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Monday, September 30, 2019

The Complete "Omaha" the Cat Dancer: Volume 6

by Reed Waller, Kate Worley, & James Vance

Publisher: NBM Publishing (April 1, 2007)

Softcover, 112 pages

Amazon Listing 

“Krazy Kat was not simply a strip about talking critters and Omaha the Cat Dancer is not simply a comic about a sexy cat. Like the great comic strip, it is a story about life and love that resonates with the truth, and for that reason, Reed, Kate, and Jim, have made a place for themselves in that elite group of creators...the group people will always know about, always read, always discuss and ponder, from here to eternity.”

                    -Terry Moore (from his introduction)

Once more we have a collection of one of the most controversial and debated comics ever produced. Controversial because of the graphic sex displayed in every issue. Debated because, if one bothered to read the material, it is obvious that the book was more about sex. It was simply one part of the character’s very busy lives. In fact, it seems at times as if the writer would’ve liked to leave the sexual material in the past, but it was too established as being part of the series to completely abandon.

This is the penultimate volume before the original run of the comic ends, and we come to the final book completed in the early 2000s, which takes up volume 8. This volume collects issues 18, 19, & 20, plus four shorter pieces done for other comics featuring the world of Omaha.

The first is a five pager where Omaha is accidentally sucked into the Cynosphere. For those who don’t know, the Cynosphere is a place where all dimensions meet and all worlds exist simultaneously and is the setting for the comic Grimjack- of which I never cared for. It’s a fun story, but not part of the whole of Omaha cannon- if you care about that sort of stuff. It was originally published in Munden’s Bar Annual #2. The next two, one is untitled and the other called “Waking Up Under a Tent”, were created for the book The Erotic Art of Reed Waller, while the last “Rob Steps Out” was drawn for Gay Comics #22 and features Omaha’s resident gay character Rob in San Francisco. 

As for the regular series, the investigation of the senator’s assassination has moved on from Omaha to the mysterious Mr. Lopez, who has taken up with the prostitute Joanne. We learn the story behind Maria’s, Chuck’s mother, disappearance all those years ago (and it’s a little unconvincing). Chuck then has a nervous breakdown, or his bipolar disorder flares up- it hasn’t been revealed yet. While Omaha returns to Mipple City to see him.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Complete Omaha the Cat Dancer Volume 5

by Reed Waller & Kate Worley 

Publisher: NBM Publishing

Softcover, 112 pages

Amazon Listing 

“Omaha the Cat Dancer is a soap opera, but it's a drama, not a melodrama; it’s a funny animal comic, but the funny animals are real people; and its neither erotica nor pornography - simply a story in which the virtual cameras continue to roll while people take their clothes off and make love (just as they do in the world you and I inhabit) - delineated with an unblinking charm which has the odd effect (for me at least) of making one wonder where all the sex has gone in the other fictions one reads or hears or sees…”

-From the introduction by Neil Giaman

Here we are back again with volume five of The Complete Omaha, the most controversial comic of the 1990s (and possibly beyond- thought most comic “fans” don’t seem to have heard of it. In fact they never seem to have heard of anything that isn’t shit out by Marvel or DC. Is that really a comics fan? Or is it just a fanatic for those two companies? Lady and the Tiger- the choice is yours). This book collects issues 14 through 17 of the series.

For a series where one of the main selling points was graphically portrayed sex, I will say that it never became repetitive. The author and artist was always trying new things. Here we have the first lesbian sex scene amidst a host of other titillating scenes, averaging about one per issues- so four!

The soap opera continues. The investigation into Senator Bonner assassination moves away from the prostitute Joanne and starts to focus on Omaha after the police discover that she, coincidentally, moved out of town the same day the senator was killed. Omaha begins her new life as a stripper and meets a new guy, while her old guy becomes ground further and further down into the much of the world. Both Omaha and Chuck find solace in other lovers, while political forces maneuver to complete the corrupt A-block renovation.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 


Monday, September 16, 2019

GI Joe: A Real American Hero Vol. 22 (War) (Graphic Novel)

by Larry Hama (Author) & Ron Joseph (Illustrator)

Publisher: IDW Publishing (May 14, 2019)

