Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Flash #36

   I really like the TV show based on The Flash - I just wish I could say the same about the comic book.

   The series is still - still! - slogged down in a Speed Force-based storyline. (This has been going on for almost three years now.)

   Created by Mark Waid (if I recall correctly), the Speed Force is the mysterious source that enables speedsters like The Flash to achieve impossible velocities - and it's been the basis for a number of stories since its creation.

   But the "New 52" version of the Flash gives us a Speed Force that takes different shapes and purposes - which means it can be just about anything.

   So is it a strange, unstable, blasted wasteland (as seen in an earlier "New 52" story) or is it a jungle loaded with dinosaurs and attacking robots? Sure, why not?

   While the Flash is back there, on Earth the Barry Allen visiting from the future is settling into his modern-day counterpart's life - oh, and guess who's evil now? It's apparently the "in" thing, heroes who are villains.

   I think I'd be happy if Barry could just win a fight once in a while. He only survives this issue because of assistance - he'd never last on his own.

    And that's not my idea of a hero.

Grade: C+



Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Avengers #27

   I've said it before, but I continue to be impressed with writer Jonathan Hickman's storytelling skills.

   During his run on The Avengers and New Avengers, he's planted seeds along the way that seem like normal storytelling beats - like a recent issue that brought a team of Avengers from an alternate universe into play (they were the usual evil counterparts of the original team).

   A small incident there pays off in a big way in this issue, along with other threads that surprise us - but make perfect sense (not an easy trick for any writer to manage).

   This issue follows the team of "Multiversal Avengers" as they take what may be a one-way journey to the other side of the universe to try to find the reason behind the impending destruction of the universe.

   There they must confront an army of mystics who can kill simply by speaking a single word.

   It's another intense chapter in the complex story that's barreling toward what we trust will be a well-crafted (and darned exciting) conclusion to this story that literally shakes the heavens.

Grade: A-


Friday, November 28, 2014

Superman #36

   After a nice buildup, this story really catches fire with this issue.

   Superman's adventures, now in the capable hands of writer Geoff Johns and artists John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson, have been telling the story of another powerhouse - the Earthman named Ulysses who was sent away as a child to escape the apparent death of our world - and has returned with incredible powers - and a lot of mystery.

   The story's a great fit for Romita's style - lots of intensity, with epic, Earth-shattering stories and battles between titans.

   And Johns is keeping pace, with a story that threatens millions of lives (or does it?). There's a lot at stake here, and it's not clear if it's a problem Superman can solve.

   It's been a lot of fun watching the story unfold, and I have to say, it's great to see the world's most famous hero getting the kind of quality storytelling he's deserved all along.

   Jack Kirby famously said Superman was such a great character that it wouldn't be possible to tell a bad story with him. We've seen that he was wrong there - I've seen quite a few bad Superman stories.

   It's wonderful to see a great one.

Grade: A-


New "Star Wars" Trailer

   Just in case you've somehow missed it, here's the trailer for the next Star Wars movie. Personally, I love it! Now, we just have to wait another year to see the rest...

Crass Commercial Moment

   A reminder that this humble blog is an Amazon Associate, which means anytime you buy something from Amazon after clicking on a link on this site, Amazon kicks a small amount of money back to us, all at no additional charge to you.

   With the holiday shopping season kicking into high gear, we appreciate you linking through our site, gentle readers.

   (Of course, the money we get just goes to buying more comics, so it's a "win-win" for all of us.)

   As always, thanks for your support and thanks for reading along here at Chuck's Comic of the Day - and here's hoping you have a happy holiday season!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Invaders #13

   One of the things I really like about The Invaders is its strong connection to the history of the Marvel Universe - and that's a topic writer James Robinson has mastered.

   This issue, for example, starts out as a history lesson of Marvel's first super-team - Freedom's Five, a team of heroes who fought in the first World War.

   The team was mentioned briefly in an issue of the original Invaders comic, as written by series creator Roy Thomas - but here the team is faced with an invasion force unlike any other.

   It's the Martians, marching through London in their tripods and wreaking havoc and destruction - in 1917.

   You might this the team of (more or less) normal humans would be out of their league - and you'd be mostly correct - but that doesn't stop them from fighting back.

   The story also brings us to modern times, and we meet another classic Marvel hero - one who has a lot of experience with alien invaders.

   The art is quite good, being a mix of Barry Kitson, Marc Laming and P. Craig Russell on the flashback sequences, and Mark Laming on the present day art. (I'm not sure if the Lamings are related or if Mark or Marc is misspelled.)

