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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Monday, August 25, 2014

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1

   This is an odd bit of business.

   This issue of Sensation Comics doesn't seem to be placed in the "New 52" universe at all. It features (mostly) classic, pre-New-52 versions of Batman's Rogue's Gallery attacking Gotham, but (for reasons I'm not clear on), Batman isn't around to deal with them.

   So Oracle (Barbara Gordon) calls in another hero - Wonder Woman.

   I'm torn - I'm not sure if the issue is a slam on Batman or on his villains.

   Wonder Woman scarcely seems challenged by the gathering (and don't get me started on the odd dream sequence that feels completely out of place).

   The art by Ethan Van Sciver is excellent - like the story, it's something of a throwback to a clean, classic look for Diana, with powerful layouts and great character stylings.

   While I'm a bit on the fence about the story, I'm glad to see this peek at the pre-52 world. If it were up to me, the whole DC line would move in this direction.

Grade: B

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Daredevil #7

   OK, I'm impressed.

   This issue of Daredevil manages to accomplish a couple of things I didn't expect - it finally reveals the long-hidden reasons why Matt Murdock's mother left their family when he was a baby - and it tackles a serious subject, one that isn't much discussed, but should be.

   Writer Mark Waid, thankfully, is the one managing this sensitive subject, and he does so with intelligence and insight, but never with a heavy-handed approach.

   It spins off of a long-ago story written by Frank Miller, which revealed that his mother had become a nun. In this story, she is taken to the nation of Wakanda to face justice for her protests again a secret research project that nation is involved in - but luckily, her son is a heckuva lawyer.

   Of course, there's plenty of action along the way, as Daredevil must invade the nation that has never been successfully invaded, he must fight the ruling Black Panther (who is no longer his old friend T'Challa), and find a way to save his mother and get her safely home. A tall order!

   It's a smart, sensitive story, with wonderful illustrations by Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez.

   With a great grasp of character, perfectly steeped in Marvel's rich history, and loaded with clever plot twists and turns, this continues to be an exceptional series. You really should be buying it.

Grade: A

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Justice Inc. #1 (of 6)

   I've been a fan of pulp heroes since I first picked up one of the Bantam paperback reprints of Doc Savage in the early '70s.

   I also got hooked on The Shadow and The Avenger in the same way.

   It was only natural that their adventures should migrate over to comic books - after all, their exploits inspired more than a few of today's most popular heroes.

   But there's always a big problem with bringing those heroes to life in modern-day comics. Do you try to bring them up to the modern-day world - always problematic, because you have to explain with they're still young and vibrant - or do you set the stories in the 1930s and '40s, when they originally appeared?

   Which is to say, will modern audiences accept a story set 60 or 70 years ago?

   For Justice Inc - which is, I believe, the first-ever team-up of all three of these characters - writer Michael Uslan is taking the Solomon approach by using both periods.

   The story begins in the modern era, as Doc Savage (older but somehow still vital despite being, what, 100 years old) embarks on a remarkable experiment in time travel. He succeeds (to a certain degree), and the story reaches back to the '30s, when his career - and that of The Shadow - are just starting.

   The story also includes Richard (The Avenger) Benson, but it's set before the terrible event that changes his life - and his mission - forever.

   The whole thing is a bit confusing in places, but I trust Uslan knows where he's going.

   The art is by Giovanni Timpano, and it's solid stuff, with good depictions of each character. It only suffers when held next to the extraordinary cover by Alex Ross, with iconic depictions of each hero.

   Quibbles aside, it's great to see these characters gathered together and given a worthy opponent. I'm in for the run!

Grade: B+

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Friday, August 22, 2014

New Avengers #23

    OK, I've been grumping about New Avengers lately, because it's been painting the heroes into a very bad corner - one that leaves them undistinguishable from the villains.

    It's a cosmic problem, as alternate Earths are infringing on our Earth, and the only choice for this team is to destroy the other team before it destroys theirs.

   Last issue, a member of the group had to make the call they've been dreading - to destroy an inhabited planet to preserve their own.

   This issue the heroes face the end of the world - each in their own way - and the story takes a surprising turn. It's a powerful payoff after a long buildup, and it's going to be very interesting to see where it all goes from here.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Multiversity #1

   Someone (sorry, can't remember who) commented recently, "Thank goodness DC got rid of that confusing Earth-1 and Earth-2  business - and replaced it with 52 alternate Earths."

   But that abundance has created fertile ground for the unique mind of writer Grant Morrison, who has (apparently) been given free rein to craft a free-wheeling mythology in the pages of Multiversity.

   As you'd expect, it's very... different. It begins with the last of the Monitors visiting an Earth on the verge of destruction. Its only hope is a gathering of some of the greatest heroes from across the multiverse, including Superman (but not the one from Earth-1), Captain Carrot and several others.

   They journey to alternate Earths, meet some very familiar (if different) heroes, including certain Marvel alternates (which is only fair, given recent events in the New Avengers).

   It's all fast, furious and sharp as can be. This is a series that will bear re-reading - it's dense with ideas, concepts and gags.

   The art is by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, and it's exceptional - from mammoth cosmic beings to superhero battles to alternate realities, it's all crafted with a strong sense of layout and heroic design.

   This certainly isn't for everyone - it will take multiple readings to catch a lot of the bits carefully built into the story - but especially for longtime or dedicated fans, it's well worth the effort.

Grade: A

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Classics - Metal Men #51

   I've been a fan of the Metal Men since their earliest appearances - but to say they've struggled to get an audience would be an understatement.

   The original version was an odd mix of science fiction and humor for children, as inventor "Doc" Magnus created human-like robots, each based on a different metal.

   So Gold, Iron, Lead, Tin, Mercury and Platinum each had powers based on the unique properties of that metal, and the heart and mind of each was contained in a device called a Responsometer.

   No matter how badly they're damaged, Doc can repair them - so the whole team can be destroyed, but will be ready to go back into action by the next issue.

   But the stories were borderline crazy. The team would face all kinds of strange monsters and menaces, and each character either had no personality (Gold, Iron), strange faults (Lead is dim, Tin stutters and has no self-confidence) or are overly emotional (Platinum, Mercury).

   It never really caught on (in terms of sales). Eventually the team got desperate - they adopted human disguises, traded creative teams, and were finally canceled.

   The series was brought back in the late '70s with a jump-start by artist Walt Simonson (who provides the cover here), but his stay was a short one.

   By the time this issue arrived, the team was back to a silly phase. The issue features a forgettable story by Jack C. Harris and Martin Pasko, as the team works together to stop a strange (and flimsy) evil plot.

   The art is by Joe Staton, and it's the best thing about this issue. Staton ha a great flair for comic art (in the best sense of the word "comic"), and provides great visuals here as the team bumbles around, searching for the bad guy.

   It's all very slim and disjointed, so it's no surprise that the series was canceled not long after. But it keeps coming back for more!

   The team has just been introduced to the "New 52," in a more serious vein, but only time will tell if the group will catch on.

   Sadly - I wouldn't bet any money on it.

Grade: C+

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New Comics Day

   A slim days at the comics shop this week. I picked up:

- Brain Boy #4 - Taking on a hive mind!

- Daredevil #7 - Invading Wakanda!

- Justice Inc. #1 - Couldn't pass up Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger 
teaming up for the first time.

 - Multiversity #1 - Morrison runs wild on the DC Universe!

 - New Avengers #23 - the end of the world.

- Sensation Comics #1 - Wonder Woman faces the Batman's greatest foes!

   And that's it!