Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Sandman Special #1

   There's some small amount of irony in the fact that, in DC's series of specials, this issue is the closest (so far) to Kirby's work (or to honoring his memory) - and it's the character that Kirby didn't much care for and only worked on under duress.

   The Sandman was the final team-up of writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby, as they produced a one-shot issue creating a new and different character using the classic Sandman name. It was successful enough to merit a series, but it didn't last long.

   Fifteen years later, Neil Gaiman would tag the name to a completely different character, though he'd eventually get back to explaining the story behind this version.

   For this special, we get two stories starring the mysterious man who oversees the world of dreams and protects our world from the nightmare beyond.

   This time around, the creative team understood the assignment - to honor Kirby's memory and legacy - and they've crafted a couple of stories with heart.

    Writer Dan Jurgens provides a challenge like no other, with wonderful art by Jon Bogdanove, and in the second story, writer Steve Orlando teams with artists Rick Leonardi and Dan Green to give us a blast from the past.

   It's nice to see the character back in action, and I'm always happy to see the King's memory honored.

Grade: B+

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Defenders - TV Review


   I've watched the first two episodes of the new Netflix series Marvel's The Defenders, and so far it's a terrific achievement. 

   I think Marvel's brain trust has been brilliant, using the same concept they used with The Avengers - to introduce each hero individually in separate series, and team them up in this series.

   The series brings together the heroes from the four existing Marvel / Netflix series - Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist - to tackle a menace too big for any single hero.

   Each character gets (more or less) equal treatment, and they're an interesting mix of earnest and powerful (Iron Fist, played by Finn Jones), troubled but dedicated (Daredevil, played by Charlie Cox), a streetwise hero trying to make a difference (Luke Cage, played by Mike Colter), and a troubled spitfire whose heart is in the right place whether she wants to admit it or not (Jessica Jones, played by Krysten Ritter).

   There's a nice mystery building behind the villain (wonderfully played by Sigourney Weaver), a big menace to New York (and points beyond) and yes, the first time two of the heroes meet, they fight. (It's a beloved tradition with Marvel.)

   The action scenes are well staged and entertaining, the photography and special effects are excellent, and the music is perfect (it changes depending on which character is in the spotlight).

   The series is building nicely on the individual series and includes most of the excellent supporting cast from each one, and the interaction between the heroes is a lot of fun (although to be fair, that's just starting to kick in with episode two).

   It's not necessary to have seen the previous series to enjoy this one, but it isn't really for young kids - it gets intense and there's some adult language (mostly from Jessica).

   The series shows the strength of "team stories." A single character can be almost silly, using superpowers (or wearing a costume) in the real world. But bring several together and it gives the story more gravitas - and each character can show their strengths, bouncing off each other.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Future Quest Presents Space Ghost #1

   It's great to see Space Ghost back in action in this follow-up to the excellent Future Quest series.

   This time around, writer Jeff Parker gives us a look behind the curtain at the origins of Space Ghost and the Space Patrol, including the reasons why he teams up with Jan and Jayce (still no explanation for Blip) and the source of his powers.

   The issue also features the Herculoids (another fave) with some history behind that team / family, and why their pets / allies have such varied powers.

   One thing this series has enjoyed is some terrific art - no doubt many artists are also fans and are eager to work on these classic characters.

   This issue features Ariel Olivetti's painted artwork, and it's a real delight, breathing flesh and blood into these two-dimensional creations.

   The series is managing a nice balance between nostalgia and crafting a story that stands on its own and lays the groundwork for future adventures.

   Recommended!

Grade: A

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dark Nights: Metal #1

   I was planning to skip this event, for two reasons: it looks very dark, which gets a big "eh" out of me; and I'm definitely feeling event fatigue.

   But then I saw the spoilers about a certain character showing up, one who hasn't been seen in quite a few years - and I caved. (Since we don't do spoilers on this site, I won't be naming that character for you - but the rest of the Internet is happy to fill that need.)

   So I can tell you that Dark Nights: Metal lives up to my expectations - and exceeds them in some ways.

   Yes, it's certainly dark, as Batman continues to explore an ancient mystery around the threat of a Dark Universe and the Metal that is somehow connected to it and the superpowers in the world.

   On the plus side, the story references (or includes) quite a number of characters who've been largely ignored for some time now, including Hawkman, the Blackhawks and the Challengers of the Unknown (though they only play small parts so far).

   The story also offers some new insights into the DC Universe, with threads about immortals, Hawkman's Ninth Metal and competing tribes dating back to the dawn of mankind.

   But it's also a bit muddy, as we get flashes of story without a clear idea as to where it's all going. What did the opening adventure with the Justice League have to do with the rest of it? Since when do the Blackhawks involve themselves with mysticism? What's up with the mysterious new landmark in Gotham?

   We trust, of course, that we'll get answers in the issues to come, but the series isn't giving us much to go on - I have to think that new readers would struggle to make sense of this.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Comics Day!

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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #6 (Dark Horse) - Rally the gods!

- ASTRO CITY #46 (DC) - The musical finale!

- BATMAN: METAL #1 (DC) - I was going to pass on this, then heard about the special guest star.

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #11 (DC) - Who can stop The Whisperer?

- FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #1 (DC) - Space Ghost and the Herculoids!

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #10 (Marvel) - Riri versus fake Tony!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #27 (DC) - The children of the JL!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #1 (OF 15) - The hero returns!

- SANDMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC) - Return of Kirby's dreamer!

- SILVER SURFER #13 (Marvel) - Once upon a time...

- MIGHTY THOR #22 (Marvel) - Everything burns!


   And I received these review copies:

- AMERIKARATE #5 (Action Lab Danger Zone) - Martial arts action!

- BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - The title says it all!

- DIVINITY #0 (Valiant) - A god on Earth!

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #8 (Titan) - Gabby has strange new powers!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #8 (Titan)

- HERCULES WRATH OF THE HEAVENS #1 (Titan) - The legend returns in a futuristic setting!

- INFINITE SEVEN #6 (Action Lab Danger Zone) A night on the town!

- LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #2 (Aspen) - Most post-apocalyptic adventures!

- NORMANDY GOLD #3 (Titan) - Can Normandy survive this investigation?

- SECRET WEAPONS #3 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Can the team work together?

- WARHAMMER 40000 DAWN OF WAR III #2 (OF 4) (Titan)

   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Classics - Brave and the Bold #49

   One of the joys in thumbing through a box of old comics is finding a true oddity - and that's what I stumbled onto during a recent trip to a local comics shop.

   When I came across this issue of The Brave and the Bold, I immediately fell in love.

   The cover, depicting a gorilla dressed in a baseball uniform and sliding into third base, just beating the throw, put an immediate smile on my face.

   Of course, this is one of the Strange Sports Stories issues. That short-lived series was the brainstorm of editor Julius Schwartz, who enjoyed tossing in occasional sports references (which is why the Justice Society became the Justice League - he figured kids could relate because of football and baseball leagues).

   The issue is drawn by the great Carmine Infantino (did anyone draw a better gorilla?), and features two sports / science fiction tales.

   The first features an experiment in Africa that creates intelligent gorillas, a group that suddenly takes an interest in baseball. And their team is unbeatable, thanks to their superior strength. But what is the dark secret behind their love of baseball?

   The second story is set far in the future, and involves a group of athletes using their unique skills in the game Spaceball to stop an alien invasion (no relation to the Mel Brooks movie).

   It's an entertaining issue with some fun twists, amazing art and, best of all, a gorilla on the cover! Who could pass it up?

   Not me!

Grade: B+

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Anno Dracula #5 (of 5)

   While I'm not a huge fan of vampire stories, there are certainly exceptions, like Marvel's Tomb of Dracula - and now you can add Anno Dracula to the list.

   Based on the novel by Kim Newman, it's an alternate history where Dracula has taken control of Great Britain, and various forces - supernatural and otherwise - plot his destruction.

   The series has a dark, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vibe to it, and readers can have fun identifying classic fictional characters who take part in this story, along with quite a few original creations.

    With terrific art by Paul McCaffrey and Bambos Georgiou and a haunting, horror-tinged story, loaded with unexpected twists, this is a powerful series.

   Highly recommended - even if you're not crazy about vampires!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Defenders - TV Trailer

   NetFlix has released the final trailer for the upcoming series Marvel's The Defenders - and I have to say, it looks like a lot of fun. (Warning, this trailer includes a naughty word.)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Green Hornet '66 Meets The Spirit #2

   I generally enjoy these little nuggets of nostalgia - the crossovers between different icons from the past.

   The Green Hornet was a classic TV show that tried to bottle the success of the Batman TV show, and while it wasn't a huge hit, it was certainly entertaining (I was a fan), and it's famous for the fact that martial arts icon Bruce Lee starred as GH's assistant Kato.

   Here the duo team up with The Spirit - which is a bit of a twist, since he only appeared in the comics, and by the '60s he wasn't being published anymore.

   This issue makes a reasonable attempt at mimicking the style of the Spirit stories, as it tells the story of an unusual, delusional man. His story plays out alongside the action / adventure part of the program.

   My biggest complaint here is that, like another recent Spirit mini-series, it only features that hero in flashbacks - he doesn't actually appear in the here and now.

   Oh, there's a version of him running around here, and there's a good twist there - but I'd rather see more actual Spirit content in my Spirit mini-series.

Grade: B

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Friday, August 11, 2017

The Defenders #4

   Writer Brian Michael Bendis specializes in taking the unexpected route in telling a story, but this issue of The Defenders has a few twists that may leave you scratching your head.

   That's not a bad thing, of course.

   The story features a mysteriously-alive and strangely-powerful villain named  Diamondback, who's planning to take control of the drug trade in New York City - but standing in his way is the "new" Defenders: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

    Diamondback's amped up power is evident because he manages to defeat Luke Cage in a fight. This time around, Iron Fist and Jessica are out for revenge - and one of them will suffer a terrible injury. Or will they?

   (Longtime readers - like me - may not be as mystified about that hero's recovery.)

   The story seems to come to an abrupt end - perhaps they want to have a new story starting as the new Netflix series premieres?

   Whatever the case, this has been a strong start to the series, with great characters, compelling stories and terrific art by David Marquez.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mister Miracle #1

   Let me just say, I hope DC never decides to honor my memory. (Not that there's much chance of that.)

   This is the second of the tributes to Jack Kirby that I've read in the last two weeks, and I suspect they would both have Jack scratching his head.

   I talked abut the New Gods Special here, and this week Mister Miracle gets his turn in a new 12-issue series.

