Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? Yep! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. His kids think he's Batman, and he just may be.
Donny Cates (Redneck, God Country, Ghost Fleet) is back at it again. This time, he’s partnered with Garry Brown (Black Road, John Carter: The End) to bring us Babyteeth #1, a story of the not-so-immaculate conception and birth of the Antichrist. Where does this not-so-immaculate conception take place? In Salt Lake City Utah, of all places.
Sadie Ritter is a pretty normal teen, except for one thing. She’s pregnant, and her baby is the Antichrist. While you might expect this story to unfold in the exact opposite manner as the Nativity, it’s actually pretty innocent. That is, if you can get past the mystery of the baby’s father and the massive earthquakes that coincide with Sadie’s contractions. There’s also the matter of the destruction of the barriers between earthly and demonic planes.
Sixteen Years Old, Nine Months Pregnant with the Antichrist
When asked about Babyteeth in an exclusive interview with TFAW last month, Donny Cates gave us the elevator pitch. “Sadie Ritter is sixteen and pregnant with the Antichrist. Once the baby is born, all hell comes with it. It’s very sweet.”
Garry Brown’s art style is well known for beautiful brutality. The depth of detail Brown provides in the landscape and scenery makes the modern day setting of Salt Lake City jump off the page. The expressive detail he lends to the characters’ faces sells Cates’ script beautifully and helps make Babyteeth a highly emotional read.
Donny Cates Knocks It Out of the Park in Babyteeth #1
Everything Donny Cates is writing these days is pure gold. With God Country currently in its fourth printing, Redneck already going back to press for it’s second run, and the brilliant showing here by Cates and Brown, Babyteeth #1 will undoubtedly fly off the shelves as well.
In Redneck #1 and #2, we met the Bowman clan, a three-generation clutch of vampires living on the outskirts of a small East Texas town. There is an uneasy sort of truce between the Bowmans and the Landrys, a family in Sulphur Springs that is aware of the Bowmans’ true nature.
After one of his boys is brutally murdered, JV tries his level best to avoid an all out war with the Landrys. JV locks Seamus and Greg in the basement and sends the brood’s two familiars, Phil and Evil, into town to try to negotiate with Father Landry. Chapter two ends with an armed standoff on the front porch of the Bowman ‘stead.
The only witness to what actually happened the night Slap was killed is Bartlett, and he was too drunk to remember anything. There’s a possibility that one of the clan’s two psychics can root around in his head and find the memories he’s suppressing; however, Perry’s too young, and Bartlett is terrified of Granpa.
I asked Donny Cates to sum up chapter three for us, and this is what he had to say: “The Bowman boys are unhinged and unleashed, and only JV can stop them. In the meantime, Bartlett must face his darkest fears and have a conversation with the mysterious monster in the attic. Meet Granpa everyone…God help your soul.”
Bartlett Confronts the One Sonuvabitch That Puts Fear in Other Vampires in Redneck #3
Redneck continues to deliver a compelling, emotional story about loyalty, family, and coming to terms with the past. Lisandro Estherren’s rough pencils and Dee Cunnife’s muted palette bring Cates’ script to life in a gritty way that is purely East Texas.
Redneck is one of those stories that you will look back on and wish you had gotten in on the ground floor. Snag copies of these first books while you can.
Bane was first drawn in the pages of Batman: The Vengeance of Bane (January 1993). Typically, DC portrays Bane as a genius with an accelerated healing factor and Venom-enhanced strength and durability. Bane’s biggest stage to date was the Batman event Knightfall, in which Bane broke Batman’s back. Over two decades later, DC Comics has finally given Bane his own miniseries, which begins with Bane: Conquest #1.
Bane: Conquest #1 opens with a shipment of spent plutonium warheads headed toward Gotham. Bane chases down the freighter carrying the missiles and and is accompanied by his classic cronies: Trogg, Zombie, and Bird. He commandeers the vessel and swiftly dispatches the redshirts on board.
