Saturday, April 30, 2016

Guest Review: Little Kori in Komaland #1

   Welcome back correspondent Glen Davis with another guest review, this one of a new comic with a twist on reality.

   Another offering from ECVPress, this comic is different than the other two I reviewed. It also features a different writer, Jenifer Schwartz.

   Little Kori in Komaland is about a kid who is a fan of a comic book. He gets hit by a car and is somehow transported into the comic book universe as the main character. 

   As a first issue, it is a bit confusing, but I think this is an artistic choice, because the kid doesn't know what is going on, either, and we learn things as he does. 

   There could be some more action here, as well.

   A solid effort.

Grade: C+ 


Friday, April 29, 2016

Justice League #49

   As the Darkseid War draws near its conclusion, we're started to see some long-ago-planted seeds (by writer Geoff Johns) start to sprout into some mighty interesting possibilities.

     The cast has grown to page-stretching proportions, including the forces of Apokolips, the Anti-Monitor (reshaped into the creature known as Mobius), Mister Miracle, Big Barda, the Crime Syndicate, the God-Power-Enhanced members of the Justice League (including Lex Luthor), and the rest of the League (along with a few other guest stars).

   Of course, most of the revelations in this issue must go undiscussed here, for fear of spoiling the surprises (and there are several).

   But the story advances leaps and bounds with this issue, and with the war wrapping up next issue, there are still lots of things to be sorted out (Who lives? Who dies?), battles to be waged and answers to mysteries yet to be revealed.

   This is the sort of thing that Johns is very, very good at - and he's drawing this tale toward a powerful, continuity-altering conclusion.

   Can't wait!

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Batman: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #4

   I am really enjoying this series.

   It's not the same thematically as the original Dark Knight Returns book - and it's very different from the sequel.

   Instead, Dark Knight III: The Master Race stands on its own, using the same version of the characters - but focusing on telling a cracking good tale.

   It is, of course, on the grim and gritty side. It tells the story of the ultimate threat facing Earth - an army of Kryptonians in the form of religious fanatics who attack the Earth, bent on death and destruction.

   They're focusing on the remaining superheroes who might be a threat, so they first take on a badly outnumbered and outgunned Superman - and then set their targets on Batman.

   The Dark Knight has weapons of his own, of course, and he starts moving the pieces into place in order to... what? Ah, that's what we want to find out.

   As always, terrific work by writers Brian Azzarello and Frank Miller, and equally outstanding art by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, with Miller doing the art on the Mini-comic included (and how I love that concept)!

   I approached this series with trepidation, but they've won me over. They're telling a big story about the (potential) final stand for Earth's greatest heroes - and the Earth itself.

   It aims high, and knocks it out of the park!

Grade: A


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Classic Comics - Punisher War Zone #1

   Ah, for the good old days of gimmicky covers! This issue of the new Punisher War Zone series featured thick paper with a cutout over his left shoulder (not visible in this image) with his skull-head logo peeking through.

   This was 1992, when the Punisher was at the peak of his bad boy / kill all the bad guys / take no prisoners popularity.

   He was a hot enough property to spin off into extra titles (thankfully, there were always more murderous hoodlums who needed exterminating) - and this was the best of the bunch.

   That's because they gave the title the perfect writer for Frank Castle's tough, uncompromising adventures: Chuck Dixon, one of the industry's best (if not THE best) at writing the stories of a driven ex-military man who wages a never-ending war on criminals.

   This issue immediately set the tone, starting with a brutal, bullet-riddled action sequence. It quickly establishes the supporting cast of one - a tech expert named Microchip, who shares Castle's experiences with the forces of evil - an encounter that took the life of his son.

   It also throws the Punisher into a risky effort to get on the inside of a local mob - the better to chop it down to size.

   The art is just as raw and hard-hitting as the script, as created by John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson. Both were really hitting their stride as artists, and the results are stunning and memorable.

   Not all the Punisher's adventures stand the test of time. This story stands out from the crowd and should be a primer on "how to write the Punisher."

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


New Comics Day

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

- Batman #51 - Protecting Gotham.

- Batman: Dark Knight: The Master Race #4 - Father vs. daughter.

- Daredevil #6 - Elektra's in town.

- Doctor Strange #7 - The magic is dying.

- Doctor Strange: Last Days of Magic #1 - The war rages around the world.

- Justice League #49 - The end of the Darkseid War is near.

- Patsy Walker Hellcat #5 - Patsy and Hedy - together again!

- Saga #36 - Reunion!

- Star Wars #18 - To the rescue!

