Monday, September 1, 2014

Brainstorm #1

   Ah, here's a concept guaranteed to generate some controversy.
   The new series Brainstorm is set in the near future, in a world where Climate Change has devastated the world, generating destructive storms on a regular basis.

   A team of scientists have developed a possible solution to the problem - but the government takes control of their creation, and then the real trouble begins.

   The story is written by a small army of writers and consultants - three get credit for the story, two did the scripting, the two others served as story consultants.

   On the other hand, the art and coloring is all by one guy - Dennis Calero - and it's quite good, with some interesting environmental effects on display.

   It's great to see a story that all science fiction - no superheroes on display here - but I'll leave it to others to debate the always-fiery Climate Change / Global Warming debate.

    I enjoy a good argument as much as the next guy, but this is a topic that generates a lot of anger on both sides, so I'm happy to let others get into that squabble.

   As for this comic, it's an interesting first issue, and I'm curious to see where it goes from here. There are lots of characters and concepts to be fleshed out, and I'm not how far the story can go with a lifeless protagonist - but they're off to a good start.

Grade: B

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

All-New X-Men #31

   While this issue of All-New X-Men is mostly about the setup for the next storyline, I have to admit it reminded me of a different milestone.

   When I was quite young, the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America started having crossovers every summer as DC got into the whole Earth-1 and Earth-2 concept.

    And that seems to be what this issue is setting up, as the original X-Men go out in search of a powerful new mutant, and find themselves dealing with an entirely new experience - an alternate universe, but one that seems... familiar.

   (No, they don't run into the Justice Society - but wouldn't that be fun?)

   To say more would be to give away too much of the fun.

   While this isn't the first Marvel issue to do this kind of crossover, this one's going to be a challenge to sort out.

   Should be fun!

Grade: B+

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Groo vs. Conan #2 (of 4)

   Wait, there's a second issue of Groo vs. Conan?

   I thought surely one of these characters would have killed the other by now.

   Instead, the most improbable crossover since the Punisher met Archie continues - and, it should come as no surprise, it's actually a lot of fun.

   The entire story is spinning out as a drug-and-injury-induced dream (honest) on the part of writer and artist Sergio Aragones, with writer Mark Evanier contributing... something or other.

   Which is as good a way as any of bringing together fiction's greatest barbarian and fiction's funniest barbarian.

   It's all silly, improbable and darned entertaining. The story finally veers into Rashomon territory, and provides a shocking ending that you won't see coming.

   Great art and a surprising story, lots of laughs - what more do you want? If that's not enough, all I can say is: gee, you're hard to please.

Grade: A-

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

   I'm all for cliffhangers, but some go a bit too far.

  For example, at the end of the mini-series The Thanos Imperative, three characters were facing death, trapped in an alternate reality: Thanos, Star-Lord and the original Nova.

   In the years since, we've seen Thanos and Star-Lord reappear, but there's no sign of Richard Ryder. And no explanation.

   So what happened?

   We're finally looking back at those events in the latest issue of Guardians of the Galaxy.

   (Apparently Gamora also got tired of waiting for an explanation).

    As you'd expect from writer Brian Michael Bendis, the answer isn't a short one - which is to say, it's a continued story.

   But at least we're finally getting an explanation, so I'm all for it. And a month or two seems much more manageable than "never."

Grade: A-

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Avengers #34

   It's been a wild trip, but I've really enjoyed this time-travel story in the Avengers, especially since it's focused largely on Captain America. 

   When he's written well, Cap is one of my favorite Marvel heroes (and it's been fun to see him emerge as such a fan favorite in Chris Evans' film version of the hero).

   (The less said about his current solo comic, the better.)

   This mind-bending story has taken Cap (and a few other Avengers) off to the future, where they've gained some insights into the ongoing threat being faced by the Illuminati - and the possible solutions to the problem.

   But Cap faces a possibly-insurmountable opponent, as he stands alone in the incredibly-distant future.

   It all sets up an major conflict to come, as secrets are revealed and sides are chosen.

   It's part of writer Jonathan Hickman's master plan, and it's shaping up to be a major event - both for the extended Avengers team and for the world.

   This has been a serious, complex story - and while it's not for everyone, it's an amazing, thoughtful and carefully devised work, and well worth sorting out.

Grade: A

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Classics - Namor the Sub-Mariner #1

   It amazes me that some characters are allowed to languish on the shelf.

   I suppose it happens because the editors or writers just don't know what to do with that character.

   Water-based heroes seem to be especially problematic - so the Sub-Mariner and Aquaman seem to wax and wane on the comics scene.

   Created by Bill Everett, Namor was a big star in the '40s and one of the few Timely heroes to be revived in the '50s. He made his premiere in the Silver Age in Fantastic Four #4, when the Human Torch famously used his flame to give a powerful derelict a shave, and uncovered an amnesiac Namor.

   One of the first anti-heroes, the noble Sub-Mariner alternated between warring against humanity and fighting on its side. He eventually earned his own series in Tales to Astonish, and then graduated to his own title, which ran for six years.

   He was featured in the first Marvel cartoons, was a founding member of The Defenders, and starred in the throwback series The Invaders.

   But perhaps his best solo effort was this 1990 series by writer / artist John Byrne, with inks by Bob Wiacek.

   Byrne introduces Namor as out of control - a raving lunatic, attacking innocent islanders - but he meets a kindly marine biologist and his daughter who hold the solution. Along the way we get lots of action, a recap of Namor's origin, the answer to his behavior since his first appearance in the 1940s, a new direction, a new supporting cast, and lots of great artwork.

   Byrne's run on the series was a blueprint on how to do great comics. Unfortunately, Byrne didn't last - and neither did Namor. The series was canceled after four years.

   These days he's back to being a supporting character in New Avengers - and back to behaving erratically. It's a shame - he's a terrific character with loads of untapped potential. He just needs the right creative team running the show.

   We can only hope.

Grade: A

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New Comic Book Day!

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

- Alien Legion #3 - This means war.

- All-New X-Men #31 - A new mutant with an amazing power.

- Avengers #34 - Cap visits the future.

- Cyclops #4 - Marooned!

- Fantastic Four #9 - Checking in on the kids - and the original Human Torch.

- Flash #34 - When are the Rogues not the Rogues?

- Groo vs Conan #2 - One will fall! Or will he?

- Guardians of the Galaxy #18 - How did Star-Lord escape certain death?

- Savage Hulk #3 - Jean Grey gets green!

- Invaders #9 - The return of Deathlok.

- Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #4 (of 5) - Meet the family.

- Saga #22 - Troubles at home?

- Silver Surfer #5 - The return of the Defenders?

- Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever #3 - Kirk and Spock, stuck in the past.

- Superman #34 - Two Supermen for the price of one!

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brain Boy: The Man from G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #4 (of 4)

   This series has been a good example of how to effectively revive an old character in the modern world.

   Brain Boy was a short-lived pseudo superhero in the '60s (though one without a costume), and now he's been revived by Dark Horse as a modern-day spy.

   Since his powers are mind-based (telepathy, telekinesis), he makes the perfect spy - but in this series he may be (you should excuse the phrase) in over his head.

   He's up against a powerful Hive Mind that has a deadly plot to take control of the government - and it will take all of Matt Price's abilities to stand against it.

   The story by Fred Van Lente is a bit convoluted, and it would be difficult to start up with this issue - but the collections would be a good place to catch up.

   The art by Freddie Williams II is strong, though I don't much care for the super costume Brain Boy sports in this issue - it seems pretty generic.

   The best thing about the issue, though, is the last page, with a shocking turn that should lead into the next mini-series.

    This series isn't for everyone - it takes the roundabout path to get the story told - but it's a smart and clever take on a classic concept.

Grade: B-

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