Friday, February 28, 2014

Tomb Raider #1

   I should admit that I thought the original Tomb Raider video game was a lame idea - at least until I actually played it.

   The idea of a video game with a voluptuous, sexy lead character just seemed... well, pandering to the base impulses of male gamers.

   My friend Bruce bought the game and invited me to give it a try, and, despite my doubts, I must admit, I was almost immediately hooked.

   That's because, as crude as the graphics were by today's standards, it was a terrific combination of action, adventure, mystery and puzzle-solving, all tied together with an actual story and featuring a feisty, strong-willed and intelligent character, Lara Croft.

   After a lot of games starring the character (some great, some not so), last year the video games stole a page from the comics companies and rebooted the character as a young woman, just starting down the path of adventure.

   I wasn't sure it would work, but I played the game and enjoyed it a lot (though I wouldn't recommend it for young gamers - it's violent and brutal). Apparently writer Gail Simone had the same experience, because after hesitating at first, she decided to take on the assignment.

   That almost works against this series, because I'm not sure the story would stand alone if you aren't familiar with the game. It serves as a sequel to that adventure, as the surviving members of the expedition to a deadly island find that mystic forces may still be having an effect on their lives.

   The art by Nicholas Daniel Selma never quite lives up to that outstanding cover by Dan Dos Santos (or to the visuals in the game), but that's more a tribute to the graphics by the latter than a slam on the efforts by the former.

   So this series is off to a start that fans of the game may enjoy, though it's taking its time setting up the story. Non-fans might find it a bit more of a challenge to catch on, but it's a promising beginning to the new adventures of young Lara.

Grade: B+


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fantastic Four #1

  Another month, another Fantastic Four #1.

   Following a terrific run by writer Jonathan Hickman and a run by Matt Fraction that was sometimes wonderful, sometimes not, we now turn Marvel's First Family over to writer James Robinson, whose career of late has been a bit of a mixed bag.

   But as his work on DC"s Starman demonstrated, when he connects with a series, he's capable of outstanding work.

   So I approached this series with some trepidation - and after reading the first issue, I'm still not sure which Robinson is at work here. 

   There are good moments in this issue, as we see the team taking on one of my favorite monsters, Fin Fang Foom, and settling into some "back to the basics" routines - Reed and Sue back to their loving ways, Ben seeking to renew an old relationship, and Johnny is back to his partying ways - even the FF kids are part of the mix.

   But things are not going to stay calm for long, and the foreshadowing promises dark days ahead for the team. 

   I'm not a fan of dark and gloomy, but I'm certainly interested enough to hang around and see what happens next.

   I like the art by Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel - it's fresh and energetic, with a classic approach. 

   There are a few things I'm not crazy about. I hate the new logo on the cover - it's trying too hard to be clever. I'm not thrilled with the latest redesign of the costumes - the red will take some getting used to (but at least there are no short-sleeved shirts). And I worry that the creative team is trying too hard to get the team back to its original status - some growth can be a good thing.

   On the other hand, the team members all "feel" correct - in character and back to being a family again. We'll have to see if the comic can once again earn the classic tagline, "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!"

   Here's hoping!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Comics Today

   Here's what your pal Chuck picked up at the comics shop today:

- Aquaman #28 - Shark attack!

- King Conan #1 - Very happy to see this return.

- Doc Savage #3 - Amazing cover!

- Fantastic Four #1 - A new start for Marvel's First Family.

- Flash #28 - A visit from Deadman.

- Guardians of the Galaxy #12 - The Trial of Jean Grey continues.

- Hawkeye #15 - This issue comes after #16?

- Hulk #19 - Can Banner stop the madness?

- Miracleman #3 - Taking on the Kid.

- Serenity #2 - A trip to the ER is tricky in space.

- Tomb Raider #1 - Lara Croft in her own comic.

- Wolverine and X-Men #42 - That cover looks familiar, like it's from a Day from Futures Past or something.

- Worlds Finest #20 - Finally crossing over with Superman and Batman.

   And that's it!

