Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DC Universe Rebirth #1


   After five years of the "New 52," DC has finally admitted that the reboot was (mostly) a mistake.

   They haven't admitted it in so many words, of course - but DC Universe Rebirth makes it obvious.

   Written by Geoff Johns, the story hinges on the idea that the DC universe is broken - cut off from its origins, its legacy - its heart and soul. (I will not argue with that.)

   The "New 52" included some good stories, but far too many moved away from the core of the characters, stripping away the Teen Titans, the Flash Family, Superman's supporting cast, the Legion of Super-heroes and on and on. In the attempt to be new and edgy, it jettisoned too much of the backstory on its characters - some of the things that made them so popular in the first place.

   It's the same problem we've seen with the films Man of Steel and Batman v Superman - and Rebirth is an attempt to correct the course of the DC Universe.

   (By the way, I can't urge you strongly enough to try to avoid spoilers here.)

   The story starts and ends with a mystery narrator, and brings back a classic (and much-missed) character to jump-start the change that's rippling across the DC Universe - one that hearkens back to the event that started the New 52, Flashpoint.

   The story is like a wonderful Easter Egg hunt, as we touch base with characters long-missing (some I thought were dead) - we get a quick update on others and we witness an emotional, heartfelt reunion.

   The twist at the end is a genuine shock (a true rarity in comics) and suggests a new dynamic for the entire company - and boy, does it need it!

   I have no idea if "Rebirth" is going to work (New 52 certainly didn't). I applaud the change in tone, I think they're on the right track - but I don't like the idea of twice-monthly comics (even at $2.99 per issue), and some of the ads in the back of the issue leave me cold. But others show great promise!

   I'm hopeful that it will work. I didn't last long with the "New 52" - by the end, I was only buying Batman and Flash (more out of nostalgia than anything) and the Justice League. I'd like to buy more - and I hope to give many of the new issues a try - but the company has some ground to make up and good will to earn back.

   This is just the first step - but it's a good start.

 Grade: A

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New Comics Day

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

- Captain America #1 - Thanks for spoiling the surprise ending, Facebook.

- DC Universe Rebirth #1
- So long, "New 52."

- Daredevil #7 - Elektra has a secret!

- Doctor Strange #8 - Looking for magic in all the wrong places.

- Flash #52 - Showdown with the Riddler and the Rogues!

- Patsy Walker aka Hellcat - #6 - Summer fun!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #6 - Hulk vs. Thor!

- Justice League #50 - The end of the Darkseid War!

- Star Wars #19 - Stopping a prison break.

- Mighty Thor #7 - Fighting the world's mightiest Viking!

And that's it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wynonna Earp #4

   Zombies are all the rage, and it was just a matter of time before they reared their undead heads in the direction of Wynonna Earp.

   Of course, as a monster-hunting Marshal with the Black Badge Division, she'd have it no other way - and where other titles (which shall go unnamed) would stretch a plague of zombies over dozens (or hundreds) of issues, Wynonna and her fellow enforcers show how to expedite the matter.

   Beau Smith provides a fast and funny adventure set in the shopping mall of the damned, as a scientist (we won't say he's mad - but he is pretty wacky) turns shoppers into the army of the dead!

   The art is by Lora Innes, and it's wonderful - she captures the likenesses of the actors, infuses lots of energy and animation (and a health dollop of gore) and a wonderful sense of humor into the proceedings.

    The series captures the verbal interplay between the characters and ties in nicely to the cast of the TV show on SyFy (which is quite good - if you're not already, you should be watching this show. It's a great mix of horror, action and humor, with great writing and feisty characters.)

   What more do you need?

Grade: A

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Clandestino #3

   If you're looking for a great "B" movie in comic book form, you can't go wrong with Clandestino.

   It's the straightforward story of a man who has sacrificed his body to save the woman he loves from a grisly prison.

   Barely surviving some terrible injuries, he is nursed back to health by the beautiful Leena - but how long can he continue to fight against overwhelming odds?

   It's a rough-and-tumble, fight-for-your-life, bare-knuckles-and-brutal-fight-for-life all rolled into a powerful issue by artist / writer Amancay Nahuelpan.

   The question is, will Clandestino and Leena survive the attack that's coming?

   This is he first comic in a long time that I read the ending and I thought, "How the heck are they going to survive this?"

