Thursday, May 23, 2019

Avengers #19

   It's typical for an Event series to have an impact on its parent comics - in this case, War of the Realms is spinning out of Thor and the Avengers.

   Usually it's a negative effect - the regular titles go into "running in place" mode while all the action happens in the Event comic.

   We see a little bit of that in this issue - there's a lot of recap action here, as we see what various teams of heroes are busy with while the war continues.

   And the story focuses on a supporting character who promises to have key role in upcoming stories. We also see lots of heroes roaring into action (though we don't see much of that action). 

   As always, the art by Ed McGuinness and Mark Morales is powerful, and the story by Jason Aaron (who's also writing the War of the Realms series) is compelling.

   It's a solid comic that manages to fill the bill for both fans of the Event series - and those who are just reading The Avengers.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New Comics Day

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

- ACTION COMICS #1011 - Who or what is Leviathan?

- AVENGERS #19 - Attack on Avengers HQ!

- DIAL H FOR HERO #3 (OF 6) - Secrets revealed in Central City!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #14 - Facing Galactus!

- TONY STARK IRON MAN #11 - Stark realities!

- TERRIFICS #16 - A threat of biblical proportions!

- WAR OF REALMS JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #3 (OF 5) - Go west, young god!

- WAR OF REALMS NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #2 (OF 4) - The newest team of all!

      And I received these review copies:

- FRIENDO TP VOL. 1 - Unhinged and ultraviolent!

- INCURSION #4 (OF 4) - The final fight to save the Earth!

- LIFE IS STRANGE TP - The story conmtinues!

- SECRET LIFE OF PETS #1 - Based on the hit film!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON 4 #1 - A new season, a new artist and a new story arc!

     And that's it!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Superman #11

  I admit it, I was dubious that writer Brian Michael Bendis was going to be able to make Superman "work."

   But those doubts are gone now - he has the series hitting on all cylinders!

   The Man of Steel has been going through a variety of trials, including the disappearance of his wife and son, and the appearance of a powerful new foe who seems unbeatable.

   So we're getting interesting adventures, lots of twists and turns in the plot, great action sequences, and some great "personal" moments among the members of the Kent (or El) family.

   But what I really like is Superman's attitude. He exudes confidence, like there's nothing he can't handle (though he is fallible, and he makes mistakes - but he deals with them).

   It's a refreshing version of the character, and to see how he handles a space battle between different races is a real treat.

   Long may this run continue!

Grade: A


Saturday, May 18, 2019

War of the Realms #4 (of 6)

    There's not much to add about this series that hasn't been discussed before.

   In War of the Realms, the Earth is being attacked by mythological monsters from assorted Asgardian realms - ice giants, fire demons and dark elves - and only the heroes of Earth stand in their way.

   Up until this point, our side has been getting the worst of it - but that turns around a bit with this issue, with the focus on the return of a hero who's been missing in action - and a bit of long-overdue redemption for a certain All-Father.

    I'm only reading a few of the spin-off series (Journey Into Mystery and New Agents of Atlas, to be exact), so I don't know how all this is playing out in other books, but so far this series is holding up reasonably well (for an event book, that is).

   It remains to be seen how well it all ties up at the end - and if a certain dead hero is avenged or forgotten.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Comics Day

      Today at the comics shop I picked up:

- GIANT-MAN #1 (OF 3) - Facing the Ice Giants!

- NAOMI #5 - Her secret revealed!

- SUPERMAN #11 - Major changes to the Superman Family!

- WAR OF REALMS #4 (OF 6) - World-wide war!

    And I received this sick of review comics:

- ABERRANT SEASON 2 #2 (OF 5) - Searching for a top secret base!

- ABERRANT VOL. 1 - It's a super-powered conspiracy!

- ATHENA VOLTAIRE GOLDEN DAWN TP - Searching for the Da Vinci Codex!

