Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Doctor Who 12th Doctor: Year Three #9

   The bad news is, we're rapidly approaching the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which sadly spells the end of Peter Capaldi's run as the 12th Doctor.

   The good news is, it looks like it's going to be a lot of fun, as it reunites him with the wonderful Bill, and it introduces a new and different Doctor!

   The bad news is, it looks like Nardole's run on the series is over, and Bill may also be done.

    The good news is, their adventures continue in the Titan Comics series, and the latest issue is a solid addition to the run.

   (OK, it's just good news for the rest of this review.)

   This "done in one" issue is mostly lighthearted as the trio go on a shopping trip - but when you're a Time Lord looking for special equipment, you can't just drop by Home Depot.

   So it's off to the Ubermarket, and some fun bits scattered among the usual running for your life.

   Nothing too serious or deep - it's just a fun story for fans of all ages.

   Like I said, Good News!

Grade: B+

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Ninja-K #1

   I hate it when I find out I've been mispronouncing a comic book character's name.

   For example, I've been saying the name of Hela, the Asgardian / Marvel goddess of death, "He-lah." But in the Thor: Ragnarok movie, she was called "Hay-la."

   So now Ninjak is back in a new series, and I find that it's not "Nin-jack" - it's "Ninja-kay." Gah.

   All that should be cleared up a bit in this issue, which recaps the history of the secret program that led to the creation of the ultimate agent, Ninja-K.

   (And if you're suspecting that it all starts with someone named Ninja-A, then you're one sharp cookie.)

   We also see a new threat appear - one that may be unstoppable - and its ultimate target is Ninja-K!

   The story by Christos Gage is powerful and sheds light on some previously-hidden history (at least it was hidden to me).

   The art is by Tomas Giorello, a terrific and largely unsung artist who did amazing work on the King Conan series from Dark Horse. Here he breathes vivid life into a history lesson that's anything but dry, and throws in lots of action and heart!

   The series is off to a strong start, and this is a perfect jumping-on point for Ninja-K! Best of all, you'll avoid the shame of saying his name wrong (like some guys I could name)!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1

   If you would be a success in comics, my child, a great first step is getting a rave review / quote from a legend like Neil Gaiman, whose says: "I was seduced by Cynthia Von Buhler's artwork. She is a wonder."

   See, that would get me to pick up a comic.

   The topic doesn't hurt, either. So meet Mindy Woolcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini.

   She's a unique force in her time - an intelligent, ambitious woman who's driven to succeed in a business that doesn't want her - namely, her father's detective agency.

   Unfortunately, he doesn't agree and only allows her to work as his secretary - but when he's away, she there to meet a famous client: Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a one-time friend of Harry Houdini.

   He wants to hire a detective to investigate Houdini - and Mindy jumps at the chance, although it will take her to some seedy places.

   The story and art are by Von Buhler, and it's compelling stuff. The art is very expressive and down to Earth, to the point of being almost grimy.

   It's an unique series aimed at mature readers, and well worth tracking down.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

   So finally, after a long wait, the Justice League has arrived on the big screen.

   The good news is: I didn't hate it.

   The bad news is: it has problems. 

   The movie is all about putting the band together, following up on story threads laid out in the execrable Batman v Superman movie and the mostly-delightful Wonder Woman movie.

   So we find Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who's been fighting crime in Gotham for 20 years and is showing his age. He discovers the threat of an alien invasion, and when Diana (the luminous Gal Gadot) checks in with the same warning, they go in search of allies - namely, Aquaman (played with Surfer Dude / Point Break brio by Jason Momoa), the Flash (played with nervous energy and humor by Ezra Miller), and the mysterious Cyborg (played with a brooding intensity by Ray Fisher).

   The loss of Superman (Henry Cavill) at the end of BvS has left the Earth vulnerable, and the CGI monster known as Steppenwolf (the voice of Claran Hinds) brings an army of Parademons to conquer the planet - and considering what happened the first time he attacked the planet (depicted in a terrific flashback battle sequence), it looks bad for our side.

   So you can guess where it all goes, with the heroes trying to stop Steppenwofl before he can find the elements he needs to finish his plans.

   In a lot of ways this movie is a delight. As a longtime fan, it's wonderful to see these heroes working together - but the interactions are a bit clumsy, and the attempt at humor often fall flat. But at least there is some humor in there and a general feeling that the heroes are trying to help people. They even go out of their way to rescue innocent civilians (which would have been unheard of in Man of Steel or BvS).

   But the story just seems to stutter along, with no sense of urgency. When danger threatens the world, the heroes decide to... rest up for the evening, and then get down to the job at hand. (Oh, and while I'm throwing out problems, please: cut out the casual profanity - it's not needed; eliminate the random brutal deaths; and replace the Flash's costume - it just doesn't work, and the running effect needs tweaking. The super-speed stuff is great, but when they show him running it. looks. terrible.)

