Monday, November 30, 2015

Saga #31

   This comic, I swear.

   When you expect it to zig, it dances a rhumba.

   This issue of Saga brings us the adventures of young Hazel, a cross-breed child who is enduring the trials of being in school (or perhaps pre-school), then we get a flashback (to see how she survived certain death in space) - then we see some full frontal nudity (that's always on the table here), and then she learns an important lesson about honesty.

    The story by Brian K. Vaughn continues to sing along with a strong, proud and confident voice - it compels you to pay attention and laugh along (when you're not cringing in terror).

   The art by Fiona Staples is, as always, a delight. (Did she suffer any whiplash, I wonder, jumping from the "new" Archie Andrews to the "raw" pages of Saga?) Stunning, powerful yet sensitive work.

   Definitely for adults only, always a thrill ride - smart and compelling science fiction.

   As always, highly recommended!

Grade: A


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Archie #4

   The underlying mystery in this new version of Archie has been: what happened to break up the "forever couple" Archie and Betty?

   Writer Mark Waid defies the usual modern-day comic book mindset (which is: create a mystery and then never, ever solve it) by spelling out the incident just four issues in.

    The infamous "Lipstick Incident" is revealed in all its teen-drama detail - and it's actually touching (aside from the slapstick moments, natch).

   But of course we can't talk about it here without spoiling it - so let's just say how nice it is to see a story about actual teenage actions and emotions.

   The art is by Annie Wu, and even though it's a teensy bit sketchier than Fiona Staples (who's been handling the art up to this point), it's strong and passionate and a lot of fun!

   The series continues to defy my original skepticism - it's a solid new take on the classic tale of boys likes girls!

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1

   This was one of those nostalgia purchases.

   I was never a huge fan of Devil Dinosaur, but it was one of Jack Kirby's final creations. The series followed the adventures of the apelike Moon Boy, who improbably lived alongside dinosaurs and befriended a red-skinned Tyrannosaurus Rex.

   Like a boy and his dog, they fought against the forces of evil and had great adventures together.

   This new series takes a different approach - it starts with a modern-day girl named Lunella who is very smart - so when she discovers a mysterious Kree artifact, she hopes it will help her get into the school of her dreams.

   Instead, it acts as a bridge through time - bringing some malicious prehistoric threats to modern times - along with a big red defender.

   It's all handled in a lighthearted fashion - and certainly the world of comics can use more kid-friendly work (although there's plenty here for grownups to enjoy, too).

   Kudos to writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder and artist Natacha Bustos for crafting an entertaining revival for the "other" DD - and creating a fun new character at the same time.

Grade: A-


Friday, November 27, 2015

Justice League of America #5

   I'm throwing the B.S. flag on this issue.

   The Justice League of America series was established as a showcase for the art and story by Bryan Hitch.

   But instead of the continuation of the story he's telling, this month we get a fill-in issue!

   When I saw it at the comics shop I thought I had picked up the wrong issue. This issue barely contains any JLA at all - it's all about the Martian Manhunter tracking down a killer alien.

   Rather than guiding us to picking up the new comic series featuring that character, this issue should convince anyone to stay far away.

   DC long ago ruined J'onn J'onzz as a character, changing him from the powerful, good-hearted founding member of the JLA and making him a grim, relentless engine of destruction who looks and acts strangely - they apparently don't want you to sympathize with him or, you know, actually like him.

   Here he fights a brutal alien who tears flesh and splashes blood around in a fashion that should warm the heart of any horror fan - but the violence will leave many superhero fans (like me) cold, and it's definitely not an issue for kids.

   The art is good (bloodletting aside), but the story is weak, even for a fill-in issue.

   My advice: if you don't have Bryan Hitch work to publish, then don't print the next issue until you do.

Grade: D+


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1

   To say that Frank Miller's 1986 Dark Knight Returns mini-series was ground-breaking would be an understatement.

   It focused on an alternate future, where Batman retired after a tragic event in his life - but is brought back into action as a 55-year-old force of nature. It was raw, visceral, and it affected the way that hero was presented after that - he would forever after be darker and more serious.

   (It also included the fight scene between Batman and Superman that has apparently inspired the upcoming film.)