Guest Review - The Classics - Adventures of Superman #1

   Here with a review of a recent "classic" comic is our man Lyle Tucker (he's on fire lately)! It's time for the Adventures of Superman!
  I've been a Marvel Zombie for most of my comic-reading days. Like many of us old farts I started out with kid stuff (Richie Rich, Sad Sack, etc.), graduating to Batman / Superman / Bouncing Boy / WhatHaveYou Lass, finally being won over to Marvel with the F.F., Thor, etc.
   This is what I see as the natural maturation of a comic-book reader, rightly or wrongly. The Distinguished Competitor has, indeed, mostly been Brand Echh for me.
   In the '70s I went back to some titles based on the artist drawing the mag (Adams, Wrightson, Nino, etc.), but I found the company's overall “less sophisticated” approach dull compared to Marvel's hyperbolic gaudy fare.  
   Then I got married, raised a family, and mostly left comics behind, not returning in any real way until I ran across the Busiek / Ross MARVELS. Now I'm back with the fold, but I'm still and will always be behind the times.  

   Kinda like how I always viewed DC as being.
   And now that I see we have something in common, I can appreciate their stable of characters more than I used to. Take Superman. Once I left for Marvel, I rarely looked back at the uber mensch. He was deadly dull. Invincible except for Kryptonite – feh!
   However, nowadays, I enjoy the big clod.

   Take ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #1, 2012, with three stories respectively written by Jeff Parker, Jeff Lemire and Justin Jordan (this issue could legitimately be sponsored by the letter “J”), and art by Chris Samnee, Jeff Lemire and Wiley Rossmo. 
   The Parker / Samnee tale involves Supes facing a street addict with inexplicable powers that actually seem to phaze The Big Guy. It's a quick story that hints at greater troubles to come, with dynamic Samnee art propelling its arc.

   Lemire treats us to a scene we know all too well – two kids playing at being Superman. The one who has the thankless task of being the villain is unable to decide upon which fiend he's going to stick with, and although Lemire's art is decidedly quirky, it fits the tale.

   The final story features everyone's favorite, Bizarro Superman. As I did back as a kid, I got a headache trying to stay up with Bizarro's rationale. Superman does, too. But he works it out and saves the day.
   And I think he does so for truth, justice and the American way.  Behind the times. As he should be.
Grade: B-

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Daredevil #36

   There are some Marvel heroes who should have a secret identity.

   As they found out the hard way, Spider-Man is one. Daredevil is another one. (Iron Man, on the other hand, works better with his identity public.)

   But several years back writer Brian Michael Bendis let the cat out of the bag and "outed" Daredevil as attorney Matt Murdock.

   I thought (and still think) it was a bad idea. But to their credit, the creative teams have largely embraced it, rather than cook up some lame way around it (there's never a Daredevil robot around when you need one).

   But this final storyline (before the next restart with a new issue #1) by writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee embraces the problem and uses it to generate a terrific story that focuses on the pros and cons of secret identities and the toll it can take on a hero's morality.

   It's a terrific wrap-up to an outstanding three-year run on this title, and it sets up a fresh start for the Man Without Fear.

   This is one of Marvel's best, with amazing art and sharp storytelling - it should be on your "must-read" list.

    (Oh, and the cover merits close inspection - there are some wonderful nods to past stories, creators and bits of business - my favorite being the Mike Murdock hat and glasses.)

Grade: A


Monday, February 24, 2014

The New Warriors #1

   I was a fan of the original incarnation of The New Warriors and was not at all happy when the team was made the scapegoat of the explosion that killed a school full of children and incited Marvel's execrable Civil War.

   That same event (apparently) killed the lovely Namorita, one of Bill Everett's last creations, and drove the lighthearted character Speedball (co-created by the great Steve Ditko) to the edge of insanity.

   So I wasn't crazy about that.

   This reboot (of sorts) is an attempt to combine the original team with new "kid" heroes (and at a couple of more experienced characters).

   And while the mix is an interesting one - sadly - the first issue doesn't do much to hook the reader.

   We see Justice and Speedball (now returned to his more lighthearted self, somehow) fighting generic bad guys. We meet heroes new (the delightfully upbeat Sun Girl), familiar (the Spider-Man clone known as Kaine) and unknown (at least to me), like Hummingbird.

   The new version of Nova is also included, and the issue includes a new undersea warrior woman, and brings back a classic opponent whose henchmen have a new look.

   The art by Marcus To is quite good, with a fresh, breezy look that hearkens back to classic Marvel tales.

   But the story by Christopher Yost doesn't hold up its end of the deal. The first issue of a team comic is usually the "gather the team" story, but we only get part of that here. There's more ground to be covered, and it's possible the story will pick up once the gang is together - but so far, it's not holding my attention.

Grade: B


Back Again!

