tmp_x_files_ghostbusters_1_cover_2014-479566267On Wednesday I mentioned that I was as sick as an animal, and that under the influence of three types of antihistamine and some form of Polish pig virus, the new The X-Files / Ghostbusters: Conspiracy crossover sounded like just about my level of fun given my reduced cognitive capacity.

On paper, this kind of crossover is a gimme for big fun. You’ve got Scully the skeptic and Mulder the believer in the supernatural hiding in the shadows, both serious as a bowel prolapse on taco night, confronted face-to-face with big technicolor slime-spitting ghosts and four guys who treat the whole thing like an irritating plumbing problem with a wicked, ironic sense of humor about the experience. Sure, the thing could never be canon – if Mulder and Scully really met Dr. Venkman and company, they’d be able to wave 1080p scan video in Skinner’s face every time he tried to rein him in… or more likely, Smoking Man would have Peter, Ray, Winston and Egon quietly shot in the back of the head in a New York alleyway.

Well, The X-Files / Ghostbusters: Conspiracy #1 doesn’t give us that meeting. It gives us The Lone Gunmen meeting the Ghostbusters – which is a smart way to go in its own way, as it puts comic relief alongside just plain comedy – as the Gunmen investigate the guys as probably frauds and charlatans. And while the Gunmen wind up spending most of the issue as bystanders – what’s Frohike gonna do against a Class Five Full-Roaming Vapor, grump it into submission? – there’s still a reasonable amount of fun to be had in this one-and-done…

Except this issue is part of a great, IDW-wide crossover. Which means a there’s some exposition here that will only matter to you if you intend to follow the remainder of Conspiracy. And considering the next part crosses over with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, well, your mileage may vary.

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tmp_judge_dredd_14_cover_a_2013-398627878A couple of months ago, recognizing a gap in my comics history education and having a 20 percent off coupon from Barnes & Noble burning a hole in my pocket, I started reading 2000AD’s Judge Dredd from the beginning. I picked up the first five volumes of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files, and have been picking up volumes one at a time since, getting up to volume eight so far.

So while I am by no means an expert on Judge Dredd, I have soaked up enough to have formed the opinions that Ron Smith is my favorite artist on the title other than Brian Bolland so far, that Walter The Wobot is a fucking stupid character, that Dredd should have ventilated The Judge Child as soon as he found him, and that based on the apparently constant appearances of The Fatties, those British comics creators have a fairly solid handle on American culture.

So while we have had IDW’s adaptation of Judge Dredd by writer Duane Swierczynski in the house, it’s been Amanda who’s been picking it up. I haven’t been reading it, because I figured they would hew closer to the recent Dredd movie than the original comics, and that they would go along the lines of DC’s 1990s version of Judge Dredd, that took place in an entirely different continuity from the original 2000AD comics.

But I finally knucked and checked out Judge Dredd #14, and, well, I was half right. The IDW version of the book seems to take place in the 2000AD continuity, with at least a couple of familiar characters who won’t necessarily mean anything to anyone who hasn’t read some of the original books. And it gives us two stories that are pretty solid crime stories with sci-fi elements like body switching and psychic predictions that fit well into the overall Dredd universe.

It’s a good comic, but it’s only an okay Judge Dredd comic. Because it is missing something.

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locke_and_key_alpha_1_cover_2013Editor’s Note: Cthulhu Fthagn! Ph’nglui spoilers Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Basically, I see your crazy and raise. It’s the only way to live.

– Tyler Locke

And with that line, if nothing else, Locke & Key: Alpha #1 has finally settled the question as to what I want engraved on my tombstone.

I opened with that line because I’m finding it hard to review the actual comic book. First of all, this thing is a monster – 32 pages, not counting the “special features” toward the end of the issue – with battles and conflicts happening in about four different places with interchanging teams of characters fighting different threats at varying times.

Second, it’s a hard single issue to summarize. We jump back and forth between the characters, each of which is in a different form of mortal danger at least once, and many of them don’t make it through the issue. The nature of the threats to the characters changes from demons to torture to taunting to thrown rocks, so there’s no simple throughline to follow to keep track of everything so it can be described concisely for people who might be looking for reviews to decide if they want to try the book or not.