- Wynonna Earp #3 - Weirdness in Wayne County!

   And that's it! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Guest Review: Relic & Ego

   Welcome back to the Guest Review chair our friend Glen Davis, with a review of a new adventure series:

   This is another offering from Empire Comics Press. It is something like a cross between Tomb Raider and the Golden Age feature SuperMind and Son.

   A father and daughter duo of an egotistical professor and an adventurer (with some sort of magical cloak she calls The Relic) go to an island that only appears occasionally on our world. 

   Arriving during a gale storm, they find a nearly impenetrable jungle, reptile men, giant snakes, and more gigantic birds, before finding a magical stone that the usual secret organization covets. 

   Fairly good. Lots of tension between the two principles, as well as the dangers they face.  

   The art is good for most of the issue, but really breaks down during a mountain climbing sequence. Not a deal breaker, but definitely noticeable. 

   The dialogue is pretty good, giving us a sense of the characters as well as moving the plot forward.  

   The plot is pretty simple, but that's usually a good idea for a first issue.  

   Give it a look-see.

Grade: B


Monday, April 25, 2016

Superman: The Coming of the Supermen #3

   OK, I think I've figured out this series.

   Legendary writer / artist Neal Adams is the creative force behind Superman: The Coming of the Supermen.

   The series (as near as I can tell) focuses on three men who arrive on Earth in a spaceship. They're all wearing Superman costumes and each has his powers.

   Almost immediately, the evil forces of Apokolips attack, led by Kalibak. Their purpose is difficult to figure - they just seem to be there to give the Supermen (and Superman) something to punch.

   In this issue, Superman and Lois Lane travel to the home of the Supermen (whose origin apparently involves an event we weren't witness to) and fight the bad guys some more.

   Like last issue, the issue is loaded with strange dialogue, oddly-behaving characters, events that don't make a lot of sense, quite a bit of yelling and lots of fighting.

   But I think I get it. I think Adams is doing his best to channel Jack Kirby's style and dialogue - though the art is all Adams (with Buzz and Josh Adams assisting on inks). So you get crazy, over-the-top-and-then-some action (the full page splash of the attack on New Krypton feels like a Kirby creation). And the dialogue also feels like the unique, oddly-paced but somehow endearing style Kirby used.

   I'm still not sold on the series - it has some really odd moments (the scene with Luthor and Darkseid defies description), but at least it's trying to give us a big, booming tale - so it deserves some credit there.

   But it is one odd comic.

Grade: B


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Uncanny Inhumans #7

   I really liked the first story arc in the Uncanny Inhumans series, but the second story has been bit of a stumble - though not a complete mess.

   It's centered around a nightclub called The Quiet Room, which is apparently Black Bolt's "home away from home." It's a bit silly, but I'll allow it - after all, even Black Bolt can have a hobby.

   It's a safe place for heroes, villains and Inhumans to gather and mingle - but almost immediately all hell breaks loose.

   Two massive sub-humans get into a fight (sort of a two-man barroom brawl). The Leader and The Thinker get into a competition that may destroy the club - and most of the city. And a customer has a valuable item stolen at the club - luckily, there are Inhumans handy who should be able to track it down and recover it.

   That all leads to some entertaining action sequences, a particularly nasty villain, and an odd turn to a business meeting.

   It's a bit of a crazy quilt, and a little too jumbled to come together into a cohesive whole. It's not bad, it only suffers in comparison to the previous story.

Grade: B


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guest Review: Triad #1

   Back for another visit to our Guest Interview slot, Glen Davis is here with a look at a comic you may have missed:

   A local comic book shop has its own publishing imprint. I acquired some. I figured I'd try to support this (Alternative? Independent?) especially small comic book company with a review.

   From Empire's Comic Vault Press, ( comes this superhero book, Triad.

   Part of what makes this comic different than most is that it is set in modern Greece. The three scions of a crime lord pool their talents toward stopping the machinations of their father, and the organization known as K.A.R.M.A

   It isn't bad. The three have moderate super powers that become stronger the closer they are to one another. The issue concerns the neophyte heroes trying to get possession of a McGuffin device, and the two super powered thugs, Bengal and Jolt, who try to stop them.

   On the whole, I'd call it a good effort. The art breaks down here and there, the dialogue is occasionally a little clunky, but there's a lot of action, and the creators take pains to make sure new readers can figure out who is who and what is happening. 

   Better than a lot of mainstream comics I've read lately.

Grade: B- 


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Flash #50

   For the first time in a long time, I can say this about an issue of The Flash: I liked it.


