The Pull List Comic Reviews: ‘USA Comics’, ‘Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth’ and ‘Greek Street’

Normally the Pull of the Week comes on the Thursday version of the Pull List but this week we decided to keep you in suspense and make you wait until today. –John

Pull of the Week:

USA Comics #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 8.5

860692-yhst_23599503122488_2061_606149723_superWhen I was younger, I had never known much about Golden Age comics other than that’s where Batman, Superman, Captain America, Namor and the first Human Torch came from. But with Marvel’s 70th Anniversary, they have made it easier to get acquainted with tons of heroes from their past that seemed to be lost in the annuls of time only to be reprinted or re-imagined these decades later. This story follows German journalist Emil Hansen as he is on a supply train interviewing a Nazi colonel during the early days of World War II.

Their train is attacked and destroyed by the Mighty Destroyer who dives out of the train with Emil in tow seconds before a bomb detonates. Emil, though not a Nazi, fears he has become a captive of the Destoyer. He is used as bait and tries to warn the Nazi’s only to be confronted by the Destroyer for trying to save them. Emil talks about how he may not be a Nazi, but Germany is his home and he loves it still. The Destroyer speaks powerful two very powerful words about what a man should do and what he shouldn’t be afraid to. The Destroyer keeps Emil with him as he sets what should be a standard trap on a railway but instead of just watching his target train derail, the Destroyer takes Emil and the two board that train. After some great action sequences fighting around the train, the Destroyer’s plan is revealed with an emotional final few pages.

Issues like this were part of what brought me originally in to comics. I didn’t need long story arcs extending over six months. Back when I first started reading, younger than 10 years old, I had no attention span. If it didn’t wrap up in a single issue, I didn’t remember what had happened four weeks later. The issues that stood out most from my youth were the great one shot stories. USA Comics #1 focusing on the Destroyer is a great comic. Though lacking humor, every other aspect of great comic writing is in this book. There is drama, action, compelling characters with an unusual relationship between the two and of course, conflict.

For someone who only saw the Destroyer before as a WWII version of the Punisher, this anti-Nazi can evoke so much more emotion from a reader than any current rendition of Frank Castle. For example, the explanation of his costume reveals a fantastic “Oh wow” moment that the Punisher could never achieve. Being currently in an era of big events that don’t have much long term consequence like Final Crisis or the Secret Invasion, the story being set in an actual major event such as WWII gives it so much more believability and weight as the reader sees what these characters must go through.

Starting off as Timely Comics, Marvel has gone through tremendous change over the years but like any company to last that long like DC or Archie, they have produced compelling characters. It is great to see a company that honors its history instead of just blindly pushing forward. USA Comics #1 does so in a way that is both captivating and relevant. By keeping the characters accurate to the original themes surrounding them and losing the campy dialogue that was so dominant during the Golden Age of comics, the book instantly becomes so much more accessible to readers new to the character. It’s also great to see one of Stan Lee’s earliest creations still in action after all these years as well.

Other Pulls:

Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth #1 – Marvel – $3.99
Score: 8.0

860524-dpmerc001_dc11_1_1__super“Zombies! Cavemen! Dinosaurs! Zombie-Cavemen!” are all listed on the cover. But they forgot a few things like “Boobs! Butts! Hallucinations! Pop culture references! Deranged inner monologues!” Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth is a great classic feeling Deadpool story that starts off with our good friend Wade being dropped from orbit in a small pod down in to the Savage Land. Once he lands, he is greeted by Kazar, protector of the Savage Land, who demands an explanation of why the charred living corpse that is Deadpool has come there.

Deadpool explains how he was hired by A.I.M. to come to the Savage Land for a basic snatch and grab mission for a special bioweapon as he gets dressed. Upon seeing Deadpool in costume, Kazar takes the Merc with a Mouth to see something very strange. Kazar departs just before Deadpool crosses paths with his A.I.M. contact with some classic accidental man on woman violence. A gratuitus butt shot later, Deadpool puts his plan in to action to retrieve the weapon which pretty much everyone should be able to figure out if they have seen the cover of the issue.

After the announcement of the Deadpool movie, you know Marvel had to start bringing the character to the forefront of their line even more than he had already been. Between this miniseries, Deadpool: Suicide Kings and the ongoing Deadpool series, they have done their job and thankfully have done it in a good way. Every series is chock full of Deadpooly goodness with all the stereotypes commonly associated with the character. One great part of this issue comes from when Deadpool allows the reader to see things from his perspective, like when he sees the A.I.M. agents as a group of beekeepers and says he demands honey as part of his payment for completing the job.