   Sorry for the short absence, friends. Real life has kept your pal Chuck on the go and away from my computer - sorry for the skip days!

   We're back in business - we'll try to keep it that way!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Guest Review - Velvet #1

   We have another guest review for you - this time our man David Wright is here with a look at one of Image's newest - and hottest - comic:

Velvet #1  by Ed Brubaker and art by Sean Epting

   Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have become a formidable force in modern comics. I’ve come to rely on them for strong storylines and ideas.  

   Their long run on The Death of Captain America and the more recent ongoing, Fatale, and other comic work have always hooked me, and I look forward to seeing what new stories and ideas they come up with.

   Velvet  is a spy comic heavy on action and intrigue and fashioned much in the mode of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the more recent film, Haywire. It features a strong female protagonist, Velvet Templeton, portraying the main role.  

   The story begins in 1973 as an operative agent, X-14, is on a mission in Paris. Something goes wrong and it appears a mole has tipped off  his mission, and he’s been set up as a fall guy.  

   After the news reaches the agency of his untimely demise, intelligence sets into looking for who might have taken the hit, and they begin checking into airport arrivals and departures, hotel bookings, and so forth, trying to find clues as to who might have done it. 

   There’s another flashback on Velvet’s earlier career when she was an agent. She knew X-14 along with several of the other agents, they were once pretty close so she has a personal interest in the case. But the past few years she’s taken a desk job out of the field, and working under Director Manning as a secretary.  

   From intel they find an agent, Frank Lancaster, who might have killed X-14, but Velvet thinks the intel on Lancaster smells funny, and is half baked. Curiosity gets the better of Velvet, and she begins her own investigation into the case, which leads her to one of Lancaster’s safe houses.  

   Once Velvet gets inside the safe house we find out all is not well. The book ends on a confrontation, and a heck of a cliffhanger. Yes, like a lot of the James Bond franchise and other spy fiction, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required to engage in such fantasies. But if spy fiction and action is your double martini, you might want to check out the book.  

Grade: A


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Justice League #28

   I admit it, I love the Metal Men - I have since I discovered their adventures shortly after their first appearance in the '60s.

   Here was an odd collection of robots with human-like personalities, able to shape their bodies into almost any shape, each using the qualities of the metal they're named after - and each one completely expendable.

   You never knew which character - if any - would survive to the final page. The adventures were often silly, but had a lot of heart - and were very entertaining.

   So this issue of Justice League (which has almost no actual Justice League content, thanks to the ongoing Forever Evil story), gives us the origin of the "New 52" version of the team.

   The art, of course, is tremendous. I love Ivan Reis' work (with inks by Joe Prado and Scott Hanna), with modified, expressive designs for the team, which manages to improve the originals (mostly - I'm not crazy about Gold's new face) while still retaining some of the original look.

   Writer Geoff Johns also deserves credit for crafting personalities for the team that work in a modern setting - but manage some surprises along the way, including a great jab at the usual robot personalities we see in comics (he had me going for a minute there).

   So don't buy this issue expecting to see the usual lineup - Cyborg is the only JL hero in evidence - but you will find a fun adventure with the Metal Men!

   Nothing wrong with that!

Grade: A-



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Review - The Classics - Kull the Conqueror #2

   Back with another guest review is my pal Lyle Tucker, with a look at one of my all-time favorite Robert E. Howard-based comics:

KULL THE CONQUEROR #2, "The Shadow Kingdom," Marvel Comics, September 1971.