   Miller followed it up in 2001 with the Dark Knight Strikes Again, a series plagued by publishing delays and general dislike among the readers (it seemed to be taking on the '60s Batman TV show more than the comic book character).

   Now, right on its every-15-years schedule, we have the third installment, though this one has considerably less Frank Miller content.

   Dark Knight III: The Master Race is written by Brian Azzarello and Miller, with art on the main feature by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. It's set in the "Dark Knight" universe, where Batman has been missing for a while - but he returns, fighting back against the less-than-sterling police department.

   It also includes a vignette with Wonder Woman and her family, and asks the question: what happened to Batman? There's also a delightful little mini-comic included in this issue, this one featuring Frank Miller artwork and an unexpected hero.

   I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect here. But the story and the art certainly deliver, and it evokes the original series without being a slavish imitation. I have no idea where the story is going, but that's a good thing - we seem to have lots of surprises on the way.

   The package is a bit pricey, and you'd have to be a mighty serious collector to try to gather up all those alternate covers - but what's inside is mighty promising so far.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Classics - Tales of Suspense #59

   Here's a cover with Captain America and Iron Man behaving much more like gentlemen than they do in that Civil War trailer.

   Of course, the '60s were a gentler time.

   Cap, of course, was created in the '40s, faded out after the war, returned briefly in the mid-'50s, and then disappeared until his return in the mid-'60s.

   As I've written before, at the end of the original Avengers #3, there was a blurb promising the return next issue of Captain America!

   I thought to myself, "Who the heck is Captain America?"

   It didn't take long after his initial appearance for Cap to get his own comic - sort of - as he shared space with Iron Man, starting with this issue (each had 10 pages of story to fill).

   What a blast this first issue is, showing the mastery of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and inker Chic Stone in crafting a small masterpiece!

   Consider that the story consists of: a splash page; two pages to set up the story (wherein Cap is on monitor duty at Avengers Mansion and a group of criminals decides to make an example out of him, so the Avengers will leave them alone - or something like that); and seven pages of all-out action as Cap demonstrates why, powers or not, he's no pushover.

   It's a stunning display of how to do an action sequence - it flows logically and forcefully (you can almost feel those punches), and it's choreographed perfectly. The dialogue is fast and funny and never gets in the way of the action.

   I already liked Cap from his appearances in the Avengers, but this story just cemented my feelings for the character. When he's done "right," he's the hero you want to be - resourceful, powerful, never at a loss, decisive, calm and courageous.

   What's not to like?

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

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

- Archie #4 - revealed at last: how Archie and Betty broke up!

- Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 - Back in action!

- Elfquest #12 - The shocking secret of Cutter!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #2 - Revenge comes calling.

- Justice League of America #5 - Wait, is this a fill-in issue? REALLY?

- Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 - Good to see Devil back in action.

- Saga #31 - Getting the band back together.

- Superman #46 - The Man of Steel as a pro wrestler? REALLY?

   And that's it!

Captain America: Civil War: the Trailer

   Just on the off chance you've missed it so far, here's the (awesome) trailer for Captain America: Civil War:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Joe Frankenstein (Collection)

   Two of the four issues included in this Joe Frankenstein collection have been reviewed on this site before - but not by me!

   My pal Glen Davis provided guest reviews of the first two issues - which you can read here and here (he liked them both a lot).

   I've read the recently-released collection of the first four issues, and you can count me as a fan, too.

   The series by artist / co-writer Graham Nolan and co-writer Chuck Dixon offers a fresh and fun version of the classic monster.

   Suffering guilt for his past sins, the Frankenstein Monster has spent the long years since his creation on two pastimes: making money and protecting the descendants of the original Dr. Frankenstein.

   Which leads him to his latest challenge: protecting Joe, the teen orphan who is the last surviving relative. His blood holds a powerful secret, and dark forces are leaving a path of destruction behind in an attempt to capture him.

   It translates into a rollicking adventure, with loads of monsters, vampires and assorted other creatures thrown into the mix (along with more than a few surprises).

   The art by Nolan is, of course, terrific - he seems to be having a blast drawing all kinds of monsters, beautiful women, and over-the-top action scenes.

   It's a heck of a lot of fun and perfectly sets up an ongoing series (which we hope to see in the future) starring the monster and his boy.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Monday, November 23, 2015

Clandestino #1

   I do love a good revenge story - and that's what Clandestino is all about!