   I like the use of these characters without (much) retrofitting going on, and I like the way the past is having an impact on the future.

   We've been waiting a few years for this storyline to pop up (it was first teased in the resurrection of Captain America), and it promises to have far-reaching affects on Marvel's titles. Maybe.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Last New Comics Day Before Thanksgiving

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

- Elfquest #6 - A meeting of the chiefs!

- Flash #36 - Lost in time - again?

- Invaders #12 - Fighting the Martian invaders (really)!

- Justice Inc #4 - Doc Savage, the Shadow and the Avenger vs. Johnny Sunlight!

- New Avengers #27 - A world of sorcerers!

- Superman #36 - What is Ulysses' secret?

- Usagi Yojimbo Senso #5 - My shop didn't get its order for this issue in, dang it.
   And that's it!

The Classics - A1 Book #1 (of 6)

   If anyone ever tries to tell you that the United States has a corner on comic book excellence, you have my permission to laugh in their face.

   As this issue of A1 indicates, there's lots of goodness to be found all around the world.

   Published in London by Atomeka Press in 1989, this issue includes a murderer's row of writers and artists.

   How's this for a lineup: Barry Windsor-Smith, Alan Moore, Garry Leach, Eddie Campbell, John Bolton, Dave Gibbons, Ted McKeever, Brian Bolland, Steve Parkhouse, Bill Sienkiwicz, Neil Gaiman, Dean Motter, Paris Cullins and Bob Burden.

   I know, right?

   Those creators were set loose on 16 short stories - some powerful, some funny, some action-packed, some horrific, some offbeat, some clever, and all entertaining.

   I love anthology comics, and this is a great example of how to do one right: tale tons of top talent and give them room to run.

   You can just about flip to any page and find a gem - from a tale of the Warpsmiths (of Miracleman fame) to Mr.  X to Bacchus (or Deadface, if you prefer) to Blazin' Glory and much more!

   It's a terrific series and well worth the effort of tracking down.

Grade: A


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fantastic Four #13

   I've been ragging on this series for a year now - so it's only right to give it a mention when it seems to finally be turning things around.

   So we finally have the Fantastic Four starting to wake up after 12 issues of being dumped on to a truly depressing extent: their home and possessions were seized, their children and wards were put in SHIELD custody, Johnny Storm lost his powers, Ben Grimm was accused of murder and thrown in prison, Susan Richards seems to be under the influence of the evil Malice, and Reed Richards was busy working for a space-based company.

   So now the team is finally starting to figure out that someone - or something - has been plotting against them, and now they're finally - finally! - fighting back.

   To which I can only say: it's about time!

   Once again, Leonard Kirk and Karl Kesel's art is terrific - expressive, original and animated.

   As I feared, it looks like the team is finally getting its act together just in time for its upcoming end. (Is the series cancelled? Being rebooted with a new #1? Being shut down while the feature film, which apparently has almost nothing in common with the comic book, hits theaters?)

   We'll have to see how that plays out - but I can't believe we're getting close to the end of the stories of Marvel's First Family. Or perhaps I just refuse to believe it.

Grade: B+


Monday, November 24, 2014

Uncanny X-Men #28

   Last issue Cyclops and the Uncanny X-Men confronted an impossibly powerful (and out of control) mutant.

    This issue, guess what happens?

   The same thing.

   I know decompressed storylines are all the rage (and a special favorite of writer Brian Michael Bendis), but COME ON!

   Look, just read this review again. That's what happens here.

   The only difference is that the art in this issue is by Kris Anka (the cover attributes it to Bachalo, but that's wrong). The art feels rushed and flat - not up to Bachalo's usual stylings.

   The rule is simple for all-powerful characters: by the end of the story they have to either die or go far away.

   Eventually, we'll see where this series is going - but be ready to be patient.

Grade: B



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wonder Woman #36

   It's always a bit dicey when a new creative team takes over a successful series - and that what the Finches face as they take on the adventures of Wonder Woman.

   The team is made up of artist David Finch, who's established himself as one of DC's top tier artists. He works in a realistic, detailed style that's striking and enjoyable, with dynamic layouts and outstanding character designs.

   The writing is being handled by David's wife Meredith, so the question is, can her writing match up to the quality of David's art?

   After reading this issue, I'm not sure we can answer that. Most of the issue is dedicated to setting things up for new readers, establishing Diana as a hero who's almost overwhelmed by all her duties - she's the God of War, Queen of the Amazons and an active member of the Justice League.

   All three duties get some play here, so we don't get much of a chance to go into a lot of detail on any of it. The only real disappointment was an encounter with Swamp Thing.

