Saturday, May 31, 2014

Avengers #30

   I admit that I'm a big fan of writer Jonathan Hickman, but I do think he made a bit of a stumble over in the New Avengers.

   When the Illuminati (a secret organization of Marvel's greatest minds, dedicated to saving the world by any means necessary) realized Captain America was going to oppose their plans to stop the incursions of alternate Earths, they had Dr. Strange erase Cap's memory.

   It was a bit of a direct swipe from a similar story some years ago in Justice League, where Batman's memory was wiped.

   Now, that thread is being examined in The Avengers, where Cap's memory has returned and he's gathered some powerful allies to confront Tony Stark, in a face-off that seems awfully similar to Marvel's Civil War.

   Of course, recurring story threads are pretty common in the history of comics - and to Hickman's credit, he's taking this story into uncharted territory. Namely, the future.

   In the middle of the confrontation, the Time Gem mysteriously appears, whisking the team in the (somewhat) near future, where they get some crucial information - and make some staggering decisions.

   It's a meaty, far-reaching story that promises to influence the next big event book.

   The art by Leinil Francis Yu and Gerry Alanguilan is quite good - unique, sweeping and intense.

   As with past issue by Hickman, this is challenging stuff, as he lays out elements and revelations that will keep readers guessing for some time.

   And while some elements are familiar, most of it is shockingly new and different - and well worth following. Heck, this issue is worth it for the Hawkeye moments.

Grade: A 


Friday, May 30, 2014

Batman #31

   As the Zero Hour story rolls on, we finally get a story where Batman acts like Batman!

   He's facing overwhelming odds in a Gotham City that is completely under the control of The Riddler - and the only way to stop him is to come up with a riddle that can't be answered!

   Batman is forced to fight without his usual gadgets, so he's forced to improvise - to find a way to keep The Riddler occupied while his allies try to bring an end to the reign of terror.

   Here writer Scott Snyder gives us an intelligent, capable Dark Knight - and also one who can also solve problems with his physical prowess.

   So, lots of tension, lots of action - and an interesting battle of wits between intelligent opponents. What's not to like?

   The art by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki is excellent, creating tension in the quiet moments, and crafting cracking good action sequences as well.

   Good to see this series getting back to its strengths!

Grade: A-


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review: X-Men Days of Future Past

   I finally got a chance to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, and I thought it was very, very good.

   The X-Men film continuity has been a bit of a muddle, especially if you try to make it all fit together (and especially when you throw the Wolverine movies into the mix) - but despite including lots of time-travel, duplicate characters and much of the movie being set in the '70s, this film actually manages to smooth out the glitches and bring it all together into a solid, cohesive story.

   The show follows the basic structure of the original comic story by John Byrne and Chris Claremont (hey, did they get proper credit for that? If so, I missed it). In the future, mutants are being hunted and killed by invincible robots known as Sentinels, so one of the X-Men is sent into the past to try to change the future.

    In the original story, Kitty Pride made the trip - but since Hugh Jackman is the star of the show, he does the temporal jump this time around.

   He must convince the younger and testier Professor X and Magneto to work together to stop Mystique from (inadvertently) dooming the mutants of the future. 

   Time travel stories can get a bit weedy, but this one manages to stay clear and understandable depute including a small army of heroes - and what fun to see those teams (both past and future) come to life!   

   The movie isn't perfect, of course - it's surprisingly adult, thanks to some strong language, one bare backside and lots of graphic deaths onscreen. It's really a bit too much for the young children who might otherwise flock to this film. 

  Still, a strong story, great visuals (I do wish the original Sentinels had been more along the lines of the Kirby design), good character moments, lots of X-Men on display, and some good surprises and a few good gags along the way. 

   This is definitely the best of the X-Men movies to date (edging past X-Men: First Class, which held the title up to now, just edging out X2).

   Future films face a challenge, because they now have two great X-teams to draw on: the team from the present / future and the one set in the past. Perhaps they could start running two separate film continuities?

   At any rate, no self-respecting comics fan will want to miss this film. 

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Classics - Legends #6 (of 6)

   Event comics are a monthly occurrence these days, but that hasn't always been the case.

   But by the mid-'80s, strong sales on special series such as DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths led to the crafting of yet another series.

   At DC, they followed Crisis with Legends, which served to  bring together the heroes who would become the newest version of the Justice League (if just for a while).

   The story features a confrontation (of sorts) between Darkseid (working behind the scenes) and the heroes he hoped to discredit.

   It's actually a bit confusing to read this series now, because it's easy to forget that this series was also an attempt to sort out DC's then-new and (still) sometimes confusing continuity. (Yep, the more things change the more they stay the same.)