   It's set in an alternate reality - one in which a renegade military leader - General Kapala - has managed a military coup against the United States, and has taken control.

   Of course, a rebel group rises up to fight back, and one of the key figures is a man known only as Clandestino.

   In this series, written and drawn by Amancay Nahuelpan, we get a few brutal action sequences, the setup for the series, and the events that motivate the title character to seek revenge on Kapala and his followers.

   It's a brutal, "B-movie" setup (and that's not an insult in any way), guaranteed to bring the reader back for more next issue.

   The art, like the story, is raw and visceral - Nahuelpan has a unique style that's perfectly suited for this story.

   If you're a fan of the dystopian, end-of-the-world (or sure looks like it) action flick, you should check out this series.

Grade: B+


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1

   So what happens when an immortal dies?

   That's the topic of this new series, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior.

   The hero Gilad has fought to defend the Earth for thousands of years, but at the finale of the Book of the Dead mini-series, it seemed his fight was ended.

   But you can't keep a good hero down. This issue is divided between two disparate scenes: one a fight between Gilad and a seemingly-endless sea of demons; the other a peaceful homecoming for the hero, a well-deerved respite. Or is it?

   The story by Robert Venditti sets up the mystery / paradox of Gilad's existence.

   The art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is quite good, walking the line between bucolic events - and chaotic ones.

   This issue is a good jumping-on point for new readers, as it sets up (or seems to set up) a new standard for the Eternal Warrior. It's a strong start for a new / ongoing series!

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Black Knight #1

   Perhaps the most surprising survivor of the eventual end of the Secret Wars is revealed in this issue starring The Black Knight.

   No, it's not the knight - it's the world he finds himself in: Weirdworld.

   For mysterious reasons, Dane Whitman, the modern-day owner of the mystic Ebony Blade, finds himself in command there, fighting strange monsters and trying to hold together his fragile coalition of fighters.

   I've always liked the Black Knight (both in the original, King Arthur-era version and in the modern day hero), but he's another character that no one seems to know what to do with.

   Because he uses a sword, it's tough to put him to work fighting modern bad guys - he spends a lot of time hitting them with the flat of his sword.

   So it's a great idea to put him in a mystic, medieval setting where the fighting is more brutal (sword edges are allowed) - though for now the whole environment is just chaotic.

   I'm still warming up to artist Luca Pizzari and color artist Antonio Fabela. The work is solid, but the color is so muted and grim that it's sometimes difficult to follow events.

   So it's a decent start to this new series. I'm hoping for bigger and better things in the months ahead - The Black Knight has a great hero pedigree and deserves the best.

Grade: B+


Friday, November 20, 2015

Uncanny Inhumans #2

   It's a treat to have a "team" comic that actually takes a serious approach to storytelling.

   The Uncanny Inhumans focuses on the Royal Family - Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon and Triton - and adds in a couple of wild cards: the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) and the Beast (Hank McCoy).

   I suspect the latter are thrown in to add some humor and humanity to the book, and they actually fit in well here (despite Johnny's ill-advised romance, which I don't believe for a second).

   The story is a heavy one - before the (near) destruction of the Earth, Black Bolt turned his son Ahura over to Kang the Conqueror - but getting him back is proving to be nearly impossible, and Kang is using his powers as a time-traveler to strike back at the entire Inhuman race.

   It's a big story with far-reaching potential, and writer Charles Soule is painting it as a shocking, intelligent science fiction story.

   The art by Steve McNiven and Jay Leisten is tremendous, with impressive character designs and stunning vistas - they're playing on a big stage here.

   The Inhumans has always been a tricky book to manage - are they too different from humans to be the subject of a series?

   So far, this title is showing the way for how to handle the team is a thoughtful way.

   Except for that romance thing.

Grade: A-


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Mighty Thor #1

   In a way, the new female version of The Mighty Thor is a throwback to the original Marvel style - the hero with a flaw.

   And a serious flaw it is! Jane Foster has been revealed to be the secret identity of the "new" Thor, and in her mortal form she's fighting for her life against cancer.

