Saturday, May 27, 2017

Batman / The Shadow #2

   The beauty of an iconic character is that he or she can endure different interpretations - and that's certainly what we're getting for one of the co-stars of this team-up of Batman and The Shadow.

   Batman seems in character, which makes sense, since the co-writer (with Steve Orlando) is Batman writer Scott Snyder.

   But The Shadow seems off-model to me (and granted,  I'm a big fan of the original pulps). This version feels like a murderous madman - and while The Shadow was always ready to deal final justice to criminals, he was anything but insane.

   Intelligent, cunning, decisive - that's The Shadow. The guy wearing the outfit in this series seems unhinged, out of control - and possessing supernatural powers.

   Yes, the Shadow can cloud men's minds and he can melt into the darkness - but he shouldn't be able to pull the kinds of magic tricks that we see here.

   But those quibbles aside, this is a compelling series, providing a challenge worthy of the two heroes, and demonstrating the differences between the two "dark knights."

    It may not be "my" Shadow here - but it's close enough to be fun.

Grade: B+


Friday, May 26, 2017

Captain America: Steve Rogers #17


   I've been trying hard to be upbeat about this "Cap is a member of Hydra" storyline that has led to the Secret Empire mini-series - but it gets more difficult as the story just keeps trudging along with neither hope nor an end in sight.

   (It is going to end, right?)

   Then this issue arrives, and this is where the comic starts beating you over the head with its desire to be a political statement about the results of the last presidential election.

   Which is fine, that's the story the creative team wanted to tell, good for them - but (and maybe it's just me) I'm so tired of all the political warfare that's all over the Internet, television and other social media, and the ongoing predictions of doom and worse.

   I read comics largely for escapism, and this series is so heavy-handed and depressing that it drains any entertainment value out of the story (again, for me). And to make the story work, they have to take Cap further and further down the road of villainy - and you don't get much more super-villainous than his actions as Supreme Hydra.

   The art is terrific, but the story's been dragged out for far too long. The end can't get here fast enough for me.

Grade: C-


Thursday, May 25, 2017

X-Men Blue #4

   Then cover leaves little doubt about who this issue's guest star is - but X-Men Blue might have a surprise up its sleeve.

   This version of the team follows the original lineup (the still-young versions of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast and Angel) as they look for mutants in need of help.

   This issue takes them to a snow-covered Colorado, where they find a surprising mutant in need of help.

   And that's about all I can tell you without spoiling too much - but it does have a dandy final page / cliffhanger that promises more action next issue.

   I could quibble with this series - I'm not crazy about the tinkering with the Angel and the Beast, for example - but overall it's been pretty strong so far.

   I suspect the thinking behind bringing the original team to the present was to streamline the team and offer a more hopeful version of their adventures - and so far, it's been mostly successful.

  There are still some rough edges to be smoothed out, but overall this is a solid adventure in the X-men tradition.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Comics Day

   Sadly, I was on the run all day and didn't get to the comics shop today - but here’s what I plan to pick up tomorrow:

- BATMAN THE SHADOW #2 (OF 6) - Friends or enemies? 

- CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #17 - Secret Empire tie-in, natch. 

- GUARDIANS OF GALAXY MOTHER ENTROPY #4 (OF 5) - Looking for help!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #5 (OF 12) - Run for your life! 

- SECRET WARRIORS #2 - Hey, it’s another Secret Empire tie-in!

- X-MEN BLUE #4 - A visit from Wolverine?

    And In received review copies of:

- ANNO DRACULA #3 (OF 5) - Continuing the adaptation of the novel.

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #4 - Adapting the video game!

- MIRACULOUS #12 - Mime time!

- RAPTURE #1 - Battle with an Elder God!

- SOULFIRE #3 - An all-new jumping-on point! 

- WARHAMMER 40000 REVELATIONS #3 (OF 4) - Facing the wrath of the Elder Harlequins!

- WORLD WAR X #6 (OF 6) - The finale!

- X-O MANOWAR #3 - Fighting across a hostile alien world.

   And that’s it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 - Movie Review

   Whenever a movie sequel to a popular film appears, the question arises: is the second film better or worse than the first film?

   With Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, the answer is: I'm not sure if it's better, but it's just as good as the first film. (And that's high praise indeed.)

   The first film had the advantage of being new, fresh and funny.

   This time around, we're familiar with the characters, so it can't be as fresh - but it is just as funny.

   Vol. 2's focus is on family - including the ones we build (with friends and co-workers) and the ones we gain through blood relations.

   At the center is the long-awaited revelation of the identity of Star-Lord's father. We know his father is an alien, but which one out of Marvel's vast collection?

   The answer is Kurt Russell. Well, he plays the part, and does so wonderfully, with great humor and gravitas.

   As always, humor is a key element in the series, and each character gets a chance to earn some laughs - including Drax's delightful lack of guile, Rocket's eternal cynicism, Gamora's earnest "straight man" approach, Baby Groot's undeniable cuteness, and Star-Lord - well, he's just as much a wiseass as ever.

   Add in Yondu, the delightfully gruff (and deadly) leader of a crew of Ravagers, Gamora's deadly sister Nebula, who gets to do more than just be angry, and several new characters, including a Mantis who doesn't bear much resemblance to the comic book character - but is a sweet addition to the team.

   The visuals are stunning, the music is tremendous, the story builds nicely and includes genuinely moving moments. It's not easy for a movie to take you from laughing one moment to crying the next.

   It's a great addition to the Marvel movie universe, and proves me wrong again (I thought Marvel was crazy for doing a movie based on such a little-known team).

   The actors are perfectly cast and they deliver terrific performances (which is one of the keys to Marvel's film success).

   Needless to say, stick around through the credits, and pay special attention to the song that runs under the credits - it's great fun!

   You know... like the rest of the movie!

Grade: A



Monday, May 22, 2017

Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter #1

   Here's a fun "throwback" series (sorta kinda).

   Freeway Fighter is a dystopian fight for survival in a grim future where each fight is to the finish - and supplies are difficult to come by, especially the gasoline it take to power the vehicles that are the primary weapon for the survivors.

   The series is based on a game book called Freeway Fighters, written by Ian Livingstone in 1985.

   Now the series is back under the guidance of writer Andi Ewington and the art of Simon Coleby.

   Both turn in a fast-paced, brutal and vivid slice of life for the woman named Bella De La Rosa, a professional driver who has no mercy on those who attack her.

   Set in 2024 after the world has been ravaged by a virus, it's a Mad Max-inspired adventure that doesn't waste a lot of effort on anything except no-holds-barred action.

   It's not exactly sunny, but it's exciting and powerful stuff.

Grade: A-


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Justice League #21

   There are several great things about this issue of Justice League.

   One: it's written and drawn by Bryan Hitch, with his usual wonderful cinemascope artwork on display.

   Two: it's a rarity these days - a story that only took two issues to tell (instead of the usual four to six issues).

   Three: it's an intelligent time-travel story with an emotional story at its core - and the growing desperation of the heroes who must work together to save the world.

   Four: it touches on the ongoing theme in Hitch's JL work: that a major menace is approaching, one that the JL may not be able to stop (but it doesn't beat us over the head with it).

   So, a solid issue, much more down to Earth (despite its science fiction elements) and terrific art - what a deal!

Grade: A-