    One of my favorites of Kirby's original New Gods series, this comic follows the young god named Scott Free, born to New Genesis but raised in the pits of Apokolips - but he managed to escape and made his way to Earth, where he established himself as the ultimate escape artist.

   But instead of high-flying adventures, this series by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads takes us on a surreal trip into dark places, where reality is suspect and heroes seem to be non-existent.

   The story is all mystery at this point, so there's time to redeem its dark beginnings - but the opening sequence is very disturbing, and it's a scene I don't think you'd ever have seen in a comic by Jack Kirby.

   It seems like a disrespectful way to honor "the King."

Grade: C+

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 - Secret Empire tie-in, natch!

- DEFENDERS #4 - Standing up to chaos!

- FLASH #28 - Who is the Negative Flash?

- GROO: PLAY OF GODS #2 - Groo and boats - not a good combination (for the boat).

- MISTER MIRACLE #1 (OF 12) - A new take on the master of escape!

- NEWSBOY LEGION & BOY COMMANDOS SPECIAL #1 - Chaykin art and story? Sign me up.

- SECRET EMPIRE #8 (OF 10) - Standing against the Empire.

- SECRET WARRIORS #5 - More of the Secret Empire.

- TRUE BELIEVERS KIRBY 100TH GROOT #1 - Kirby smash!

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #2 (OF 5) - Old friends and old foes!


   And I picked up review copies of:

- ANNO DRACULA #5 (OF 5) - The conclusion!

- DANGER DOLL SQUAD #0 - A deadly team-up!

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH #15
- HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 - A dangerous new foe appears!

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER #4 (OF 4) - The finish line!

- LOST FLEET CORSAIR #3 (OF 4) - Adapting the acclaimed novel!

- QUAKE CHAMPIONS #1 (OF 4) - Tie-in to the classic game!

- RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #3 (OF 4) - Solving magical crimes!

- SHERLOCK THE GREAT GAME #1 (OF 6) - Adapting the TV series.

- TANK GIRL WORLD WAR TANK GIRL #4 (OF 4) - The explosive finish!

- TOYETICA #1 - Living toys?

And that's it!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Robotech #1

   I admit that I don't know much about Robotech, so I can't testify as to how faithful this new series is to the original.

   But I do like what I see here!

   The story revolves around a dramatic crash landing on Earth of a huge alien vehicle, which is studied for a decade as its secrets are unlocked and weapons are adapted.

   Just as the team of experts is about to test it for the first time, an swarm of alien invaders appear, and Earth's defenders have a very short time to get up to speed as they confront the strange invaders.

   It's a fast and furious tale by writer Brian Wood, with terrific, expressive artwork by Marco Turini.

   It's a bit of a rush, sorting out the characters involved, but the story's off to a quick start, and promises lots of high-tech action (and maybe even a smudge of romance.

   So far, so good!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Unstoppable Wasp #8

   I'm sorry to see that this is the final issue for The Unstoppable Wasp, because this series has been an unexpected delight.

   It's been downright inspirational - a series that anyone can enjoy, but it's especially effective for young women.

   It focused on the efforts by young Nadia - the daughter or Hank (Giant-Man) Pym and his first wife, Maria - who is the new Wasp in town. She arrives in America, hoping to join her father in making the world a better place.

   The problem is, Hank is "dead" (wink wink), so she instead tries to form her own group of young female scientists to make the world a better place.

   That group - G.I.R.L. - manages to avert a crisis, but the danger leads their parents to ban them from taking part. But Nadia has a guardian angel (with real wings) - the "real" Wasp, Janet Van Dyne, who plunges into Nadia's numerous problems and shows why she's one of Marvel's greatest (and most woefully underused) heroines!

   What follows is so full of positive energy, intelligence and a great spirit of fun that you'll get through this issue before you realize that not a single punch was thrown.

   But any comic that inspires readers (young and not-so-young) to make the world a better place is aces in my book!

   I hope Marvel gives this series (and its creative team - writer Jeremy Whitley and artists Ro Strein and Ted Brandt) another run!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Bane Conquest #4 (of 12)

   If you haven't been reading Bane Conquest, you're missing out on an action-packed treat.

   The series focuses on Batman's powerful enemy, who shows why he's more that just a muscle-bound thug.

   The series allows him to showcase his formidable intelligence as he takes over one criminal enterprise and puts its misshapen mastermind to work.

   That leads to an attempt to crush another powerful criminal enterprise - but there's a wild card in the mix, as Catwoman pops up to turn up the heat (in more ways than one).

   But don't think it's all sturm and drang - there's lots of humor along the way, and twists and turns galore!

   As always, writer Chuck Dixon and artist Graham Nolan craft an expert adventure that just gets bigger and better with each chapter!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Iron Fist #6

   I've always enjoyed Iron Fist's adventures, but to be honest, he's my second-favorite martial artist, trailing Marvel's first entry in that category - Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu.

   So I was happy to see this issue's guest star (although he's barely recognizable on the cover).

   The issue finds Iron Fist under attack by a small army of hooded mystery men - and trying to survive a plane crash.

   Just as he's about to be overwhelmed, an old friend shows up and together they tackle the mystery figure behind the attack.

   The story is a basic fight from start to finish, with a good twist at the end.

   My biggest complaint is that the fighting sequences don't really show off the fighting prowess of either hero. Part of the joy of martial arts combat is the poetry of the fighting, the precision of the moves (offense and defense) and the skill of the fighter.

