Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Comics Day

  After a couple of light weeks, I got socked this time.
   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 
- Avengers #44 - One month to the Secret War! 
- New Avengers #33 - Ditto!
- New Avengers Ultron Forever #1 - Bought for the Alan Davis art. 
- Batman #40 - Wrapping up the latest Joker scheme.
- Convergence: Justice Society #1 - Hate convergence but love the JSA.
- Convergence: Shazam #1 - Can't pass up Capt. Marvel either.
- Daredevil #15 - An old enemy needs help.
- Fantastic Four #645 - The end for the FF?
- Justice League #40 - How is Darkseid connected to the Anti-Monitor?
- Multiversity #2 - The epic conclusion to a terrific series.
- Princess Leia #3 - Rescuing the survivors of Alderaan.
- SHIELD #5 - Guest-starring the Scarlet Witch.
- Silver Surfer #11 - Oversized cosmic confusion!
- Superman #40 - Romita writes and draws!
   And that's it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hulk #15

   I have to admit I'm surprised at the ongoing story in this version of the Hulk.

   That's because stuff has actually... well, been happening!

   His brain amped up by Extremis, the Hulk has created a new persona - Doc Green - and has focused his considerable resources on the job of "curing" all those other gamma-powered characters (some good, some bad).

   That's great, because there are way too many such characters running around - but it's surprising, because those characters are all merchandisable - so you'd think the money folks would want to keep them around.

   But when you have too many gamma-powered characters (including at least three She-Hulks), it waters down the brand.

   This series has been sharp and well-written by Gerry Duggan, with terrific art by the dynamic Mark Bagley and Drew Hennessy.

   Next issue wraps it up, so we'll see if these changes "stick." One can only hope!

Grade: A-


Monday, April 27, 2015

Uncle Scrooge #1

   Behold, the review-proof comic.

   That's because Uncle Scrooge McDuck is one of the greatest comic book characters ever created - and no single story, no matter how bad, is going to make much of a dent in that reputation.

   Happily, there are no bad stories in evidence here. None of them are particularly exceptional - the great burden each Uncle Scrooge story faces is living up to the classics created by the twin titans, Carl Barks and Don Rosa.

   None of the stories here manage those lofty heights, but it's all good clean fun. One features the Beagle Boys unleashing a giant robot on Scrooge's vault, and the other involves a secret map and a hidden treasure (stop me if you've heard this one).

   It occurs to me that Scrooge's adventures are sort of like a traditional team comic - you have Scrooge, Donald Duck, and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louis working together to fight the bad guys or overcome a challenge no single duck can face.

   OK, it's a stretch - but it's wonderful to see this comic back on the stands again. Long may it run!

Grade: B+


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Star Wars #4

   I have to admit, I'm impressed with the new Star Wars comic so far.

   The art by John Cassaday is tremendous. He captures the likenesses of the assortment of heroes and villains well, along with the "real" feel of the Star Wars environments.

   The art is a perfect complement to the story by Jason Aaron, which has amped up the tension and the action, pitting a young and inexperienced Luke Skywalker against Darth Vader, and managing quite a few genuine surprises along the way.

   This issue is actually a bit more introspective than most, as the heroes recover from their deadly (and explosive) encounter last issue, and they plot a course for upcoming issues.

   Luke must confront his shortcomings as an untrained Jedi, and Princess Leia must find a way to keep attacking the Empire.

   It's as simple as this: if you're a Star Wars fan, you're going to love this comic.

Grade: A-



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy & X-Men: Black Vortex Omega #1

   Brian Michael Bendis is an excellent writer, but he seems to have a weak point: event books.

   He's cooked up some of the most famous in recent history - but Black Vortex isn't one of them.

   It's been a rambling, overextended story that starts with a big MacGuffin - the Black Vortex is a cosmic mirror (of sorts) that amplifies the abilities of those who look into it.

   So we have a bunch of heroes and villains getting amped up and fighting and destruction looms.

   There are certainly some clever twists and sharp dialogue, and the artwork is very good (if a bit hard to follow here and there), but the ending is muddled (which is to say, I'm not sure exactly what happened to all the characters and their powers).