   Throughout the history of our favorite “junk medium” there have been runs of exemplary work which stand the test of time and shine like brilliant jewels in a sea of sometimes merely-competent visual literature (i.e. Eisner's SPIRIT, Lou Fine's CONDOR, Steranko's NICK FURY, etc). 
   With Marvel's KULL THE CONQUEROR such a run of visual sumptuousness started with the second issue. Even though the first-ever comic-book attempts at interpreting Robert E. Howard's Conan-lite were also visually highbrow, with Berni Wrightson giving us our initial gorgeous taste in CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #10, and Wally Wood splendidly inaugurating the CONQUEROR title with Ross Anru's assistance, it really wasn't until the brother-and-sister team of Marie and John Severin took the artistic chores that something quite special began. 
   Their KULL was a far more organic affair than either Wrightson's or Wood's, and the look they achieved immediately plunked us into a world quite unlike anything we had seen in the super-hero-centric '60s/'70s.
   Roy Thomas wrote the adaptation, and does a fine job of it, even if there is a bit of silliness involved with just how the villains of the piece are discovered and unmasked, and how that information is conveyed to Kull (by one of the people Kull suspects as being an imposter – which would be akin to The Joker disguised as Alfred telling Bruce Wayne he couldn't be anyone but himself because he is a butler). 
   It is Marie Severin who especially shines. Having already had a long history in comics, she takes to the subject exquisitely, penciling the brawn-heavy action with a deft eye and a raw sensibility one wouldn't have, perhaps unfairly, attributed to a woman. 
   Cementing the deal are John's immediately identifiable inks. As he had already shown over Trimpe's HULK, John's approach elevated any comic page to true works of art. 
   Even though this as-far-as-I-know only brother-and-sister team *ever* in comics produced less than a dozen issues, and such artistic luminaries as Mike Ploog and Alfredo Alcala would later do him justice, it is the run which begins with this issue that stands as the pinnacle of KULL's somewhat rocky comic-book reign.
Grade: A-

New Comics Today

A light day at the comics shop today - here's what I picked up:
- Amazing X-Men #4 - Nightcrawler returns!
- Avengers World #3 - Shang-Chi in a fight he can't win.
- Conan the Barbarian #25 - The end of the Belit saga.
- Daredevil #36 - Out of a job.
- Harley Quinn #3 - Love is in the air.
- Justice League #28 - Return of the Metal Men!
- New Warriors #1 - Return of the New Warriors!
- Uncanny X-Men #17 - Training day.
- Wonder Woman #28 - When gods clash!
   And that's it!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thor: God of Thunder #19

   Perhaps the biggest curse of being an immortal (if such thing there were) would be watching as your loved ones pass away.

   We get a sense of that as Thor dives into danger to rescue his newest love interest, Agent Solomon, who works for SHIELD.

   We also see a flash forward to Earth's last days, as an aged Thor confronts a dying planet, the loss of humanity - and faces an old foe.

   I'm surprised more effort isn't made to align the comic with the film version by reigniting the romance between Thor and Jane Foster (made problematic by her struggles with cancer) - or by reviving his relationship with Sif (which has been mostly "off" in recent years, though it's never really been explained why).

    The art by Esad Ribic is quite good, although the watercolor feel to it seems to ramp down some of the action sequences. But the designs and use of color are striking.

   Jason Aaron's story manages a nice balance between humor and the adventure. The new story is just getting started, so it's too soon to pass final judgment, but it's a decent (if not spectacular) start.

Grade: B+



Monday, February 17, 2014

Batman #28

   This issue got a "What the heck?" out of me.

   That's because it's not a Batman issue at all. It's a preview for the upcoming Batman Eternal series, whatever that might be.

   It's apparently set in the "near future" (though we have no idea if that's next week, next decade or "Batman Beyond" territory).

   So we see Batman searching for the cure to some kind of illness (I think), taking on an army of thugs, confronting a familiar foe, and working with a new partner.

   The art by Dustin Nguyen is quite good - fresh, energetic but moody and edgy - but the story raises many questions and provides almost no answers.

   Yes, there's a big shock on the final page - but despite a few good surprises along the way, I don't feel compelled to add the new series to my pull list - it just feels like another Bat-title, and there are already more of those than I can keep up with.

   And turning the regular issue into an ad doesn't encourage me to hang with this series, either.

Grade: B-


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Avengers #26

   I'm really enjoying the throwback covers on recent issues of The Avengers - this one is a tribute to the original Avengers #3.

   The interiors are somewhat related to the "old days" - a different Avengers team (one that resembles an early incarnation of the team) has crossed over into "our" universe.

   But that team isn't exactly heroic - their actions would indicate they're not any version of the team we've seen before, despite their appearances - and battle quickly erupts between the team and the super-science organization known as AIM.

   There are quite a few twists and turns to the story - and a strange new menace seems to be on the rise.

   So, another strong effort from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Salvador Larroca - they're building a special story here (I should say yet another in a series of special stories), one where our Avengers are on the sideline - but only for the moment.

   I love stories where I don't know what will happen next - and you'll find that (and then some) in this series.

Grade: A-


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Superman Wonder Woman #5

   Charles Soule is quickly establishing himself as one of the better writers working in comics today.

   His excellent She-Hulk was released this week, and now the latest issue of Superman Wonder Woman.

