Saturday, June 23, 2018

Archie's Superteens vs. Crusaders #1 (of 2)


   Certainly one of the more... unusual... takes on Archie and his friends is the Superteens, which was a short-lived-and-rarely-revisited stint from the '60s where the gang somehow became superheroes (with vaguely-defined powers). 

   But hey, superheroes are hot right not (at least at the movies), and Archie Comics has a bunch of Golden, Silver and Modern Age characters just gathering dust (the Mighty Crusaders, for example), so why not trot them out and take a shot?

   Happily, this issue puts the focus on fun, as an evil substitute teacher at Riverdale High School hatches a strange scheme, which draws the attention of the Crusaders and the Superteens (natch, since it's their home turf).

   So Archie becomes Pureheart, Betty becomes Superteen (is the group named after her?), Veronica (who didn't have a hero incarnation in the original stories) becomes Miss Vanity, and Jughead becomes Captain Hero.

   It's all fast and breezy and fun - a nifty burst of nostalgia for geezers like me, and it should be fun for new readers, too.

Grade: B+

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Friday, June 22, 2018

The Man of Steel #4 (of 6)


   I suspect this issue of The Man of Steel is what many readers were expecting when writer Brian Michael Bendis moved over to DC.

   It's an action-packed issue, as Superman and Supergirl face off against the monstrous Rogol Zaar, an alien creature who (apparently maybe) was responsible for the destruction of the planet Krypton - and who's arrived on Earth to clear up a few loose ends.

    He's one of the few villains who can stand up to (or possibly overmatch) Superman, and he's very, very smart - so it's a fast-paced slugfest, with terrific art by comics legend Kevin McGuire.

   We also get some more (surprising) information about the disappearance of his wife Lois and son Jon - and a welcome guest star.

   One of Bendis' strengths as a writer is knowing how to build tension in the story, and there's a lot of that in evidence here - and I really like the way he writes Superman, as a smart, caring hero. 

   So far, so good!

Grade: A-

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tony Stark Iron Man #1


   So here's what has had this long-time fan scratching his head for years now (no wonder I'm going bald): Marvel has these hugely successful films, but the comic book version of the characters seem to bear little resemblance to the film version.

   Robert Downey, Jr., for example, has crafted a wonderful character in his Iron Man - smart, funny, fast on his feet, handsome, suave - the guy everyone wants to be. 

   But for years now the comic book version has been more of a tragic figure - or largely absent. Stories have wandered afield with questions about Tony's parentage, him being in a coma, a substitute Iron (Wo)Man taking over - you get the idea.

   Happily, with this new issue #1, the creative team - writer Dan Scott, artist Valerio Schiti and color artist Edgar Delgado - have brought new life to the character. 

   Tony is building a new team for his company, including some familiar faces and new ones. (I like the story being told through the eyes of a new character.)

   But he also gets to trot out some new armor designs as he fights an old foe - and another classic opponent looms in the background.

   It's a fresh, fun start to the new series, and a welcome return to basics for the Armored Avenger, who meshes nicely with his film counterpart. Finally!

Grade: A-

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

New Comics Day


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

- ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #2 (OF 5) - Trapped in the Microverse!

- ARCHIES SUPERTEENS VS CRUSADERS #1 - Crisis in Riverdale!

- AVENGERS #3 - Facing the Final Host!

- BRAVE & THE BOLD BATMAN & WONDER WOMAN #5 (OF 6) - Hail to the king!

- CAPTAIN AMERICA #704 - You say you want a revolution?

- CHAMPIONS #21 - Fight with Alpha Flight!

- DAREDEVIL #604 - Evil at the heart of New York!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #2 - Where no Sorcerer Supreme has gone before!

- TONY STARK IRON MAN #1 - Yet another new beginning!

- MAN OF STEEL #4 (OF 6) - Who can stop Rogol Zaar?

- USAGI YOJIMBO #4 (OF 7) THE HIDDEN - Assassins attack!

- WILD STORM #14 - Secrets revealed!


     And I received these review copies:

- DARK SOULS AGE OF FIRE #2 (OF 4) - The legends of Gwyn and Knight Artorias!


- EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT IRIS VOL 5 #2 - Back in business!

- FATHOM PRIMER 2018 - A history of Aspen's greatest hero!

- FATHOM VOL 7 #1 - Back in blue!

