Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guest Review: Rose and the Thorn #1

Our man Glen Davis is back with another guest review - this time looking to one of the newest additions to DC's ever-expanding "New 52."

Being a fan of Showcase and First Issue Special, I was enthusiastic about the advent of National Comics, where DC introduces us to an updated character with a one-shot comic, which also provides the seeds for a whole new series if the concept catches on with an audience.

Unfortunately, with Rose and the Thorn, the execution is lacking. I don't believe that any of the three characters introduced so far are going to go anywhere, despite having some name talent working on them.

Rose and Thorn is a character with origins in the Golden Age. Then a villainess for the Jay Garrick version of The Flash, she was thought cured and married Green Lantern Alan Scott, and they had two children that would later become Infinity Inc. members, Jade and Obsidian.

Later, created in the 1970s, Rhosyn "Rose" Forrest was a split personality vigilante, who fought in her Thorn persona while the Rose personality was asleep.

And now DC goes to the well again.

The book opens promisingly enough, with a little bit of mystery and pathos, but all too soon becomes cliche-ridden to the point of distraction.

Both Rose and Thorn are basically checklists of "nice" and "naughty" attributes. Indeed, only one character, Rose's best friend, is not a complete stereotypical caricature, and even in that case, it's a close thing.

Can't recommend this at all. It's a lot cheaper just to watch the 1990s Aerosmith videos with Alicia Silverstone.

Grade: D

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Talon #0

Spinning out of the incredibly popular Batman "Court of the Owls" story is Talon.

It focuses on the one that got away. The Talons are a small army of enforcers / fighters / killers who are brainwashed and manipulated into becoming servants of the Owls.

But not the star of this issue. Calvin Rose is a boy who escapes a difficult childhood and makes a life-long habit out of escaping from difficult situations. He's recruited to join the Talons, but it's not a great fit.

The problem is, it's not an easy assignment to walk away from.

It's a sharp first issue, with an interesting story structure (which hops around through the past and present) and a compelling character in the spotlight.

I like the art by Guillem March a lot - it has flashes of Kubert in there, along with strong layouts and good character designs.

The story by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder gets the whole thing off to a flying start - though you can't help but wonder what will happen when this Talon runs into a certain Owl-hating Batman.

Should be fun!

So far, a strong start for this series.

Grade: A-


Friday, September 28, 2012

Wolverine and the X-Men #17

After all the deadly serious goings-ons in the X-universe, this issue of Wolverine and the X-Men offers some blessed relief.

Artist Mike Allred, who has a fun style that evokes the Silver Age, tackles this issue with a real sense of joy and energy.

Writer Jason Aaron focuses on an odd creature who's part of the staff at the Jean Grey School for Gifted Children - the weird little green blob named Doop.

That character first appeared in the X-Statix comic (also drawn by Allred), and the issue goes to great comic lengths to explain why Wolverine was so anxious to have Doop on the staff.

It's a bit of a mystery to the other residents, since he seems to be a degenerate who spends most of his time sleeping, but as we see, he does have his (its?) strong points.

It's a fast and funny issue that might give continuity sticklers a stroke, but it's all in fun, and it offers a free-wheeling adventure that's well worth tackling.

Grade: A-


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Aquaman #0

It's sad to see the run of writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis (with Joe Prado inking) coming to an end soon - they've turned out some impressive work in their first year on the job, and made Aquaman one of the best of the "New 52" comics.

And finally, one of Johns' "Zero" comics sticks to the formula, here taking us back six years to a tragic moment in Arthur Curry's life - his father is dying, and he decides to discover the secrets behind his Atlantean origin.

But the ocean is a mighty big place.

This issue is really a chance for Reis to show off, as quite a few pages have no dialogue. Aquaman explores the ocean and discovers more about himself and his place in it all.

Not much else to say that wouldn't give away too much, but it's an excellent issue and a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about DC's premiere undersea hero.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Comics Day!

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

- Aquaman #0 - Back to the beginning.

- Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3 (of 4) - Loads of guest stars.

- FF #22 - A little father-son chat.

- Flash #0 - A tragic beginning.

- Hawken #6 - Showdown with a monster.

- Invincible Iron Man #525 - Taking on the Mandarin.

- Journey Into Mystery #644 - Going to the dogs.

- Popeye #5 - Hey, it's a continuing series now.

- The Shadow Annual #1 - Against the dragon.

- Spider #5 - Gas attack!

- Talon #0 - Springing out of the Council of Owls story.

- Winter Soldier #11 - Teaming up with Hawkeye.

- Wolverine and the X-Men #17 - Special Doop issue with Mike Allred art - cool!

And that's it!