   There is a significant personal event at the end that long-time readers will either love or hate. I'm somewhere in the middle.

   It's how I feel about the whole event - some things to like, some to not like so much. A real mixed bag.

Grade: B-


Friday, April 24, 2015

Convergence: Hawkman #1 (of 2)

   OK, I admit that I said I was going to avoid the Convergence series (something most fans are apparently doing, according to reports).

   What makes it difficult is the inclusion of classic versions of characters I love - and here we have "my" Hawkman and Hawkwoman - the Thanagarian police officers visiting Earth to learn about police techniques - but that still wasn't enough to get me to buy this issue.

   What sold me on it was the artist. Tim Truman has been a favorite of mine since his days on Scout and Grimjack - and Hawkworld, of course.

   This issue actually takes us back to the time of the Shadow War, with the Hawks trying to protect the Earth from a secret attack by their home planet Thanagar.

   With a sharp script by Jeff Parker, this issue (wisely) avoids most of the Convergence trappings, and focuses on a plot by the Thanagarians to build a special weapon.

   As always, the art is terrific - Truman's art has a powerful, kinetic and earthy look to it - part Joe Kubert, part Ralph Reese, and all original. Wonderful stuff!

   I still think the idea behind this event is dopey - but if it brings us more Truman art, it's hard to be too upset.

   So apparently I'm buying one Convergence book after all.

Grade: A-



Thursday, April 23, 2015

All-New X-Men #40

   While we usually avoid spoilers here, one of the "big events" in this issue of All-New X-Men was splashed all over the news feeds, so I assume you've heard about it.

   If not, you've been warned.

   So, it turns out we didn't know Iceman as well as we thought. He's gay.

   And to be honest, I'm not sure how to react to it.

   I watched as social media blew up over it this week. Some were outraged because it was a radical change for a character who's been around for over 50 years and has never (to my knowledge) shown interest in anything but girls. He's dated and chased quite a few over the years, though admittedly he's had limited success. I don't think gay guys have a corner on that.

   Some were outraged because some fans didn't like it. Why shouldn't he be gay? Why couldn't he be gay? And that's valid - there are plenty of gay men and women who lived "straight" lives before admitting to themselves (and the world) that they were gay.

   The only problem I have with it is that it feels like nothing more than a publicity stunt - something that came out of left field, with no threads leading up to it. Retcons (if such this is) are tricky enough when they're planned carefully. This one seemed to be plucked out of the air.

   Making it even more - odd - is the fact that we're talking about the original Iceman, who's been brought through time to the modern day. But the present-day Iceman isn't gay (according to this issue). How does that work? Is this an unexpected side-effect to time travel? Is Marvel trying to have things both ways?

   It just doesn't feel... well thought-out.

   Do I care that Iceman is now gay? Nope. It doesn't change anything about the character - he's still a smart-aleck, heroic mutant who is a founding member of one of the greatest teams in the history of comics.

   The only thing I don't like is the ham-handed way it was managed. Look, mutants in Marvel's line have always represented the underdog - nerds, minorities, anyone who's different and trying to cope with the world at large.

   It's great that a gay kid reading this comic has a hero to identify with, and if it helps that kid get through life's struggles in the same way that those heroes helped young Chuck cope with being a bookworm and a science fiction fan, then I'm all for it.

Grade: A-



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Classics - Justice League of America #29 & 30

   My favorite issues of the original Justice League of America were the annual crossovers between Earth-1 and Earth-2 as the heroes teamed up with the Justice Society of America.

   But if I had to pick my favorite of those crossovers, it would probably be this story from 1964, as the heroes of both worlds faced an invasion from Earth-3.

   The story by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky broke the usual mold for such stories (heroes meet, split into teams to fight threat, then team up at the end for the final victory).

   Instead, the JLA and the JSA barely even meet, and that not until the end of the first issue.

   This time around, the super-powered Crime Syndicate of America - made up of Ultraman, Owlman, Superwoman, Johnny Quick and Power Ring - discovers the existence of alternate Earths, and decides to fight the heroes of Earth-1.

