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Ron Tothleben (tothleben@hotmail.com) RSS Feed (Tilburg, Netherlands, Europe)

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Authority, The: Relentless
Authority, The: Relentless
by Warren Ellis
Edition: Paperback
90 used & new from $2.96

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but has more potential rhan results, September 28, 2001
The Authority is a secret global-protection group ('superheroes') who protects the earth from things 'normal' human agencies can't handle. Things that aren't known to the general public. With a wide variety of superpowered 'humans' they are pretty well equiped in every situation.
Although this series spawned off the earlier 'Stormwatch' title, you needn't be too familiair with it. Knowledge about what happened in Stormwatch is a pre, not a must. It's not like you'll miss out on anytthing vital in here if you haven't read it, only you'll know some more on the back-ground of SOME characters if you have (not all).
This first collection collects #1-8 of the series, which are basically divided in two four-part sub-plots (the complete Warren Ellis run/storyline goes on for another four issues in the second volume, along with the first four Mark Millar-written issues).
Storywise intro:
The first sub-arc is called "The Circle". A dictator/tyrant ruler of the island called 'Gamorra' is trying to put his mark on the rest of the world in a rather brutal, unconventional way. It's up to the top-secret global defensive group "Authority" to put him to a stop. In this arc the group is forming and deciding who it's members are gonna be. It's mostly used as an explanation to the reader who the characters, led by Jenny Sparks, are and what they are about (powers, a little background and such).
The second story-arc is called "Shiftships". Earth is under attack by creatures from an alternative earth. Jenny Sparks knows these creatures (half humans) from her past, but she was convinced they were long dead. The question is how to stop them, but luckily Jenny has an ace up her sleeve which should give her group a fair chance. The intentions of the invaders get revealed to be even worse than first pressumed though.
In here you learn more about the ways of the Authority. It's wise to pay good attention here on subjects as 'the bleed' (in which they travel) because it is pretty vague at first but important in the long haul.

Overall my conclussion is that this is a pretty nice title. It's not ALL that but it's certainly above average and won't be a waste of your money (which is a good thing in this day and age of comicdom). Compared to the other Warren Ellis Wildstorm title (Planetary) this one is artwise a little better. Having said that I'll be quick to add that storywise Planetary is better by far. The biggest problem with Authority is lack of debt character-wise. These people do the things they do but miss an explained motivation. Were Planetary is very slow in revealing it's characters fully, it has a certain thing that makes you curious about them, making every revelation anticipated and welcome. It keeps you wanting to read on. That doesn't happen at all here and curiousness isn't sparked. That's a shame because otherwise it could have been great I think. But still, worthy of 4 outta 5 stars.


Box Office Poison
Box Office Poison
by Alex Robinson
Edition: Paperback
49 used & new from $4.55

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very refreshing, September 26, 2001
This review is from: Box Office Poison (Paperback)
In an industry where 'bigger, harder, shinier' is the status quo, the 'Box Office Poison' collection (this book collects every single Box Office Poison issue in existence, making it a more than complete story) came to me as a refreshing experience, and a very good one at it.
I can understand why people compare it to 'Strangers in Paradise', but I will hastely add that it's not the same kinda book in its entirety. Where Strangers in Paradise almost exclusively focuses on relationships and what comes with them, Box Office Poison takes a wider view and handles everyday life of a certain group of people in it's entirety. WITH relationships, but also with (in)security issues, finding out what to do with your life, gaining perspective on it and REALLY see how a personal life evolves (where it is a little romanticized in most comics in this 'genre', even Strangers in Paradise). The main point is that nothing happening in it is in any way forced. It's what comes and goes. Very relatable.
A storywise introduction: Although the story is about an entire group of people there are two characters, the friends Sherman and 'Ed', around which everything evolves, the red line if you will. Sherman is just out of college, wants to be a writer, but for now works in a bookstore as a clerk. The shy and insecure Ed wants to become a cartoonist. Along the book you'll witness the ups and downs, recognizable joys and annoyments (funny if you're into sarcasm) and relationships being made and broken. Various things happen like for instance: Ed trying everything he can to gain some confidence, honesty and loyalty (or lack off it) in the comic industry, people assuming things they 'heard somewhere' and only seeing how somebody means something to you when he or she isn't there at the time. But also less 'deep' things like a philosophy about why men just HAVE to look when there's cleavage shown and stupid things people ask clerks (you'll find yourself go "damn, I did that !' more than once).
All in all this little un-exaggerated comic-book soap-opera is the nicest thing I've read in a while and the most refreshing thing since I first opened a Strangers in Paradise Graphic Novel.
The art is, compared to the before mentioned book, a little less good but the variety in storylines AND a very plot-twisting last few pages makes than up more than enough. Funny as well, but never forced. Very relatable and as uncliche as it gets. A lot of good pages of fun for your money.