   He manages something here that most writers seem unable to accomplish - he makes Wonder Woman into an interesting, sympathetic character.

   She spends much of the issue visiting her homeland, Paradise Island (though it doesn't exactly live up to its name these days), while her lover, Superman, is dealing with two Kryptonians who have escaped from the Phantom Zone: General Zod and the soldier named Faora.

    It's a serious challenge for the Man of Steel, since he's had no military training - but things get interesting when the fight heats up.

   The art is by Tony S. Daniel, and it's fresh and vibrant, from quiet moments to wild action sequences. Very nice.

   I still don't buy the title characters as a couple, but it's well written and the partnership is moving in an interesting direction, and - so far - it keeps bringing me back for more.

Grade: A-


Friday, February 14, 2014

All-New X-Men #23

   Being a fan in the "geezer" stage, I can't help but look at the title of this crossover event - "The Trial of Jean Grey" - and remember the similarly-titled "Trial of the Flash," a story that ran on for what seemed like years over at DC - and it did! The story actually took over two years to tell.

   Thankfully, this story is only covering five issues, jumping back and forth from the All-New X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

   The story by Brian Michael Bendis is straightforward enough - the leaders of the alien Shi'ar have captured Marvel Girl and are placing her on trial for her crimes as Phoenix (wherein she destroyed a planet) - but since this Jean Grey has time-traveled from her past, from a time before she was possessed by the Phoenix Force, can she be held responsible for what her future self will do? Er, did?

   (And where but at Marvel could you find a story like that?)

    Of course, her teammates in the original X-Men (and Kitty Pryde) aren't taking this lying down, so they've teamed up with the Guardians to try to rescue Jean - but first they have to survive an attack from a giant starship - and an encounter with someone who, surprisingly enough, was thought to be dead but is still alive.

   (Again, not at all unusual for Marvel.)

   As always, Stuart Immonen's art is stunning, with crowds of heroes, aliens and stunning locations on display.

   So far, this has been a lot of fun - but with only two issues to go, this is shaping up to be a very short trial. Lucky Jean's not using the Flash's lawyer!

Grade: A-



Thursday, February 13, 2014

She-Hulk #1

   The She-Hulk is a character that just keeps hanging around (which is usually a good thing).

   That's because, when she's well written and well drawn, the character is a heck of a lot of fun.

   She's had several different incarnations - from straight-laced super-hero to savage she-beast to comical adventuress.

   So which character shows up in this series? So far, the story is focused more on Jennifer Walters the attorney (although she never changes her Hulkish appearance) than She-Hulk the superhero.

   And that's a great thing, because it's sharply written by Charles Soule. It follows Jen as she faces upheaval in her career as a lawyer, and follows her humorous attempts to help a woman who was cheated by one of the world's most powerful men.

   It has a bit of superhero action, but not much. But it's chock full of strong characters and lots of humor (though not the over-the-top, break-the-fourth-wall humor that John Byrne used so well during his run on the series).

   The art is by Javier Pulido, as it has a light-hearted, Mike Allred feel to it. It hearkens to the fun and earnest energy of the Silver Age, but it appeals to modern sensibilities.

   So it's a good start to this new series, and a fresh take on this (now) classic character. Here's hoping for more along these lines!

Grade: A-




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Classics - World of Wood #2 (of 4)

   If I had to name a list of my top ten favorite artists of all time, it's a safe bet that Wally Wood would be on the list.

   He passed away in 1981, but thankfully his work has been reprinted many times over.

   One favorite is this reprint series released by Eclipse Comics in 1986. Tucked behind a wonderful Dave Stevens cover (an homage to a classic bit of Wood art, reprinted below) are three uncensored stories that show Wood's amazing art talents - although they also demonstrate that his writing could be a bit a bit unorthodox at times.

   The first story is called "The End," and it's an interesting mash-up of Lord of the Rings, Conan and, I don't know, Cinemax? It follows the search for revenge by an Elf who survives a massacre, the kidnapping of a Queen and the revenge of her King.

   Did I mention that the women spend most of the story unclothed? Calm down, the same is true for the male characters. It's a brutal story with lots of twists and turns.

   The second story is "The Cosmic All," and it follows a group of space explorers who travel the universe looking for intelligent life - but they only find death and destruction. Wood, of course, was a master of science fiction settings and machinery. Watch out for the Twilight Zone ending!

