Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Justice League of America #9

   How far behind schedule is this issue of Justice League of America?

   The cover gives it away (well, the alternate cover) - it's obviously intended to promote the Batman v Superman movie.

   Fact is, it's been five months since the last issue of (what has presumably become) this limited series.

   The problem with that, of course, is remembering where we are in the rambling, larger-than-life story.

   We have the visit of a seemingly-benevolent Kryptonian god who turns out to be more interested in tapping into the life force of his followers than actually helping people. We have the JLA scattered across time and space, each fighting their own fights (and in one case, losing their life in the process). We have some powerful cosmic stones and a few other mysteries to unravel.

   This chapter moves the story along a bit, includes some terrific art by artist / writer Bryan Hitch, and has nothing to do with that cover over there.

   It's a solid issue and I'm enjoying the story (what I can recall of it), but I hope it all wraps up during my lifetime.

Grade: B+


New Comics Day

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

- FutureQuest #4 - Mightor! And Frankenstein, Jr! I love this series!

- Groo Fray of the Gods #2 - More Groo more often!

- Guardians of the Galaxy #11 - Getting involved in the Civil War.

- Justice League of America #9 - Finally, the Hitch-drawn series continues.

- Saga #37 - All in the family!

- Silver Surfer #6 - Celebrating issue #200!

- Spider-Man #7 - A very big nightmare.

And I received review copies of:

- 4001 AD #4

- Bloodshot Reborn #16

- Doctor Who 11th Year Two #12 -

- Vikings #4 

- X-O Manowar #49

And that's it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Remote #5

   If you're looking for a comic to win the "most offbeat concept of the year" award, we may have a winner with Remote.

   It catches the eye with its cover featuring a 50-foot-tall woman barely covered with clothing made of American flags.

   But Samantha Stanton isn't a typical superhero at all. She's a radio announcer - one of the few left alive in this story set in a world based on the film Night of the Living Dead.

   But this series, despite some gory images and unsettling visuals, seems to be going more for laughs.

   As Samantha tries to keep her career and the entertainment industry going, she's harassed by a fanatical religious leader.

   But wait, I hear you asking. How did she become a giant? I promise you, you'll never guess.

   Here goes: that religious leader hits her with a school bus - and she immediately changes into a giant. Which doesn't seem to phase anyone.

   (So do we assume that, in the future, she'll have to track down a school bus anytime she needs to become giant-sized? Seems inconvenient. Perhaps it's a permanent condition.)

   The whole issue is disjointed - I felt like I'd walked into the middle of a movie.

   Perhaps that's because it was apparently assembled by committee - the credits include two plotters, four scripters, two layout artists, three artists, and three color artists.

   The result is a crazy quilt of a story that doesn't really work - although it does have a lovely cover by Ruiz Burgos.

Grade: C-


Monday, August 29, 2016

Z-Men #5

   I'm always amazed at the diversity of comics available today, and how regularly I run into a comic or series that I didn't know about.

   For example, we have the new comics company Double Take, which has released 10 new titles, each separate but joined in continuity because they're all set in the world of the movie Night of the Living Dead - so lots of zombies (or zombie-ish) characters inhabit these comics (and they are not aimed at young readers).

   The comics all have one-word titles: Honor, Rise, Slab, Spring, Home, Remote, Medic, Dedication, Soul and - our focus in this review - Z-Men.

    From the title, you might expect an X-Men knockoff (well, that's what I expected) - but it's nothing of the sort.

   Instead, it focuses on two Secret Service Agents who are sent to investigate the mysterious reports involving zombies - and that lands them in the middle of chaos, as they fight for their lives to try to save a critical power plant.

   A small army worked on this title. The story is by Bill Jemas, the script is by Jeff McComsey and Jemas, and the art layouts are by McComsey and Stan Chou, with the art by Kurt Tide, Jaime Salangsang and Alisson Rodrigues.

   It all feels a bit rushed, slightly unpolished (not unlike the original movie, so perhaps that was the idea). It's tough to jump in at this point in the story - even with the recap, it's not easy to sort it all out.

   It might be better to wait for the collection. But kudos to the company and the creators for tackling a titanic concept right out of the blocks!

Grade: B-


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Wonder Woman #5

   The Wonder Woman comic has a split personality as it continues its Rebirth story.