   We don't really get that here - it's just a slugfest, which is, frankly, disappointing.

Grade: B-

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Gods Special #1

   It's wonderful to see the comics companies rolling out a lot of love and respect for Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, who helped create many of Marvel's greatest comics in the '60s, and then he moved over to DC and crafted characters and concepts that continue to shape that universe, too.

   This month marks his 100th birthday, so there are quite a few comics out honoring his legacy - like this one, the New Gods Special.

   It includes two new stories - both feature Orion, the powerful son of Darkseid who fights against his father and for New Genesis, and a six-page reprint of a story by the King.

    The second story by writer / artist Walt Simonson is a little gem, loaded with big monsters and some brief insights on Orion and the New God named Seagrin.

   The opening story by writer / artist Shane Davis and inker Michelle Delecki pits Orion against his monstrous brother Kalibak and features Lightray and Bug. It feels like a standard New Gods adventure until the final battle, which takes a surprisingly graphic and unsettling turn, with broken bones and blood flying.

   For a story intended to honor Kirby, that's not something Kirby would have done. His stories were loaded with action, adventure and powerful fights - but never (to my memory) ventured into the realm of graphic violence.

   I would have enjoyed this issue a lot more if it had done likewise.

Grade: B-

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- AVENGERS #10 - Secret Empire tie-in!

- BANE CONQUEST #4 (OF 12) - It's Catwoman!

- CHAMPIONS #11 - More Secret Empire shenanigans!

- HAWKEYE #9 - Too close for comfort.

- IRON FIST #6 - Enter Shang-Chi!

- JESSICA JONES #11 - Maria Hill's secrets revealed!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #26 - Meet the parents!

- NEW GODS SPECIAL #1 - Don't ask! Just buy it!

- NICK FURY #5 - No rest for the wicked!

- UNSTOPPABLE WASP #8 - Saving the world!


   And I received review copies of:

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #6
- INFINITE SEVEN #5 - A new beginning!
- ROBOTECH #1 - This time for sure!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ORIGINS #2 - The remastered original story continues!


   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Kid Sherlock #2

   It's always a treat to find a comic that's made for young readers - they're all too rare these days.

   And Kid Sherlock fills the bill. Set at Baker Elementary School in modern times, it centers on the mysteries that arise - ones only Young Sherlock seems willing or able to solve.

   His "Watson" is an intelligent dog (who is also, somehow, a student at the school). John is loyal to Sherlock, although the young detective doesn't always deserve his loyalty.

    The case this time around involves show and tell - and a missing doll, with all the clues pointing toward a surprising suspect!

   The art by Sean Miller is bright and fun, and the story by Justin Phillips hops along to its touching ending.

  Add in some activity pages in the back of the issue (I love mazes!) and you have a great comic for young readers.

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith and the Future Force #1

   The flying female known as Faith keeps getting recruited to join super-hero teams - but it usually doesn't work out.

   Perhaps her luck will change with the Future Force - but I wouldn't count on it.

   She's at work in her "civilian" job and keeping a low profile because her superhero identity has been framed for murder. (Don't you hate it when that happens?)

   She's confronted by a mysterious woman wearing high-tech armor - so of course Faith happily goes off with her on a mission.

   As you might expect from a team named Future Force, there's time-travel involved, and a deadly menace from the past.

   Equal parts action and humor (with some science fiction thrown in for good measure), this series is off to a promising start.

   The script by Jody Houser is sharp and funny, and the art by Stephen Segovia and Berry Kitson is very good, with strong layouts and great character designs.

   The issue brings up some problematical concepts, but the team sorting them out promises to be fun.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Doom Patrol #7

    One of the few missteps in Grant Morrison's excellent run on the Doom Patrol back in the '90s was (minor spoiler here) that one of the last stories turned team founder "The Chief" Niles Caulder into a villain.

   This issue,  a particularly offbeat one in the Young Animal version of the team, takes some steps to correct that misstep and bring the Chief back into the fold of the team.

   Along the way we get a return of the original costumes - well, the red and white costumes, not the original drab green (which I always liked). Even Robotman gets his original body back - temporarily.

   As the cover indicates, it's a mind-trip of an adventure, written by Gerard Way and drawn by the wonderful Mike Allred, who brings a delightful Silver Age sheen to the adventure.

   This series has been a good balance between modern storytelling sensibilities, Morrison's strange vision for the team, and the original concepts of freaks fighting for humanity.

   Lots of fun!

Grade: A-

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Kamandi Challenge #7 (of 12)

   This fun series continues to roll along as something of a tribute to Kamandi's creator, Jack Kirby, who would have been 100 years old this year.

   For those who came in late (to borrow a phrase), Kamandi is the last boy on Earth, lost in a world of intelligent, talking and anthropomorphic animals.

   The Challenge part comes from the idea that each issue will feature a different creative team (for this issue, it's writer Marguerite Bennett and artists Dan Jurgens and Klaus Janson), and each issue ends on a cliffhanger that the next team has to solve.

   Last issue left Kamandi falling to his death into a nuclear reactor - but he manages to avoid that fate in the best B-movie tradition.

   This issue takes an unusual turn as Kamandi faces off against a small army of dogs - and death on the ice!

   It's all light and fast and furious, and thankfully Kamandi gets to show some initiative this issue, instead of just barely managing to survive the latest crisis.