   When she holds the hammer Mjolnir, she's powerful and invincible - but as a mortal, she must suffer through chemotherapy while finding the time to represent the Earth at the political gathering known as the Congress of Worlds (which is about as exciting as any political gathering can be).

   To complicate things even more, Odin has apparently lost his mind, and has declared the new Thor an outlaw in Asgard. Oh, and a cross-worlds war is brewing.

   So there's a lot going on here - but does it work?

   Actually, yes, it does. The art by Russell Dauterman is very good - vivid and dynamic, with strong character designs and an unearthly feel to events.

   Jason Aaron's story holds up, managing to balance the different elements into a strong and compelling story. It's difficult to see how the story can hold up over the long run (since the clock is ticking on her real-world illness), but so far it's a good one.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Classics - Showcase #22

   As the end of the 1950s neared, DC Comics was down to just three super-heroes - Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

   In 1959 the company decided to give it another go (thank goodness), and they brought back The Flash. (I should add that J'onn J'onz, the Martian Manhunter, also gets credit as part of DC's superhero revival.)

   Surprisingly, they didn't just dust off the original character (Jay Garrick) - instead, they created a new version (Barry Allen) with a new, sleek costume, and a new supporting cast - but the hero's origin was virtually unchanged.

   It was a success, so the next hero in line was the oddly-named Green Lantern. This time, the reboot would be more thorough.

   Making his first appearance in Showcase #22, this GL was not magic-based, as the Golden Age Alan Scott had been. The new version for 1959 would be based on science fiction.

   So Hal Jordan was the ultimate American hero - a fearless test pilot, working for Ferris Aircraft. He is pulled by a mysterious green force to the site of a crashed spaceship, where he meets the dying alien Abin Sur, who gives him a power ring and a lantern - the source of the ring's energy.

   But the ring has limitations - it will only hold a charge for 24 hours, and it can't affect anything yellow. (Why yellow? No idea.)

   Hal's love interest is quickly established as Carol Ferris, the daughter of his boss. But when she's put in charge of the company, their romance seems to be doomed.

   The villains in the first issue are nothing special - generic saboteurs - but the story sets the stage for everything that follows.

   Writer John Broome was the best in DC's bullpen, and working with editor Julius Schwartz, he crafted terrific, inventive stories. The art was by Gil Kane, a towering legend in the field for good reason - his clean, vivid art and stunning character designs made the series stand out from the field.

   I have to admit, I didn't buy this issue off the stands - it was just before my time - but I anxiously read the reprints, because (with The Flash), Green Lantern was my "first favorite" - one of the comics I loved "at first sight," and one that helped hook me on comic books.

   After all these years, it holds up well - and the concepts the creative team devised still continue to form the foundation of the series to this day. This was the beginning of a legend.

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

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

- Astro City #29 - Attack from Planet Earth!

- Black Knight #1 - Fighting to survive on Weirdworld!

- Uncanny Inhumans #2 - Fighting the master of time.

- Star Wars #12 - Free for all in the arena.

- Mighty Thor #1 - Fighting for her life.

- Usagi Yojimbo #150 - A different sword, a vile foe.

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thors #4 (of 4)

  This Secret Wars spinoff has actually been very good - at least until the final issue.

   Thors has recast the many different versions of that hero as a police force, working for Dr. Doom and solving crimes.

   With this final issue, the action ties in to the events in the newest issue of the main series - but in the rush to solve the mystery behind the deaths the creative team failed to provide a convincing reason that motivates the murderer.

   Instead we just get a final battle (part of which happens offscreen), no real focus on the real Thor, and lots of focus on the Ultimate Thor, who may be making his final appearance here.

   The art by Chris Sprouse is wonderful, but the story doesn't actually have an ending - just an enigmatic final scene that offers some promise for a future story, but leaves many questions unanswered.

   It's a shame - it was a solid series up to this point, and has a lot to recommend it - but the ending will actually take place over in Secret Wars (eventually) - so that leaves the series with an incomplete ending, and the reader let down.

Grade: B-


Monday, November 16, 2015

Batman #46

   I realize that murderous villains have become the standard in modern comics, but this issue of Batman manages to achieve a new low.

    The issue's "big bad" is a new villain named Bloom - and the opening scene has him (I think it's a "him") casually killing innocent bystanders at a party - some in the most gruesome fashion.

