Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Top 10 Cool Comics o' the Week

Since I have a sizable number of readers who drop by this site to read my bits about comic books, I kinda owe you folks a little something in that department since I've missed the past couple "Cool Comic 'o the Week" selections.  Chalk it up to an insane schedule, but to make amends, how's about I dish you folks a super-sized installment this week? 

Lots of developments and new things arriving in comics shops lately and while Batman Eternal, Batgirl, Moon Knight, Justice League, Nailbiter, Vampirella, The Twilight Zone, Red Sonja, The Mercenary Sea, Silver Surfer, Ghost and Witchblade are some of my heavy hitters each month, here are ten selections that also make my radar on a continuous basis or I've just picked up with them.

Aaaaaaas follows:


1.  Futures End one-shots - I'll admit, I dropped off from DC's Futures End weekly series, not because it's not a quality book.  However, last month's Futures End one-shots that hit the majority of the New 52 titles with standard and 3-D, flip-image embossed covers were, in my opinion, the toast of September.  The premise of these individual stories was to set each DC character five years ahead where the Futures End storyline progresses.  Being on a budget, I certainly couldn't hit every one of them, but I did get to Batgirl, Batman, Detective Comics, Swamp Thing, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman, Superman/Wonderman, Aquaman, Catwoman, Justice League and Batman and Robin.  Not a weak one in the batch and Gail Simone has a hell of a finale with the Batgirl issue as she exits as writer of the series.  Barbara losing her husband on her wedding to her psychopath brother, James, and training with none other than Bane to rekindle her will to live, all while engineering a new street team of Batgirls...it was savage, emotive and the most poignant of all the Futures End books I got to, and the rest...not too shabby in the least.



2.  Harley Quinn - I've already written plenty about this series and how I've hoped for it to go as over-the-top as Issue # 0 and the San Diego Comic-Con one-shot that were absolute side-splitters.  Conner and Palmiotti continue to push the envelope as much as they can get away with, and Harley has really evolved as a diamond in the rough of the New 52.  No longer Mr. J's bonzo babe sidekick in a clown outfit, I've gotten on-board with the Riot Grrrrl makeover of Harley since the series has been splat-stick fun.  Her recent hijinks in building a catapult to eject her tenants' dog shit to the city dump had me crying.  I shouldn't admit this, but the standard issue cover for # 9 (even better than the Selfie variant cover released that month) is plastered on my computer and cell phone wallpaper.  Hot, hot, hot.  Hilarious, too. 



3.  Sally of the Wasteland - UK publisher Titan won me over in a huge way with the Death Sentence miniseries.  Now they've got me again with Sally of the Wasteland.  Only three issues deep and this is one of the nuttiest badass chicks to rip into the comic world.  Horny and hedonistic Sally can tear the crap out of monsters and pirates and her alliance with the hilarious feminist posse, the Alabamazons steps up the gorefest while Sally continuously tries to glaze her fop of a love interest, Tommy, who can't seem to get with the program.  Harley and Sally...I smell crossover.


4.  The Blood Queen - Inspired by the bloody lore of Countess Bathory, this dark fantasy series from Dynamite is one of the best-written, best illustrated books on the market.  There's something awry about our lead, Elizabeth, who is summoned to cure the sovereignty's sick baby due to her reputation with the healing arts.  Her success brings her close to the court as a mainstay while she doinks the two valiant heroes of the story.  Both yield slightly sketchy overtures themselves as the kingdom teeters on the edge of war.  Elizabeth has ties of other sorts beyond her healing capacities and it should be a beautiful yet haunted trip as The Blood Queen's sordid plot unravels.


5.  Aliens:  Fire and Stone miniseries - Dark Horse reboots its popular and prolific run with the Aliens franchise, this time as part of a massive tie-in event with other miniseries, Predator, Prometheus and Alien vs. Predator.  While this one has much of the same feel as the other miniseries Dark Horse engineered through the nineties, our main cast of scientists and engineers have rocketed from one planet infested by the Alien hive to another one.  Guess what came along for the ride?  A rumble in the jungle awaits us, along with the extensive threads to the other miniseries.  Stock your dollars, folks.