   For far too long the stories have just been a mishmash of events, challenges and disasters, and the Flash rarely wins a fight or succeeds as a hero.

   And this issue looked like more of the same, as it starts with the Flash captured (by the Rogues, no less) and in police custody. But when a disaster strikes the prison, it's up to the Flash to save the policemen who have been chasing him - and it's great to see the hero acting like a hero, as he races around and saves lives, even if it costs him his freedom.

   But this issue has a strike or two against it, because we never learn the identity of the mystery mastermind who is behind recent events - and the story doesn't conclude in this issue.

   Still, the art is very good, and it's good to see Barry Allen acting like a superhero. For a change.

Grade: A-


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Astro City #34

   It's difficult to review issues of Astro City because one quickly runs out of superlatives.

   Month in and month out, it's simply one of the best comics on the stands.

   That's because it's created and written by Kurt Busiek, one of the best in the business. He consistently gives us great characters and touching stories, all with an eye toward the history and traditions of comic books.

   This issue wraps up a storyline featuring Steeljack, a steel-covered  former villain who's trying to go straight by becoming a detective.

   He's not the smartest guy around, but he knows it and uses his street smarts and sheer toughness to deal with the dangers that follow his profession.

   So when a mystery criminal starts framing "retired" criminals, Steeljack helps an old friend as she tries to clear her name. It's a fun adventure that includes secret hideouts, a criminal mastermind, lots of twists and turns and a touching wrap-up.

    With terrific art by Brent Anderson and yet another tremendous cover by Alex Ross, and it's easy to see why this is a series every comics fan should be reading.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Classics - The Punisher #1 (1986)

   The Punisher was a character who would not be denied.

   Created as an opponent for the Amazing Spider-Man by writer Gerry Conway and artist John Romita (though Ross Andru drew that first appearance), the character was a one-man war on crime.

   Frank Castle was a Vietnam veteran who saw his wife and children gunned down by mobsters - so he declared war on criminals and used his military skills to kill the bad guys.

   The character was a thinly-disguised take on the adventures of Mack Bolan, the Executioner, who appeared in dozens of paperback adventures written by Don Pendleton.

   The Punisher had appeared in black and white magazines and in supporting roles in other comics, fighting (or working with) such heroes as Spider-Man, Captain America and Daredevil.

   The fans loved the character! Finally the demand led to the creation of a mini-series - labeled on the cover as a four-issue series, but it was actually a five-issue series (go figure).

   It was a perfect fit for writer Steven Grant, who excelled at the hard-edged, take-no-prisoners stories - literally, in this case, as the story starts with the Punisher arriving at a maximum security prison, where he encounters lots of hostility and an old foe.

   But the prisoners find that their numbers don't help much when dealing with a fighting machine like Castle, and he soon fights his way to the top of the prison food chain. It's a brutal series that pushed the four-color limits and helped the character become one of the most popular in the '80s and beyond.

   It didn't hurt that the art was crafted by Mike Zeck, who was riding high from the hugely successful Secret Wars. Teamed with John Beatty's inks and coloring his own work, Zeck turned in some of his best work ever, loading each page with raw action, powerful layouts and intense energy.

   This mini-series quickly launched the anti-hero into his own series (and numerous spinoffs) - it's a striking work that holds up well even today, when grim and gritty is all too common.

    In the mid-'80s it was groundbreaking -  and unforgettable.

Grade: A


New Comic Day

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

- Astro City #34 - When old-timers clash!

- Flash #50 - Barry vs. everyone!

- Totally Awesome Hulk #5 - On a date with the Enchantress.

- Uncanny Inhumans #7 - Solving a mystery.

- Karnak #3 - An encounter with SHIELD.

- Superman: Coming of the Supermen #3 - More fighting with Apokolips.

- Mighty Thor #6 - There's the real Thor!

And that's it! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guardians of the Galaxy #7

   Of all the issues of Guardians of the Galaxy I've read since the film premiered, this issue is the one I've enjoyed the most.

   That's because it gets to the heart of the series - our heroes rescuing those in need of saving, cracking jokes and smacking heads along the way.

   It doesn't hurt that this issue focuses on the Thing and Rocket Raccoon - a great comedy team if ever there was one.

   Their mission is to free a planet of slaves, so expect lots of clobbering and shooting - and perhaps even some romance (although it may just be classified as consensual space sex).

   I love the cover by Art Adams, which evokes John Carter of Mars, and the interior art by Valerio Schiti is terrific, with expressive characters and over-the-top action sequences.

   As always, writer Brian Michael Bendis puts the focus on the humor and the dialogue - and turns in a real gem.