   For example, this issue features the first post-Crisis appearance of Wonder Woman, it brings Captain Marvel into the fold, brings Guy (Green Lantern) Gardner to the front and sets up the Flash for his new(est) series.

   The issue features a terrific creative team, including writers John Ostrander and Len Wein and superstar artist John Byrne (having recently made the move to DC to take on his famous reboot of The Man of Steel).

    It's a solid series - well-crafted and entertaining, and self-contained. Well worth tracking down, even if the continuity didn't stick for long.

Grade: A-


A Bit of Business, and Then New Comics

   Before I drop the list of this week's comics, a bit of business. After six years of doing the "Review a Day" gig (including some much-appreciated guest reviews and a few missed days), your pal Chuck has decided to take a couple of weeks off in June. 

   But I want to keep the reviews coming, so here's an open invitation: if you've ever wanted to try your hand at writing one, here's your chance. There's no money involved, but think of the fame and adulation!

   Just pick any recent or "Classic" comic and send a review to us at The deadline in June 5.     

  OK, back to work! It's another week of way too many comics. Here's what I picked up:
- Aquaman #31 - Meet Swamp Thing! 
- Avengers #30 - Back to the future!
- Batman #31 - Still at Year Zero.
- Conan the Avenger #2 - Shadows over Kush.
- Doc Savage Annual #1 - Back to the beginning!
- Elfquest #3 - Elves in chains!
- Fantastic Four #5 - The case against the FF!
- Flash #31 - Will there be enough time?
- Guardians of the Galaxy #15 - Enter Captain Marvel!
- Inhumans #2 - Meet the Queen.
- Invaders #5 - Fighting the Kree.
- Iron Man #26 - Taking on the Dark Elves (not a crossover with Elfquest).
- King Conan #4 - That girl on the cover is going to catch a cold.
- Serenity #5 - Showdown!
- Thanos Annual #1 - Back in the spotlight, and by Starlin, too.
- Tomb Raider #4 - Retracing her steps.
   Whew! That's it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Magnue Robot Fighter #3

   I think I'd really like this series, if not for the fact that I'm such a big fan of the original version of Magnus Robot Fighter.

   The new version only bears the slightest resemblance to the '60s version created by artist Russ Manning. That series was set in a (mostly) utopian future, where Magnus fought against the occasional evil robot and warned against the danger of humans becoming too dependent on robots. He also canoodled with the beautiful Leeja Clane, the daughter of a Senator.

   The new version features a hero named Russell Magnus who teaches martial arts to young people in a remote village. But he awakens in the world of North Am, a world overrun by robots of all shapes and sizes.

   He is almost immediately a fugitive and arrested. He is cross-examined at police headquarters by Leeja, who is some kind of reality TV star as a Human Hunter. When Magnus escapes, she goes in pursuit - and is absolutely ruthless in her attempts to capture him.

   It's a clever, action-packed sequence by writer Fred Van Lente and artist Cory Smith. The story is dark but brings along some interesting, challenging notions about the future and where humans fit in.

   The only reason it doesn't work for me is because it's not "my" Magnus. Leeja is brutal, her father is  a dark force, and there's not much optimism in sight (and this certainly isn't a future you'd want to live in).

   But if you're not a fan of the original, then you'd probably like this series - it's s high-octane experience, with terrific art and a smart script.

 Grade: B+



Monday, May 26, 2014

Lola xoxo #2

   The newest title from Aspen Comics centers around a classic concept: a dystopian future.

   The first issue introduced us to Lola, a young girl who is separated from her parents when something terrible happens (we see an atomic blast on a newscast, but we don't really know what's behind the devastation).

   The story then skips ahead a few years. Lola has become a beautiful young woman, and the men who have raised and protected her also taught her to protect herself.

   Which is good, because the world is filled with frightening, "Mad Max"-like assortments of thieves, opportunists, jerks and a few decent individuals.

   Lola has spent her life vowing to track down her parents, and she finally decides to take a horse and start searching - but is she ready for the dangers that she'll face?

   The story and art are by Siya Oum, and so far we're still getting the lay of the land - the different factions that make up what's left of society, what people have to do to survive - that sort of thing. Lola is still largely a mystery, but we're learning more about her with each issue.

   The art is very good - and quite unique. I don't know that I've seen another style like Oum's. It has some impressive illustrative flourishes throughout, though a few pages are a bit too dark. Still, it's impressive work, and Oum bears watching.

   So it's a solid second issue, but still a lot of ground to cover to sort out why civilization crashed - and just how Lola is going to survive.

Grade: B


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Saga #19

   As the first page in this issue clearly indicates, Saga is not a comic for children.