   My only quibble is the Snickers commercial in the middle of the issue, which looks like it should be part of the regular story - but it isn't.

   So,  no big revelations or shocks (aside from the last page) - it's just a lot of fun!

   Not a bad tribute to the King and all!

Grade: B+

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Batman / The Shadow #4 (of 6)

   I cannot understand why I'm not loving this mini-series.

   I'm a huge mark (fan) of The Shadow. I'm a big fan of The Batman. I've enjoyed past crossovers that brought them together. It's co-written by Scott Snyder, who's written some excellent Batman stories.

   But so far, this one just hasn't jelled for me.

   Some of it is typical comic book tropes - for example, twice so far we've seen Batman suffer terrible, crippling injuries - and he shakes them off.

   The villains are similarly immune to bullet wounds, so matter how severe.

   We've seen The Shadow, who's a deadly shot, face an army of villains at close range, fire his gun constantly - and do only minimal damage.

   These are only minor quibbles, but for some reason they stick in the craw of my enjoyment of this series. (If that makes sense.)

   I love the idea of these two Dark Knights facing off over their methods, but that's just not getting it done.

   Maybe if they faced more deathtraps...

Grade: B

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo (One Shot)

   This month we learn the reason behind the short hiatus for Usagi Yojimbo - it was to give artist and writer Stan Sakai time to create this giant-size adventure that teams the samurai warrior with his old friends, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

   And what a treat it is!

   Usagi, a samurai without a master, is recruited by a mystic who looks a lot like the rat-like Splinter on a mission to save Japan from the most unusual destructive menace ever (trust me on this).

   Opposing them is an army of warriors and the demonic, soul-destroying Jei.

   Not to worry - Usagi manages to recruit (in a clever way) the Ninja Turtles - though, of course, in proper comic book fashion, they have to fight each other before they can team up.

   The book is a pure delight, loaded with action, mystical menace and the deadliest villain around.

   It was well worth the wait!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- BATMAN THE SHADOW #4 (OF 6) (DC) - Who will save the villains from The Shadow?

- CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #19 (Marvel) - Secret Empire tie-in!

- DOOM PATROL #7 (DC) - Hail to the Chief!

- FLASH #27 (DC) - Final showdown with the Reverse-Flash!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #7 (OF 12) (DC) - Fight to survive!

- SAGA #45 (Image) - Into the badlands!

- SECRET EMPIRE #7 (OF 10) (Marvel) - Time to die.

- TMNT USAGI YOJIMBO (IDW) - Crossover time!



   And I received these review copies:

- ALL NEW SOULFIRE #5 (Aspen) - Action, adventure and fantasy collide!

- BEAUTIFUL CANVAS #2 (Black Mask) - Trying to save a child.

- BLACK #6 (OF 6) (Titan) - Stopping a war before it starts.

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #7 (Titan) - A warning from the future!

- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #7 (Titan) - Attack of the memory parasites!

- DOCTOR WHO 9TH #14 (Titan) - The Bidding War continues!

- DOLLFACE #7 (Titan) - Fighting a witch!

- FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #1 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Fight across the centuries.

- KID SHERLOCK #2 (Titan) - Show and tell is disrupted by disaster.

- LITTLE NIGHTMARES #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - A terrifying world!

- MEDISIN #3 (Titan) - Caught between two supervillains.

- MILLENNIUM GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO #2 (Titan) - Solving a mystery.

- NO WORLD #4 (Aspen) - Teaming up to stop a threat!


- ROBOTECH #1 (Titan) - The classic returns!

- TEKKEN #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - Facing an army of robots!

- TOMBOY #12 (Titan) - The shocking conclusion!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #5 (Titan) - Back to basics.

- X-O MANOWAR #5 (2017) (Valiant) - A cosmic coup d'etat!

   And that's it! Whew!



ROBOTECH #1 (Titan) - The classic returns!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Secret Weapons #2

   You have to give credit when a comic tries something different - and Secret Weapons is definitely unusual.

   It's avoiding most of the usual "team comic" tropes and taking a different approach.

   So we have a team that doesn't wear costumes, has odd powers and doesn't really seem to be driven to fight the bad guys.

   Oh, there's an action scene in this issue, but it's the team defending itself from an attack by a mysterious and deadly foe.

  And quite a bit of the issue is given over to a discussion as the team sits around the dinner table!

   The art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is very good, with strong layouts and excellent environment designs. The characters are well defined, and even though they're not wearing distinctive costumes.

   The only problem is that the issue is too laid back (aside from that action scene) - it's difficult to sort out where it's going.

   The story is starting to build, but requires the reader to be very patient as it sorts itself out. It shows a lot of promise, but it's getting there slowly.

Grade: B

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Spencer & Locke #4

   This is the wrap-up to the opening storyline for the Spencer & Locke series, which is a dark homage (of sorts) to Bill Watterson's classic Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.

    The idea is that the boy, Locke, has grown up and become a police detective - one whose only partner is a stuffed toy panther, Spencer.

   But this is not for kids - it's dark and dangerous as Locke tries to sort out a murder mystery, save a young girl and sort out some issues from his past.

   I'm still on the fence with this one - it's a solid story, with the twists and turns one expects with a mystery, and some good revelations about Locke's story.

   But it still feels very derivative. I wish the creative team had told the story on its own terms, rather than cribbing so much from a classic.

Grade: B

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Invincible Iron Man #9

   There's a convention in comics that I've never cared for - but it's obviously not going away.

