Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Classics - Daredevil #6

   It's certainly possible to love a comic too much.

   The picture at right is not my copy of Daredevil #6 - mine is tattered and marked up - I was afraid the heat of the scanner might cause it to crumble into powder.

   When you hold it, it's like getting a grip on a rag - it's rubbery. My pal James refers to the condition of such comics as "BTH" - "Beat to Hell."

   The reason for the condition is easy to see - it's a terrific comic!

   Written by Stan Lee and drawn by Wally Wood, it pits "The Man Without Fear" against a new villain - Mr. Fear, who discovers a gas that induces intense fear - even in Daredevil's heart!.

   Mr. Fear teams up with two other second-rate (but entertaining) heavies - The Ox and The Eel - and the three form The Fellowship of Fear.

   This may be the only appearance of that team, but it's a dandy, showing off the amazing talent of Wood, who loads the issue with creative, entertaining fights, and Lee's gift for dialogue, as he keeps things moving with fast and funny patter.

   The issue is a heck of a lot of fun - which is why I read it over and over.

   The copy I own is one I picked up 51 years ago - in 1964 I traded for it, scoring it off my childhood friend Bruce (whose name is scrawled on the cover - he did that to all his comics. Some people).

   It may have virtually no resale value, but as a reading copy of a classic adventure, it's priceless.

   To me.

Grade: A+

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New Comic Book Day

  It's been a roller-coaster day! I had a message this morning from my comics shop that the new comics wouldn't be in until tomorrow. 

   Then I got another message late in the afternoon that they'd arrived.

   So I hauled it to the shop - and here's what I picked up:

- New Avengers #30 - It doesn't get much more cosmic than this.

- Batman #39 - The Joker's master plan.

- Daredevil #13 - Here comes love.

- Darth Vader #2 - Searching for the pilot who destroyed the Death Star.

- Fantastic Four #643 - Fighting back.

- Flash #39 - Two worlds, two Flashes (but not the ones you think).

- Invaders #15 - The final issue (for now).

- S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 - Fighting magical enemies - where's Dr. Strange when you need him?

- Sirens #3 - The ladies go meta.

- All-New X-Men #38 - Things escalate.

- The Savage Sword of Criminal (One-Shot) - Barbarian epic or crime story?

   And that's it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

She-Hulk #12

   With this issue, we sadly reach the end of this seres starring the She-Hulk.

   And I'm sorry to see it go, because this has probably been the character's best run since John Byrne's version.

   In the series, writer Charles Soule has focused more on She-Hulk the crusading lawyer, while allowing plenty of room for super-hero action.

   It also gave her a much-needed supporting cast, including one of my sentimental favorites, Hellcat (Patsy Walker).

    Best of all, the stories were fast and fun, with surprising twists. This issue is a good example, as She-Hulk and her friends face an unexpected opponent who may - or may not - be a bad guy.

   The art by Javier Pulido is a bit out of the ordinary for super-hero action - but it's fresh and attractive, and I like it a lot.

   Hopefully this won't be the last attempt to bring the She-Hulk to her own series. A series about a brilliant, sexy, incredibly powerful woman who happens to be green? Surely there must be a creative team out there who can make that work.

Grade: A-

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Batgirl #39

      Every comic dreams about the same thing: coming up with that shocking final page that leaves the reader suffering until the next issue finally arrives to alleviate his or her suffering.

   The truly successful ones are pretty rare. But if you've been following this series, you've been asking some questions - like, what happened to Batgirl? Is this really Batgirl? What's up with Black Canary? Why is Batgirl poor, in college, not in a wheelchair, etc. etc.

   Don't expect any answers quickly - but I'm hopeful that things may happen soon.

   So, no spoilers - but if you like surprises, you'll probably want to pick up this issue.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lady Mechanika #4

   Hey, look - it's Lady Mechanika!

   The series debuted - I dunno, years ago (OK, it was 2010) - and after long gaps between each issue, was last seen in December 2011.

   It enjoyed strong sales, largely on the strength of the terrific, lush, steampunk-inspired art by Joe Benitez.

   The series has finally returned, courtesy of Benitez's own publishing company, and promises monthly publication.

   The new company started by reprinting the early issues (#0, 1, 2 and 3), and now continues with the never-before-printed issues #4 and 5, and then will continue with a new adventure.

   As with previous issues, the story is difficult to sort out - there are quite a few characters infiltrating a flying fortress - and considering that it's supposed to be impenetrable, lots of people manage to sneak on board.

