Friday, June 23, 2017

Invincible Iron Man #8

   If Marvel wonders why its sales are falling, consider this: yesterday I reviewed The Might Thor, which featured three characters named Thor - but the "real" Thor was not called by name in the comic.

   Today we're looking at the latest issue of Invincible Iron Man, which features not a panel of actual Iron Man (or the real Tony Stark) in evidence.

   This issue isn't a complete loss, though, as it continues to examine the character Ironheart - the young Riri Williams, a young genius who has created her own version of the Iron Man armor (with Stark's blessing).

   She's learning what it means to be a hero - and what it means to be a genius. The story also allows writer Brian Michael Bendis to deal with some great concepts, including a technological terrorist threat and SHIELD.

   So we get a lot of smart dialogue and a fun action sequence between Riri and a surprise female villain.

   The art by Stefano Casselli is terrific - both dynamic and heartfelt.

   This series works because Riri is such a well-rounded character - intelligent, funny and determined to do the right thing.

   You know. A hero. (There's always room for more of that.)

   I'd still like to see Tony Stark in his own comic, but Riri is a fine replacement - for now.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Mighty Thor #20

   Now that's what Marvel needed: another Thor.

   It was inevitable, I suppose, since they had an extra magic hammer laying around.

   In the recent Unworthy Thor mini-series (which starred the real Thor), the Odinson (you know, Thor) discovers the hammer of the Ultimate Thor, which somehow survived the Secret War (although the Ultimate Thor did not).

   You might expect Odinson to take up that hammer - or perhaps the Mighty Thor (Jane Foster) to take it and return Mjolnir to its previous owner.

   But that would all be too predictable, so instead we have a new figure claiming the massive new hammer (for reasons that are terribly tragic and out of character) - but at least we know who he is up front, so there's no secret identity to wrestle with.

   I understand the urge to duplicate popular characters - the fan love them, so let's give them more of the same.

   But it's also possible to have too much of a good thing, as the Superman titles of the '60s and the modern-day Spider-Man Family of spinoffs clearly indicates. But as those earlier efforts show, too much duplication waters down the original - and in this series, the real Thor is just a shadow of his former self.

   Here's hoping this new Thor has a brief run.

Grade: B

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today (in addition to the Spider-Man Digest I missed last week):

- ARCHIE #21 - A deadly turn of events!

- CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #18 - Tangling with Namor.

- CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #9 - Stop that eye!

- DAREDEVIL #22 - Under oath!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #22 - A "Secret Empire" tie-in.

- INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 - Fighting for the right cause.

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #23 - Fighting terrorists.

- MAN-THING #5 (OF 5) - The finale!

- NICK FURY #3 - Off the rails!

- SILVER SURFER #12 - What is "the only secret in the universe?"

- MIGHTY THOR #20 - The all-new Ultimate Thor!

- WILD STORM #5 - A new phase for an ancient war.


And I received review copies of:

- ALL NEW SOULFIRE #4 - What new horrors await?

- ANNO DRACULA #4 (OF 5) - When Dracula ruled England.

- BRITANNIA WE WHO #3 - The women rebel!

- BUBBLEGUN VOL 2 #2 - The dangers of working in the Black Market!

- DOCTOR WHO 10TH YEAR THREE #6 - A new story begins!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH YEAR THREE #4 - A small town with a deadly secret.

- FOREVER WAR #5 (OF 6) - The fight continues!

- RAPTURE #2 - The evil forces of the Deadside rise.

- SPENCER AND LOCKE #3 (OF 4) - Left for dead.

- TANK GIRL WORLD WAR TANK GIRL #3 (OF 4)

- VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #4 - It's the comic con of the dead!

And that's it!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Marsvel Comics Digest #1

   When this issue was sold on June 7, Kyle write in to ask, "Hey Chuck, if you take requests, would like to see a review of the Spider-Man (Marvel Comics) Digest... Heard these will be making their way to grocery stores too... Is it reprints? New stories? All ages I would assume?"

   We try to do requests here at Chuck's Comic of the Day - even if we're a couple of weeks late because we just now tracked down a copy (thanks to my local comics shop), so let's check it out.

   I have to admit, I'm a sucker for these digests - they're fun and you get a lot of comics for your money - 11 issues in all, by my count.

   It is all reprints (the cover looks new), and includes one of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's last stories on the series ("Just a Guy Named Joe!"), several issues from the excellent Len Wein / Ross Andru run on the series, and more modern stories, including "Marvel Age" Spidey, "Marvel Adventures" Spidey, Ultimate Spider-Man and a "Web Warriors" adventure.