Further, this just doesn’t scan like your average superhero comic book. Throughout the issue, we see villain Dodge using a variety of escalating levels of magic to try to enforce his will. But instead of your normal comic, where the heroes meet that power with more power, they generally resist by simple human means of courage and love and persistence, leading to almost the opposite of a standard comic book climax, where the action grows smaller and simpler and more intimate toward the conclusion.

And finally, this issue doesn’t end like your normal superhero comic. Because for all the violence and power displayed, this issue concludes with a simple grapple between the villain and an ancillary character. And unlike in your standard comic, writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez give us a conclusion that makes a hard distinction between the bad guys losing and the good guys actually winning.

So I’ve struggled to decide how to write about this issue. So we’ll go with this to start: if you have been following Locke & Key, this is a spectacular ending (yeah, there’s one more issue, but based on this one, it looks like it’s gonna be a simple denouement) that pays off on just about tease and promise that has been made to the reader leading up to this moment. And if you have not been reading Locke & Key? Well, start with the trades and give this one a wide berth until you’re up to speed.

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joe_hill_gabriel_rodriguez_boston_comic_con_2013_2Editor’s Note: If this writeup of Sunday’s Locke & Key panel sounds fun, you can see a bunch of video from the panel, with a lot of additional information that didn’t make this report, right here.

If Boston Comic Con had a single event that no other convention, regardless of size or location, could reproduce in 2013, it was the Locke & Key panel, because it featured all the main players in the production of the book: writer Joe Hill, artist Gabriel Rodriguez, and IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall. And considering that the book is coming to a conclusion in just a few months, and therefore all of these guys will be moving on to other projects, if you ever wanted to see these three guys interact and talk about Locke & Key while it’s an ongoing concern, the only place to be was the Waterfront Room at the Seaport World Trade Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The one thing that that panel didn’t have was a hell of a lot in the way of actual news, but who the hell expected that? We all know the comic is closing up shop (minus the odd rumored one-shot, which wasn’t something that was addressed at the panel), we all know that the Fox pilot for a TV series is two years dead, and the Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (of Star Trek reboot fame)-produced Locke & Key movie is only a month and a half into its existence, and there’s no way in hell that they would allow any hard information to be released in a function room full of people wearing t-shirts reading, “Yankees Suck!”

So these guys were not facing a crowd that was rabid for any new information (beyond maybe how, and who will make, Dodge eventually suck the pipe, but even that was a low-key questions; after all, the final issue is just about on its way), which meant that tensions were low for the panel, and it showed. The panel unofficially started with Hill looking at his phone at the stroke of 2 p.m., grabbing a microphone, and saying, “Guys, this just in: the BBC just announced that the next Doctor will be Jason Statham!”

And when the crowd groaned, Hill said, “It would be awesome, and you know it!”

Yeah, this panel looked to just be a good time. And it was.

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joe_hill_gabriel_rodriguez_boston_comic_con_2013Boston Comic Con is now over, and it certainly has one thing over the San Diego Comic-Con: getting back to the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office from Boston Comic Con only took 20 minutes and cost $2.50 on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Boston Comic Con might well have been a pleasant surprise and an exciting jump from a little regional convention to one that feels more and more like one of the bigger boys, but it certainly wasn’t perfect. In the coming day or two, either Amanda or I will be addressing the truly deficient methods this convention had for dealing with crowds both attempting to enter the convention and trying to attend the panels (for now, let’s leave it with the stark reality that, if someone tried to clear a convention room at SDCC in between panels, that effort would start with bemused laughter and end with a truly epic riot), but Boston provided some experiences that were indistinguishable from some of the biggest and best conventions in the world.

And one of those experiences is exhaustion. We are wiped out. And unlike when we attend San Diego, we don’t have a long flight and several vacation days with which we can recover; we’re right back to our daily lives tomorrow morning.