   My only complaint is that there's still no Fantastic Four comic. COME ON, MARVEL!

Grade: A


Monday, April 18, 2016

The Badger #3

   It is a happy year indeed that brings us the return of The Badger to comics stores everywhere!

   The great conceit of the series is simple enough: you'd have to be crazy to be a superhero! And that's what you get with this hero - a guy who suffers from multiple personalities, including one as a martial arts hero who has a Badger for a spirit totem.

   But there's much more than that to writer Mike Baron's construct - the Badger serves as a bodyguard to an ancient druid (and weather wizard) named Ham, who has built a home in America, a supporting cast and a menagerie in the back yard.

   Ham's a terrific character - a bit mad himself, he's (almost) always in control and leads the cast into the strangest situations.

   This issue, for example, includes an appearance by Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who is himself a powerful wizard. (Who but Baron would dare to use a modern-day world leader as a pitiless enemy?)

   With amazing art in this issue by comics legend Val Mayerick, this is an series that demands to be followed!

   Lots of crazy, demon-fighting fun!

   Check it out, Larry!

Grade: A


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Guest Review - Harvey Pekar's Cleveland

    Here's another Guest Review bDavid Wright, with a look at one of the most unique voices in the comics industry.

   Harvey Pekar's American Splendor used to be a regular buy for me, when Harvey was still alive.  Not only did he write comics, but also jazz reviews, and other articles.  

   They even made an independent movie adapted from the comic called American Splendor, which is a well made film.  

   My brother and I met him once too at the Dallas Comic Con.  A lot of times Pekar portrays himself as a curmudgeon, but in public he's not that way at all, he's rather funny actually.  

   At the Comic Con he was there hawking his books, signing autographs, and talking about getting a great Grand Slam breakfast at Dennys.   

   Cleveland was the first book published after Pekar's death, so when it came out I had to read it. Pekar starts the novel by talking about baseball, and I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of the sport. 

   But I believe he does it because the Cleveland Indians won the 1948 World Series that year, and that was a highlight of his younger years, and gave him a deep sense of pride for his city. 

   It continues on with a brief history of Cleveland starting around the 18th century, and eventually into the '40s, which is when Pekar grew up. There's a little bit about him growing up as a child, his family's grocery store, which one of his previous books, The Quitter, goes a little bit deeper into if you care to read more about that.  

   He was raised in a Jewish household. They were of modest income, but Pekar found ways to amuse himself through books, sports, and comics.

   As he grew older, he became interested in jazz, politics, women, and also had to deal with finding a job. His job as a file clerk at the Veteran's Administration Hospital has been written about many times in his regular series American Splendor. I found it interesting though in this book that he chose to write about one of his previous wives. They seemed to be a natural fit for each other intellectually, but differed in their future goals. One of the things that drove them apart was that she'd earned a fairly respectable college degree and wanted to pursue some endeavor with it, perhaps by moving and getting a job for an ivy league school. Pekar on the other hand, had already established his clerical job, which fit well with his temperament, and he didn't really care to move.

   There are other vignettes, one is about Cleveland's largest book stores and the owner, another about shopping in the farmers market, and one about Pekar selling his vast jazz record and book collections.  

   I got the feeling, however, from reading Cleveland that Pekar had come to terms with life. That perhaps his current wife, Joyce Brabner, had shown him how to relax a bit more (retirement might have had something to do with that too). Also enjoying the simpler things in life, like owning a home or gardening, and eventually raising a foster daughter) could be fulfilling and life enhancing. 

   I also have to mention the artist, Joseph Remnant. He was superb. His art reminded me a lot of Robert Crumb, another one of Pekar's past collaborators. Remnant really captured the nuances in Pekar's writing, his rendering of the buildings and the inhabitants of Cleveland added a lot to the story and atmosphere of the city.  

   Pekar died some years back, and like a lot of writers and artist their absence is missed, but he left a body of work that can still be enjoyed.

Grade A


(** Editor's note - when I posted this, I accidentally credited this guest review to Glen Davis - now correctly attributed to David Wright. Apologies all around, and thanks!)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

All-New X-Men #8

   This issue had me on edge.

   That's because I'm a big fan of Dr. Strange (or, if you prefer, Doctor Strange), and I was looking forward to seeing how he fit in with the ongoing story in All-New X-Men.

   But I was fearful, because the hero doesn't always mix well with science-based super-heroes.

   Thankfully, my fears were unfounded - although it's a bit disconcerting to see the Sorcerer Supreme treated like just another superhero by the news media, as they conveniently report his arrival, which allows the Beast (Hank McCoy) to track him down.