   But it is a wonderful, intelligent science fiction story that manages to be fresh and inventive issue after issue.

   I think the creative team has perhaps become too fascinated with creating shocking images (a few issues back it was full frontal nudity by a giant male - this issue it's... well, that splash page).

   That's their prerogative, of course - it's their comic - but it's so good it doesn't really need to lean on such things.

   The real secret of its success is the heart at the center of the story - more specifically, the love the mismatched couple - Marko and Alana - have for each other and their child, Hazel.

   The series is actually Hazel's story - she narrates it - and by this point she's a toddler, though her parents are still on the run - and it's a story filled with love, sacrifice and occasional heartbreak,

   From year to year, there's usually one comic that stands out as the one that would interest any reader - it's the comic you recommend to your friends who don't read comics. In the past, that has included Sandman and Swamp Thing, for example - and now you can add Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples' Saga to the list.

Grade: A


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Justice League #30

   Part of the problem with the "New 52" is that we're not always sure where we stand with the history of some characters - even those who have been around for decades.

   Lex Luthor is a good example. We know he's a villain, of course, but the residents of the DC Universe seem to be unsure. There are comments made about him breaking the law in the past, and that he's worked for the military - but is he considered a super-villain, an inventor or just a ruthless businessman?

   And I should admit that I may be the only one feeling this confusion - I haven't been following the "new" Superman comic at all, and dropped Action Comics when Grant Morrison left.

   Following the events in Forever Evil, Luthor apparently is trying to re-invent himself as a hero - and thanks to a sharp script by Geoff Johns, he's doing a pretty good job of convincing both the public and some heroes that he's sincere.

   His first goal seems to be joining the Justice League - though we can certainly understand why the heroes would be hesitant to allow that (heck, they wouldn't even let Green Arrow join).

   The art is strong, which makes sense, since it's by two of DC's best: Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke, with Scott Hanna inking.

   This is a building issue, cleaning up the mess left behind from the recently-concluded event and moving forward from there. I have to admit, I'm intrigued.

   The Justice League continues to be one of the best of the "New 52" (and one of only a few that I continue to follow), so it's good to see it continuing to showcase strong story and excellent art. That's how it's supposed to be.

Grade: A-


Friday, May 23, 2014

Original Sin #2 (of 8)

   I have a confession to make.

   When I first decided to tackle this blog back in 2008, my original concept was very different.

   My first thought was to make it much more snarky and negative, playing the reviews for laughs. But I quickly realized I couldn't maintain it - I'm not a negative person by nature, and I can't bring myself to be spiteful - after all, comics creators have feelings, too.

   Given the usual variation in publishing, most weeks I post agreeable reviews (after all, I mostly buy what I like) - but from time to time, we run into a week where I don't seem to like much of anything.

   This is shaping up to be one of those weeks.

   Case in point: Original Sin #2. It's a comic with terrific artwork by Mike Deodato, who manages amazingly detailed art that has a wonderful realistic edge to it.  

   But the story so far continues to be... well, pretty weak.

   We check in with the teams of heroes who are investigating the murder of The Watcher (but don't expect much in the way of clues here). We get a gathering of an army of Marvel heroes, fighting against the rampage of The Mindless Ones. We get some fight sequences that mostly happen off-camera. We get a sliver of information about the mystery behind the Watcher's eye (which strikes me as the silliest McGuffin in recent memory).

   And then there's that last page. Intended as a shock, a surprising twist, an unexpected moment, it instead managed to make me... laugh. Somehow, I don't think that was the reaction they wanted.

    If not for a brief action sequence with (the original) Nick Fury, this issue would have been almost completely forgettable. Not a good sign in a big event comic.

Grade: B-


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Forever Evil #7 (of 7)

   I haven't been a fan of this series, despite the excellent art by David Finch and Richard Friend.

   That's because Forever Evil has been a dark, gloomy, grim and gritty look at a DC Universe where the heroes are virtually all put out of commission, and the villains have run free.

   That ultimately led to a battle between villains, as a Lex Luthor-led team of villains takes on the Crime Syndicate (the Earth-3 version of the Justice League).

   So, expect death, destruction and a few plot twists along the way in the Geoff Johns story.

   It comes off as a desperate attempt to gin up attention. Like all too many events, it seems built only to set up the next event series - that last page puts us on familiar ground for the next cataclysmic battle.

   This issue's big sin (other than the casual brutality and murder) is that it changes the rules as it goes along. The first issues set up the Crime Syndicate as invincible, but here they seem awfully easy to defeat.

   This would have been a fine story as a couple of issue of Justice League - but seven issues, spread over about nine months, just leaves it all stretched too thin to work.

