Sunday, August 31, 2014

All-New X-Men #31

   While this issue of All-New X-Men is mostly about the setup for the next storyline, I have to admit it reminded me of a different milestone.

   When I was quite young, the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America started having crossovers every summer as DC got into the whole Earth-1 and Earth-2 concept.

    And that seems to be what this issue is setting up, as the original X-Men go out in search of a powerful new mutant, and find themselves dealing with an entirely new experience - an alternate universe, but one that seems... familiar.

   (No, they don't run into the Justice Society - but wouldn't that be fun?)

   To say more would be to give away too much of the fun.

   While this isn't the first Marvel issue to do this kind of crossover, this one's going to be a challenge to sort out.

   Should be fun!

Grade: B+



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Groo vs. Conan #2 (of 4)

   Wait, there's a second issue of Groo vs. Conan?

   I thought surely one of these characters would have killed the other by now.

   Instead, the most improbable crossover since the Punisher met Archie continues - and, it should come as no surprise, it's actually a lot of fun.

   The entire story is spinning out as a drug-and-injury-induced dream (honest) on the part of writer and artist Sergio Aragones, with writer Mark Evanier contributing... something or other.

   Which is as good a way as any of bringing together fiction's greatest barbarian and fiction's funniest barbarian.

   It's all silly, improbable and darned entertaining. The story finally veers into Rashomon territory, and provides a shocking ending that you won't see coming.

   Great art and a surprising story, lots of laughs - what more do you want? If that's not enough, all I can say is: gee, you're hard to please.

Grade: A-


Friday, August 29, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #18

   I'm all for cliffhangers, but some go a bit too far.

  For example, at the end of the mini-series The Thanos Imperative, three characters were facing death, trapped in an alternate reality: Thanos, Star-Lord and the original Nova.

   In the years since, we've seen Thanos and Star-Lord reappear, but there's no sign of Richard Ryder. And no explanation.

   So what happened?

   We're finally looking back at those events in the latest issue of Guardians of the Galaxy.

   (Apparently Gamora also got tired of waiting for an explanation).

    As you'd expect from writer Brian Michael Bendis, the answer isn't a short one - which is to say, it's a continued story.

   But at least we're finally getting an explanation, so I'm all for it. And a month or two seems much more manageable than "never."

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Avengers #34

   It's been a wild trip, but I've really enjoyed this time-travel story in the Avengers, especially since it's focused largely on Captain America. 

   When he's written well, Cap is one of my favorite Marvel heroes (and it's been fun to see him emerge as such a fan favorite in Chris Evans' film version of the hero).

   (The less said about his current solo comic, the better.)

   This mind-bending story has taken Cap (and a few other Avengers) off to the future, where they've gained some insights into the ongoing threat being faced by the Illuminati - and the possible solutions to the problem.

   But Cap faces a possibly-insurmountable opponent, as he stands alone in the incredibly-distant future.

   It all sets up an major conflict to come, as secrets are revealed and sides are chosen.

   It's part of writer Jonathan Hickman's master plan, and it's shaping up to be a major event - both for the extended Avengers team and for the world.

   This has been a serious, complex story - and while it's not for everyone, it's an amazing, thoughtful and carefully devised work, and well worth sorting out.

Grade: A


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Classics - Namor the Sub-Mariner #1

   It amazes me that some characters are allowed to languish on the shelf.

   I suppose it happens because the editors or writers just don't know what to do with that character.

   Water-based heroes seem to be especially problematic - so the Sub-Mariner and Aquaman seem to wax and wane on the comics scene.

   Created by Bill Everett, Namor was a big star in the '40s and one of the few Timely heroes to be revived in the '50s. He made his premiere in the Silver Age in Fantastic Four #4, when the Human Torch famously used his flame to give a powerful derelict a shave, and uncovered an amnesiac Namor.

   One of the first anti-heroes, the noble Sub-Mariner alternated between warring against humanity and fighting on its side. He eventually earned his own series in Tales to Astonish, and then graduated to his own title, which ran for six years.

   He was featured in the first Marvel cartoons, was a founding member of The Defenders, and starred in the throwback series The Invaders.

   But perhaps his best solo effort was this 1990 series by writer / artist John Byrne, with inks by Bob Wiacek.

   Byrne introduces Namor as out of control - a raving lunatic, attacking innocent islanders - but he meets a kindly marine biologist and his daughter who hold the solution. Along the way we get lots of action, a recap of Namor's origin, the answer to his behavior since his first appearance in the 1940s, a new direction, a new supporting cast, and lots of great artwork.

   Byrne's run on the series was a blueprint on how to do great comics. Unfortunately, Byrne didn't last - and neither did Namor. The series was canceled after four years.