The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius
The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius
by Judd Winick
Edition: Paperback
49 used & new from $2.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny but not hilarious, September 20, 2001
This is the first TPB of the Barry Ween comicseries, which reprints the first 3-part (black-and-white) miniseries.
Although I haven't really seen the greatness of this series in here, which I'm told IS existing in later volumes, it's still good entertainment. It's funny though, not hilarious.
Barry is a boy with an IQ that would be 350 points if it was to be measured. Over-aware of everything around him and sarcastic to the bone. His smarts enable him to get his way most of the time, often in bluntly humurous ways.
In this particular volume Barry first accidently opens an inter-dimensional portal which looks like and is referred to as ...uhm ... let's just say 'big-sized female genitalia'. The problems with this really start when his father is sucked in and comes back out heavily transformed.
Next issue, Barry learns to never let anyone alone in his room, when his best friend Jeremy decides to drink one of his experimental potions. With disastrous results.
In the final issue of the trade Barry decides it could be fun to go to school, like any normal boy his age would do. Off course it doesn't turn out to be a normal day and Barry and his classmates are taken hostage.
In all these issues Barry finds pretty ... let's say 'inventive ways' of dealing with the problems at hand. In the meanwhile cursing like a boatworker all the time.
All in all the book is good fun, entertaining. But like I said before: it isn't all that and a bag of potato chips (yet ?). If you're looking for some harmless uncomplicated fun, and you're not easily offended by faul language, this could be good for you. Matt Wagner (creator of Grendel and Sandman Mystery Theatre) describes it as "South Park meets Dexters Lab" and I can see the logic in that conclussion. Although I'll be quick to add it's nowhere as downright hilarious as South Park in this volume. But if you're into the foresaid kind off humor you won't be disappointed with it.


Joker: The Devil's Advocate (Batman)
Joker: The Devil's Advocate (Batman)
by Chuck Dixon
Edition: Paperback
24 used & new from $34.03

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best self-contained Batman-related stories, September 9, 2001
For people who are fan of the character Joker this is a very good book. It's one of the best books in defining the personality and characterization of the Joker even, both through art as through the story. In a way it's off course a Batman-book but the title rightfully states "Joker: ..." instead of Batman. The story and by far the biggest attention-span focuses on the Joker. Batman is mostly used as a supportive character. Nothing more, nothing less. So from an objective point of view this is not a Batman-book, but a Joker-book, and a good one at it.
Storywise:
The Joker is put on trial, being accused of masterminding the recent spree of "Stamp-Deaths", a period in which several people are found dead carrying the trademark "Joker-smile" after licking stamps of the "Great Comedians Series".
Where the Joker always claimed insanity in previous occassions in court, having him come off with milder punishments, this time he furiously claims to be innocent of these crimes. By this taking the risk of getting the maximum penalty, the death-sentence. He refuses to carry the punishment for crimes he hasn't committed and were executed so amateurish, or so he claims. Obviously the jury finds him guilty and he IS sentenced to death. Once in death-row the Joker is enraged at first, but once he notices the attention he is getting from the outside world he starts to love it ..... more and more.
In the meanwhile Batman has his doubts wether the Joker is guilty or not and starts his own investigation.
Together with "The Killing Joke" this is the book that defines the Joker better than any other Batman (or Batman-related) title and for fans of the character this is a must-have. And I don't say that a lot of times ! (which can be seen proven in my other reviews). Especially look for he scenes which are set in the court-room where they have the Joker communicate brilliantly with his facial expressions instead of words. A big plus for the art there. Also nice is that this book works as a self-contained story so people who are less familiair with the Batman-mythos can enjoy this just as much.


