Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Jirni #5 (of 5)


   As we reach the conclusion of the latest adventure of Jirni, the story actually reaches a conclusion - though perhaps not the one readers are expecting!

   The title character is an attractive mix of magic (think Aladdin), swordplay (Red Sonja) and super heroics (She-Hulk).

   She has fought her way across a fantastic world filled with dangers to find her mother, who's a D'jinn - and being manipulated (along with a small army of D'jinns) into doing the bidding of a powerful evil magician.

   He's one of those villains who is so powerful that no one can stand against him - which makes the final chapter a bit cheap, all too convenient.

    But the art is great and the lead character is lovely - but if you're going to have a big build-up, you need a strong ending to pay it off.

   Here we just get... an ending.

Grade: B-

------------------

   

Monday, July 16, 2018

Tap Dance Killer #2


   If you're looking for a series that's a bit off-kilter (in an entertaining way), you won't go wrong with Tap Dance Killer.

   It centers around a theatre troupe that is performing a horror show musical when the cast is doused in a mysterious, mystical concoction, which locks them into their characters and grants them powers. 

   And they soon find themselves pitted against a small army of gangsters in a crime war.

   The title character is Nikki St. Clair, a beautiful young woman who somehow harnesses her dancing skills into unbeatable fighting abilities - and she finds herself teamed up with a massive fighter who goes by the name Punchline.

   The story by Ted Sikora walks the line between anarchy and poetry, as art and crime collide in an odd and unique way.

   The art is by Nikolaus Harrison, and I like it a lot - the character designs are clever, the layouts are fresh and the environments are nicely realized.

   This isn't for young readers - it's a bit violent and offbeat - but mature readers looking for something original will like it!

Grade: B+

---------------------

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Relay #1


   This is not a series for the faint of heart.

   Oh, it's not overly violent or graphic - rather, it's very smart and challenges the reader to actually think.

   Relay first came to my attention via issue #0, a Free Comic Book Day offering - here's what I said about it in this review:

  << Relay (Aftershock) - Wow, the best thing I’ve see yet - a science fiction tale of faith and mystery. Not sure where it’s going, which is a good thing, I think. >>

   And that's a pretty good recap of the first issue, too.

   The mystery of the science fiction series centers around a mysterious monolith that somehow links a number of worlds - and lest you think this is some kind of 2001: A Space Odyssey riff, the monoliths tower over the most prosperous futuristic city, and it somehow ties together different planets - just how is for future issues to explain.

   We get some glimpses of life in this futuristic setting, the threat of terror and the search for the man who discovered the monoliths, which is the key to the mystery at hand.

   The story is challenging and the art is terrific, building an amazing new world with stunning environments and diverse characters.

   It's a promising start to a smart story!

Grade: A-

----------------- 

   

Saturday, July 14, 2018

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest #1 (of 6)


   As the (apparent) last refuge of comics work by one of the industry's best writers  - Alan Moore - the appearance of a new issue of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen demands attention - especially since it's the final chapter in the series.

   The remarkable series, which posits that all fictional creations are real, has moved from the public domain world of the 19th Century into (nearly) modern times, which means the creators must be clever and discreet about the creations they include herein.

    So we see some cautious references to certain famous British spies (including several of them who apparently sport the same "Double-Oh" code numbers), a super-hero team that includes some analogs to certain well-known faces, and perhaps some classic British heroes mixed in as well.

   The government is trying to track down the final three members of the League - Mina Murray, Orlando and Emma Night. That trio is racing across lost lands and through ocean depths to try to find sanctuary.

   There's also a mystery involving a visitor from the future who hopes to prevent the end of the world - and much, much more.

   The art by Kevin O'Neill is stunning, and loaded with enough hidden treats and Easter eggs to keep you studying and re-reading the issue over and over.

   I hate to see the series end, but happily enough, it's promising a hell of an ending. 

Grade: A

---------------

Friday, July 13, 2018

Hawkman #2


   Two issues in and I'm almost ready to call the new Hawkman title the best version of the character since he first reappeared in the '60s!

   They've taken him back to his archeologist roots, looking for clues to explain the new, odd memories he's experiencing that indicate that he not only has lived many past lives on Earth - but he's also connected to past versions of himself on other planets.

   Writer Robert Venditti is building a powerful mythology here, and Bryan Hitch's artwork is stunning, whether depicting battles in the sky above Ancient Egypt or a calm ride on a subway train.

   I'm not sure where they're going with this (which is a good thing), but it promises to make sense of the hash that Hawkman's history has become - so I'm all for it!

Grade: A-

--------------------
 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Superman #1


   So there's this new hero - Superman!

   If you rush, you can pick up comics of his first issue, which are bound to be a collector's item!