   These days he's back to being a supporting character in New Avengers - and back to behaving erratically. It's a shame - he's a terrific character with loads of untapped potential. He just needs the right creative team running the show.

   We can only hope.

Grade: A



New Comic Book Day!

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

- Alien Legion #3 - This means war.

- All-New X-Men #31 - A new mutant with an amazing power.

- Avengers #34 - Cap visits the future.

- Cyclops #4 - Marooned!

- Fantastic Four #9 - Checking in on the kids - and the original Human Torch.

- Flash #34 - When are the Rogues not the Rogues?

- Groo vs Conan #2 - One will fall! Or will he?

- Guardians of the Galaxy #18 - How did Star-Lord escape certain death?

- Savage Hulk #3 - Jean Grey gets green!

- Invaders #9 - The return of Deathlok.

- Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #4 (of 5) - Meet the family.

- Saga #22 - Troubles at home?

- Silver Surfer #5 - The return of the Defenders?

- Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever #3 - Kirk and Spock, stuck in the past.

- Superman #34 - Two Supermen for the price of one!

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brain Boy: The Man from G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #4 (of 4)

   This series has been a good example of how to effectively revive an old character in the modern world.

   Brain Boy was a short-lived pseudo superhero in the '60s (though one without a costume), and now he's been revived by Dark Horse as a modern-day spy.

   Since his powers are mind-based (telepathy, telekinesis), he makes the perfect spy - but in this series he may be (you should excuse the phrase) in over his head.

   He's up against a powerful Hive Mind that has a deadly plot to take control of the government - and it will take all of Matt Price's abilities to stand against it.

   The story by Fred Van Lente is a bit convoluted, and it would be difficult to start up with this issue - but the collections would be a good place to catch up.

   The art by Freddie Williams II is strong, though I don't much care for the super costume Brain Boy sports in this issue - it seems pretty generic.

   The best thing about the issue, though, is the last page, with a shocking turn that should lead into the next mini-series.

    This series isn't for everyone - it takes the roundabout path to get the story told - but it's a smart and clever take on a classic concept.

Grade: B-


Monday, August 25, 2014

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #1

   This is an odd bit of business.

   This issue of Sensation Comics doesn't seem to be placed in the "New 52" universe at all. It features (mostly) classic, pre-New-52 versions of Batman's Rogue's Gallery attacking Gotham, but (for reasons I'm not clear on), Batman isn't around to deal with them.

   So Oracle (Barbara Gordon) calls in another hero - Wonder Woman.

   I'm torn - I'm not sure if the issue is a slam on Batman or on his villains.

   Wonder Woman scarcely seems challenged by the gathering (and don't get me started on the odd dream sequence that feels completely out of place).

   The art by Ethan Van Sciver is excellent - like the story, it's something of a throwback to a clean, classic look for Diana, with powerful layouts and great character stylings.

   While I'm a bit on the fence about the story, I'm glad to see this peek at the pre-52 world. If it were up to me, the whole DC line would move in this direction.

Grade: B


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Daredevil #7

   OK, I'm impressed.

   This issue of Daredevil manages to accomplish a couple of things I didn't expect - it finally reveals the long-hidden reasons why Matt Murdock's mother left their family when he was a baby - and it tackles a serious subject, one that isn't much discussed, but should be.

   Writer Mark Waid, thankfully, is the one managing this sensitive subject, and he does so with intelligence and insight, but never with a heavy-handed approach.

   It spins off of a long-ago story written by Frank Miller, which revealed that his mother had become a nun. In this story, she is taken to the nation of Wakanda to face justice for her protests again a secret research project that nation is involved in - but luckily, her son is a heckuva lawyer.

   Of course, there's plenty of action along the way, as Daredevil must invade the nation that has never been successfully invaded, he must fight the ruling Black Panther (who is no longer his old friend T'Challa), and find a way to save his mother and get her safely home. A tall order!

   It's a smart, sensitive story, with wonderful illustrations by Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez.

   With a great grasp of character, perfectly steeped in Marvel's rich history, and loaded with clever plot twists and turns, this continues to be an exceptional series. You really should be buying it.

Grade: A


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Justice Inc. #1 (of 6)

   I've been a fan of pulp heroes since I first picked up one of the Bantam paperback reprints of Doc Savage in the early '70s.

   I also got hooked on The Shadow and The Avenger in the same way.

   It was only natural that their adventures should migrate over to comic books - after all, their exploits inspired more than a few of today's most popular heroes.

   But there's always a big problem with bringing those heroes to life in modern-day comics. Do you try to bring them up to the modern-day world - always problematic, because you have to explain with they're still young and vibrant - or do you set the stories in the 1930s and '40s, when they originally appeared?