   That's because the stories are alternating, with the even number issues telling her "Year One" origin story (or at least the latest version), and the odd-numbered books telling a modern day story of Diana trying to solve the mystery behind her unreliable memories.

   So that's where we are with this issue, as writer Greg Rucka takes WW to the jungle seeking answers (for reasons that aren't clear) from the Cheetah.

   By coincidence, her... friend, Steve Trevor, is on a military mission of some kind that lands him in the same neighborhood - and he's facing destruction (or something) at the hands of an evil cult and the god they worship.

   I know there are mysteries to unfold, but this story just seems to be taking forever to get to the point. (But the art by Liam Sharp is excellent.)

   The "Year One" story I'm enjoying a lot. This one isn't working as well - though the conclusion may still bring it all together.

Grade: B


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wynonna Earp #7

   If anyone has reason to celebrate, it's Wynonna Earp!

   After all, her TV series on the SyFy Channel has been renewed for a well-deserved second season!

   (And if you haven't watched it yet, you have a real treat in store - it's a terrific mix of horror, humor, action and terrific, sexy characters!)

   She's celebrating in her ongoing comic book, too! After months of dealing with zombies, revenants and assorted monsters, Wynonna gets a week away from her Black Badge / monster hunting duties, and she and the beautiful, powerful and mysterious Valdez set out to party down!

   As you'd expect, writer Beau Smith packs this issue with lots of laughs, great character beats and plenty of action. (What? Did you think Wynonna and Valdez could go far without getting into a fight with a bunch of thugs in desperate need of some pain?)

   The art is by Chris Evenhuis, filling in ably for regular artist Lora Innes. I like his style, which owes a bit to Adam Hughes - he has great character designs, and each figure is expressive and fun to watch. His layouts are dynamic and the story flows effortlessly.

   The issue is a nice break from the Western horror stylings (there's a bit of it on display), and demonstrates how versatile the concept is, taking us from horror to humor to action without pausing for a breath.

   Join the party!

Grade: A




Friday, August 26, 2016

Titans Rebirth #2

   It's all about action.

   That's the focus on the new Titans (Rebirth) series - which is something of a surprise.

   I expected this series to focus more on the characters (since they're old friends) and on the universe-shaking revelations that were revealed in the first DC Universe Rebirth story.

   Instead they're thrown into a battle against the newly-revived Flash villain, Abra Kadabra, a magician from the far future whose advanced science looks like magic to us.

   The issue, written by Dan Abnett, is given over to the classic "battle of magically-created doubles" - in this case, a throwback to the same team lineup as they were when they were the Teen Titans.

   So, lots of over-the-top action as drawn by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund, and a cliffhanger ending.

   So it's a decent start for this "reborn" series, but I'd still like to see more of the personalities of the heroes coming through (at least Linda Parks gets a few moments in the sun).

Grade: B+




Thursday, August 25, 2016

Blue Beetle Rebirth #1

   DC keeps making the same mistake.

   They keep bringing back the wrong Blue Beetle.

   I know, I should be grateful that the hero is back at all. And I have nothing against the third version of the hero, the magic-scarab-powered Jaime Reyes, who's at the center of this reboot.

   And they get bonus points for including Ted Kord, hero #2 in the series. That billionaire inventor has taken Jaime under his wing and is pushing his "apprentice" to live up to his high-powered potential.

   So why not take the logical step and bring back the original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett? (He should know a thing or two about fighting the bad guys with a magic scarab.)

   That is, of course, a minor complaint. Writer Keith Giffen and artist Scott Kolins craft a solid introduction to the characters and concepts here (although you don't get much more than that).

   (Wait, I was supposed to work in a "Meet the Beetles" gag. Oh, never mind.)

   It's a promising return for the characters - here's hoping for more like this!

Grade: A-


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Captain America Steve Rogers #4

   Just like Captain America's life these days, that cover over there is a lie.

   This issue has nothing to do with Civil War.

   Instead, it focuses on some surprising plans Steve Rogers is hatching, which involves him going against his orders from his Hydra masters - which seems a bit dicey, since the Red Skull is now a telepath.

   Lots of fans have objected to the Hydra story, but being a contrarian by nature I've been trying to see the positive side of this series - but I just don't care for the direction of the story so far (though the art is very good).