- BLACK BETTY TP VOL. 2 - Something is wrong in a sleepy town.

- BLOODBORNE #12 - The conclusion to Eileen's story!


- DOUBLE JUMPERS TP VOL. 2 - A video game villain is on the loose!

- FATHOM VOL 8 #1 - The world below the sea is no longer a secret!

- GUNCATS TP VOL. 1 - Bounty hunters on the prowl.

- LIFE & DEATH OF TOYO HARADA #3 (OF 6) - Is Toyo dead already?

- LIVEWIRE #6 - A new foe gets personal.

- PRINCELESS BOOK 8 PRINCESSES #2 - A princess looking for her calling in life.

- SEAFOAM FRIEND FOR MADISON #1 - A girl's kind deed transports her to a world of magic.

- ZOMBIE TRAMP ONGOING #59 - An army of undead goons.


     And that's it!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hawkman #12

   After years of reboots, retoolings and general monkeying around with his backstory, Hawkman has finally been given a definitive explanation for his past lives and an explanation for why he keeps being reborn.

   It’s not an easy explanation, mind you - but it works.

   It actually expands on the concept, spanning space and time as it resolves issues that have been plaguing Carter Hall throughout his modern-day comic book career.

   The art by Bryan Hitch is, of course, terrific, as he provides his trademark widescreen action and incredible attention to detail.

   This issue wraps up the storyline and mostly manages to wrap things up nicely - and leaves us with a hero who’s ready to get down to the basics: exploration and protection.

   (But it still has to answer a big question: where's Hawkgirl?)

   As a long-time fan, I appreciate the effort that’s gone into this series so far, and I’m happy to see the return of a Hawkman I recognize - and whose adventures I can enjoy.

Grade: A-


Saturday, May 11, 2019

War of Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1

   The Agents of Atlas started life as a reimagining of a team of heroes from the ‘50s, updated for modern-day adventures. 

   Sadly, the concept never caught on - but happily, the team is back, rebooted as a group of characters based in the Pacific, Asia and Korea.

   And guess what? It’s a heck of a lot of fun!

   It starts with Jimmy Woo, former SHIELD agent who became the leader of the Agents of Atlas, and now he has a (mostly) new team assembled and ready to face the latest challenges.

   This series spins out of the War of the Realms event, so when monsters attack Seoul, the team, including Shang-Chi, Silk and Brawn (Amadeus Cho), moves to defend an area they think is without its own super-heroes.

   They’re wrong, of course, as we meet six new and powerful heroes from China, the Philippines and Korea who take on a deadly and powerful opponent.

    It’s a fast-paced and high-energy start to the series - and hopefully it’ll continue to thrive after the “War” is over. 

   A great start!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

New Comics Day

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

- CONAN THE BARBARIAN #6 - The life of a soldier!

- HAWKMAN #12 - A desperate plan to save Earth!

- SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #5 - Secrets revealed!

- SECTION ZERO #2 (OF 6) - A startling discovery!

- SHAZAM #5 - A visit to Gameland!

- WAR OF REALMS JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #2 (OF 4) - More mayhem with the McElroys!

- WAR OF REALMS NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #1 (OF 4) - The new team in town!

    And I also received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 13TH TP VOL. 1 - Collecting the first comic book stories of the newest Doctor!

- RAID TP - A martial arts movie in a comic!

- SHADES OF MAGIC #5 - The night of knives begins!

- ZOOHUNTERS #4 - Out of this world adventure!

     And that's it!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home - Movie Trailer

  The trailer for the next Spider-Man movie dropped the other day, but I've dragged my feet in posting it - mostly because it violates our "no spoilers" rule for this blog.

So consider yourself warned (and the trailer also includes a warning) - it spoils a big moment from the Avengers: Endgame movie.

