Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- Batman / The Shadow #1 (of 6) - Who killed Lamont Cranston?

- Comic Book History of Comics #6 (of 6) - Modern times!

- Doom Patrol #6 - The first story arc ends!

- Flash #21 - The mystery of the Button continues!

- Hulk #5 - Unleashed! (Maybe.)

- Kamandi Challenge #4 (of 12) - What lies beyond the western wall?

- Man-Thing #3 (of 5) - Into the nexus of realities!

- Mighty Thor #18 - The Asgard / Shi'ar war continues!

- Visitor How and Why He Stayed #3 (of 5) - A mysterious woman who defies death!

- X-Men Blue #2 - What is Magneto hiding?

   And I received review copies for:

- Britannia We Who #1 (of 4) 

- Doctor Who 12th Year Three #2

- Doctor Who 9th #12

- Dollface #4

- Hookjaw #5 (of 5)

- No Angel #3

- No World #1

- Quantum Teens Are Go #3 

- There's Nothing There #1 

- Vampblade Season Two #2 

- X-O Manowar #2

   And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The End for "Powerless"

   Well, that didn't take long.

   Just over two months after its debut, the comedy Powerless has been canceled.

   It's a shame, because as posted in this review, it was a show with a terrific cast and a potentially strong foundation for future storylines, as it focused on the employees of a business that helps normal people cope with a world loaded with powerful heroes and villains.

   But it had the same problem that has doomed innumerable comedies before it: the show wasn't funny.

   The cast was striving mightily to overcome the thin plots, but it was all just standard sitcom boilerplate.

   It's certainly not the first super-hero-based TV show to get the hook, but it's the first of the modern breed.

   Hopefully the cast will land in productions that are more worthy of their talents.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Black #5

   Mutants (and superpowers in general) have long been a story element that has been used to tell stories about everything from the horrors of racism to young people just trying to fit in.

   The comic series Black takes that idea and amps it up to a degree I've never seen before.

   In this universe, superpowers are part of the world - but the only ones with powers are those with an African heritage.

   That long-held secret has only exacerbated the already-existing racism, as those with powers are monitored and incarcerated in secret, high tech jail cells.

   But one of the men being jailed may be a game-changer, as he uncovers even more despicable forces at work - and meets a valuable ally.

   The story by Kwanza Osajyefo is terrific - powerful and adult, a solid mix of science fiction, superhero and social commentary.

   The art is by Tim Smith 3 and Jamal Igle is outstanding, with great character designs, emotional moments, unique layouts and strong storytelling throughout.

   This series is a hidden gem. It's not for young readers - the language and violence is harsh - but it's an original take on a powerful topic. Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Astro City #43

   The beauty of Astro City is that there are heroes that we know nothing about.

   For example, there's been a hero who's appeared practically since the series began more than 25 years ago - and he's a complete mystery.

   But for some reason, I've always been fascinated by The Gentleman (or, as I call him, Fred MacMurray - because the comic book character is definitely modeled after that usually likable actor).

   Always dressed in a tuxedo, he has amazing powers - he can fly, has super-strength and is apparently invulnerable.

   Finally, the mystery is explained in this issue, as we get the origin of the hero - and it's an odd one.

   It all centers around a plain spoken girl who has seen terrible hardships - but somehow she continues to believe that (as someone once said) the sun'll come out tomorrow.

   The issue also includes the Bouncing Beatnik, another wonderful music-based hero, and has a few other guest appearances, too.

   Great art and a fun, far-fetched story make this yet another terrific addition of the pantheon.

   As I've said before: surely every comic book fan should be reading this comic.

Grade: A-



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nick Fury #1

   There have been many attempts since the '60s to revive Nick Fury in his own comic, but they typically don't last - perhaps because they all stand in the shadow of Jim Steranko's towering, groundbreaking work on the original version of the super-spy.

   But you have to hand it to writer James Robinson and artists Act and Hugo Petrus - they're swinging for the fence here.

   And succeeding!

   They're created a breezy, fresh, op-art look for this series that is cinematic and spectacular.

   The story has Fury infiltrating a Hydra stronghold and trying to escape intact.