Classic Comics: Scorpio Rose #1

This comic marked, in many ways, a turning point for the comics industry. I was captivated by Scorpio Rose when this comic first appeared in 1983 - but it was a three-issue mini-series that never quite ended - in the normal sense.

After a long and distinguished run at Marvel, Steve Englehart jumped ship and went over to DC Comics, where he enjoyed a brief but excellent run on comics like Justice League of America and Detective Comics.

He also wrote a couple of issues of Madame Xanadu - but when his relationship with that company fell apart, he took his work and walked.

Over at the newly-formed Eclipse Comics, they offered Englehart a chance to create his own character, so he fashioned a thinly-disguised (but considerably more adult) version of Madame Xanadu.

Rose is a gypsy with a dark, mysterious past - and the story of her long life is brutal and frightening, as she faces the unstoppable demon who changed her life when she was young.

It's a tale of love, betrayal and magic, wonderfully illustrated by the incredible Marshall Rogers.

The two - Englehart and Rogers - crafted some amazing comics over the course of their work together, including Batman, Coyote and Mister Miracle.

And that's the frustrating thing about this "series" - one more issue was published (nine months after the first issue), but the third never appeared! I looked and looked for it, but never found it - because it was never printed.

Apparently Rogers was busy with other work and by the time he got around to working on it, Englehart decided it was better to leave the issue unpublished, rather than printing it years after the fact.

It finally saw the light of day in an unfinished form - in the back of a Coyote collection, Englehart included the rough artwork and story for that final issue.

It was a shame - a terrific character, a heck of a story - but the readers were left hanging. Heck, it still makes me mad. If you start something, you should finish it - better late than never.

Still, a great issue, and one-third of a great series.

Grade: A


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dead Man's Run #3

As I've written in past reviews, I'm generally on board with this kind of "what happens after you die" story.

And I enjoyed the first two issues in Dead Man's Run, as they offered a look at the grim existence in hell.

A young man, Sam Tinker, who has a genius for maps, plots an escape and recruits a offbeat group of murderers to make a run at it.

Along the way they face monsters, demons and destruction - but the story seems to be unraveling because of the old problem with magic-based stories: since there are no rules, anything can happen - even if it doesn't make much sense.

So we have the Warden (who's fond of chains) trying an escape of her own for vague reasons, monsters that seem indestructible until they aren't, an innocent guy in prison who shows he's not all that innocent, and a complete lack of sympathetic characters (except for a sister who's never seen).

The art by Tony Parker is good, though liberally sprinkled with gore and grisly moments.

With a lack of sympathetic characters and a muddled story, this series seems to be fading fast.

Hopefully next issue can get this race back on track.

Grade: C+


Monday, September 24, 2012

Sword of Sorcery #1

At the risk of losing my manly credit, I have to admit that I was a fan of the original Amethyst comics.

It was an interesting combination of children's story and sword and sorcery adventure, all illustrated by the terrific Ernie Colon.

DC has (somewhat surprisingly) revived the character in Sword of Sorcery, along with a backup feature starring a new version of Beowulf.

The opening story by Christy Marx doesn't give us a lot to work with - a mysterious teen whose only parent, her mother, keeps moving them around the country. A mystic land ruled over by a powerful, evil woman. A surprising journey to another world. And that's about it.

But it is a promising start!

The art by Aaron Lopresti is quite good - expressive, energetic with a classic, illustrative feel to it.

It's still way too early to judge this series, but it seems a fair attempt at modernizing the original series, and it's good enough to bring me back for the next issue.

Just don't tell the guys.

Grade: B+


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Avengers #30

Getting back on track...

As the Avengers vs. X-Men series winds down, I have to admit I've lost the chronology of events therein.

For example, Spider-Woman and Hawkeye were both prisoners of the Phoenix Force - which has possessed a couple of X-Men - but with this issue, both are back on duty for the Avengers, covering "normal" Avengers business while the big guns take on the cosmic menaces.

It's all an excuse for a fun episode of "The Bickersons," as the two (who are dating) fight for their lives while arguing about their relationship.

It's a fun, fast-paced, done-in-one issue that includes some excellent art by the legendary Walter Simonson (with Scott Hanna inking) - it's just as free-wheeling and high-spirited as the script by Brian Bendis.

So a nice relief from the heavy-duty doings in the maxi-series, as it's all in good fun.

Grade: B+


At Long Last...

Well, after four years of writing this blog, it finally happened.

I missed a day.

Things have been incredibly hectic in the real world for the last couple of weeks for your pal Chuck, and yesterday kept me away from the computer (and my comics) for the entire day - ergo, no review for the first day since I started in 2008.

Heck, I've been so busy that I missed the fourth anniversary of the blog, which started on Sept. 11, 2008!

At any rate, sorry for the lapse - I'll try to throw in an extra review this week to keep the Comic of the Day world in balance.