But it also contains some tasty previews, so if you've ready, check it out:

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Free Comic Book Day 2019

    Hey, it’s Free Comic Book Day (and Star Wars Day, too)! Here’s a quick rundown (and even quicker reviews) of the comics I picked up at the comics shop:

- Avengers #1 (Marvel Comics) - New content, with previews for the next storyline that follows War of the Realms, and the just-started-this week Savage Avengers! Surprisingly good, actually. Grade: A-

- Spawn #1 (Image Comics) - A reprint of the first issue of this series which somehow continues to this day. August will see the publication of Spawn #300! Seems impossible, somehowGrade: B

- Firefly & Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 (Dark Horse Comics) - Welcome to the Whedonverse, and the creator of the two cult hit TV shows presents three short stories with each. The first introduces us to a new tough as nails character who’ll be showing up in an upcoming issue, and the second and third give us brief (if fierce) stories about the slayer. Good stuff! Grade: A-

- Stranger Things and Black Hammer #1 (Dark Horse Comics) -  The first story shows the attempt by a family to deal with the aftermath of facing down monsters - and death! The Black Hammer story is a fun and spooky teaser about heroics in World War II - and more recent super-heroics (sorta). Grade: A-

- Bloodshot and Fallen World #1 (Valiant Comics) - The focus here is on two brutal worlds (and teasing two new series starting up). Bloodshot is back in action mode, rescuing a young woman from a paramilitary group on the run. This is all action, all the time. FW gives us a distant future where faith and science collide - and it ain’t pretty. Previewing the upcoming series with Rai. Grade: A-

- Star Wars Adventures (Solo & Tales from Vader’s Castle) #1 (IDW) - A short “quest” story featuring Han and Chewbacca as they go on the easiest scavenger hunt ever, looking for pirate treasure. A fun bit of business. Grade: B

- Riverdale #1 (Archie Comics) - Here we get a quick 10-page teaser for the upcoming story (so much angst about the yearbook) - and lots of ads for upcoming Archie stuff. At least it’s free! Grade: B-

- Vampirella #1 (Dynamite Comics) - I’ve never been a big fan of the character, though (ahem) there’s no denying her charms. This comic includes a preview for an upcoming series, which finds Vampi dealing with the perils of fame, and a reprint of a Kurt Busiek / Art Adams story from the ‘90s, a grim short story about monsters of all kinds. Grade: A-

- Punchline #1 (Antarctic Press Comics) - The birth of a new hero, handled in a completely different way. Terrific art, too! This is what I’d call “a good start.” Grade: A-

- Animosity Tales #1 (Aftershock Comics) - This is a delightfully odd bit of work. What happens if, suddenly, all the animals in the world were able to think? And talk? It’d be crazy, right? Absolutely. Grade: B

- Hope #1 (Source Point Press) - In a world where “Ultras” are feared and misunderstood, it’s easy to understand why those with powers would keep them a secret. But what happens when the secret gets out? This is an interesting start to a “real world” story. Grade: A-

- Grumble vs. The Goon #1 (Albatross Funnybooks) - Hey, it’s a crossover, as the bulldog Grumble pays a visit to the grim (and wacky) world of the Goon! Much mayhem ensues! And there’s a Hillbilly backup story, too! Silly stuff, but grisly fun. Grade: A-

- Captain Canuck #1 (Chapterhouse Publishing) - This comic gave me that feeling of jumping into the deep end of the pool. It introduces a small army of characters, and the only one I was familiar with was the one whose name is in the title. It’s a deep mythology they’re building here, but it was confusing for me. Grade: C+

- Casper’s Spooksville #1 (American Mythology Productions) - This is a fun collection of new stories with Casper and his friends, drawn by Eric Shanower, and some classic reprints, too. Nice to see the Harvey characters back in action! Grade: A-

- Treasury of British Comics Presents Funny Pages #1 (Rebellion) - Here’s a rare chance to enjoy a collection of (mostly) one or two-page comic strips, very much in the juvenile / MAD Magazine style of zany pranks / crazy characters / offbeat humor. Fun, though the print on some of the pages is a bit small for my aging eyesight! Grade: B

