Review: Moon Knight, Vol. 1 – From the Dead, by Warren Ellis

Moon Knight, Vol. 1: From the DeadMoon Knight, Vol. 1: From the Dead by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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On account of it was my choice…Black and White week! (or Bi-week, as we’ve realized it’s sadistic to force KitKat to do 52 Banners in a year).

So here we go: The cover is Black and White, and Moon Knight is Black and White. Dull Colour Palette only the White pops. That and there’s a showdown between Black and White, good and evil in one issue.

I’m not sure if it had to do with the order of reading, but having read my last book (New Avengers Vol. 4 by Hickman – or Namor’s Big Balls, as I’ll call it), and finding it utterly lacking; this was a delight.

That being said, it wasn’t what I’d usually give 4 stars…but I for sure enjoyed it, I would recommend it to others, and I’m sad there won’t be more of the same. Brian Wood is great when it’s NOT Capes and Tights…so here’s hoping it doesn’t go the way of X-Women…

Anyhow, Marc Spector is Moon Knight, and also Mr. Knight, and also apparently a couple of other peeps…he died in Egypt, and they have lots of gods of afterlife, who returned Marc to life after he died being good for once in his life…

“I’ve Died Before. It was boring, so I stood up.”

Might be the most badass line I’ve read in comics in a long time…I love it. It would also rock as a movie tagline…Marvel, make this happen (also, my latest craze, Tom Hardy as Frank Castle!).

Warren Ellis is on form here, closer to Transmetropolitan than the crappy Avengers Endless Wartime book a few years ago…

This is another one where the art is supposed to look, I dunno, retro-gritty? Is that a thing? I think it’s muted greys and browns and such, so the White of Moon Knight’s/Mr. Knight’s getups pop well.

I like the 2 versions. Mr. Knight is the pseudo-disguise that acknowledges he’s the same beast as Moon Knight, but prevents him from being arrested as a dangerous vigilante, and allows him to work with the police…(I really thought that was a creative idea, plus the outfit is killer.)
Moon Knight is the one we know already, and would have recognized before this.

There’s some interesting stand-alone stories in the 6 here, the best stylistically are the sniper one (as Sam already highlighted in his review) which was awesome for the 8 panels per page, each disappearing to White blank space as another person was killed, until the page was empty…very cool style which elevated a story lacking much substance.
There was also the Raid/Judge Dredd style one attacking the building. Very fun style in what could have been sucky, because it was minimal on chatter.
Warren Ellis can write with the best of them (as he is one of the best) but here, he’s pretty minimalist, and I dig it.

There’s also a trippy one about Dreams/and inhaling dead people. Very trippy with a bit of a modern Poe feel to it (Telltale Heart).

None of the stories are amazing, and there’s not a ton of connection, but there’s enough here to interest me, keep my attention, and stylistically, very cool. This guy is similar to Batman, yes, but also Punisher-like. So Bat-Punisher? it works, yet he’s all his own man.

I honestly don’t know if I read it tomorrow if I’d give it 4-stars again, but I feel like I’d still enjoy it, probably enough to do 3+ stars and then I’d realize why I did give it 4. It’s ORIGINAL. It’s not original, it’s cool, it’s boring, but, it’s not like anything else, and neither is Marc Spector.

I sure know who I’ll call when some Ghost Punks come at me next time…hell, he’s Bat-Punisher-Ghostbuster-Dredd. Wow. And he rocks a sweet ride, suit, and plane.

Oh and he’s sorta brain damaged, and has been dead before…no big thang…

Check it out, you won’t find it derivative, that’s for sure.


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Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 3 – N-Zone; by Warren Ellis

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 3: N-ZoneUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 3: N-Zone by Warren Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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OK, so Volume 3 again is helmed by Warren Ellis, who for me, has done nearly the best sustained job of writing Reed Richards that I can recall. He gets just how smart this guy is, but also in the Ultimate version, makes him have a slightly more in-tune with other humans vibe. (If I can put it this way, most people write Reed like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory in the first season, whereas Ellis writes him more like Leonard, who’s still super smart, but gets the social contract a bit more…) After our adventures with Victor Van Damme last volume, here we focus on the N-Zone (negative zone).