   Wonder Woman goes full "Marvel" here, hitting first and asking questions later. It feels like a weak attempt at injecting some action into the issue.

   Overall, it's a pretty good first effort - great art, an interesting beginning to the series and good characterization. But we'll haste to wait and see how the story unfolds (or doesn't unfold).

Grade: B



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Spider-Woman #1

   Perhaps this would be a fine first issue if I were reading the Spider-Verse series.

   But I'm not, so for me, this was a terrible first issue. If you're a Spider-Verse fan, your mileage may vary.

   Let me say first that I'm a fan of the Jesssica Drew version of Spider-Woman, even though she's so rarely done "right."

   But in this issue she's lost in a crowd of Spider-dervied characters, which feels for all the world like the worst aspects of such "family" creations.

   Usually the worst offenders have been past issues of DC comics, with innumerable "Batman" and "Superman" derivatives - now Marvel is falling into the same trap.

   Of course, the Spider-Verse stories might be wonderful for all I know - but this doesn't give any indication of that.

   The issue launches hip-deep in the story already, as Spider-Woman is trying to protect another Spider-like woman named Silk along with a '30s pulp version of Spider-Man (I swear I am not making this up).

   They're in an alternate reality, being pursued by a couple of invincible villains who want to steal their spider-life-essence.

     I pity the fan who picks this up as his or her first issue, because he or she will be completely lost. The issue features mindless action, lots of characters with no introductions (look, it's Anya and Gwen, whoever they are), no indication about who the title character is, what she looks like under the mask or why we should care.

    Greg Land's art is beautiful to look at - he's a great choice to draw a comic loaded with lovely women - but that's not enough to make this comic compelling.

   Hopefully at some point this title will focus on the title character. Then it'll be worth $3.99 (maybe).

Grade: C


Friday, November 21, 2014

Avengers #38

   Ah. An issue with answers is like a blast of fresh air.

   The Avengers continue to count down to the point when "Time Runs Out" (we're down to six months).

   And after months and months of events and buildup, here we take a moment of calm and get some explanations (though there's still plenty of mysteries to be solved, too).

   It all centers around - of all people - Roberto Dacosta, the former New Mutant known as Sunspot, and now also an Avenger.

   He's managed to solve the threat of the super-science organization AIM by the simplest solution possible - he bought the company.

   Now he's gathered together a group of like-minded Avengers to marshal their forces and address the other two Avengers groups that are in conflict - namely, the team led by Steve Rogers, and the Illuminati.

   They're also dealing with the threats posed by SHIELD and the incursions of alternate Earths that threaten total destruction.

   So they have a lot on their plates, but this issue by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Stefano Caselli makes the challenges clear and brings in a surprising new player (who has a jolt of two of his own to reveal).

   I admit, I am loving this series - it's a big story, with nothing less than all of existence riding on the outcome.

   Not for timid fans, but mighty impressive to those willing to tackle the story.

Grade: A-




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Multiversity: Pax Americana #1


   The history of comics includes a few events that truly rocked the industry. One of those was the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons creation known as Watchmen.

    It's no secret that the series began as a proposal for a revamp of the Charlton Action Heroes - but instead, they served as the template for the characters who filled that series.

   So now we arrive at Grant Morrison's Multiversity, and the latest issue, Pax American, where we visit Earth-4, the home for Charlton's heroes.

   Here we find the Question, the Blue Beetle, Nightshade, the Peacemaker, Captain Atom and others (some not clearly identified) - but appearance aside, these are not the same heroes.

   Instead, they're a mash-up of the original characters and the characteristics of the Watchmen (without ever coming out and saying so). So we have a Question who is brutal with villains, a Captain Atom who lives across time and space, a Peacemaker who seems to be unhinged.

   The story is made more compelling by the amazing art of Frank Quitely, who has crafted an amazing storytelling feat here - one that could easily stand alongside the style and design of the Watchmen.

   This is not a story you can read just once - it's complex, sometimes confusing and deliberately challenging. You might also object to the violence, to the way the story pushes the characters into different forms, altered moralities - and you won't get much argument from me - it bothers me, too.

   But despite that, this is quite an accomplishment in comic art - mature, unique (and yet an homage with multiple levels at work) - just stunning.

   But not for kids.

Grade: A


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Classics - Action Comics #217

   Wrapping up our Classic / Action Comics reviews (at least for now), here's one of the oldest comics in my collection.

   From the long-ago days of 1956, it's an issue I picked up courtesy of a friend - yep, it's so old it pre-dates me (well, almost).