In Bane: Conquest #1, it’s all about CONQUEST
Based on the initial events in this first chapter (of twelve) of Bane: Conquest, Bane could almost be seen as a hero. Almost. Bane sees the incoming shipment to an unknown entity as a threat to his territory, and Gotham is his and his alone to smash. He has big plans that begin with Gotham and end in global domination.
It’s refreshing to see Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan teamed back up on the character they co-created back in the ’90s. Neither has lost a step. The book has a throwback feel and look from that era. The plot moves quickly, with bursts of action. Nolan updated Bane’s look without losing that retro mood.
Bane: Conquest #1 serves as a re-introduction to a character most readers are at least conversationally familiar with. It’s a great jumping on point for new readers and a great jumping back on point for readers from the Knightfall era. Overall, it’s just a fun book to read.
Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Sixth Gun, Regression) and Brian Hurtt (The Sixth Gun) met at a comic book store where they both worked many years ago. They used to pass the time by talking about comics they would someday work on together. A little over a decade ago, Bunn and Hurtt pitched their horror noir story to Oni Press. Oni wisely snatched it up, and The Damned was born.
While Bunn and Hurtt both moved on to other projects over the years, The Damned is something Cullen Bunn has always wanted to revisit. “The Damned was my first professional comic book project, and it is a book that I am very proud of. I’m thrilled that Brian Hurtt and I can come back to this project (now with Bill Crabtree on colors) and share the epic horror noir story we’ve always had in mind.”
Set in the Prohibition era, The Damned centers on a man named Eddie and his demonic curse. While Eddie can and frequently does die, the problem is that he can’t STAY dead.
Once Eddie’s corpse is touched by a living being, Eddie is resurrected and the poor soul who touched him takes his place in the afterlife. The only evidence of his recent mortality are the deep scars that line his face, neck, and body.
In The Damned, the mob runs everything, and most of the mobsters are closet demons. The only people who can see demons in their true forms are the ones who made deals with the mob for their ever-living, never-dying souls.
Oni Press has also kindly reprinted The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Damned to get you up to speed. The new series stands on its own as a perfect jumping on point, but I highly recommend picking up the trade paperback for only $9.99. You will want to read the entire collection. It’s that good.
In Redneck #1, Donny Cates introduced us to the Bowmans, a clutch of vampires that survives on the outskirts of a small Texas town called Sulfur Springs and who own the local barbecue joint. So far, they’ve avoided scrutiny by drinking blood collected from the cattle they slaughter for the restaurant.
Feedin’ People, Instead Of On People
Cates wastes no time dancing around introductions. By the sixth page, we’ve met most of the Bowman clan. There’s Bartlett, previously human, JV, the patriarch, Seamus, Slap, and Greg, the boys, Perry, the youngest, and Granpa.
We meet the Landrys later, the only other family in Sulfur Springs who recognize the Bowmans for what they are. A generations-long feud has been simmering, each side waiting for the other to make a move.
The three brothers head to town against JV’s orders to blow off steam at a local gentleman’s club. Bartlett follows to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble. By the time he catches up, all hell’s about to break loose. Bartlett finds the boys in an alley, about to face off with a group of Father Landry’s kin.
In the very next scene, Bartlett’s passed out on the front porch of the Bowman homestead covered in blood. He has no recollection of the previous night’s events. Slap is swinging by his neck from a branch, engulfed in flame. The family’s livestock has been slaughtered and left in the sun to rot.
The Sun’s Setting Soon
Redneck #2 opens with the Bowmans caring for their dead and contemplating the next move. Traditionally, when a vampire is killed, their brood would ride on the town, “facts and reason be damned. For fear of not killing the right one, (they) would just kill everyone.”
Shots have been fired. As the sun begins to set, JV has to figure out quickly what he and his family can do to survive. He is a pacifist, but now his wife and son have both been buried. A war is coming to his doorstep, whether he likes it or not.