And the good news is, all that hectic stuff is now over (wrapped up a big community project last night), so we'll get started on another unbroken run today.

Thanks for bearing with me, Gentle Readers!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spider-Men #5 (of 5)

With most mini-series, you can't really make a final judgment until the final issue.

So it turns out that Spider-Men is quite good.

The story manages to bring together the "real" Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and the Ultimate version (Miles Morales) in a story that gives them both stuff to do, some nifty action sequences and a surprisingly touching sequence where Peter sees a world where he's recognized as a hero - and his secret identity is known to the world.

And he actually makes a connection with Miles, who shares powers and a sharp sense of humor.

This issue brings the two (and the Ultimates) up against Mysterio, who uses a dimensional portal to jump back and forth between worlds.

The final sequence offers a funny exchange as Peter tries to share some wisdom with Miles. That's always one of the strengths of any book written by Brian Bendis - funny, crisp dialogue that breathes life into the characters.

The art is by Sara Pichelli, and it's excellent. Fresh and lively, with vivid scenes of destruction, great character designs and strong layouts, it's a good fit for a Spider-Man story.

I'm not crazy about the ending, which teases something that may never be discussed again - but if it's a setup for another crossover, it'll work.

If not, then it's just mean.

Still, outside of that, it's a good series and worth tracking down.

Grade: A-


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Justice League #0

I really think someone neglected to explain the idea behind the DC "Zero" issues to writer Geoff Johns.

For every other book, the event is being used to look back to the history of the title characters before the first issue (see this month's Wonder Woman for an excellent example).

But if that's the idea, this issue of Justice League has two strikes against it: first of all, there's no Justice League in it - it focuses on Captain Mar... excuse me, Shazam (snort). Second of all, it picks up the story of Billy Batson right where it left off a few issues back as a backup feature in JL.

I'll grant that it offers something of an origin for The Big Red Cheese, but if it's a flashback, it's a well concealed one.

All that aside, the art by Gary Franks is a real treat, with some neat designs for the Rock of Eternity (and its contents), and excellent character depictions. I have to say, though, that I don't care for the redesign of ... Shazam's ... costume. The long cape, the hood, the crazy belt - just doesn't feel right, but I admit to being "old school" on this topic.

So we get the basic origin, and a new and more realistic version of Billy Batson. Whether it's a better version remains to be seen.

Not a bad issue, but one that will not be a favorite for longtime fans of the original character.

Like me.

Grade: B-


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Comics Today

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

- Avengers #30 - a lover's spat during a fight to the death.

- Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #3 - Sadly, Joe Kubert's last artwork.

- Daredevil #18 - Is Matt's life out of control?

- Justice League #0 - I'm not sure Geoff Johns understands the zero issue concept.

- Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum #1 (One Shot) - Pulpy fun.

- The Shadow #5 - And then some.

- Spider-Men #5 (of 5) - wrapping up the crossover.

- Sword of Sorcery #0
- Nice to see Amethyst back in action.

- Mighty Thor #20 - Whose side is Loki on?

- Wonder Woman #0
- Now that's a zero issue.

And I received a review pdf of Dead Man's Run #3.

And that's it!

Guest Review: The Saint #0

Man, the real world has been kicking your pal Chuck around the past couple of weeks - thank goodness Glen Davis was able to step up and provide some excellent Guest Reviews. (Classic reviews will return next week, honest!)

Here's Glenn's look at a classic, long-running character who's starring in a new comic for the first time in 60 years:

The Saint, Simon Templar, is a character that was actually created before the depression of the 1930s.

A Robin Hood-type character, he was a criminal who robbed and murdered gangsters the law couldn't touch. The character changed with the times, spending the 1930s in high adventure intrigue, during the World War II years he fought Nazis, in the 1960s he engaged in James Bond sorts of stories, and in the 1970s, he crusaded against the mafia like Mack Bolan.

This issue takes place in America during World War II. The Saint is driving through Texas when he happens upon a man burnt to death with gasoline.

This is a very short issue, serving to introduce the character and the series. I was disappointed the creators chose to adapt a story set during the war years, as I think the Saint is at his best when he is running circles around Scotland Yard, but I'll take what I can get.

The art is pretty good, with the Saint looking like a comfortable mixture of George Sanders and Roger Moore.

Moonstone is a company plagued by production problems, and are probably now better known for their prose collections than their comic books, but they do a good job here. I can't grade it any higher because it is just a short preview comic.

Grade: B

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest Review: Thun'da #2

Here's Glen Davis with a guest review about the return of the man called Thun'da.

The jungle genre is making a comeback after a long period in hibernation - in comics, at least.