   I have to admit that I never had much interest in the comics that pre-date my own "era" - which is really a shame from a financial standpoint, because comics from the '40s and '50s command high prices these days - and they were available for a song in the '60s.

   The main reason I didn't care about those comics is because I had no connection to them, and most seem positively crude by comparison to the comics i was reading.

   That's not really true of this issue, which contains three stories. They're all uncredited, of course. (I'll look to the Grand Comics Database for more info.)

   The Superman story features art by Al Plastino, and it's solid, dependable and true to the DC style at the time. It's the typical silly story where a baby is left at Clark Kent's door - a Super-Baby! So Superman has to deal with the usual mishaps while trying to solve the mystery behind the baby's powers (and of course, the baby talks in the usual "Me am a baby" jargon DC loves).

   The second story is Congo Bill, and the art is credited to Ed Smaile. It's quite good - more expressive and textured than most of DC's output. The story is a bit silly, as Bill seems to perform amazing feats of strength - but it's all movie trickery.

   The final story stars the futuristic Tommy Tomorrow, with art by the always-excellent Jim Mooney, with a story by the great Otto Binder. It's pretty thin stuff, as a villain tries to trap Tommy - but a silly mistake gives him away.

   It's all light-hearted and frothy stuff, but that's typical for the time period. Remember, these comics were aimed at young readers, and frankly, they would work just fine for kids today - the stories are timeless and fun.

   The more jaded readers might find it all too silly for their purposes - but comics were designed for a young audience at the time. That's probably one reason why I never worked hard at tracking them down - by the time I got interested, comics were starting to grow up. But I'm still enough of a kid at heart to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into these issues.

   (Before someone gets cheesed, I should add that every age has some excellent comics to brag about - no era has a corner on greatness.)

   I don't put much work into pursuing the comics from an earlier age, but when I find them, I admit - they're fun - and they make me feel young again.

Grade: B-


New Comics Day

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

- Astro City #17High-flying heroes.

- Avengers #38 Answers, finally.

- Batman 66 Meets Green Hornet #6 -  Bam! Pow! Finale!

- Daredevil #10 - Purple reign.

- Fantastic Four #13 - Back in blue!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #21 - Facing Venom!

- Justice League #36 - What is the Amazo Virus?

- Magnus Robot Fighter #8 Fighting alongside Leeja!

- Multiversity Pax Americana #1 - Charlton meets Watchmen. Sorta.

- New Avengers #26 - Iron Man in jail.

- Powers Bureau #12The final fall.

- Spider-Woman #1More than one!

- Winterworld #4 - Self sacrifice.

- Wonder Woman #36A new creative team.

- Uncanny X-Men #28 - A mutant in need.

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Batgirl #36

   Don't get me wrong, I like the new version of Batgirl. By setting Barbara Gordon in a college setting, she has a fresh, young approach to her adventures.

   But I'm still not sure exactly how this series fits with the first "New 52" version of the character, which was a continuation of the original version (which is to say, Babs fought crime as Batgirl, then was crippled by the Joker, became the wheelchair-bound Orcacle, and then somehow was healed and returned to her role as Batgirl).

   All of which means she has to be in her mid-20s, right? But the way she's drawn in this series, you'd think she was a teenager. The same for Dinah Lance, who has a small guest-starring role so far.

   And why is Babs having money trouble? This is the woman who set up a secret hideout and a vast computer network. Suddenly she's broke?

   But it's easy to forgive those quirks. As depicted here, Batgirl is very intelligent, funny and likable.

   The threat here is a bit silly, as a couple of thieves run wild with high-powered, experimental motorcycles - and Batgirl must face them without her usual assortment of gadgets. But it's still a lot of fun!

   The story also sets up some mysteries for the future - which, guided by the creative team of writers Cameron Stewart and Brenden Fletcher, and artists Babs Tarr and Stewart (again), holds a lot of promise.

Grade: A-



Monday, November 17, 2014

Superior Iron Man #1

      It’s sad to see that those guiding Iron Man’s adventures don’t seem to have a clue about the secret of the character’s success.

   So we get a spiel in this issue from editor Mark Paniccia telling us that the original Iron Man wasn’t a nice guy, was despised and "darn-right unlikeable" (as opposed to "downright").

    Perhaps I’m remembering it differently, but the original Tony Stark was just like the guy in the movie - he’s rich, successful, intelligent, funny, charming - the ladies love him, the guys all want to be just like him. Think George Clooney (or Robert Downey, Jr., natch).

   And criticizing him for making weapons (munitions) is just an attempt to rewrite history. In the early '60s, helping in the defense of the country was considered patriotic. (It even happens today from time to time.)