   The final story whips us back into the world of fantasy. "War of the Wizards" features the Conan-like Torin, who must outwit several wizards and save the lovely Marissa, who also has trouble keeping her clothes on.

   The stories are all models of short, efficient and imaginative stories. The art is phenomenal - no one drew manlier men or more voluptuous women, more amazing environments or more detailed backgrounds.

   Thank goodness Wood's work continues to be available to new generations of comics fans. His work is always well worth tracking down.

   One of the all-time greatest!

Grade: A



New Comics Day

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

All-New X-Men #23 - Jean Grey on trial!

Astro City #9Meeting an unusual fan!

Avengers #26 - War with the other Avengers team.

Batman #28 - Now there's a surprise ending!

She-Hulk #1 - World's strongest attorney!

Star Wars #14 - A mission with Vader!

Superman Wonder Woman #5 - Two Kryptonian monsters.

Thor #19 - A grim future.

   And that's it!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Avengers #14

   Despite its relentlessly dark nature, I've been really enjoying the New Avengers as written by Jonathan Hickman,

   The team (made up of the Illuminati - Black Bolt, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Namor, Reed Richards and the Beast) are dealing with incursions of alternate Earths, and to save "our" Earth, the others must be destroyed.

    And the problem continues to escalate, as we get glimpses of Earths that have potent defenders - ones that threaten to overmatch Marvel's heroes.

   So that's interesting, and the art by Simone Bianchi is appropriately dark and intense - but something else about this issue troubles me.

   It's the depiction of Dr. Strange.

   The good Doc is one of my all-time favorites, but few writers are able to manage the character.

   Stan Lee and Steve Ditko co-created the character, of course, and established a coherent (and trippy) world. Among others who did excellent work with the character: Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner, Roger Stern, Marshall Rogers and Paul Smith.

   Past those luminaries, it's been hit-and-miss with the character - and now Hickman is taking the Sorcerer Supreme in a dark and dangerous direction - and I fear the worst for the character.

   Hopefully the Doc can be redeemed - but it may be  rough road ahead.

Grade: B-


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1

   Surely the biggest surprise to emerge from the Marvel Studio films has to be the popularity of the chief villain, Loki, in two of the films (Thor and The Avengers) - he was brought back for the second Thor movie, and he's now set to star in his own film!

   Most of that can be attributed to the likability and star power of actor Tom Hiddleston - but surely some has to go to the mischievous, bad-boy attitude of the character, and the fact that he has some justification for his wicked ways.

   The character in the comic has gone through quite a few changes in the 50 years he's been appearing in Marvel Comics. He spent decades as the thoroughly evil opponent for Thor - but several years back, he "died" and was reborn as a young teen - a conflicted youth who tried to fight for the side of good, but often found his efforts misunderstood - or deliberately misconstrued.

   Now he's changed again, aged and transformed into an adult (who looks remarkably like Hiddleston, natch) - but one who's secretly fighting on the side of the angels.

   It's a clever bit of business, and writer Al Ewing keeps it fresh, light and inventive - but it never quite takes off. But the twist at the end of the issue promises some interesting paths ahead.

   The art by Lee Garbett is quite good - fresh and unique, with strong layouts and breezy character designs.

   I'm not completely convinced that this series will work - its tough to make a go of a series that has a villain in the lead - but it's off to a good start.

Grade: B+


Saturday, February 8, 2014

All-New Invaders #2

   The first issue of this series was very promising, as it transplanted the classic World War II-era team into the modern setting with a story that established a new war for them to fight.

   This issue continues the action-packed trend as the team comes together (mostly) to face an attack by a powerful Kree warrior.

   But while Captain America, The (original) Human Torch and the Winter Soldier are fighting for their lives, they discover the secret behind the disappearance of the Sub-Mariner, and prepare to mount a different kind of invasion.

   It's a lot of fun to see these heroes back in action together, and the story includes some interesting flashbacks to a battle in the '40s (and an appearance by a favorite character from that era).

   The creative team is writer James Robinson and artist Steve Pugh, and they're doing excellent work, with sharp dialogue and excellent actions sequences.

   So far, this series continues to carry the banner of quality established by the original series. More like this, please!

Grade: A-


Friday, February 7, 2014

Ms. Marvel #1

      I admit that I'm not sure how to react to the new version of Ms. Marvel.

   On one hand, I applaud the use of the series to introduce one of the first Muslim characters to the Marvel Universe. (Wasn't at least one of the Global Guardians Muslim?) The comic is well-written and introduces an all-new cast of characters.