   I love the reason for the conflict. The bad guys feel that they're getting complacent, because there are no super-powered opponents on their world. They need a challenge.

 Over the course of the two issues, the JLA and the CSA face off three times, and the JSA and the CSA once. It works because the bad guys are powerful (in unexpected but logical ways) and clever, and the pairings (opponents) are not the ones you might expect - in other words, it was a great matchup for the heroic teams.

   Oh, a few of their tactics are really dirty pool (as they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat), and the final disposal of the bad guys is downright silly - but the story is loaded with action, surprising twists and fun visuals.

   Best of all, the teams face an opponent that can challenge them on every level - a true rarity in the early adventures in the series.

   You really got the sense that the creative team enjoyed these stories, as it allowed them to resurrect classic characters and breath new life into the series, weaving epic stories on a large scale.

   I loved it!

Grade: A


New Comics Day

   Another light week for your pal Chuck. Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 

- Black Vortex Omega #1 - Wrapping up the "event" with a surprise!

- Convergence: Hawkman #1 (of 2) - I know, I swore off this series - but gotta buy this for the Tim Truman art.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #26 - Vote for Star-Lord.

- Hulk #15 - Red vs. Green.

- Star Wars #4 - Vader gates allies.

- Uncle Scrooge #1 - Glad to see this series back in print!

- All-New X-Men #40 - Iceman is gay?

   And that's it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fathom: Kiani #3 (of 4)

   The battle between the Blue and the air-breathing part of the world continues in the mini-series Fathom: Kiani.

   It focuses on the water-breathing warrior women Kiani and Anika, who were nearly defeated by a new bio-weapon - a hybrid terrorist powered by grey matter, which is poisonous to the members of the Blue.

   As the issue begins, the women are rescued by a mysterious ally - but is he really trying to help them, or does he have another agenda?

   It's a solid enough issue, with striking artwork by Giuseppe Cafaro - who certainly knows how to draw lovely, powerful women - and a good script by Vince Hernandez.

   But it spends a little too much time on exposition, as we learn about the source of the attack - and their new benefactor.

   Still, there's lots of action and intrigue going on, and the reader will find himself (or herself) drawn to the next issue to see how it all falls out.

Grade: B+


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Fox #1

   Certainly one of the most off-beat (yet somehow mainstream) super-hero comics around must be The Fox from Dark Circle Comics.

   Written by Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid, and drawn by Haspiel, it follows the adventures of a regular guy - Paul Patton, Jr. - who finds himself something of a magnet to weirdness.

   In his real-life job as a photographer, he joins his grown son in a visit to the town of Beaver Kill, which is due to be flooded to make room for a badly-needed water source.

   But there's a problem - the company doing the flooding is run by his arch-enemy, and the Fox grew up in the town - so nostalgia runs strong.

   A reluctant hero, Paul keeps promising he's going to give up the hero game - and then things get weird again.

   So it's no surprise when he encounters a beautiful villain working on her own poisonous scheme - a plot that threatens father and son.

   The series has a great sense of humor, and doesn't take itself seriously. It's loaded with energy and good spirits.

   It's not for everyone, but I certainly enjoy it.

Grade: B+


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Groo: Friends and Foes #4

   It's impossible for me to say anything bad about the new Groo: Friends and Foes series.

   That's because it's another example of Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier being the best in the comics business.

   This new series has been terrific, with stories that rank with Groo's best adventures (that's a compliment - honest)!

   And the artwork is amazing! Aragones creates a stunning breed of dragon here, and (as the cover indicates), he doesn't skimp on the scales (or the teeth).

  The stories with Arcadio are always fun - he's the handsome hero who is Groo's exact opposite - and here he's working a scam involving trained dragons. Of course, when his former "assistant" Groo turns up... well, let's just say that things go amiss.

   The other reason I can't speak ill of Groo is because the recent collection of the Groo vs. Conan series used a quote from this website on the back cover!

   I know, right?

   What an honor! I was already a huge fan of this series - but now I'm a supporter for life!