   Do they really think we should hate his for his success? Do we hate Bruce Wayne for being a filthy capitalist? How about Uncle Scrooge McDuck? Sheesh!

   So now they’ve made Tony a villain as a result of unseen events in Avengers vs. X-Men: Axis - hey, it worked for the Superior Spider-Man, right?  

   They have a terrific creative team on the issue, and that takes some of the sting out - but like Spidey’s Doc Ock-controlled adventures, I’ll be passing on these.

   I prefer heroes who act heroic. And in character. 

   Somebody let me know when the real Iron Man returns.

Grade: C


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Star Trek: City on the Edge of Forever #5 (of 5)

    This issue wraps up the adaptation of Harlan Ellison's original script for what is arguably the best episode from the original Star Trek television series.

   But the episode that aired, though titled The City on the Edge of Forever, was different in many ways from that original script.

   Ellison was forced to make changes in the original version, but thanks to fine artwork by J. K. Woodward and the adaptation written by Scott and David Tipton, we get an approximate version of how that episode might have played out.

   The story differs from the original in that the key to the problem is an evil member of the crew who attempts to escape prosecution by diving into a time portal, which takes him back in time to the early part of the 20th Century.

   Somehow his actions in the past change the time stream. To restore the Federation (and the future), Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock also travel into the past.

   Kirk is faced with a heart-wrenching choice - to save the future, can he sacrifice the woman he loves?

   It's a great story, with or without the changes. The most dramatic change seems to be substituting a different character in place of Dr. McCoy (who, in the TV episode, causes the changes during a temporary bout of madness brought on by an accidental injection).

   It changes the dynamic a lot, but it also blunts the impact of the climax of the story.

   I have to admit, I like the televised version better (I know, it's heresy to go against the pure Ellison product). I'm not sure if I feel that way because it's actually better, or if it's nostalgia, or the fact that a print adaptation can't match the impact of film.

   But I'm thankful for a chance to see this excellent visualization of the original story!

Grade: A-



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thor #2

   OK, I have to admit that the second issue of (the new and womaned-up) Thor is actually good.

   We still don't know the identity of the mysterious woman who has somehow been able to lift Thor's hammer.

   We do get a few clues: she's been involved in adventures before this one; she talks like a human (at least in her internal monologue); and she has some familiarity with Asgard and (the real) Thor.

   The story takes her from the Moon (where she discovered  Mjolnir) to the Earth. Pet peeve time: everyone in comics seems to think the Moon is close by. Thor rockets from the Moon to the Earth in what seems to be no time at all. Let's not forget that it took Apollo 11 astronauts three days to fly there! Covering that space in moments is Silver Age Superman territory. End of rant.

    So she arrives on Earth and immediately finds herself fighting for her life against titanic Ice Giants.

   The issue features great (if sometimes chaotic) art by Russell Dauterman and a story by Jason Aaron, but I can't help but wonder - would the story have been much different if Thor has been the original character?

   Aside from the internal conflicts (and a few rookie mistakes), I think it would have been the same.

   So why the change? (Silly question, I know.

Grade: B+



Friday, November 14, 2014

Batman #36

   I have to admit, I like Batman when he's portrayed as "The Most Dangerous Man on Earth" (as Superman said in an issue of JLA written by Grant Morrison).

    He gets a chance to show that side off in this issue (and the last) as he faces off against the entire Justice League, all of them being mind-controlled by... well, the cover kinda gives it away.

   It serves as something of a preview of the upcoming movie, as Batman must fight Superman - and the fight takes some surprising turns (although some of Batman's tricks stretch credulity - and physics - to the breaking point).

   It's all part of the setup to a return match between the Dark Knight and his greatest foe - and the destruction of Gotham City hangs in the balance.

   It's an all-out, over-the-top story by Scott Snyder, and it's a lot of fun (if a bit hard to totally buy into).

   As always, the art by Greg Capullo and Danny Miki is outstanding, with great action sequences and some moody, introspective (and creepy) moments, too.

    It's too early to pass judgment on this storyline, but it's off to a roaring start!

Grade: B+


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Big Hero 6 - Movie Review

   Big Hero 6 is only the second comic book-based movie I can remember seeing that springs from a comic book I've never read.

   (The other such is Men In Black.)

   The movie has very little in common to the comic (if Wikipedia can be trusted), aside from a few character names.

   The film centers around a teenager named Hiro who's a genius at robotics. At the urging of his brother, he dreams up an amazing invention - but then everything goes wrong.