- NINJA-K #8 - A search-and-destroy mission!

- RIVERS OF LONDON WATER WEED #1 - When Goddesses go to work...

- SHADOWMAN #4 - Dead and gone!

- SPACE RIDERS VOL. 02 GALAXY OF BRUTALITY - An ancient evil powers up!

- TANK GIRL ALL STARS #1 (OF 4) - Strories by creators old and new!

- WARHAMMER 40000 DEATHWATCH #2 (OF 4) - Defending humanity from the Xenos!


     And that's it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Bloodshot Salvation #10


   Having succeeded in his quest to save his daughter's life, Bloodshot must now pay the price for that rescue.

   He must fulfill a mission for the mysterious Baron Samedi - one that will take him into the distant future - namely, the year 4002 (which should ring some bells for longtime fans).

   Meanwhile, back in the present, his daughter's experience in other realms has left her significantly changed and a target for the forces of an organization called OMEN - and they don't have her best interests at heart.

   With a compelling story by Jeff Lemire and terrific art by Doug Braithwaite, this series continues to offer surprising twists and lots of action. 

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 18, 2018

Konungar #1


   This issue of Konungar kicks off a hefty fantasy epic (this introductory story is 50 pages long) that follows the civil war that erupts between two brothers - Sigvald and Rildrig - who each hope to become king of their people.

   They live in a brutal Viking culture, but also face a number of mystical enemies - the biggest threat coming from an army of Centaurs.

   The issue features amazing, lush artwork by Juzhen. Each page is loaded with stunning images, great characters and lush environments.

   The story by Sylvain Runerg is epic in scale, but may have lost a little something in the translation from the original French. It jumps around in time as it provides backstory, and that can be a little bit confusing at times.

   Minor quibbles aside, this is a powerful book and well worth checking out for any fan of fantasy.

Grade: A-

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Awaken Skies #0


   The mathematician in me really wishes the comics industry would abandon the idea of issue #0. How about issue #1/2, or 3/4, or 7/8? 

   Maybe it's just me.

   At any rate, Aspen previews its new series Awaken Skies with this issue #0 (sigh).

   Previews are all well and good, but this one doesn't give us much to work with.

   We meet a computer hacker (I think) who has downloaded some important information (apparently) and who tries to escape with it - but he's pursued by... well, let's just say a really unusual group.

   We also meet a lovely high school student whose dad is apparently hiding a secret about her - but we don't know what.

   And that's really all you get this time around.

   Hopefully once the series starts this will make some sense, but for now they're not giving us much of a reason to stick around, other than a striking cover.

Grade: B-

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

Plastic Man #1 (of 6)


   Plastic Man is apparently a really difficult character to "get right."

   I say that because they keep trotting that stretching hero out with new creative teams - and it never lasts.

   This mini-series has a talented creative team in writer Gail Simone and artist Adriana Melo - but this issue is made ups of parts that don't quite fit.

   Is it a comedy? Well, there are funny parts - and also horrific ones. Is it a mystery? Well, there's an important question Plastic Man is trying to answer - but the answer is very unsatisfying. It's an adventure - but Plas isn't very heroic, and there's quite a bit of graphic brutality and death in evidence.

    Some concepts don't take easily to modernizing, and Plastic Man (like the original Captain Marvel) seems to be one.

   Someday, someone will find the right kind of story for Plas (I hope, because I love the character), but while this is a valiant effort, we're not there yet.

Grade: B-

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Hawkman #1


   I've been a fan of Hawkman for a long, long time.

   I'm not old enough to have read the Golden Age adventures of the hero, but I was just the right age to enjoy the Silver Age version of Katar Hol, the policeman from the planet Thanagar who came to Earth with his wife and partner Shayera to learn from Earth police methods, all while fighting menaces in their Hawk-gear.

   After that the story gets a bit muddled by the various Crisis and reboots, but eventually Hawkman became Carter Hall, a hero from Earth who has been reincarnated along with his lover Shayera through many incarnations.

   We'll skip over the "New 52's" Savage Hawkman, who was "killed" by Despero in a recent mini-series (which was something of a mercy), and now Carter (the archeologist and superhero) is back for new adventures in a new series.

     Happily, writer Robert Venditti has taken the character back to his Golden Age roots, has incorporated the best aspects of his modern incarnation, and thrown in some really interesting hints around his ties to other worlds. 