   But it's all just an excuse for page after page of lovely stunning artwork - and that's the best reason to pick up this series.

Grade: B

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Multiversity: Mastermen #1

   One of the things I like about Multiversity is that you never know what to expect.

   Which is the point, of course.

   This issue takes us to Earth-10 (or, as it was originally tagged, Earth-X), where the Nazis won World War II, but were opposed by a group of Freedom Fighters made up of the heroes from Quality Comics, including Uncle Sam, Phantom Lady, Doll Man, Doll Woman, Black Condor, The Ray and the Human Bomb.

   But you might be surprised at who their super-powered opponents are.

   It's a grim tale, but not without hope, as one character tries to overcome an evil upbringing.

   The story by Grant Morrison takes an interesting approach to the World War II setting - and the art by Jim Lee takes an iconic approach to the larger-than-life events.

   It's a tough issue to review, because to talk about it would spoil some of the key moments.

   It's not the best of the Multiversity comics - it's covering some grim territory, and starts with a truly disgusting image on the first page - but as always, it's a powerful story.

Grade: B+

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #31

   What a cop-out.

   As near as I can tell, writer Brian Michael Bendis arrived at this issue of Uncanny X-Men and realized he had painted himself into a corner - so he cheated.

   Which is to say, he used a lame, underhanded trick to fix the unfixable problem.

   Oh, it wasn't Deux Ex Machina (where God shows up and fixes it all), and it wasn't a dream or an imaginary story - but neither one of those guesses is far from the mark.

   The Chris Bachalo art is remarkably good, especially considering its covered by seven different inkers, but it can't make up for the bitter taste of the story.

   On the plus side, the ending of the story changes the status quo for this series, and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here.

   Hopefully.

   (Oh, and that cover? That doesn't happen anywhere in this issue. Just thought you should know.)

Grade: C

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Comics Day (One Day Late)

   Running a day late (thanks to the winter blast), here's what I got at the comics shop:

- Batgirl #39 - Now that's a twist ending.

- Groo: Friends and Foes #2 (of 12) - Granny knows best.

- Justice League #39 - Search for the cure to the Amazo virus!

- Lady Mechanika #4 - It's been a while since the last issue - how long to the next?

- Multiversity: Mastermen #1 - A team-up between Grant Morrison and Jim Lee.

- She-Hulk #12 - The final curtain.

- Silver Surfer #9 - A visit from Galactus!

- Star-Lord #9 - Star-Lord vs. Kitty Pryde?

- Wonder Woman #39 - Fight for the crown!

- Uncanny X-Men #31 - Wow. Can you say "cop out," boys and girls?

   And that's it!

The Classics - Conan the Barbarian #24

   When Marvel started its Conan the Barbarian series in 1971, I was a bit disappointed that the art was by Barry Smith.

   Two years later, it was announced that he was leaving the series, and I was heartbroken.

   In that short time Smith somehow went from being one of Marvel's lowliest art talents to one of its best - and he did it by developing his own amazing style which owed more to classic illustration than traditional comic art.

   And what an issue to end with! "The Song of Red Sonja" brought the recently-introduced swordswoman into the Hyborean Age.

   She and Conan are fellow soldiers in the city of Makkalet, and after an exuberant celebration, they decide to get together - to commit some larceny.

   Conan has more romantic goals in mind - an idea not exactly refuted by Sonja, but that's because she has a goal in mind, and she needs Conan's help. So she seduces him - and let me tell you, 12-year-old Chuck was a huge fan of the beautifully-rendered sequence where Conan and Sonja go for a swim - and she doffs her chain mail shirt.

   Of course, it's all handled discreetly - but I paid special attention to those panels.

   The team sets forth on a job that will put them in a fight for their lives - and introduce a interesting element from the Kull stories.

   The art in the issue - penciling and inking and coloring - was handled by Smith, and it's wonderful! Lush, exotic, rugged, sexy, with amazing character designs, stunning environments - it was his best work to date.

   He'd only draw one more Conan story - the epic "Red Nails" - so he ended his run on the character on a high point. (Wait, he also did a "Conan vs. Rune" story, didn't he? That was awesome, too.)

    Writer Roy Thomas also rose to the occasion, penning one of his best efforts in his much longer run on the series (and that's saying something - his work was top notch from beginning to end). The story is a great combination of action, humor, lust, monsters and surprises - just a real delight.

    To this day, it's one of my favorite single issues from Conan's four-decade run in comics - and it made me a Barry (Windsor-)Smith fan for life.

   A true classic!

Grade: A+

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