6.  Thor - The rumors are true.  Our beloved Thor of Asgard, has been replaced by a girl.  Marvel appears to going out of their minds right now with all of their changes and expansions.  Steve Rogers will be Captain America no more, as his longtime buddy The Falcon takes over the cowl and shield.  Now this.  Frankly, I was more annoyed that Jason Aaron's brilliant Thor:  God of Thunder series was being wiped out in favor of this new overhaul.  When it was announced Aaron would be continuing on with the new Thor, I decided to cave in and give it a shot.  Glad I did.  It's no secret I favor a lot of female-lead comic series, so I'm not opposed to this drastic change.  Thor's been replaced in the past (as has Cap, for that matter), but Aaron's opening story where a humiliated and purportedly unworthy Thor has lost his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir.  Left planted on the moon, not even Odin himself can pull it free.  As Frost Giants and evil elf supreme Malekith invade the Earth underwater, a powerless Thor still takes it upon himself to fight for Midgard, to no avail.  A brutal finale to this opening story sets up for the new era as our undisclosed female warrior arrives on the moon and successfully enjoins herself to Mjolnir.  Here we go.


7.  Aquaman - Speaking of underwater, I've always loved Aquaman and don't know why it took me so long to get back on board with the New 52 version.  The art and the stories here have been knockout stuff and Aquaman's Futures End story was another emotional ride as his divorce from Mera has put him even further on the outs as a lord of the sea.  The riotous variant cover of Issue # 34 was my favorite of DC's Selfie covers month, the second one being a smooched-up Supes on Superman/Wonder Woman the same month.


8.  George R.R. Martin's In the House of the Worm - Avatar's adaption of George R.R. Martin's In the House of the Worm has to feel like a payday in the making for the indie press.  Proving Game of Thrones is not just a comic-to-cable wunderkind, this is a lavish and sexy adaptation of yet another tale of ruthlessness set within an even more fantastical environment.  Gruesome and tantalizing.


 9.  Spiderman 2099 - Of all of the smaller franchise characters Marvel's rebooted lately aside from She-Hulk, Iron Fist, Moon Knight and Elektra, their resurrection of Spiderman 2099 was right up my alley.  I loved the first run, though Marvel didn't quite replicate the tech-savvy action and plot-lined brilliance of Spiderman 2099 with the expanded Ravage 2099, X-Men 2009 and Doom 2009 series, though X-Men 2099 was on the cusp of something good.  Miguel O'Hara wasn't Peter Parker, nor did he have to be.  It's no wonder Spiderman 2099 went the distance of those 2099 books in the nineties.  I'm glad Marvel had faith in the character to bring him back again and though his displacement from the future into the now is reminiscent of DC's Futures End amongst other things, the mojo is hardly lost. 


10.  Dawn/Vampirella miniseries - I've taken to Vampi in a big way this past year, even more so now that Nancy A. Collins is helming the main series.  Vampirella's been paired off with countless partners and adversaries, to which Dynamite has a field day cranking out as miniseries.  Kidnapped by a demon called Masodik (let your imagination run wild saying that name over and over really fast) as a would-be sidearm for his bloody purposes, he pits Dawn and Vampirella, two of the hottest and fiercest lady ass-kickers in comic history, into a purported cat fight.  Still early in the story, Masodik (laugh, laugh, chuckle, chuckle) is hearing out each character in a battle of storytelling.  You figure Dawn creator Joseph Michael Linser has something more over-the-top awaiting us on the horizon.  Ridiculously hot for the cover of # 1 alone, here's hoping the rest of Dawn/Vampirella shreds as much as its preamble does.


               Listenin' to:  Daft Punk - Tron:  Legacy soundtrack

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