   So, it's a good mix of classic and modern, great for readers of all ages (though I have to admit some of the print is on the edge of being too small for my not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be eyes).

   Still, I think this is a great idea (though it's odd to see Archie Comics printing these collections), and hopefully it'll help lure in a new generation of readers to the wonders of comic books!

 You could do a lot worse than having the Amazing Spider-Man as a guide!

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe #1

   For those who came in late (as they say in the Phantom comic strip), here's a handy overview of the Valiant Universe.

   We join the warrior Rai in the distant future as the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer retrieve the Book of the Geomancer, which recounts the key events in history.

   It begins at the beginning of civilization with the immortal brothers who will spend their long lives fighting for humanity.

   Most of the focus is on the "present," as we learn about heroes such as Ninjak, X-O Manowar, the team called Unity and the deadly plans of Toyo Harada and Master Darque (among others).

   The issue (which I assume is a one-shot) is written by Rofer Roberts with powerful artwork by Francis Portela.

   It's a helpful reference work for both those readers who have just discovered Valiant Comics - and a fun recap for longtime fans.

Grade: B+

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Normandy Gold #1

   Sex, crime and revenge are a classic combination, and you get a healthy dollop of all three in the series Normandy Gold.

   It's part of the Hard Case Crime series from Titan Comics, and it's the comics equivalent of a terrific "B" movie.

   The story introduces us to Normandy, a beautiful and tough-as-nails law enforcement officer who travels to Washington, DC, to investigate the murder of a family member - and finds a shocking "hive of scum and villainy" - so the question is, how far will she go to track down the murderer?

   (If you've seen a good revenge flick, you may already know the answer.)

   This is not a comic for young readers - it's raw, brutal and free with female nudity.

   It's a cracking good story by Megan Abbott and Allison Gaylkin, with terrific, sexy and dynamic art by Steve Scott.

   It's a great start to the series and highly recommended for the grownups out there!

Grade: A

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Betty & Veronica #3

   Whenever artist Adam Hughes takes on a series, attention must be paid.

   Naturally, we had to be patient - it took 11 months to craft three issues - but it's beautiful work.

   Hughes also wrote the story, which pits the kind-hearted Betty against the conniving Veronica.

   It's a fierce battle as Betty tries to save the iconic Pop's, which is about to close.

   Veronica's father is buying out the shop to open a coffee shop, and she's backing her father's efforts.

   The battle has split the town, and Betty's only hope is to hold a special fundraiser at the school to try to raise $60,000 to save Pop's.

   The issue is packed with Easter eggs, from figures out of Little Nemo to references to Stephen King's "It" and the return of the original version of the Archie gang, to name just a few.

   It goes without saying that the art is stunning, and surprisingly Hughes manages to (mostly) resist the urge to lay on the cheesecake.

   This has been a fun trilogy - and hopefully not the last time we'll see Hughes showing off his fine comic chops.

Grade: A

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Friday, June 16, 2017

The Defenders #1

   Several different groups have carried the label "The Defenders" - and now there's a new one.

   I can't remember if Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist or Jessica Jones were ever members of the original version of the team (the one that started with Dr. Strange, the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk), but that foursome gets to carry on the team tradition thanks mostly to the upcoming Netflix TV series that brings together those four heroes.

   This issue flows directly out of the recent Free Comic Book Day issue, with each hero under attack by a surprisingly powerful (and surprisingly alive) Diamondback.

   The book is written by Brian Michael Bendis, who did a terrific job with 3/4 of the team when he was writing the New Avengers - and now he gets to add Iron Fist to the mix.

   The art is by David Marquez with color art by Justin Ponsor, and it's excellent, with great character designs (I love the introductory graphic each hero gets with his or her "entrance"), strong layouts and vivid environments.

   It's a  powerful start for this "street level" series, and I'm anxious to see where it goes next.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Secret Empire #4 (of 10)

   Just when I think the Secret Empire series can't do anything to make me more disgusted, it finds a lower level to sink to.

   And boy, does this one push my buttons (and not in a good way).

   The issue is something of an Avengers reunion, but half the team members represented are fighting on the side of Tony Stark (or at least an artificial intelligence version of him), and the other half - quite inexplicably - are fighting for the evil Hydra version of Captain America.