This second chapter is absolutely as brilliant as the first. Donny Cates is solidly establishing himself as a heavy hitter in horror comics. Lisandro Estherren’s art sells Cates’ gritty story beautifully. In an exclusive interview with TFAW last month, Cates told us “Lisandro draws ugly things really pretty. That kind of blend of hideous and beautiful, mean and emotional was just perfect for this book.”
Ben Reilly has appeared under many aliases since his introduction in The Amazing Spider-Man #149 (October 1975). Among them are Spider-Man, The Jackal, Spider-Carnage, and The Scarlet Spider. But as a clone of Peter Parker, Reilly was apparently killed at one point, sacrificing himself to save Parker’s life.
In Dead No More: The Clone Conspiracy, a resurrected Reilly was revealed behind an Anubis mask, masquerading as The Jackal. By the end of the event, Reilly took back up the mantle of The Scarlet Spider, stealing a costume off a cosplayer and heading off to Vegas.
Peter David is no stranger to writing for the Spider-Family. In Ben Reilly:The Scarlet Spider #1, David picks up the story seamlessly right were Clone Conspiracy left off.
The Controversy Has Only Just Begun
In a desperate attempt to become the hero he feels Vegas deserves, Reilly tries to recreate Peter Parker’s life. His efforts to find his own versions of Mary Jane and Aunt May are two of the many high points in this chapter. Of course, things don’t quite work out to plan.
Mark Bagley does a fantastic job creating three distinct looks for the faces of Reilly. The past Scarlet Spider phase has an innocent, bright appearance. His Jackal phase is dark and twisty. The current embattled and confused phase lands somewhere in between.
Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1 is a great jumping on point for new readers. Unfamiliar readers are brought up to speed nicely with just the right amount of exposition. There’s plenty of meat on the bone for seasoned readers as well. This first chapter flows right out of the previous event.
The Venom Symbiote made its first appearance in Marvel Heroes Secret Wars #8 (May 1984). Spider-Man accidentally released the parasitic Klyntar following a scuffle on Battleworld. Spidey thought he was simply generating a new suit after his was shredded in the fight.
When Spidey finally realized the slick black and white suit was actually an alien organism, he rejected it. However, during the time the two were bonded, the Symbiote learned Peter Parker’s genetic code. Now Venom has the ability to grant any wearer Spider-Man’s abilities.
Since Peter Parker, there have been many notable wearers of the Black Suit. Eddie Brock is the most notorious. It was Brock’s time in the Symbiote that solidly established Venom as Peter Parker’s worst nightmare.
A Fresh Take On An Old Villain
In Venom #1, writer Mike Costa introduced a new perspective on the sentient alien goo. Taking us inside the Symbiote’s consciousness, Costa raises some interesting questions about a character we all thought we knew.
What if Venom is merely an amplification of the wearer’s Id? What if the Klyntar has less control over its actions than it appears, and the host is subconsciously in control the whole time?
By the time we roll around to Venom #6, it’s evident that the current host is bad news. Lee Price is a horrible person. He is a disabled military veteran with a grudge. His experience as an Army Ranger has made him mentally hard and his disability has made him bitter.
Lee dominates the suit to the point of abuse. For the first time, the suit appears unable to overcome the will of its host.
Now, with the FBI chasing it down, Venom crosses paths with The Amazing Spider-Man. In a bizarre turn of events, the leader of the Bureau’s Anti-Symbiote Task Force is none other than…Eddie Brock.
Vampires have come a long way since John Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819. Popular culture has since seen creepy vampires, sexy vampires, and even high school teen angst-y vampires (in both buff and sparkly categories). In Redneck #1, Donny Cates takes the standard set of vampire mythos and applies them to a redneck family in East Texas.
The Bowmans run the local BBQ in a small East Texas town called Sulphur Springs. Secretly a clutch of vampires, the family survives on cow’s blood and mostly keeps to themselves. Father Landry and his brood are the only other family in Sulphur Springs that suspects the Bowmans’ true nature.
Bad Blood Tends to Beget Bad Blood
The Landrys and Bowmans have literally been at each other’s throats for generations. It’s been pretty quiet for a spell, but the tension is building. A couple of drunk kids out on the town is about all it would take to start an all out war.