Grade: A


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thor #7

   As we get closer to the reveal of the true identity of the new (female) Thor, we must first slide through a number of improbabilities.

   One is that Odin would use his evil brother Cul to animate the Destroyer (one of my favorite Thor opponents) and send it against the new Thor. All of which makes Odin: an idiot; and evil. If he was angry and vengeful, I could understand it. But evil? No.

   Another is that one of the prime candidates for Thor's secret identity makes her way to the Moon by piloting one of SHIELD's flying cars to the Moon (!) as though she were driving to the grocery store.

   This is such a common thing in comics, but unless super-speed is involved, writers need to realize that the Moon is a long, long, long way away. It took the real-life lunar explorers THREE DAYS to get there, flying at amazing speeds.

   I don't expect realism, but give us something to work with here (a wormhole, space warp, teleportation device - something).

   The art is nice, but I have to admit - I miss the real Thor. Perhaps, once the Secret War is over, he'll return. (I know, "Odinson" is still around. To which I can only say, bleh.)

   So far in the past couple of years, Marvel has managed to chase me away from comics I've been buying since the '60s, including Spider-Man, Captain America and Iron Man. I hope Thor doesn't join their ranks.

Grade: B-



Friday, April 17, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #33

   The Uncanny X-Men title often gets weighed down with heavy, grim events and activities - so it's a delight when an issue is dedicated to a more upbeat topic.

   This issue delivers, as it focuses on Magik "kidnapping" her friend Kitty Pryde. They take a trip to Monster Island, home to most of Marvel's classic creatures from the late '50s / early '60s monster comics (they were all the rage at the time).

   The reason for the visit: a rescue mission. Somewhere on the island, a mutant needs their help. But where is the mutant and what powers does he or she possess? And can they survive an attack by a small army of giant brutes?

   That's all part of the fun, and writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Kris Anka seem to be having a blast.

   It's infectious, and as a result this issue is mighty entertaining. It's built like a classic X-Men story (high praise, indeed).

   More like this, please.

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Archie vs. Predator #1 (of 4)

   I admit that I haven't been reading the "Alternate Archie" titles that are removed from the title's usual continuity - including recent Zombie titles and other horror stories.

   So the whole Archie vs. Predator concept takes some getting used to.

   It more like a vulgar take on the Riverdale gang, as they win a vacation to an exotic beach resort. They spend their time in their usual pursuits - Archie chasing Veronica, Reggie chasing Veronica (and dreaming of reaching third base), Betty chasing Archie, and the Predator apparently watching everyone.

   When violence does show up, it's very shocking (which is the idea, I suppose), and there are several surprisingly brutal events, including two significant deaths.

   The Riverdale gang is apparently much more dim than I thought - they aren't at all concerned about a steady rain of blood in the jungle.

   The whole concept is beyond silly and somehow manages to denigrate both the Archie series and the Predator series at the same time.

   Definitely not for young readers - and I'm not so sure older readers should waste their time, either.

Grade: C


New "Star Wars" Trailer

  By the way, just on the off chance you haven't seen this yet...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Classics - JLA #1

   Every long-running comic book series goes through ups and downs.

   The Justice League of America is a great example, having enjoyed great success and - well, let's just say certain eras did not enjoy critical acclaim (cough - Detroit JLA - cough).

   But one of the highs hit in 1997 when the title was restarted with writer Grant Morrison at the wheel. It was rechristened JLA, and it brought back the classic team - or at least the versions of those heroes then on display, including Wally (Flash) Wood and Kyle (Green Lantern) Rayner.

   Add in Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter, and you had a "Killer's Row" of heroes.

   The visuals were provided by the strong artwork of Howard Porter and John Dell, who brought a unique, powerful style of their own  - a real departure from the more classic lifework the title usually featured.

   And the opening story was a powerful one, as a new super-team - the Hyperclan - appears dramatically, promising to help the world. But despite their altruistic ways, the members of the JLA are skeptical - and for good reason.

   The members of the new team are incredibly powerful, and soon they work to take down the JLA. As the story spills out across four issues, we see one hero after another captured, until only one is left - their "weakest" member.