   It's not a deep story, but it's fast and fun and well worth the price of admission.

   It's downright... Steranko-esque!

Grade: A


Friday, April 21, 2017

Secret Empire #0

   I've been critical of the Hydra storyline that's been running through the pages of the Steve Rogers Captain America series for a year-and-a-half, but that story finally is delivering as we arrive at the Secret Empire event.

   Let's take a stab at sorting this out: the Red Skull used the Cosmic Cube to change Cap's origin, making him instead a member of Hydra since he was a child. For decades he's worked in secret, pretending to be a hero while laying plans for Hydra's ultimate takeover of the world.

   That plan includes attacks on several fronts, including a space invasion by the Chitauri, a Hydra takeover of a foreign nation, and a huge attack by an army of villains in New York City.

   It's good to see that Nick Spencer's story is a big one - it's certainly had a long enough (and often agonizing) buildup - and the art Daniel Acuna (with a prologue by Rod Reis) is excellent.

   But it's hard to see how this is all going to pay off. The only options seem to be redemption for Cap (which would still leave his origin and history changed and stained) or a miracle reboot ("Thanks, Cosmic Cube!").

   Hopefully there's a better choice that I haven't spotted.

   Whatever happens, this is a powerful story with shocks and surprises aplenty. So far, I'm sticking around.

   (So there are three "secret science organizations" in the Marvel Universe - Hydra, AIM and the Secret Empire - so why is this mini-series about Hydra named after... oh, never mind.)

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Batman #21

   When my comics shop owner handed me this issue of Batman, I knew it was going to be something special - it has a lenticular cover!

   (I'll pause while you go "Whoa!")

   I know!

   Thankfully, the interior lives up to the promise, as we (finally!) see the beginning of the investigation into Rebirth and the mysterious blood-splashed Smiley Face button.

   Batman teams up (sorta kinda) with the only other hero aware of the button - the Flash (he's the other image on the cover).

   It's a fast-paced, action-packed story by Tom King, as Batman must fight for his life against a powerful, surprising opponent.

   It's a story loaded with some genuine shocks and surprises (which we won't give away here, natch) - but it does tie into certain other event books.

   The artwork by Jason Fabok is very good, with great character designs, strong layouts and powerful action sequences.

   It's great to see them finally getting around to taking the next step in the Rebirth story - it's been simmering far too long, but it seems to be coming to a boil at last!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Comics Day

   Wow, a big haul of comics today! Here's what I picked up:

- Archie #19 - Mending fences with Veronica.

- Astro City #43 - At last, it's... the Gentleman!

- Batman #21 - Finally, the investigation into Rebirth begins!

- Steve Rogers Captain America #16 - The beginning of the end!

-  Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #7 - Look, up in the sky...

- Daredevil #19 - It's the Purple Man!

- Doctor Strange #19 - Fighting his oldest friend!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #18 - Fighting for his life!

- Invincible Iron Man #6 - Face the future!

- Justice League #19 - The end of the Timeless!

- Nick Fury #1 - Channeling Steranko!

- The Punisher #11 - Death on the high seas!

- Secret Empire #0 - The secret revealed!

- The Wildstorm #3 - A meeting of minds.

   And I received review copies of:

Anno Dracula #2 (of 5) - The adaptation of the vampire novel continues.

Assassins Creed Uprising #3 - The video game worlds unite!

- Black #5 - Falling deep into the system.

Doctor Who 10th Year Three #4 - The finale!

Forever War #3 (OF 6)  

- Generation Zero #9 - Zeroes to heroes!

- Ninjak #26 - Battle royale!

Peter David Artful #5 - The Dodger gets in more trouble!

- Soulfire #2 - Fantasy action adventure and more!

World War X #5 (of 6) - Another alien enemy?

Zombie Tramp Ongoing #34 - The final challenge!

   Whew! And that's it!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spencer & Locke #1

   Like every right-thinking comic strip fan, I'm a huge fan of Calvin & Hobbes, which is (in my opinion) the greatest comic strip ever.

   It has inspired a number of comics, all trying to capture its creativity and manic sense of wonder.