The pop culture references that have not been as pronounced in the ongoing series also appear here with Deadpool making a subtle reference that only real fanboys would know about the Fallout 3 video game. But still, the best part of the writing comes from the conversations he has between his mouth, the white caption box and the yellow caption box. It’s hard enough for Deadpool to not get himself in to trouble but when the two side of his brain are arguing with each other, he doesn’t have much chance of ever being sane again.

But that’s not to say the book is perfect. At times, the art gets almost a little cartoony or lacks significant detail. And Kazar with chops like Wolverine’s just doesn’t feel right. And as much as the Deadpool humor usually works, the fact that he falls in love with every attractive woman he crosses paths with starts to get old.

It’s no secret that Deadpool is a favorite character here on the Pull List and this has been one of his best showings since splitting up with Cable from their fifty issue run as a buddy comic. Though Deadpool may not ever be a top character, having to compete against those who have a much more storied history than his like Captain America or Spider-Man, he is credited to having a rabid fan base who continue to eat up anything involving the character. This issue is pretty much cocaine for those followers with its throwbacks to what made them love Deadpool in the first place. And of course, including a reprinting of the classic Deadpool #4 where he fights the Hulk doesn’t hurt either. It’ll be great to see what the series has in store when Deadpool and his little buddy finally get the chance to interact.

Greek Street #1 – Vertigo – $1.00
Score: 7.5

cover-largeDid you ever pick up a Vertigo book, knew what was happening the entire time and had an idea of the screwed up destination it was leading you, yet you couldn’t stop reading and only after you finished did you see just how demented the story actually is? Well it just so happens that is the effect of Greek Street. Set in the modern day in a Greek section of a large city, the events of the story seem to revolve around people associated with a strip club. As one of the patrons gets grabby, one of the dancers begins talking in gibberish about different key Greek mythological figures. The story then hops to Eddie who looks like he is going to be the main character in this book as he breaks in to a drug dealers apartment looking for money.

Later, Eddie strolls in to a diner where he runs in to a woman who is apparently his estranged mother, though she doesn’t know that. What comes to follow is classic Greek tragedy at its fullest, despite Eddie or his mother not looking very Greek. Eddie turns to his friend Carus (could it be short for Icarus since there seems to be a mythological theme going on?) looking for help. In another part of the city, a family deals with a daughter who they think has gone insane who sees visions of ghastly creatures attacking an innocent police officer. Back at the strip club, two heads of powerful families negotiate a deal to keep them from going to war over an incident. One head’s solution, allowing the other’s son to get the same treatment that was done to his son. The other head reluctantly agrees.

This gets broken up by Eddie who proves to cause more trouble than what should have happened. Also from the strip club, one of the girls heads off for a date only to be picked up by an unknown driver and wind up dead in the river. When the police find the body, there are three eerie looking women in white dresses who disappear as suddenly as they arrived at the scene. The final pages continue to raise more questions as a prophecy is told by the seemingly insane daughter over images of the various incidents that had occurred in the issue.

The issue feels dark and wrong. It is a very uneasy read the entire way through, more so than a book like The Boys which takes a comedic approach or even 100 Bullets takes crime drama up a new level. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who is really a good person, other than the crazy girl, in the entire issue. It’s not even a matter of being flawed, these people are really screwed up and that seems to be part of the appeal for the book.

Much like the car crash scenario that I’ve referenced before, you want to look away because you know what you are seeing is wrong but you wonder in a sick way how much worse it can get. This first issue has set the bar pretty high for how terrible it is. It also follows in the great Vertigo tradition of taking a story and not being afraid to push it to the limits with creative, yet disturbing, storytelling. Whether it is the overt sexuality or the gruesome demise that some of the characters already meet, this book feels like a Vertigo title all the way.

This issue does a great deal with setting questions on the table to get a reader to come back for more. What is the connection to the stripper and the Greek mythology she speaks of? Who killed the redheaded stripper? What the heck are three women in white dresses doing glowing on the beach near a crime scene? And what are the visions the crazed daughter sees? Does this story have the potential to be the next 100 Bullets or Y: The Last Man for Vertigo since those two titles recently ended. It is entirely possible. Peter Milligan has worked on tons of major titles ranging from X-Force and X-Men to Detective Comics and Robin. Though fairly unknown, Davide Gianfelice’s artwork in Northlanders has been fantastic thus far. This is definitely a book to keep on the radar in coming months.

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