   He's left with a mystery, a deadly menace, a murderous villain, a big goofy robot named Beymax and four friends who band together to form an offbeat team of heroes.

   I wasn't really expecting much going into it, and was delighted to find that I loved the movie. It's a great balance of action, humor, heart and amazing visuals (in fact, the visuals are almost too much - they emulate the real world in some amazing ways, including street scenes that are phenomenal).

    The story may wobble a bit here and there - those additional super-skills were cobbled together awfully fast - but it's a story that will hit you emotionally and provide some genuine surprises along the way.

   Heck, even my wife loved it, and she's not much for super-hero films.

   By the way, two more notes: arrive early enough to see the sweet opening cartoon about a puppy who gets his priorities straight; and stay to the end - the clip at the end of the credits is a hoot!

Grade: A


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Classics - Action Comics #552

   Last week we looked at the short run on Action Comics by the great Gil Kane, and I stumbled across the next issue in the run - a comic designed for long-time fans.

   That's because it reunites a large gathering of the heroes who were around when DC's Silver Age began (and some predate that).

   Eventually billed as The Forgotten Heroes, the gathering took over this issue, leaving Superman precious few pages to rescue Metropolis.

   The list of guest-stars included Animal Man, the Sea Devils, Cave Carson, Rip Hunter: Time Master, Congorilla, the Suicide Squad, Immortal Man and Dolphin!

   With the exception of Dolphin (who was a more recent creation), those are the heroes I was reading when I first got interested in comics.

   In fact, I'm pretty sure that it was an adventure of Cave Carson that first got me hooked on comics. Some of the characters enjoyed long runs (Sea Devils, Rip Hunter), others were short-lived but fondly remembered.

   The story by Marv Wolfman doesn't do much more than introduce the army of characters, all of whom have shared the recent discovery of a mysterious temple. The story is all setup, as we find that they're targeting Superman because of a mysterious threat he poses (we'll have to tune in next issue to find out just what that might be).

   The big selling point (other than the return of those beloved heroes) is the fantastic art by Kane.

   But the issue is fondly remembered for shining a light again - if just briefly - on those heroes who were there when DC first started building its own "Universe."

Grade: B



New Comics Day

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

- Batgirl #36 Trouble with cycles!

- Batman #36 - Taking on the JLA?

- Grendel vs Shadow #3 (of 3) - Final meeting.

- Guardians 3000 #2 - Timey wimey.

- She-Hulk #10 - Cap's day in court.

- Silver Surfer #7 - Exploring deep space.

- Star Trek City on the Edge of Forever #5 (of 5) - Saving the future.

- Superior Iron Man #1 - Tony's a jerk now. Marvel just doesn't have a clue sometimes.

- Thor #2 - She's swinging into action.

   And that's it!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor #4

   So who's your favorite Doctor?

   Mine is Tom Baker - the Fourth Doctor (sorry, other Doctors).

   It's a bit tougher if you narrow it down to the "Modern" Doctors - they've all been excellent. But by a nose, I'd give the edge to David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor.

   He played the part with a terrific balance of intelligence, humor, courage and manic energy - and just the right amount of cool.

   He's moved on to other roles in the real world, but thankfully his adventures continue in this series from Titan Comics.

    Here he has a new companion, an attractive aspiring artist named Gabby. It's fun to see the Doctor through her eyes as she tries to get a handle on the strange life a Time Lord enjoys.

   To thank her for her recent assistance, he offers to take her to one of the greatest art museums in the galaxy - and we get a fun tour of different art styles. It's a clever bit of business, though of course it can't last. At some point we have to run into some danger and destruction, of course.

   The story is clever and the art is fresh and entertaining, despite the fact that it's created by a small army of artists.

   The series is fun, and while it can't match the high standards of the TV show, it comes mighty close. Fun stuff!

Grade: B+


Monday, November 10, 2014

Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #4 (of 6)

   This series continues to be a real treat - although it's quite a departure from the usual story.

   It's something of a crossover, as it features Usagi Yojimbo and a huge cast of characters (including the woman he loves and their teenaged son) facing a different kind of war - namely, a War of the Worlds!

   Yep, it appears they're facing a Martian invasion - so how can swords and horses stand up to giant mechanical tripods and advanced weaponry?

   It seems hopeless, but Usagi manages to bring the fight to the Martians - but not without cost.

   As always, writer and artist Stan Sakai delivers the goods, creating an amazing world of anthropomorphic characters and making them live and breath with genuine emotions - love, hate, determination and courage in the face of an impossible foe.

   It's a tremendous series - you should be reading this comic!