   The latest in the list of homages is Spencer & Locke, which offers a different take on the concept of a boy whose stuffed animal comes to life when no one else is around (or alternately, it's about a boy who is friends with an intelligent talking tiger who seems to be just a stuffed animal to the rest of the world).

   But this is a dark vision of the concept. Young Locke (seen in Watterson-esque flashbacks) grows up to be a detective, and his partner is a "real" panther, Spencer.

   This is not a happy, optimistic series - it's about murder and dark plots and an unhappy childhood.

   I'm on the fence with this one. On one hand, it's well crafted and manages to represent (and replicate) elements of the strip it's based on with great skill.

   On the other hand, it's a perversion of the work Bill Watterson crafted over decades of work - and I'm not sure how comfortable I am following a series that is based note for note on another creator's work.

   It's well-crafted, but I'm not sure it's well-intentioned - or in good taste.

   Your mileage may vary!

Grade: B-


Monday, April 17, 2017

Immortal Brothers: Tale of the Green Knight #1

   I believe it was sometime in Junior High (these days they call it Middle School) that I read the original story of the Green Knight.

   I loved it! It had knights, magic, action, horror, surprises - it was entertaining all the way around!

   Here Valiant has mashed up its "Immortal" characters and thrown them into the mix, all as part of a story being told by Archer to an under-the-weather Faith (with a nice hat tip to the movie A Princess Bride).

   The story finds the mysterious Green Knight arriving at Camelot to challenge King Arthur and his knights to a deadly game. One of their knights can use an axe to strike the Green Knight - but that knight must agree to take a return blow within the next year.

   The only knight to accept the challenge is Gawain (known to us as the Eternal Warrior, Gilad). The Green Night survives and departs, and Gilad begins to gather his brothers to help him overcome the challenge of his emerald adversary.

   It's a fun story with terrific art and lots of entertaining dialogue, and a few surprises - plus an unexpected twist on the classic Arthur legend (one I'm not so sure I like, but I'll give it credit for being original).

   All in all, a lot of fun whether you've read the original or not. It's a great "standalone" story that should serve as a great template for future adventures.

Grade: A





Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Flash #20

   Here's a real rarity these days - an issue that's "Done in One."

   In other words, this issue of The Flash is a standalone story - something we rarely see in these days of comics that are written with the fact that they will be collected in mind.

   The story by Joshua Williamson, as the cover indicates, is something of a throwback to the '60s and '70s. Is Iris working for the bad guys?

   The story is centered around Iris West (the first such story in far too long) as she uses her reporter skills to seek out the answer to a speedster-related mystery.

   Don't worry, there's plenty of Flash action included here, some upbeat, high-energy artwork by Neil Googe, and a solid surprise in the final panel.

   The issue does a good job of emulating the feel of the TV series (minus the support crew in STAR Labs), and that's a good thing. (In fact, I'm surprised more comics don't make more of an effort to "sync up" with their TV and movie counterparts.)

   It's a fun issue - what's not to like?

Grade: B+


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ragnarok #12

   Writer and artist Walt Simonson seems to be having a blast crafting the adventures of Thor again - but this is a Thunder God who's less Lee and Kirby and more Ancient Myth.

   In this series we're seeing what happened to the world long after the events of Ragnarok - the Twilight of the Gods.

   Thor has somehow survived - barely, in near-skeletal form - and he's trying to find a way to stop Agantyr, the Lord of the Dead. That's a task that has become even more difficult since Thor doesn't have the strength to stand and his ally inside Agantyr's stronghold has just been killed.

   But Thor also has allies (albeit tiny, mostly weak ones) -  but how can they overcome a much more powerful foe?

   The answer is a lot of fun, and Simonson's artwork is just stunning, leaping off the pages with sparks of energy and power.

   No mistake, this is a very different version of Thor - but to fans of the original Norse myths, it's a lot of fun!

Grade: A


Friday, April 14, 2017

Neil Gaiman's American Gods #2

   In my review of the first issue in the American Gods series, I said that: "The issue is mostly dedicated to introducing some of the cast and putting the story into play, but it's captivating and whets the reader's appetite for more."

   This issue gives you more of the same (though it does throw in a short, entertaining action sequence, too).