So while we will be publishing that general Boston Comic Con postmortem, as well as detailed coverage of Joe Hill’s, Gabriel Rodriguez’s, and IDW Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall’s panel on Locke & Key (which, sinceĀ Locke & Key is concluding, realistically marks the final time these creators will probably be in the same room at the same time), we didn’t want to leave you hanging while we weakly sip beer and appreciate our art purchases (Amanda picked up a J. O’Barr original sketch of Iggy Pop that is as awesome as it is an off-kilter work by the creator of The Crow) while yawning.

So in that spirit, here is a series of short videos we took of Hill and Rodriguez at the Locke & Key panel. And I gotta tell you: if you get a chance to see either of these guys at a convention panel, take it. Rodriguez is clearly enthusiastic about the work he does, and Hill is just plain old laugh-out-loud funny to see speak.

But don’t take my word for it; you can get a taste, straight from our YouTube Channel, right after the jump.

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locke_and_key_omega_4_cover_2013As often happens with recent individual issues of Locke & Key, I am of varying minds about recommending issue 4 of Locke & Key: Omega. On one hand, I want to tell you that, if you’re already reading Locke & Key, you’ll want to pick up this issue because it’s packed with action, suspense, violence, and a couple of damn satisfying – if small – triumphs on the part of the Locke kids’ mom, Tyler and disembodied Bode… but I also know that if you’re already reading Locke & Key, you’re gonna buy this issue come hell or high water, because that’s what this title does to you if you even like horror at all.

On the other hand, I want to tell you that, if you’ve never read Locke & Key, that the issue is packed with action, suspense, violence, and a couple of damn satisfying – if small – triumphs on the part of some shitfaced lady, a foulmouthed teenager, and a ghost… none of whom you will know. And therefore, unlike a recent issue of Locke & Key: Omega, it is not a particularly good place to jump in if you want to have any real understanding of what the hell is going on.

If you are not a regular reader, it is, however, an excellent place to jump in if you want to see, completely without context, giant monkeys attacking and murdering teenagers. And if you’re a bloated, drunken, 42-year-old suburbanite like me, maybe that’ll be enough for you.

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Editor’s Note: And one last review of the comics of 12/19/2012 before the comic store open…

From the 1920s and well into the middle of the 20th century, American comics press had a tradition of popularizing idealized characters as heroes – hard bitten detectives like Dick Tracy, plucky orphans who make good like Little Orphan Annie, and tenacious fighters with tender hearts like Joe Palooka.

Created by cartoonist Ham Fisher, Joe Palooka had a very successful run as a syndicated comic strip from 1930 until 1984. At its peak, it ran in 900 newspapers and spawned radio spots, a television show and a movie. The American public continues to demonstrate a soft spot for its fighters, to which the popularity and critical acclaim of such movies as Million Dollar Baby and The Fighter can attest. Even as straight up boxing has moved from weekend afternoon sports coverage on networks to cable and pay-per-view programming, viewers still can get their pugilism fix through any of a number of mixed martial arts programs, like Ultimate Fighting Championship or StrikeForce. So, it’s no surprise that characters inspired by MMA fighters are finding their way back into the comics medium, as with Blair Butler’s 2011 series Heart.

Joe Antonacci, a veteran ringside announcer of boxing and MMA matches, now owns the trademark to Joe Palooka and has rebooted the character as an ongoing comic book series. Joe Palooka, also known in this new book as Nick Davis, is an up and coming MMA fighter with a background in bare knuckle boxing from his time growing up as a child of migrant farm workers. The story has been mapped out by the creative team of Antonacci, with creative partners Matt Triano and Mike Bullock. Bullock also scripted the issue. Art is handled by Fernando Peniche with Bob Pedroza on colors.

So, how does Joe Palooka hold up to his modernization?

Our hero’s spoiler filled origins, after the jump!

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I am behind the times where Judge Dredd is concerned. When the comic was coming out in strip form back in the late seventies and eighties in the British publication 2000 A.D., I was an ocean away. Also, I was 7 (at least at the start of it). I managed to miss both movie versions of it, which, from what I hear, is probably a good thing. Why Sylvester Stallone would’ve been cast to play an iconic British comic hero seems bizarre, but it was the 90s and a lot of crimes against comic books were happening -so why should their treatment in a movie be that much more surprising? As far as Karl Urban is concerned – well, I know he was Bones McCoy in the Star Trek reboot. I liked him in that, but not enough to go to Judge Dredd 3D. I’m ok with that.