   In one of the great sequences in the run of this title, the villains gloat that it'll be easy to take out Batman - he's just an ordinary man. Superman breaks it to them - "He's the most dangerous man on Earth."

   And then Batman proves it.

   A terrific story, and a real classic.

Grade: A


New Comics Day

   A light week for me! Here's what I picked up:
- Archie vs Predator #1 - Yes, it's silly. How will the Riverdale kids last more than an issue?
- The Fox #1 - The first series was offbeat, so I expect more of the same. 
- Groo Friends and Foes #4 - The bumbler meets a hero!
- Thor #7 - Fighting the Destroyer!
- Uncanny X-Men #33 - Monster (Island) mash! 
   And that's it! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hawkeye #2

   I admit, I was worried about the change in creative teams for Hawkeye.

   Matt Fraction had managed some great stories in his (relatively short and not technically actually finished yet) run - could Jeff Lemire carry the load?

   So far, the answer is: yes!

   The series continues to focus on all the Hawkeyes - Clint and his brother Barney (in flashback sequences) and Clint and Kate, the modern versions.

   So we're getting an origin (of sorts) and a modern adventure - both about rescuing children.

   The art is by Ramon Perez (with a color assist by Ian Herring), a unique and stylized take that effectively uses color to separate the stories.

   Because it's an unusual take, not everyone will enjoy it. But if you were a fan of Fraction's Hawkeye, you'll probably like this take, too.

   I do!

Grade: A-


Monday, April 13, 2015

Howard the Duck #2

   You have to give the creative team on the new Howard the Duck comic credit for trying to do something a bit different.

   Rather than trying to do a clone of the original Steve Gerber version, which was all about satire and social commentary (with a healthy dollop of straight comedy), they're bringing Howard more into the mainstream of the Marvel Universe.

   The only downside to that is: Howard tends to get crowded out when thrown up against super-powered characters.

   That's much in evidence in this issue, which starts out as a team-up with Rocket Raccoon (a natural choice and a good match for snarky fun), but then the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy show up, and Howard gets lost in the mob.

   Still, the issue is a lot of fun (if a bit creepy in its plot), and I think if the series has enough time to find its legs, it could be a successful run.


Grade: B


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Convergence: The Titans #1

   I figure I might as well clear the decks of the Convergence books I picked up this week, because this is probably going to be it for me.

   (Perhaps I'll pick up the last issue to see how it turns out.)

   So this issue, which looks remarkably like the Teen Titans, is actually based on The Titans, the "grownup" version of the team.

   It focuses on three members of the team - Starfire, Troia (Wonder Girl / Donna Troy), and Speedy / Arsenal. They're trapped in Gotham City behind a mysterious wall that cancels out their powers - until a voice tells them they must fight for their lives.

   The city is attacked by the inhabitants of another city - this one filled with incredibly powerful villains.

   It all reads like a generic '90s comic you might find in the discount box. And I predict that you'll be able to find this issue there in the near future. (I know, I'm being harsh. But it's true.)

   It's just thin, with no real characterization and certainly no explanation for the whole "city on another world" shtick.

   My advice: like me, you should avoid this "event."

Grade: C



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Convergence: Speed Force #1

   Convergence seems to be created to appease fans of DC's "Pre-New-52" continuity - but it still doesn't make much sense.

   If it's going to flashback to fan-favorite characters and settings, why choose the "late" Wally (Flash) West era, when the hero had become a family man?

   And rather than taking us into a classic Flash adventure (with the Rogues, perhaps), the story instead strands Wally and his children behind a mysterious wall that closes around Gotham City - and severs his connection to the Speed Force.

   There are some positives here - the art by Tom Grummett and Sean Parsons is quite good, and there's a fun guest-star checking in - but aside from a tour of a few of the other trapped cities, there's not much to recommend this issue.

   It seems cruel. There are lots of Wally West fans out there, and he's been out of the picture since the "New 52" began (not including the completely different character who has his name).

   The version in this story isn't likely to satisfy those fans. It's mighty thin compared to the original.