   Hopefully the next event will be more successful.

Grade: B-



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Classics - The Legend of Zelda #5

    Give the comics industry credit - no matter how many times an idea fails, they run right back to that well and try, try again.

   My favorite example would be adaptations. You would think that it would be a natural to adapt something from one visual medium - TV, movies, video games - and present them in comic book form.

   But with the exception of Star Wars, which has been a hit (off and on) for Marvel and Dark Horse since the original film debuted, I can't think of many examples of successful comics versions of popular properties.

   I can understand why it doesn't quite work with most live action properties, since comics eliminate the motion and must struggle to capture the look of the actors.

   But you'd think video games would be a natural partnership, combining a popular character and expanding on his, her or its adventures with added characterization, plot details and expanded stories (games tend to be long on action and short on story).

   One of the earliest efforts was this Valiant adaptation of The Legend of Zelda, which starred the hero Link (Zelda, in the games, is usually a passive Princess, not an action hero).

   But reading it, you have to wonder if the creative team ever actually played any of the games.

   But that's not fair - it's easy to forget that this was printed in 1991, when Link's design - and the concept of the game itself - was only starting to take shape. (The early games, after all, used low resolution images.)  The video game industry was still finding its way, so it's no surprise that the comic book adaptations struggled as well.

   The story ends up being a hodgepodge of concepts, as Zelda runs around shooting bad guys with magic arrows, and Link only appears in a gag feature and a backup story. Are you surprised it didn't last long?

   The lineup of artists is impressive, including Dan Barry and Mike Manley (though it's difficult to sort out who did what, since the credits are just a list of names).

   It's surprising that no one has taken another run at this concept - in the right creative hands, it could be a compelling action story (but I admit, I'm a big fan of the game series).

Grade: C+



New Comic Book Day

Lots o' comics today! Here's what I picked up:

Avengers World #6 - Facing the unbeatable.

- Brain Boy: The Men from G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #1 - Spy vs. spy!

- Daredevil #3 - Blind vs. the blind.

- Forever Evil #7 - The end at last.

- Hulk #3 - Against the Abomination!

- Justice League #30 - The old order changeth.

- Magnus #3 - Leeja, Human Hunter.

- Miracleman #6 - Meet the new boss.

- Original Sin #2 - Keeping an eye on things.

- Powers Bureau #10 - Twists and turns.

- Saga #19 - At the movies.

- Thor #22 - The end of the world.

- Wonder Woman #31 - The gods work in mysterious ways.

- Uncanny X-Men #21 - Fighting SHIELD.

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1

   I'm a sucker for this kind of comic - a "throwback" to the Kung Fu era, starring Shang-Chi, a character I've always been a fan of - so it's a shame that I ended up disgusted by this comic.

   I get that they're making an effort to riff on Kung Fu film tropes. The opening is directly stolen from the movie "Enter the Dragon," all to give revenge as to motive for Shang-Chi's return, and to set up his fight with seemingly unbeatable foes.

   So what's not to like? Everything.

   The issue kills off a character beloved to long-time fans in a brutal and senseless fashion. Dear writer (in this case, Mike Benson): if you feel the need to kill off a character to tell your story, please invent one of your own, rather than taking out one that another gifted writer and artist created.

   Hiding behind that excellent Dave Johnson cover is some rough art by Tan Eng Huat and Craig Yeung that doesn't really fit this story at all. The characters are barely recognizable, the fight sequences are flat, the layouts are bland. It just feels rushed and uninspired.

   I'm being a bit harsh here, and part of that probably springs from the fact that I was delighted to see this series, this character, this concept, back in print again. With all that potential, and the actual comic is just a terrible disappointment.

   My apologies to the creative team, who will hopefully go on to bigger and better things - but this one is a miss.

Grade: D


Monday, May 19, 2014

Astro City #12

   I don't review Astro City very often, for one simple reason: it gets tiring, always writing rave reviews.

   And it's rare that this series earns anything less than that, because it offers a fresh, unique take on the world of super-heroes, and there's no limit to the kind of story writer Kurt Busiek can tackle.

   This issue, for example, is told entirely from the villain's point a view. It's a character who has appeared before (in different guises), and we learn how The Gentleman Bandit came to assume different identities.

   Like all the best villains, we can sympathize - a bit - with his motivations, although they do take a bit of an odd turn along the way.

   Still, it's a compelling story, with heart and tragedy at its center.

   Hey, I haven't mentioned the most shocking thing about this issue - it isn't drawn by Brent Anderson, who has drawn every issue of the series up to this point. Happily, the fill-in duties are managed by Graham Nolan, a gifted pro who turns it a terrific tale (one splash panel would make a heck of a poster).

