tower Gunslinger: Sheemies Tale #1 (Marvel Comics)
Marvel Universe vs The Avengers #4 (Marvel Comics)
Shadowman #3 (Valiant Entertainment)
That's a huge week for single issues but there are also are ton of graphic novel releases...
Cherubs (Dark Horse Comics)
Creepy Comics: At Deaths Door (Dark Horse Comics)
Animal Man: Vol 2 - Animal vs Man (DC Comics)
Showcase Presents Weird War Tales: Vol 1 (DC Comics)
Saga Of The Swamp Thing: Book 3 (Vertigo)
Classic Jurassic Park: Vol 5 - Return To Jurassic Park: Part 2 (IDW Publishing)
Mars Attacks Classics: Vol 3 (IDW Publishing)
The Book (Arcana Studio)
Intrinsic (Arcana Studio)
God Machine (Leather Bound Edition) (Archaia Entertainment)
Fanboys vs Zombies: Vol 1 (BOOM! Studios)
Charlaine Harris' Grave Sight: A Harper Connelly Graphic Novel (Inkit)
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.