   There are lots of opportunities when you have a science-based character running up against one centered in magic, and writer Dennis Hopeless makes good use of the concept.

   The art by Paco Diaz is very good, with some terrific designs on other-dimensional creatures.

   Best of all, the continuity of the issue fits in with the ongoing story in Dr. Strange's own series - the kind of attention to detail any fan should appreciate.

   This "new" version of the All-New X-Men has been a bit hit and miss so far, but this issue works well.

Grade: B+


Friday, April 15, 2016

All-New, All-Different Avengers #8

   Give Mark Waid credit for making this issue of All-New, All-Different Avengers a lot more fun than I would have expected.

   It's part of the multi-issue, crossing-between-different-titles story called Avengers Standoff - so I'm working at a disadvantage here, because I haven't been reading any of the other tie-ins.

   Luckily, Waid knows how to tell a story, and Adam Kubert provides terrific art.

   Waid recaps the situation, wherein a sentient cosmic cube, taking the form of a girl, has wiped the memories of two teams of heroes - the ANAD Avengers and the Uncanny Avengers.

   They're caught in a town known as Pleasant Hill, which is (rather improbably) serving as a secret prison for super-villains.

   But even when the heroes regain their memories - but not necessarily their powers - can they survive an attack by an army of villains?

   You'll have to buy three more spin-off issues to find out. (Someone let me know how it goes - I won't be buying those, either.)

   But I liked this one.

Grade: B+


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Silver Surfer #3

   Where does the time go?

   It's somewhat terrifying to realize that this issue of Silver Surfer marks 50 years since his first appearance in an issue of the Fantastic Four (#48, if I remember correctly).

   And I bought that issue at the newsstand when I was 10 years old. (Pause while I shudder inwardly.)

   The character was created by Jack Kirby, who decided Galactus (hey, he's also 50 years old now) needed a herald, and apparently threw the Surfer into that issue as something of an afterthought.

   The character connected with fans and with Lee, and a few years later was given his own series.

   His career has been hit-and-miss over the years, with some terrific stories, including work by John Buscema, John Byrne, Mobius, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Jim Starlin, Ron Lim and many others.

   These days the Surfer's adventures are in the more-than-capable hands of co-writers Don Slott and Michael Allred, with Allred doing the art and Laura Allred providing color art. They've infused the series with a real sense of wonder - and a lot of humor and humanity.

   This issue, as befits an anniversary issue, ties a major threat to the planet Earth (and the rest of the universe, too) back to the Surfer's origin, pits the hero again a certain rock-skinned former opponent, and throws in a big contingent of Marvel's heroes to boot.

   It's a lot of fun! Wonder what they'll do for the 100th Anniversary? And will I be around to see it? (Now THAT would be a miracle!)

Grade: A-


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Classics - Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

   As I said in this review of Batman v Superman, one of the big mistakes in making the film was trying to cram too many comic book-based stories into on film.

   They would have done much better sticking to the one that provided the heart of the "v" in the movie - the Frank Miller classic that changed the face of comics, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

   It's easy to forget what a shock this four-issue series (in Prestige format) had when it landed in 1985.

   Miller had made his name for his reinvention of Marvel's Daredevil, and in moving over to DC he did the same thing - times ten - to Batman.

   This was a Batman like no other - no longer invincible, he was now old and struggling with a bad heart (and a broken heart) - and retired from the hero game, along with most of the other members of the Justice League.

   But the deteriorating society and the return of an old foe - Two-Face - brings the Dark Knight back into action. But events force him to use more brutal methods than before, and his greatest foe makes a grisly return to the spotlight.

   Their battle (and a stunning one with the massive leader of a gang called The Mutants) causes Batman to become an anti-establishment symbol - and as a result of the ensuing chaos, the government sends in its top secret weapon to bring him down - Superman, the all-too-establishment Man of Steel.

   Their battle is spectacular, and doesn't go the way you might expect, as Batman uses every trick at his disposal (and a couple of allies) to stand up to the Son of Krypton. It's a powerful, teeth-rattling sequence that holds up as a classic hero on hero battle.

   There's so much to talk about with this series - the powerful and more raw art style Miller uses (with Klaus Janson inks and Lynn Varley colors), the fact that this series kicked off the "grim and gritty" style of story that would dominate the industry for years to come, and the fact that the characters are so enduring that they can be used in this kind of hard-hitting story - or in light-hearted Silver Age adventures - and be just as entertaining.