   As always, Alex Ross provides an amazing cover. Even with the temporary shake-up of the creative team, this series maintains its high standards and delivers the goods.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-





Sunday, May 18, 2014

Fantastic Four #4

   I keep hoping this series will take off, but so far it seems to be dragging its feet.

   This issue of the Fantastic Four is entirely given over to a fight between the FF and the new Frightful Four (which bears a strong resemblance to the Wrecking Crew).

   But it's not a particularly creative battle - for the most part, the bad guys just use the Thing as a punching bag - but he's a crafty brawler who should be able to hold his own.

   Writer James Robinson brings a few interesting twists, but mostly it's just a lot of noise and not much story.
   The art by Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel and Jay Leisten is very good - dynamic and exciting, capturing the action nicely - but so far, the story isn't holding up its end.

Grade: B-


Saturday, May 17, 2014

All-New X-Men #27

  (Time to play catch up. I just had a wonderful weekend attending the wedding of a loved one, and I'm running late - so the next couple of reviews will be short, west and to the point. Back to my usual blabbering on Monday.)

   This is one of those comics where I think I'm getting too old for the All-New X-Men.

   The series has always played fast and loose with time-traveling characters, but it's been pretty straightforward up to this point (or at least possible to follow). Even bringing the original team to the present is manageable.

   But this issue jumbles things up quite a bit, as we jump around to see the origins of the future X-Men (or are they the Brotherhood?), and the heroes have their mind messed with by the "old" Jean Grey and Charles Xavier's son.

   It makes sense as a tactic in combat, but it makes for a confusing story. The art is terrific, but the story is just too time-tangled to enjoy - or make sense of.

Grade: B


Friday, May 16, 2014

Superman Wonder Woman #8

   So here's another one of those stories that weaves through several different titles until it wraps up... somewhere.

   That trick rarely works on me (though I've fallen for it a time or two) - and this is another instance where I only bought the issue that happens to fall in a series I already buy.

   So for the "Superman: Doomed" series, this issue of Superman Wonder Woman is it for me.

   It picks up right after a battle between the Man of Steel and the hulkish monster Doomsday, fought in Smallville. At the end of the fight, Superman was apparently exposed to strange spores - and he then disappeared.

   This issue focuses on Wonder Woman's efforts to find him - much of it while disguised as Diana Prince, which is a fun throwback idea for those of us who have been reading for a while.

   It brings her into contact with Superman's supporting cast - his co-workers - and offers some clever insight on their relations with Clark Kent.

   It's a good issue, written by Charles Soule and featuring some powerful art by Tony Daniel, Matt Banning and Sandu Florea, and it works well as a stand-alone issue, though it does provide plot elements to feed into the next chapter in Superman #31.

   But to be honest, I don't feel driven to pick up that issue, or any of the others in this series. Let me know if I missed anything.

Grade: A-



Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Avengers #18

   The classic stories in the Justice League featured two worlds (usually Earth-1 and Earth-2) coming together (sometimes literally) as the team fought to fend off destruction (often while The Spectre grew to a titanic size and physically held the two worlds apart).

   That is what you're getting - without The Spectre - in this issue of New Avengers.

   A mysterious cosmic event has forced a series of incursions between the Marvel Earth and Earths from alternate realities. The only way to save "our" Earth is to destroy the other one first.

   The only ones who know about it are the members of the Illuminati. The challenge has been (more or less) easy on the conscience so far, because those "other" Earths - so far - have been either uninhabited or peopled with evil creatures.

   But this issue presents an alternate Earth protected by a team of heroes who seem remarkably similar to certain heroes at DC (just a coincidence, I'm sure) - so how to determine who will live, and who will die?

   It's a meaty challenge, and it makes this the ultimate conflict between worlds, far more serious and with higher stakes than those prototype stories in the JLA.

   As always, it's a sharp, intelligent story by Jonathan Hickman, with strong, angry visuals by Valerio Schiti.

   This story is moving into dark territory. Like a soldier at war, what actions are justified to save your loved ones? This story has been building slowly, but it's rich and has a powerful emotional edge. I can't wait for the next issue!

Grade: A-



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Classics - Brave and the Bold #30

   One of the reasons I'm always nostalgic about Annuals (as they existed in the '60s especially) is because, at the time, they were virtually the only source for reprints.

   In those days, comics distribution was pretty dicey - your local newsstand or drug store or wherever you bought comics didn't always get everything, or perhaps you didn't get to the shop for weeks at a time - so it was very easy to miss an issue.

   When that happened, you could check with your friends to see if they got one, in hopes that they'd trade you for it. We'd often gather at one house or another and bring along stacks of comics we were willing to trade (some of those issue would finance a house these days. Who knew?).