Grade: C+


Friday, April 10, 2015

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4

   Based on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show (which I like a lot), the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic book takes a different approach to the idea of an spy organization dedicated to saving lives and stopping threats.

   The TV show is only allowed guest appearances by super-heroes on rare occasions - presumably because of time and budget constraints - but there are no such restrictions on this comic.

   And the creative team makes the most of it, so we see writer Mark Waid bringing in a member of the Fantastic Four (a book he wrote some excellent stories for in the past) to help recover a man who's being held prisoner in the strangest prison yet.

   The interactions between Agent Phil Coulson and Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman, are a real treat - and her powers are put the the test in new and interesting ways.

   Take a smart script and add terrific art by Chris Sprouse and Karl Story and you get a strong story that's also a lot of fun.

   Whether you like the TV show or not, I can't imagine any Marvel Comics fan who wouldn't enjoy this series. It's like a terrific team-up comic every month!

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Convergence #1

   What a mess.

   Convergence seems, on the face of it, to be an olive branch offered to traditional DC fans who miss "the good old days."

   So, through mysterious means, they're resurrected a vast number of alternate realities from DC's past - each one captured in a city and transported... somewhere.

   I admit, I don't understand how (or why) it's happening. These different realities / cities are apparently not taken from the 52 alternate Earths being cleverly explored in the Multiversity series.

    Instead, this is a strange hodgepodge of Elseworlds, DC history and alternate Earths - several pages at the end of the issue are devoted to a scorecard to explain the source of the different characters.

   And then they thrown in some Earth-2 characters (but they're not in a city)!

   The upshot is, the heroes in each city must fight the other cities for survival. (So expect a high body count.)

   Perhaps future issues will explain why any of this is happening, but I'm not sure I can hang on that long.

   This issue didn't spark interest or wonder - all it gave me was a headache.

Grade: C



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Classics - Iron Fist #15

   One of Marvel's hidden gems from the '70s was the super-hero / martial arts mix that became Iron Fist.

   Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, the hero was a clever combination of the story of a hidden, mystical city and the martial arts craze.

   As a boy, little Danny Rand is raised in a hidden paradise, where he becomes a master of the martial arts, and finally gains the power to turn his fist into a glowing focus of his spirit - in other words, an Iron Fist.

   Several artists took a shot at the series during its brief life, but the series was a launching pad (at Marvel) for rising star John Byrne, working with his future X-Men collaborator, Chris Claremont.

   They did stunning work on the series, wrapping up with this issue - the last in the initial run of the series (though Byrne and Claremont would transplant the hero into their Marvel Team-Up run, and then to the combined Power Man and Iron Fist comic.

      But their final story here was a barn-burner, being a strong entry in the classic collection of stories wherein heroes meet for the first time, fight, and then become fast friends.

   In this case, we have Iron Fist fighting the X-Men, as that fantastic Dave Cockrum cover gives away. It's a heck of a lot of fun, as Wolverine mistakes Iron Fist for a burglar (Misty Knight is sharing an apartment with Jean Grey / Phoenix, natch).

   Wolverine leads with his claws, of course (it's fun to note he's wearing a different costume, for reasons X-Men fans may know), and soon the rest of the team joins in.

   The issue had the added benefit of showing that Iron Fist was a serious hero - able to hold his own with the powerful team of mutants (we're talking Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Banshee, Phoenix and Cyclops).

   I remember being a fan of the series, and shocked when it ended - how could fans not be buying this series? But that's the danger of being a comics fan - even a book that should be a fan favorite can fail.

   Of course, Claremont and Byrne had better luck on the X-Men title, guiding it to a spot on the top of the charts that it would hold for decades.

   Iron Fist didn't have the same luck - but for a while there, it was mighty good.

Grade: A


Comics Today

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

- Astro City #22 - Move over, John Carter!

- Convergence #1 - Bringing the worlds together.

- Convergence: Speed Force #1 - The Flash family returns!

- Convergence: The Titans #1 - More familiar faces.

- Hawkeye #2 - Joining the circus.

- Howard the Duck #2 - Meet the Guardians!