   Sort of a living plant, Bloom is able to extend his body (and especially his fingers) like swords, slicing through bodies and leaving stacks of the murdered in his wake.

   It's brutal and not at all for young readers.

   I've been down on this series since the whole "substitute Batman" story started, and this issue is the worst of the bunch.

   If this was a story about Batman saving the innocent or stopping criminals, I'd be all for it.

   Instead we get villains running wild and the "new" Batman failing again and again. These are the kinds of stories that drive away longtime fans.

   You know, like me.

Grade: C+


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Starfire #6

   The new Starfire series has been moving along nicely, though it's what you might call a low-key comic (not that there's anything wrong with that - it's nice to have a comic that's not all strum and drang).

   Kori has relocated to the Florida Keys, which gives the series a unique setting. She's making new friends and establishing new allies, which is nice - they're an interesting bunch.

   There are some nice light moments - I enjoy the running gag of her mental images whenever someone uses a colorful phrase. Starfire is in her classic mode - a bit on an ingenue with a warrior's edge.

   We get to see both on display in this issue, as she defends and worries about an injured friend - and must face a murderous alien attacker.

   It's the action sequence that sets this issue apart, as Kori is forced to push herself to stand up to a powerful opponent - and we get a look at what she's capable of.

   I like this series a lot - the art by Emanuela Lapacchino is very good - fresh and sexy, but with a sweet edge. It's written the same way by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti - these are characters you'd like to meet and have as friends (well, the good guys, at least).

    It's not a series for everyone, but if you're ready for a series that has confidence in its characters and doesn't feel rushed and forced to make the characters into something they're not, then you should give this one a try.

Grade: A-



Saturday, November 14, 2015

All-New Wolverine #1

   I didn't mind when Marvel started... (I dunno, is the right work tweaking?) their characters, but the success of those efforts seems to be leading the company off a cliff.

   So Captain America is now the former Falcon, the name Thor belongs to a woman, and now the name Wolverine is also held by a woman.

   The original hero with that name is presumably still dead (for the time being), so his mantle is being picked up by his cloned daughter, the former X-23 (Laura Kinney).

   The story is set in Paris (a bit chilling, given the recent depraved terrorist acts there), as she sets out to stop an assassin atop the Eiffel Tower. She finds the menace has a surprising link to her own history.

   I guess it's nice to see a different take on the character, but is this really necessary? It's a shame X-23 can't stand in the spotlight under her own name (or perhaps they could give her a better one than X-23).

   The art is nice, the story's fine - but it's not really Wolverine, is it? My gut feeling is that passing the character's name around just cheapens the original character and waters down the concept. I'd prefer to see more effort put into writing good stories, not "stunt casting."

   Perhaps the series will prove me wrong - maybe there's a great story there that justifies the change.

   But so far, I don't see it.

Grade: B-


Friday, November 13, 2015

All-New, All-Different Avengers #1

   Let's just get it out of the way up front - the title of this book is ridiculous.

   The All-New, All-Different Avengers (what happened to regular adjectives like "Mighty?") brings an all-star creative team - writer Mark Waid and artists Adam Kubert (on the opening story) and Mahmud Asrar (on the second) - to take over the classic team.

   Thankfully, this issue doesn't follow the standard first issue pattern ("let's put the team together") and instead launches right into the action, as an alien invader appears in the former Avengers Tower - and meets a mysterious figure who may be an ally in causing mayhem.

   The backup story is more fun, as the new Ms. Marvel meets fellow young hero (and, we assume, soon-to-be-fellow-Avenger) Nova, as they fight a monster (and each other, sorta) in what is one of the better-written "meet cute" sequences in quite some time.

   So it's a solid start for this series, though it leaves us with quite a few questions.

   That's not a bad thing at all.

Grade: A-


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Secret Wars #7 (of 9)

   The big problem facing the heroes still standing on Battleworld is: how do you defeat a god named Doom?

   The solution to that problem is what Secret Wars is moving toward. The handful of survivors from the "previous" Earths are working together to find a way to defeat Dr. Doom, and they're finally moving out of the shadows.

   Their plan includes inciting war between the various Battleworld factions - some support Doom, some seek to overthrow him - and much of the issue is dedicated to that fight between powerhouses.