   OK, lame humor aside, this is the starting point for writer Brian Michael Bendis' run on the regular title with artists Ivan Reis and Joe Prado - and it's a strong start! 

   There's no wasted effort here, as we are brought up to speed on the new status quo for the Man of Steel - he's adjusting to life without Lois and Jon (who are off world on a surprising journey), working as a reporter at The Daily Planet, interacting with other heroes and saving the lives of the innocent.

   With terrific art, a fresh, inspired take on the classic hero, and a story that sets lots of wheels in motion (including a shocking final page), it's an impressive start for the new creative team.

   I'm looking forward to the next issue - and yes, this title is back on my "pull" list at the comics shop!

Grade: A

---------------------

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

New Comics Day


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

- ARCHIE #32 - Held hostage!

- CHAMPIONS #22 -Guest starring the Man-Thing!

- DAREDEVIL #605 - The Kingpin returns!

- HAWKMAN #2 -Who's hunting Hawkman?

- LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #1 (of 6) - Welcome to the present!

- SUPERMAN #1 - A new beginning!


     And I received these comics for review:

- A&A ADV OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG HC DLX ED - A massive collection!

- ATLAS AND AXIS TP - Collecting the adventure!

- BLOODSHOT SALVATION #11 - It's killing time!

- CHARISMAGIC VOL. 3 #6 (OF 6) - The finale!

- DOCTOR WHO ROAD TO 13TH DR 10TH DR SPECIAL #1 - The road to the 13th Doctor begins!

- JIRNI VOLUME 3 #5 - Another finale!

- KONUNGAR WAR OF CROWNS #2 - Fight for your life!

- NU WAY #1 - A young fighter hopes to earn a better life!

- RELAY #1 - The science fiction story of a distant world, a monolith - and a miracle.

- TAP DANCE KILLER #2 - A new, deadly partner for the Killer!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor: Operation Volcano #2


   Whoever your favorite Doctor might be (and everyone who's a fan of Doctor Who has a favorite), Titan Comics has you covered, as they create various comics starring the different iterations of The Time Lord.

   This time around, it's the Seventh Doctor in the spotlight, as played by Sylvester McCoy, along with his most famous companion, the lovely and feisty Ace, as played by Sophie Aldred.

   They caught in the middle of a mystery that involves strange, mind-controlling, snake-like creatures, along with a possible alien incursion in Australia, and a death trap!

   The story is by Andrew Cartmel and the stunning art is by Christopher Jones, with color art by Marco Lesko. 

   There's also a short backup story by Richard Dinnick (story), Jessica Martin (art) and Charlie Kirchoff (colors).

   It's all fast and funny and an entertaining reprise of the classic cast! 

   Recommended!

Grade: A-

-----------------

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Man of Steel #6 (of 6)


   This issue wraps up the opening storyline for writer Brian Michael Bendis' run on the adventures of Superman.

   As expected, the Man of Steel mini-series has taken some liberties with Clark's backstory.

   So we meet the alien who may have destroyed Krypton - and unless Superman and Supergirl can stop him (it?), Earth faces the same fate!

   We also discover the reasons behind the surprising disappearance of Lois and young Jon - and the unexpected return of a character thought to have died long ago.

   It's an interesting new chapter in the life of Superman, with lots of action along the way. 

   So far, it's been very good. I'm especially happy to see the return of "smart" Superman - the hero works best when he isn't just depending on his muscles to solve problems.

   Like politics, there are basically two approaches to a new campaign: you can promise a "fresh start" or a "return to greatness!"

   Bendis seems to be having it both ways... so far!

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A

-----------------

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Movie Review


   It's difficult for sequels to reach the heights of the first film in a series, because it's a little trickier to surprise the audience the second time around.

   Ant-Man and The Wasp avoid that trap by creating, for all intents and purposes, the second half of the story that began in the first movie.

   The movie has some bits of business to sort out (and bring us all up to date). Scott Lang / Ant-Man (played by the funny and likable Paul Rudd) is under house arrest following the events in Captain America: Civil War - but his old allies, Hank Pym (the authoritative Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne / The Wasp (the wonderful, stunning, scene-stealing Evangeline Lilly), are on the run from the authorities (and lurking in a very cool hideout), and they need Lang's help.

   In the first film, Scott traveled to the Quantum Realm, and he may have brought back the secret of tracking down Pym's wife, Janet Van Dyne (the luminous Michelle Pfeiffer), who's been lost there for 30 years - but they must overcome the menace of the mysterious figure known as Ghost (the moody and enigmatic Hannah John-Kamen).

   The film wisely brings back Michael Peña as Luis, Lang's fast-talking best friend (he's absolutely hilarious in every scene), and adds the wonderfully villainous Walton Goggins as Tech Dealer Sonny Burch, who chews the scenery with gusto.