The science in this book is fascinating, but done on a level where anyone who reads it slow-ly can un-der-stand. I love that Reed takes the time to try and metaphorically explain things to Ben, who fully admits that he’s clueless, but I love that this Reed cares enough to try.

Adam (& Andy) Kubert is back on art duties in this volume, and one thing that jumped out at me, is that he totally captures just how sad Ben Grimm’s eyes are. There might be 5 panels in the book where he doesn’t have that sad distant look in them, and it’s brilliant…Ben is completely cut off from his humanity, unlike the others who still maintain human forms. However, a small conversation with the usually shallow Johnny kinda hits home for him: Ben wanted to play football, and Johnny says OK so you wanted to be broke and washed up at 30 with bum knees to score a few goals? Dude, you punched out a Sea Monster the other day. You get to be a Superhero! Are you really going to be that sad about not playing ball?

It’s things like that, this Fantastic Foursome are not just cardboard cutouts or generic FF settings, these are actual young people, who’ve undergone a huge change in their lives, and are mostly excited about what that change presents them with…Sue is strong, fiercely intelligent biologist in her own right, not just ‘Reed’s Girlfriend and Johnny’s Sister’ or the kids’ mom. Johnny is the young one of the group, not tremendously different from the regular version, but he’s still excited and eager, and not as jaded or douche-y as he can be. Ben as I’ve mentioned before, is an actual person, not just a dumbass with catchphrases (though we do see the etymology of his famous rallying cry, which is neat), he’s self-aware, mournful for his lost humanity, but also a strong and loyal protector to these people.

We also see humour that’s not just canned stale jokes, these guys rip into Reed for his naming of things Fantasti-anything, and as a result, Johnny gets to name the Shuttle, which of course, he decides on ‘Awesome’ which he and Ben love, and the other 2 are mortified about.

The science of the N-Zone is handled in a intelligent way, so that we get what is being talked about; I feel like in the regular FF we sometimes are forced to take things for granted and just accept them, whereas here, there’s an effort to understand, like how it’s impossible for Sue to be invisible, yet she is…and how Johnny suffers some adverse side-effects from using his powers, but we see a sort of evolution/change in them as things go on.
We see just how FANTASTIC they really are, and can be, when put into the hands of a smart writer who’s engaged with them. If I knew this title was so good, I’d have told everyone who didn’t like FF to read this. It really makes them fresh and interesting and people I care about.

Of course, what would a trip be into the N-Zone without contact with another life form in a new universe…this one is called Nihil, or as Ben calls him E-Vill. (Annihilus of our universe) the first contact is done very well, I wish I had faith our own first contact would ever be so intelligent…
math forming the basis of communication, the extreme excitement from Reed that nearly blinds him to the dangers that Sue and Ben seem to sense a bit more…it’s just so easy to read this without ever thinking the’re stupid, or the writing is off, or you’re being forced to accept too much weird stuff.

The of course, there’s the final action sequence, straight out of Con-Air, and I loved it for that. General Ross as mad as hell, until Reed tosses him a piece of space tech from N-Zone, and then his proclamation of love for young Richards.

We also see Ben missing his family, the public reveal of the team, a bit more of Reed’s non-contact with his family, and the bonds of this group getting stronger…

I really was so impressed and enjoyed this, it all came together for me, even if it’s not a 5 star book, I enjoyed the hell out of it like one. So what more do you really want in a book but to enjoy it and not have any problems?
(OK, one prob…that was the last of Ellis on this book…SAD FACE!)


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Review: Ultimate FF Vol. 2 – Doom; by Warren Ellis

Ultimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 2: DoomUltimate Fantastic Four, Vol. 2: Doom by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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More tardy Foursome Shallow Buddyreads!

Volume 2 picks up on the hunt for Victor Van Damme, and we discover that he’s had to construct himself a suit of armour to cover his decaying body. He’s based in a squatters area in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Before we get the first showdown before him and the Four, there’s some other stuff to take care of…first off: Warren Ellis is writing!
He’s got a different style than Bendis and Millar, less for the masses, a little more intelligent, but still highly enjoyable. (That isn’t a knock on Bendis or Millar either, I very much enjoy both men’s work).