   There are other plots in motion, as well, as enemies are forced to work together in a common cause.

   Writer Jonathan Hickman has been weaving this story together for quite a while now, and it's hard to believe that it'll wrap up in just two more issues.

   As always, Esad Ribic's art is stunning, with lots of high-powered opponents on display.

   So far, this series continues to deliver the goods. Two more issues (and who knows how many months) will tell.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Classics - Strange Tales #171

   Every comics company has a few (or more than a few) characters that fall under the "what were they thinking" category.

   With that in mind, meet Brother Voodoo.

   Dreamed up in 1973, he was part of the rising tide of monster comics, along with Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf By Night and Ghost Rider.

   Jericho Drumm is a hero who fights to protect humanity from the dark side of sorcery - most specifically, those who would use zombies (the raised dead) to menace others.

   He works with the ghost of his murdered brother Daniel, who can possess the body of a zombie and then work for Jericho.

   So it's an odd concept. In fact, the character became something of a running joke for years, especially in the hands of the very funny Fred Hembeck.

   The character is being treated respectfully these days, as he's on par with Doctor Strange - and he's now an Avenger.

   But these early adventures are pretty rough, even with top talent working on the stories - writer Len Wein and artist Gene Colan, and a Gil Kane cover - they were trying to get a handle on the odd concept, with only limited success.

   In this issue BV runs into a new kind of zombie - ones he can't control or defeat, and the secret behind them brings the series more in line with mainstream Marvel.

   But the series never clicked, and after only five adventures, BV was relegated to supporting character status. But there is an endearing nature to the series, which has made it something of a cult classic - but not really a classic comic.

Grade: B-


(No) New Comics Day

  Here's what I planned to pick up at the comics shop today - but work took me out of town and I didn't get to the shop today. 

   Tomorrow for sure! Here's my list:

- All-New Avengers #1 - Waid's in charge, so I'm there.

- Batman #46 - Losing interest in the "new" Batman...

- Captain America White #4 - Terrific series so far.

- Secret Wars #7 - The end is near!

- Starfire #6 - This has been fun if light.

- Thors #4Wrapping up a murder mystery.

- Twilight Children #2 - I haven't read the first issue yet!

- Wolverine #1 - I hear he visits Thor's makeover expert.

   And that's it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Johnny Red #1

   War comics are pretty rare these days, and with Johnny Red, Garth Ennis shows how to do history right.

   It's certainly not a typical approach. It starts with the modern-day discovery of a roached-out World War II-era fighter plane - a Hurricane.

   The buyer - a wealthy businessman with an interest in the history of the plane - is having the plane restored, and goes in search of the story behind the plane's military exploits.

    His journey takes him to Russia, where he meets the man who holds the secrets behind the British plane that fought the Nazis - in Russia!

   It's a riveting story, and this is just the opening chapter. The art by Keith Burns is raw, kinetic and powerful - it's perfect for the series (which has its roots in a British comics series).

    I have to admit, I loved this issue - it's unique, tackling a largely-unknown (to Americans) corner of the war. Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Monday, November 9, 2015

Doctor Strange #2

   I'm enjoying this series (so far), though it's certainly taking a different tact on Doctor Strange's adventures.

   It's that combination of unexpected story twists by writer Jason Aaron and unique and vibrant art by Chris Bachalo (with inks by Tim Townsend, Al Vey and Mark Irwin) that makes this series entertaining.

   The story follows the attempts by the Doc to solve the mystery behind some monstrous creatures that seem to spring from a young woman's mind - and the potential for destruction as they run amuck in Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum.

   Something is affecting the world's magics - and that's just a subplot that continues to build here.

   The series maintains a nice balance of weirdness with humor and action - a difficult trick to manage, but one the creative team is managing perfectly - so far!

Grade: A-


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Invincible Iron Man #3

   Despite the character's huge success in the movies (thanks in large part to actor Robert Downey, Jr.'s terrific work), over in the comics the Invincible Iron Man has been a hit-or-miss prospect.

    Thankfully, the new version is looking like a hit.

   That's largely thanks to Marvel handing the book over to one of its top talents - writer Brian Michael Bendis - who has a great touch for action sequences and a sound ear for crisp dialogue.