   The art is by Bryan Hitch and Andrew Currie, with color art by Alex Sinclair, and it's terrific. Hitch has given the hero's wings a new, natural look, making them behave more like actual wings, instead of the traditional, stiff look that's been the norm.

   Hitch, of course, is the master of Cinemascope splash pages, and you get those here in spades. But we also get a very human Carter, who has friends (gasp!) and acts like a good person (although he's a bit cavalier about the destruction of ancient objects).

   There are still lots of questions to be answered (like where is Hawkwoman?), but this is a very promising start to the series.

   The comic has made this long-time fan happy about a Hawkman comic for the first time in a long time.

Grade: A

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thor #1


   Finally, Thor has his name and his comic book back (which is pretty amazing, considering the high-profile success the character has enjoyed in the Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity Wars movies).

   The story by Jason Aaron has the Thunder God cleaning up the mess left behind by the destruction of Asgardia at the hands of Mangog - so he's tracking down lost items of power.

   That brings him in conflict with one of Marvel's most powerful villains - and Thor isn't quite back up to full power, because another item lost was his hammer, Mjolnir - so he's looking for a replacement.

   The issue keeps things rolling along, bringing us back up to speed on the War Between the Realms, which threatens to spill over onto Earth.

   The art is by Mike Del Mundo with color assists by Marco D'Alfonso, and I have to admit - I've conflicted on it. 

   Del Mundo's painted style is really lovely - soft and striking, and I like it a lot - but it doesn't feel like a good match for Thor's adventures, which should be big and bold and dynamic. 

   The issue also includes a backup story set in the far future with ancient Thor and his daughters facing a galactic threat.

   Thor has always been one of my favorite characters, and I'm very happy to have him back in action - but this series is still carrying a lot of baggage from the previous series (did he ever stop being "unworthy?"). 

   Hopefully they can wrap those threads up quickly and move on to something fresh.

Grade: B

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New Comics Day


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

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS MY AINSEL #4 - Off to San Francisco!

- HAWKMAN #1 - Back from the dead (again)!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #9 (OF 15) - Disaster strikes!

- MAN OF STEEL #3 (OF 6) - A killer arrives on Earth!

- MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #1 - Unravelling the secrets of the Secret Wars!

- MISTER MIRACLE #9 (OF 12) - The war is over (again)!

- PLASTIC MAN #1 (OF 6) - Back from the dead (also)!

- SHIELD BY HICKMAN AND WEAVER #6 (OF 6) - The conclusion (at last)!

- THOR #1 - Back in action (at last)!


     And I received these review copies:

- AWAKEN SKIES #0 - A new world of flight!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #10 - Starting a new story arc!

- JIRNI Vol. 3 #4 - More action more often!

- KONUNGAR WAR OF CROWNS #1 - Epic fantasy adventure!

- SEA OF THIEVES #4 (OF 4) - Wrapping up the first mini-series!

- SEASON OF THE SNAKE #3 (OF 3) - Sci-Fi and Fantasy collide!


   And that's it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dumbo - Movie Trailer


   Disney had had a lot of success adapting their animated catalog into live action films, and here's the latest addition: Dumbo, the story of an elephant with big ears and a surprising talent.

   (The original also features one of the most heartbreaking songs of all time.) 

   It's directed by Tim Burton, so I'm expecting lots of goodness here - and some updates to bring it in line with modern sensibilities.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Valiant High #2 (of 4)


   This is definitely a different version / alternate universe / teen drama take on the characters in the Valiant Universe.

   Valiant High places (mostly) younger versions of heroes like Ninjak, X-O Manowar, the Eternal Warrior, Livewire, Faith, Armstrong and Archer in a high school setting - but don't expect Archie-like antics, because it's not really played for laughs.

   Instead it's more of a teen romance / adventure saga, perhaps more in the vein of the original X-Men, as powered teens are sent to a special school to hone their skills.

   Of course, there's plenty of romantic interest, misunderstandings between friends and a mystery or two to keep things cooking along.

   Obviously, this kind of story isn't aimed at a geezer like me - but if you enjoy Riverdale and that sort of thing, this should be right in your gearhouse.

Grade: B

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Brother Nash #1 (of 3)


   If you're looking for something unique, something with a southwest America flavor, something to challenge your imagination - then Brother Nash is a comic to watch.