Sin City: That Yellow Bastard (Book 4)
Sin City: That Yellow Bastard (Book 4)
by Frank Miller
Edition: Paperback
53 used & new from $1.26

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Sin City volume, September 3, 2001
This collection of the originally six-issue storyline "That Yellow Bastard" might just be the best volume the Sin City line has offered so far. Both art as storywise everything is top-notch. The choice Miller made to add the color yellow to the normally only black/white art, which is both finely detailed and mood-setting, is very functional and refreshing, and the storyline has enough plot-twists to keep the reader interested (not like for example in "The Big Fat Kill" which was a nice story but had pretty obvious plot-twists in my opinion).
The story is about a cop named Hartigan who has only an hour to go before he will go into early retirement, doctor's orders. There's just one loose end he really wants to tie up before he does. He wants to save an eleven year old girl out of the hands of a sadistic kid-killer/rapist who has shown before he can kill without remorse. Only problem is that the abductor is the son of the senator, and hardly touchable because of it. He tracks him down and THAT's when things start to happen from which we learn how corrupt Sin City in its entirety really is. Hartigan is in for a world of pain from there on, both psychically and mentally, with only one person in the world who still believes in him, that being the girl he was trying to save. But is that save for her ? Only time will tell, and the story has but just begun ...
My compliments go, again, to the art in which it shows that Miller was still incredible into this little project of his and also to a story which skilfully avoids becoming predictable anywhere. With that I can add that this is probably THE most violent and bizar volume of the series, with a very original ending that only gets reveiled in the last three pages.
Note with this book is that although people like Marv and Dwight (main-characters from other Sin City volumes) are mentioned and even minorly featured in it, they are in now way a factor in the story. This is a 100% self-contained storyline. Good pick if you're into police/noir stories. People who like Sin City story-wise are advised to also try out the titles "Astro City" and "Top Ten" sometimes. Not entirely the same but there's a good chance you'll like it.


Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor Special
Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor Special
by Harlan Ellison
Edition: Paperback
16 used & new from $2.51

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not good, not bad ..., August 31, 2001
What we have here is Harlan Ellison having some of his short stories (of which he has written over two thousand) adapted into being graphic stories.
An illustrated character (Ellison himself) takes the reader into his "corridor of dreams" where all the stories he ever wrote are stored in departments. He guides us through the humungous building and opens a department every now and then. Everytime he does the tour is interrupted and we get to read a selected short story ( a window-tale if you will), adapted into comicdom by different people (Len Wein, Michael T. Gilbert and others).
In this particular book are five of those short-stories which vary in quality. I definately want to point out "Rat-hater", a story about a guy taking revenge in the most gruesome way he can think of on a guy who is responsible for his sisters death. To my taste this is the best story in the book (both the story as the painted art are not to be missed). Some of the others are nice (The Len Wein story and something called "On the Slab") but there's also a story done by Phil Foglio about which you'll probably feel sorry you took the time for it afterwards.
Between the several short stories, in the sequences where Ellison takes the reader from one department to another, Ellison uses some pages to take some personal shots at people who in his eyes wrongfully criticezed his work, in a pretty chauvinistic way.
The last two pages contain part of a new never-printed-before piece of proze by Ellison.
All in all the conclussion I must come to is that this is not a spectacularly good book. There are some nice (not great) stories in here and there are some lesser ones.... As it is it's quite enjoyable but only worth the money for true Harlan Ellison fans who can't get enough of him.


Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Family Album
Kurt Busiek's Astro City: Family Album
by Kurt Busiek
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from $25.76

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better series in the superhero-genre, August 30, 2001
Astro City is a city filled with superpowered beings. You can't walk from street to street without noticing at least one meta-human, if you're an inhabitant of the city. But not so like most 'superhero-titles' the focus here isn't only on the heroes and their deeds, but on the regular people who live (and try to cope with all the supernatural activities around them) there as well. It tells about their personal lives as well as about the events they all witness.
This Trade-Paperback is the first Astro City collection that collects issues from the ongoing series (#1-3 & #10-13, no loose ends there though).
The great thing about Astro City TPB's is that they both work for longtime readers as for people who are new to the title. For 'experienced' readers there are many recognizable (background-) characters, surroundings and situations that it feels familiair (without being repetitive), yet never the same. At the same time all those recognizable parts aren't vital points to the story-arcs so that new-comers will never feel like their missing out on something (and once they're through reading their first TPB and move on to another Astro City book THEIR party of recognition begins, without anything being spoiled in a previous book. No matter what order you read them in because they work as self-contained books as well). The issues in this book I'd like to advise to especially take a good look at are #10-12. Issue #10 is about a man called "The Junkman" who once managed to pull off the greatest bank-robbery in the history of Astro City. Only the one thing he wants most, recognition for it, he doesn't have. He decides to go back and do it again. Issues #11/12 are about one of the most famous characters of Astro City namely 'Jack-in-the-Box'. One evening he leaves home and he gets confronted with some persons from his 'possible futures'. An event which makes him rethink his activities, both private as professional.
Finally the volume is concluded with some pages filled with sketches of how the characters came to be what they are now AND the Alex Ross covers to the original issues which are collected in here.
Like I said in my review-title, I consider this one of the best titles in the genre where superheroes are involved. It's about superheroes AND about regular folks among them AND about the the lives these metahumans have apart from being heroes. Especially people who liked "Marvels" and Alan Moore's "Top Ten" will have a good time with this book, but it really should appeal to most other comicbook-readers as well, both superhero-fans as fans whose interest lies in the more 'serious' sub-genres. Really well-executed.