   Can't wait to see what happens next!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

X-O Manowar Annual #1

   At least once a year I feel compelled to break out my old man rant that "today's annuals aren't as good as they were when I was a kid."

   This stems from the beloved Marvel Annuals in the '60s that told epic stories (Atlantis invades New York! Dr. Doom's origin! Spider-Man fights the Sinister Six!).

   Modern annuals tend to be more like slightly larger (and more expensive) versions of regular issues.

   To their credit, the creative teams involved in the X-O Manowar Annual take a different approach, as they craft five different stories that shine a light on different corners of Aric's life and legend.

   Those stories include: a quick origin recap of the title hero; a look at Aric's brutal childhood; an ally discovers a long-hidden secret about her past; a deadly enemy joins forces with secret allies; and there's a teaser for a major story unfolding.

   The writing is strong and the art is very good, so this is definitely a strong entry in the annals of modern annuals - but it's still not up to the classic version.

   (But I am a geezer, so keep that in mind.)

Grade: B+

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank #1

    Back again for more hell-raising is the cult favorite Tank Girl, the legendary anarchist who just wants to have fun.

   Originally created in 1988 by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, Tank Girl has appeared in a number of series, mini-series - and a feature film!

   She's back in a new title by writer Alan Martin and artist Brett Patterson, and she hasn't lost a step.

   But she has lost her tank (which doubles as her home and her weapon of choice), thanks to her mutant kangaroo husband Booga, who lost it in a card game.

   Never daunted, the two and their best friend Barney (who's a female) set out on a daring crime, but they're destined to meet another kindred spirit - and lots of law enforcement officials.

   This is a fun, high-energy series. It's not for kids - there's adult language and some nudity - it's morally dubious, but all in good fun.

Grade: A-

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Civil War II #0

   Since the movie is (deservedly) a huge hit, it's no surprise that Marvel has gone back to the well with Civil War II.

   There's one thing missing this time around - Captain America.

   This time around, it looks like the conflict is going to be between Iron Man and a different Captain - this one is named Marvel.

   This issue #0 (I hate issues numbered zero on general principle, I should admit) doesn't give us much to chew on.

   There's some nice artwork by the always-excellent Olivier Coipel, but the script by Brian Michael Bendis is disturbing - and not in the ways he intended.

   We're just given a handful of scenes without much in the way of context. For example: She-Hulk argues in a case defending a retired super-villain threatened with prison for having a discussion of his past crimes; War Machine (James Rhodes) meets with the President (carefully covered so you can't identify him) who promises to make Rhodey the next president (can he do that?); Captain Marvel meets with Doc Sampson (I thought he was dead?), who does some not-so-subtle analyzing of her state of mind; and the Terrigen Mist sweeps across a campus in Ohio, leaving behind a few cocoons, and three new Inhumans.

   How does all that tie together? I have no idea - and the closing pages depict a scene that makes no sense at all. Is it a scene of destruction, an illusion, a vision of the future, or something else? No clue.

   Heroes fighting each other is a Marvel staple, and the movie Captain America: Civil War shows how to do it right. The original mini-series, Civil War, shows how to do it badly.

   We'll see which category this series ultimately falls into.

Grade: B-

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Future Quest #1

   Of all the comics that came out this week, Future Quest was the one I was most looking forward to.

   That's because it brings together a surprising array of my favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoon heroes that once populated Saturday morning television.

   The trick, of course, is: how do you bring such a disparate group together?

   Among the characters depicted on the cover are Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, the Herculoids, Birdman, the Mighty Mightor, Frankenstein, Jr., and the Impossibles.

   The story uses Dr. Quest (Jonny's dad) and a mysterious discovery to provide cover for the ultimate team-up, and it gets off to a rollicking good start here.

   The story by Jeff Parker is true to the original creations while updating them to modern sensibilities, all while keeping the focus on fun, adventure and friendship (how great to see Jonny and Hadji flying over the Everglades with their flight packs)!

   The art is a perfect update of the original designs - clean and fresh, loaded with energy and high spirits - and who better to provide the art than Evan "Doc" Shaner and Steve Rude?

   These characters came along at the perfect time in my childhood - I was about 10 years old when they hit, and as we all know, "The Golden Age is 10."

   So I'm thrilled to see them back in action, and I can't wait to see where this series goes next.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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