   The man named Shadow meets his new employer, the mysterious Mr. Wednesday - and gets a chance to demonstrate his skills.

   He also has to face some unpleasant truths about his past - and meet some possibly deadly future foes.

   Neil Gaiman's story continues to build slowly, but it's a powerful concept populated with terrific characters.

   Throw in excellent art by P. Craig Russell (who provides layouts and the adaptation) and Scott Hampton and you have a terrific series adapting an outstanding novel. Highly recommended!

Grade: A


"Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi" - Movie Trailer

   The anxiously-awaited teaser trailer for the next Star Wars movie was rolled out today (just by luck, I tuned into the live Facebook feed from the Star Wars Celebration event just as it started).

   What can I say? It looks promising!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

X-Men Blue #1

   The second (or third? Let's just say "latest) of the new line of X-Men comics is labeled Blue (as a separate but equal companion to the Gold series), and it stars the original team, brought through time from the beginning of their career to the present.

   Thankfully, a recent issue of All New X-Men explained why this team can't return to the past - they traveled through time and found that the young X-Men are already there, thanks to a Secret Wars anomaly - so they decided to make their home in our present-day world.

   Now they're working together again, just the "original five" - Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast and Iceman.

   As a fan of that configuration, that would be enough to spark my interest - but to hold readers they have to come up with a good story.

   They may have one here as the team goes out in search of mutant threats - their goal is to protect humanity, just like the original title.

   And they run smack into a serious challenge right off the bat, as a longtime foe returns to battle the team.

   The setup is interesting (though there are many questions to answer still), the writing by Colleen Bunn is sharp, and I like the fresh, energetic art by Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni - but it feels like the book isn't quite there yet (of course, it's just the first issue).

   It felt like there was too much emphasis on action (just a straightforward slugfest, at that) and too little on character. But it's a solid start to the new series, and it has potential.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the Comics Shop today:

- Neil Gaiman American Gods #2 - Who is Mr. Wednesday?

- Flash #20 - Who is the traitor?

- Ragnarok #12 - Mjolnir will help make a life or death decision!

- Silver Surfer #10 - Unheralded?

- Unstoppable Wasp #4 - Throwdown with the Grapplers!

- X-Men Blue #1 - The original team reunites!

   And I received for reviewing:

- All New Fathom #3 - A visit from the SWAT team!

- Amerikarate #2 - Fight for your life!

- Assassins Creed Awakening #6 (of 6)  - The Manga version.

- Doctor Who 11th Year Three #4 

- Doctor Who 12th Year Three #1

- Immortal Brothers Green Knight #1 - Classic heroes team up!

- Khaal #4 (of 4)  - Ultraviolet space opera.

- Sherlock Blind Banker #4 (of 6) - Adapting the BBC TV series.

- Skydoll Sudra #2 (of 2) 

- Spencer and Locke #1 (of 4) - Investigating the death of a childhood sweetheart.

- The Mummy (Hammer) #5 (of 5) - A new take on the legend.

- Torchwood 2 #3 - Can they stop Lady Karina?

- Voracious Feeding Time #5 - Wrapping up the second volume.

- Warhammer 40000 Revelations #2 (of 4) - The Elder Harlequins attack! (Whatever they are!)

   And that's it!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Doctor Who: Ghost Stories #1 (of 4)

   Just in time for the return of The Doctor (new episodes start this weekend on BBC America), here's a mini-series based on the most recent Christmas episode of Doctor Who, which took the series into new territory.

   Namely, super-heroes.

   It was a delightful episode that featured a Superman-like hero named The Ghost (real name Grant), who gained his powers as a boy after merging with an alien power gem.

   The Doctor shows up in the middle of a typical heroic fight against a gang of robbers to ask for The Ghost's help in tracking down the other three power stones (don't call them Infinity Gems, please).

   That leads to a trip in the Tardis and a stop in a future dystopian world - and The Ghost's first encounter with a real live super-villain.

   It's a fun start to the mini-series - welcome back, Doctor!