But here we get explanations of scientific questions about the four that many of us would ask if we ever had the chance: Does Ben still use the potty? (Yes, but it’s not pretty) How strong is he? (7 Tons of psi per hand!) What happens to Reed’s organs when he shifts shapes? (Turns out he doesn’t HAVE any anymore, just some lung-like remnants that oxygenates the blood!)

Very cool stuff. I really liked it.
Victor builds a bunch of robot insects to attack the Baxter Building, which lets Reed know he’s still alive, and he’s got the codes that he changed before the test that changed them all. Reed wants it at all costs, but first, they need to survive the attack. We get to see Reed as the helpless one here, with Johnny and Ben fighting and strong, Sue strong in the use of her powers (and mind, she’s an internal biologist!) and pushes herself to the edge many times.

We also see some jokes about names, like the Human Matchbox, and the Asbestos Thing (Ben isn’t affected by heat in this version, and is also bulletproof (last volume)). We also get introduced to the Fantasti-car, which Reed built at 13, using info Tony Stark put on the internet and his own brain.
Ben and Johnny mock the everloving shit out of Reed, calling everything Fantasti-something. It’s a nice way to develop characters, and also keep Reed from being too high and mighty above everyone else, which was something I always found off-putting about Marvel U Reed a lot of the time.

Sue’s also no slouch intellectually, which I greatly enjoy!

This all leads to a breakout where the Four go after Victor, and we see a showdown, only broken up by the arrival of the Army, and then the realization that he’s got diplomatic immunity…as a Danish citizen…
However, we see a bit more anger and action from Reed here, so it’s a different direction, but I will for sure be following along with this one.


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Review: Trees, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis

Trees, Vol. 1 (Trees #1- #8)Trees, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley for a Free ARC of this.

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So this is a book I’d almost put into a category with East by West…it’s by a talented creator, and published by Image, and most importantly, I have absolutely no idea how to rate it! (I’m thinking about 3.5 stars would be acceptable)

Warren Ellis is a very very talented writer, able to evoke and communicate great passions, and this book is no different…the only issue is, I’m not quite sure what’s going on.

The “Trees” arrived from space 10 years ago, all over the world, and have just sat there, doing almost nothing at all, while life continues all over the Earth. However, recently, there’s been a discharge of toxic acid or something from the Trees of Rio, killing many.

The more I read this, the more interesting the trees became, but then I started to wonder if maybe the trees were just a gigantic MacGuffin? Thrown in to take our attention and make us focus on them instead of everything else? I mean they can’t be a total MacGuffin, because they do end up doing something, but is it nearly as important to the story as we might think? I’m not entirely sure.

To me, this seemed to become a story about humanity, our failures and triumphs all together. The artist community of China is a peak of the good things about acceptance and community, where people are allowed to be people…until they’re not.

The Italian community where the evils of Facism reign, of servitude and violence and intimidation…until they don’t.

The Norwegian Science Post where the thinkers and scientists examine the growth of what appear to be black poppies from around one of the trees growing in the midst of the Arctic Circle…but they’re not poppies…they’re something else. Even among the best minds, we see discord and anger flourish, mistrust, paranoia and jealousy even…

In Somalia, we see the leader of a nation who is wise, a world renowned economist who has done wonders with the aid given to his nation. This man follows the rules of numbers, until it becomes something that he uses to either ignore the human numbers or worse, justify the death soon to be dished out by his regime.

In NYC we see a city that has fallen apart, ruled by gangs, of whom the NYPD are simply another gang. One man wants to become Mayor, so that he can change things, and unite his city again.

The common thread is that each city under trees has fallen apart in some way, and someone wants to put it together, or solve it, or change the situation.

So have the trees really done nothing? Or have they actually gradually pushed certain people to throw off the status quo and remake things in another way? Or would this cycle have happened regardless of the presence of the trees?

Is Ellis telling us that he believes that we’re not intelligent life, and that we will stagnate until we do something about it? Or is he saying we won’t do anything about the situations until we get that little nudge or push to do so?

From what appears to be a very strange Sci-Fi Graphic Novel, what we really get is a philosophy paper presented in the form of an illustrated story. The beauty of that is, that each one of us can interpret it however we see fit. Until there’s a second volume, or until Mr. Ellis lifts the veil for us, that is.