   Which is to say, will modern audiences accept a story set 60 or 70 years ago?

   For Justice Inc - which is, I believe, the first-ever team-up of all three of these characters - writer Michael Uslan is taking the Solomon approach by using both periods.

   The story begins in the modern era, as Doc Savage (older but somehow still vital despite being, what, 100 years old) embarks on a remarkable experiment in time travel. He succeeds (to a certain degree), and the story reaches back to the '30s, when his career - and that of The Shadow - are just starting.

   The story also includes Richard (The Avenger) Benson, but it's set before the terrible event that changes his life - and his mission - forever.

   The whole thing is a bit confusing in places, but I trust Uslan knows where he's going.

   The art is by Giovanni Timpano, and it's solid stuff, with good depictions of each character. It only suffers when held next to the extraordinary cover by Alex Ross, with iconic depictions of each hero.

   Quibbles aside, it's great to see these characters gathered together and given a worthy opponent. I'm in for the run!

Grade: B+


Friday, August 22, 2014

New Avengers #23

    OK, I've been grumping about New Avengers lately, because it's been painting the heroes into a very bad corner - one that leaves them undistinguishable from the villains.

    It's a cosmic problem, as alternate Earths are infringing on our Earth, and the only choice for this team is to destroy the other team before it destroys theirs.

   Last issue, a member of the group had to make the call they've been dreading - to destroy an inhabited planet to preserve their own.

   This issue the heroes face the end of the world - each in their own way - and the story takes a surprising turn. It's a powerful payoff after a long buildup, and it's going to be very interesting to see where it all goes from here.

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Multiversity #1

   Someone (sorry, can't remember who) commented recently, "Thank goodness DC got rid of that confusing Earth-1 and Earth-2  business - and replaced it with 52 alternate Earths."

   But that abundance has created fertile ground for the unique mind of writer Grant Morrison, who has (apparently) been given free rein to craft a free-wheeling mythology in the pages of Multiversity.

   As you'd expect, it's very... different. It begins with the last of the Monitors visiting an Earth on the verge of destruction. Its only hope is a gathering of some of the greatest heroes from across the multiverse, including Superman (but not the one from Earth-1), Captain Carrot and several others.

   They journey to alternate Earths, meet some very familiar (if different) heroes, including certain Marvel alternates (which is only fair, given recent events in the New Avengers).

   It's all fast, furious and sharp as can be. This is a series that will bear re-reading - it's dense with ideas, concepts and gags.

   The art is by Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, and it's exceptional - from mammoth cosmic beings to superhero battles to alternate realities, it's all crafted with a strong sense of layout and heroic design.

   This certainly isn't for everyone - it will take multiple readings to catch a lot of the bits carefully built into the story - but especially for longtime or dedicated fans, it's well worth the effort.

Grade: A


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Classics - Metal Men #51

   I've been a fan of the Metal Men since their earliest appearances - but to say they've struggled to get an audience would be an understatement.

   The original version was an odd mix of science fiction and humor for children, as inventor "Doc" Magnus created human-like robots, each based on a different metal.

   So Gold, Iron, Lead, Tin, Mercury and Platinum each had powers based on the unique properties of that metal, and the heart and mind of each was contained in a device called a Responsometer.

   No matter how badly they're damaged, Doc can repair them - so the whole team can be destroyed, but will be ready to go back into action by the next issue.

   But the stories were borderline crazy. The team would face all kinds of strange monsters and menaces, and each character either had no personality (Gold, Iron), strange faults (Lead is dim, Tin stutters and has no self-confidence) or are overly emotional (Platinum, Mercury).

   It never really caught on (in terms of sales). Eventually the team got desperate - they adopted human disguises, traded creative teams, and were finally canceled.

   The series was brought back in the late '70s with a jump-start by artist Walt Simonson (who provides the cover here), but his stay was a short one.

   By the time this issue arrived, the team was back to a silly phase. The issue features a forgettable story by Jack C. Harris and Martin Pasko, as the team works together to stop a strange (and flimsy) evil plot.

   The art is by Joe Staton, and it's the best thing about this issue. Staton ha a great flair for comic art (in the best sense of the word "comic"), and provides great visuals here as the team bumbles around, searching for the bad guy.

   It's all very slim and disjointed, so it's no surprise that the series was canceled not long after. But it keeps coming back for more!

   The team has just been introduced to the "New 52," in a more serious vein, but only time will tell if the group will catch on.

   Sadly - I wouldn't bet any money on it.

Grade: C+


New Comics Day

   A slim days at the comics shop this week. I picked up:

- Brain Boy #4 - Taking on a hive mind!