- Witch Hat Atelier #1 (Kodansha Comics) - This issue includes three short previews, including a story about the dangers of magic, the secrets hidden in books and playing cards, and the value of libraries and stories! Wonderful, high-energy art - but you’re just getting a tiny sample of the story here. Grade: B+

    And those are the ones I gathered out of the 50 or so that were available today. Did I miss any good ones?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Savage Avengers #1

   I have to admit I'm not crazy about incorporating Conan the Barbarian into the mainstream Marvel Universe.

   It's one thing for them to create comics based on the character, and another for him to run into costumed heroes and villains in the modern day.

   But they're certainly rolling out the red carpet. They've created a special team for him to be part of - the Savage Avengers - and assigned Mike Deodato, Jr. to the art chores - he's one of the best in the business.

    The story by Gerry Duggan gets things off to a fast (if brutal) start, as a murderous cult is bringing people to the Savage Land for evil reasons. Luckily enough, that's where Conan has been dropped (after his initial time-traveling adventure with a different Avengers team).

   There he has a vicious encounter with another well-known character (when heroes meet for the first time, they must fight, of course). 

   So we're seeing the gang gather together here, and the story has a nice blend of traditional Conan sword-and-sorcery adventures and the modern day Marvel.

   So I'm still not crazy about Conan in the modern day, but at least this is very well done. Violent, but a strong start.

Grade: A


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

New Comics Day

     Heres what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- BEASTS OF BURDEN PRESENCE OF OTHERS #1 (OF 2) - Where is the Master?

- GREEN LANTERN #7 - Can Hal save another universe?

- MARVEL TEAM-UP #2 - Spidey and Ms. Marvel are all mixed up!

- PAPER GIRLS #28 - The end is near.

- SAVAGE AVENGERS #1 - For the toughest opponents, you know who to call.

- WAR OF REALMS #3 (OF 6) - Fight for your lives!

- YOUNG JUSTICE #5 - Gemworld rips in half!

    And I received these review copies:

- ALBERT EINSTEIN TIME MASON GN VOL. 1 - The mind, the might, the mustache!

- BLACK AF DEVILS DYE #3 (OF 4) - The horrors of the past.

- BLOODBORNE TP VOL. 2 - Stopping a mysterious plague!

- COLD BLOOD SAMURAI #2 - Facing bandits - and a civil war!

- DANGER DOLL SQUAD PRESENTS AMALGAMA LIVES #1 - A new hero, with the power of three others!

- DEVIL WITHIN #4 (OF 4) - Death comes calling.

- DOCTOR WHO 13TH #7 - Fresh adventures in time and space!

- FALLEN WORLD #1 (OF 5) - Can two heroes save the future?


- NEWBURY & HOBBES TP VOL. 1 UNDYING - Collecting the first series!

- NOBODY IS IN CONTROL #1 (OF 4) - An ancient conspiracy revealed!

- NULL FAERIES #4 - Confronting a human!

- PRINCELESS TP VOL. 7 FIND YOURSELF - Lost in the desert!

- ROBOTECH #20 - Everything changes!

- ROBOTECH TP VOL. 4 LISA'S REPORT - Collecting Year Two!

- SNAP FLASH HUSTLE #3 (OF 4) - Can Haley escape her new life of crime?

- SPENCER AND LOCKE 2 #1 - Facing down a dangerous soldier.

- SWEETIE #3 - The chase is on!

- TANK GIRL #4 - The explosive finale!


    And that's it!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Punk Mambo #1

  Welcome to the new kid in town - Punk Mambo - the latest addition to the war against evil magic and monsters. 

   She's easy to spot, thanks to her pink mohawk - but she's like a supernatural version of Buffy - just as tough as the monsters and aided by a surprising ally.

   But when her ally goes missing, she's forced to turn to an unexpected source for help.