   But it often happened that you missed an issue. This issue of The Brave and the Bold, which contains the third appearance of the Justice League of America, is one that I never saw in the flesh.

   But thanks to the occasional Annuals (each one costing a crushing 25 cents), those early issues were reprinted, and you could see what you missed - which was especially vital with this issue, since the android Amazo would return again and again.

   Besides, I've always been a sucker for bad guys who copy the powers of the good guys.

   This is the usual fine work by writer Gardner Fox and artist Mike Sekowsky (both uncredited, of course), as they put five members of the JLA through their paces, trying to overcome an artificial creature that has all their powers - and those of Superman, too.

   And while the ending was a bit too convenient, it's a fun issue - and well worth tracking down a reprint. The original might be a bit pricey, and I still haven't found anyone willing to trade for it.

Grade: A-


It's New Comic Day!

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

- All-New X-Men #27 - Fighting the future!

- Astro City #12 - For the first time - a new artist! Welcome Graham Nolan!

- Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1 - How I love this kind of thing. Usually.

- Fantastic Four #4 - From bad to worse.

- Hellboy in Hell #6 - It had been a while - I had almost forgotten this was still going on!

- Iron Man #25 - Toe-to-toe with Malekith!

- New. Avengers #18 - Worlds collide.

- Star Wars #17 - The cold shoulder.

- Superman Wonder Woman #8 - Doomsday?

- World's Finest #23 - Hello, I must be going...

   And that's it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Aquaman and he Others #2

   It was a running gag in the New X-Men (especially in the late '70s) that every time the team took a ride in an aircraft, it was shot out of the sky.

   Apparently that shtick has now been taken over (at least for this month) by Aquaman and the Others, as the issue starts with their ship being shot out of the sky.

   They quickly realize they've made a big mistake - no one on the team can fly!

   The issue is dedicated to getting to know the members of the team, as they try to rescue the sister of a fallen companion - and stumble onto a plot that has ties to Atlantis!

   This is a middle-of-the-road series - well-crafted comic book entertainment from writer Dan Jurgens and artists Ian Medina and Allen Martinez - but it's building slowly, and the team members are mostly ciphers so far.

   But it's getting there.

Grade: B


Monday, May 12, 2014

She-Hulk #4

   This series has happily maintained the high standards set by the first issue, as it focuses on the She-Hulk as both a sharp attorney and a rambunctious super-hero.

   It really "feels" like a sister to Mark Waid's Daredevil stories, both in tone and style. Charles Soule's story is fresh and funny with a down-to-Earth approach (though not always).

   So it seems only right that this issue includes a guest appearance by Matt Murdock.

   And she's running up against some serious challenges, as she has to decide whether to support a client who has been captured by one of Marvel's biggest bad guys.

   The art by Javier Pulido is a lot of fun, with minimal backdrops but great use of color and energy.

   Just as Daredevil has become a big hit, this series deserves the same kind of attention and praise. It's a lot of fun!

Grade: A-



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cyclops #1

   I have to admit, I'm impressed.

   Cyclops has traditionally been one of the driest, most two-dimensional of the members of the original X-Men - but as he's depicted in the All-New X-Men, and now in his own title, he's much more of a real person.

   (Assuming that person is a mutant who's able to fire destructive optic blasts, of course.)

   So this Cyclops is the original article, not the modern-day version who's even more dour and grim than ever before.

   And this Cyclops is off on a big adventure. Having traveled through time to the present day, he discovers that his father is not only alive, but it also a pirate in charge of a starship loaded with aliens.

   To the shock of his fellow X-Men, he leaves the team and joins his father in space. This issue shows the young hero learning the ropes and finding himself in a dogfight - and invading an alien attacker.

   I didn't expect much from this issue. I wasn't even sure "which" Cyclops it would feature. But writer Greg Rucka turns in a sharp, funny and engaging story, as we learn more about the challenges of being a space pirate alongside Scott Summers.

   The art by Russell Dauterman is very good, with expansive space vistas, strong layouts and attractive character designs.

    So it's a good start to yet another offshoot from the X-Men family, as Cyclops ventures out on his own. It's not his first solo mission (if I recall correctly), but so far it's the best of the bunch.

Grade: A-


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Miracleman #5

   It's been traditional for magazine publishers to bag their magazines to keep young eyes from seeing something they shouldn't (i.e., pornographic images), but in comics bagging has been for a different purpose.

   Sometimes it's just to make the issue more collectible (such as Todd MacFarlane's first issue of Spider-Man, other times it's to keep readers from jumping to the shocking finish (Fantastic Four #600, for example).  