- Daredevil #7 - Invading Wakanda!

- Justice Inc. #1 - Couldn't pass up Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger 
teaming up for the first time.

 - Multiversity #1 - Morrison runs wild on the DC Universe!

 - New Avengers #23 - the end of the world.

- Sensation Comics #1 - Wonder Woman faces the Batman's greatest foes!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hulk #5

   Over the years, the Hulk has gone through quite a few changes - from the ever-loving' "Hulk Smash" phase to the intelligent Hulk to the grey (and morally challenged) Mr. Fixit, and, well, you get the idea.

   He's gone through another major change in this series, as the latest storyline started with Bruce Banner being shot - in the head.

   While transforming into the Hulk has restored his physical condition, his intellect was still badly damaged, so Tony Stark took the unusual step of using Extermis (the technical MacGuffin that can work wonders on the body, though with often-dire side effects)

   The effect has been to make the Hulk incredibly intelligent - perhaps more so than Banner. He embarks on a mysterious program, and it's not until late in the issue that his plan becomes evident - and it's one that may affect the entire Hulk family.

   Mark Bagley's art (with Andy Hennessy on inks).is excellent here, kicking off with several high-powered splash pages. He seems liberated by the fact that he only has to  draw one hero, instead of the usual army.

   I'm sorry to see Mark Waid step down as writer, but so far, Gerry Dugan is carrying the torch with no signs of faltering.

   So far, so good!

Grade: A-



Monday, August 18, 2014

Fantastic Four #8

   Here's what I have to say about this series:

   Leonard Kirk and Scott Hanna are doing wonderful art here.

   I like the sense of history that writer James Robinson is tapping into.

   But... I really, really don't care for the story at all. We expect heroes to face adversity, to overcome challenges - that sort of thing - but what we've had here is (so far) eight issues of everything going as wrong as it possibly can for the Fantastic Four.

   There's still no indication of who's the villain of the piece, and for the story to work, everyone (including the Avengers, the legal system and the public in general) must act out of character.

    ("Thanks for saving the world a zillion times, FF, but the story requires us to treat you like crap.")

   So my final thought is, can we please get to the point?


Grade: C


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Astro City #14

   I really like this series.

   That's because Astro City combines great artwork with thoughtful, personal stories.

   And this issue features something else I'm crazy about: robots!

   It takes us on a visit to the robot museum, which is run by a kindly little old lady named Ellie.

   Over her many years, she has rescued robots that were damaged in superhero fights - so we get to see snippets from fights aver the decades, including some new and unique heroes.

   But there's a mystery at work here, and we're just beginning to get a picture of the real story behind Ellie and her mechanical friends.

   As always, the focus is on interesting characters and clever stories, and writer Kurt Busiek is at the top of his game.

   The art is also terrific, from the amazing Alex Ross cover to the fantastic interior work by Brent Eric Anderson.

   That's what's difficult about reviewing Astro City - you quickly run out of superlatives!

    So I'll just say that it's a terrific comic - one of my all-time favorites!

Grade: A


Saturday, August 16, 2014

All-New X-Men #30

   See, now, this is how you do a "let's take a breath and regroup" kinda issue.

   Writer Brian Michael Bendis is justly famous for his "let's talk it out" issues, and that's what All-New X-Men is all about this time around.

   It's fun, it's lighthearted, we get some insights into the characters, and it brings the focus on several different relationships.

   We see what the (young) Angel and X-23 are up to in a clever bit of business that allows artist Sara Pichelli to show her strengths.

   We catch a confrontation between (the young) Jean Grey and the (mature) Emma Frost in a psychic training session like no other.

   And Kitty Pryde is dating a hologram? Or is it Star-Lord?

   The issue is a bit off-beat - but mighty entertaining!

Grade: A-



Friday, August 15, 2014

Batman #34

   In the wake of the successful (and long) "Year Zero" series, you might expect Batman to take a bit of a break with this issue - but you'd be wrong.

   It brings us back to the modern day and sets the Dark Knight against a monstrous killer who buries his victims in an already-filled graveyard.

   And other than attempting to provide us with a grim-and-gritty story of mass murder, this issue doesn't have much to offer.

   The art by Matteo Scalera is unique and interesting, but suffers by comparison to Greg Capullo's recent work on the title. There are some stunning splash pages, but is that really Gotham City that Batman is swinging over in that double-page splash? Looks awfully clean-cut and blocky to me.

   I tend to like issues when Batman gets to exercise his detective side, but we don't really see that here - he's trying to catch an unpredictable monster, but his solution is, frankly, silly.