“It’s a story about a family’s quest to turn themselves into more than the monsters they’ve always been. To find a little peace in a world that hates them,” says Cates of his new series in an exclusive interview with TFAW. “It ain’t gonna be easy. And it’s sure as hell gonna be bloody. But it might just be the best time you’ve ever had reading a book about vampires!”
Image Comics is seeing the payoff after going to the well again with Cates. He smashed it with God Country and is riding that success into another promising series. Fans of God Country,Harrow County, vampire lore, and horror comics will definitely want to get in on this series.
Regression #1 introduces Adrian, a pretty ordinary guy–except for one thing. Adrian is plagued by vivid waking nightmares. The visions are so intense they are ruining his life. Finally, his friend Molly coerces Adrian into a past life regression hypnotherapy session with her friend Sid.
During the first session, Adrian catches a glimpse of a bizarre and ghastly scene. Unable to process the scene he just witnessed, Adrian wakes in a daze. Unconvinced that he has just experienced a peek into his past life, Adrian is ready to give up on therapy.
Occult, Conspiracy, Mystery, Reincarnation, and Insanity
Unfortunately for Adrian, the vision was real. Something unspeakable happened in his past life, and it has followed him to his present.
Writer Cullen Bunn drew on experiences from his childhood when penning the script for Regression. “My father was a hypnotist, and I watched him perform a number of past life regressions,” Bunn noted in an exclusive interview with TFAW. “I thought about those regressions quite a bit over the years. Somewhere along the way, the troubling thought dawned on me: what if one of those past lives were evil? Or possessed by evil? And what if the regression gave them a finger hold in someone’s life? What if they could hitch a ride to the present?”
Bunn’s first hand experience with hypnosis, subconscious, and past life regression comes through in the story. There is a very creepy and unsettling realism to the scenario he is describing. The artwork and color choices by Danny Luckert and Marie Enger sell the terror and levity of the script brilliantly.
The main difference between The Punisher and Deadpool is motivation. Both appear to be sociopaths. But Frank Castle is driven by vengeance and Wade Wilson’s main concern is his paycheck. Neither wants to admit how deeply they are actually driven by emotion.
In Deadpool vs. Punisher #1, Fred Van Lente serves up a script that puts these two on opposite sides of an ambiguous moral scenario.
Wilson and Castle are very familiar with each other’s work. Wilson thinks Castle is a “self-righteous, sociopathic, shoot-first-ask-questions-never, humorless, fascist hard-ass.” Castle views Wilson as a “motor-mouthed, muddle-headed, arrested adolescent with delusions of competence.”
See the World. Fill it Full of Bullets
Deadpool vs. Punisher #1 opens with Punisher working undercover at an underground illegal gambling club. “VS.” is a place where degenerates gather to place wagers on superheroes. Some names on the board include Spider-Man (original, probably), Captain American Falcon, and Guy who thinks he’s Hercules.
After Punisher violently shuts down the club, he gets the information he’s been after. That’s when the desperate club manager gives up details on The Bank in order to save his own life. The Bank is Castle’s true target. But he’s also Wade Wilson’s accountant, money launderer, client, and close friend.
Pere Perez’ artwork suits the script perfectly. And there are plenty of background details, but not so many as to distract from well-planned action sequences. In addition, he nails the expressions on the unmasked characters. Perez brilliantly telegraphs nuanced expression through Pool’s mask and body language.
Van Lente sets up an interesting “best of five rounds” scenario. With a clear winner in each of the planned five chapters, Deadpool is playing with a loaded deck. With his regenerative abilities, he can afford to lose four of five battles and still come back for the next installment. Punisher doesn’t have the same luxury.
We caught up with Cullen and picked his brain about Regression, the upcoming reboot of The Damned, and past life regression.
TFAW: Do you remember the first comic book you ever read? How did it end up in your hands?
