Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Last New Comics Day Before Thanksgiving

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

- Elfquest #6 - A meeting of the chiefs!

- Flash #36 - Lost in time - again?

- Invaders #12 - Fighting the Martian invaders (really)!

- Justice Inc #4 - Doc Savage, the Shadow and the Avenger vs. Johnny Sunlight!

- New Avengers #27 - A world of sorcerers!

- Superman #36 - What is Ulysses' secret?

- Usagi Yojimbo Senso #5 - My shop didn't get its order for this issue in, dang it.
   And that's it!

The Classics - A1 Book #1 (of 6)

   If anyone ever tries to tell you that the United States has a corner on comic book excellence, you have my permission to laugh in their face.

   As this issue of A1 indicates, there's lots of goodness to be found all around the world.

   Published in London by Atomeka Press in 1989, this issue includes a murderer's row of writers and artists.

   How's this for a lineup: Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Moore, Garry Leach, Eddie Campbell, John Bolton, Dave Gibbons, Ted McKeever, Brian Bolland, Steve Parkhouse, Bill Sienkiwicz, Neil Gaiman, Dean Motter, Paris Cullins and Bob Burden.

   I know, right?

   Those creators were set loose on 16 short stories - some powerful, some funny, some action-packed, some horrific, some offbeat, some clever, and all entertaining.

   I love anthology comics, and this is a great example of how to do one right: tale tons of top talent and give them room to run.

   You can just about flip to any page and find a gem - from a tale of the Warpsmiths (of Miracleman fame) to Mr.  X to Bacchus (or Deadface, if you prefer) to Blazin' Glory and much more!

   It's a terrific series and well worth the effort of tracking down.

Grade: A


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fantastic Four #13

   I've been ragging on this series for a year now - so it's only right to give it a mention when it seems to finally be turning things around.

   So we finally have the Fantastic Four starting to wake up after 12 issues of being dumped on to a truly depressing extent: their home and possessions were seized, their children and wards were put in SHIELD custody, Johnny Storm lost his powers, Ben Grimm was accused of murder and thrown in prison, Susan Richards seems to be under the influence of the evil Malice, and Reed Richards was busy working for a space-based company.

   So now the team is finally starting to figure out that someone - or something - has been plotting against them, and now they're finally - finally! - fighting back.

   To which I can only say: it's about time!

   Once again, Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel's art is terrific - expressive, original and animated.

   As I feared, it looks like the team is finally getting its act together just in time for its upcoming end. (Is the series cancelled? Being rebooted with a new #1? Being shut down while the feature film, which apparently has almost nothing in common with the comic book, hits theaters?)

   We'll have to see how that plays out - but I can't believe we're getting close to the end of the stories of Marvel's First Family. Or perhaps I just refuse to believe it.

Grade: B+


Monday, November 24, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #28

   Last issue Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men confronted an impossibly powerful (and out of control) mutant.

    This issue, guess what happens?

   The same thing.

   I know decompressed storylines are all the rage (and a special favorite of writer Brian Michael Bendis), but COME ON!

   Look, just read this review again. That's what happens here.

   The only difference is that the art in this issue is by Kris Anka (the cover attributes it to Bachalo, but that's wrong). The art feels rushed and flat - not up to Bachalo's usual stylings.

   The rule is simple for all-powerful characters: by the end of the story they have to either die or go far away.

   Eventually, we'll see where this series is going - but be ready to be patient.

Grade: B



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wonder Woman #36

   It's always a bit dicey when a new creative team takes over a successful series - and that what the Finches face as they take on the adventures of Wonder Woman.

   The team is made up of artist David Finch, who's established himself as one of DC's top tier artists. He works in a realistic, detailed style that's striking and enjoyable, with dynamic layouts and outstanding character designs.

   The writing is being handled by David's wife Meredith, so the question is, can her writing match up to the quality of David's art?

   After reading this issue, I'm not sure we can answer that. Most of the issue is dedicated to setting things up for new readers, establishing Diana as a hero who's almost overwhelmed by all her duties - she's the God of War, Queen of the Amazons and an active member of the Justice League.

   All three duties get some play here, so we don't get much of a chance to go into a lot of detail on any of it. The only real disappointment was an encounter with Swamp Thing.

   Wonder Woman goes full "Marvel" here, hitting first and asking questions later. It feels like a weak attempt at injecting some action into the issue.

   Overall, it's a pretty good first effort - great art, an interesting beginning to the series and good characterization. But we'll haste to wait and see how the story unfolds (or doesn't unfold).

Grade: B



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spider-Woman #1

   Perhaps this would be a fine first issue if I were reading the Spider-Verse series.

   But I'm not, so for me, this was a terrible first issue. If you're a Spider-Verse fan, your mileage may vary.

   Let me say first that I'm a fan of the Jesssica Drew version of Spider-Woman, even though she's so rarely done "right."

   But in this issue she's lost in a crowd of Spider-dervied characters, which feels for all the world like the worst aspects of such "family" creations.

   Usually the worst offenders have been past issues of DC comics, with innumerable "Batman" and "Superman" derivatives - now Marvel is falling into the same trap.

   Of course, the Spider-Verse stories might be wonderful for all I know - but this doesn't give any indication of that.

   The issue launches hip-deep in the story already, as Spider-Woman is trying to protect another Spider-like woman named Silk along with a '30s pulp version of Spider-Man (I swear I am not making this up).

   They're in an alternate reality, being pursued by a couple of invincible villains who want to steal their spider-life-essence.

     I pity the fan who picks this up as his or her first issue, because he or she will be completely lost. The issue features mindless action, lots of characters with no introductions (look, it's Anya and Gwen, whoever they are), no indication about who the title character is, what she looks like under the mask or why we should care.

    Greg Land's art is beautiful to look at - he's a great choice to draw a comic loaded with lovely women - but that's not enough to make this comic compelling.

   Hopefully at some point this title will focus on the title character. Then it'll be worth $3.99 (maybe).

Grade: C


Friday, November 21, 2014

Avengers #38

   Ah. An issue with answers is like a blast of fresh air.

   The Avengers continue to count down to the point when "Time Runs Out" (we're down to six months).

   And after months and months of events and buildup, here we take a moment of calm and get some explanations (though there's still plenty of mysteries to be solved, too).

   It all centers around - of all people - Roberto Dacosta, the former New Mutant known as Sunspot, and now also an Avenger.

   He's managed to solve the threat of the super-science organization AIM by the simplest solution possible - he bought the company.

   Now he's gathered together a group of like-minded Avengers to marshal their forces and address the other two Avengers groups that are in conflict - namely, the team led by Steve Rogers, and the Illuminati.

   They're also dealing with the threats posed by SHIELD and the incursions of alternate Earths that threaten total destruction.

   So they have a lot on their plates, but this issue by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Stefano Caselli makes the challenges clear and brings in a surprising new player (who has a jolt of two of his own to reveal).

   I admit, I am loving this series - it's a big story, with nothing less than all of existence riding on the outcome.

   Not for timid fans, but mighty impressive to those willing to tackle the story.

Grade: A-




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Multiversity: Pax Americana #1


   The history of comics includes a few events that truly rocked the industry. One of those was the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons creation known as Watchmen.

    It's no secret that the series began as a proposal for a revamp of the Charlton Action Heroes - but instead, they served as the template for the characters who filled that series.

   So now we arrive at Grant Morrison's Multiversity, and the latest issue, Pax American, where we visit Earth-4, the home for Charlton's heroes.

   Here we find the Question, the Blue Beetle, Nightshade, the Peacemaker, Captain Atom and others (some not clearly identified) - but appearance aside, these are not the same heroes.

   Instead, they're a mash-up of the original characters and the characteristics of the Watchmen (without ever coming out and saying so). So we have a Question who is brutal with villains, a Captain Atom who lives across time and space, a Peacemaker who seems to be unhinged.

   The story is made more compelling by the amazing art of Frank Quitely, who has crafted an amazing storytelling feat here - one that could easily stand alongside the style and design of the Watchmen.

   This is not a story you can read just once - it's complex, sometimes confusing and deliberately challenging. You might also object to the violence, to the way the story pushes the characters into different forms, altered moralities - and you won't get much argument from me - it bothers me, too.

   But despite that, this is quite an accomplishment in comic art - mature, unique (and yet an homage with multiple levels at work) - just stunning.

   But not for kids.

Grade: A