   The only original Avengers missing are the Wasp (who was too smart to get involved in this story, presumably) and the Hulk, who is inconveniently dead at the moment. Yep, we'll never see him again.

   The guest list includes the original Thor (now hammerless and called Odinson - and working for Hydra, I have no idea why), and one of my favorite heroes, Hank Pym (Giant-Man), who is merged with Ultron (again, I have no idea why, and this issue isn't going to explain it to me).

   And we have here the worst Hank Pym that Marvel can generate - the one who is crazy, who has an inferiority complex, and who all the other Avengers hate (and happily tell you how much they hate him).

   I get that Pym is a "minor" hero who never had a big following - but guess what? There are thousands of fans out there, like me, who like the character and only ask that Marvel's writers STOP CRAPPING ALL OVER THE CHARACTER (you know, like DC did to Hal Jordan for years until they realized he had more potential as a hero).

   It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

   Even setting this aside, Secret Empire continues to be a train wreck that careens into an orphanage and catches fire.

   Hopefully at some point Marvel can sort this out and make fans happy to read the adventures of their favorite heroes again - but I'm not encouraged.

Grade: D

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:
 
- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS SHADOWS #4 - A visit from the Midnight Sister!
 
- BETTY & VERONICA #3 - The conclusion!
 
- BUG THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #2 (OF 6) - The fate of the Multiverse hangs in the balance!
 
- DEFENDERS #1 - An old enemy returns to fight the newest team in town.

- FLASH #24 - Team-up in space!

- HULK #7 - Hanging around with Hellcat.

- SECRET EMPIRE #4 (OF 10) - Ultron rises!

- SECRET WARRIORS #3 - Secret Empire tie-in!

- X-MEN BLUE #5 - A surprising return!



    And I received review copies of:
 
- ALL NEW FATHOM #5 - A traitor revealed!

- AMERIKARATE #4 - The belly of the beast!
 
- DOCTOR WHO 11TH YEAR THREE #6
 
- HERO CATS #17 - It's detention time!

- IAN LIVINGSTONE FREEWAY FIGHTER #2 (OF 4)


- KID SHERLOCK #1 - Making friends.

- NORMANDY GOLD #1 - Into the world of prostitution.

- QUANTUM TEENS ARE GO #4 - Into a secret lab.

- RAI HISTORY OF VALIANT UNIVERSE #1 (One Shot) - Secrets revealed!


- SPACE RIDERS GALAXY OF BRUTALITY #2 - Where gods go to die!

 
- TEKKEN #2 (OF 4)


- THERE'S NOTHING THERE #2 - Nowhere is safe.

- TOMBOY #11 - It's a trap!

   Whew! And that's it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Faith #12

   As Faith reaches the end of the latest storyline, she finds herself in a classic situation.

   She's been attacked and defeated by an evil team made up of her worst enemies, who banded together to tackle their common enemy - namely, Faith.

   Making up The Faithless are: Chris Chriswell, former superhero actor turned evil mastermind; Dark Star, a powerful psiot trapped in the body of a black cat; Sidney, a failed actress who happens to be an alien; and Murder Mouse, a powerful cosplayer.

   So yeah, it's an odd group.

   But it also makes for a fun issue as Faith must find a way to outwit and escape her dysfunctional foes.

   I like it when the creative team (writer Jody Houser and artist Joe Eisma) come up with a creative approach to a straightforward adventure story.

   Lots of fun!

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Lost Fleet #1

   Who doesn't enjoy a big ol' space opera?

   The answer is: every right-thinking person.

   Well, I suppose some people don't care for them - but you can count me among the fans.

   Which is one reason I like The Lost Fleet. It's based on a beloved series of science fiction books.

   This series (subtitled Corsair) focuses on the battle between two fading space empires: the Syndicate (they wear the black hats) and the Alliance (the good guys).

   But this issue is all about a prison break. At the heart of it is Captain Michael Geary, a descendant of the iconic hero John "Black Jack" Geary.

   After a brutal space battle with the Syndicate, Michael is captured and placed in a high-tech prison - so imagine his surprise when a soldier offers to help him escape.

   But there is a catch - and an all-out battle along the way!

   It's a strong, fast-paced story by writer Jack Campbell with terrific art by Andre Siregar and Bambang Irawan.

   We have some time to wait until the next Star Wars movie, so this should help fill the gap nicely.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bane Conquest #2

   As a long-time Batman fan, the Bane Conquest series from DC is like a breath of fresh air.