Cullen Bunn: I remember “reading” an early issue of X-Men when I was very young, just flipping through it, looking at the Kirby art, not really understanding the real awesomeness of what I was seeing. The first comic I remember sort of reading was Avengers 154, where Attuma stages an attack on the Avengers and beats the Hell out of them. The issue scared me because I thought the Avengers had died. Those books, like so many of my comics when I was a kid, were bought at yard sales. Back in those days, you could find stacks of comics on the cheap at 2 out of 5 yard sales it seemed.
TFAW: What series got you hooked on comics?
Bunn: The comic that made me love comics was purchased off a grocery store spinner rack. It was Micronauts 7. That book hooked me with the story, the characters, the art, and the world-building.
TFAW: What comic writers and artists inspire you?
Bunn: Oh, wow! That’s a pretty big list. Morrison and Moore (and their weird wizard rivalry). Ellis, Wrightson, Starlin, Mantlo, Claremont, and so many more.
I wish I had taken to time to enjoy the ride instead of being so stressed out about breaking in.
TFAW: How did you get your big break in comics? At what point did it hit you that you had broken in?
Bunn: I was working at a comic book store years and years ago when I met aspiring artist and fellow comic shop employee Brian Hurtt. We started talking about working on a comic book together, but it took a long, long time for that to happen. A little over ten years ago, Brian and I pitched the idea for our horror/noir series The Damned to Oni Press and they snapped it up. The Damned, by the way, is returning. The trade paperback of the original series just hit the shelves and the first issue of the new ongoing series hits the shelves soon!
Anyhow, that was my big break, I guess, because it helped me wedge my toe in the door. It still took several more years for me to get more work. I put out another book with Brian and Oni titled The Sixth Gun, and that started getting attention from other publishers.It really hit me that I had broken in on the day I was able to quit my day job and become a full-time writer. I had broken in before then, I just never really appreciated and accepted it until that moment. I wish I had taken to time to enjoy the ride instead of being so stressed out about breaking in.
TFAW: What is Regression about?
Bunn: In Regression, we meet Adrian, an average guy who is experiencing vivid, horrible waking nightmares. These visions are so intense that they are ruining his life. His friend Molly convinces him to try past life regression hypnotherapy to help him understand the source of these visions. During the session, Adrian catches a glimpse of something ghastly, but he can’t make heads or tails of it. And that’s when the trouble starts.
The past life Adrian encounters follows him back, nesting in his mind and taking control every now and then, forcing him to do horrible things. Adrian’s life starts spinning out of control, this other presence destroying everything around him. And to make matters worse, he is now at the center of some sort of strange supernatural conspiracy. A shady group of characters are watching him, because they feel that the intruding past life has some apocalyptic secrets to share.
Watching some of the things my dad did with hypnosis has made me a believer.
TFAW: The first historical mention of past life regression was in second century BC. It’s not a new subject, but there are surprisingly few mentions of past life regression in modern horror. What inspired you to write about this subject?
Bunn: Past life regression as a story element has been something I’ve been thinking about for years. My father was a hypnotist, and I watched him perform a number of past life regressions. I thought about those regressions quite a bit over the years. Somewhere along the way, the troubling thought dawned on me: what if one of those past lives were evil or possessed by evil. And what if the regression gave them a finger hold in someone’s life? What if they could hitch a ride to the present?
TFAW: What was the weirdest thing you ever saw during one of your father’s PLR sessions?
Bunn: I know there are a lot of skeptics out there when it comes to hypnosis and past life regression. I get it, because I think there is a lot of phony stuff out there in the world. However, watching some of the things my dad did with hypnosis has made me a believer.
I saw so, so many strange things. With the past life regressions in particular, I witnessed people speaking in previously unknown languages or with perfect accents from faraway places. I saw people describing intricate details of day-to-day life in time periods long, long gone.
Once, while he was doing a show at a park, he had a subject who just refused to wake up. All the other subjects awoke when my dad counted to three, but this one guy remained under hypnosis. He would respond to my father. He would do things my father asked him to do. But he just refused to wake up. It took two or three hours to get him to come out of the hypnotic state.