   The thing about the series I'm not sure anyone picked up on was the fact that this wasn't (necessarily) a story set in the future - or an imaginary tale. It was actually a story about the original Batman set in the present day. If Batman first appeared in 1940, by 1985 he would have been a senior citizen - say, 65 years old - and it would explain the fact that the technology was all modern day. And why the President was Ronald Reagan.

   Well, that's my theory, anyway.

   So, a terrific story - much superior to the recent film - and a game changer for the industry. Need I add: high recommended!

Grade: A+




New Comics Day

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

- A-Force #4 - Showdown with Antimatter!

- All-New All-Different Avengers #8
- The dark secret of Pleasant Hill.

- Badger #3 - When a demon attacks!

- Doc Savage #5 - A clash of mental giants!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #7 - Clobbering and romancing!

- Mockingbird #2 - 50 shades of spies!

- Silver Surfer #3 - It's Norrin's 50th Anniversary!

- Starfire #11 - A wild vacation!

- All-New X-Men #8 - A Strange day.

And that's it!

"Dr. Strange" Trailer

   In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the new Dr. Strange trailer (which looks mighty impressive):

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spider-Man #3

   It's funny that this series titled Spider-Man is more Spider-Man than Spider-Man. If you know what I mean.

   This series actually stars the (former) Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales - now a resident of the Marvel Universe, thanks to the aftereffects of Secret Wars.

   But he's much more like the original concept of the character than Peter Parker, the real Spider-Man, who is now the poor man's Tony Stark.

   It's Miles who is facing the kind of problems real teens face - namely, struggling with school and dealing with grownups who don't understand.

   In fact, the issue has no actual Spider-Man content - Miles never appears in costume here - but he does get a visit from his fellow Avenger, Ms. Marvel.

   His opponent in this issue is the unstoppable (and largely unreasonable) force of nature known as... Grandma!

   It's a fun issue that establishes his supporting cast (most helpful for those - like me - who haven't read his previous appearances).

   Brian Michael Bendis' dialogue is crackling (as always) and I love Sara Pichelli's expressive, animated artwork.

   It's a quiet issue, setting the foundation for future stories - but the focus on character and real-world problems makes it true to the original concept of the character.

   I'm all for it!

Grade: A-


Monday, April 11, 2016

Black Widow #2

   After her success in The Avengers movies, as played by the stunning and charismatic Scarlett Johansson, the Black Widow is slated for a feature film of her own in the near future.

  The filmmakers would be smart to adapt the story featured in this new series by co-writers Chris Samnee and Mark Waid, with art by Samnee - it's a rollicking spy thriller with plenty of over-the-top super-heroics thrown in for good measure.

   Last issue started things off at top speed, as Natasha stole something from S.H.I.E.L.D. and made an amazing escape. This issue we find out at least part of the reason why (though there are no doubt more parts of the story to be uncovered).

   The art is amazing - stylish, evocative and powerful - a perfect match for the story.

   I've always liked the Black Widow, but this is the best of the solo adventures for the character that I've seen.

   Don't miss it!

Grade: A


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Guest Review - Kolchak: The Phoenix Rising

    Back with another Guest Review is Glen Davis! Today he gives us his take on a comic based on a TV horror classic:

   I'm a big fan of Kolchak. I read the original books, I watched the TV movies, I watched the TV show, (my favorite was the one with the headless motorcyclist), and really enjoyed the relatively recent comic series written by Christopher Mills. So I picked this one up.

   Bad idea.

   This is one of those stories where Kolchak is little more than a guest star in his own book. This is something like what they call a "back door pilot" on television, where the network uses an episode of an established series to try to launch a new series. Sometimes, it even works.

   In this case, the pilot is about an extraterrestrial tracking down and stopping a secret organization that is trying to create alien/human hybrids. It wouldn't be so bad if it were interesting. Paul Kupperberg has done a lot better.

   The art is pretty bad too. Instead of resembling Darren McGavin, Kolchak here looks like Bob Hope for the most part, with occasional flashes of Richard Nixon.  It's not that hard to find pictures of Darren McGavin, guys.

Grade:  C- 


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Gold Key Alliance #1

   My comics shop owner was looking out for me this week.

   I had overlooked Gold Key Alliance, but he plucked it out of the stack and asked if I was interested.

   Since it includes several characters I enjoyed when I was a tad, my answer was obvious.

   I knew this series included several classic Gold Key Comics heroes, including Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok Dinosaur Hunter, Dr. Solar and Sampson.

   Of course, the trick in bringing those characters together is the fact that they each come from a completely different reality.