    It starts simply enough, as a young man named Nashoba (he goes by Nash) is driving a big truck across country. He picks up a hitchhiker who's hiding a dark secret - and then things start getting weird.

   They encounter ghosts, monsters, and most terrifying of all - the truth!

   You actually get two stories in this issue, as the second takes Nash to a friend's ranch. She and her father are being threatened by a murderous gang - and the gang has some high-powered allies.

   Both stories are loaded with humor, mystery, horror and a great sense of friendship and family.

   The art and story are by Bridgit Connell, and the comic offers a fresh look at some old Western myths - mixed with the mythology of the open road. 

   It's a fun, fresh start, and well worth a look.

Grade: A-

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Doctor Strange #1


   Dang, Mark Waid is everywhere this week!

   (This is not a bad thing - I'm all for him writing lots of comics.)

   He's taken over the adventures of Doctor Strange, the Earth's Sorcerer Supreme - but Stephen's best days may be behind him.

   With his powers mysteriously disappearing, he must solve the problem or adjust to the life of an ordinary man.

   So he looks for help from a surprising source, and the solution takes him into truly uncharted waters.

   The artwork is by Jesus Saiz, and it's wonderful - expressive and powerful and intimate work.

   This is a great jumping-on point, and looks like the beginning of yet another terrific story from Waid. 

   More like this, please!

Grade: A

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp #1


   With the second movie coming out soon, Marvel has wisely turned a spotlight on Ant-Man and the Wasp, and also wisely, they've placed their adventures under the control of writer Mark Waid.

   The comic doesn't exactly match up to the film version, of course. The original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, is (reportedly) dead (wink, wink), and the mantle rests on Scott Lang (just like the movie).

   But the Wasp is not the movie Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne, she is the comic book Pym's daughter Nadia van Dyne (from Hank's first marriage), now adopted by the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne.

   Here Scott is played for laughs (although he is an engineer and a capable hero) and Nadia is the brains of the outfit (she takes after her dad).

   Scott is stuck in a distant galaxy, and his attempts to return go awry - so it's up to Nadia to track him down, which leads them both to a mysterious world - and an unearthly menace.

   With terrific art by Javier Garron and colors by Israel Silva, the series is off to a terrific start!

   As a long-time fan of the characters, I'm glad to see them in the spotlight, even under different guises.

Grade: A-

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Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Man of Steel #2 (of 6)

   
   It feels like this Man of Steel mini-series is sending mixed signals.

   The cover shows us Pa and Ma Kent showing young Clark the small star ship that brought him to Earth as an infant - and nowhere inside this issue does that scene occur.

   Instead, writer Brian Michael Bendis gives us another snippet of history from the destruction of Krypton - and then we jump forward to the mystery of what the heck is going on with Superman's family.

   His wife, Lois, and their son, Jon, have disappeared under mysterious circumstances - and other than a single alarming image, we don't get any info about that.

   But what we do get, happily, are three terrific artists - 13 pages by Doc Shaner, two by Jay Fabok and eight by living legend Steve Rude - so it's worth buying for that.

   Otherwise it doesn't really advance the ball much - it's all tease and little story.

Grade: B+

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New Comics Day

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

-  ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #1 (OF 5) - A new beginning!

-  ARCHIE #31 - What does the Bee know?

-  CAPTAIN AMERICA #703 - An old enemy returns!

-  DOCTOR STRANGE #1 - New allies and enemies!

-  IMMORTAL HULK #1 - The Hulk meets horror!

-  INFINITY COUNTDOWN #4 (OF 5) - Will Ultron rule the universe?

-  MAN OF STEEL #2 (OF 6) - What happened to Lois?

-  PAPER GIRLS #21 - Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!

-  XERXES FALL OF HOUSE OF DARIUS #3 (OF 5) - Fall of a king!


   And I received these review copies:

-  ABERRANT #1 - A one-man war on superheroes!

-  ATHENA VOLTAIRE SORCERER POPE TP - The first adventures!

-  BEAUTIFUL DEATH HC - Collecting the apocalyptic story!

-  BLACK BETTY #4 - A trip down memory lane!

-  BROTHER NASH #1 - Horror on the road to Sacremento!

-  CHARISMAGIC VOL 03 #5 (OF 6) - No magical being is safe!