Grade: A


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Real Heroes #4

   To enjoy this series, you first have to be patient.

   That's because Real Heroes is published (more or less) every other month. It makes it a bit of a challenge to remember the twists and turns of the plot, but each issue does a good job of recapping the "story so far," so it's easy to get your bearings.

   The best reason to buy this series is for the art by Bryan Hitch (he also handles the writing) - it's amazingly detailed and fleshed out with the semblance of reality, with spectacular layouts and larger-than-life events and characters.

    The idea is an interesting one: a group of actors who play super-heroes in Hollywood are taken to an alternate Earth, where they are recruited to play the part of those same heroes, who are real on this planet.

   They quickly find themselves under attack by a massive monster, huge robots - and they're quickly scattered. But there's a lot more to this story than we see at first, and there are several twists and turns along the way.

   The story's only flaw is that it's covering some familiar ground - this issue touches on the same solution that Millar and Hitch used in an issue of Fantastic Four, for example.    

   But despite that, the story and characters have a fresh feel and a different approach to the typical superhero comic.

   I'll reserve final judgement for the end of this story arc, but so far, I'm enjoying this series. Recommended!

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gotham Academy #2

   I continue to be mystified by Gotham Academy. I feel like I should know the identity of the main character, Miss Silverlock - but I haven't figured it out yet.

   She's a student at the strange academy that seems to have one foot in the world of Batman, and another in a mystical, Harry Potter-type setting.

    It also mixes in typical student angst, romantic struggles, a few mysteries and some bad girls.

   The story by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher continues to tease major events and mysteries to be solved, while the artwork by Karl Kerschl is a perfect match for the story - dark, quirky and a lot of fun.

   I still don't know what's going on here - but so far, I'm certainly enjoying the ride!

Grade: B+


Friday, November 7, 2014

Hulk #8

   When writer Mark Waid left this title a few issues back, I expected a quick drop off in the quality.

   But kudos to new writer Gerry Duggan, because the series hasn't missed a step. I'm really enjoying the latest incarnation of the Hulk as "Doc Green" (being an apparent nod to pulp hero Doc Savage).

   He's now even more intelligent than his Bruce Banner identity (though how much compassion he has is in doubt), and he's set out on a quest to "cure" the other members of the Hulk "family" of their gamma-irradiated curse.

   It all feels like a somewhat twisted version of the ongoing cartoon, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. (which is actually pretty good, I have to admit).

    This issue has the added twist of pitting the Hulk against the Red She-Hulk - also know as Banner's (ex?) wife Betty Ross.

   Mark Bagley stuck around after Waid left, thankfully - his sculpted artwork is a great fit here, with powerful layouts and lots of intensity on display.

   The series feels like a real change in the status quo for this series - hopefully it'll continue to live up to that billing.

Grade: A-


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Superman Unchained #9

   Finally we trudge across the finish line with the final issue of Superman Unchained.

   I'm not quite sure the reason behind this series. I suppose DC was hoping to capitalize on the Man of Steel movie.

   Or they thought teaming up their hottest writer (Scott Snyder) with their hottest artist (Jim Lee) would produce something memorable.

    It's a logical thought, but the execution is lacking. The art is fantastic, of course - Lee hasn't dropped a step.

   But the story just falls on its face. A gigantic alien invasion threatens, which forces Superman to work with Lex Luthor - but will Luthor's solution mean an end to Supeman?

   The whole invasion (and the solution to the problem) all seem to fly in out of left field, and the solution to the problem would have been worked out If Superman had spent the issue sitting in a recliner at the Fortress of Solitude.

   So, nine issues and lots of 'splosions later, we don't know anything more about Superman and his cast - except that they're all lovely to look at.

Grade: B-


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Classics - Action Comics #551

   The recent addition of John Romita, Jr. to the creative team on DC's Superman comic made me think about times in the past when other superstar artists were brought in the goose the sales of Action Comics.

   In the early '80s they teamed up two classic talents - writer Marv Wolfman, who was enjoying huge success on The New Teen Titans, and the legendary Gil Kane, one of the all-time greats.

   They immediately went to work "Marvel-izing" the Man of Steel. They added conflict - in this issue, a newspaper columnist is attacking Superman's reputation like J. Jonah Jameson might have.

   The issue is also loaded with loads of action sequences, as Superman races around the world, going from one rescue to the next without letup.

   The story's ok, but the star is the artwork. With amazing layouts and sculpted anatomy, Kane overcomes the usual shabby 19080s printing process and crafts an amazing tale.