The Amazing Spider-Man (The Essential Spider-Man, Volume 1)
The Amazing Spider-Man (The Essential Spider-Man, Volume 1)
by Stan Lee
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from $8.36

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories well-worth reading available for a reasonable price, August 27, 2001
After having read this volume (which collects Amazing Fantasy #15, Amazing Spiderman #1-20 and Amazing Spiderman Annual #1) the conclussion I must draw is that this is probably the best choice for someone who wants to get old Spidey stories sheer for the fun of reading them. Collectors and people who want their stuff to look good on their shelf might rather choose for the more expensive Marvel Masterwork volumes (which are more than twice the cost per volume, very hard to get, collect half the stories that are collected in here per volume, but are hardcover and in color), but if you're solely getting a collection to read these issues THIS is your best choice I think. Given, the art is in black-and-white but it's solid and detailed enough for that not to be a problem (although I'll be the first one to admit it doesn't work that way with every artist). The issues collected in here are ALL written by Stan Lee and drawn by Steve Ditko. Although some of the stories are, when compared to many stories written since then, maybe a little old-fashioned, it's good to see there are a lot of issues in here which are surprisingly good compared to a lot of other Marvels that were published at that time (of which a lot would be considered very corny today). I think some of them would even be considered 'reasonably good' if they were printed today. The art by Ditko is also very solid (you can really see how detailed he worked in black-and-white) although in all honesty his successor, John Romita sr. was just a tad better. For persons who've been reading Spiderman for a longer period of time there are very nice reads here about, for example, the first appereances of Doc Octopus, The Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio and of course the original Green Goblin. Especially look for #6 (origin of the Lizard), #15 (Kraven hunting Spiderman) and #20 (the creating of the Scorpion) which are as far as I'm concerned the best issues in the book. I'd also like to mention that it's not all just about supercharacters fighting each other, but that reading about the inter-personal relationships between some of the characters is a big plus for the title. You get to see how and why Peter first picked up a camera, him and Aunt May worrying too much over each other, him really being bullied by Flash Gordon (Spidermans biggest fan!), his first meeting with Daredevil and off course his blooming feelings for Betty Brant. If you've read some of the later Amazing Spiderman comics you'll find yourself going "oh yeah !" a lot with this book when you recognize certain things from how they are now. Good reading for Spiderman fans. I'll add though that if you're not really into Spiderman continuity and are just looking for a nice (mostly self-contained) Spiderman story there are better choices like "Parallel Lives", "Origin of the Hobgoblin" or "Spiderman vs Green Goblin".


Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy
Spider-Man: The Death of Gwen Stacy
by Gerry Conway
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $8.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Green Goblin, undoubtly one of Spidermans greatest foes, August 26, 2001
Off course everybody who starts reading this trade knows what will be the most important event in the book, even before they start reading. But I do feel the TPB is still very much worth the read. 'The event' is, although the best part, certainly not your ONLY reason for reading this book, the rest is also very enjoyfull for the fan of Spiderman continuity (especially the involvement of Harry Osborn). When the event itself finally takes place it makes you kind of sad (as far as a comic-book gets you there) which is also a result of the very skilled manner in which they portrayed it. Basically the trade is divided in three parts. The first part is the reprinting of Amazing Spiderman #96-98 a.k.a. as the famous 'free of comic-code' drug-issues (written by Stan Lee with art by Gil Kane). In it Peter decides to take the opportunity his room-mate, Harry Osborn, has created for him to take a job at his father's (Norman) company. Norman has a block in his mind and doesn't remember he was once the Green Goblin. Meanwhile Harry is having a hard time trying to cope with MJ, the girl he loves, giving him the cold shoulder and together with the pressure he constantly feels to keep his father happy Harry finally seeks shelter in taking drugs. The most relevance this story has for the trade is that it sets the stage perfectly for what's to come. Norman is shifting in and out Green Goblin-mode again for the first time since he got amnesia and Gwen Stacy returns to New York (after trying to get over her fathers death with her aunt and uncle in London). The second part of the trade is reprinting #121-122 (written by Gerry Conway with art by Gil Kane). When his son Harry is sick of a bad drug experience again (see the relevance ?) and receiving news of business going down the drain on top of it, it's too much for Norman Osborns fragile mind and he turns into Green Goblin once again. Blaming Spiderman/Peter (remember that Green Goblin is the only man who knows Peter is Spiderman !) for all his troubles he kidnaps Gwen Stacy. What happens next is something most of us already know but still when the moment is there it sends a little chill down our spines (mine at least). It's one of the most influential events in superhero-dom up till this very day and you'll be happy to agree with me in saying that once you've been through it. An important thing is that the path for the writers to start evolving Mary-Jane is now clear. The third and final part of the trade is a NEW (little) story by DeMatteis and Romita Sr called "The kiss". A tribute to the character Gwen Stacy about her and Pete's last ever date together. Also a very worthy story to be in the book because it's a very well-written piece about Peter and Gwen's feelings for each other and really adds to the mood. In conclussion I must honestly admit that maybe quality-wise it's not the best TPB ever to see print (certainly not a bad one though !), but for Spiderman fans (like me) that really doesn't matter and they'll remember it as one of the most impact-making TPB's ever. Good stuff.


Cerebus, Volume 1
Cerebus, Volume 1
by G. Dave Sim
Edition: Paperback
28 used & new from $21.94

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm, I'm interested ...., August 21, 2001
This review is from: Cerebus, Volume 1 (Paperback)
After repeatedly having been told I should really give Cerebus comics a try I decided to go for it and started off with this first book (which collects #1-25). I don't regret it. Although it's a little hard to get into it at first it's quite an interesting and good read once you get to (and pass) the point he finds employment with a certain Lord Julius of Palnu (about halfway through the book), not accidently also the point where continuity and follow-up stories in Cerebus comics kick in. Before that it's mostly a funny book with single-issue arcs, a spoof on "warrior-comics" which is a genre of comics that was very popular in the days these issues first saw print. Those issues are also enjoyfull but stand-alone, and I feel the real storylines shouldn't have kicked in any later or it might have become annoying.
The main idea of the stories in this volume is that the main-character Cerebus, a sarcastic wandering mercanary for hire who happens to be an aardvark, swerves around in a fantasy land. He never knows where he's going to be next week and his only things of interest are gold, peace of mind and booze, favorably to be earned in any employment he finds at the time (or just by theft). This gets him in the most awkward positions possible which he has to get out off by cleverly conning his (99% dumb-as-a lamppost) fellow characters. The dialogues in which Cerebus takes part are hilarious if you're a fan of sarcastic humor and sometimes you find yourself amazed seeing how Cerebus finds his way out off things you wouldn't have seen a solution for yourself. Big plus for Simm there because the tales NEVER get predictable.
Overall I'm quite enthousiastic about this volume although I do think it might not be the best one to get to know the character Cerebus. I think it's better if you read one of the later volumes first ("High Society" for example) and THEN come back to this book to see how it all evolved in what it came to be. Because evolve it does, just compare the drawings on the first page and the last page, and see how far story-development improves over time. Once you DO start reading this book I'd like to suggest that you especially take good notice of the characters "Elrod", "Jaka" and "Cockroach". Not only do these characters keep re-appearing in later issues, the stories starring them are also some of the best in the trade (more like "phonebook" really). Also take special notice of #20 called "Mindgame" which is hilarious due to the superb dialoguing and Simm showing off he can draw Cerebus in any position imaginable. Something he doesn't lack in at other issues either, though. In conclussion: go for it if you're looking for a cleverly written "talk-comic" where the action is more in the words than in the images, and stay clear of it if you're looking for a superhero comic or a comic that's all about action-filled art.


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