Thursday, February 11, 2016

All-New All-Different Avengers #5

   I've been making fun of the rambling title of this series, but I have to admit that the All-New All-Different Avengers is actually living up to its name.

   It's not taking the direction we might have expected. Just five issues in and we see one team member betraying the others - and two members are kicked off the team (the cover gives away the first).

   It also solves the continuing mystery from the last storyline - namely, the true identity of the mysterious man who has bought out the Avengers Tower.

   So things are moving fast here, and we have no idea what the next move will be. It's that sense of the unknown, the string of surprises and the interesting mix of characters that makes this series so much fun to read.

   Add in some terrific art by Mahmud Asrar and you have a strong series - it's the best of the (new and numerous) Avengers titles!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Classics - Quasar #17

   One of the under appreciated gems of the late '80s / early '90s was Marvel's Quasar.

   The series was written by Mark Gruenwald, who crafted the series with a fun, Silver Age approach.

   But the series actually incorporated a classic DC feel to the stories of Wendell Vaughn, a man named Protector of the Universe (taking up the mantle left behind by Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) when he died).

   Using the powerful Quantum Bands (which were similar to Green Lantern's Power Ring), his adventures were imaginative but science-based and evoked the classic stories of heroes like Green Lantern and the Atom.

   But this issue Gruenwald (with excellent art by Mike Manley) went full DC with a fun story that set up a race between all of Marvel's speedsters.

   As he's returning the Earth on a spaceship loaded with members of the Squadron Supreme (the Justice League, wink wink), he encounters a mysterious being known as The Runner - an Elder of the Universe who sets up a race from Earth to the moon on a high-tech racetrack.

   Those running include Quicksilver, the Eternal named Makarri, the Whizzer, Speed Demon, Super Sabre, Black Racer and the new Captain Marvel.

   The real fun starts when a mysterious new runner enters the event - an amnesiac man with long blonde hair and a shredded red costume - and yellow boots. Should I add that this issue took place not long after the "death" of a certain Scarlet Speedster in DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths?

   It was that sense of fun, with a wink and a nod of one knowing fan to another, that made this series a lot of fun.

   It was never a fan favorite, but it was one of my favorites - I miss it (and the sadly departed Gruenwald) to this day.

Grade: A

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New Comic Day

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

- All-New All-Different Avengers #5 - Ms. Marvel, an Avenger no more!

- Batman #49 - Will the real Batman please stand up?

- Flash #48 - Return of the Rogues!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #5 - Dealing with old enemies.

- Totally Awesome Hulk #3 - Fin Fang Foom!

- Starfire #9 - In a strange new land.

- All-New X-Men #4 - Pushing the limits!
 
   And that's it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

X-O Manowar #44

   Considering this comic is dedicated to the adventures of Aric, who wears the alien armor that gives him the title X-O Manowar, there's a surprisingly small amount of actual X-O content here.

   That's because the issue is given over to the battle between the human race and the Vine, an alien race that seeks asylum on the Earth - but some of that race would prefer to conquer it, instead.

   That terrorist faction is the target of X-O Manowar, who enlists the brutal and efficient aid of his ally Ninjak - which means there's lots of death and destruction on tap.

   But their part is actually small - most of the issue focuses on the efforts to protect the peaceful faction of the Vine - and the forces pushing both sides toward a terrible war.

   So, a solid issue, strong art - but the cliffhanger promises much more X-O content next time around.

Grade: B

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Johnny Red #4

   While I'm not a huge fan of the grim and gritty-type storytelling, I have to admit that I really like Johnny Red.

   It gives writer Garth Ennis a chance to tell a largely-ignored (in America) story based on the air battle during World War II - on the Russian Front.

   It's a story rich in conflicted characters and military aircraft lore.

   It centers around the title character, a Brit expatriate who has fled (or been driven from) his home country and throws in with the Russians.

   Here he's fighting to get back in the air so he can help his team, after being grounded by Russian leadership - but it'll take some trickery to get there.

   The art by Keith Burns is rough and raw - a great match for the wartime setting.

   This isn't a series for everyone - it's a "warts and all" view of war, with no punches pulled. But it's powerful and compelling - and highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Paper Girls #5

   Paper Girls shows why comics are awesome.

   This series is a jigsaw puzzle of strangeness, as four 12-year-old girls who deliver newspapers (yep, they're Paper Girls, not girls made of paper) find their lives turned into some kind of science fiction nightmare.

   The population seems to have (mostly) disappeared, there are strange figures wandering the neighborhood, strange creatures flying in the sky, and the threat of death around each corner.

   But what makes the series work is the fact that we're immediately invested in the "girls" - Erin, Mac, Tiffany and KJ - as they work together to face assorted strangeness and try to find a way to survive.

   And just when you think you're getting a grip on the series, it takes an unexpected turn.

   Kudos to Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson for crafting a unique story that makes such great use of the storytelling potential of comics.

   Strange, but highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Batgirl #48

   I'm not sure what to think about DC's comics these days.

   Rumor has it that the line will soon be rebooted into a new form soon, with new issues #1 and the characters changed to be more in line with the movie and TV versions of the characters.

   So does that mean I'm wasting my time investing any interest in the present-day comics releases? Should I prepare myself to say goodbye to this version of the characters, just as I did when the "New 52" started?

   I suspect titles like Batgirl won't be much affected by the reboot - there's no movie or TV version to draw on here, and the series isn't really broken, so it should stand. (Though we should remember the old Army saying: "If it's not broken, break it.")

   This issue features a couple of guest stars, as Black Canary and Batwing drop by for social visits, but find themselves confronting a mystery - namely, what has happened to Barbara's memories?

   For someone with a photographic memory, she's having trouble with her past. What follows is a nifty (though unfinished) tale, with great, stylish art.

   Gee, I hope they're all still friends in the "New" DC Universe!

Grade: B+

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Doctor Strange #5

   OK, let's get the complaint out of the way first - this story is taking a long time to get going.

   But it's been worth the wait.

   Up until now we've seen indications that... something... is destroying magic, and is making its way to our reality. As the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange is the first line of defense - but if his magic is failing him, how can he fight back against an overwhelming opponent?

   After four issues of build-up, with this issue, the attack finally happens - and we get a good luck at the force behind the attack.

   One of the interesting angles behind writer Jason Aaron's new take on Strange is the idea that using magic brings with it a cost - sometimes a terrible cost, and we begin to see how it affects Strange - and how he's been able to shoulder the burden so far.

   Combined with amazing art by Chris Bachalo and a small army of inkers, you've got a story that's bringing this classic hero in new and different directions.

   It's pretty impressive, actually, to find a fresh take on such a long-running character.

   Looking forward to more of this - and faster, please.

Grade: A

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