   Magnus is from the distant future. Turok lives in an alternate reality where dinosaurs still live. Sampson is from a dystopic future, post disaster. Dr. Solar is the only "modern day" character in the bunch.

   This series solves that problem, oddly enough, by bringing the characters all to the present, though it's a world that's different from the one we know. In this reality (which seems to be set in the modern day), robots are commonplace (though they don't seem to be as sophisticated as the ones the original Magnus faced), there's a dinosaur preserve guarded by Turok, Sampson seems to have a fragile grip on reality, and Dr. Solar - well, let's just say that character has a lot in common with the new Thor.

   As a first issue, this isn't bad - but it has to spend a lot of time checking in with the characters and doesn't always give us a clear idea of what the heck is going on - but it rolls along quickly and includes some fun action sequences.

   So while it's not "my" Gold Key, it has potential. It made enough of an impression that I shouldn't need reminding to pick up the next issue.

Grade: B


Friday, April 8, 2016

Guest Review: Hangman #2

   Here with a guest review is my pal Glen Davis, offering his take on a revival of a classic character:


   As much as I like the MLJ (Archie) heroes, I can't say I like their current Dark Circle stuff.

   This issue of The Hangman is a massively decompressed issue. 

   The hitman of the last issue wakes up in Hell where he talks with the devil for a while, before *poof* he's back on earth, the New Hangman.

   That's all that happens. No action. Some dialogue that someone thought was clever, and some halfway decent art.

Grade: D- 


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Black Panther #1

   It's amazing to realize that the Black Panther is celebrating his 50th anniversary this year (having first appeared in Fantastic Four #52) - and he's celebrating by appearing in his first feature film, Captain America: Civil War, with his own feature film soon to follow.

    As longtime fans know, the character is T'Challa, the onetime king of the African nation Wakanda, a country with advanced technology and the source of the metal called Vibranium.

   The hero was put through the mill during the lead-up to Secret Wars - he was disowned by his ancestors, cast out as king, and his sister (who took his place) was killed.

   I've been a big fan of the character since that first appearance, and was kinda hoping this series would get the character back to basics and wash away all those complications.

   No such luck.

   New writer Ta-Nehisi Coates picks up right where previous stories left off, with T'Challa struggling to get his life back on track, and Wakanda facing threats from within and without.

   Unfortunately, that bogs down this first issue, so instead of a blast of energy, it's kind of a slow burn of problems and menace.

   The art by Brian Stelfreeze with color art by Laura Marin is very good - vibrant and powerful and loaded with great characters.

   But this first issue was, for my money, a bit of a stumble - hopefully better things are right around the corner. They just have to get their house in order.

Grade: B+


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wynonna Earp - TV Review

   The first episode of any new series can be a bit tricky, since it has to include the origin of the lead character, set up the conflict, introduce the supporting characters and (hopefully) manage to tell a story, too.

   If you want to see a textbook example of how to do all that and hook the viewer for future episodes, look no further than Wynonna Earp, the new series on the SyFy Channel.

   The series hits the ground running and never looks back.

   Based on the comic books created by Beau Smith, the first episode starts with a bus carrying Wynonna, the descendant of Wyatt, back to her home in the town of Purgatory to attend the funeral of a beloved uncle.

   She's immediately thrown into a fight for her life with mysterious, murderous supernatural creatures. She's caught between those forces, the agenda of the town's residents, a mysterious curse on her family, and the dark memory of a deadly attack on her family when she was a child.

    But this is not just a horror tale by any means - there's a lot of humor, and Wynonna is tough as nails, sexy as hell and a lot of fun to watch. Actress Melanie Scrofano is terrific in the title role, playing a young woman who's still recovering from past trauma, but is determined to do right by her family and look out for her younger sister Waverly (played by the luminous Dominique Provost-Chalkley).

   The cast is rounded out with the hard-edged head of the U.S. Marshal Black Badge Division, Agent Dolls (played with menace and authority by Shamier Anderson), who's investigating the violent attacks in the town and takes a special interest in Wynonna. Another mysterious figure is Doc Holiday (played wonderfully by Tim Rozon) who may or may not have a direct connection to Wynonna's famous ancestor.

   Throw in lots of action, nasty bad guys, a mystic weapon, sharp dialogue and a dash of sex and you have a series that's a real treat - action and adventure with a wink and a smile.

    And that's just the origin story! I can't wait to see where it goes from here!

    Highly recommended!

Grade: A



New Comics Day

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

- Archie #7 - Mr. Lodge is going to war against Archie.

- Black Panther #1 - The return of the king!

- Black Widow #2 - On the hunt!