After experiencing success with Lord of the Jungle, Dynamite is trying again with Thun'Da, a jungle man from the 1950s, created by the legendary artist Frank Frazetta.

Despite being short-lived, the feature is well remembered and was the basis for one of the last serials, King of the Congo, starring Buster Crabbe.

Thun'Da is really Roger Drum, an American military pilot who crashes in a lost jungle and loses his memory. This isn't any ordinary jungle, though - it's populated with dinosaurs and cavemen.

In this issue, Thun'Da rescues a smilodon kitten from dinosaurs, and is captured and escapes from a tribe of cavemen. Not bad. Still, the action doesn't really serve to move the plot forward the way it should.

And there's a nifty backup tale, with the original feature written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Frazetta.

Grade: B+


Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Review: Flash Gordon Zeitgeist #6

Our man Glen Davis has been on fire lately - today he provides another guest review based on a comic that stars a classic comic strip hero:

Dynamite Comics has become a force in the industry in a fairly short amount of time, but there is one glaring weakness of the company. It seems that after acquiring a property, they lose interest after three or four issues in favor of whatever new property they've liscensed.

This Flash Gordon series seems to have fallen prey to this tendency, and Flash, a seminal comics property, deserves better.

This incarnation is set during World War II. It seems the destructive meteor showers that were destroying Earth were sent by Ming the Merciless to aid Hitler, a mere pawn of Ming. Flash, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov all wind up on the planet Mongo. Ming decides to marry Dale, and Flash starts a revolution to topple Ming with Zarkov's aid. Meanwhile, some denizens of Mongo are in Germany to assasinate Hitler.

With this issue, Flash finally forges his coalition of rebels to invade Ming's city, while Ming is going through with his marriage. Ming's daughter is engaging in skullduggery, and the denizens on earth are resisting the Nazis. And Zarkov is doing... something.

The comic is okay, but decompression doesn't really suit the Flash Gordon story at all. The pages set on Earth slow the story down, and seem completely unnecessary. The muddy coloring doesn't really suit Flash Gordon either. It seems a little tired.

On the plus side, they are capturing some of the dangerous unpredictability that should be part of Zarkov that so many others have missed.

The earlier issues were more dynamic and interesting. I'm hoping the series goes somewhere.

Grade: B-


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Avengers Assemble #7

I have to admit, I don't understand the cover of this issue.

There's lots of cosmic hoo-hah type action going on here, and it does center around Thanos, one of Marvel's most deadly villains - but nowhere in this issue of Avengers Assemble does he hold (or do more than mention) the Infinity Gems.

The story so far is pretty simple - it all springs out of this summer's hit Avengers movie. The team (consisting of the members who were featured in the movie) have joined forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy (who will be starring in an upcoming Marvel movie) to track down Thanos (who had the briefest of cameos in said movie).

To slow down his pursuers, Thanos has unleashed an armada of the alien race known as the Badoon on our heroes, and there's lots of destruction (and improbable survival despite exposure to deep space) to go around.

We also see Thanos make unexpected use of the powerful cosmic object he has acquired - but what happens next may surprise even him.

I'm a big fan of artist Mark Bagley, and he turns in his usual outstanding work here - with great character depictions, lots of over-the-top action and easy-to-follow storytelling on display.

Next issue is the big wrap-up to this story, so we'll see if writer Brian Bendis can "stick the landing" (as they kept saying in the Olympics).

Here's hoping.

Grade: A-


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wolverine and the X-Men #16

This issue manages to avoid complications with the whole Avengers vs. X-Men mess by (mostly) avoiding both the Phoenix Force and Wolverine and the X-Men, and instead focuses on the group of villains that may be the team's greatest opponent.

And it may just be my impending geezerhood, but I really, really don't like the idea of kids as evil criminal masterminds.

Perhaps because, in this day of protecting children, how do you punish these bad guys? You can't have the good guys punch them out - they can't even get a paddling from the principal!

Oh, how you'll love this origin! Apparently born evil, young Kade Kilgore demonstrates amazing know-how and evil cunning as he plots to kill his own father, take over the Hellfire Club and then kill all the grownups involved in that organization.

Now he's taking aim at the X-Men, and with great power, unlimited funds and any weapon that can be imagined, he promises to make lots more trouble for the students at the Jean Grey School.

The art by Chris Bachalo is quite good - he does great work with mood and setting, though he's a bit dodgy sometimes with action sequences.

So, if you like seeing stories about children with no souls, gleefully enjoying murder and destruction - this is the book for you. I prefer my villains with some mileage on 'em - that way they have, like, a reason for being evil.

Grade: B


Friday, September 14, 2012

Batman #0

Up to this issue, I've maintained that Batman is one of if not the best of the "New 52" comics.

But this one didn't work for me.