   It's taking Cap too far away from his "real" self - for example, the only action sequence in this issue has him taking part in an extremely brutal attack on an enemy, with a vicious outcome that is far removed from the hero I've followed for decades.

   Yes, I know this story will eventually be worked out and (hopefully) we'll be back to the real Cap. But first we have to deal with some interesting plot points - and no doubt there will eventually be some Civil War business to address.

   But I admit that I'm looking forward to this story being wrapped up.

Grade: B-




New Comics Day

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

- Archie #11 - Battle of the Bands!

- Blue Beetle Rebirth #1 - Meet the Beetles!

- Captain America Steve Rogers #4 - More secrets!

- Flash #5 - Barry's day off.

- Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #3 - All-out war!

- Titans #2 - It's magic!

- Usagi Yojimbo #157 - Secret of the Hell Screen!

- Wonder Woman #5 - Jungle fight!

- Wynonna Earp #7 - A knuckle-bustin' vacation!

   And I received review copies of:

- Aspen Universe Revelations #2

- Assassin's Creed #11

- Dark Souls #4

- Faith #2

- Generation Zero #1

- Rai #16

- Tank Girl 2 Girls 1 Tank #4 (of 4)

- Valiant Universe Handbook 2016 #1

And that's it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Supergirl Rebirth #1

   I have to admit that I've completely lost touch with Supergirl (the comic book).
  I tried the first few issues of the "New 52" version in 2011, but they didn't spark my interest - and I wasn't crazy about her costume, with its strange design on the crotch.
   However, I have become a fan of the Supergirl TV show, which is getting ready to launch into its second season (moving to the CW network).
   It features an upbeat, instantly-likeable star, a strong supporting cast, some good action sequences, and works despite the somewhat silly secret identity shenanigans.
   So now DC has apparently (a year later) realized it should be following the lead of the TV show - so they're putting their character through gymnastics to bring her more in line with the on-air version.
   And those efforts are mostly successful here - the art is strong and the writing is overcoming those continuity hurdles with a minimum of stress.
   Best of all, her costume follows the classic-but-modern lines of the TV version (although it still seems a bit dicey, having a flying girl wearing a skirt - but at least it's not a mini-skirt).
   This is a good start in (what I assume to be) a new direction.
Grade: B+


Monday, August 22, 2016

Guest Review - Kill or Be Killed #1

   My pal James Cassara, realizing my recent post was a cry for help (just kidding), has sent along a Guest Review about a new book by a powerhouse creative team. Here's James:
   Since I first came across a stray issue of Fatale, I’ve been a great fan of the creative team of writer Ed Brubaker, artist Sean Phillips, and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser.  
   After amassing a complete run of the series I began digging out other works, most noticeably Criminal, and eagerly awaiting any new series or one-shots they lent their talents to. They have yet to let me down.
   Kill or Be Killed is the latest such offering.  It’s filled with everything  you’d expect from a Brubaker written story: an intriguing premise, intense violence balanced with askew humor, great characterization, and the promise of more to come.  
   The story revolves around Dylan, a NYU grad student living off a meager inheritance and trying to find his way in life.  
   Depressed by a failed relationship - his best friend Kira, for whom Dylan holds a not-so-secret longing, is dating his roommate Mason - Dylan sinks into depression and hastily decides to jump off a six story building and end it all.  
   After he inexplicably survives he makes a commitment to change himself, to embrace and enjoy life. Life is worth living. 
   That night, returning to his apartment, Dylan is visiting by a mysterious and horrific demon (and no one draws demonic beings better than Phillips) who claims to have spared Dylan his likely death.  
   In return Dylan must kill one “deserving” person per month, or he himself will die. Dylan initially (and understandably) believes this to be a hallucination, but when within days of the incident he becomes horribly ill, feverish to the point of exhaustion and near death, he knows something has changed.  
   While recovering from a broken arm caused by the demon, and still not sure if any of this is real or not, Dylan is attacked by a pair of street thugs and beaten senseless. As he lies bloody in the snow he begins to realize the rage pent up within him and yes, he is capable of killing another human being. The demon will tell him which ones.
   It is there the first issue ends, and if that set up doesn’t grab a reader I don’t know what will.  
   My initial take on Kill or Be Killed was that all the elements are in place but don’t quite come together. Reading it a second time, as is necessary to grasping all the intricacies of a Brubaker / Phillips comic book, much of what I initially missed became clear.  
   This is first class stuff by the most inventive team in the field, three creators (Breitweiser’s coloring is an integral element) who work together seamlessly. 
   It’s not for everyone, and I admit the incessant use of the “F” bomb seems overdone.  But such slight misgivings aside, I find myself counting the days until issue two arrives at my local comics shop.
Grade: A


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Black Widow #6

   Are you buying this comic?