   There are several reasons for that.

   First, it's loaded with action and intrigue, as the powerful and ruthless Bane finds himself imprisoned in an escape-proof jail, trapped with his most capable enemy (you'll have little difficulty figuring out who that might be).

   Second, it offers some rare flashes of Bane's earlier years - and some of the formative moments that made him into the force of nature he is now.

   Third, it's drawn by Graham Nolan, one of the co-creators of Bane, and he turns in amazing work here - powerful layouts, terrific actions sequences, and striking character designs.

   Finally, it's written by Chuck Dixon (another co-creator), who was born to write these kind of hard-hitting, tough-as-nails, no-holds-barred tales of adventures that are also smart and a heck of a lot of fun.

   This series is further proof that quality storytelling never goes out of style. High recommended!

Grade: A

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Farewell to Adam West

   Sad news today, as we hear of the passing of actor Adam West, 88, who achieved lasting fame as Batman in the beloved ABC-TV show in the 1960s.

   One of the keys to the success of any show or movie is finding the rights actor to play the part, and on the Batman TV show, they hit the jackpot, with perfect casting for the show's lead, for the ongoing characters, and a long list of guest villains - but the most important was the Caped Crusader.

   It was an odd role - a "campy" take on the hero, very different from most shows of its kind, but it worked - young viewers could enjoy it for the jokes and the action, the vivid colors and crazy props - and adults could enjoy it for its tongue-in-cheek humor, its fast pacing and artistic camera work. 

   Put simply: the show was a lot of fun - and West managed to walk that delicate line between playing it straight, being an action hero, and delivering laughs.

   It was a role that made West a star - but it was also a curse, because he would struggle for years to step out from the shadow of Batman. His own sense of humor saved him, as he embraced fandom and his legacy. He built a lasting career poking fun at his own image, and the fans loved him for it.

   Of course, many fans loathe the campy '60s Batman (there was a time in the '70s when I agreed) - for the still-felt impact on comics as being for children, and the whole "Zap! Pow! Comics!" shorthand still being used by the media.

   But it did bring comics into the mainstream, and demonstrated that comics characters could be popular with the general public, although it would only be sporadic success until the "modern era" of superhero films.

    But as a kid, and later as an adult, I loved West's portrayal. It was such a thrill to see this comic book character brought to life on TV. When I saw the feature film at our local theater in the late '60s, the crowd cheered loudly when Batman first appeared on the screen - we loved him!

   We still do. There have been many fine actors who've put on the costume, but to most of us, they're just the latest guy in line - there's really just one Batman.

   As the actor once said, his portrayal of Batman was: "Pure West."

Friday, June 9, 2017

Black Panther - The Trailer

   Here's a treat - the just-released preview trailer giving us our first look at the Black Panther movie.

   T'Challa was handled perfectly in Captain America: Civil War, so here's hoping for more of that in this film. Check it out:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

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

   After 20 months we've finally reached the end of the third Dark Knight series, based on Frank Miller, Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley's ground-breaking series from 1985.

   This series, The Master Race, has offered an apocalyptic challenge for all Earth's heroes, as an army of Kryptonians threaten our planet with destruction - and even Earth's Justice League (or what's left of it) seems helpless against them.

   It's been interesting to see the "Dark Knight" versions of Earth's greatest heroes, including Wonder Woman, the Flash, the Atom and Green Lantern.

   The story this time around is by Miller and Brian Azzarello, and the only real criticism of it is that the focus is often on heroes other than Batman, who seems to be the only hero suffering from old age.

   Superman actually steals much of the thunder here - but he's one of the few characters who can go toe-to-toe with the Kryptonians.

   The art is by Andy Kubert and Janson, with color art by Brad Anderson - and it's powerful stuff, evoking the feel of Miller's original series, but maintaining Kubert's distinctive look and layout.

   I've enjoyed the series - it's popped up to the top of my reading stack every time it's released - but it doesn't quite measure up to the original.

   But that's ok - neither does anything else!

   It's a solid series with quite a few surprises and terrific art - and it lays the groundwork for future series set in the DK Universe. Good deal!

Grade: A-

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

New Comics Day!

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today - except for the Marvel Digest, which my comics shop didn't carry. It's on back order:

- AVENGERS #8 - Is the Infamous Iron Man friend or foe?

- BANE CONQUEST #2 (OF 12) - It's one thing to capture Bane...

- CHAMPIONS #9 - Focus on Viv Vision.