The most chilling thing, though, the thing that really planted the earliest seeds of Regression was another guy he hypnotized. He was a responsive subject. But when my dad regressed him to a past life, he just sat there in this eerie silence. He simply would not respond in any way to my dad’s voice. My dad told the other people who were watching that this subject must have been a “new soul” but I wondered if maybe there was something unspeakable in his past life.
I had a group of friends in high school who really wanted to convince my dad to hypnotize all of us…
TFAW: Did you ever let your father hypnotize you?
Bunn: No, no, no. Never!
TFAW: Why not? What were your objections or fears?
Bunn: I’m too much of a control freak. I had a group of friends in high school who really wanted to convince my dad to hypnotize all of us and then let someone run us through a Dungeons and Dragons adventure that we would see and experience as real. Terrible idea!
I just remembered that as I was answering this question. Thank goodness we didn’t try that. It sounds like the basis of an 80’s cautionary TV movie.
TFAW: How did you end up partnering with Danny Luckert on Regression?
Bunn: We’ve been working on this book since 2013. Around that time, I had reached out to other comic book writers, asking if they knew of any artists who might be interested in a collaboration. Writer David Precht pointed me in Danny’s direction. I loved his artwork and reached out to him. We discussed a few ideas, but Regression was the one he liked most. He whipped up some character designs and art, and I loved his take on this story. The rest is history!
I still go to the comic shop every week…
TFAW: What titles are on your pull list?
Bunn: I have a standing order for at least the first few issues of all the new Image titles that come out. I usually end up buying them in trades and reading the whole series that way, but I like trying the first few issues in floppies. Southern Bastards is on my pull list still. I want the floppies for that. Doctor Strange, the X-Men titles, The Mighty Thor, Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Spongebob (for my kid, I swear!) and a bunch of others I forget to mention. My favorite thing to do on Wednesdays (because I still go to the comic shop every week) is to ask the employees “What came out this week that’s awesome?” and they usually start piling books up for me.
TFAW: What’s next?
Bunn: As I mentioned, The Damned is coming out as an ongoing from Oni. I’m also working on a just-announced horror series from Boom! titled The Unsound. I have several other creator-owned books in the works, too, but they haven’t been announced yet. I’m also writing X-Men Blue and Monsters Unleashed for Marvel, as well as some top-secret projects that will be announced soon!
The war between X-Men and Inhumans has ended. What’s next for the X-Men? If you’re looking for answers, X-Men Prime #1 is a good place to start.
X-Men Prime #1 wraps up loose ends from the X-Men/Inhumans struggle and sets up the new X-Men status quo. In addition, Prime brings together three of the writers from upcoming X-series. And it lays groundwork for upcoming events and sets the tone for all the new X-books.
Beloved X-Man Kitty Pryde has returned to Earth following her exploits with the Guardians of the Galaxy. She thinks she will be able to lay low and live a simple, somewhat normal life. However, that illusion is quickly shattered when Storm arrives and attempts to cajole Kitty into rejoining the X-Men.
The X-Men Need a New General, a New Direction, a New Mission
Storm doesn’t only want Kitty to return. She wants the veteran to take over Storm’s duties as leader of the X-Men. In Storm’s own words, “The X-Men cannot continue as we have. The X-Men need to move forward. And I’m the one who’s holding them back.”
The X-Men and X-Mansion are in shambles, recovering from the battle with the Inhumans. Lady Deathstrike is on the move. The original time-displaced X-Men have disappeared on their own.
The writers have delivered a script that is full of potential and interesting beginnings for the upcoming titles. Next month, Marc Guggenheim pens X-Men Gold, Cullen Bunn moves on to X-Men Blue, and Greg Pak writes Weapon X.
X-Men Prime sets up all three individual series beautifully, while keeping continuity between them. Resurrxion is a perfect place for new readers to jump in. However, long time readers will also be fed by references to previous incarnations of the story, and the return of favorite veterans.