   You really should be buying it.

   The Black Widow is caught up in a Steranko-esque spy story that touches on her earliest (and not too ethical) assignments from her former leaders.

   The modern-day repercussions bring her into conflict with her oldest foe in the Marvel Universe - Iron Man.

   (According to past stories, she actually met Captain America and Wolverine back during World War II - it's complicated - but we're talking in terms of the real world here, and the Widow first worked her wiles on Tony Stark back in the pages of Tales of Suspense.)

   As always with such twisty tales, things are not what they seem, and you certainly never know what the Widow's next move will be.

   Accentuated by amazing artwork by Chris Samnee and steered by a terrific story by Mark Waid and Samnee, this is a series you don't want to miss.

   Words to the wise!

Grade: A


A Brief Absence

   My apologies for the brief absence - life gets in the way sometimes, and between work and family and church and volunteer work, your pal Chuck has been covered up for the past four days.

   So intend of trying to crunch together some down and dirty reviews to catch up, I hope you'll forgive me if I declare a mulligan and declare the gap a "vacation."

   New reviews are on the way, and hopefully we'll stay on schedule for a good long while.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Justice League #3

   Artist Bryan Hitch is known for working in "CinemaScope" - in other words, crafting stories that are vast in scope with stunning visuals.

   Working here as the writer of Justice League, he's trying for the same effect - but not quite achieving the same results.

   The art isn't the problem - Tony Daniels and Sandu Florea are crafting some stunning, otherworldly visuals - but the story isn't delivering.

   That's because we're three issues into the "Rebirth" version of the team - and we still don't know what's going on.

   Masses of people in different parts of the world are somehow gathering into gigantic humanoid-shaped figures - and they seem to be tapping into the powers of heroes like the Flash and the Green Lanterns - and they make some cryptic comments - and that's about all we know.

   It all seems to be tied into some kind of alien invasion, and some devices located at the Earth's core - and again, no idea how any of this ties together.

   There's certainly time for this story to come together, depending on what happens next - but so far, all it's doing is created a lot of puzzled readers.

Grade: B-


New Comics Day

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

- Black Widow #6 - Playing (mental) games with Iron Man.

- Gold Key Alliance #5 (of 5) - Alternate realities.

- Green Arrow #5 - Saving the Canary.

- Justice League #3 - World shattering.

- Supergirl Rebirth #1 - A new beginning!

- Superman #5 - Moon shot.

- Mighty Thor #10 - Corporate pirates.

And I received review copies of:

- Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen #2 (of 5) - Many Doctors, one story! 

- Garth Ennis Battle Classics Vol. 2 - Reprinting classic war comics.

- Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #10 - End of the Labyrinth!

And that's it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2

   Action, action, action!

   That's what this series hinges on, and so far, it has delivered.

   We have Hal Jordan, restored to his status as a Green Lantern, fighting with a couple of alien Yellow Lanterns.

   The newly-returned Green Lantern Corps members (the ones who survive) are gathering their resources, with the spotlight on Kilowog, John Stewart and fan favorite Guy Gardner, who finally gets some attention.

   And we check in with Sinestro, who plans to use his Yellow Lantern Corps to establish order in the universe (whether the universe likes it or not).

   All three elements are on a collision course, and in the meantime there's plenty of fighting to keep things moving briskly.

   The art is strong and the story fast-moving. Hopefully they'll eventually find time to give us a bit more character development along the way - but at least the trip there won't be a boring one.

Grade: B+



Monday, August 15, 2016

Wonder Woman #4

   How many times has Wonder Woman's origin story been retold, tweaked, adjusted and rebooted?

   Well, here it goes again.

   But the tweaks are relatively minor. We see Steve Trevor recovering after crashing on Themyscira, the home of the Amazons.

   Queen Hippolyta decides to send an emissary to "man's world," and a tournament is arranged to pick the best candidate. (Guess who signs up?)