It takes us back to Bruce Wayne's pre-Batman career, as he tries to figure out the best approach to fighting crime in Gotham City.

It's ground that was well-covered in the original "Year One" series, but writer Scott Snyder finds some new corners unexplored. I could quibble about the change to a certain weapon in Batman's arsenal - it's wildly improbable - and the origin of another classic bit of Batman lore, the Bat-Signal - but the story's most painful misstep is the fact that a one-shot prequel is actually a continued story - that won't be concluded until next year.

The second story in the issue offers a look at some of the members of the Bat-Family in their pre-Bat configurations. It's interesting to a point, but doesn't really shed a lot of light.

Excellent art as always by Greg Capullo and Andy Clarke, but the story doesn't do much more than establish the Red Hoods as murdering monsters.

After a year of excellence, this was a bit of a letdown. But next issue looks promising.

Grade: B


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Avengers vs. X-Men #11

You have to wonder if we'll ever be surprised by any major comic book event again.

I say this because when such events happen - such as in this issue of Avengers vs. X-Men - the comics companies SEND OUT A PRESS RELEASE REVEALING THE TWIST TO THE PUBLIC. (Sorry for shouting - it's a personal peeve.)

I managed to avoid the stories about the "shocking" events in this issue, but my reaction was very ho-hum, frankly.

As with any major comics event, the big twist invariably involves death. And that death is almost always reversed somehow within a few years. (When it isn't reversed, it's always a character I wish like crazy they would bring back. See: The Wasp.)

So that's what happens here, as the noose tightens and the Phoenix Force continues to move in the "total annihilation of the Earth" direction, while the Avengers try to find a way to stop the unstoppable.

It's an issue with a few nice moments, but writer Brian Bendis doesn't manage any real shocks here. I suppose the last page comes close.

I really like artist Olivier Coipel's work (here with Mark Morales' inks), but he seems to struggle with the large number of characters on display here. For example, there a splash page of a big confrontation that looks nice, but I have no idea what's actually happening in there.

We'll have to wait for the next issue before passing final judgment on this series, but this issue seemed to be a by-the-numbers exercise in setting up the final issue.

Not bad, but not great.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Comics Day!

Thanks to Glen Davis for sending along some guest reviews and giving your pal Chuck a much-needed break to deal with stuff!

Our "Classic" review will return next week - in the meantime, here's what I picked up today at the comics shop:

- New Avengers #30 - Not a normal day.

- Avengers vs. X-Men #11 - Shocking stuff happens!

- Avengers Assemble #7 - Don't trust that cover.

- Batman #0 - Gotta be more valuable than #1, right? (Wait, I used that gag last week.)

- Before Watchmen: Comedian #3 (of 4) - A rough time, the '60s.

- Captain America #17 - Heading for the final showdown.

- Conan the Barbarian #8 - Home for a visit.

- Fantastic Four #610 - Return of an old foe.

- Journey Into Mystery #643 - Dealing with a devil.

- Manhattan Projects #6 - Welcome to Star City.

- Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #2 - In a tight spot!

- Shade #12 (of 12) - This has been quite good.

- Winter Soldier #10 - Then it all went crazy.

- Wolverine and the X-Men #16 - The Hellfire Club in focus.

And that's it!

The New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes #1

We have one more guest review from the prolific Glen Davis - today he takes a look at the latest version of an old favorite.

Archie Comics were originally called MLJ back in the Golden Age, and they had all the same sorts of comic features as everybody else.

They had a full complement of superheroes, including The Shield, probably their most famous of the long underwear crowd, known for being the first patriotic hero, predating Captain America.

When Archie came along he took over the Shield's book and the entire line of comics, but the MLJ heroes were never quite forgotten.

Ever so often the company tries to revive their hero line. In the '50s they tried with the Fly and a different version of The Shield, Lancelot Strong. In the '60s they tried again with High Camp Superheroes, influenced by the Batman TV Show and the Marvel explosion. There was a lot of weirdness and a lot of squabbling superheroes.

In the '80s they tried yet again with Red Cicle and even launched a toy line. In the '90s they tried to license the characters to DC with !mpact Comics. They tried something similar just last year.

And now they are trying again.

This volume features Archie-like art, making it different from most of the marketplace. It opens with a reunion of the older heroes, who bring younger people they are hoping to bring into the fold with them. The reunion is attacked and it's up to the young folks to take over the mantle of hero.

There's a little bit of back-up material featuring The Shield dating back to the '80s.

A good first issue that set up the premise, and keeps things open for expansion. I'm hoping to see Blackjack, Hangman, Inferno, Firefly, Black Hood, Captain Flag, and yes, even Bob Phantom.

Grade: A-


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron #2

Hey, it's another guest review!