   I guess I just don't understand this turn to dark, morbid stories that DC is pursuing. A few years ago this would have been a Vertigo title (page one shows a pet cat that has been drowned, for example).

   I'll pass.

Grade: C


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Original Sin #7 (of 8)

   Yep, that's old Nick Fury on the cover.

   As I've said in past reviews of the Original Sin series, it seems like the entire point of the series (other than generating spinoff series, of course) is to retire the original Nick Fury (that would be the one who's been appearing in Marvel's comics since the early '60s).

   Frankly, I didn't see anything in this issue to change my mind.

   It does give Nick some final moments of glory, as he fights against the Avengers in space. (Why? Please hold silly questions to the end of the post.)

   And yes, even aged (thanks to the fact that the supply of the Infinity formula that kept him young since World War II has run out), Fury is a fighting' fool, and he gets one last chance to strut his stuff before... well, whatever next issue holds.

   We also get to see some of the events that led up to the murder of Uatu the Watcher.

   It's all framed with stunning artwork by Mike Deodato, who combines creative layouts and powerful character deigns into an amazing comic.

   As for the story by Jason Aaron... hey, let's take those questions! Why are the Avengers and Fury fighting? I have no idea!

Grade: B+



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Classics - Rawhide Kid #92

   By the early '70s, Western comics were starting to fade (with occasional attempts to revive them), and most of the comics on the stands - like this 1971 issue of Rawhide Kid, were reprints of earlier stories.

   That wasn't entirely a bad thing - it made it possible to catch up on some classic stories.

   In those days before collections and digital reprints, this was the source for such things - and this issue has some gems.

   The Rawhide Kid followed the typical mold, as a young man who's skilled at gunplay is labeled an outlaw after a misunderstanding, so he wanders the west, looking for a home.

   The issue includes two stories written by Stan Lee, drawn by Jack Kirby and inked by Dick Ayers, and one written and drawn by Larry Lieber and inked by Ayers.

   The Lee / Kirby / Ayers stories are the real gems. In the first story, the Kid goes up against a gang of outlaws set on robbing a train. It's improbable, it's somewhat silly, but it's lots of fun.

   The second story is all about the legend of the Rawhide Kid. A short, slim fighter who draws his guns with lightning speed, the Kid listens to townspeople describing the legend that has grown around his adventures. They describe him as a giant of a man. It's a fun look at the birth of tall tales.

   I'd love to see the return of the Western - there's always room for good stories, strong characters in a wild setting (and there's not much difference between the typical western setting and the post-apocalyptic setting so popular today).

   And it lends itself to almost any kind of story - romance, adventure, character study, etc.

   In the hands of a good writer and a good artist, the sky is the limit!

Grade: B+


New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today:

- All-New X-Men #30 - The Angel and x-23, sitting' in a tree...

- Astro City #14 - Down at the robot museum. 

- Avengers World #11 - Who are the children of the Avengers?

- Batman #34 - The is one creepy graveyard.

- Fantastic Four #8 - The Invisible Woman vs. the Avengers! 

- Hulk #5 - Hulk smartest one of all!

- Original Sin #7 - Nick Fury's last stand! (Maybe.)

- Star Wars #20 - Facing a bounty hunter.

- Worlds Finest #26Back on Earth-2!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

She-Hulk #7

   OK, I’m generally a sucker for any comic that includes Giant-Man - or Ant-Man, for that matter - and this issue of She-Hulk earns bonus points because it includes both!

   The story has She-Hulk helping in the search for a scientist who has made himself tiny, and (having seen too many viewings of the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), he’s lost in a backyard setting.

   And there’s an added complication - if he’s not returned to normal soon, he’ll explode (and I’m sorry, but that bit is entirely stolen from the Silver Age Atom. I’m just sayin’.)

   Since it’s his specialty, Giant-Man is brought in to help with the search - which takes a surprising turn or two and leaves the She-Hulk and her assistance, Hellcat, is big trouble (no pun intended).

   The art by Javier Pulido is very nice, incorporating a fresh style, good character designs and lots of fun with the environment.

   This series has been a bit on the odd side so far, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s unpredictable and fun, and well worth checking out.

Grade: B+

Monday, August 11, 2014

Original Sin Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #5.3

  When heroes meet, they have to fight - but there’s a different edge to the onesided battle between Thor and Angela, because they don’t realize that they’re brother and sister.

   Or so we assume - it hasn’t quite been revealed in the comic yet, but it’s obvious to the reader.

   Thor and Loki have invaded the Tenth Realm, also known as Heven, which is populated by Angels - warrior women with no sense of right and wrong (in other words, mercenaries without honor).

   The brothers are searching for their sister, which Thor learned about during an event depicted in the Original Sin series.