Softcover, 120 pages

Amazon Listing  

Another volume of great issues from the best war comics on the market written by the unstoppable Larry Hama. Volume 22 collects issues 256 to 260 of the original series. As always it is written by the indomitable Larry Hama and dawn by Ron Joseph. who is probably one of the best artists on the series so far.
Most of the action is around the return of Dr. Venom, whose mind has emerged from the depths of the Brainwave Scanner and inhabits the body of Dr. Mindbender. For those who don't remember, Dr. Venom was one of the original Cobra villains from before the toy line kicked into high gear.
In the original Marvel series, the authors had to flesh out new characters on their own. The Baroness, Dr. Venom, & Scarface were added to the Cobra lineup.  Dr. Venom even outdates Destro in the comics. The character was killed in issue 18 by Kwinn the Eskimo- of which there is a flashback in this volume. While his return is over-the-top there are similar precedents in the GI Joe universe for characters returning from the dead using the brain-wave scanner- Storm Shadow, Dr. Mindbender himself, and - technically- Snake Eyes.
A fun fight ensues and we also see the twisted origins of Dr. Venom, whose actual name was Claude Matthais Vinim, and who turned to Cobra after a violent and troubled upbringing.  We see a Joe become maimed, a rare event. Destro starts to take down Revanche Industries- the cybernetic Blue Ninja organization- not one of my favorite plot points. But it quickly swings back to high gear with a Joe rescue of UN workers in war torn Shazidar. This plotline exhibits the G. I. Joe at its best. A small group of highly trained soldiers working against impossible odds, making due with whatever they can scavenge to complete their mission. And as always, I am left wanting much, much more.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Complete "Omaha" the Cat Dancer Volume 4

by Reed Waller & Kate Worely   

Publisher: NBM Publishing (July 1, 2006)

Softcover, 128 pages

Amazon Listing

Here we continue on with the erotic graphic novel soap opera that was Omaha the Cat Dancer. This particular series (not this book, but this reprint series) is significant because the writer and artist came back together to finish the story of Omaha and Chuck in the celebrated (sort of) eighth volume in this series. It should also be noted that the artist here, Reed Waller, is also the artist for another great series from the 90s, Kings in Disguise. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so. Copies are going cheap on Amazon. 

Volume four collects issues 10 through 13 of the 80s comic series. And the drama continues full steam ahead. The pot against the morality crusading senator comes to a full halt when he is assassinated in Joanne’s bedroom just as she is getting blackmail photos on him. Omaha stars in a music video. Chuck and his mother begin to reconcile for abandoning him. Kurt becomes nurse to a Mr. Lopez who may be involved in organized crime. While Chuck discovers that Omaha had been married before and had never bothered to get a divorce. This leads to a big fight and Omaha storms out to another city, where she struggles to find a place to live and a job. 

The art as always is crisp and clean, done in a sparing comic realism style. While the characters are anthropomorphized animals the rest of the art is straight realism. Granted, similar to most soap operas, many of the scenes involve two characters sitting around in a restaurant, at a bar, in an office, or on a couch talking to each other. Not wildly action orientated stuff, but still fun. 

One of the only distracting things in this story is the male characters facial hair. When this comic was first published it was still cool for men to have big bushy mustaches, so many of them are drawn with them. Nowadays they look like gay porn stars (it’s then ironic that the only gay character doesn’t have one), so when they talk about a character like that being a manly-man, I can’t help but laugh.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Complete "Omaha" the Cat Dancer Volume 3

by Reed Waller, Kate Worley, & James Vance  

Publisher: Eurotica (April 1, 2009)

Softcover, 126 pages

Amazon Listing 

Volume 3 collects issues 6-9 of the indie 80s comic. In this book the formula, tone, and most of the main characters of the series are set. The visual style is cemented and we are treated to an on-going soap opera of scandal, shadowy figures, relationships, mysterious reveals, and of course sex. Issue 7 should be suitably famous as it is probably the first instance of a male homosexual sex scene ever drawn for the comics.
The characters all real from the supposed suicide of Chuck’s father. Several people gain much from his will and it is revealed that Chuck’s mother was alive the whole time, but hid that from her son. Thugs are still looking for the missing negatives of the Underground nightclub debacle, which would prove embarrassing to many important politicians in Mipple City. All of this surrounds a new “purity” drive in the city, which will tear down various bars and strip clubs and renovate a large area- lots of money is at stake. So, Joanne the prostitute begins to see one of the drivers of this purity push in order to gain blackmail on him.
However, the weakest link in my opinion is the titular character of Omaha. She is a bit of a dunce. She’s a very nice person, smoking hot, but her only true genius is to get guys worked up at strip clubs. Otherwise, she just a pawn of villains, or a sex object for their henchmen. If she was supposed to be a liberated feminist icon, not ashamed of her body, they fell short. Apart from having a righteous pair of knockers and an over-active libido, there isn’t much there. A device to pass from plot point to plot point.  
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Warlock by Jim Starlin: The Complete Collection (Superhero)

by Jim Starlin 

Publisher: Marvel (February 18, 2014)

Softcover, 328 pages

Amazon Listing 

Jim Starlin did not create Adam Warlock but, like Captain Marvel before him, the character was perfected by the man. Believe it or not, the greatest stories told in the Marvel Cinematic Universe began in the pages of Captain Marvel and Warlock - which is strange as neither of those protagonists have turned up in the films. 