   This is a lovely retelling, with a sharp script by Greg Rucka and wonderful, lush artwork by Nicola Scott (there's a splash panel near the end that would make a great poster).

   To keep up with the twice-monthly publishing schedule, they're alternating stories between the present-day Diana and this "Year One" tale - and I must admit, I find this arc much more entertaining.

Grade: A-



Sunday, August 14, 2016

All-New X-Men #12

   (I'm running behind schedule, so here's a couple of quick reviews so I can catch up.)

   The relationship between the Angel and Wolverine (the X-23 version) has been a bit odd - her reckless behavior has left him unsettled (it would certainly be difficult to see your loved one badly beaten, even if she has a healing factor).

   This issue of All-New X-Men resolves that issue (somewhat) in an odd mix of romance tale and horribly violent battle with an army of demons.

   I liked the former, and could have done with a little more restraint on the latter.

   Still, great art and strong writing make this a series to watch. (But I'd like it better with fewer demons.)

Grade: B+


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Ninjak #18

   So it's been a tough couple of months for Ninjak, as he's lost almost everything - his money, his job with MI-6, his parents and most of his friends.

   This issue actually features two separate stories - one set in the present, and another several years in the future, which teams Ninjak with the Eternal Warrior.

   Of course, it's an unusual team-up, and neither hero completely trusts the other as they search for a criminal mastermind who's hiding in one of the world's most remote spots.

   The modern-day adventure follows up on the destruction of Ninjak's home - and who he blames for his troubles.

   I like this series a lot - it features smart scripts by Matt Kindt and strong artwork by Ulises Arreloa and Chris Sotomayor, and the stories are always edgy but fun.


Grade: A-


Friday, August 12, 2016

Superwoman #1

   Give DC credit - when they decide to make a change to their continuity / status quo, they jump in with both feet.

   Superwoman is a good example. Now that the pre-New 52 Superman has taken over for the (apparently killed) New 52 Man of Steel - bringing along his wife Lois Lane and their son - they've gone "all in" with alternate versions of their characters.

   So we have the "New 52" Lois endowed with Superman-like powers and she decides to use them in defense of Metropolis.

   But first she seeks help - from Lana Lang? (I have no idea how they know each other.)

   So we have two Lois Lanes running around in the DC Universe, one wielding superpowers - but not wearing a mask (yet somehow no one knows who she is).

   The issue features stunning artwork by Phil Jiminez, one of the best in the George Perez school of dynamic design, powerful character depictions and an amazing amount of detail.

   There almost too much crammed into this first issue, with introductions, mysterious menaces, disaster on a massive scale and tons of dialogue.

   So you certainly get your money's worth here.

   I'm not sure about the reasoning behind the series. With two Supermen (if you could the "new" Lex Luthor) and a Supergirl, is there room (or need) for Superwoman?

   We'll see!

Grade: A-


Thursday, August 11, 2016

All-New All-Different Avengers #13

   Mark Waid and Adam Kubert continue to tear it up with the All-New All-Different Avengers (the title is the only thing I don't like about this series).

   This issue focuses on The Vision, as he finally addresses a situation that's gone on for too long - how easily he is "hacked" and controlled by others.

   That leads him into conflict with the last villain to do that - Kang the Conqueror.

   But how do you fight back against someone whose origins are unknown - and who hasn't even been born yet?

   That leads us to a clever and well-written story that poses some interesting moral questions - and gives us an interesting look at some key Marvel history (past and future).

   A great series, one of the best Marvel has right now. You should be reading this one.

Grade: A


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

All Star Batman #1

   Man, somebody screwed up.

   Batman actually smiles in this issue.

   Which makes me happy, because "my" Batman - the one I grew up reading in the '60s and '70s - was not a grim, humorless machine, as he's been portrayed for years now.

   The one I liked could smile, laugh - even tell a joke from time to time. So here's hoping that he's back again, and not just making a "one-off" appearance.

   This issue by writer Scott Snyder and artists John Romita, Jr., and Danny Miki brings us a Dark Knight who's up against impossible odds.

    He's in the middle of a massive fight with multiple enemies that sprawls all over Gotham City - and include some surprising faces. The story is cleverly constructed and (natch) features powerful, dynamic art.

    I'm not sure about the logic of some of the events in this story, and I'm not sure if I like what it says about human nature - but I sure do like seeing a Batman who also happens to be a human.