   This is one of the funniest of the Marvel movies, it moves fast and is loaded with lots of clever action sequences and size-changing fun. The Wasp is a delight throughout, romping through fight scenes with great gusto.

   The only thing that works against this movie is that it appears in the same year as Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther, two incredible, over-the-top blockbusters - while Ant-Man and The Wasp, despite having Marvel's biggest (and smallest) heroes in action, is actually a must more personal and touching film.

   It's also a heck of a lot of fun, and it's suitable for the whole family. 

   The heroes may be small, but they have big hearts and are fighting for all the right reasons.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

------------------

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Batman #50


   I admit to being a sucker for anniversary issues, so even though I haven't been reading the adventures of Batman for the last few years, I decided to pick up the big "Wedding" issue.

   Of course, I can't talk about the events therein much without giving away key story points (which is against the rules here), so let's focus on the fact that this takes a different approach than most wedding events in comics.

   The classic example is the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm in Fantastic Four Annual #3, conveniently reprinted this week. It featured almost every hero and villain (up to that point) in the Marvel Universe.

   But for the wedding of Batman and Catwoman, the creative team took a different approach, focusing almost exclusively on those two characters, keeping things "small" (in a good way) and personal.

   It manages a nice balance between wordplay by writer Tom King, powerful artwork by Mikel Janin, and stunning full-page panels by more than 20 top-tier guest artists.

   Since I haven't been reading the book, it was difficult to sort out what was going on here - and it certainly moves in unexpected directions - but it's an outstanding package and a unique chapter in the Dark Knight's life.

Grade: A-

-----------------

Friday, July 6, 2018

Steve Ditko - the Passing of a Titan


   The death of Steve Ditko at the age of 90 was confirmed today, and it's sad news for any fan of comics.

   A unique figure in comics, Ditko hated the limelight and preferred to let his work speak for him - and it made his point loud and clear.

   He worked virtually his entire life in the industry, working for almost every company and in almost every genre. 

   But it was his work at Marvel Comics with Stan Lee that marked him as one of the industry's all-time greats. After years of creating clever and visually stunning mystery / science fiction / fantasy shorts for Marvel's "monster" comics, Ditko teamed with Lee to create a unique superhero and changed the industry. 

   That character was Spider-Man, and it was perfectly suited to Ditko's quirky, down-to-Earth style. If Jack Kirby's art had the impact of a hammer, Ditko's was all about finesse, combining acrobatic action, lots of humor, clever plot twists and a surprising amount of heart.

   Spider-Man became a phenomenon, and it also became a great showcase for Ditko's writing ability. By issue 25, Ditko was credited with the plot (the first artist to get such a credit), and he continued to mold the character until his sudden departure with issue 38.


   At the same time, he created Dr. Strange (Lee stated at one point that the character was Ditko's idea, though it obviously benefitted from Lee's scripting - and owed a bit to Lee and Kirby's short-lived Dr. Druid). It was an amazing, surreal and psychedelic creation by an artist rooted firmly in the real world.

   And then, at the height of his success, Ditko left Marvel for reasons no one seems to understand (though there are lots of theories, of course). But he never stopped working.

   At Charlton, he worked on heroes such as Captain Atom, Blue Beetle and the Question. At DC he created Hawk and Dove and the Creeper. He drew adventures for Thunder Agents and horror tales for Warren and on and on.

   He created another distinctive creation, Mr. A, an unusual hero who preached an Ayn Rand-inspired philosophy, focusing on good vs. evil with no gray area allowed in between.

   I still think his finest work was Shade, the Changing Man for DC - but before it could catch on, it was washed away (along with his Odd Man) in the DC Implosion.

   He even returned to Marvel to draw the adventures of ROM and Machine Man (among many others), but refused to draw Spider-Man or Dr. Strange again.

   As he continued into his senior years, Ditko mostly worked on self-published projects - but while he apparently refused to take part in the modern movies based on his characters, he was adamant that he should be considered the co-creator on those heroes, and was quick to pipe up with a reporter neglected to provide proper credit.

   Everyone has their own "Mount Rushmore" of great artists who should be honored, and Ditko is on mine, next to Kirby, Will Eisner, and whoever the fourth artist might be (I'm still debating on that one - Wood? Kane? Toth? Kubert? Anderson? It's a tough call.)

   For his staggering body of work, for his amazing artistic skill - a completely unique and stunning style - and for his contributions to raising the level of storytelling in comics, Ditko deserves to be honored as one of the industry's all-time greats. 

   We may never see his like again.


   

   

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Justice League of America & Batman 100-Page Comic Giant #1


   There's a new source for comics in town!

   Starting this week, Wal-Mart has started distribution of four "new" monthly titles from DC Comics, each one sort of a throwback to the 100-Page Spectaculars so fondly remembered by longtime fans.