   The issue is, frankly, pretty slim. The fight is entirely one-sided, Loki plots and has tea with the enemy - the surprise on the last page is the only thing that makes the issue worthwhile.

   The art jumps back and forth between two different art teams (made up of five different artists), and it all feels somewhat rushed - backgrounds are virtually nonexistent.

   It just feels like a slapped-together attempt to cash in on the latest event.

   As I read that sentence again, it seems a bit harsh.

   But accurate, so I’m sticking with it. 

Grade: C+


Technical Difficulties

   My apologies, gentle readers, as technical problems bumped us "off the air" for a couple of days. Now we're back, and I'll post the reviews that were delayed.

   As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for your patience!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Miracleman #9

   Kudos to Marvel for bagging these issues of Miracleman, since the contents are definitely not appropriate for young readers.

   For that matter, I'm not sure I can handle it at my advanced age!

   This issue features the reprint of the birth of Miraclebaby - the child of Mike Moran (as Miracleman) and Mike's wife, Liz.

   Both have managed to escape from the evil Gargunza, but they're in the wilderness, and the baby is ready to arrive - so Miracleman delivers his own child.

   Better him than me - when my sons were born, I stood meekly at my wife's side while the doctor (and my lovely wife, of course) did the real work.

   The comic depicts the birth with clinical accuracy - and it manages to capture the joy, wonder and terror that the process generates.

   It's great that these stories are being made available again - this issue was originally published in 1986, and has never been reprinted (well, until now).

   It's great work by "The Original Writer" (wink wink) and artists Rick Veitch and Rick Bryant, and (unless you're squeamish) is t'll worth tracking down.

Grade: A


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Legendary Star-Lord #2

   Despite the title of this comic - The Legendary Star-Lord - the character has been largely unknown - at least until last week.

   Of course, thanks to the hit Guardians of the Galaxy film (which you really should see), Peter Quill is suddenly a household name, and has his own series.

   And writer Sam Humphries does a good job of capturing the "voice" of the character, making him more like the rogue featured in the film, with a smart-aleck edge.

   Quill is dealing with family issues here (of a sort), as his step-sister captures him with the goal of cashing in the bounty on his head.

   But the visit to the home of the bounty hunters doesn't go according to schedule, as plots are hatched and crosses are doubled (so to speak).

   The art by Paco Medina and Juan Vlasco is quite good, with expressive characters and cosmic settings.

   I'm enjoying this comic, but I can't say it's at the top of my reading list. It's fun, but the stories so far (both of them) have been mostly on a small scale - we expect bigger things from a movie star and a cosmic hero.

Grade: B+


Friday, August 8, 2014

Rocket Raccoon #2

   I wonder if writer / artist Skottie Young knew about the plot of the Guardians of the Galaxy film when he created this issue of Rocket Raccoon?

   I'm guessing "yes."

   It conjures up images from the film, as Rocket is thrown in a high security prison in space - and plots an escape.

   He's in prison because he's accused of a crime that he knows he didn't commit - so the only answer is that there's another, uh, Raccoon out there somewhere.

   He hopes that his prison stint (however brief) will help uncover what may be another survivor of his lost race (up to this event, he believed he was the last survivor of Halfworld.

     It's a funny, fast and furious (and sometimes a bit rude) adventure - as always, Young's artwork is a delight, loaded with kinetic energy, great characters and lots of laughs.

   Don't expect the usual strum and drang, or hyper-realism. This is a comic in the best sense of the word - as free-spirited and wild as Rocket himself.

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 7, 2014

New Avengers #22

   OK, I admit that this series is really starting to worry me.

   It centers around a "no-win" situation, as planets from alternate realities are encroaching on the Marvel version of the Earth - and to save their own planet, the New Avengers must destroy the invading planets.

   That's been easy so far - the invading planets were either barren or the home of evil creatures - but the latest invader is home to billions of innocent souls.

   So for one of the members of the team to "pull the trigger" means that hero has suddenly become the biggest mass murderer ever.

   I like the lineup in this series - Iron Man, Hulk, Mr. Fantastic, the Beast, Namor, the Black Panther, Black Bolt and Dr. Strange  - and I hate to see any of them reduced to that.

   And that's why I'm worried. They've already cast Dr. Strange as a dark sorcerer, calling down obscene monsters to fight his battles - and dealing death. That's not the Dr. Strange I grew up reading.

   And as for the character who commits the murderous act - let's just say he deserves better.

   I have no idea where this story is going, and it's certainly compelling - but it's getting into terribly dark territory, and I don't see much hope of a happy ending.

Grade: B


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Classics - Superboy #137

   According to accounts, by the mid-'60s DC's editors couldn't understand why Marvel was so popular, and their own sales were waning.