   He has wisely taken Tony Stark back to the basics - he's brilliant, an inventor, a playboy, and a high-flying superhero - while eliminating most of the dark undertones we've had to slog through in recent stories.

   He's also a good guy, though he sometimes pretends to be otherwise (especially when romancing a beautiful genius).

   But his past failures return to haunt him - this time in the form of Whitney Frost (Madame Masque), who demonstrates some amazing new powers - in a field that Tony has little ability with.

   That leads to the team-up (if briefly) between Iron Man and Dr. Strange - and it includes a classic bit of humor that got a big laugh out of me.

   Look, I love the art, the characters "feel" right, and there's a big story building. What's not to like?

   It's great to see this character getting the treatment he deserves! (The readers deserve it, too!)

Grade: A-


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Paper Girls #2

   I admit a real fondness for kids delivering newspapers, since I spent two years of my youth as a paperboy (hey, it was a great job and I made good money, which I used to buy lots of comic books).

   So I'm intrigued by the new series Paper Girls, which centers around four young women who ride their bikes through the neighborhood early every morning, dealing with assorted punks, cops and the occasional monster.

   Written by Brian K. Vaughn and drawn by Cliff Chiang with colors by Matt Wilson, the series doesn't take long to take a weird turn - starting slow in the first issue, and then kicking the weirdness level off the scale with this issue.

   There's a lot to like here: from the terrific art to the instantly-likeable quartet of girls to the delightfully strange turns the story takes.

   The series is off to a odd start, but its unpredictable nature is a big part of the fun.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A-


Friday, November 6, 2015

Extraordinary X-Men #1

   Here's a bad sign for any comic book: I read this first issue of Extraordinary X-Men a couple of days ago, and the only thing I remember about it is the last page (the usual surprising image designed to bring you back next month).

   The issue is given over to bringing the team together, as Storm makes a grim discovery and sets out to recruit a sorta kinda classic version of the team.

   I think a "back to basics" approach is almost always a good idea, and I love the original "New X-Men" lineup, so all the potential is there, but instead of launching into big hoo-hah adventures, we're instead getting mired down is another "it's the end of mutants forever and ever" depressing tale.

   There are a few nice moments, and I like the lineup, but I don't care at all for the doom and gloom evident in the underpinning.

Grade: B-


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Uncanny X-Men #600

   A bit overdue (but welcome just the same) is issue #600 of the original X-Men title, now bearing the Uncanny X-Men label.

   It could also be promoted as writer Brian Michael Bendis' swan song, as it wraps up his run on the X-Men books - and he's certainly left his mark.

   The issue is a hodgepodge of different styles and stories as we check on with assorted characters. It also forms around an attempt to confront the Beast with his recent (shall we say) lapses in judgment.

   We get some closure, a few reunions, some revelations about Iceman and his gayness, and a rather odd closing scene that doesn't make much sense.

   So it's fun if rather lightweight issue, padded a bit by a black-and-white reprint of a rare solo Iceman story.

    The art is all over the place, with some striking sequences, and others that are a bit of a mess.

   You really get the sense that, rather than being a truly special issue, this is just an extended farewell from Bendis, without much effort to set up the incoming team(s).
   Still it's been good run with some clever bits (and some oddities, too) - if the shifting art styles don'e both you, then check it out.

Grade: B+


Catching Up!

  Chuck writes: Sorry for the short hiatus, gentle readers - some personal issues have kept me away from the computer for a few days. I should be able to catch up in a few days - bear with us while we get things back on track!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Classics - Daredevil #1

   Now a hit on NetFlix, thanks to the dark and ingenious mini-series there, Daredevil started life in 1964 as kind of a crazy-quilt of creators, changes and chaos.

   The first issue is credited to writer Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett (who created the Sub-Mariner in the Golden Age). There are those who argue that Jack Kirby was involved in the creation, too - but cover aside, the art looks like Everett to my untrained eyes.

   The name is stolen from a defunct Golden Age hero - Stan has admitted that his boss instructed him to create a character using the name.

   But the character is all Marvel. A hero who has a flaw (Iron Man had an injured heart, Thor's mortal identity had a bad leg, the Thing was disfigured,  Spider-Man was bullied) but overcomes it to help others - usually making jokes all the while - is a classic Marvel "bit."