    They're apparently popular - I stopped by my local store and managed to pick up the last issue of both Justice League of America 100-Page Comic Giant and the issue dedicated to Batman - which means I've missed out on the issues starring Superman and Wonder Woman the Teen Titans.

   Like the classic versions, each issue is mostly reprints - but they're not "classic" reprints. They're actually reprints of the first "New 52" comics. The JLA issue includes the first Justice League "New 52" issue, the first Flash story, and the first Aquaman

   There is a new 12-page story included that features Wonder Woman and it's nice enough - but I admit, as a longtime reader, I was hoping for a wider range of reprints.


The Batman issue also includes a new 12-page story - this one featuring Batman, natch  - along with a reprint of the first issue of the beloved Hush series by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, and the first "New 52" issues starring Nightwing and Harley Quinn.

   At $4.99 a pop, you're getting a good bargain for your money - unless you already have those original stories, in which case it's a lot for a 12-page story.

   The trick, of course, is finding the comics. Happy hunting!

Grade: A-

----------------

   

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

New Comics Day

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

- ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #3 (OF 5) - Trapped in the microverse!

- AVENGERS #4 - Who are the prehistoric Avengers?

- BATMAN #50 - Those wedding bells are breaking up that gang of mine.

- CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 - It's winter in America. Of course.

- DOCTOR STRANGE #3 - The Infinity War heats up!

- MAN OF STEEL #6 (OF 6) - The fate of Earth hangs in the balance!

- PAPER GIRLS #22 - The future is terrifying!

- TRUE BELIEVERS FANTASTIC FOUR WEDDING REED AND SUE #1 - A classic reprinted!

- XERXES: FALL OF HOUSE OF DARIUS #4 (OF 5) - The god king is dead!


     And I received these comics for review: 

- BLACK BETTY #5 - A monster stalks a small town!

- BROTHER NASH #2 - Monsters on the road to Sacremento!

- DOCTOR WHO 12TH TIME TRIALS Vol. 3 CONFUSION OF ANGELS - Robots vs. Weeping Angels!

- DOCTOR WHO 7TH #2 (OF 4)  

- GHOUL SCOUTS I WAS A TWEENAGE WEREWOLF TP - A werewolf in the woods!

- PORTAL BOUND #4 (OF 5) - The future at stake!

- RUIN OF THIEVES BRIGANDS #3 - The enemy at their heels!

- VALIANT HIGH #3 (OF 4) - Superpowered school spirit!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON 3 #3 - Can both Vampblades survive?

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #49 - Get ready for the final battle!


     And that's it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Her Infernal Descent #3


   Who doesn't enjoy a good trip to hell?

   Especially one that involves so many prominent artists (and a few classic writers and actors) brought back to revisit some of their works and thoughts and deeds.

   In Her Infernal Descent we follow an older woman named Lynn who is searching the levels of hell for her children. (She is assured they are in there - somewhere.)

   The fun is watching her interact with different famous artists, trying to work out a series of trades so she can finally land the one item that will allow her to pass on to the next level.

   Oh, and we finally see Dante, whose work forms the foundation of all such stories - he deserves a nod, certainly.

   This isn't a story for kids - more because of the depth of the conversation, rather than the disturbing or adult nature (there's some of that in there, too). 

   But overall it's a clever and captivating story, well worth checking out.

Grade: A-

-------------------
   

Monday, July 2, 2018

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer #1


   It's good to see Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer getting center stage in this new series.

   The story is as straightforward and brutal as Hammer himself. It starts with a rooftop chase as private detective Hammer tries to track down the mastermind behind a murder.

   The wrap-up to that mystery doesn't give Hammer time to relax, as he's propelled into yet another life-and-death case, where his fists - and his pistol - are the quickest solution to every problem.

   The comic is based on a story by Spillane and Max Allan Collins (who also provides the script), so you know it's faithful to the original character. 

   The art suffers a bit from comparison to that cover painting, but it's solid work.

   This isn't a comic for kids, but for fans of hardboiled fiction, you're getting prime source material here. Great stuff!

Grade: A-

-------------------

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Harbinger Wars 2 #2


   The Harbinger Wars (2) continues to heat up in the second (2) issue of this mini-series that pits most of the heroes in the Valiant Universe against the Psiots - humans who have developed super-powers, or had the powers sparked by a Psiot who specializes in that.

   When a government agency attempts to kill a team of Psiots, the powerful woman known as Livewire fights back by destroying every satellite in orbit - and she starts gathering her forces.

   Heroes like X-O Manowar and Ninjak are dispatched to stop Peter Stanchek, an incredibly powerful Psiot who is randomly activating other Psiots around the world - and his showdown with X-O takes a surprising turn.

   Like a proper summer event series, this one is building to a major, status quo-changing climax. Sounds like fun, right?

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-

--------------------