   But for this issue of Miracleman (which reprints the original 1983 series by Alan Moore and Alan Davis), the issue is bagged for the classic reason - to keep adult images away from tender eyes.

   It's really not too rough by today's standards - but it's good of Marvel to err on the side of caution (of course, if it makes the issue more attractive to collectors, that's ok, too - another benefit of bagging).

    The issue nicely builds on the sense of menace and mystery surrounding the (then) newly-revived hero, as a classic villain returns as a new, darker menace - and we get the first hints of a menace that can threaten even Miracleman.

    I'm convinced that Moore is one of the few writers in the business who can create six-page stories that are compelling - it seems to be a lost art. Alan Davis' art is, of course, wonderful - even early in his career he demonstrates amazing skill for heroic characters and dynamic layouts.

   It's great that this series is finally being made available again to the reading public (especially since the originals can be a bit tough to track down) - it's a nice mix of the stories and some historic and behind-the-scenes material.

   It's highly recommended for those adult enough to handle the mature (and sometimes graphic) material - and are strong-willed enough to cut open that plastic bag!

Grade: A-


Friday, May 9, 2014

Future's End #1

   You have to give DC credit for trying. They keep going back to the well and trying new versions of the weekly comic.

   Future's End takes us into the near future - five years, to be exact - as a time-traveling hero arrives to try to prevent an apocalyptic future from taking place. (Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)

   The great thing about stories like that is that anything can happen - heroes die, there's widespread destruction, lots of angst and shocks - that sort of thing.

   The problem with such stories is that anything can happen - but they can all be fixed with a temporal adjustment, so none of it ends up mattering.

   It's an action-packed beginning to the event, as an incredibly powerful and mysterious menace appears; a lone hero is on a killing rampage; a super-team faces destruction; and oh, that final page.

   The art by Patrick Zircher is nicely done, and the story is certainly action-packed - but once they start bumping off heroes, you just know it's all going to get reversed and/or fixed by the end.

   I hate to be a spoilsport, but you have to think about these things when they expect you to drop more the $150 to pick up the whole story.

 I'll have to pass on this one.

Grade: B


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Original Sin #1 (of 8)

   Time for a new event!

   In Original Sin we get a cosmic murder mystery as the issue starts with the murder of The Watcher (without so much as a "Thanks for your 53 years of service!").

   Ordinarily that's a spoiler I wouldn't give away, but the cover kinda ruins it for us.

   Aside from the grisly death, the issue actually shapes up like a classic issue of the Justice League, as an odd gathering of heroes split into teams and head to different locations (Why? No idea).

   They're trying (I presume) to uncover the identity of the murderer, and there are other mysterious events taking place.

   And I'm thrilled to see the return of the real Nick Fury (nothing against the Samuel Jackson version of Fury, but I've been reading the original since the '60s, so he's "my" Nick).

   My fear, of course, is that they'll use this mini-series to kill off the original Nick (hey, they just killed the Watcher, didn't they? Both characters have been around the some length of time, after all).

   I hate it, but they never ask me about these things first, so what can you expect. Hopefully I'm wrong!

   You know, it occurs to me that Marvel doesn't really have a super-hero detective like Batman - or am I forgetting someone?

   The art by Mike Deodato is wonderful, with amazing textures, environments and powerful character designs.  The story by Jason Aaron, on the other hand, is still developing.

   This issue is all about setting up the teams, putting the characters in place and amping up the mystery. It does all those things well - but I still fear the outcome. We'll see.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Free Comic Book Day!

   As you can see, I finally made it to Free Comic Book Day - I got quite a haul from my pal John at the local comics shop!

   Several of you wrote it to share your experiences, which always makes me a happy blogger:

   Bobby Nash wrote, "Here's the write up I did for the event I attended (with photos)." Check out his blog at this link:
  Bret shared his experience: "It was a nice Free Comic Book Day at my LCS (Local Comics Shop) here in Colorado. Fun to see kids dressed in costumes and the store was packed. I grabbed Atomic Robo and Rocket Raccoon. My 8-year-old picked up Teen Titans Go! A fun day."