   I'm hanging with this series.

Grade: A-


New Comics Day

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

- All-New All-Different Avengers #13 - The Vision vs. Kang!

- All-Star Batman #1 - Everyone's after Batman! And I do mean everyone.

- Daredevil #10 - Murder mystery.

- Flash #4 - Teaming up!

- Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #2 - Green vs. Yellow!

- Superwoman #1 - Which Lois Lane is this?

- Wonder Woman #4 - Year One Part Two.

- All New X-Men #12 - Love amonst the demons.

And I received review copies of:

- A&A #6 

- Doctor Who 10th Year Two #13 

- Doctor Who 12th Year Two #8 

- Doctor Who 9th #4 

- Johnny Red #8 

- Ninjak #18 

- Norman #3 

- Sherlock A Study in Pink #3 

And that's it!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Classics - Fantastic Four #61

   I'm convinced that, when it came to the Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby could do no wrong by the mid-'60s (and, in this case, issue #61).

   The team has just managed to defeat Dr. Doom (who had stolen the Silver Surfer's powers, making himself invincible). They return home to an attack by the Sandman - and it's a fight they barely survive!

   In writing this review, I started to express surprise that Lee & Kirby lifted a character created by Lee & Steve Ditko - but then I remembered that it had happened several times.

   After all, Sandman was a founding member of the FF's "opposite number," the Frightful Four, which first appeared two years before in FF #36.

   So how can Sandman be a threat all by himself? Well, he is a powerhouse - but he gets a lot of help from the Baxter Building itself, as he uses some of Reed Richard's inventions against the team - sometimes inadvertently!

   At one point, the Thing is pinned under some equipment - and he can't move, for fear of causing a terrible explosion!

   The issue is a brawl from start to finish, with a perfect balance of Kirby's wildly creative action scenes and Lee's masterful mix of dramatic and comical dialogue.

   But the moment in this issue that really had an impact on my 10-year-old mind was at the end. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, with Reed apparently facing death in the Negative Zone. He stays calm and his reaction amazed me - he says that at least he'll learn the answer to the final question.

   That stunned me. To think of actually facing death, and what lies on the other side of that concept - it was a mind-bending concept for a kid who had never given death much thought. Reading that page again for this review, I got chills again.

    I hope when the day comes and I face the final curtain, I can do it with some of the grace and intelligence exhibited by a comic book character.

   I also wish they were still publishing stories starring that hero (and his family).

Grade: A


Monday, August 8, 2016

Badger #5

   I'm so happy to have the Badger back in print again!

   No one does this kind of over-the-top action mixed with crazed plot twists like writer Mike Baron!

   How crazed? Well, you've got Ham the Weather Wizard (a reborn druid) being opposed by Vladimir Putin (yes, that Putin - who's also a wizard) and being attacked by horrible demons and a Yeti - and his hopes for survival lay in the fighting fury known as the Badger (who changes personalities at the drop of a hat).

   All this while the struggle to find a new Wizard of the North continues - and the applicants for the job makes for a fun "who's who" for comics and fantasy fans.

   It's a fast, funny wrap-up to the story, illustrated wonderfully by living legend Val Mayerick, who masters monsters, martial arts mayhem and beautiful women with equal ease.

   There's no other comic like it - violent, completely unpredictable - and loads of fun!

Grade: A


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook #1

   A little over a year ago my friend Steve Saffel, an editor with Titan Books, told me about a new book they were publishing: Mycroft Holmes, starring Sherlock's amazing brother.

   He asked, "Guess who wrote it?" I had no clue.

   He smiled. "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar."

   I'm enough of a sports fan to know that Abdul-Jabbar is one of the greatest basketball players of all time - and an extremely smart and knowledgable guy.

   So sure, why not?

   For those of us who haven't had a chance to read the novel yet, Titan Comics has adapted the story into a new comic.

   Now, centering an adventure around Mycroft has to be tricky, because he doesn't like adventure at all. Sherlock maintains the his brother is actually smarter and more perceptive than the master detective, but Mycroft prefers to sit around the club and enjoy good food and drink.

   The story gets around this (somewhat) by setting the adventure during Mycroft's college days (such as they are). He's pompous, intelligent, a hedonist - and almost impossible to get the better of.

   He's not likable at all - but he's certainly fascinating.