-  DANGER DOLL SQUAD GALACTIC GLADIATORS #3 - Cosmic combat!

-  DOCTOR WHO 7TH #1 (OF 4) - The Seventh Doctor is back - for all new adventures.

-  FIGHTING AMERICAN TIES THAT BIND #4 (OF 4) - The final issue!

-  PENNY DREADFUL #10 - Continues the story directly after the shocking events of Penny Dreadful's season three finale!

-  PORTAL BOUND #3 (OF 5) - Their future depends on each other!

-  PRINCELESS RAVEN PIRATE PRINCESS TP VOL 05 TOGETHER - Back to normal?

-  QUARRYS WAR GN - Collecting the Max Allan Collins story!

-  VALIANT HIGH #2 (OF 4) - Class is in session!

     And that's it! Whew!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Quantum & Woody #6

   
   As a comic(al) superhero duo, you can generally count on Quantum & Woody to make a hash of things.

   But sometimes - they can surprise us.

   For example, what happens when they encounter a natural disaster (spinning out of Harbinger Wars II) that leaves them powerless - but lives are in danger?

   It's a surprisingly serious situation - with quite a few shocks and twists along the way. And oh, that last page...

   This series often flies under the radar, but it's always entertaining, with strong art and story by Francis Portela and Eliot Rahal (respectively) and well worth checking out.

Grade: A-

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Harbinger Wars II #1

   
   Of course you know, this means war!

   This issue is all about drawing the lines between the Harbingers - powerful individuals who possess super-powers - and the governments of the world.

   More Harbingers are turning up almost daily (they're being "activated" by a rogue operator), and a bungled attempt to capture or kill some young Renegades has angered the powerful Livewire - and she's fighting back in a spectacular way.

   The government is marshaling its resources, too, by recruiting agents like Ninjak and X-O Manowar - and tensions are escalating fast  .

   The story is building nicely as we see the two sides moving their forces into place - getting ready for the carnage to come.

   So far, so good!

Grade: A-

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

2021 Lost Children #1


   If you like your stories about the future to be dystopian, here's the comic for you!

   2021 Lost Children drops us in the middle of a Civil War (of sorts) being fought in America - specifically, in the city of Detroit, which has broken away from rest of the country.

   The people who live there - including soldiers and well-armed citizens - are fighting to protect their leader, the powerful Ike Mercy.

   When a military invasion fails, the U.S. sends in a most unusual invasion force - a team of young children!

   They possess amazing powers, but there's a cost to using those powers, and they face many obstacles on the way into the city.

   The story's a bit twisty and takes a few odd turns, but the art is amazing, combining photo-realistic images with strong character designs and fluid storytelling.

   It's a story that's very different and a bit challenging - but it's certainly compelling. 

Grade: B+

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Saturday, June 2, 2018

We Are the Danger #1


   It's all about putting a band together.

   No super heroics, no end of the world threats - We Are the Danger is about some young people meeting, flirting, getting to know each other - and trying to play music.

   It centers around a young woman named Julie who is invited to a show by her new friend Tabitha. It looks like Julie has been "stood up," but then the band walks onto the stage, and Julie realizes her friend is part of the performance!

   It's all down-to-Earth and written with an ear toward how people really talk and behave.

   The comic is written and drawn by Fabian Lelay with colors by Claudia Aguirre - and it's a strong first issue, one that should especially appeal to young adult readers.

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Doomsday Clock #5 (of 12)

   
   I admit it - Doomsday Clock continues to mystify me.

   Is it taking place in the DC Universe? It sure doesn't feel like it. 

   This feels like the DC Cinematic Universe, where all the stories are dark and dreary and hopeless.

   There's lots of death and dismemberment. Only Superman seems to be acting in character, and even he's a bit suspicious. Batman isn't his usual super-competent self. And I'm not crazy about a time-honored character like Perry White saying "Goddamn" to Lois Lane.

    The problem is that, in merging the two universes - Watchmen and DC - the latter has changed to match the former. 

   So it's grim and gritty all the way down.

   To be fair, the story is building nicely, with a growing sense of danger and an inevitable confrontation on the way. The art is tremendous - detailed and moody and very affecting.

   But I'm not convinced it's worth the price of how it's changing the DC characters. We'll see.

Grade: A-

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