Thanos began in Captain Marvel and ended (at the time) in Warlock. Warlock himself is powered by the Soul Gem, one of the Infinity Stones- which have been so integral for Marvel phase three films. The stones were first introduced in these issues, along with the characters of Pip the Troll, Gammora- The Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy, Warlock’s future evil self, The Magus- who again would become integral with the Infinity series later in the 90s, and certain cosmic characters: Lord Chaos, Master Order, and the In-Betweener (Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Infinity Watch, Infinity Crusade, Infinitely Derivative). 

The title is a bit deceptive. This is not the complete collection of the Adam Warlock series, which went on to issue 18, but instead it is the collected issues that Jim Starlin worked on the character. The original Warlock comics had been cancelled after issue 8, but Starlin later revived the character a few years later in Strange Tales- an anthology series where marvel would often try out new character, or try out smaller stories from less popular older heroes (for years they Strange Tales would have two stories. One staring Dr. Strange, and the other Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D.- since neither could carry a book on their own. 
As such, this volume contains issues 178-181 of Strange Tales, issues 9 -15 of Warlock, Avengers Annual #7, and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2, and the rough pencils for a filler issue of Warlock that would've been issue 16. The book ends with the death of the main character and Thanos being turned to stone. Of course, both of these were later reversed in other books. Can’t let a property lie dormant- not when there’s money to be had. 

Everyone says that Starlin was the king of the cosmic comic story. Part of that is because no one else really was telling similar stories. Certainly no one else was creating characters that were solely based on those story lines. Warlock, now given independent life when the soul gem is implanted on his forehead by the High Evolutionary, comes into conflict with first a future version of himself that has gone mad, the Magus, and founded a soul-crushing warlike church to worship himself, and then against Thanos, the Mad Titan who is on a war of extermination to win back his former lover, Death. 

Starlin obviously had a plan for the character, but the series was cancelled before it came to fruition, so he quickly wrapped it up in the pages of the two annuals. Starlin is to fault with the series cancellation. The two issues following the Magus’s defeat was a terrible filler story where he goes up against a terrible villain with a terrible name, Star-Thief, whom he doesn’t even really defeat. Had he gone directly into the storyline we see in the two Annuals, I think the comic would’ve at least lasted another ten issues (remember the 70s were a volatile time for comics). On the other hand, I could be dead wrong. Ah well.

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Terror Assaulter (O.M.W.O.T) (Action) (Humor) (Graphic Novel)

by Benjamin Marra     

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books (September 22, 2015)
Softcover, 100 pages
Amazon Listing 

In this case the acronym O.M.W.O.T. stands for “one man war on terror”, and is sort of a sixties throwback to the days of U.N.C.L.E. and S.H.I.E.L.D. where acronyms were all the rage. This story is one of the most bizarre send-ups of the terrorism, hyper-action genre that I have ever read. At first, I just thought it was ridiculous and stupid, but the more I read the more it grew on me - the humor stood up and waved and I was sucked in.

The plot goes that a group of disavowed ultra-violent agents, called Terror Assaulters, are unleashed on a world rife with terrorism. There are four tales here and they get increasingly bizarre. The first one almost seems standard, O.M.W.O.T. goes undercover to get some stolen information, ends up killing everyone and doesn’t recover it, but bangs a hot woman in the end. The ridiculous violence is everywhere in the story, but after this it goes off the rails.

In the second episode, O.M.W.O.T. is on a plane which is subsequently high jacked by terrorists. He kills most of them with an assault rifle, along with several of the passengers (I can’t tell if he did this deliberately or not). He then has a homosexual sexual encounter while trying to land the plane, which is about to crash as OMWOT missed a terrorist who managed to blow off the back end of the plane, causing most of the passengers to fly out the other end.

In the third, Terrorists have taken over America and OMWOT has to shoot and fuck his way through hordes of them, only to find the ringleader was one of his own, a Terror Assaulter. In the last and strangest tale, OMWOT is forced to marry a woman who turns out to be the villain from the previous story after a sex change and the entire thing devolves into a series of trans-sex scenes that ends with our hero staring off at a vision of King Arthur in the distance- Don’t ask, I don’t know why.

This book is an absurdist reaction to the War on Terror from the early 2000s. The action is deliberately ridiculous and made to put the real world into perspective. Adding to the absurdity is all the expository dialogue. Many of the characters scream out what is being shown in the scene. “Ahh, you’ve cut my throat and killed me.” “You shot my arms off.” “I’m immediately experiencing orgasm.” “”We’re coming at the same time as you crash land the plane.” All of these are actual lines from the book. Again, at first it all seems stupid, but the oddity grows on you.

The art is maybe the weakest part. It is awkward, many stiff limbs and, what seems like, hastily drawn action scenes. The artist has talent, but needs to develop it more- or else this was deliberate to coincide with the material- I don’t know. The coloring is minimalistic- less than four color comics, but that also seems to be a stylistic choice. However it does obscure some of the lines, so it may have been a poor choice.
For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst.