Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #78

   It's hard to believe that there was a time when neither Captain America or Iron Man had a comic book of his own.

   From their introduction (or re-introduction) in the early '60s through to the late '60s, they shared a single comic - the former monster comic re-purposed for the newly-popular genre of superheroes - Tales of Suspense.

   And I have to admit, I loved loved loved these "split comics." Part of the reason was that you got two different heroes for the price of one (even if each month's adventure was only 10 pages long).

   You were also getting some amazing talent. This issue from 1966, for example, includes the climax of Iron Man's first fight with the towering Ultimo (the pawn of the Mandarin). The climax of a tense (and seemingly hopeless) battle, it was written by Stan Lee and drawn by Gene Colan.

   The backup story has Captain America teaming up with Nick Fury in an incredible, ingenious battle to the finish with a powerful android. The creative team is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and it's the usual brilliant battle royal, loaded with more imagination than anything in recent memory.

   Eventually both Cap and Iron Man would get their own titles, they would become best friends - and worst enemies - but this was the breeding ground, where they first thrilled fans in these bite-sized adventures.

   Wonderful stuff. And each comic only cost a mere 12 cents!

   Them was the days!

Grade: A

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New Comic Book Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

- Avengers #35 - A peek eight months into the future.

- Avengers World #13 - Battle around the world!

- Daredevil #8 - The Children of the Darned!

- Hulk #6 - Solving the gamma problem.

- Savage Hulk #4 - Facing the original X-Men.

- Multiversity: Society of Super-Heroes #1 - The heroes of the '50s who never were.

- Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #5 (of 5) - Meet your new sister!

- George Perez's Sirens #1 (of 6) - Time-spanning team of warrior women!

- Thor #25 - The last issue of Thor as a guy?

- All-New X-Men #32 - Welcome to the Ultimate Alternate universe!

- Uncanny X-Men #26 - Facing the most powerful mutant of all?

   And that's it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Powers Bureau #11

   One thing you have to admit about the Powers Bureau series - you never know what to expect next.

   Even this new start to the series takes us quickly into unexpected directions.

   Creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming have taken the lead characters - Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim - and have placed them in the FBI, investigating crimes that involve "Powers" (super-powered humans).

   A trip out to the west coast has landed them in a surprising conspiracy - and finds Walker in the fight for his life against the most unexpected foe of all.

   And then there's that finale, which promises to change everything yet again.

   This is not a series for everyone - it's dark, adult and brutal, but it's also smart and expertly crafted, mashing together the detective and police genre with the world of superheroes.

   It's strong on the grit, but powerful stuff.

Grade: A-

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Death of Wolverine #2 (of 40

   For a series that wears its crassly commercial concept on its sleeve (or at least its title), Death of Wolverine is actually an entertaining comic.

   It doesn't hurt to have excellent artwork by Steve McNiven, who crafts an amazing world (and an impressive disguise for Logan).

   Wolverine is forced to travel to the other side of the world to confront his old enemy Viper, and the trick he uses to gain an audience with her is a clever one.

   There he'll meet more than one old foe and/or friend as the noose is drawn tighter around his now-vulnerable existence (thanks to the loss of his healing factor).

   It's a violent, brutal but clever story. Wonder how it'll all wrap up?

Grade: A-

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Hawkeye #20

   Not only has the Hawkeye comic been exceptional - you're actually been getting two stories for your investment.

   Half of the issues have focused on Clint Barton, the original Avenger known as Hawkeye, while the other have followed the adventures of Kate Bishop, who also goes by Hawkeye (having appropriated the name while Clint was apparently dead).

    This issue follows her attempts to deal with a twisted scheme by her bitter enemy, Madame Masque, which involves Kate being framed for murder, going undercover (while naked), uncovering some surprising facts and learning that the life of a private investigator isn't as easy as she expected.

   It's fast, funny and clever - in other words, business as usual for writer Matt Fraction and artist Annie Wu.

   The series manages an excellent balance between humor and action, with great characters and wonderful. expressive art.

   I'm running out of superlatives. Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Avengers #34.1

   I suppose every comics company has its own version of Superman (just as most have a version of Batman, Captain America and the Hulk).

   For Marvel Comics, that would be Hyperion, who started out as a villain from an alternate Earth. The character has been through several different incarnations over the decades since he first appeared, but his latest incarnation is as a hero whose world was destroyed, but he was drawn through the dimensions to our world.

   He's established himself as an Avenger and a friend to Thor, but he's mostly been a mystery - until this oddly-numbered issue.

   Here we see him in solo action as he tries to track down a boy who was kidnapped. It's a smart, sharp use of his extraordinary powers, and we get a look inside the mind of this unusual hero.

   Kudos to writer Al Ewing for writing a Superman story unlike any other, and to artists Dale Keown and Norman Lee for a powerful look at an iconic figure.

   What I find most interesting is that the character could still end up being a villain. Or a hero. Because of his unique outlook, it all depends on your interpretation - and that of the creative team.

   It'll be interesting to see what happens next!

Grade: A-

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Superman Unchained #8

   In my review of the last issue of this series, I predicted that Superman Unchained would wrap up early in 2015, but this issue only took two months to show up (as opposed to four months between the previous issues), so I may be wrong.

   With one issue left, they might just squeeze it in before the end of the year.

   But this is a series that will, I presume, read much better as a collection. I say this because, thanks to the gaps between issues, I can't remember the running subplots here.

   The focus in this issue is on the long-awaited knock-down, drag-out fight between Superman and the even more powerful alien Wraith.

   It gives artist Jim Lee lots of opportunities for some great action sequences as the battle ranges from the desert to outer space and the bottom of the ocean. And it's nice to see Superman using his intelligence to win a fight, rather than just slugging it out.

   As for the rest of the story, I have to admit I don't remember much about it. Something to do with Lois and Jimmy and Lex Luthor and something called the Earthstone. And apparently the Earth is facing another alien invasion of some kind.

   But it's a bad sign when I really don't remember enough about the story to care. A strong fight sequence, though, and nice to see it didn't end up with Metropolis in ruins, like a certain big-budget movie I could name.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annihilator #1

   Whenever Grant Morrison writes, attention must be paid.

   So I eagerly picked up this first issue of Annihilator, which is being published by Legendary Comics.

   It is, you should not be at all surprised to discover, intelligent, mercurial and very compelling.

   It's a story told on two levels, a story within a story. Over in what we laughingly call the real world, we find a writer trying to get work done on his next film - so he buys a strange haunted house in hopes that it'll inspire him.

   The story he's writing takes place in outer space at the heart of the galaxy, as a small outpost orbits near the universe's biggest black hole, which is know as the Annihilator.

   There we meet the criminal Max Nomax, who has been exiled to that murderously depressing site.

   And then, dear friends, things start getting really weird.

   This is not a book for children, as you might expect. There's nudity, drug use, bad words - that sort of thing. Not that kids would be likely to tackle this story - it's very challenging and quite disturbing.

   The art by Frazer Irving is dark and vivid, with powerful layouts and unique character designs - I like it a lot!

   This book isn't for everyone, of course, but it's a sharp science fiction tale with a dark twist - I'm anxious to see where it goes from here.

Grade: A

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