   I can accept the usual tropes - magic, super-science, cosmic threats - but I don't like the idea of putting children in harm's way.

   Riri Williams isn't exactly a child (she's a teenager), but it still disturbing to see her taking a beating (even in her armor) at the hands of an army of killer robots.

   Even though she's the Invincible Iron Man (whoops, I mean Ironheart), Riri is impulsive - and this issue finds her invading Latveria to stop the powerful Lucia Von Bardas.

   She quickly finds herself in serious trouble - and her advisor (an artificial intelligence version of Tony Stark) seems to be struggling.

   I know, kids in comics are not going away. Look at The Champions, Robin, Superboy, Kid Flash, the Teen Titans, the original X-Men - kids and teens having been fighting the bad guys almost since the beginning of comics, and it's not going away anytime soon.

   And yes, I know - they're comic book characters, not real-world children, so it's not like actual kids are in danger.

   Call me old fashioned or overprotective, but I'd feel better about it if Riri (or any of those other characters) were at least 21 years old.

Grade: B

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trailers from Comic Con

   As expected, the San Diego Comic-Con offered teasers for several big films coming up in the near future, and most (though not all) were almost immediately released on the Internet.

   One of the most anticipated was the new Justice League trailer which seems to focus a lot more on Wonder Woman and Aquaman:



   A movie that I'm anxious to see is the video game-based Ready Player One (you really should read that novel by the way - it's great!). It's directed by Steven Spielberg, and the visuals are amazing:



    There's a lot of buzz around the second season of the Netflix TV series, Stranger Things:



   The Netflix series that combines Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones into The Defenders looks like fun:



   But the one that impressed me the most is the new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, which is worth watching just for the amazing final shot:



   Hopefully some of the other trailers will be released soon - the word is that the Black Panther movie looks amazing, and the Avengers: Infinity War trailer stole the show.

   What a great time to be a fan of movies and comic books!
 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Astonishing X-Men #1

   I should admit, I went into this issue not expecting much.

   We're so covered up in X-Men family comics that they all just kind of blend together into a generic mush - and I expected Astonishing X-Men to be more of the same.

   Happily, I was way off the mark.

   What we have here, under the guidance of writer Charles Soule and artist Jim Cheung (plus three inkers and two color artists) is an X-Men comic that - miracle of miracles - manages to be a classic X-Men comic.

   It starts with a mysterious menace that threatens every mutant telepath on the planet, including the powerful Psylocke.

   Stricken, she calls for help - and in response we get a terrific gathering of her former teammates, including Gambit, Rogue, the Angel, Bishop, and others not necessarily pictured on the cover.

   It's a great way to deal with the required "first issue gathering of the team," and it does so with a solid understanding of each character, how they interact and what makes them interesting.

   There's a lot at stake here, a major (classic) villain to oppose, and oh, that final page splash - which was the tipping point for me. I'll be back next issue.

   What a treat, to have a real X-Men book on the stands again. It's about dang time.

Grade: A

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

New "Inhumans" Trailer

   A new trailer for the upcoming Inhumans movie and TV series was unveiled today at the Comics Con - and they released it to the web, too!

   Here's the clip, which gives us a better look at the powers of the Royal Family - and some hints about the story:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- ARCHIE #22 (Archie) - A stunner.

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #10 (DC) - A strange new world!

- DAREDEVIL #24
(Marvel) - Kingpin strikes back!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #23 (Marvel) - A Secret Empire tie-in.

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #9
(Marvel) - Riri's on her own!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #25 (DC) - Reviving an ancient evil!

- SECRET EMPIRE #6 (OF 10) (Marvel) - The unworthy strike!

- MIGHTY THOR #21 (Marvel) - The Ultimate team-up!

- WILD STORM #6 (DC) - A war is brewing!

- ASTOUNDING X-MEN #1 (Marvel) - A new start!
                                                                                                                                                      
   And I received review copies of:

- ALL NEW FATHOM #6 (Aspen)

- BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - Bone-crunching sports action!

- BRITANNIA WE WHO #4 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Death and the deity!

- BUBBLEGUN VOL 2 #3 (Aspen) - A new high-stake job!

- FOREVER WAR #6 (OF 6) (Titan) - The conclusion!

- MIRACULOUS ADVENTURES LADYBUG CAT NOIR #1 (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The first story!

- NORMANDY GOLD #2 (Titan) - Diving into the world of prostitution.

- PENNY DREADFUL #4 (Titan)

- RAPTURE #3 (Valiant) - Beware the lords of Deadside!

- SECRET WEAPONS #2 (OF 4) (Valiant) - Fully charged!

- SPENCER AND LOCKE #4 (OF 4) (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The finale!

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #37 (Action Lab - Danger Zone) - The most shocking issue yet!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lola XOXO #1 (Vol. 2)

   Back again after a brief vacation is Lola, a woman trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic (post-nuclear attack) world.

   Placed in a Wild West-style setting, she uses her hunting skills to try to show her value while carving out a life - and tracking down her missing parents.

    But there are several forces working against her - one evil, and one REALLY evil (the kind who would happily kidnap a child).\\

   The comic is written and drawn by Siya Oum, and the issue is worth the price just for the art.

   It's hard to pinpoint Oum's unique style, but I see some elements of Nick Cardy in there - that same "real" quality, with characters who have life and emotion and beauty to spare.