Grade: A-


Monday, April 10, 2017

"Thor: Ragnarok" Movie Trailer

   Had to share this new trailer for the Thor: Ragnarok movie coming out later this year - it looks like a heck of a lot of fun:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Penny Dreadful (Vol. 2) #1

   When I was growing up, when your favorite TV show was canceled, that was the end of that story - with the exception of Star Trek, which is (thankfully) unkillable.

   But the death of a show doesn't mean the end of your favorite stories these days - and here's a good example.

   The gothic horror TV series Penny Dreadful may be over, but the story continues in this comic book series from Titan Comics.

    The series ended with a shocking death, but as this issue shows, death doesn't always mean a character is gone forever.

   And the threat of evil hangs over the cast, including a man carrying a terrible curse, and a discovery in Egypt that may open the door to a demonic threat that could destroy civilization.

   That's another great thing about comics - there are no special effect budget limitations.

   It's a powerful story the builds nicely on what came before - and sets up a thrilling new adventure / horror story!

Grade: A-


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Justice League #18

   I really want to like the Bryan Hitch-written Justice League series - but it's not easy to do.

   I'm all for big cosmic stories, but there needs to be some balance with smaller, more human stories - and every single issue has been pushing the limit for cosmic content - and sheer volume.

   Basically, it's like everyone is screaming all the time.

   But it does make for a fun (if challenging) read.

   This issue continues the "Timeless" story, which has the members of the team cast into different points in time, while they try to find a way to stop a cosmic being called Tempus who plans to pluck the Earth out of the timeline to stop that planet's constant meddling in the structure of reality.

   (It's hard to argue with him, actually.)

   So of course the heroes must find a way to stop him and protect the Earth - but doing that may unleash yet another menace.

   It's a powerful story, and the artwork by Fernando Pasarin and Matt Ryan is powerful (and very Hitch-like) - and it ends on a terrific cliffhanger - but I do wish they'd take a moment and show us the human side of the team, and a little less of the FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT side of things.

Grade: B+


Friday, April 7, 2017

The Controversy About Diversity

   Marvel has been getting slammed lately for a comment in an interview with ICv2 by David Gabriel - he said, "What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales."

   Those comments were "walked back" almost immediately - Marvel certainly doesn't want to be seen as anti-diversity, of course - but once the topic was raised, it was impossible to stuff it back in Pandora's Box.

   It's certainly possible that it's true - that the new "diverse" versions of their heroes aren't selling as well as the original versions. 

   That would be surprising. Generally speaking, and "new and different" take on a character will spark at least a temporary spike in sales. The female Thor, for example, seems to be selling in higher numbers than the most recent "classic Thor" title.

   These "revamp the heroes' waves seem to come along every couple of decades - certainly they've replaced Iron Man before (with War Machine), along with Thor (Thunderstrike), Captain America (Nomad / The Captain), and Spider-Man (Scarlet Spider).

   But if it's a cause for lost sales, it's just one of many.

   There are so many reasons that are more likely to blame, including: high prices, the over-saturation of the market with marginal titles, event fatigue, bad writing, less than stellar artwork, and yes, character assassination. 

    Diversity is actually one of the few good things they're doing these days, though I wish they could do it without tearing down the original heroes. Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl are good examples of re-imagining existing or unused character concepts into new and exciting properties.

   It's just a matter of time until the original version of the heroes return - in fact, an upcoming event is called "Generations" (or somesuch), and it'll focus on the (returning) original and newer characters with familiar names, so perhaps this is all just laying the groundwork for the next big thing.

   If Marvel suddenly (and foolishly) put me in charge, what would I do to correct the course? Well, I'd try to reduce prices. Four bucks for a comic book is a step too far for many readers. DC's done well by keeping the line at $3, but word is that they'll soon have to give in and raise their prices, too.

   I'd put the focus on the writing again - I think that's what made Marvel stand out for a long time. With the loss of Ed Brubaker and Jonathan Hickman, the writing staff seems a bit thin (with only Brian Michael Bendis standing out from the crowd of mostly unknown writers). Hire some reliable pros (Dixon, Stern, Morrison, Ellis) and let them fly.

   Keep the focus on great art.

   Reduce the size of the line, and whittle down the families - we don't need a half-dozen X-titles, Spider-books or Avenger spinoffs.