   The story includes an odd McGuffin - a strange, deadly weapon that seems more science fiction than Victorian artifact - but we'll see how that mystery unfolds.

   The art is very good, with strong layouts and a "warts and all" view of the era.

   So far, I'm enjoying this series, and I'm anxious to see where it goes from here. Maybe I need to track down my copy of the novel...

Grade: A-



Saturday, August 6, 2016

Suicide Squad - Movie Review

   I saw the Suicide Squad movie this evening with my pal Clint (you may know him as Doc Curmudgeon - you really should follow him on Twitter and watch his video reviews on YouTube - he's very funny).

   As the credits rolled, I said, "This is going to be a tough one to review - it's all over the place."

   He agreed, and pointed out the movie's big problem - which I'll share in a minute.
   The movie is based on the DC Comic, of course, which centers around Task Force X - a group of criminals gathered by the tough as nails Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). The idea is simple enough - to use criminals to take on the impossible missions - the ones that not everyone survives.

   When a mysterious and deadly force erupts in Midway City, the team is assembled, including marksman Deadshot (Will Smith), the psycho Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), fiery killer El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the powerful Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnoye-Agbaj), the underhanded Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), the mystical Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), and the sword-wielding Katana (Karen Fukuhara) - all led by the no-nonsense soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman).

   Margot Robbie is terrific (and very sexy) as Harley, but Jared Leto as The Joker was a real disappointment to me - he's basically a cartoon character here. Will Smith is fine, though he doesn't get many opportunities to really shine. The other characters mostly get lost in the crowd, though there are some good moments in there.

   The movie had a tough challenge from the start - it's difficult to craft a story where the stars are villains. Heck, even the "good guys" act like villains here. 

   The scriptwriters partially succeeded here - but it's a very mixed bag. There are some terrific action sequences, then some long sequences that add nothing to the story (how many city blocks did they walk?) - and too many of the action sequences felt like they were lifted from a video game (most of the bad guys look identical).

   Back to my discussion with Clint. He said - and I agree - that the real problem with the movie is that nothing unexpected happens - you can see it all coming from a mile away. There was one plot point that surprised me, but the rest of it was easy to predict - except for the ones that make no sense. Like, how many helicopter crashes can people walk away from without a scratch? And why does Boomerang come back when he had the chance to leave? Does every DC movie have to have a crazy high body count / destruction quotient?

   There are some great moments here, some funny moments (one Will Smith line got a big laugh out of me), some great cameos and Easter eggs (nice to see the nod to original writer John Ostrander) - but it's a pretty grim slog through most of the movie. 

   I can't really recommend this one - the bad moments outweigh the good. It wants to be a good movie, but doesn't quite manage it.

Grade: B-


Friday, August 5, 2016

Batman #4

   Well, that didn't take long.

   I've been trying to check out some of the Rebirth titles - but as usual with such things, with me it's three strikes and you're out.

   The "new" Batman comic had one strike against it last issue, with the casual use of vulgar language (which is fine in a comic for mature readers - but surely Batman should be accessible to all ages).

   This issue features a lot of casual, unnecessary death - but that doesn't earn a strike (though it probably should). What earns it the second strike is the gruesome and in-your-face death later in the comic. A needlessly graphic visual in a book that kids might pick up.

   The story itself is rooting deep into the "grim and gritty" style of story - which Batman's adventures can accommodate, but it seems just too unrelentingly dark.

   It follows the fall of Gotham and Gotham Girl, two Superman-style heroes trying to defend the city - but who may be overwhelmed by its dark side.

   But the third strike happened on the last page of this comic - it's an ad for an upcoming story, "Rise of the Monster Men," a six-part series that jumps around through Batman, Detective Comics and Nightwing.

   Designed to bring more readers to the other titles, it instead convinces me that it's time to drop them all.

   Maybe I'll come back when the Dark Knight is "reborn" in more upbeat, heroic stories.

Grade: B-



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Justice League #2

   When I reviewed Justice League #1, one (Anonymous) comment indicated that I had been too generous in giving it a grade of "A-" - and Anon was probably right.

   When I'm grading a chapter of a story, I tend to give the creative team the benefit of the doubt - at least until the final chapter is printed.

   But with this issue, I'm convinced that "Anon" was right - I was being too generous.