Not conventional by any stretch, but I minored in Philosophy at school, so it’s fun to get into thought exercises like this.

I grant, this will NOT be for everyone, it’s got some action, for sure, but I think the greater purpose is to present us with some questions, or ideas to mull over. If you’re in the mood to be mentally engaged and challenged, by all means, give this a shot. If you’d rather just be entertained, maybe you might try something else.

Thanks again to NetGalley for the free digital ARC.


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Review: Transmetropolitan, Vol. 5: Lonely City; by Warren Ellis

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 5: Lonely City (New Edition)Transmetropolitan, Vol. 5: Lonely City by Warren Ellis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. I love righteous fury. Ellis does it like no one else. I also love the poetic beauty he uses to describe the city and his relationship with it. The duality of filth disgust and garbage versus the positivity of energy, discovery and people. At first I found it a bit wordy…but it arts up the second act perfectly…

The Smiler has come to power, Spider vowing to take him out…in the midst of this, a brutal hate crime takes place, outraging Spider to nearly boiling point. The response of the police dictates our hero’s actions, and we think we know what will happen….until the last few pages…and we see just how evil and dangerous an opponent the new president really will be.

In addition to all this, Ellis comes up with some pearls of wisdom through Spider, which really spoke to me.


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Review: Transmetropolitan: The New Scum (Vol. 4) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 4: The New Scum (New Edition)Transmetropolitan, Vol. 4: The New Scum by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So in the wake of a shocking assassination/murder, Spider finds himself coveted by both the Beast and the Smiler (the 2 men running for POTUSA). The New Scum refers to the part of the City where the very lower classes manage to scrape by their existences. Spider doesn’t think too highly of the men who subjugate these people, but he also expects more from them in terms of their civic responsibilities.

Warren Ellis has always been an impressive writer (save maybe for Avengers: Endless Wartime – which is a dirty stinker) but here, you just see the pure vitriol, spite, anger, scorn, rage, and disappointment that fuels his writing. (Or at least I feel like that’s what’s being poured into Spider, who is some sort of pseudo-Ellis here).

I cannot help but look at the date (1999) and think about the US elections at the time (Bush/Gore) and see parallels.

However, the most important moment in the whole volume for me is when Spider acts like a compassionate human being towards a sad lost little girl (and later, her mother). From what most of us have seen of Spider, this is so out of character, it seems shocking…and yet…would he really be so angry about the state of the world if he didn’t have that caring for humanity? Would he have been so angry at the people in the wake of the election? I think this is a great way Ellis shows us underneath, that the high hopes being crushed are what fuels the rage of Spider.

A strong volume for sure, but not for the faint of heart…the only light stuff comes from Spider’s assistants discussing their carnal knowledge of the boss…

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Review: Absolute Planetary

Absolute Planetary (Planetary, #1 - #4)Absolute Planetary by Warren Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great read. Not really an Ellis or Cassaday fan, but this was something special. Different than what I expected in a good way. I am something of a blue collar geek and was afraid this might lean more towards a “Grant Morrison” or “Alan Moore” type of story. While both of them have written some classic stuff, I’m just not smart enough to get some of their work. Ellis’s universe is smart without being overly obscure, confusing, or wordy and anyone with a general knowledge of pop culture will see the obvious nods to past genres or characters. Great new characters too. And the way Ellis tied the individual issues into one story towards the end was awesome. Cassaday has also won me over as his art was some of the best I’ve seen him do. Bought this based on the numerous recommendations read on Goodreads and was not disappointed. The Omnibus contains the entire series including the JLA, Batman, and Authority crossovers in one beautiful book. I didn’t feel the crossovers were as great as the series itself, but was glad that DC collected them here as part of book.

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Review: Transmetropolitan: Year of the Bastard – by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson

Transmetropolitan, Vol. 3: Year of the BastardTransmetropolitan, Vol. 3: Year of the Bastard by Warren Ellis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve waited an entire YEAR for this! Finished Vol. 2 Sept 20 2013, waited for the library to send Vol. 3, and lo and behold…they were not doing so…then they didn’t have a copy left, so I asked them to replace/order a new one…then they did…and it still took 3-4 months to come in and then to make it’s way into my hot little hands…it has been an ordeal.

I was so excited to read this!

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