Friday, October 2, 2015

The Sandman Overture #6 (of 6)

   Finally, just shy of two years from its beginning, we arrive at the end (and, happily enough, the beginning) for The Sandman.

   This Overture mini-series by Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III and Dave Stewart has been a delightful (if twisty) return visit to Gaiman's legendary character.

    The story is appropriately big, visiting Dream's siblings - and his parents(!) - and placing the existence of... well, everything... at stake, and the survival of all rests in Dream's hands.

   It's all a prequel to the original series created by Gaiman, as the finale gives us the answer to how Dream ended up a prisoner of a mortal way back in Sandman #1.

   The art is amazing - each page (and that stunning cover) should be hanging in a museum somewhere.

   If you've missed this one, I suspect it'll read much better as a collection, but (perversely) if you haven't read the Sandman stories yet, you should read those first, then tackle this prequel.

   Trust me, it makes more sense that way (this series refers to characters that work better if you know more about them).

   What more do you need? Highly, highly recommended!

Grade: A


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Justice League #44

   I've been impressed that this series feels like a big event book - but one that's entirely contained in the Justice League title.

   But word must have leaked out, because there are ads running about several tie-in books coming up (though oddly, the ad isn't included in this issue).

   This issue is loaded with all kinds of cosmic, larger-than-life battles, some surprising revelations, a heck of a climactic battle and more characters than you can shake a Mother Box at.

   The battle comes down to Darkseid battling the Anti-Monitor with their armies and flunkies fighting it out on the edges - and the Justice League is almost secondary to the story, as members of the team are off trying to solve the mystery of the Anti-Monitor's origin - while others are fighting for their lives on Apokolips.

   It's a crazy, all-out battle royal, that certainly gives you your money's worth - but it's almost too much to keep up with.

   Still, it's great to see a story on this scale in the book that should be - and is - the best that DC has to offer.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Classics - West Coast Avengers #46

   Writer / artist John Byrne left his mark on virtually every title published by Marvel at one point or another - but one of his most offbeat additions to the Marvel Universe can be found in this issue of The West Coast Avengers.

   Byrne turned in a strong (and somewhat controversial) series of stories during his year-and-a-half on the series in the late '80s, but it wasn't all serious and grim.

   This issue introduced the Great Lakes Avengers, an odd group of heroes who had no real affiliation with the original Avengers - they were just some wannabe heroes who fought crime in - of all places - Milwaukee.

   The team included: Mr. I, their carefree leader (with a truly odd power); Big Bertha, a massive powerhouse; Flat-Man, an elastic hero; Dyna Soar, a flying female dinosaur; and Doorman, who becomes a living door - somehow.

   Add estranged couple Hawkeye and Mockingbird into the mix (both having just left the West Coast team), and you have an entertaining sidebar into the usual Marvel antics.

   The art is terrific, with Byrne and inker Mike Machlan loading up on (mostly) lighthearted action, including a classic "heroes meet and fight each other" sequence.

    One of the things that made Byrne such a strong storyteller was his combination of action, great characters and humor - and this issue had all that in spades.

Grade: A


Now Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- Archie #3 - The new girl in town!

- Captain America White #2 - Losing an old friend!

- Cavalry SHIELD #1 - Training mission.

- Justice League #44 - Who will die?

- SHIELD #10 - Howard, Duck of SHIELD?

- Sandman Overture #6 - The finale at last!

- Superman #44 - Secret ID no more!

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fathom Blue #4

   I may be wrong about this series.

   I've been assuming that Fathom Blue is a comic about a team, with the opening storyline giving us the origin of the group of heroes.

   It's been a bit difficult to follow, as the team is being assembled by shady forces in the military (of course) to tackle special missions - but this may not be a team of heroes.

   Circumstances - which have the team fighting for their freedom from the control of the leader of this military force - may force them into a fight against the nation, which will leave them branded as traitors.

   I think. It's all a bit muddled, and I admit I'm still trying to sort out the characters.

   Here the team works together to escape, only to turn themselves back over to the same forces. So why did they escape? Or did they do it to meet with a sympathetic agent? No idea.

   The series has a lot of potential, but it's going to have to work harder at giving us a reason to root for the team. Just having them manipulated by a sleazy military guy feels like lazy storytelling.

   Flesh out their personalities, give them some motivation, let them act like heroes. Or villains. Give us something to hold onto!

Grade: C


Monday, September 28, 2015

Doctor Who: Four Doctors #5 (of 5)

   It's always a special event when more than one version of The Doctor teams up - and Titan Comics has put together a special event of its own with this weekly comic, the five-issue-long Doctor Who: Four Doctors.

   The Doctor (he never calls himself "Doctor Who") is a Time Lord, a race that is very advanced and long-lived (he's almost 1000 years old). He travels through time and space in the Tardis,  a complex machine that looks small from the outside - but it's huge on the inside.

   He's usually accompanied by one or more "companions" - friends and fellow adventurers. They help those in need, seek out adventure and new discoveries.

   The character has been portrayed on TV over the years by 13 actors - after each actor finished his run, The Doctor is "killed" and regenerates in a new body - a different actor.

   On the original series, different doctors would occasionally meet - an easy stunt for a time traveler - and those stories were always entertaining, watching different personalities meeting, working together or jousting verbally.

   And that's what this comic mini-series is all about, as the 10th, 11th and 12th Doctors (the most recent three) team up with their companions to face what may be certain death, as they face the most unbeatable foe of them all.

   (Who's the fourth doctor in the title? That would be telling!)

   It's a fast, funny adventure with terrific art. The plot's a bit twisty, and probably doesn't bear close examination - but it's all in good fun.

    If you're a fan of The Doctor, you'll definitely want to catch this series.

Grade: A-



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Batgirl #44

   The "new" Batgirl series has been pretty strong up to this point, but it was about due for a stumble - and here it is.

   This issue finds Barbara Gordon running up against a tigerish female villain who, frankly, doesn't feel very menacing at all.

   Also, I'm not sure the creative team understands how tranquilizer darts work. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that once a dart is fired and delivers its load of sedative, it can't be plucked out and reused without reloading. And if it could, the amount of sedative used to knock out a tiger would probably kill a human.

   So yeah, it's that kind of issue - a little action, a little romance, but not a lot of actual story there. I have to admit that I'm also losing track of the ever-expanding supporting cast - who are these people again?

   Of course, this series is aimed at a younger audience. Maybe they have an easier time keeping up with such things.

   Like I said, for me, this issue was a bit of a misstep (it happens to every series - no reason to panic). Here's hoping it's back on the usual dance floor for the next issue.

Grade: B-



Saturday, September 26, 2015

Weirdworld #4

   It's only appropriate that the series titled Weirdworld is the strangest of the Secret Wars spin-offs.

   (Though to be fair, I should admit I haven't read all of them. Or even most of them. But I think it's a safe call.)

   The mini-series has followed Arkon (the barbarian) as he searches for his idyllic home world, Polemachus. He knows it is hidden somewhere on Weirdworld - but he can't find it.

   He's battled an assortment of enemies - both monster and human - but may have met his match in Morgan Le Fey's enforcer, Skull the Slayer.

   But as the cover indicates, they'll both have to survive an encounter with a certain mindless much-monster in the Land of the Man-Things.

   Despite being on the grim side (Arkon isn't the easiest guy to like), this has been an entertaining series as it touches on some of the most bizarre corners of the Marvel Universe.

   Somehow, the whole thing will wrap up next issue - I can't wait to see how (or if) the creative team manages to make it happen!

Grade: A-