My pal Glen Davis offers his thoughts on the latest incarnation of a certain masked man...

Seeing Chuck Dixon's name on a western always makes me perk up. Mr. Dixon is a master of the genre, as well as a master of the Lone Ranger character.

The issue opens with a 19th century vintage woman reporter being held captive by a gang of comancheros. In a bit of artistic irony, she's wearing a pith helmet in the snow.

Meanwhile, Kiowas are attacking a train on which Tonto and an Indian boy are passengers. None of the white passengers trust them, causing a lot of friction. Naturally, the Lone Ranger is coming to the rescue. The reporter is riding a camel, an animal the Kiowas have never seen, and ascribe supernatural powers, causing them to go on the war path.

Quite a few number of turns for such a simplistic seeming story, and realistic art make this issue a must for Lone Ranger fans, and for western fans in general.

Grade: A


Monday, September 10, 2012

Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #1

It's guest review time! My pal Glen Davis provides this review about the return of a classic character.

Peter Cannon is a comic book property with a rather unusal history. Born as part of Charlton Comics' short-lived Action Heroes Line, creator Pete "PAM" Morisi managed to keep the rights to the character for himself.

This prevented Bill Black from using Cannon in his attempt to revive the characters in the early '80s, before the characters were sold to DC. During Crisis, DC showed Cannon as a Flash-like super speedster.

An entry in Who's Who followed with a long dry period. In the 1990s, DC revived the character with his original powers, transporting him to London, where he faced various menaces for 12 issues and hung out with Justice League Europe.

Now Dynamite is giving the character a go. The first issue is a little lacking. It's all setup with no action, and very little pay off for anybody who read any of the promotional literature.

Most of the setup is provided through a conversation between a Military-Industrial type general and a Fox News surrogate. There is some foreshadowing of coming menaces, including some from the original series. Others seem like they were created for Batman and The Outsiders in 1985. The Duke of Oil would feel right at home.

The art is the usual Dynamite house look, complete with the odd coloring that so many of their books have. I think this actually harms the book, as Peter Cannon's unusual costume and art are part of what made the character so memorable.

The backup feature is an ashcan version of a story that was to go into DC's late, lamented, Secret Origins series, but was never published. Drawn by Morisi, it's great to see tha unvarnished original.

Unfortunately, the primary feature suffers from the comparison.

Grade: C

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Phantom Stranger #0

Wow, what a terrible comic book.

Well, partly. The artwork by Brent Anderson and Scott Hanna is quite good. Anderson channels the best qualities of Gene Colan, with realistic characters, powerful layouts and iconic characters.

But the story by Dan Didio is amazingly wrongheaded.

It gives the Phantom Stranger an origin story - which is bad enough all by itself, since he works primarily as a figure of mystery.

Ordinarily I avoid spoilers, but this is an issue you should shun, so forgive me if I reveal too much - but the big secret behind the Stranger is that he's Judas Iscariot.

Oh, the story doesn't actually have the courage to name him, but it leaves no doubt about his identity. Despite killing himself (it's in the Bible), he's brought back to life, sentenced by a panel of wizards, gets the word about his sentence from The Mysterious Voice On High (on loan from The Spectre) and starts wandering the Earth.

He's not a hero, he doesn't particularly like people - he just walks.

Just as I'll be doing from any future editions of this incarnation of this character.

Grade: D


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Green Lantern #0

Don't be fooled by the number on the cover - this isn't issue #0 of Green Lantern.

It's actually issue #13, disguised as a zero issue.

The zero issues are supposed to take us back into the days before the first issue in the "New 52" series, but this issue does not give us a look at Hal Jordan's early days.

Instead, it follows up the events of GL #12, as Hal Jordan and Sinestro's Green Lantern rings are strangely merged and searching for a new host.

No doubt writer Geoff Johns would argue that this is an issue #0 for the new Green Lantern, an Arab-American named Simon Baz. He struggles with the day-to-day hatred for Arabs in the U.S. in the wake of the events of 9/11.

But he'd be wrong - this is an origin for a new Green Lantern, nothing more - and with Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and 3597 other GLs, do we really need a new one?

I know, ask a silly question...

My nit-picking aside, there are certainly positives for having an Arab-American hero, as this story illustrates (though the whole terrorism angle seems heavy-handed).

The art is by the excellent Doug Mahnke, again paired with a trio of inkers (I have no idea why a single inker can't cover his work). He does strong work here, although there's not a lot of action to go around - it's almost all talking heads.

It's a decent issue, and might be a collectible (depending on whether or not GL Baz catches on), but I still say it should have the number 13 on the cover.

Grade: B+


Friday, September 7, 2012

The First X-Men #2

As a longtime fan of artist Neal Adams, I really want to like this First X-Men series (just as I really wanted to like his recent work on Batman: Odyssey).