- DAREDEVIL #21 - Beginning the "Supreme" story.

- DARK KNIGHT III MASTER RACE #9 (OF 9) - The epic conclusion!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #20 - The creative team changeth!

- HAWKEYE #7 - A new lead!

- IRON FIST #4 - A dark history revealed!

- JESSICA JONES #9 - The mystery of Maria Hill!

- JUSTICE LEAGUE #22 - Quarantine on the Watchtower!

- MARVEL COMICS DIGEST #1 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN - Now in a smaller size!

- NOVA #7 - Nova vs. Nova!

- PAPER GIRLS #15 - The explosive end of the arc!

- UNSTOPPABLE WASP #6 - Lives hang in the balance.


And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO GHOST STORIES #3 (OF 4) - Team-up time!

- FAITH #12 - Facing "The Faithless!"

- LOST FLEET CORSAIR #1 (OF 4) - A new series based on the hit novels!

- PENNY DREADFUL #3 - Continuing the TV series.

- RIVERS OF LONDON DETECTIVE STORIES #1 (OF 4) - Four self-contained magical
crimes.

- SHERLOCK BLIND BANKER #6 (OF 6) - Adapting the TV series.

   And that's it! (Whew!)

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Little Nightmares #1

   Certainly one of the most unusual comics you'll see this month, Little Nightmares is part fairy tale adventure and part horror / mystery.

  The comic is based on the popular puzzle / horror / adventure / puzzle game.

  It follows the trials of a girl in a yellow raincoat who's trying to survive in a strange landscape of nightmarish creatures. She finds a group of girls huddled around a fire - but is she really safe? And what stories do they have to share?

   The real strength of this book is the incredible artwork of Aaron Alexovich, with color art by Thiago Riebeiro. It's lush, evocative and atmospheric, giving life to this strange, twisted world - and it amplifies the contrast with a small girl, covered in an iconic yellow raincoat - a ray of hope in a grisly world.

   There's not much dialogue here - the visuals carry much of the story - but they're powerful enough to make it well worth the trip.

   If you're looking for something out of the ordinary, something unique - this is the book for you!

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Farlaine the Goblin: Book 5: The Vaultlands


 Almost a year ago I reviewed the series that stars Farlaine the Goblin (the character's name is pronounced "Far-lin").

   At that time, four issues had been released - and now, at long last, our patience is reward with the fifth issue in the series.

   The seven-issue series follows the adventures of a clever goblin - a shaman - who has wandered the Oddlands of Wug in search of a forest to call his own. 

   But he's quickly running out of lands to explore.

   Joining him in his search are the silent plant Ehrenwort and the robot named Drowsy, and together they visit the Vaultlands, a land of mystery. It's filled with an incredible variety of vaults, each one holding a different mystery - but does one hold a forest for Farlaine?

   I'm a sucker for this kind of puzzle / quest story, so I enjoyed the heck out of this issue - and there are some fun Easter eggs in there for those of us who have been reading comics for a while.

   This issue also gives us something new - the name of the creator behind the series! Up until now, he has been anonymous - but now, he's offering a pen name, so congrats to Pug Grumble for a great series. Something tells me that he's using a pen name. (Oh, and I know he's a "he" - because I met him at Heroes Con in Charlotte last year.)

  The art is a lot of fun, very much in the Carl Barks / Jeff Smith corner of the comics world, and the story rolls right along, keeping you guessing until the end.

   It's great to see this series back - and the wait to the next issue promises to be a short one. Here's hoping!

   You can track down back issues at the website: www.farlaine.com. Highly recommended!

Grade: A

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Doctor Strange #21

   This issue of Doctor Strange starts life with a couple of strikes against it.

   It's the first issue with a new creative team. Writer Jason Aaron has moved on after a strong 20 issues reworking the character, leaving the writing chores to Dennis Hopeless.

   Artist Chris Bachalo has also left the interior art duties (he's still providing cover art), and Niko Henrichon in handling both art and color.

   The second strike is that the series must labor under the burden of the ongoing Secret Empire event, which has the city of New York - and quite a few heroes and villains - trapped with hordes of demons in a Dark Dimension.

   So the story's kind of disjointed as Strange and some guest stars fight for survival against assorted giant monsters.

   Despite the obstacle, its a solid issue with strong artwork (and all the gross creatures your admission price can bear).

   But I look forward to seeing how the team does without an event hanging around its neck.