   On the other hand, it feels like we're being hit over the head with the idea , "Look everyone! We're being inclusive! She's a Muslim!"

   In other words, it feels a bit heavy-handed. Should the most important thing about the hero be the quality of their character or their heritage? Your thoughts may vary, as do mine.

   At any rate, thankfully writer G. Willow Wilson has written a good comic here, though most of it reads more like a teen "coming of age" story instead of a superhero tale.

   It focuses on a 16-year-old girl / woman named Kamala who lives a normal life in Jersey City - but when she decides to rebel and sneak out to a party, she runs into a life-changing event.

   The art by Adrian Alphona is quite good, though very different from traditional superhero comic book art. It's much more evocative of the real world and real life characters, as opposed to the usual steroid-infused (or silicon-infused) models.

    It's an interesting start to a promising series.

Grade: A-


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forever Evil #5 (of 7)

   For the first time in the run of this interminable series, we run into an issue of Forever Evil that's almost... ok.

   That's because the creative team (writer Geoff Johns, artist David Finch and Richard Friend) manage to only have one gruesome moment (which leads to one death, of course) - probably the lowest fatality count in the series.

   There's also an entertaining match-up between a team of villains (working with Batman and Catwoman) who are resisting the Crime Syndicate, and another team of villains who have thrown in with the Syndicate.

  And the issue throws in a good twist at the end that promises to amp up this series - which is good, because it's been terribly grim and ponderous so far.

   Here's hoping the last two issues continue the trend toward better stories and less bloodshed.

Grade: B


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

Earth 2 #20 - Against an army.

Forever Evil #5 - Villain vs. villain!

Fox #4 - Fighting the Druid!

- All-New Invaders #2 - Getting the band back together.

Iron Man #21 - Rings of the Mandarin.

Loki #1 - Everyone's favorite villain!

Ms Marvel #1 - The new Ms in town.

New Avengers #14 - Deal with the devil!

Spider #17 - Sneakin' around the city.

   And that's it!

The Classics - Guest Review - Journey #1

   Here with another Guest Review is our man Dave Wright with a review of one of my favorite Independent comics:

   Journey: The Adventures of Wolverine MacAlistaire by William Messner-Loebs was initially published by Aardvark-Vanaheim for the first 14 issues, and then published by  Fantagraphics for further adventures.   

   I didn't pick up the early run on it, I found a few copies somewhere in the middle of the series, and then later found a copy of the IDW collection, which contains issues #1 - 16.  

   Journey is an adventure comics about frontier life in around the territories of Michigan and Fort Miami in the 1800s.  

   Wolverine MacAlistaire is a trapper by trade, who shuns society, yet can be brave and resilient when needed. He is described as a brute of a man, grown old on the frontier. More beast than human, with the evil and darkness of the wild in his soul. 

   The first issue opens with a flashback tale told while waiting for a ferry by a cut-throat villain who, along with two other accomplices, had previously jumped MacAlistaire at his camp, stealing his animal pelts, clothing and livelihood, leaving him staked out to die in the snow. 

   So the story starts out as a tale of revenge and equity, and after old scores are settled, we follow Wolverine as he travels through  the wilderness. William Messner-Loebs has a unique way that he tells his stories, in the slang and voice of that time period, sometimes writing in that manner as well.  This can be a bit jarring at first, but you get used to it quickly.  

   His artwork is unique too, sometimes stark, sometimes detailed,  a bit sketchy or perfunctory at times, using gesture and negative space to convey the mood as well.  

   The last part of issue #1 turns into a high chase and some comic relief as well, as Wolverine stumbles up on a black bear. He runs for his life, hoping to outfox the bear, not wanting to become some bleached bones for some other trapper to find later.  

   If  you enjoy westerns like Jeremiah Johnson and Little Big Man and stories of early historical frontier life, this would be a good comic to pick up.  It's a mixture of heroic adventure, fictional and historical drama, and dealing with the awe of nature.  

Grade A



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

All-New Fathom #5

   So it's like this: a mysterious force (well, mysterious to the main characters) is wreaking havoc on the world's oceans - freezing huge sections and endangering countless lives.

   While trying to uncover the cause, Aspen (Fathom) Matthews travels to Russia, where the powers that be try to coerce her into working for them - naturally, that doesn't go over well.