   So we have Matt Murdock, a boy who performs a heroic act and is blinded for life - but because of his exposure to a radioactive substance, he develops a Radar Sense that compensates for his loss of vision. He grows up to become a lawyer, but when his father is murdered he puts on a costume and goes in search of revenge against the gangsters who killed him.

    It's a solid story (even without a substantial villain) with terrific art, and it sets the stage for the character ever since, introducing his supporting cast - law partner Foggy Nelson, and secretary and love interest Karen Page.

   But the run of the series wasn't a smooth one, even with amazing talent - the only constant in the first dozen issues is the guiding hand of writer / editor Stan Lee. Everett left after the first issue, and Joe Orlando (teamed with Vince Colletta - not a great match, in my opinion) handled the next three issues.

   Then Wally Wood arrived like a bolt of lightning with issue #5! A caption on the first page mentions that Wood had made "alterations" to Daredevil's yellow-and-black costume, but the only major change was to the logo on his chest - it went from a single capital letter "D" to a double capital letter: "DD."

   It was issue #7 where the major change took place, as his costume became all red, with shifting black highlights - a classic Wood design, and a great modification of the original concept.

   The last three issues of Wood's run - issues #9, 10 and 11 - were all penciled by the great Bob Powell (though Wood's inks are overpowering) - and Wood is also credited with the script on #10.

   There was more greatness ahead for Daredevil, with John Romita working several issues before moving over to Spider-Man, and Gene Colan settling in for a long, amazing run on the title.

   It's a tribute to the concept of Daredevil that it was able to survive such a revolving door of creative efforts (though it doesn't hurt that they're all top talents).

   Of course, the hot topic now is "who deserves credit for creating Daredevil?" Outside of Stan and Bill, it beats me (hey, I wasn't there - were you?), but it looks like a lot of talented people had a hand in there along the way.

Grade: A


New Comic Book Day

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

- Doctor Strange #2 - Hidden in plain sight.

Invincible Iron Man #3Fighting an old flame, and the team-up we've been waiting for! 

- Miracleman #4Winter's tale!

- Paper Girls #2When monsters strike!

- Star Wars #11Luke is fighting for his life!

- Extraordinary X-Men #1 - Putting the band back together.

- Uncanny X-Men #600 - Wrapping up loose ends.

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book of Death #4

   This issue wraps up Valiant's intense "event" series, Book of Death - and it's been impressive (if dark) work.

   Death is a common thing in comics, of course - and it rarely lasts - but this series has played on characters and concepts, not cheap stunts, so it's been an excellent read.

   This issue marks the final showdown between the new Geomancer (a young girl), the Eternal Warrior, and the poerful, evil force that threatens... well, everything - with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

   The story keeps the tension throughout, and has what may be far-reaching effects on future storylines. What more can you ask from an event?

   The art is quite good and the story manages some real surprises.


Grade: A-


Monday, November 2, 2015

Jirni:2 #3

   Sometimes you pick up a comic and don't expect much - and for some reason, Jirni hit me that way.

   But I was wrong - I'm enjoying it!

   Just think of it as leaning on a mix of the concepts of Conan, Red Sonja and the She-Hulk and you'll be in the right neighborhood.

   It follows the adventures of a warrior woman whose mother was a Djinn - and Jirni's quest is to find and free her mother from slavery.

   She's been traveling on a pirate ship, and the story allows room for some stunning visuals - this story seems to move her closer to her ultimate goal (and we actually see the depowered Jirni, if just briefly).

   It seems like this should feel like a derivative story, but it's actually fresh and fun. Recommended!

Grade: A-


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Where Monsters Dwell #5 (of 5)

   (Life has had your pal Chuck hopping lately, so I've fallen behind on my reviews - so here's a couple of quick reviews to get us back on track.)

   By all rights, I should hate the Where Monsters Dwell series - it takes an established hero (who I liked) - the Phantom Eagle, a World War I pilot - and turns him into a jerk, with no morals and no redeeming qualities at all.

   And this issue focuses on his final fate, as he sacrifices... well, that would be telling.

   It's only the humor (and the lovely artwork) that keeps this series in line - and I have to admit, it's fun it an offbeat and perverse way.

   Not recommended for kids, and worth buying just for the Frank Cho covers. Silly but fun.

Grade: B+