But for some reason it just isn't working for me.

The problem isn't the art - his work is just as dramatic, as over-the-top and cutting-edge as it ever was. For example, he depicts a battle in a junkyard that's very impressive.

But (as with the Batman series) it's the story that just feels... I don't know, forced. Adams co-writes this with Christos Gage, but it feels like pure Adams to me.

It centers on Wolverine and his then-ally, Sabretooth, as they travel around the country and try to rescue mutants from the big bad government agency that's tracking them down.

Their search gathers new allies (though you have to wonder about their life expectancy, given that they're almost all new faces), and in this issue, brings them up against a pre-costume Magneto.

So far the story seems to be playing fair with the idea that this all takes place before Professor Xavier establishes his School for Gifted Students - but it's still difficult to align these characters with the ones we see in the early issues of X-Men and New X-Men.

Maybe I shouldn't get hung up on the continuity. The story is pretty straightforward, with the good guys fighting the bad ol' government guys - but it just all feels like familiar ground.

But the art is quite good.

Grade: B


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Action Comics #0

I must admit that I've been really enjoying Grant Morrison's take on Superman's early days as presented in Action Comics.

(Sadly, he's apparently leaving the books in a few months.)

It's been entertaining to see a young Clark Kent figuring out how to be a hero, deal with corruption, fight unusual menaces and suchlike.

This issue starts with the moment he orders the T-shirts with the "S" emblem. We actually learn a surprising fact about Superman's costume (at least it was a surprise to me) that offers a nice nod to the Silver Age (as much of Morrison's work has so nicely done).

Longtime fans will also enjoy a few Easter eggs, including the name of his landlord's husband. Well, it got a smile out of me.

So why has Morrison's Superman succeeded where others have failed?

I'd say it's because his Superman seems much more... human. He's a decent guy who's fighting back against the problems he sees - crime, corruption - the kinds of things a newspaper reporter would run into.

He's a nice guy (as demonstrated by how he handles an unusual thief), but he's also a bit cocky and brash, as you'd expect from a young man. And he actually has a "real" sense of humor. I know, amazing, right?

The art is by Ben Oliver with colors by Brad Anderson, and it's a bit different from what we've seen in this title so far. It has a watercolor look that is wonderful when it focuses on faces and emotions, but seems to struggle a bit with action sequences, which tend to be a bit jumbled and difficult to follow.

Still, it's another strong issue in this series, and one we should treasure - along with the writer - while we can.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Comics Day!

Here's what I picked up today:

- Action Comics #0 - Has to be more valuable than issue #1, right?

- Archer & Armstrong #2 - The odd couple is back.

- Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 (of 4) - Trippy.

- Creator-Owned Heroes #4 - Wrapping up the opening story lines.

- The Defenders #10 - More craziness.

- Earth 2 #0 - The big three duke it out.

- Fairest #7 - A change of pace.

- Green Lantern #0 - The origin of a different Green Lantern.

- Invincible Iron Man #524 - Teaming up with a old enemy.

- Road to Oz #1 (of 6) - Meet the Shaggy Man and Button-Bright.

- The Phantom Stranger #0 - Let me go on record as saying that giving the Stranger an origin is a terrible idea.

- Mighty Thor #19 - All-out battle and a surprising twist.

- World's Finest #0 - Making new friends.

- The First X-Men #2 - Meeting Magneto!

I also received review pdfs of:

- Executive Assistant Assassins #3 - Heading for a showdown.

- Fathom #7 - There's an ocean under the Sahara?

And that's it!

The Classics - Scout #1

Writer / artist Tim Truman first got attention for his gritty, powerful artwork on the Grimjack series, and by 1985 he was ready to tackle his own creation: Scout, a normal man with an extraordinary destiny.

So he dreamed up a Native American warrior in the far-flung future of 1999. He set the series in an America that was falling apart, and pit his hero against mystic monsters.

But Scout (real name Emmanuel Santana) was hardly a typical comic book hero, though Truman cheated a bit by giving him a super-heroish mask / bandana for that first issue. (As I recall, it disappeared after that first issue and was never seen again.)

Mystic menaces aside, Scout was a real-world hero who rode a motorcycle across a blasted landscape, fighting with his brains and an arsenal of weapons.

It's a lean story that showcases Truman's cinematic leanings. The opening sequence, with Scout stopping to gas up and confronting some casual racism and an unexpected attacker, feels just like a spaghetti western (in the best sense of the term) - all menace, dramatic pauses and lightning-fast action scenes.

Even in his earliest efforts, Truman's art crackles with power and a sense of grit and reality. I've always thought his style seemed somewhat similar to Ralph Reese, but he really has an original, tough-as-nails style that's all his own.