   This issue is just setup, of course, for the rest of the story, as Lola finds herself in danger - and trying to save others at the same time.

   Well worth a look!

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Introducing the New Doctor Who



   The BBC ended the mystery this week and announced the actor who will be the next Doctor Who.

   To the surprise of - well, very few people - the next Doctor will be played by a woman - and the first female to tackle the role is the terrific Jodie Whittaker.

   Of course, it was an opportunity for the usual trolls to vent their spleen, declaring this to be the end of the series - but that's just silly.

   Was there outrage when the Doctor's longtime enemy, The Master, regenerated as a woman? Not that I heard.

   And The Doctor solves problems with his or her mind and heart, and those aren't qualities that are exclusive to males.

   My only quibble is that I'm sorry to see Peter Capaldi's run end. It took a few episodes for me to warm up to him as The Doctor (he was quite a change from Matt Smith's lighthearted approach), but he's terrific in the part.

   I'm sad to see the media focus on the negative comments (though perhaps that was the idea - to generate buzz). But Doctor Who is a terrific concept and a positive force - here's hoping the new creative team, and our new Doctor, will take us to even bigger and better stories.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Groo: Play of the Gods #1 (of 4)

   It's amazing to realize that after all these issues of Groo, there are still issues of Groo being published - and they're still the best in the business.

   The comics feature the world's stupidest barbarian who also happens to be an incredibly deadly fighter who loves nothing better than facing overwhelming odds (presumably he's not good at math).

   This provides the action in every issue, and his insatiable appetite (especially for cheese dip, natch) and his total cluelessness (if that's a word) provide much of the comedy.

   Continuing a theme from the last mini-series, his far-reaching adventures are so incredibly stupefying that they're actually having an effect on the spiritual realm, as the gods (such as they are) have taken note of his activities.

   The earthly representatives of the gods also hope to use Groo - for their own less-than-noble purposes.

   Who but artist / creator Sergio Aragon├ęs could mine humor from the always-touchy topic of religion? Who but wordsmith Mark Evanier could wring the maximum laughs from each panel? (Really, I'm asking. Who?)

   Oh, and there are three full-page splash panels in the story that absolutely made my jaw drop - who but Aragon├ęs would even attempt a scene with a cast of hundreds - three times over? 

   So Groo continues to hold its crown as the funniest comic around. Don't miss it! (As we've learned, there's no such thing as too much Groo!)

Grade: A

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wynonna Earp Season Zero #1

   Whenever a comic book is adapted into a film or TV show, the comic usually tries to adjust to fit more closely with the mass media version.

   Wynonna Earp is now well into its second season on the SyFy channel, and earning well-deserved rave reviews - it's a great blend of action, horror, humor and a terrific cast - and on the comics side, writer / creator Beau Smith has been nudging his series a bit to line it up with the TV show.

   It wasn't a long trip, mostly involving moving the setting for the series to Wynonna's hometown of Purgatory, and bringing in the TV supporting cast, including her sister Waverly, the immortal Doc Holliday, Officer Haught, Black Badge Agent Dolls, and the warrior woman Valdez (who isn't on the show but should be).

   Oh, and Wynonna is now a brunette (that was an easy fix).

   The current storyline takes advantage of the "limitless budget" in comics to give us - for the first time ever - a look at Wynonna's earliest days after leaving Purgatory, introducing the unique, tough-as-nails "family" she ran with.

   With lives in danger, Wynonna must work with her ongoing (and yes, somewhat dysfunctional) family to go to war.

   The story is by Smith and Tim Rozon, who plays Doc on the show, and it's a hard-hitting blast from Wynonna's past.

   The art is by Angel Hernandez, and it's terrific, combining sweeping vistas with smashmouth action and great character depictions.

   It's a strong story that will delight fans of both the TV show and the comic!

Grade: A

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Mage: The Hero Denied #0

   Not to be maudlin - but how wonderful to have lived long enough to see the beginning and (assuming I make it to the end of next year) the end of writer / artist Matt Wagner's excellent Mage story.

   It's a modern version of the Arthurian legend, told in three parts.

   It pits the powerful hero Kevin Matchstick against dark forces and assorted monsters as he works with an assortment of allies.

   This "Zero" issue seems to include an audition for a potential new ally, and Wagner has fun with his (shall we say) well-seasoned hero meeting a "modern" hero.

   Those of us who are challenged in the growing hair department can appreciate that Kevin shares that curse - one of the few such heroes in the history of comics.

   The art is terrific and the story is building to a big finish - I can't wait to see where it all goes!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Defenders #3

   I shouldn't be surprised that I'm really enjoying The Defenders - but somehow I am.

   I assume it's because the series feels a bit forced, bringing together the stars of assorted Netflix shows as a team - which works fine on TV, but may be a stretch in the comics where their stories have taken different paths.

   It works because - well, the book is loaded with terrific characters. It pits Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones against a mysteriously powerful (and no longer dead) crime lord named Diamondback.

   But first, they have to fight the Punisher (and survive the encounter).

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis is fast and funny, and almost worth buying just for Luke Cage's comments.

   It's also packed with action, terrific art by David Marquez, and a heck of a cliffhanger.

   If I had to quibble about something, it's that lots of injuries are doled out - and everyone seems to recover with amazing speed.

   But that's minor - all standard business in an action / adventure story.

   And this is a very good one. What a happy surprise!