   Unfortunately, Kane's run on this title didn't last long - he traded off issues with the also-legendary Curt Swan, and eventually moved on to one challenges.

    But while it lasted, it was gold.

Grade: B+


New Comic Book Day

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

- Gotham Academy #2 - Mystery in the library.

- Hulk #8 - You always hurt the one you love.

- Miracleman #13 - Meet the aliens.

- Real Heroes #4 - So long, San Francisco.

- Rocket Raccoon #5 -  Groot tells a story.

- Star-Lord #5 - Searching for an object of power.

- Superman Unchained #9 - The finale!

- Usagi Yojimbo Senso #4 (of 6) - The belly of the beast!

   And that's it!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Little Nemo in Slumberland #2

   I'm a huge fan of Winsor McCay, whose amazing comic strip, Little Nemo, long ago set the high water mark for comic strip art.

   The Sunday-only strip ran (more or less) from 1905 to 1925, and the fact that it's still remembered is a testament to his amazing, vivid, museum-quality artwork.

   So creating a comic book bringing that strip back for modern readers has to be a daunting task. Surely most artists would either quail in the face of having to craft such precise, detailed and inventive art - in fact, I suspect most would run away screaming.

   But give credit to artist Gabriel Rodriguez, working with color artist Nelson Daniel, because they succeed! The art they create here is nothing less than amazing.

   On display is an amazing array of imaginative characters, mad architecture, dreamlike plants and a vast world of dreamlike creations.

   I can't say it's as good as McCay - but it's remarkably close.

   Writer Eric Shanower does a subtle update for the material, adapting several of the original strips into a lovely tale about James "Nemo" Sullivan's dreamlike journey to Slumberland, where he meets royalty, an imp, a giant inch-worm and much more!

   If you're a fan of the original strip - or you just enjoy terrific art - then you owe it to yourself to buy this series. It's exceptional!

Grade: A



Monday, November 3, 2014

Fantastic Four #12


   After a dozen issues of the Fantastic Four being torn apart by conflict, scandal, legal setbacks and even murder accusations, with this issue we finally get some glimpses of hope.

   It only took us a year of depressing events to get here.

   The first glimmer of hope is in the form of friends, as Johnny Storm's two closest friends finally turn up to help him get his life back on track (that's one of them on the cover).

   And Reed Richards finally starts putting together the pieces that will uncover some more clues about the identity of their opponent (though the twist ending doesn't quite get the job done).

   The art by Leonard Kirk, as always, is excellent, with lots of kinetic energy and strong layouts.

   But the story by James Robinson just keeps faltering. I think he had a good idea for a story here - one that should have covered two or three issues, not more than a dozen.

   I'm looking forward to the wrap-up of this story - and hoping the end of the story doesn't mean the (rumored) end for Marvel's First Family.

Grade: C+


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Soulfire #8

   You have to give it to this issue of Soulfire - it has everything you'd want in the wrap-up to a major storyline.

   It has a knock-down, drag-out fight between the good guys and a gigantic metallic dragon with multiple heads. It has one hero discovering that the woman he loves is actually a killer robot. It has faith lost and then restored. It's loaded with magic-based battles. And lots of stuff gets blown up.

   What more could anyone want?

   It features excellent artwork by V Ken Marion, who's equally at home with beautiful women as with hulking monsters and multi-armed villains. With powerful layouts and strong character designs, there's a lot to like here.

   The story may be a bit tough for new readers, but it's pretty easy to sort out the good guys from the bad, and the action is fast and furious from start to finish.

   J.T. Krul and Frank Mastromauro's story is a fun (and noisy) wrap to this adventure - and a strong setup for the next story arc. Good stuff!

Grade: B+


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy #20

   Well, every storyline can't be a home run - and this one was more of a bunt.

   The last couple of issues of Guardians of the Galaxy have been centered around Gamora forcing Star-Lord to tell her how he and Thanos survived certain death in the Cancerverse - and what happened to the original Nova.

   It's a question fans have been wondering about for years - and the ending doesn't exactly make sense.

   It all centers around a battle between the heroes (working more or less with Thanos) fighting an evil, alternate version of the Avengers.

   The obvious solution from two issues ago is finally employed - but in an odd, haphazard way that doesn't exactly make sense.

   Despite some powerful art by Ed McGuinness, Valerio Schiti and a trio of inkers, the story just doesn't "feel" right.

   It seems a shame - there's so much goodwill around this title thanks to the film, and it feels like the last three issues have been wasted dealing with something that should have been addressed long ago.

   But now that this is out of the way, hopefully we can get back to a better balance between action and humor - you know, like the movie.

Grade: B