Scout enjoyed a long healthy run and managed quite a few surprises along the way. Best of all, it lived up to the promise of this first issue, and established Truman as a top-tier writer and artist, and someone whose work I've been following closely ever since.

Grade: A


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Captain Marvel #3

Sometimes you give a comics series a try and realize, "This one just isn't for me."

That's the conclusion I've arrived at after reading the first three issues of the new Captain Marvel (formerly known as Ms. Marvel).

I can generally stay with a comic if I like the story or if I like the art - but in this case, neither one is really working for me.

The story has Carol Danvers trying to connect with a recently-passed mentor - a ground-breaking female pilot - and somehow that has thrown her into the past and dropped her into the middle of a mysterious island in World War II.

The second issue ended with Captain Marvel being attacked by a mysterious alien flying machine. The third issue ends with almost exactly the same scene.

So the story by Kelly Sue DeConnick makes little sense (we still don't know how Carol was displaced in time), the menace seems to be no challenge at all, and we aren't really learning much about the title character or why we should be rooting for her.

The artwork by Dexter Soy is quite good but doesn't seem like a proper match for a high-flying adventure series. The art is dark and moody, all exaggeration and colors and explosions. A great fit for a "real world" storyline, but it seems a mismatch with high-flying superheroics.

I really want to like this title - love those covers - but I'm just not connecting at all, so I'll be giving this one a miss. Sad to say.

Grade: B-


Monday, September 3, 2012

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #3 (of 4)

I have to admit that it's been quite a few years since I last read the original Watchmen series, but by my (sometimes shaky) memory, this series hasn't conflicted with the original story, and has been focusing on sidebar events and characters who didn't get much attention in the source material.

This time around the focus is on the mysterious Silhouette, who is focused on her mission to protect children. We follow her on an adventure and see what happens when a rescue attempt goes badly.

She's one of the few genuinely sympathetic characters in the series, along with the original Nite Owl.

The story cleverly matches up the Minutemen and the team's somewhat seamy experiences to the clean-cut image presented to the public.

Darwyn Cooke continues to produce a sharp, tightly-constructed script and outstanding artwork, which bounces back and forth between grim reality and comic book fantasy.

All the Before Watchmen series have been quite good so far, but I think this series holds a slight edge so far - but it's really too close to call until the final issues roll up.

But so far, very impressive.

Grade: A


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Aquaman #12

Kudos to writer Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis for managing something most of us thought was impossible: making Aquaman into a top-selling comic.

They've done this by largely starting from scratch and exploring Arthur's hidden past, including his long-standing enmity with Black Manta, his association with a mysterious super-team known as The Others, and the origins of his trident.

This issue brings us closer to the conclusion of the story of The Others, as Black Manta discovers an incredibly powerful weapon, and Aquaman must deal with loss and his thirst for revenge.

I like this comic a lot, although it's been pretty deep into the whole revenge / death cycle, as numerous characters are killed without remorse, including bad guys, good guys and animals.

I do think it's a bit unsporting of Aquaman to kill a bad guy by striking him from behind, though I admit it was done to save the life of an ally. Still, the casual way death is handed out in this series is a bit troubling - though certainly the harder edge to the stories may account for some of the success in sales.

A lot of the credit should go to the excellent art by Reis, as he creates hidden lands, mysterious heroes and manages to depict every bubble streaming behind Mera as she speeds through the ocean. Very impressive!

The finale to this series is being interrupted by DC's "Zero" issue event over the next month - after that, we'll see if Johns and Reis really have the nerve to write a final ending to the menace of Manta - or if they find a way to cheat their way out of this corner.

Grade: A-


Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Mighty Thor #18

This issue kicks off (what I believe is) writer Matt Fraction's final storyline in The Mighty Thor.

It's been a solid run up until now, guiding Thor through the return of Odin (and the All-Father's subsequent departure), death and rebirth in the Fear Itself storyline, a confrontation with Galactus, and now the apparent repercussions of one of Odin's earliest mistakes in this story titled "Everything Burns" (which crosses over with the quite excellent Journey Into Mystery comic which stars Loki).

The story begins with mysterious events in Broxton, Oklahoma - the neighbor of Asgardia. A fire strikes a church (and a number of birds), but it doesn't behave like a normal fire, and even Thor finds his powers unable to cope with the flames. It all leads to some good moments between Thor and his brother Loki.

The story benefits greatly from the art of Alan Davis, who seems to be everywhere at Marvel these days (which I consider a very good thing indeed). His work with inker Mark Farmer is outstanding as always, ranging from heroic deeds to historic flashbacks, godly confrontations and an eerie moment with Loki where you want to say, "Don't turn around."

It's a strong start to the story - here's hoping for more of the same!

Grade: A-