   Put a one-year moratorium on Event books. If you have a good story to tell, use it in one of the titles - or make it a summer Annual.

    Bring back the classic heroes, use them together in a team, and allow them to be friends. 

   Watch the movies, and go forth and do likewise.

   And in the name of all that's Stanley, bring back the Fantastic Four! It just isn't Marvel without the first family.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

X-Men Gold #1

    Since the new beginning for the X-Men promised to be a "back to the basics" kind of story, I figured I'd like it - after all, it's been my opinion for a while that the series needed to do exactly that.

   So here's X-Men Gold (apparently the team is going back to the "Team Blue" and "Team Gold" concept), which seems to be a reunion of the "New X-Men" version of the team - it includes Wolverine (Old Man Logan version), Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and someone named Prestige (is her last name "Format?").

   (OK, the new character is Rachel Grey (Summers?), the former Phoenix / Marvel Girl - but why she needs a new name makes little sense to me.)

   The focus here is on introducing the team, their new headquarters, and tossing them into the middle of a major league fight so they can start acting more like a team of heroes (think Avengers) for a change - but there are problems.

   The biggest problem is that it's so difficult to recapture the original energy of the team because each character carries so much baggage! There's a six-page text feature in the back of the issue that makes a valiant attempt at recapping the stories that have led the team to this point - but all it really did was make my head hurt (and heck, I read most of those issues when they were printed).

   I do think getting back to the basics is a great idea - but it would be nice to focus on the action, the friendships and the fun, and less on the broken hearts, the failed relationships, and the eternal cloud of racism that hangs over every "X" book ever.

   Focus on what works and leave the stuff that doesn't in the past where it belongs.

Grade: B


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Comics Day

   On this week's reading stack:

- America #2 - Punching Nazis!

- Avengers #6 - The end of the Kang War!

- Captain America: Steve Rogers #15 - Who will lead Hydra?

- Champions #7 - Throwdown with the Freelancers!

- Hawkeye #5 - What would Jennifer Jones do?

- Iron Fist #2 - The Guantlet continues!

- Jessica Jones #7 - Digging into secrets.

- Justice League #18 - Can history be re-written?

- Nova #5 - What is Richard Ryder's secret?

- Paper Girls #13 - Trapped in the past!

- X-Men Gold #1 - Another X-Men team arises!

   And these review copies arrived:

- Blue Hour #5 - The conclusion of a three-way war!

- Dark Souls Tales of Ember #1 (of 2) - Based on the hit video game!

- Doctor Who Ghost Stories #1 (of 4) - Return of the Super-hero!

- Faith #10 - Meet the Faithless!

- Hero Cats #16 - A new beginning!

- Infinite Seven #3 - Now a member of the team, can Anthony survive his first mission?

- Norman First Slash #5 - A class trip doesn't go well.

- Penny Dreadful #1 - The TV series continues here!

- Tank Girl World War #1 (of 4) - A time travel tale!

- Zombie Tramp 2017 Easter Special - The true meaning of Easter? (Not for kids!)

And that's it!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ninjak #25

   It's an origin story!

   It's time to introduce a new team!

   There's a double agent! (Or is there?)

   A major villain returns!

   An airplane crashes!

   We're set up for the final confrontation!

   You'll find all that packed into the 25th issue of Ninjak, as that hero joins the Shadow Seven in an attempt to stop Master Darque once and for all.

   There's also quite a bit of talking, setting up and back story info on the birth and rise of Darque.

   It's a fun issue, but it doesn't quite manage to be the special kind of event you'd want to celebrate the 25th issue.

   But it is a lot of fun with strong artwork and a cracking good story!

Grade: B+


Monday, April 3, 2017

Kamandi Challenge #3 (of 12)

   Man, I thought I was going to love this issue of Kamandi Challenge.

   It was written by Jimmy Palmiotti and drawn by Amanda Conner, a  creative team whose work I always enjoy.

   But this issue just didn't work for me at all (which proves anyone can stumble, I suppose).

   The art is wonderful as always - expressive, kinetic and loaded with personality. But the story...

