Friday, June 24, 2016

Doctor Strange #9

   One of the things I really like about this "Last Days of Magic" story that's been rampaging through the pages of Doctor Strange is the way that his Sanctum Sanctorum has become something of a character in its own right, as it withstands the onslaught of the science-based Empirikul.

   That force is trying to stamp out magic - and has largely succeeded, reducing the world's greatest magicians to using a handful of remaining weapons to use in their fight to survive.

   They have another ally - a mysterious creature of darkness that was locked in the basement, but now threatens to break loose.

   The creative team of writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo (working with six inkers) has crafted a powerful, original story - and it wraps up next issue (it says here), which is good - much longer and it would have been too much.

   As it is, it's a great kickoff to the latest series to star the Sorcerer Supreme.

Grade: A

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Guest Review - Jughead #7

    Stepping into the Guest Review chair is my pal and long-time comics fan James Cassara, with a review of a comic that's actually funny:
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   Have a lately mentioned how much I love the new direction that the Archie Comics line is taking? 
   I’m the first to admit I was more than a bit leery - as a long-time fan of the Riverdale set I hardly thought the line needed updating and I was especially upset that venerable artist Dan Parent was seemingly kicked to the curb. I say seemingly, because I now find out he’s doing plenty of work for the Archie digests, which continue the traditional approach to those never aging but always evolving teenagers.  Viva La Parent! 
   As to the comic at hand, there’s little to quibble about. Regular series artist Erica Henderson, whom I recently met at Heroes Con and found to be every bit as delightful as she is talented, takes a hiatus and gives way to Derek Charm.  
   His style is a bit slicker, less nuanced, but definitely within the framework of current Archie artists. It doesn’t excite me but neither does it in any way detract from the story, and his layouts are clear and easy to follow.  
   What keeps this issue afloat is the top notch story by series writer Chip Zdarsky, whose grasp of what makes Jughead, well Jughead, is spot on. In this story our crown-wearing burger-consuming slackster is “gently persuaded” (okay, kicked out) the door and ordered to cease spending his days playing video games and get some sort of job “so you can eventually help pay for the college degree you’ll barely get so you can eventually get another job you don’t want!” Ha, take that, number one son! 
   So Jughead meanders down to the Riverdale pool where Archie has secured employment. What better for our carrot topped Romeo than to while away the summer around bikini clad beauties?  
   Jug eventually convinces Archie to spend a few days at the log cabin owned by their mutual friend Dilton (on a clever side note, the cabin is near Camp Lucey, a lovely nod to the great Archie artist Harry Lucey) where they stumble upon, of all things, the Reggie Mantle family reunion.  
   What ensues is the expected hilarity, including a snide comment from Jughead about Reggie lusting after his own cousins, and the usual hijinks. Tired of discovering that everyone in the Mantle clan acts exactly like Reggie they take off to find said camp which, Archie “conveniently” neglects to tell Jughead, is populated strictly by the female side of our species.    
   The two get lost and, as the story ends (to be concluded next issue) they find themselves in a, let’s just say, “unbearable” dilemma. There is more snappy dialogue and plot than is found in any number of bloated six issue superhero miniseries, and the vintage Jughead reprints only add to an already fine comic.
   I doubt this review will convince many comic readers to give the Archie Comics line a try, but that won’t stop me from singing their praises. 
   Like any long term series it has had its ups and downs but the past couple of years have been a definite high point in the life of those lovable teens from Riverdale. 

Grade: A 
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Flash #1

    The thing that gets me about The Flash is that, for a high-speed character, his stories often spill out very slowly.

    This new version of the series (actually not much different from the previous series, aside from a talented new creative team) gives us yet another recap of the Flash's origin, reestablishes Barry Allen's job as a "Police Scientist" (think CSI) and introduces his supporting cast.

   That includes Iris West, with a hint of possible future romantic possibilities (which will make longtime fans - like me - happy), and the new version of Wally West, who will apparently somehow coexist along with the just-returned original version.

   There's some good action along the way, a new villain introduced (at least he's new to me) and a rather mysterious ending - so the story ends just as it starts to pick up speed.