Grade: B-

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman - Movie Review

    My lovely wife went with me to see Wonder Woman - but it wasn't just a date night.

   I was hoping to get the opinion of someone who was impartial about the DC films - and I wanted a woman's point of view.

   The recent DC movies have left me cold (Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad) or downright angry (Man of Steel), so I wasn't sure I could trust myself to be impartial.

   The film is an origin story for Diana, and it follows the basic story from the original comic. She's raised on an island of Amazons as their greatest warrior, and she rescues Captain Steve Trevor when his plane crashes on Themyscira (Paradise Island), bringing the conflict of World War I with him. She travels to "man's world" to put an end to the conflict so everyone can live in peace. Needless to say, her mission may be more difficult than she expects.

   So here's the good news is: my wife and I both liked it - with a few reservations.

   The cast is terrific, and Gal Gadot is radiant in the title role - she's tough and loving and smart and sexy as can be. She's a true star - you can't take your eyes off her. Chris Pine is excellent as Trevor - he's smart, capable and good-hearted. 

   Stealing every scene she appeared in was Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, Steve's secretary. She manages to inject some much-needed humor and personality into the proceedings.

   The story stays mostly on solid footing (with a few minor problems) and the special effects are very good. (I didn't see the 3-D version, but friends tell me it's great.) I love the music!

   On the down side, I thought the film dragged in places and took much too long to get to the point (anytime you check your watch during an action film, it's a bad sign). I won't give away the ending, but it doesn't quite hold together.

    My wife didn't care for some of the harsher war-centered fight scenes. There we don't agree, though some of the sequences felt very "videogamey."

   I'm glad to report that there were a lot of young women in attendance, so I think the movie is definitely doing its job providing a positive role model for female fans.  (I do think it's too violent for young children.)

   There's a lot here for guys to enjoy, too - and this film is definitely a step in the right direction for DC films. Focusing more on the fun and the sense of adventure is a very good move - here's hoping for more of the same from future additions to the DC Universe.

   And we want more Wonder Woman!

Grade: A-

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Flash #23

   Kudos to the creative team on The Flash as they continue to bring the series back to life.

   Perhaps it's the inspiration of the TV series, which they're (wisely) drawing inspiration from - but there's also a nice Silver Age flavor mixed in there, too.

   That's evident here with a guest star appearance by Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), who teamed up with the Flash many times in the '60s and '70s - and Hal and Barry Allen were best friends, too.

   The story centers around a surprise party and the return of an old friend - but a menace soon breaks up the party and puts the duo to work. 

   I'd give the issue higher marks if not for the slight overdose on the soap opera aspect (a problem for the TV show, too) and a disturbing fantasy sequence.

   But I'm really happy to see Hal and Barry working together again - it's long overdue.

Grade: B+

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Secret Empire #3

    As Secret Empire continues to churn toward its eventual conclusion, I can't help but notice that each issue has lost ground (in my judgment).

   So the zero issue earned an A-; then issue #1 got a B-; and issue #3 got a C+.

   The bad news is, this issue continues the downward trend.

   That's because it falls into the trap that hurts many event books - it doesn't stand alone.

   Instead, the issue is filled with brief moments that link to the numerous tie-in stories that are happening across the Marvel Universe.

   As a result, we don't get a complete story - just a blur of moments,  moving from outer space (with a scene that revokes the inspiring ending of Infinity) to various locales around the Marvel Universe, and wrapping up with a final page that's guaranteed to cheese off fans even more.

   So, to review: an event book should stand alone; characters should be true to their intent; and this one can't end soon enough for me.

Grade: C

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

New Comics Day

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

DOCTOR STRANGE #21 - Secret Empire tie-in.

FLASH #23 - Running scared!

GUARDIANS OF GALAXY MOTHER ENTROPY #5 - The Guardians fall!

HULK #6 - The beast rises!

MAN-THING #4 (OF 5) - A python world!

SECRET EMPIRE #3 (OF 10) - Battle in space!

VISITOR HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #4 (OF 5) - The challenge of being an alien on Earth.


   And I received these for review:

BLOOD BOWL MORE GUTS MORE GLORY #1  - You thought football was violent?

DOCTOR WHO 9TH #13 

DOLLFACE #5 Off to sunny California!

FARLAINE THE GOBLIN #5 - Into the Vaultlands!

LITTLE NIGHTMARES #1 (OF 4)  - Exploring the horrifying world of The Maw!

NO WORLD #2 - Team-up time!