Grade: A

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

New Comics Day

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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #5 (Dark Horse) - The strange road trip continues!

- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #3 (OF 6) (DC) - Lifted by Atlas!

- DEFENDERS #3 (Marvel) - The Punisher strikes!

- FLASH #26 (DC) - Fear for the future!

- GROO: PLAY OF GODS #1 (Dark Horse) - The play's the thing.

- MAGE HERO DENIED #0 (Image) - Destiny calls!

- SECRET WARRIORS #4 (Marvel) - Secret Empire tie-in.

- WYNONNA EARP SEASON ZERO #1 (OF 5) (IDW) - Before the Black Badge!


   And these review copies also arrived:

- CALEXIT #1 (Black Mask) - California declares its independence.

- HARBINGER RENEGADE #5 (Valiant) - New story arc begins!

- IAN LIVINGSTONES FREEWAY FIGHTER #3 (OF 4) (Titan) - Keep fighting!

- LAST SONG #1 (Black Mask) - Saved by rock and roll!

- LOLA XOXO VOL 2 #1 (Aspen) - The hit series returns!

- RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #2 (OF 4) (Titan) - Four magical crimes!

- WARHAMMER 40000 REVELATIONS #4 (OF 4) (Titan) - The finale!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bloodshot's Day Off #1

   Amist the usual bombastic goings-on in the life of the soldiers who have been through the Bloodshot process, it's nice to throw in an occasional "quiet" issue - and that's what you get with Bloodshot's Day Off.

   Turned into invincible killing machines by the government, two soldiers are - surprisingly - given leave for a day.

   One is a veteran of the Vietnam War, the other of World War II - and both take advantage of their time off to take a trip down memory lane.

   It's a touching story about the sacrifices soldiers make - and it has a powerful message to share.

   The well-crafted story is by Eliot Rahal, and the art by Khari Evans captures the emotional impact of the story.

   It's a nice change of pace with a relative minimum of death and destruction, but plenty of life-affirming moments.

Grade: B+

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming: Movie Review

   Let's say it right up front: I loved this movie!

   That's because Spider-Man: Homecoming gets it right.

   It gives us a Peter Parker - played perfectly by Tom Holland - who manages to be nerdy but sweet, young but not childish, and powerful but anxious to make his mark while learning his trade.

   The mistake most films (and the comic books) often make is that they present Peter as a loser. Done properly, he's a teen with typical problems. Can he work up the nerve to ask a pretty girl out on a date to the Homecoming dance? What are his career goals? How can he deal with school bullies?

   Add on top of that the challenges of being a super-hero: fighting the bad guys; keeping his identity secret; and protecting the people in his (friendly) neighborhood, all while figuring out his new powers.

   So Peter has a lot on his plate. Then he's recruited by Tony Stark (the masterful Robert Downey, Jr.) to help with the Civil War (which we see in flashback), and he's given a high-tech superhero suit in the bargain.

   The film also flashes back to the aftermath of the first Avengers movie, as a salvage crew led by Adrian Toomes (played with a perfect balance between menace and intensity by Michael Keaton) finds a more profitable use for the alien technology left behind. The comic book version of The Vulture never impressed me as being a real challenge for Spider-Man, but the film version certainly succeeds in ramping up the threat level.

   What follows is a terrific mix of action sequences, a dollop of love story, lots of humor and dozens of Easter eggs for long-time fans.

   Throughout the film, you care. You cheer for Peter as he fights overwhelming odds - and as he tries to navigate the challenges of high school. That's the perfect age for Spider-Man - as a brash young man, joyous in his amazing abilities, fighting to overcome the odds, big-hearted, heroic and very funny.

   The film includes a terrific supporting cast, including: Marisa Tomei as the hottest (and funniest) Aunt May ever; Jacob Batalon gets lots of laughs as Peter's best friend Ned; Jon Favreau is great as Tony's right-hand-man-and-Spidey-liaison Happy Hogan; Laura Harrier glows as the smart and lovely Liz; and Zendaya is a pure delight as the acerbic Michelle.

   I suppose if you worked hard at it, you could find something to pick at - but the missteps are very minor. It's loaded with surprises, great action sequences and lots of plot points for future films.

   When I saw it, the packed house laughed and cheered and ooh-ed throughout. They loved it, too!

   In a year loaded with great super-hero movies, Spider-Man has managed to nail down the best one of the year - so far!

Grade: A

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Shaolin Cowboy - Shemp Buffet

   I'm late to the party with Shaolin Cowboy, which is surprising, since I'm a big fan of artist Geoff Darrow, whose unique style is consistently stunning.

   This recently-released collection is titled Shemp Buffet, and it almost defies description.

  Simply put, it drops the title character (who gets through the book with almost no dialogue at all) in the middle of a desert, being pursued by an army of zombies.

  At first he does the smart thing - he runs away. But when others are threatened, he turns and fights with his (shall we say) unique weapon: a long pole with chain saws on either end.

   What follows is, perversely, a pure delight, as Darrow lovingly depicts page after page after page after page (etc) of battle, all presented with amazing detail, down to the pebbles on the ground and the drops of blood that fly through the air.

   I'm not much of a horror fan, but this book presents frightening images as works of art, adding in a bit of humor and heroic efforts.

   It's not like anything I've ever seen before, and I  loved it.

   I can't recommend it highly enough.

Grade: A+

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