   I mean, for a Kamandi story you expect some over-the-top action - but little or no actual violence. (Yes, there's a big difference between the two.)

   But here we see brutality, humiliation, near-cannibalism and death - including horrific decapitations!

    I'll give the team credit for crafting a terrific cliffhanger - and I love the art - but this issue was a real disappointment.

   I just imagine Kirby reading it and saying, "What the hell was that?"

Grade: C


Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Comic Book History of Comics #5 (of 6)

   I've been enjoying this series, but with this issue The Comic Book History of Comics moves into dangerous territory.

   There are no topics that I know of that can cause more anger or acrimony betweens comics fans than the "how much credit does Stan Lee deserve" topic.

   I've seen lots of friction generated by the topic - in fact, those bitter arguments drove me away from several online discussion groups.

   One of the many problems with the topic is the fact that there are so many different stories based around the events that shaped the early days of Marvel Comics - the creation of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the genesis of the "Marvel Style" (where the artist worked off a slim plot and the script was written after the art was finished), and who created what.

   Adding to the difficulty is that some versions of events depicted here are based on joking comments made to fans, or as reported in stories written by journalists who didn't know much about comics (and thus included numerous mistakes), or are based on comments made by individuals with an agenda or an axe to grind.

   My general reaction, whenever someone proclaims "this is what happened," is to pose the age-old question: "Vas you dere, Charlie?"

   My suspicion is that those creators were just trying to do a job and keep up with brutal deadlines - it was later that artistic merit (or worse, vast monetary value) was assigned to work that was just a job that had to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I also suspect those artists enjoyed the freedom of being able to guide the story by the visuals - a system that obviously worked well from a business standpoint.

   OK, lecture over. I enjoyed this issue, although my perception is that it leans toward the "artists did it all" school of thought - but give the creative team credit for tackling a tough topic that is no doubt earning them lots of angry comments on the Internet.

   Quibbles aside, this is a terrific series that any fan of comics history should be reading.

Grade: A-


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Adam Strange Future Quest #1

      This was certainly an easy choice for me to make at the comics shop - whether or not to buy a special issue combining some of my all-time favorite characters, Adam Strange and the Hanna-Barbera-based characters from the comic Future Quest.

   Adam is tossed into this alternate universe through a mysterious portal, which lands him in the prehistoric Lost Valley - but he quickly gains the attention of various heroes, including Dr. Quest, his son Jonny, Jonny's friend Hadji and Race Bannon.

   Of course, there are bad guys and dinosaur peril to be dealt with - but it's all handled in a cookie cutter fashion.

   It's not bad at all - it features excellent art by Steve Lieber and Veronica Gandini, and the story is all good fun - it's just not the event I would have expected from such a crossover.

   The backup story is - frankly - a stinker, as Top Cat is brought to the DC Universe for a short confrontation with Batman. It somehow manages to denigrate both characters at the same time.

   T.C. works best in his own alley with his friends - not slinking through the alleys of Gotham City.

Grade: C+


Friday, March 31, 2017

Dark Knight III: Master Race #8 (of 9)

   The two previous Dark Knight series were famous for pushing the envelope - the first one wildly succeeded, but the second one fell apart by the end.

   So far, the third round has been holding it together - but it’s certainly straining at the seams.

   The story features a vast army of Kryptonians (zealots who escaped from the Bottle City of Kandor) using their Superman-like powers to conquer Earth.

   This chapter, Dark Knight III: Master Race, doesn’t have a lot of Batman content on display. (He's recovering from, shall we say, a life-changing event.)

   Instead, the focus is on the Kryptonian army’s attack on Paradise Island (and let’s just say it doesn’t exactly live up to its name).

    It’s a wide-screen, over-the-top battle with more than a few surprises. 

   But some of the biggest shocks are found in the mini-comic included - a clever concept with this series that I’ve really enjoyed. It works on a much smaller scale (no pun intended), but the events are shocking.

   I wasn't sure what to expect with this series, but with just one issue to go, the story by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello has been mighty entertaining, and the art by Adam Kubert and Klaus Jansen has been amazing.

   It's too brutal for young readers, but I'm enjoying this unique series.

Grade: A