   With strong art and a fast-paced and action-packed story, this comic manages a good mix of superhero battles and horror.


Grade: A-



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Heroes in Crisis #8 (of 9)

   And there it is.

   Just working off the description of the Heroes in Crisis mini-series, I thought, "I'm probably not going to like this series."

   And any series that starts with the death of numerous characters (especially when it includes some old favorites) is not one that I'm likely to enjoy - and it's even worse when their character is assassinated.

    Through the run so far, we've just seen bits and pieces of the mystery behind who killed those characters - and why the supposedly secret counseling these characters received at the place known as Sanctuary has been released.

   Until now! This issue lays it all out, in a mad stream of consciousness that doesn't really make any sense, as a certain hero does things that are completely out of character (and uses his or her powers in a completely new and unsupported way).

   It's a character assassination on the scale of what they did to Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan when they made him (temporarily) a mass murderer, all in hopes of generating sales.

   The point of this series - if there is one - seems to be: let's get rid of all trace of the original Teen Titans (except for Nightwing). In that, at least, they're succeeding.

   Young adult readers may enjoy this - it's cutting edge, it takes no prisoners, it gets to the angst behind every hero (or so they might imagine).

   But the series is also driving away longtime readers - like me - who won't take kindly to this vulgar, ugly, and offensive treatment of characters they've loved for decades.

Grade: D



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

New Comics Day

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

- ACTION COMICS #1010 - Lois and Clark go undercover!

- AVENGERS #18 - War of the Realms continues!

- DIAL H FOR HERO #2 (OF 6) - Why is everyone after the dial?

- DOCTOR STRANGE #13 - Galactus on the loose!

- FANTASTIC FOUR #9 - What price victory?

- HEROES IN CRISIS #8 (OF 9) - The killer is revealed!

- TERRIFICS #15 - A new chapter, and a call for help!

- WILD STORM #22 - Earth under attack!

    And I received these review copies:

- ABERRANT SEASON 2 #1 (OF 5) - Can a disgraced former hero save the world?

- BLACK BETTY #8 - Fighting a siren's song!

- BLOODSHOT RISING SPIRIT #6 - A new story arc!

- FORGOTTEN QUEEN #3 (OF 4) - A war that never stops!

- LIVEWIRE TP VOL. 1 FUGITIVE - Taking the stage!

- PRINCELESS BOOK 8 PRINCESSES #1 - The story of Alize!

- PUNK MAMBO #1 (OF 5) - A mystical mercenary for hire!

- VAMPBLADE SEASON 3 #12 - A crisis ends!

     And that's it!

Guest Review: "Avengers: Endgame"

   Most of us in the U.S. won't see the new Avengers movie until Thursday - but my friend Mark lives on the other side of the world (in Australia), and he's just seen it and kindly provides his (spoiler-free) thoughts. What a guy! Take it away, Mark:

   To start with the obvious - this is a film that needs no real introduction. Everyone has been waiting for it, and everyone knows basically what it’s about. However, Marvel Studios has been leading up to this for - what? - 11 years and umpteen films. So will it meet your expectations?

   I think the likely answer to that is “yes.”

   Avengers: Endgame contains many developments that most viewers were likely expecting. But it has a lot of twists, turns, highlights and tragedies that I certainly wasn’t anticipating, along with a genuine emotional depth.

   The film commences shortly after the conclusion of its predecessor, as the surviving cast members regroup to consider how they can strike back against Thanos.

   The action kicks in almost immediately - and after a few minutes, takes a completely unexpected turn.

   The next half hour is grim and downbeat. It manages to show the impact of Thanos’ actions not just on the heroes, but on the general population. However “idealistic” Thanos’ motives were in destroying half the population of the Universe, the outcomes are not what he envisaged.

   Perhaps aptly, the film’s emotional upswing begins with the reappearance of the star of one of the more lighthearted Marvel movies - Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, who plays a quite substantial role (as does Rocket Racoon, whose interactions with other characters remain a joy).