   I think the best idea was that DC's superheroes were (mostly) involved in stories that were fairy tales, while Marvel was crafting science fiction-based stories (though I'd argue that Stan Lee and company were also making great use of soap opera elements).

   So while the Fantastic Four were fighting space gods, while Thor was fighting the master of evolution, while the Avengers were fighting indestructible robots and futuristic warlords, what was DC doing?

   As Superboy #137 from 1967 shows, they were being silly.

    It features two stories of life in Smallville. The first starts with the Kent family (Ma, Pa and Clark) apparently being killed when their car is swallowed up in an earthquake - all in full view of witnesses.

   Of course, Superboy saves them, but he can't reveal his rescue for fear of revealing his secret identity. So, naturally, they relocate to a new city, where Clark poses as a blind boy, in hopes that no one will suspect his secret identity.

   What follows is the usual attempts to perform rescues without being discovered - and eventually, finding a way to go back to their former life. It's the story equivalent of running in place.

   The second story is even sillier as the Kents find a baby on their doorstep - another orphan from Krypton. But there's a difference, as the baby suddenly ages quickly, becoming a teen, then an adult, and then an old man in short order. Can Clark stop the aging process in time?

   It sounds serious, but the true story behind the baby ends up being, well, goofy.

   If it sounds like I hated this issue, let me assure you, that's not the case at all. The stories may be light and silly, but they're also fun and sweet, and entertaining in a quaint and homey way.

   It's easy to see why this kind of story couldn't stand up to the more dramatic and action-packed tales Marvel was generating, but it's nice to think that there's also room for kindness and a lighthearted touch in comics.

   We could use a little more of that these days.

Grade: B-


New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up today at the comics shop:
- Batman 66 Meets Green Hornet #3 - Robin vs. Kato - who will win? (snicker)
- Iron Fist #5 - Broken and bleeding.
- Miracleman #9 - It's time for Miraclebaby!
- New Avengers #22 - My ally, a monster!
- Original Sin #5.3 - Brothers and sisters fighting.
- Rocket Raccoon #2 - Prison break!
- She-Hulk #7 - A little problem with Giant-Man.
- Star-Lord #2 - Loved his movie!
   And that's it! 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

King Conan #6

   As we reach the end of this wonderful adaptation of Robert E. Howard's only novel-length Conan adventure, we run into a slight problem.

   That's because the original ending doesn't quite work as well in the comics as it does in the novel.

    In the novel, the finale has Conan leading a vast army of supporters against an equally-vast army of his enemies, while on a nearby mountain the evil sorcerer behind the uprising is opposed by wizards working with Conan's forces.

   But in the comics, it means that Conan is lost in the crowd - he's busy hacking and slashing while the big bad guy is being confronted by someone else.

   But for King Conan, writer Tim Truman and artist Tomas Giorello just use a bit of creative license to make it work, bringing Conan to the mountaintop to confront the ultimate evil - and then sending him downhill to join the final battle.

   A bit of a stretch, but it's easily forgiven, considering the fiery conclusion to the adventure. They even manage to bring Conan's future wife Zenobia into the story. But those changes are all relatively minor and do nothing to hurt this powerful tale of kings and thrones and dark sorcery.

   With wonderful, amazing, gritty, lush artwork - just perfect for this series - and terrific scripting, this is a series you should be buying! If you missed the individual issues, grab the collections - you can thank me later.

   Conan's been appearing in comics for a long time (44 years!), and the work by this creative team is among the very best ever. Don't miss it!

Grade: A


Monday, August 4, 2014

Hawkeye #19

   Thanks to Matt Fraction's writing and David Aja's excellent art, Hawkeye has been an exceptional comic.

   The series has featured some smart, creative approaches to graphic storytelling - and this issue is no exception.

   After being in a brutal fight, Clint (Hawkeye) Barton is left without his hearing (again), while his brother Barney (also Hawkeye) Barton is confined to a wheelchair.

   We see their struggles through the experience of Clint, as he struggles to "hear" what's going on around him. I can't remember another story that so effectively captured what it's like to deal with that kind of impediment.

   It's a struggle, and Clint must decide how to deal with the war that's coming. Can he protect the residents in his apartment building - or is there another answer?

   This has been a terrific series, and I'm sorry to hear that it's drawing to a close soon. We need more comics that push the envelope like this - not fewer.

Grade: A



Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Sandman: Overtures #3

   I admit I was a bit lost at the beginning of this issue - it has been a while since the last issue (just over four months, to be exact).

   But as it's written by the exceptional Neil Gaiman, it doesn't take long to get back up to speed with Sandman: Overtures.