   Kyle Johnson sent along several reviews: "Sorry you missed out on FCBD... I almost did as well, I stopped by a shop a little after opening and it was packed. The line wrapped around the shop and out the door. Was going to skip it, but figured I was already downtown so hit a used bookstore nearby, grabbed some lunch, and stopped back by a couple hours later. It had thinned out a little bit by then... Here are some very quick takes on what I picked up:

   Bongo Comics Free-For-All: A mix of stories by various creators. About what you would expect for a Simpsons comic. The high points are a Sergio Aragones splash page and Amy & Leela in a "Betty & Veronica" style back cover. Grade: B

   Buck Rogers: This was a collection of '30s and '40s newspaper strips. The coloring on the Sunday strips was great, but at least for my eyes, they were a little hard to read when shrunk down to fit the comic book page. I didn't have that problem with the black and white daily strips which were drawn by Murphy Anderson and which were fantastic. Great vintage pulp fun. Grade: A

   Guardians of the Galaxy: I haven't been keeping up with the new Marvel series so basically picked this up because of interest in the upcoming movie. The main feature was Tony Stark interviewing a candidate to join the GoG team, this basically provided a somewhat uninteresting voice-over for scenes of the team in action. The second was a Thanos story by Jim Starlin. The third was some kind of Elseworlds Shakespearian Spider-Man versus a vampire which was not that interesting to me.  Grade: C

   Rocket Raccoon: Now this was more like it. A great solo adventure with Rocket that brings back many of the characters from the 1985 mini-series. Was great seeing Mr. Wal-Rus, Blackjack O'Hare, Lord Dyvyne, and Uncle Pyko again. A very fun all-ages story featuring kidnapped princesses, blood-thirsty pirates, and sinister villains. There was a less interesting back-up story featuring Spider-Man, White Tiger, and Nova on the moon. I believe this is based on a cartoon and was geared for a younger crowd. Grade: A (pretty much based on the main Rocket story alone)

   Uncle $crooge and Donald Duck: A pair of wonderful stories by Don Rosa. The first featuring Magica De Spell in another plot to steal Uncle Scrooge's number one dime. The second was a story featuring Donald and Gladstone Gander, who I was not very familiar with. Both were great stories and topped off with a two-page text feature by Don Rosa himself. Grade: A

    And that wraps up my FCBD!


    Thanks, guys! Breezing through a few of the other comics your pal Chuck picked up:

   Future's End - Apparently DC's future is a terrible place, so a hero must travel into the past (our present) to stop this from happening. (This all sounds very familiar somehow.) It'll all play out in a weekly comic from DC. 

   Project Black Sky - Dark Horse is inching into the superhero market with this team-up of Captain Midnight and Brain Boy. Sounds like fun!

   Worlds of Aspen 2014 - A preview of The Zoohunters (tracking down big game on alien worlds) and the fairy tale-inspired Damsels in Excess.

   Archie Digest - 100 pages of classic Archie fun and games!

   Rise of the Magi - Top Cow's new series about a world of magic - and the dark dangers found there.

   Armor Hunters - Valiant previews its upcoming event that centers around alien attempts to recapture the X-O Armor.

   Les Miserables - Udon presents what may be my favorite free comic - a Manga adaptation of the classic novel (or at least part of it).

   Ipso Facto - Automatic Publishing offers the first issue of the series, as odd mix of soapish mystery and science fiction. 

   Epic - Comix Tribe offers a new teen superhero - you get his origin here and discover his unusual weakness.

   Skyward and Midnight Tiger - Action Lab previews two new heroes - in Skyward, a boy and his dog face danger in a strange land; and Midnight Tiger focuses on the birth of a modern-day hero.

   Defend Comics - A fun comic to promote the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

   Red Giant took a different approach - they offered four different (small) flip-comics in one shrink-wrapped package (so, eight previews in one). It included: Tesla, Wayward Sons, Darchon, Shadow Children, Duel Identity, Pandora's Blogs, The First Daughter and Magika!

     And Bleeding Cool offered a small edition of that magazine devoted to comics news and interviews.

    Whew! And that's it! Here's hoping you had a great Free Comic Day, too!

New Comic Book Day

   Yesterday I finally got to the comics shop and picked up a huge stack of Free Comics (mor on that soon) - today I went back and picked these up:
- Aquaman and the Others #2 - Freefall! (Isn't that the X-Men's shtick?) 
- Cyclops #1 - This is the young Cyclops who has time-traveled to the present where he meets his space-faring father, who he thought was dead. You can't make this stuff up.

- Future's End #1 - Adventures in the near (New 52)  future.
- Iron Fist #2 - You can't go home again.
- Loki #4 - Swashbuckling.
- Miracleman #5 - Bagged for your protection (in other words, controversial stuff inside).
- Original Sin #1 - The Watcher is dead - for now.
- Real Heroes #2 - They were fake heroes last issue. Now...
- She-Hulk #4 - Calling Dr. Doom to the witness stand. Good luck with that.
  And I got an Eyeball! Well, it's a ball that looks like an eye. (It's some kind of promotion tied into Original Sin - I guess the Watcher doesn't need his all-seeing eyes anymore...)

   And that's it!