   The story centers around an alien invasion (I think), as different members of the League fight to save lives and prevent destruction being brought on by a mysterious force.

   In fact, "mystery" is the key to the story. People on the street seem to be made into zombies - and then they aren't. They attack one of the Green Lanterns and the Flash - and then they stop. Earthquakes are happening around the globe - but why? And what are those insect-like creatures attacking Gotham?

   You get the idea.

   The issue has a lot of ideas simmering on the stove, but the reader gets precious little to go on.

   The art is vey good, and there's certainly a lot of potential in the story here - but two issues in and I feel lost.

   So, a lower grade this time around. Still hoping for improvement!

Grade: B-


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Doctor Strange #10

   It makes sense that magic - like surgery - can be a messy business.

   That's been the theme of the opening story in the new Doctor Strange series, as the Earth's magicians team up to fight back against an invasion of a force representing super-science - and dead set on destroying magic in all its forms.

   The fight has been a desperate, down-and-dirty one, and it's exposed the ugly underbelly of magic - and some of the unexpected ways Strange is supported, and what his followers (and the Doctor himself) must endure.

    Writer Jason Aaron has managed a brilliant balance of action, horror, mysticism and (yes) humor to craft a clever, page-turning beast of a story.

   The comic also manages to score the perfect artist in Chris Bachalo, inked here by a small army, including Tim Townsend, John Livesay, Victor Olazaba, Al Vey, Jamie Mendoza and Wayne Faucher.

   I have no idea who drew what, but the end product is surprisingly seamless and loaded with vivid, unique images and creatures. Wonderful stuff!

   (And my, isn't that Kevin Nowlan cover terrific?)

   So an excellent start to this series - some of the best Doctor Strange stories in far too long. Highly recommended!

Grade: A


New Comics Day

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

- Badger #5 - When wizards collide!
- Batmen #4 - Madness reigns.
- Doctor Strange #10 - An ending.
- Green Arrow #4 - Hunting for a Canary!
- Invincible Iron Man #12 - It all comes crashing down.
- Justice League #2 - Invasion!
- Paper Girls #8 - Even weirder.
- Punisher #4 - A deadly car chase (with lots of bullets).
- Shadow: Death of Margo Lane #3 - Dishing justice!
- Superman #4 - Against the Eradicator.
- Wynonna Earp #6 - A showdown in the streets of Tombstone.

And I received review copies of:

- 4001 AD War Mother #1
- Dishonored #1
- Doctor Who 4th #4
- Mycroft #1
- Penny Dreadful #3
- Tank Girl : Two Girls One Tank #3
- Torchwood #1
- Vikings #3 

And that's it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

X-O Manowar #48

   A great comic book, it should come as no surprise, is usually a blend of an excellent story and script, married to strong artwork.

   But every now and then the writer "steps aside" and lets the art tell the story - no words required.

   (OK, I trust we all realize that even if there are no word balloons or captions, a writer still had to describe the scene the artist illustrates.)

   All of which to say, there's a wonderful four-page wordless sequence in this issue that gives Joe Bennett a chance to flex his artistic muscles. It illustrates some alien concepts with dynamic images and more than a hint of mystery - wonderful stuff!

   The issue, written by Robert Venditti, is mostly setup. The Earth is facing an invasion by an apparently unstoppable alien force, and Earth's mightiest defenders - including X-O Manowar and his allies - are marshaling their forces.

   It's shaping up to be an excellent series - the next chapters will give us the final word on its success.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Grade: A-


Monday, August 1, 2016

4001 AD #3 (of 4)

   It's possible to win a fight - and still lose everything.

   That's the hard lesson being delivered in the mini-series 4001 AD, set in the distant future but featuring the age-old fight for freedom.

    The battle takes place in orbit, as the heroes Rai and the Eternal Warrior join with other fighters to stop the oppressive reign of Father, the Artificial Intelligence that controls New Japan, a nation relocated into space to protect its population.

   But after untold generations of cruelty and death, the population is fighting back. The problem is, even if they win, can New Japan survive without Father keeping the machinery working?

   It's a chaotic, intense and often brutal battle royal being crafted by writer Matt Kindt.

   The art on the series is by Clayton Crain, and it's impressive, bringing an alien, futuristic world to life.

   The story of the battle between man and machine is a classic, and it's serviced well in this mini-series.

Grade: B+