   But the biggest problem is, it has almost nothing to do with the ice problem. It just seems like a slow, rambling (well, aside from a short action sequence) tale that takes a long time to get to the point - and then doesn't get to the point anyway.

   The art by Alex Konat and Mark Roslan is quite good, with strong layouts and sharp environmental designs - and some attractive ladies, of course.

   The story has a lot of potential, but this issue only gives us a few baby steps of progress - here's hoping the next issue picks up the pace.

Grade: B


Monday, February 3, 2014

Guest Review - Molly Danger #1

   Stepping into the Guest Review chair is my pal Lyle S. Tucker, with a look at a creative new comic starring a powerful kid. 

MOLLY DANGER is created, written and dawn by Jamal Ingle.

   Molly appears to be a perpetual 10-year-old with super-strength who has been the champion of Coopersville, NY, for the past 20 years (only in the comics can you pull off that kind of math, kids!). 

   Just who or what she really is is not explored in the first issue (which Cheapskate Me got off of Comixology for 99 cents), where we get to watch Molly kick the butt of Medula, a purple-caped brain-floating-in-a- liquid-filled-jar-atop-his-head kind of bad guy, commandeering a giant robot referred to as a “Supermech.” 

   I don't know about you, but I'll immediately cotton to any comic featuring a floating-brain villain (especially if they're dressed in purple). Molly is apparently part of an high-tech governmental agency and she's backed by a cadre of support soldiers known as D.A.R.T. (Danger's Action Response Team). 

   An interesting aspect to the story is the focus on budgetary constraints concerning how much the cost of mopping up after any battle will be, laying the groundwork for future complications, I'm sure.

   Inles' art is gorgeous. He has a clean style that reminds me of a Cho or a Bolland, and the color artist, Juan Carlos, complements the work well. 

   This first issue has captured my interest – I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes. And I hafta say, I love Comixology's Guided View presentation of comics on my iPad. The story comes along one panel at a time, and the effects of a panel are sometimes layered one-after-another. 

   For example, there's a shot where Molly is jumping out of an aircraft. In the first presentation Molly is blurred as she's coming at you and the aircraft is crystal clear. As you swipe forward, the panel stays exactly the same drawing but now Molly is crystal clear and the aircraft is blurry. It's an effective dramatic device.  

   Also, dialogue is often layered this way, making conversations seem more realistic, if you will, rather than the conventional way where your eye captures both sides at once.

Grade: B+


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Saga #18

   What an excellent series this is.

   Saga tells the story of a baby as she narrates her life story. It's an exciting tale, loaded with terrific characters, exotic locales, and more surprises per page than any other comic in recent memory.

   Written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, it's masterful work. The story finds Hazel's parents, her ghostly nanny and her grandmother hiding out in the home of a popular (and somewhat reclusive) author - only to find themselves threatened by the mechanical investigator Prince Robot IV, the bounty hunter Gwendolyn and a Lying Cat.

   The artwork is terrific, with great character depictions, fresh designs and an outstanding splash panel.

   Vaughan has been managing the series carefully, allowing breaks between story arcs to give the creative team time to get caught up and rolling on the next arc. It means the books arrive on a professional schedule - the reader stays involved throughout.

   If you haven't been reading this - and you don't mind some adult material - then I definitely recommend buying the collected editions. Great stuff!

Grade: A



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #11

   This series has a really unique feel to it - one readers are bound to either love or hate. I doubt there's much room in between.

   It's like this: the Guardians of the Galaxy are an odd group of misfits. They're dedicating to fighting the good fight (though we don't really know why). Several of the team members kill without remorse (a good example can be seen in this issue). They don't seem to get along. Their leader is kind of a doofus. They're rude.

   But the steady stream of action and humor and exotic locales keeps things interesting. The team is especially devoted to protecting the Earth, and that leads it (somewhat improbably) to the cosmic side of the upcoming Trial of Jean Grey, and a visit to the mutant side of the Marvel Universe.

   The writing by Brian Michael Bendis is as sharp and funny as ever, and I really like the artwork by Sara Pichelli - her characters are wonderfully expressive.

   I find I like the series in spite of itself, mostly because of the humor - and the unique nature of the team, though I'd really like to learn more about each character (most are blank slates at this point).

   But with the feature film on the way (and good word of mouth preceding it), expect more emphasis on this team - and thrusting it in the middle of the latest X-Men event can't hurt.

Grade: A-