   It follows the title character (we call him Dream) as he embarks on a mysterious journey to the City of the Stars to solve the secret behind his "death."

   Along the way he meets some familiar (terrible) faces, makes a new friend, and is accompanied by an alternate version of Dream - this one in the shape of a giant cat.

   There are adventures and encounters aplenty along the way, and a special bedtime story. It's all clever and wonderful and pure magic.

   The art by J.H. Williams III is a pure delight, evoking alien, stunning landscapes, odd creatures, storybook settings and framing it all with unique, intelligent page designs and layouts like no others. Wonderful stuff!

   Look, I'm a mark for this kind of stuff - part fairy, tale part horror story, imagining a reality like no other (watch for the Easter Eggs, true believers)!

   I suspect most casual readers will find it easier to digest once it's all done and collected - but each issue is a gem, and longtime fans (like me) will be fine with waiting when the quality is so high.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy - Movie Review

   The wisdom of the Disney powers-that-be is clearly evident in their purchase of creative companies like Marvel and Pixar - and then staying out of the way and letting them create their own movies.

   As a result, both companies have established a growing string of highly-successful films. So what is their secret, when so many other companies are faltering?

   There are lots of factors at work, but the two most important are: the focus on the script; and hiring the best possible on-screen (and behind the scenes) talent.

   The latest example of this is the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the one most critics expected to fail miserably. It featured a strange cast most people had never heard of - Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groo. Almost the entire movie takes places in a variety of alien settings. The characters are misfits, goof-ups, monsters.

   But the movie is masterful. It brings together great characters, mixes in lots of action, a wonderful level of humor (something most movies like this forget to include, to their detriment), a fun story and a break-neck pace.

   The characters are certainly a mismatched group, but the story manages the difficult trick of bringing them together and, via a series of small, touching moments, turns them into a family (of sorts).

   One of the biggest surprises in the film is the performance of Chris Pratt as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). For most of his career he's been a comic figure, but here he becomes a real-life he-man action hero, on a level with Harrison Ford. He keeps his humorous edge, and he's a bit of a rogue (or he wants to be), but you do get the sense that there's a hero hiding in there somewhere. He has touching moments, and very funny scenes (his final confrontation with the big bad guy could have been a disaster with anyone else - but he makes it work, and it's a riot).

   The entire cast is terrific - who would have thought Drax could be so funny? That animated characters could be so lifelike when standing next to human actors? That John C. Reilly could be a superhero (of sorts)?

   Long-time movie fans will catch many nods to past action films, and there are Easter Eggs aplenty - it will take multiple viewings to see all the goodies on display in the Collector's museum.

   Don't get me wrong, the movie's not perfect - I could have done without some of the four-letter words, which seem unneeded, and some of the violence was a bit much.

   I'm also not ready to say this is the new Star Wars (though it's certainly in the same mold), and I'm not even convinced it's a better movie that The Avengers - though it's a very close race.

   But it is a heck of a lot of fun, loaded with laughs, action and a lot of heart. And a great soundtrack!

   Marvel's streak of success at the box office continues, and as long as they keep making movies this good, they'll continue to ride the wave of success.

   I'm all for it!

Grade: A



Friday, August 1, 2014

Justice League #32

   This issue of Justice League reminds me of the hoary comedy routine. It goes something like this:

   Two comics fans are talking.

   "The new issue of Justice League features the return of the Doom Patrol."

   "That's good!"

  "No, it's bad. They're cast as grim and gritty freaks."

   "That's bad."

   "No, it's good that they're back and featuring the original lineup, including The Chief."

   "That's good!"

   "No, it's bad. Instead of being a force for good, The Chief - who's not in a wheelchair, by the way - is a colossal jerk, treating the team like puppets."

   "That's bad."

   "No, it's good that the DP is getting serious treatment - I'd love to see them get their own book."

   "That's good."

   "No, it's bad, because this Doom Patrol has no likable characters, no one who can crack a joke."

   "That's bad."

   "Well, they actually do have one likable character - Element Woman seems to have a heart. But she was never a member of the team until this issue."

   "So you didn't like this issue."

   "There's some good in it - the art is excellent, and we get a good hint about dangers down the road - but the villain, Power Ring, is negligible. Hardly worth the DP and the JL, who are barely supporting characters here (though they at least act like heroes."

   "So is it a good comic or not?"

   "The issue has some good content, and some bad. It's ok. I just wish they'd bring back the original Doom Patrol - the misfits with enough humor to even out their tragic side. Good-hearted heroes overcoming their handicaps. As opposed to jerks and creeps who can't be bothered to rescue a building full of people in trouble. Why so serious, DC?"

Grade: B