IDW currently has the rights to Judge Dredd and is two issues into a new run, written by Duane Swierczynski. I picked up issue #2 with no context, having missed the first one. If you’re like me and have no background on the series, Judge Dredd is a futuristic tale, set in the dystopian society of Mega-City One. Joseph Dredd is a Judge; Judges are cops who also impose sentence on their perps. This issue seems to be as much about what the system asks of its participants as it is about the characters. The comic is split into two stories by Swierczynski, “Cover Me”, with art by Nelson Daniel, and “The Good Parts”, with art by Brendan McCarthy.

So, for a reader with no grounding in the series, who is also starting late to the party, what’s the verdict?

My findings, riddled with spoilers, after the jump.

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I hadn’t read any of Locke & Key, written by Joe Hill and drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, until the Grindhouse one-shot came out back in September. At the time, I told myself that I hadn’t tried it because the word was it had a bunch of backstory and mythology crossing four already-released trade paperbacks worth of material, and between my heavy take of weekly comics and trying to run a comics Web site, I simply didn’t have the time or energy to throw myself into a deep horror tale that, based on titles alone, looked like another Lovecraft knockoff – sure, I loves me some Lovecraftian stories, but I think I’ve established I have little patience for bad ones. So why run the risk?

That was the reason that I told myself. Turns out the real reason I wasn’t reading Locke & Key is because I was a fucking idiot.

Locke & Key is a spectacular horror story, one that covers twenty years and more of mythology, yes, but which focuses on a small group of well-rounded characters in a limited, generally familiar setting – you know, minus the weird house and its funky magic keys. It has Lovecraftian elements, yes, but it also has so much more, and by keeping the people affected down to a small group, it accentuates the danger by making it easy to empathize with those in the thick of it. Yes, Locke & Key is all one big six-volume story (other than that Grindhouse one-shot), and yes, because of that, it is difficult to just grab an issue to understand who people are and what is happening to them, but four of those volumes are available in affordable trade paperback, with the fifth just out in hardcover… and if you’re anything like me, by the time you finish the fourth book, you’ll happily drop the extra few bucks to get the fifth right fucking now.

The sixth and final Locke & Key volume, Omega, is being released in normal comic book form right now; the second issue dropped on Wednesday. And while I have been digging it, I didn’t review the last month’s first issue because it is a late chapter in one big story. Which meant that if you hadn’t read any of the earlier issues, there wasn’t a hope in hell that a new reader would know what the hell was going on or why. And the same is true for this week’s second issue, but I’m going to review and recommend it anyway, even for new readers. Because even though new readers won’t know who the punk kid in the wedding dress is, or why there’s a naked child ghost wandering around with no wang, or if the black woman muttering “White. Stop. Dodge” is in the mental hospital due to a hideous Bombardment accident, I can guarantee they will lock onto the character of Rufus Whedon. And if the heart and cleverness with which Hill has embued this character doesn’t give you faith that maybe it’s worth starting Locke & Key from the beginning to see what he’s done with these other people you don’t know? Maybe comics really aren’t the hobby for you.

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Yeah, we fixed it (sort of; give us some more time)… and just in time. Because after a week of writer Joe Hill hinting coyly about it on his Twitter feed, it has just become official: Universal Pictures has optioned Hill’s and artist Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke & Key comic for development as a movie.

The comic was developed as a television pilot a year or so ago for Fox, who decided not to pick up a series order (although if I recall correctly, the pilot, starring Nick Stahl from Carnivale and Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines was screened to good reaction at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con… which I missed, due to a prior commitment to an alcoholic blackout). It is now under development by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who wrote the 2009 Star Trek reboot (Yay!), as well as the first Michael Bay Transformers movie (Boo!), with an eye toward turning it into a possible trilogy.

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