   Look, this is definitely the best of the "new" DC films (which include Suicide Squad, Man of Steel and BvS). They still have some work to do to get on the level of Marvel's films, but they're getting closer. They have a great cast and a really strong supporting cast, including Alfred (the wry Jeremy Irons), Lois Lane (the lovely but tough Amy Adams) and Commissioner Gordon (the amazing J.K. Simmons). 

   They have a solid team together (with room for more), and they have a much better tone and mix of personalities to work with.

   They just need a better opponent - and some better writing (and consistency) through the whole movie. 

   (Oh, and I was very happy to see Gardner Fox credited as the creator of the Justice League (of America) - but why no credit for Mike Sekowsky, who drew the book for its first eight (or so) years? Or Julius Schwartz, the editor who probably dreamed up the concept?)

Grade: B

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Friday, November 17, 2017

The Incredible Hulk #710

   For the Incredible Hulk it's back to Planet Hulk again for the first time.

    Let me explain.

   This version of the Hulk is not Bruce Banner, who paid a memorable visit to the world Sakaar, fought a number of strange alien creatures, overthrew the government and became ruler.

   This time around, it's the Amadeus Cho version of the character, who finds himself in deadly danger, fighting the Warlord of Sakaar for the lives of a threatened tribe.

   But who will win the day - the genius side of Cho, or the animal side of the Hulk?

   As always, Greg Pak writes a powerful story and Greg Land's art is terrific, crafting beautiful and / or intense creatures and a strange world for them to inhabit.

    The issue suffers slightly from gladiatorial creep - the traditional "face impossible odds in the fighting arena" bit - but the action is fierce and it'll be fun to see where the story goes from here.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Not Brand Echh #14

   There's been a bit of a publishing gap between issues #13 and #14 of Not Brand Echh.

   To be exact, it's been 48 years.

   When the first issue appeared in 1967, I was stunned - it featured work by some of Marvel's top creators - including a Fantastical Four pastiche by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (!!)  - and it was absolutely hysterical.

   The issues that followed jabbed Marvel's greatest heroes (Ironed Man! Charlie America!) and even their competition's characters (Stuporman! Gnatman and Rotten!) - and 11-year-old Chuck was a huge fan.

   I wish I could say the same about the latest installment, but geezer Chuck (who, admittedly, is not the target audience), read this issue without ever managing to laugh out loud. (I did smile a few times.)

   The problem is that the issue is making fun of modern conceits (Cap is a member of Hydra! Deadpool and Gwenpool are everywhere! Let's give all the heroes new female counterparts!) - and the humorous takes are too close to what we're actually seeing in the comics.

   Well, that's probably too harsh - younger readers might get a huge kick out of this comic, since it focuses on their heroes.

    As for me, I'll keep hoping for the return of the Fantastical Four. Or, you know, the actual Fantastic Four.

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AMERICAN GODS #9 - The dead start piling up.

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (OF 6) - Bug meets OMAC!

- CHAMPIONS #14 - Worlds collide!

- DEFENDERS #7 - Kingpins of New York!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #381 - Loki is the Sorcerer Supreme?

- HAWKEYE #12 - Fed up with clones!

- INCREDIBLE HULK #710 - Return to Planet Hulk!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #33 - METAL tie-in!

- MAESTROS #2 - What is wizarding school like?

- MAGE HERO DENIED #4 (OF 15) - Kevin must fight a goddess!

- NOT BRAND ECHH #14 - The return of Forbush Man!

- MIGHTY THOR #701 - Death is on the way.

- WILD STORM #9 - Discovering alien tech!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #5 (OF 5) - Showdown with Mad Mary!


     And I received these review copies:

- ACTIONVERSE ONGOING #3 STRAY - Wrapping up the Rottweiler Years!

- ASPEN UNIVERSE DECIMATION #2 - Time for decimation!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #3 - Daddy dear.

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #9 - The Doctor, Bill and Nardole!

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #4 - Facing his greatest enemies!

- KID SHERLOCK VOL 01 - Collecting the first adventures of the kid detective.

- MINKY WOODCOCK GIRL WHO HANDCUFFED HOUDINI #1 - Solving a mystery around Houdini!

- MISBEGOTTEN RUNAWAY NUN #3 - Lots of familiar faces.

- NINJA-K #1 - New series!

- PENNY DREADFUL #7 - Continuing the TV series.

- PRINCELESS RAVEN YEAR 2 #1 LOVE AND REVENGE - Adventure on the high seas!

- PUPPET MASTER CURTAIN CALL #1 - The final chapter!

- SHINOBI NINJA PRINCESS LIGHTNING ONI #3 - When it rains, it pours!

- WARHAMMER 40000 FALLEN #2 (OF 4) - Can the Dark Angels be destroyed?
     And that's it! Whew!