- Hulk #14 - Fighting Thunderbolt Ross (again).

- Saga #27 - Dreams within dreams.

- SHIELD #4 - Guest star: the Invisible Woman!

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Guardians Team-Up #4

   I'm willing to concede that the idea of teaming up the two prominent green female super-heroes sounds like a fun idea.

   But Guardians Team-Up doesn't get much mileage out of the idea.

   The story is basic enough - alien bounty hunters are after Gamora, who escapes to Earth. The fight moves to New York, where a certain green-skinned attorney gets involved.

   There were a few nice moments, but there's nary a surprise to be found.

   The whole thing just feels rushed and not well thought out.

   And the final scene doesn't make much sense, in addition to being unnecessarily violent.

   There's an art to good team-up books. It needs a strong story, some humor and a smudge of continuity.

   Not much of any of that here.

Grade: C


Monday, April 6, 2015

A Sailor's Story

   Everyone needs a hero, and for me, it was my Dad.

   For a lot of my life, I wasn't really aware of his military experiences. He was in the U.S. Navy during World War II, serving on a Minesweeper based in the Philippines. 

   Like most men of that era, he never talked about it much - but toward the end of his life, he finally started sharing some of his experiences. One thing was clear: he was proud of his service to the country.

    In the late ‘80s I bought the original graphic novel version of A Sailor’s Story and gave it to Dad to read. He enjoyed it, and said, “That’s pretty much the way it was.”

   That graphic novel and its sequel, A Sailor's Story, Book Two: Winds, Dreams, and Dragons, are the true-life stories of the men who served on the U.S.S. Stevens, a Fletcher-class destroyer. 

   Those books have now been repackaged into a terrific new edition that includes an additional 10-page Stevens vignette, tributes and assorted art honoring the writer and artist who created this masterwork - Sam Glanzman.

   That artist cut his teeth on war stories for comics companies like DC, but of course, most of those comics stories had little to do with the real world. But that's not the cast with Glanzman's stories of his experiences on the U.S.S. Stevens.

   They tell the real story of the men who put their lives on the line, and it's loaded with drama, humor, the grit and gruesome side of combat - and the men who rose above it to do an (almost) impossible job.

   The art is terrific, and the stories are important. These are events and incidents - and lives - that should be remembered and honored for their sacrifices. 

    It's a truly important graphic novel and it deserves the widest possible audience.

   I admit a sentimental attachment - it makes me feel closer to my Dad, who passed more than a decade ago. But if you have any interest in history - or the real story of World War II - you owe it to yourself to pick up this book.

Grade: A+


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (of 3)

   OK, I admit, I was going to pass on this series. 

   I fear Ultron / Avengers burnout, and with the movie just a few weeks away, I wanted to save all that energy for the much-anticipated movie.

   But then I saw that the art was by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. That sold me on this issue.

   And I’m glad it did, although the story seems to be treading on well-worn ground. It gathers together a time-tossed team of Avengers into the future to face the impossible challenge: Ultron has conquered the Earth and has an unstoppable army working for him.

   So how can this team hope to win? And what’s the secret behind the familiar face who brings the team through time?

   I like the odd team-ups, and surprising versions of the heroes are included. The story also takes some shocking turns.

   But best of all is the artwork - just bursting with energy, stunning character designs, and powerful layouts.

   So this ended up being much better than I expected. Nice to be wrong sometimes!

Grade: A-


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Avengers #43

   It’s amazing that this series manages to keep building the pressure, balancing several world-threatening menaces with the growing likelihood of world-wide destruction.

   The danger this time around is from a vast armada of alien ships. The threat Earth poses to all existence has led to this attack - so what can the Avengers (even all of the Avengers teams) do to protect the Earth?

   That’s all part of the fun, of course. And the Secret Wars story (whatever shape that’s going to take) is bearing down on us, too.

   The caveat, as always, is that this series is tough to jump in on now - the story is bringing together numerous threads from the last three years worth of adventures - including rogue planets, secret plots, massive science fiction-based constructions, cross-dimension invasions and much more.