   But it's a solid start for the classic character and a real improvement over the "New 52" version.

Grade: A-

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New Comics Day

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

- Archie #9 - I wonder what the poor folks are doing tonight?

- Detective Comics #935 - Training Day.

- Doctor Strange #9 - What's in the basement? 

- Flash #1 - The storm strikes!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #7 - What happened to puny Banner?

- Justice League #52 - What's the deal with Lex Luthor?

- Mighty Thor #8 - That is one crazy board meeting.

- Usagi Yojimbo #155 - What is a hell screen?

- Wonder Woman #1 - What if everything is s lie?

And I received review copies of:

- Blacklist #10 

- Divinity II #3
- Puss in Boots #3
- Rai #14 
And that's it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #8

   Boy, when this series gets dark, it doesn't mess around.

   At the end of the last storyline, the Eternal Warrior - Gilad Anni-Padda - died protecting the Earth.

   One the other side, he was reunited with his beloved family - but soon, he is called back to his duties. To return to the world of the living, he had to fight his way back through a hellscape of demons.

   But when he returns to life he finds himself in a mysterious and very deadly Labyrinth.

   Its owner has built it for the specific purpose of learning the secret of Gilad's immortality - which means he has to "kill" Gilad over and over, all of which is depicted in horrifying fashion herein.

   How can Gilad fight back and solve the Labyrinth? Good question!

   Certainly not for the faint of heart, this story is expertly crafted by writer Robert Venditti and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin.

   Gilad is a great character, adaptable to many different kinds of stories - including this one, that skillfully combines science fiction and adventure with horror.  

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 20, 2016

King's Quest #1

   Stepping in to the Guest Review chair is my pal Glen Davis, with a review of a series that is not based on the classic computer game with the same title (I'm showing my age here). It's all about a team-up of some of the world's most famous comic strip characters.

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   King's Quest is a sequel mini-series to the Kings Watch mini-series of last year.

   Once again, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, Prince Valiant and the Phantom team up to fight Ming the Merciless

   Only in this series there are TWO Phantoms: Lothar is still masquerading as The Ghost Who Walks, but he's found the true heir to the Phantom legacy: Dale Arden's secretary. 

   The group land on Mongo and meet up with Jungle Jim to fight some of Ming's troops. The troops are easily defeated, but the group learns that on Mongo, two years have passed since Kings Watch, and a lot has happened since then.

   Can't say I'm a fan of this new Phantom, who is supposed to provide comedic relief, but spends most of the time complaining. 

   Other than that, a fun issue.


Grade: B

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Justice League #51

   I thought I was really going to like this issue.

   It's a bit of a throwback, apparently set early after the origin of the Justice League, as Batman brings Robin (Dick Grayson) in to meet the team.

   Sounds like fun, right?

   During the introduction the team promptly starts acting like bullies, teasing Batman about hanging out with a kid - apparently not caring how their insults will hurt the Boy Wonder's feelings.

   Of course, in the ensuing battle (there's always an ensuing battle), Robin gets the change to prove himself as a trio of odd, time-lost menaces threaten the team.

   There's also a mysterious big bad lurking in the background, threatening more destruction.

   The team somewhat redeems its earlier actions - but not completely (and considering that almost every member of the team, except maybe Cyborg and Wonder Woman, have also - or will eventually - work with younger heroes, they come across as hypocrites here).

   C'mon, JL - you're heroes. Act like it!

Grade: B

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Batman #1

   For the opening issue of the new Batman series, the creative team has that hero tackling the kind of job you'd usually see Superman handling - a plane falling out of the sky.

   The story is touching and fantastic, very dramatic, and I like the art - but I don't believe for a minute that what Batman does in this issue is at all possible.

   No human could stand on an airliner without protective gear, and he certainly couldn't hang on (or swing around on the plane) via a Bat-rope.

   I could go on and on and nit-pick the story to death, but that would be silly - this is a comic and you generally have to shelve your sense of disbelief at some point.

   But this issue forced my sense of disbelief to jump up and down and shake its little fist.

   Nice start, nice cliffhanger, but ultimately a very silly story.

Grade: B

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