It’s a numbers games as we dip into the 36 Chambers of Death with Ghostface Killah in the new book Twelve Reasons To Die.  Travel back in time with Archer and Armstrong #0 and take a dark turn with Dark Horse and Duane Swierczynski punishing the criminal bosses in city of Arcadia for a new number #1 of cult anti-hero, X. 

CONCEPT: Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge
WRITER: Matthew Rosenberg, CE Garcia, Patrick Kindlon
ART: Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, Kyle Strahm, Joe Infurnari, Dave Murdoch
Publication Date: May 8, 2013
Price: $3.50 
Publisher: Black Mask Comics in association with Soul Temple Entertainment LLC
UPC: 045778022014
Buy it HERE

“Up from the 36 Chambers…it’s the Ghostface Killah”, these lyrics from Clan in Da Front weren’t what I expected to yell when I went into the LCS on Wednesday, but I did, scaring some kids there getting some leftover Free Comic Book Day swag.

As you can tell from the credits, this hip-hop comic comes to you from a creative team that goes all the way up to the executive producer RZA.

Accompanying this book is a record and tour of the same name by hotshot producer Adrian Younge and Ghostface. 

The comic starts off with words like ‘pussy’ and ‘motherfucker’ and that sets the tone for the book.

Like Ghost’s lyrical flow, the comic references gangster history going back to the 40s through the 60s, and it isn’t too long before we are introduced to his alter-ego and star of the book, gang enforcer, the “other” Antony Starks. From La Costa Nostra to modern day nightclub drug deals, it’s grim and gritty. The artwork, benefitting from different artists in the first issue is dark and breaks off chapters well. Just like a RZA beat, nothing here is extraneous. All tells the story.

From the solicit as we find out that Anthony Starks is an enforcer for the DeLuca crime family in the 1960s. The family murders him after he falls in love with the kingpin’s daughter. You won’t know this from the first issue, but it is helpful background.

Starks remains are pressed into a dozen vinyl records and when played, the record invokes the spirit of Ghostface Killah, exacting revenge on his murderers.

High concept, great art and all accompanied by a soundtrack album that is already highly regarded? I am so down. This really is the summer of Ironman.

I didn’t even get to tell you about Black Mask Comics, a new publishing company from creator Steve Niles. We’re expecting great things from this new venture as well.

X #1
WRITER: Duane Swierczynski
ART: Eric Nguyen
Publication Date: May 8, 2013
Price: $1.99
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
UPC: 76156822527300111
Buy it HERE

Just last month, we re-introduced you to X from Dark Horse Comics.

Yes, another reboot. No, we don’t care.

Yes, we’re buying it. No, it’s not a cash grab.

Wait, am I answering questions in my head again? No? Good.

The masked vigilante has more in common with a Punisher of the MAX variety than any other character. He’s a strong, smart and capable vigilante that sits like a snake and plots his attack before doing so. His enemies are tipped off when he sends them a picture of themselves with a red giant X over their face. Most don’t take it seriously, or try to protect themselves from the vigilante when they know he is coming. Good luck, pal.

X has a particularly bloody streak, bloodlust and determination for meting out justice in his hometown of Arcadia.

Unlike Frank Castle, little is known about this cold killer’s origin. Hopefully Swierczynski will tap into that as the series rolls on.

The book opens on a warehouse full of corpses. Investigating detectives and officers on the scene prop up the heads of two of the dead laying in a nearby Caddy. The ominous red X from the photos is mirrored on their flesh, accompanied by multiple nails from a nail gun. Yeouch, X does not mess around!

As police check out the scene, a young blogger, screenname Muckracker aka Leigh Furgeson is poking around, tipped off by an old drunk about the massacre near his home. He flees Arcadia and leaves the detective work to Muckracker. 

Leigh opens her mailbox to find a message from X, crossed-out photos of some bad dudes including one of Leo Pietrain, the unfortunate villain locked in his panic room in issue #0. Ambulances take Leo away as Muckracker gets to the crime scene to see Leo’s piehole bleeding a red X through his ambulance stretcher sheet. 

In the third act of the issue, reader’s adrenaline levels spike as X springs into action once again. Though, this time it appears he’s been set up by the police. 

After a firefight and explosion, X and the snoopy Muckracker find themselves in an alley together. This might be the time for Leigh to either expose X or to lend him a hand. Tune in next issue for more pulse pounding action.

This book has the feel of a Batman: Year One, and obvious nods to the Frank Miller story in the art by Eric Nguyen are not off-putting but set a familiar tone. The action and blood is definitely more mature (not for kids) than your average Punisher story but all of the tropes here work really well to acclimate the fan to a newly rebooted, but never wildly popular anti-hero vigilante.

Swierczynski is on some great books right now with tough dudes as the lead roles. Check out his take on IDW’s Judge Dredd for more rugged justice!

WRITER: Fred Van Lente
ART: Clayton Henry
Publication Date: May 8, 2013
Price: $3.99
Publisher: Valiant Comics
UPC: 85899200306200011
Buy it HERE

Valiant Comics started the whole ‘prequel’ comics numbered “Issue #0” way back in the nineties.  Since then, companies have copied their style and in fact, DC’s New 52 had a whole series of “0” issues incorporated into their relaunch. It should come to no surprise to fans, speculators and collectors of the classic Valiant characters that Valiant has started to release prequels to their relaunched books as well.

Fred Van Lente (Spider-Man, G.I. Joe) brings his humor and well researched historical references to the latest, Archer and Armstrong #0.

Archer is a teenager, raised by extreme religious freaks on a compound. He escapes to find the truth about his parents. Armstrong is a nigh-invulnerable immortal warrior that is centuries old. This issue deals with Armstrong’s past through a retelling (reboot!) of the classic tale of Gilgamesh. How do we get there? Armstrong was part of the story and recounts it firsthand! Raised a poet among warriors with brothers Gilad (Eternal Warrior) and Ivar (Timewalker).

Some Vine-like tech is discovered in ancient Mesopotamia and the brothers go to investigate. They are greeted by men in robes who introduce them to the Boon device, the supernatural tablet that grants Armstrong his immortality. There’s dinosaur fighting, alien tech and ancient history rolled up into a delicious story that’s way better than junior high history and literature classes. 

This issue is part Jurassic Park, part Rome and equal parts the origin of pizza in G.I. Joe Yearbook#3 — My Dinner With Serpentor.