- Gold Key Alliance #1 - The return of Magnus, Turok, Sampson and Dr. Solar!

- Infinity Entity #4 - The source of the conflict is revealed!

- Iron Man #8 - Teaming up with Spider-Man!

- Spider-Man #3 - Facing the unbeatable foe: Grandma!

- Swamp Thing #4 - There's a new Swamp Thing in town!

And that's it! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Wrestlemania 32

  I've been a pro wrestling fan for most of my adult life. Like many longtime fans, I was drawn in by the rock and wrestling connection made in the early '80s when Hulk Hogan first became a TV icon.

   As my sons grew, we watched wrestling on TV (off and on), attended local matches when the WWE or the WCW came to town, and watched quite a few of the pay-per-view events. 

   As my guys became adults, we started talking about the idea of going to see Wrestlemania one year - and this year, all the stars aligned and we were able to work out our schedules and make it happen!

   So my two sons and two of their friends gathered near Dallas, Texas, at the AT&T Stadium - the massive structure where the Dallas Cowboys play football - to see the big event!

   For those not in the know, Wrestlemania is the annual competition for the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) wherein they bring together their biggest names, Hall of Famers and stage several big stunts to put on a heck of a show.
   Just entering the stadium was jaw-dropping - it's a huge facility that can seat over 100,000 spectators! The stadium features a monstrous screen hanging above - each one is 160 feet wide and 72 feet tall, stretching from one 20-yard line to the other 20-yard line. Add in a huge set, fireworks and other effects - not to mention some amazing wrestling - and you have a heck of a show!
   It was a lot of fun, with surprise guest stars (Shaquille O'Neal as a wrestler?) and lots of laughs. 

    The only problem we encountered happened when we arrived. We got there (under the warm Texas sun) at 3 p.m., when the gates were supposed to open - but some kind of technical problem kept most people out until 4:30-ish. What's funny is that they started matches before most fans were able to watch them. 

   The matches aside, it was like being at DisneyWorld - it was an amazing technical feat to see the crew make the show happen! While matches were going on in the ring, dozens of workers scurried around the stage, setting up everything from firework displays to props (including a giant box of Booty-Os cereal) and stage pieces that appeared quickly and went away just as fast. 

    I thought the show was pretty strong throughout, though the title match (as is often the case) was in some ways the least of the bunch. The female triple threat match was very good (this from a guy who was never much of a fan of women's wrestling matches), but my favorite was probably the ladder match, with several wrestlers trying to be the one to climb the ladder and get the Intercontinental belt - there were some crazy stunts in there (the finish was certainly unexpected). 
   The Shane McMahon / Undertaker "Hell in a Cell" match managed to live up to its hardcore expectations, and the final stunt (Shane jumping three stories from the top of the cage onto the announce table) was stunning (and thankfully, he didn't die). 

   The New Day / League of Nations match was ok, but the aftermath, with run-ins by three Hall of Famers, including Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley and - with one of the night's loudest crowd reactions - Stone Cold Steve Austin, was a heck of a lot of fun. 

   I enjoyed The Rock's appearance, too, and he demonstrated how badly the WWE needs a performer with the mic skills to entertain the audience so effortlessly. No one can make a comic insult like The Rock. Great to see John Cena back in action, too.

   The Jericho / AJ Styles match was very good, though it built slowly. The Brock Lesnar / Dean Ambrose match was fun - and pretty much exactly what I expected. 

   And since I'm a fan of the Royal Rumble, its "little brother" - the annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (which included Diamond Dallas Page, Tatanka, the Big Show, Kane, Mark Henry, and Shaquille O'Neal) was a lot of fun. It was won by NXT star Barry Corbin (which got a huge pop from my youngest son).
   The final match was an interesting combination of great athletes - both Roman Reigns and Triple H are tremendous performers - and the match had some interesting twists, but Reigns, a good guy who's been cheated twice before, finally got a clean win. 

   The crowd reaction to Reigns (they booed loudly every time he got the upper hand) was puzzling, because the company was doing everything in its power to make him look good - pitting him against HHH and Stephanie, who only need top hats and mustaches to twirl to be more classical villainous - but just to be contrary, the fans continued to boo Reigns and cheer HHH. Not me, I was cheering Reigns - being contrary just to tweak the fans sitting around me.
   Not sure how it all played at home on the WWE Network, but it was a raucous, festive atmosphere at the arena - a lot of fun!
   It was a great experience and I'm so glad I could share it with my sons and their friends.  

   If you're a fan of "rassalin," you owe it to yourself to see the show live at least once. It was unforgettable!