SPENCER AND LOCKE #2 (OF 4) - A new investigation!

VAMPBLADE SEASON TWO #3  - A dimensional death trap!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Anno Dracula #3

   You'd be hard pressed to find an issue more packed with famous literary characters than the Anno Dracula series, which is an adaptation of a beloved novel.

   Some are identified - the ones in public domain, like Dracula himself - and others they're a bit more discreet with, like the oriental mastermind Fu Manchu, who are still under copyright protection.

   It's a fun mix of classic horror characters (like the gentleman on the cover), literary and film characters, all set in an alternate history where Dracula has taken control of Great Britain - and a rebellion is growing (if the rebels can survive the experience).

   The adaptation is by the novel's author, Kim Newman, and the art (which is wonderful) is by Paul McCaffrey and Bambos Georgiou.

   It may be a difficult story to pick up at this point - it's complex and includes a growing cast of characters - but I'd definitely recommend the collected edition (or, if you can find the back issues, jump in now).

   It can be challenging to keep it all straight, but the rewards are worth the effort. Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Miraculous #12

   I have to admit that, since my kids are long since grown and off on their own, I'm a bit out of touch with the latest cartoons on TV.

   Here's one I'd never heard of until I saw the comic published by Action Lab Entertainment - Miraculous!

   I assume that episodes of the cartoon are being adapted - photo-feature style - to make the comic, which means you get a lot more bang for your five bucks - 65 pages of story in each issue!

   The story is set in Paris, and stars two teenagers: Marinette Dupain-Cheng and Adrien Agreste

   Marinette is the superhero Ladybug, and Adrien is Cat Noir The two oppose villain Hawk Moth, who controls akuma, which are butterflies infused with black energy (I am not making this up). That allows him to transform citizens into supervillains - including, in this issue, a deadly mime whose imaginary creations are all too real.

   Otherwise, the story is pretty standard sitcom stuff - an accident causes Marinette to go to silly extremes to try to make up for her error (instead of just admitting the mistake to her friend).

   But this is a solid intro to superheroics for new readers. The computer-created art is bright and fun and the story's all about friendship and teamwork. What's not to like?

   This isn't my kind of comic, but there's nothing wrong with that - the industry needs more of this kind of comic, specially made for young fans!

Grade: B

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Rapture #1 of 4)

   It starts with a quest that involves death traps, supernatural creatures, riddles and giants - which is what I would call a good beginning.

   From there, the mini-series Rapture from Valiant Comics becomes a more traditional team first issue - which is to say, it's all about building the team.

   Because the threat is a supernatural, end-of-the-world kinda thing, the team is a bit out of the ordinary.

   It's being assembled by Tama, the world's Geomancer, and includes Ninjak (because you'd always want him on your team), Punk Mambo, a voodoo priestess who provides magical tools to the arsenal, and Shadowman, another magic-based character who's, well, pretty creepy.

   The story is by Matt Kindt and the art is by Cafu, and it's a fun start to what promises to be a heavy-hitting series.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Batman / The Shadow #2

   The beauty of an iconic character is that he or she can endure different interpretations - and that's certainly what we're getting for one of the co-stars of this team-up of Batman and The Shadow.

   Batman seems in character, which makes sense, since the co-writer (with Steve Orlando) is Batman writer Scott Snyder.

   But The Shadow seems off-model to me (and granted,  I'm a big fan of the original pulps). This version feels like a murderous madman - and while The Shadow was always ready to deal final justice to criminals, he was anything but insane.

   Intelligent, cunning, decisive - that's The Shadow. The guy wearing the outfit in this series seems unhinged, out of control - and possessing supernatural powers.

   Yes, the Shadow can cloud men's minds and he can melt into the darkness - but he shouldn't be able to pull the kinds of magic tricks that we see here.

   But those quibbles aside, this is a compelling series, providing a challenge worthy of the two heroes, and demonstrating the differences between the two "dark knights."

    It may not be "my" Shadow here - but it's close enough to be fun.

Grade: B+

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Captain America: Steve Rogers #17

   Hmm.

   I've been trying hard to be upbeat about this "Cap is a member of Hydra" storyline that has led to the Secret Empire mini-series - but it gets more difficult as the story just keeps trudging along with neither hope nor an end in sight.

   (It is going to end, right?)

   Then this issue arrives, and this is where the comic starts beating you over the head with its desire to be a political statement about the results of the last presidential election.