   From there on things being to really click into high gear, as the heroes devise a plan to perhaps - just maybe - manage to reverse Thanos’ actions…..

   It would venture into genuine spoiler territory to give away any more story detail, but rest assured that the following lengthy build-up leads to a climax that is both well worth the wait and literally earth-shattering.

   In a film with such a multitude of characters, many other than the core cast obviously have only a relatively brief screen-time.  Nonetheless, nearly all get their moments to shine. Captain Marvel appears early on but is not featured as much as one might expect - given her power levels, it’s perhaps understandable she’d be used sparingly.

   The female heroes aren’t ignored though; the climactic battle against Thanos features probably the best depiction I’ve yet seen of the power of the Scarlet Witch, and there’s one panoramic scene with all the female heroes standing against the Mad Titan - an obvious response from the film’s makers to criticism of underutilisation of women characters in earlier Marvel productions.

   There were also cameos by quite a few key supporting characters from earlier Marvel films. It may be worth refreshing your memories of those earlier films, as a few key scenes are revisited - though they’ll probably come flooding back to you.

   Naturally, all the biggies -  the original “Avengers” - get their turn in the spotlight. Yes, that includes Hawkeye, who has a much more prominent role than many would have expected. I felt it did a lot to counter the sneers about him being a perennial afterthought.  Jeremy Renner’s scenes and interplay with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow worked particularly well, showing a real depth of feeling between their characters.

   The character highlight for me was Thor, a shattered man / god who gradually rebuilds his confidence and self-worth, while still managing to provide the film’s comedy highlights. For me, Chris Hemsworth will now and forevermore be “The Dude of Thunder”.

   The treatment of Banner and the Hulk may generate some controversy. Some will hate it while others will love it (particularly Peter David fans), but it’s completely in keeping with the character’s long history. Of the main characters I thought he was the most under-utilised, though Mark Ruffalo delivered another fine performance.

   Once again, Robert Downey Jr delivers a wonderfully prickly performance as Tony Stark, who has nonetheless grown emotionally over the course of his time as Iron Man. He retains his “opposites attract” relationship with Captain America - very different characters, frequently in conflict, but ultimately friends and allies.

   Perhaps not surprisingly, Chris Evans’ Cap is the emotional heart of the film. He’s the everyman who tries to help people deal with the aftermath of Thanos’ actions, he has at least one truly heartbreaking moment in the course of the action, and if you don’t find that you’ve something in your eye during one particular scene in the film…  well, you’re harder than I am. Plus as we’re told, he has “The Ass of America” (though in my part of the world we’d pronounce it “Arse”).

   “Endgame” is a long film - including credits, just on three hours - and while that zipped by, it meant that there was a lot to take in.  I’m still trying to process everything that occurred, and figure out exactly how it was structured. Though I’m sure there will already be dozens of YouTube analyses, at the time it was just one huge, majestic rush. In any case however it’s a film to allow to flood over you, and save the analysis until later.

   So, just how actually _good_ was “Endgame”? Well, I’m sure that I could nitpick over a few plot details, but really…. for a film like this, I lose all my critical faculties. At this point I honestly can’t think of any substantial criticisms.

   Frankly I thought it was bloody fantastic, and could happily go back to see it again tomorrow.  

   Just not at 8:30 a.m. again - that’s a little early for me.

   In the words of an old Australian TV host - “Do yourself a favour!”  Go and see it.

Mark Cannon
Canberra, Australia
24 April 2019

PS - 
Oh, and on the important things from a comics fan’s perspective - there’s a nice tribute to Stan at the start, along with his usual cameo. There are also plentiful creator acknowledgements in the end credits, with a prominent one to Stan and Jack early on. Others are buried a bit deeper, though nevertheless still there, including a pretty prominent one for Jim Starlin. Good to see.