    It's a lot to keep up with, but writer Jonathan Hickman is weaving it together with amazing skill. I'm running out of superlatives for this series.

   Fans will be talking about this one for years to come!

Grade: A


Friday, April 3, 2015

Uncanny Inhumans #0

   (Should I mention how much I hate the idea of starting with an issue #0? I mean, it’s just dopey. Is it just me?)

   Anyway, here we are with another attempt to base a comics series on The Inhumans. (This time around, they’re the Uncanny Inhumans. I’m surprised it’s not the All-New Inhumans.)

   Obviously, Marvel has a lot of faith in this franchise - they’ve incorporated the concept into the Agents of SHIELD TV show, and they’ve announced plans to produce an Inhumans film.

   It’s hard to understand why, since the concept has never supported an ongoing series, and the most recent attempt crashed rather spectacularly.

   But it’s back again, and off to a good start.

   One reason is the inclusion of Black Bolt, the enigmatic and powerful leader of the hidden race of super-powered beings.

   The story actually combines his return (after his apparent death) with his obligations as a member of the Illuminati, who are fighting to save the Earth in New Avengers.

   But he has another task to manage - he must track down a missing member of the Royal Family.

   The real star of the issue is artist Steve McNiven (with Jay Leisten inking) - Marvel tends to bring him out for special projects or to get new series off to a great start - and he succeeds here, with page after page of powerful, stunning images.

   Charles Soule’s story also does a good job of sparking interest - though it doesn’t really provide any backstory for new readers.

   Perhaps they’re saving that for issue #point-25.

Grade: A


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Convergence #0

      Zero issues are typically used to preview upcoming series or special events, and I assume that was the intention with this issue of Convergence.

   Sadly, my first reaction to the issue was: what the hell was that?

   The issue just makes no sense. It features Superman (is it "our" Superman? No idea), who finds himself in an alien setting. Like Dorothy, he just wants to go home (to Metropolis).

   But first he must face Brainiac (or is it really Brainiac? No idea), who takes a variety of forms.

    As near as I can tell, the series promises to bring together every single alternate Earth / Elseworld / past / present / future DC reality into one crazy quilt of a story.

   I know comics fans are supposed to be fans of continuity, but my initial reaction is that this goes beyond that - it's just too much.

   It's ironic that this is (more or less) following the incredibly creative, carefully planned Multiversity series by Grant Morrison.

   Perhaps DC's editors have been planning this all along, or perhaps it was thrown together to try to steal thunder from Marvel's Secret Wars event (which sounds remarkably similar to this idea).

   Whatever the case, despite this issue's excellent artwork, there's nothing here that makes me think Convergence is going to be anything but a one-off storyline that will be resolved and forgotten in very short order.

   Prove me wrong, DC!

Grade: C


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Guest Review - Joe Frankenstein #2

   Here's another Guest Review by my pal Glen Davis!

   Today he gives is a look at a new title that's been getting rave reviews:

   The second issue of Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon's Joe Frankenstein keeps up the pace (or is it Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan's? I'll let them fight it out amongst themselves).

   Among all the action sequences, we get character moments, as well as an explanation of the conflict driving the book, without drowning us in a sea of exposition.

   It works very well, getting everybody, even those who did not pick up issue number one, immediately up to speed without seeming unnatural or patronizing. 

   We're learning things right alongside Joe, and it all seems quite logical.

   We're also climbing up the hierarchy of the villains, meeting new creatures. I'm hoping Graham and Chuck keep the "new monster every issue" policy. 

   There's plenty of fodder in the Universal Monster roster, and the traditional folklore of every culture on earth.

   I'm already looking forward to next issue! 

Grade: A


New Comics Day

   A light day for me - here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- Avengers #43 - Earth vs. the rest of the Universe.

- Avengers: Ultron Forever #1 (of 3) - Alan Davis art, so I'm there.

- Convergence #0 - Superman vs. Brainiac - but which Brainiac? 

- Guardians Team-Up #4 - Two green-skinned amazons!

- Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952 #5 - The final showdown!

- Uncanny Inhumans #0 - Black Bolt's quest!

   And that's it!