   Which is fine, that's the story the creative team wanted to tell, good for them - but (and maybe it's just me) I'm so tired of all the political warfare that's all over the Internet, television and other social media, and the ongoing predictions of doom and worse.

   I read comics largely for escapism, and this series is so heavy-handed and depressing that it drains any entertainment value out of the story (again, for me). And to make the story work, they have to take Cap further and further down the road of villainy - and you don't get much more super-villainous than his actions as Supreme Hydra.

   The art is terrific, but the story's been dragged out for far too long. The end can't get here fast enough for me.

Grade: C-

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

X-Men Blue #4

   Then cover leaves little doubt about who this issue's guest star is - but X-Men Blue might have a surprise up its sleeve.

   This version of the team follows the original lineup (the still-young versions of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Beast and Angel) as they look for mutants in need of help.

   This issue takes them to a snow-covered Colorado, where they find a surprising mutant in need of help.

   And that's about all I can tell you without spoiling too much - but it does have a dandy final page / cliffhanger that promises more action next issue.

   I could quibble with this series - I'm not crazy about the tinkering with the Angel and the Beast, for example - but overall it's been pretty strong so far.

   I suspect the thinking behind bringing the original team to the present was to streamline the team and offer a more hopeful version of their adventures - and so far, it's been mostly successful.

  There are still some rough edges to be smoothed out, but overall this is a solid adventure in the X-men tradition.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Comics Day

   Sadly, I was on the run all day and didn't get to the comics shop today - but here’s what I plan to pick up tomorrow:

- BATMAN THE SHADOW #2 (OF 6) - Friends or enemies? 

- CAPTAIN AMERICA STEVE ROGERS #17 - Secret Empire tie-in, natch. 

- GUARDIANS OF GALAXY MOTHER ENTROPY #4 (OF 5) - Looking for help!

- KAMANDI CHALLENGE #5 (OF 12) - Run for your life! 

- SECRET WARRIORS #2 - Hey, it’s another Secret Empire tie-in!

- X-MEN BLUE #4 - A visit from Wolverine?

    And In received review copies of:

- ANNO DRACULA #3 (OF 5) - Continuing the adaptation of the novel.

- ASSASSINS CREED UPRISING #4 - Adapting the video game!

- MIRACULOUS #12 - Mime time!

- RAPTURE #1 - Battle with an Elder God!

- SOULFIRE #3 - An all-new jumping-on point! 

- WARHAMMER 40000 REVELATIONS #3 (OF 4) - Facing the wrath of the Elder Harlequins!

- WORLD WAR X #6 (OF 6) - The finale!

- X-O MANOWAR #3 - Fighting across a hostile alien world.


   And that’s it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 - Movie Review

   Whenever a movie sequel to a popular film appears, the question arises: is the second film better or worse than the first film?

   With Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, the answer is: I'm not sure if it's better, but it's just as good as the first film. (And that's high praise indeed.)

   The first film had the advantage of being new, fresh and funny.

   This time around, we're familiar with the characters, so it can't be as fresh - but it is just as funny.

   Vol. 2's focus is on family - including the ones we build (with friends and co-workers) and the ones we gain through blood relations.

   At the center is the long-awaited revelation of the identity of Star-Lord's father. We know his father is an alien, but which one out of Marvel's vast collection?

   The answer is Kurt Russell. Well, he plays the part, and does so wonderfully, with great humor and gravitas.

   As always, humor is a key element in the series, and each character gets a chance to earn some laughs - including Drax's delightful lack of guile, Rocket's eternal cynicism, Gamora's earnest "straight man" approach, Baby Groot's undeniable cuteness, and Star-Lord - well, he's just as much a wiseass as ever.

   Add in Yondu, the delightfully gruff (and deadly) leader of a crew of Ravagers, Gamora's deadly sister Nebula, who gets to do more than just be angry, and several new characters, including a Mantis who doesn't bear much resemblance to the comic book character - but is a sweet addition to the team.

   The visuals are stunning, the music is tremendous, the story builds nicely and includes genuinely moving moments. It's not easy for a movie to take you from laughing one moment to crying the next.

   It's a great addition to the Marvel movie universe, and proves me wrong again (I thought Marvel was crazy for doing a movie based on such a little-known team).

   The actors are perfectly cast and they deliver terrific performances (which is one of the keys to Marvel's film success).

   Needless to say, stick around through the credits, and pay special attention to the song that runs under the credits - it's great fun!

   You know... like the rest of the movie!

Grade: A

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